As we turn the page and 2021 has come upon us, it is always fun to look back at some predictions and projections from the year previous to see how they transpired.
One year ago, Jays Journal gave readers a list of five prospects to keep an eye on during the 2020 season. Here is a review of what was written about each and how they fared during the calendar year.
Alek Manoah, the 2019 first round pick had limited use during his first professional season due to a heavy workload coming out college. It was assumed he would likely start the 2020 season in High-A Dunedin with the hopes that he would climb to New Hampshire by the end of the season. Manoah was added in July to the Blue Jays 60-man player pool roster for the 2020 season. It was never expected that he would be put on the 40-man or active roster, and the season was used completely as a development season for him. From the list of top level pitching prospects the Blue Jays have in their system he is the one that could jump to the MLB first.
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Jordan Groshans was the first round pick one year before Alek Manoah, as he was taken 12th overall in the 2018 draft. Groshans lost almost the entire 2019 season due to ankle injuries, however was active on social media showing his progress. He was invited to the summer camp and placed on the 60-man player pool for the season, but like Manoah, he was never expected to see any time on the major league roster. Groshans did get into a couple of exhibition games in July before the season started, but the then 20-year old looked a little overmatched at the plate. Groshans spent the season at the minor league camp developing and is currently listed as the club’s second best fielding prospect behind Austin Martin.
There may not be a player that lost out more on the 2020 season than Adam Kloffenstein, however, he was able to find a way to continue his progress. The right-handed pitching prospect had a standout 2019 season as he was not only named to the All Star Game, but also named Team MVP for the Vancouver Canadians. The 2020 season saw him miss out on being added to the 60-man player pool, however he found playing time in an Independent League in Texas. His pitching coach was Roger Clemens and he was playing in a league where he was four years younger than the next youngest player. The league was known as one of the top outside of MLB, as he was playing against players that had previously played at the AAA level, but due to COVID they could not find a place to play. Kloffenstein finished the season with a 4.64 ERA, which was bloated by one bad outing. In total, he threw 21.1 innings and struck out 20 batters and surrendered just two home runs.
Most fans now know who Alejandro Kirk is, however prior to the season the majority of fans likely did not know the name. I originally stated that he may push the Blue Jays to trade Danny Jansen by the end of the season due to Kirk’s emergence. Kirk got the call to the team in September and managed to get into nine regular season games where he went 9-24 (.375), which included a pair of doubles and a home run. Kirk impressed so much that he was put in the line-up for Game 1 of the Wild Card Series where he picked up one of the Blue Jays five hits during the game. Kirk is going into Spring Training in 2021 trying to earn a full-time role on the team.
Griffin Conine was drafted in the rounds between Kloffenstein and Groshans, but was a little further in development due to him being a couple years older. Conine seemed to have the most potential of the Blue Jays outfield prospects, however was left off the 60-man player pool due to a large amount of major league level outfielders. When the Blue Jays were making their run for the post season, Conine was used to acquire some infield help, as he was sent to the Miami Marlins in a trade for Jonathan Villar. The deal turned out to be a bust, as Villar hurt the team more than he helped. The Marlins assigned Conine to their Alternate Training Site shortly after the trade and he is considered a top 20 prospect for a very deep Marlins prospect pool.
Which of these five prospects do you have the highest hopes for?