The Toronto Blue Jays boast a very stacked farm system, ranked 7th in all of baseball by MLB.com and featuring four players on the top 100 prospect list in Nate Pearson (#10), Austin Martin (#18), Jordan Groshans (#38), and Simeon Woods-Richardson (#77).
While the popular names like Alek Manoah, Gabriel Moreno, and the group mentioned above will get plenty of attention this season, the Blue Jays also boast a few prospects that fans should start to recognize in the organization, flying “under the radar” and potentially making an impact on the major league roster in the near future.
Drafted by the Blue Jays in the 8th round of the 2018 draft, right-hander Joey Murray has been a key piece in every starting rotation he has pitched in while working his way to the major league stage.
Throwing to a 2.60 ERA in 40 appearances (31 starts) and 163.0 innings of work, Murray is a strikeout wizard, mowing down 208 batters to the tune of 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings ratio. In 2019 alone, the Ohio native struck out 169 opponents across three different leagues, using a fastball with elite spin and a curveball that gets hitters to swing a miss when they’re looking off-speed, with a slider and a changeup to complete the arsenal.
While he is currently not on the 40 man roster, Murray is expected to be stretched out as a starter and will be heading to AAA after yesterday’s roster announcement. Even though the Jays are going to attempt to make him a starter, a route in the bullpen could be his ticket to the major leagues this season, especially with all the injuries befalling the Blue Jays pitching corps over the recent weeks. He is currently ranked as the Blue Jays #17 prospect.
Drafted out of Huntington Beach High School in the second round of the 2017 amateur draft, Hagen Danner has spent the past three seasons in the Blue Jays farm system as a position player but will change course this year and head to the mound for the first time since his high school days.
Spending time as a catcher and first baseman while a member of the Jays, Danner was also widely considered to be a potential pitching option when drafted back in 2017, with scouts wondering how the organization was going to utilize him in the minor league system. After 146 games and 580 plate appearances, Danner would slash .191/.280/.353 with 16 home runs and 33 RBI and advance as far as Class A ball with the Lansing Lugnuts back in 2019.
Whether the decision was made by the organization or by the player to switch roles, it will be interesting to see how he will fair with the High-A Vancouver Canadians and if he will be used as a starter or as a reliever.
While in high school, the right-hander was able to hit 93-95 MPH with his fastball and seemed to have the ability to pitch well in his senior year, going 63.1 innings on his way to an 11-2 record while striking out 92 and throwing to a 1.22 ERA. Hopefully, that past success can find its way back to him in 2021 and we will have to see if Danner can make his way up the farm system in a somewhat new position.