Blue Jays: Changes to the top prospect rankings after the Chapman trade
Earlier this week the Blue Jays made headlines by acquiring third baseman Matt Chapman from the Oakland Athletics. In a trade similar to the Donaldson deal back in 2014, the Jays are sending four players out West: INF Kevin Smith, LHP Zach Logue, LHP Kirby Snead, and RHP Gunnar Hoglund.
On paper, this deal is an absolute win for the Blue Jays, in that Chapman helps shore up one of the weaker areas on the roster and adds one of the most defensively talented players to man the hot corner. Chapman also possesses a power bat that should slot in nicely alongside the current core, most likely following Teoscar Hernandez in the fifth/sixth area in the lineup.
Hoglund, Smith, and Logue were all featured on the Jays’ top prospect rankings as per MLB Pipeline prior to the deal, meaning the rankings have now shifted down and three players have shifted down to join the list:
28: Yosver Zulueta
29: Yhoangel Aponte
30: Sebastian Espino
Fans who follow the minor leagues are no stranger to Yosver Zulueta, especially after all the hype he generated last spring. A product of Cuba, Zulueta’s pro debut after signing as an international free agent in 2019 was delayed after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He entered the 2021 campaign healthy and a player to watch in that he could potentially work his way through the farm system rather quickly with his impressive fastball and ability to attack hitters in the box.
Unfortunately, in his first start with the Dunedin Blue Jays (A ball), Zulueta tore his ACL in the first inning and would miss the rest of the season. Now healthy, Zulueta is looking to make some waves again this season and hopefully get some reps under his belt to work his way to AA and potentially AAA by season’s end.
Hailing from Caracas, Venezuela, outfielder Yhoangel Aponte made an impression in his first season with the Toronto Blue Jays. Spending all year in the Dominican Summer League, Aponte amassed a .240/.393/.357 slash line with 18 RBI and a .749 OPS. TSN’s Scott Mitchell reported that the Jays brought him stateside at the end of the season to play in the Developmental League, gaining some exposure in front of the executives and looking confident in the batter’s box.
After the Matt Chapman trade earlier this week, the Blue Jays top prospect rankings are seeing three new faces: Zulueta, Aponte, and Espino.
He is still years away from the big leagues but Aponte is one player to watch in the lower levels of the Jays minor league system this year as he continues to grow into his frame.
A Minor League Rule 5 selection last offseason, Sebastian Espino’s first season with the Blue Jays was one that put him on the radar of players to watch. After four years with the New York Mets, Espino spent the majority of last season in A+ ball, slashing .295/.358/.511 with eight home runs, 47 RBI, and a .869 OPS through 227 at-bats. He did start the year in Dunedin but was quickly promoted to Vancouver in early May.
Normally used as an infielder, the Jays had him take reps in left field last season and he posted a .931 fielding percentage through 34 games. He also suited up at third base for 20 games, committing three errors to the tune of a .909 fielding percentage.
The bat can certainly play but he does have some swing and miss in his game, evident by the 77 strikeouts to the 23 walks between A/A+ ball. He may begin the season in A+ ball but could be moved into AA quickly, especially if he can connect with the ball like he did last year and clean up the strikeouts.