Is the Blue Jays’ Farm System Still Deep?
Like most Blue Jays fans, in the silence that has become this off season, I am left to let my thoughts wander when it comes to the Toronto Blue Jays. And in doing so, I came up against a question that really grabbed me: What is the state of the Blue Jays farm system after this winter’s dealings?
In order to answer that, we need to look back on what deals took place that took talent away from the deep pool we were excited about last September. After all, it seemed like we had 3 youngsters who were ready to dip their toes in the starting rotation in Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris and Kendall Graveman with Sean Nolin not too far behind. Dalton Pompey had rocketed through the minor leagues as well. It looked like the Alex Anthopoulos rebuild that started with dealing Roy Halladay has started to reap its rewards. AA reached into his depth to complete the Marlins & Dickey deals in 2012, but did a good job of rebuilding it again.
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So, what happened to this pool of young talent? Did the moves this winter make it more shallow?
It didn’t cost any talent to sign Russell Martin. Adam Lind isn’t a member of the group we’re talking about. So, bringing in Marco Estrada didn’t impact this group. Trading Anthony Gose for Devon Travis actually added to the prospect depth.
No, the big move that tapped into the kiddie pool was trading for Josh Donaldson. Obviously trading for a guy who has been in the MVP conversation for the last two years and has put up 7.7 WAR and 6.4 WAR in those previous two years is not going to come cheap, especially when you consider the 4 more years of team control the Blue Jays obtained.
To bring in the Bringer of Rain, the Blue Jays had to not only give up Brett Lawrie, but they had to dip into that deep exciting pool. They also sent Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin and Franklin Barreto. If you look at Jays Journal’s Top 30 prospects list from last season, we had Sean Nolin at #4, Barreto at #6 and Kendall Graveman hadn’t even ranked. His value certainly increased thanks to his seemingly surprising success last season. Regardless, in one deal, the Blue Jays sent a top 5 prospect and a top 10 along with Graveman, who certainly increased his status to near the top of the system. This would seem like a huge hit to a farm system that has been up and down over the years.
Where does that leave the current state of the system? The Toronto Blue Jays actually have a pretty strong system that boasts ML ready talent at the top and some exciting younger players not too far behind. Here at Jays Journal, we’re in the process of compiling our Top Prospects list, but others have created an updated list, each with their own views.
One such list is from MLB Pipeline. This list has Daniel Norris (who was recognised last season as the BEST pitcher in MiLB), Aaron Sanchez and Dalton Pompey occupying the top spots. Then there is an exciting group of youngsters like Roberto Osuna, who is bouncing back from Tommy John surgery and is looking to start this coming season fresh. The Blue Jays have been high on him since signing him as a 16 year old. He’s just 19 now.
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There’s 9th overall pick in last season’s draft, Jeff Hoffman, who’s stuff is so good that having Tommy John surgery in May didn’t hurt his value much at all. He’s one to watch…when he returns, that is. Max Pentecost is another exciting youngster the Blue Jays will pay particular attention to this season. As well, Devon Travis will be looked to as the second baseman of the future. Indeed, there are many more names that we could throw out there to add to this list of depth like Dawel Lugo, Miguel Castro and more. But, the point of this piece is not to profile each of them. Rather, it is to answer the question of depth in the Blue Jays system. Does it still exist?
If you look at MLB.com’s 2015 Prospect Watch page, none of these guys appear in the Top 50. However, fans should not take that as a sign of the Blue Jays system lacking in exciting depth. In February of 2014, Baseball Prospectus ranked the Blue Jays system 13th in MLB while noting that it was trending upward thanks to talent that (at the time) was lower in the system. But, thanks to great years by several players, the current state of the farm looks quite good.
The fact that the Blue Jays made all of the moves they did this winter and still have managed to keep several top, potentially impactful prospects is reason for fans to be excited. Not only is this club poised to contend now, it has left itself in good shape to be that “sustainable” type of contender that Alex Anthopoulos described oh, so long ago.