Keith Law recently published his ranking of the farm systems of the 30 mlb teams. The Blue Jays ranking declined from 19th in 2015 to 25th in 2016. Not surprisingly, given that the top six prospects from 2015 have all been traded or promoted.
But what does this mean for the future of the Jays? Is this a crisis, or are the existing resources sufficient to project a bright future?
To answer this question, I prepared the following chart, which gives my best guesstimate of the Jays’ 25-man over the next three years. Note that the years in the far right column are the years that the player becomes a free agent
To be conservative, this analysis assumes that the Jays are unable to re-sign either of Edwin or Jose. I hope that is not the case, but it is more informative to “stress test” the Jays’ roster under the most unfavourable assumptions.
In this analysis, I assume that Martin, Travis, Tulo, Donaldson, and Pillar remain in their current roles for the next three years. I also assume that Colabello plays well enough to stick at 1B. I further assume that Saunders is the primary LF in 2016, and that he plays well enough to be extended for 2017-18, where he moves to RF. One of Pompey or Alford takes over in LF in 2017, with the other one becoming the bench 4th OF / platoon partner.
I also assume that the Jays do not sign a full-time DH, but instead use the DH spot to rest players like Donaldson and Tulo and to play platoon-type matchups. That is why you see a 5-man bench in 2017 and 2018 (the 5-man bench in 2016 is due to Travis’ injury)
In the rotation, I assume that Stroman, and Happ stay in their current roles for all 3 years and that Hutchison recovers sufficiently to be a strong #5. I assume that Estrada plays out his 2-year contract, after which one of Greene or Harris is ready (with the other one going to the bullpen). I assume that the Jays do not re-sign Dickey, and that one of Sanchez or Osuna moves into that slot in 2017 (with the other remaining in the bullpen).
On the bench, I have Goins remaining in the middle IF role through 2018. Thole leaves with Dickey in 2017, and is replaced by a free agent catcher for that year, with the possibility of Pentecost or Jansen being ready in 2018. I assume that Smoak leaves in 2017, and is replaced with a backup 1B who is also a platoon DH (someone like – dare I say it? – an Adam Lind). The 5th bench spot (or the DH spot, if you prefer) could be a situational batter or an aging veteran (someone like Justin Morneau).
In the bullpen, I make the assumption that the Jays extend both Storen and Cecil, or replace them with equivalent players. The last high-leverage arm would be whichever of Sanchez and Osuna lose out on the rotation, and Loup would remain the LOOGY. The middle-leverage reliever would be Connor Greene or Jon Harris, and the final two low-leverage bullpen spots would be filled by some combination of Delabar – Schultz – Biagini – Tepera or possibly a Gabe Noyalis – Clinton Hollon – Angel Perdomo – Sean Reid-Foley?
So what does this all mean?
Despite not having a long list of A-rated prospects, the Jays are in pretty good shape. Many of the key positions are filled by players under team control (either through existing contracts or arbitration) and where holes exist there are solid options and backups to those options (so, for example, if Pompey does not pan out there is Alford … and the Sanchez fails in the rotation there is Osuna). And remember that the above analysis does not include any free agent signings, or any more Donaldson / Tulo – type trades.
The bottom line
It is always better to have a strong farm system than a weak one. Shapiro and Atkins have both said that strengthening the system is a high priority. But the impact of a weak system is very different for a team with key pieces under control and a strong group of young players on the 25-man (like the Jays) than a team without those advantages. So at least in the near term, the farm should not be a significant impediment to the Jays’ success.