Blue Jays leave Smith Jr., Burns unprotected ahead of Rule 5


Earlier in the week, the Toronto Blue Jays added pitchers Brady Dragmire and Blake McFarland to their 40-man roster to protect them ahead of the Rule 5 Draft on December 10th. With 35 names then on the 40-man, it seemed the Blue Jays would slide one or two more minor leaguers up the ladder ahead of Friday’s deadline. That wasn’t the case, and it’s left Dwight Smith Jr., Andy Burns and several others exposed.

The lefty-hitting Smith Jr., who spent the 2015 campaign with the AA New Hampshire FisherCats, is close enough to being MLB-ready that his athleticism could appeal him to a team in need of depth outfielders. His baserunning numbers have dwindled since stealing 25 bags for the Lansing Lugnuts in 2013, but the raw speed and defensive potential are both there to compliment his bat.

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There was hope that his offensive ceiling could be a plus tool after a 2014 in Dunedin that saw Smith post a triple slash of .284 / .363 / .453 with 12 home runs and 28 doubles. Those power numbers didn’t transition to New Hampshire as Smith battled some nagging injuries throughout the season, but he still managed a .265 average with 26 doubles.

While he does not represent a blue-chip prospect, he could profile as a 4th MLB outfielder as early as this season for the right organization, making him a risky name to leave exposed. Perhaps Kevin Pillar prior to his breakout 2015 season would be a good comparable for his talent projection, but after turning 23 just last month, there’s room to go before his ceiling.

Andy Burns is the other primary name I’d expected to see moved onto the 40-man, especially with the injury to Devon Travis that is expected to force him out through spring training and opening day. The 25-year old 11th round pick from 2011 may not have much room to go before hitting his own ceiling, but a strong 2015 with AAA Buffalo and his positional versatility would make him another attractive name. Especially to a team like Toronto, which is why I find it so odd that he’s going unprotected.

Burns posted a line of .293 / .351 / .372 with the Bisons, and while his four home runs were underwhelming, there’s still hope that some of his doubles start sailing further. Along with 50 games at third base, Burns appeared in 46 games at second base, not to mention a handful at shortstop, first base and throughout the outfield. There’s a bit of super-utility potential here that could make Burns more valuable than his baseball talent alone, and he seems to be a logical competitor for the backup infielder job until Travis returns.

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Past these names, you could also make a case for the likes of Angel Perdomo, Shane Dawson, Tom Robson or the oft-injured John Stilson, but Smith and Burns seem to stand above the rest simply due to their MLB-readiness at this point in time.

These five spots on the 40-man have been left open, obviously, for pending additions to the club. Hopefully there’s an impact free agent or trade piece incoming, but on an equally necessary level, expect the Blue Jays to be active on waivers as they look to patchwork a bullpen. The Rule 5 Draft is also a stronger possibility than normal on that front this offseason, but here’s hoping the Jays escape December 10th without any further hits to their depth.