Jays prospects dominate rookie of the year predictions


Yesterday Matt Eddy of Baseball America released his list for the top 20 rookie of the year candidates by his account. Atop the list are easy guesses in Chicago Cubs’ Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler and the Red Sox’s Rusney Castillo.

But as you slide a few more rungs down the ladder you arrive at several Blue Jays; the first of which is Daniel Norris at #7. And after a couple more notable prospects, one lands on the names of Aaron Sanchez and Dalton Pompey.

Finally, the Jays appear to be ready to cash-in on the years invested in prospect development. But winning rookie of the year doesn’t need to be the hallmark for measuring this success. Is it considered a fail if none of the trio takes home the award? It shouldn’t be. After all, the odds of taking home any major league award as a Jay are miniscule. For proof, look no further Jose Bautista. With back-to-back seasons of 40+ home runs and above 6 WAR, Bautista peaked at a top three finish in MVP voting. Whoa.

However, the Jays rookie class doesn’t need this god-like production for 2015 to be regarded as a success. Instead they should look to play within themselves, contend for the award and mirror the team persona they play for everyday: a run-of-the-mill competitive club.

Starting with Norris, it’s easy to see why he is so high on the list. A month ago, it’s hard to imagine him being as prominently placed on the list, but with Marcus Stroman out the entire season, Norris assumed the bottom of the rotation and looks to be there for the long haul.

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At 22, the southpaw has a chance to do something really special. Last season Norris led all the minors in strikeouts per nine innings at 11.8 and dropped his walk rate to an impressive 3.1 batters per nine innings. Obviously, those numbers will normalize this season and degrade towards the mean but even then, he will surely be one of the better bottom-of-the-rotation starters around the league.

With that idea comes his fellow teammate, and competitor, Sanchez. Sanchez is no stranger to the big leagues. Last season, the right-hander spent 33 impressive innings in a Jays uniform, all out of the bullpen. Prior to his big league promotion last year, the biggest knock on Sanchez was his lack of control with a whopping 4.8 BB/9, but that seemed to wither away on his trip north of the border last summer.

As a reliever, Sanchez had the fourth highest mph average on his fastball at 96.9 mph so the power in his arm should be far from in question. The hitch for Sanchez will be developing an arsenal beyond his fastball-curveball duo that is capable of keeping hitters off balance. He has shown the ability to throw a changeup in the past with some effectiveness, and has experimented with a slider this spring, so look for that as the key to his prosperity this season.

Lastly is Pompey at #15. Now it hasn’t been set in stone just yet, but in all likelihood Pompey will take the bulk of the workload in centerfield this season, barring an absolute disaster performance. Pompey had a cup of coffee with the Jays last season registering a .231/.302/.436 line which shouldn’t blow anyone out of the water by any means. That said, Pompey should be able to provide above replacement level talent in center this season with his ceiling extending to—well—rookie of the year.

Obviously the goal of the season for these prospects isn’t going to be winning the rookie of the year award. Sure it would be great, but I’m sure if you asked any of them what their goal for the year was they’d deliver some oratory cliché laden speech about “wanting to help the team win as many games as possible.” No doubt about it.

At the end of the day, the parade on Yonge Street won’t be for the rookies. But make no mistake about it; they will be an integral part to whether it happens at all.