Toronto Blue Jays: Seven Prospects in Baseball America’s Top 100 Update

LAKELAND, FLORIDA - MARCH 04: Austin Martin #80 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on during the fifth inning against the Detroit Tigers during a spring training game at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium on March 04, 2021 in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
LAKELAND, FLORIDA - MARCH 04: Austin Martin #80 of the Toronto Blue Jays looks on during the fifth inning against the Detroit Tigers during a spring training game at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium on March 04, 2021 in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images) /

The latest May 11th Baseball America Top 100 Prospects update is the first of the 2021 season after prospect graduations and injuries, with some new names like RHP Alek Manoah appearing on the list for the first time.

The Blue Jays farm system ranked 3rd overall, after the Rays and the Mariners, and ahead of AL East rivals the Orioles (7th), Yankees (18th) and Red Sox (20th). In all, seven prospects from the Jays system made the updated ranking:

#15 Austin Martin SS/OF (previous rank #19) – It’s been a heady rise for the Jays number #1 amateur draft pick (5th overall) last summer out of Vanderbilt. He’s started his pro career at Double-A with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, slashing .222/.364/.333/.697 with 3 RBI, one stolen base, and 12 K’s in 44 plate appearances. The 22 year old, right-handed hitter has started six games in CF and four games at SS.

#16 Nate Pearson RHP (previous rank #14) – the injury bug continues to plague the big, power-pitching righty. His latest setback is a shoulder impingement after working with pitching coach Pete Walker before being sent back to Triple-A to work on his mechanics. He’d ranked as high as the 5th best prospect last season, but has struggled in the major leagues, pitching to a 6.64 ERA over 20.1 innings with 18 walks against only 16 strikeouts.

#27 Jordan Groshans SS/3B (previous rank #34) – the 21 year old Jays first round pick (#12 overall) in 2018 has also started the year at Double-A New Hampshire, making six starts at SS and three at 3B. The right-handed hitter is slashing .237/.356/.289/.645 with 3 RBI and 13 K’s in 45 plate appearances.

#60 Simeon Woods Richardson RHP (previous rank #69) – the 20 year old righty has been outstanding so far at Double-A New Hampshire, pitching to a 2.00 ERA and 0.89 WHIP over two starts and nine innings. He has 16 K against three walks and opponents are only batting .152 against him.

#61 Alejandro Kirk C (previous rank #70) – the 22 year old catcher out of Tijuana, Mexico broke camp with the Blue Jays this spring and was starting to heat up at the plate (3 HR, 8 RBI, .801 OPS in 46 plate appearances) before being placed on the 10-day IL on May 2nd, and then moved to the 60-day IL with a left hip flexor strain. He’s eligible to return to the lineup July 1st.

#83 Orelvis Martinez SS/3B (previous rank #96) – a strong spring training and Grapefruit League showing has raised the 19 year old’s stock. The right-handed hitter has slashed .195/.313/.366/.678 in 48 plate appearances with the Low-A Dunedin Blue Jays, with 2 HR, 5 RBI and a stolen base. His 2nd HR of the season apparently had an exit velocity of 108.7 mph. Like Groshans, he’s made three starts at 3B and six starts at SS.

#93 Alek Manoah RHP – some might argue he should flip places with Nate Pearson after his outstanding Triple-A debut, being named Triple-A East Pitcher of the week of May 4-9 after striking out 12 batters in his debut May 6th, and following that up with another six innings of scoreless, one hit ball with 5 strikeouts last Wednesday. Jays General Manger Ross Atkins has already been to scout the 23 year old in Triple-A.

Honorable Mention

Gabriel Moreno C – as Blue Jays Director of Player Development Gil Kim notes in this video interview, the club is very excited about the 21 year old Venezuelan catcher. He’s slashing .455/.526/.636/1.163 with 1 HR and 9 RBI in 38 plate appearances with Double-A New Hampshire, and certainly looks like he could be the Jays catcher of the future after being placed on their 40-man roster last November.

He also hits right-handed like Jays catchers Kirk and Danny Jansen, not to mention another catcher on the 40-man roster, 18th ranked prospect Riley Adams.

In summary

If we consider 2020 and anomaly given the lack of minor league baseball, this updated ranking takes the Blue Jays back to the same number of top 100 prospects they had ahead of the 2019 season with seven, and up from six in the mid season 2018 rankings. They return to their 3rd place organizational ranking overall seen in Baseball America’s 2018 midseason organizational talent rankings.

It certainly looks like the front office is following the model that worked so successfully before in Toronto from the mid 1980s through the World Series years under Hall of Fame General Manager Pat Gillick and Epy Guerrero. Back then, the Blue Jays ranked No. #1 in Baseball America’s organization talent rankings three times. As they note here:

"Through much of the 1980s and early 1990s, the Blue Jays were the gold standard when it came to drafting and player development. Toronto never ranked lower than eighth in our farm system rankings from 1986 to 1996. The club ranked No. 1 in 1987 and 1988 as well as 1993 and ranked second an additional two more times.The 1987-1988 Blue Jays farm system included Glenallen Hill, Todd Stottlemyre, David Wells, Duane Ward, Jose Mesa, Pat Borders, Pat Hentgen, Luis Sojo, Mark Whiten and Derek Bell. The 1993 group included Bell, Alex Gonzalez, Carlos Delgado, Hentgen, Steve Karsay, Graeme Lloyd, Ed Sprague, Shawn Green and Shannon Stewart. The Blue Jays ranked third in 1993 and 1994 as well. The 1994 group included Gonzalez, Delgado, Green and Stewart from the previous list as well as Chris Carpenter."

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Of course, those teams also made some big trades and free agent signings ahead of the consecutive World Series Championships in 1992 and 1993. So the highly ranked farm system is in place. Hyun Jin Ryu, Robbie Ray, George Springer and Marcus Semien certainly fit the free agent signing bill, so are some big trades the potential final team building needed to make this team a World Series contender?  We shall soon see.