As the Toronto Blue Jays come to the ballpark today looking for ways to break out of their current slump – losing nine of their last twelve, and six of seven, including four losses to Baltimore to drop them to the third and final Wild Card spot – how can they return to winning baseball?
Could a jolt of energy from their farm system be the answer? Let’s take an updated look at the Jays farm system and where they stand relative to other organisations.
MLB just published their midseason top 100 prospect update following the July amateur draft, in-season call ups and graduations, and 2022 player progressions. The Blue Jays feature three prospects in the latest ranking:
- Triple-A Buffalo Bisons catcher Gabriel Moreno at #7;
- Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats LHP Ricky Tiedemann at #34; and,
- Fisher Cats SS/3B Orelvis Martinez at #73.
For reference, Baseball America (subscription required) ranks Moreno #3 overall in their latest midseason top 100 update, with Tiedemann at #30. Martinez fell out of their top 100 after ranking #75 in the preseason.
Of note, a number of former top 100 prospects traded away by Toronto over the past few seasons have tumbled out of the MLB ranking list as well, including:
- SS/3B Jordan Groshans, now the #13 ranked prospect in the Miami Marlins system;
- RHP Simeon Woods Richardson, now #6 in the Twins system; and,
- OF/SS Austin Martin, who’s down to #12 in the Twins system.
Looks like the Jays sold high! As they did on RHP Kendall Williams, who is no longer in the LA Dodgers top 30.
Other recent former Jays prospects of note include RHP Nick Frasso (#18 in the Dodgers system), RHP Max Castillo (#17, Royals), 2B/OF Samad Taylor (#29, Royals), RHP Gunnar Hoglund (#9, Athletics), OF Alberto Rodriguez (#14, Mariners) and OF Griffin Conine (#26, Marlins).
Prospects that the Jays have recently acquired also feature in their top 30, including 15th ranked SS/2B/OF Adrian Pinto at Dunedin (acquired from Colorado in the Randal Grichuk deal), as well as 16th ranked 3B/SS Alex De Jesus at Vancouver (acquired from the Dodgers along with Mitch White).
Solid 2022 Amateur Draft
Jays fans will also be happy to note that the midseason prospect rankings include five new players all acquired within the first 100 picks of the recent July amateur draft:
- #4 Jays prospect LHP Brandon Barriera (drafted 23rd overall in the 1st round);
- #5 prospect SS/3B Tucker Toman (drafted 77th overall)
- #10 prospect SS Josh Kasevich (drafted 60th overall)
- #11 prospect 2B Cade Doughty (drafted 78th overall)
- #29 prospect 1B/OF Alan Roden (drafted 98th overall)
Risers and Fallers in the Jays System?
As Jays MLB beat writer Keegan Matheson notes, OF Gabriel Martinez (preseason: not ranked; midseason: #9) “got off to a great start with Low-A Dunedin, where he hit .288 with 11 home runs and an .832 OPS over 65 games. He’s recently been promoted to High-A Vancouver, and at just 20 years old, finally represents a new wave of outfield talent in the Blue Jays system… Martinez will… need to be added to the 40-man roster [this fall] to avoid being exposed in the Rule 5 Draft.”
Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats 3B/SS Addison Barger, 22, also continues to impress, rising to #14 in the Jays system after slashing .314/.381/.549/.930 this year with 18 HR, 60 runs and 64 RBI. Since being promoted from the High-A Vancouver Canadians to New Hampshire on July 11th, the left-handed hitter has crushed Double-A pitchers who, on average, are almost two years older than him. In his last 30 games he’s slashed .351/.418/.526/.944 with 4 HRs and 14 RBIs.
He was drafted in the 6th round in 2018 Draft out of C. Leon King High School in Tampa, so will also have to be protected on the 40-man roster this fall to avoid the Rule 5 draft.
As for fallers, again as per Keegan Matheson,
"Leo Jimenez, SS/2B (Preseason: 5 | Midseason: 17) — Infielder Manuel Beltre and right-hander Irv Carter also dropped 12 spots, but Jimenez was the highest-ranked of the bunch, beginning the year at No. 5. The 21-year-old has hit .228 with High-A Vancouver, including an uptick in power with six home runs. Jimenez already has a spot on Toronto’s 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft…"
It’s also notable that RHP Adam Kloffenstein has completely dropped off the Jays top 30 ranking after a tough few seasons. The soon to be 22 year-old was ranked #11 in the preseason top 30 rankings, but has struggled mightily again this year with a 1-7 record, 5.28 ERA and 1.59 WHIP in 20 minor league starts covering 93.2 innings. That follows his poor 2021 season at Vancouver where he went 7-7 with a 6.22 ERA in 23 starts covering 101.1 innings.
While the big 6’5”, 243 lb righty has shown signs of improvement in his two most recent starts for New Hampshire, only allowing two runs on eight hits in last 11 innings pitched, the Jays will have a tough decision to make on protecting the 2018 3rd round pick from the Rule 5 draft this fall.
Other notable names no longer in the Jays top 30 include SS Miguel Hiraldo (#12 preseason in March), RHP Bowden Frances (#15) and RHP Joey Murray (#24).
Where does the Jays system rank in MLB?
As per recent ESPN and FanGraphs updates, the Blue Jays farms system ranks somewhere between 19-21 out of 30 teams, with a future value of prospects worth between $148~207 million in dollar values. That’s pretty similar to where Baseball America (subscription required) had them in their preseason organizational ranking at #19, down from 4th preseason in 2021, 6th in 2020 and 3rd in 2019. They were ranked 21st by MLB ahead of this season.
Who could provide a spark as the Jays look to break out of their slump?
Obviously Gabriel Moreno has already had a call-up this year and could help as a third catcher, with great bat-to-ball skills on a team sorely lacking contact hitters. Interim manager John Schneider has shown he likes to try to generate offence with bunts, like the one Santiago Espinal executed perfectly last night, as well as stolen bases and a hit-and-runs.
Moreno certainly has skills that fit with that style of play, only striking out on 11.7% of his MLB plate attempts so far compared to the MLB average of 22.3% this year. That’s certainly consistent with his minor league numbers, where he’s only struck out 125 times in 1,016 plate attempts (12.3%). He also has outstanding defensive skills, with one of the quickest releases in baseball.
With only two call-ups allowed in September this year to expand MLB-rosters from 26 to 28 players, Moreno will surely be one of the two. Leo Jimenez is also on the 40-man roster already; they would have to add Gabriel Martinez and Addison Barger to the 40-man roster if they called up either player, although Barger’s left-handed power stroke could certainly be intriguing for a team that lacks pop from the left side.
Could they also add another pitcher as well, like Julian Merryweather or Nate Pearson who are currently both rehabbing, or throw caution to the wind and purchase the contract of 20 year old Ricky Tiedemann (happy birthday on Thursday!) to add some left-handed heat out of the bullpen? Failing that, lefties Matt Gage and Foster Griffin are also on the 40-man roster. And hard throwing Futures Game selection, RHP Yosver Zulueta – who now ranks #6 in the Jays system, will also need to be protected from the Rule 5 draft this year.
As we barrel towards September, there are some interesting options for the Jays should they seek a boost from a young prospect. Older Jays fans may remember the excitement surrounding John Olerud’s debut as a 21 year-old in 1989, when he had three hits in eight at-bats that September after skipping the minors altogether, and jumping from Washington State University to the big leagues. He went on to a 17 year MLB career after that, so the hype was real. Could Moreno or Tiedemann embark on their MLB careers this September? It might just be the spark the Jays need.