Will the Blue Jays rookie surprises continue?

Nov 7, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Toronto Blue Jays infielder Rowdy Tellez during the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars game at Salt River Fields. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 7, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Toronto Blue Jays infielder Rowdy Tellez during the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars game at Salt River Fields. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Over the past few seasons there has been at least one player that’s stood out in their debut with the Blue Jays.  Will the trend continue for the upcoming season?  Here is a list of our (really early) possible rookie breakouts.

In the past few years the Blue Jays have received key contributions from some of their talented youth.  This past season, Joe Biagini went from being an unproven Rule 5 draft pick to one of their most trusted high leverage relievers.  Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, Kevin Pillar, Devon Travis, and Roberto Osuna are prime examples of where the Blue Jays success has came from and they have been only with the team for 2-to-3 years.

These key players are a big part of the picture that has been painted in recent seasons.  Now with the Jays surrounded by a culture of winning, the question becomes: who’s next?

The Blue Jays minor league system has gotten a bad reputation over the past few season regardless of the talent that has been coming through the organization.  The trade spree that pushed the Jays to playoff contention in 2015 has led many experts to think the organization is in a drought of talent.  This is a common misconception for people that take a brief look at the Jays organization.  Yes, there maybe some mixed talent levels, but there is no shortage of upside or top-end prospects.  Let’s dive into some possible raw talents that could be a surprise sooner than later.

Rowdy Tellez (21 years old) – 1B/ DH
MLB.com ETA – 2017

The Blue Jays 30th round pick in the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft was a steal.  Since starting his pro career with the Blue Jays he has been a solid hitter with a .289 batting average in 326 minor league games.  Over the past two seasons he has been on a fast-paced climb through the minor leagues.  In 2015 he played in 103 games between single-A Lansing and advanced-A Dunedin where he hit 14 home runs and drove in 77 while batting .289.  This earned him a shot to play in double-A New Hampshire this past season where he put up MVP-calibre numbers.  He finished 9th in the batting title race for the league with a .297 average.  He was also 5th in home runs (23), 6th in RBIs (81), and 3rd in OPS (.917).

This kind of production could translate nicely to the Majors as Tellez has shown the ability to find the pitch he wants during an at-bat.  His high on-base percentage and ability to make solid contact is what separates him as a prospect.  If Edwin Encarnacion‘s time is truly over in Toronto, it could mean big things for Tellez if he shows off his talents this spring.  Even if the Blue Jays retain Edwin, they could us Tellez to rotate with him at first base and DH at some point in 2017.

Anthony Alford (22 years old) – CF
MLB.com ETA – 2018

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With the Blue Jays looking for options in the outfield, Alford could become a dark horse candidate in 2017.  The former two-sport athlete just finished up his first full season dedicated to baseball with the Blue Jays in Dunedin.  He played in 92 games and had trouble adjusting and staying healthy at first.  His .236 batting average may not look like much but after a rough start he finished with a bang.  His batting average in the month of August was .280 after having a decent July at .255.  During August he helped drive a solid D-Jays attack toward the playoffs.  He also hit four home runs and drove in 15 runners that month.

The pure amount of athleticism is what makes Alford stand out.  listed at 6’1″, 215 lbs and having a speed rated at 70 on the 20-80 scale is very intriguing.  Alford did swipe 18 bases this season and 27 the year prior.  If Alford has truly learned how to handle hitting in pro ball he could be on a fast-track to the Majors with his tool set.

Richard Urena (20 years old) – SS
MLB.com ETA – 2018

Richard Urena has made a big splash within the organization in the past few years.  Since signing with the Jays as an International free agent in 2012 he has developed into the club’s top middle-infield prospect.  He is also ranked 74th on MLB.com’s top-100 prospects list.  During the past season the young shortstop dominated single-A in Dunedin.  He batted .305 with 52 runs scored and 41 RBIs in 97 games.  This performance earned him a shot at double- A in New Hampshire.  Urena pounded opposing pitching right off the bat with the Fisher Cats but cooled off and finished with a .266 batting average over 30 games.

He showed off some great pop at the plate and speed as 11 of his 33 hits went for extra bases in New Hampshire.  He also scored 14 times and drove in 18.  This would be a big jump for him to jump all the way to the Majors anytime this year, but he is very talented and athletic.  His work ethic also appears to have him ready for any task.  He’ll likely start the season in double-A with an opportunity to climb.

Next: Blue Jays free agent options: Higher-end relief pitchers

Sean Reid-Foley (21 years old) – RHP
MLB.com ETA – 2018

Sean Reid-Foley has only been in the Blue Jays organization for two full seasons and he has already been turning heads.  Reid-Foley is ranked just behind Richard Urena on the MLB.com top-100 prospects list at #76 and raked in a solid year.  Reid-Foley played at both single-A levels this season and was dominant.

He pitched 115.1 innings across both levels and had just a 2.81 ERA.  The more shocking angle on his stat line for this season was that he got better when he was promoted to Dunedin.  In advanced-A he pitched 57.1 innings and held opposing hitters to a .172 average and 0.89 WHIP.  The numbers in 58 innings for single-A Lansing were a .208 average and a 1.12 WHIP.  Those numbers with Lansing were great, but he got even better.

Reid-Foley could possibly follow the Aaron Sanchez prospect path up the organizational ladder with those kind of numbers.  If he can miss bats and sit down opposing hitters like he has in the past year, he could be on the fast-track to the Majors.  If he continues to perform well to start off this season he could be in the Jays bullpen gaining valuable experience and then join a solid young rotation as early as the 2018 season.