The Toronto Blue Jays farm system has been left thinner than most would like, but the next six months could represent a critical period of cumulative growth
The weeks surrounding the annual calendar flip often lend themselves to prospect talk. Not only has the Major League transactional news cycle quieted, but top prospects rankings are released (watch for ours in early January).
Toronto’s system has talent, but unlike the prospect capital from mid-2015, the foundation now rests closer to the bottom of the farm than the top. This is fine, natural even, but a little patience will be required.
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Daniel Norris and Dalton Pompey enjoyed launching-pad years together in 2014, moving from further-off projects to impactful and valuable young pieces on the cusp. We saw this again in early 2015 when Roberto Osuna and Miguel Castro, both expected to begin the season in the lower minors, opened the season as a dynamic rookie duo in the MLB bullpen.
John Sickels recently released his own version of the Blue Jays top-20 prospects. He’s got some interesting individual takes on the players themselves, but he seems to agree with this larger notion that the farm system as a whole has the talent to collectively rise in league-wide standing.” Trades and graduations have put this system into a downphase but much of their talent is very young and could improve quickly.”
Towards the top we have highly-ranked players such as Anthony Alford, Conner Greene, Justin Maese or Sean Reid-Foley who could all thrust their way into the blue-chip category under the right circumstances. There are also boom-or-bust talents like former first-rounder D.J. Davis that could finally click. We can safely expect ‘regular’ growth across the board, as you would any year, but one or two springboard seasons could help catapult the entire farm system. Now, the trouble is making that happen.
For all that’s been said about baseball prospects, I still struggle to find a more nail-on-the-head quote than this one from Zora Neale Hurston, written in 1937. [No, it wasn’t about baseball]. “Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the same horizon, never out of sight…”
The problematic prospects are those that sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight. Ones like, to this point in his young career, Max Pentecost, whose great talent has unfortunately been hampered by consistent shoulder issues. It’s the quality and quantity of ships coming in with the tide, however, that Toronto is concerned with.
Not only will the growth of these prospects over the next six months drastically impact Toronto’s team beyond 2016 (and their potential decisions with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion), it will help them to establish a stronger stack of chips come July 31st.
Parting with prospects as part of a deadline splash isn’t Mark Shapiro’s comfort zone by any stretch of the imagination, but with a new roster and new financial dynamics, it’s not a hard ‘no’. At this point, most impact deals would require the inclusion of an Alford, but if the system can grow and provide a handful of other “top” calibre prospects then the Blue Jays, and their trade partners, will have a wider variety of options.
A stronger system at this point in time would surely be valuable, but in all likelihood, the Blue Jays will not “need” their prospect capital until mid-season at the earliest. Even then, it may just be a dip of the toe, so the talent is certainly in place to climb the ladder by the time it is needed most.