Blue Jays: Checking in on prospects playing Winter Ball

Oct 22, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Toronto Blue Jays infielder Addison Barger plays for the Salt River Rafters during an Arizona Fall League baseball game at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 22, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Toronto Blue Jays infielder Addison Barger plays for the Salt River Rafters during an Arizona Fall League baseball game at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

While the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies battle it out in the World Series, the Blue Jays have a handful of their young prospects finishing out their 2022 seasons in different Fall and Winter Leagues.  Here is a look at how some of the clubs’ prospects have done.

Nate Pearson

Once upon a time Nate Pearson was one of baseball’s top prospects reaching as high as the seventh best prospect across all of Major League Baseball by Baseball America back in early 2020.  Unfortunately for the former first round pick, Pearson has suffered numerous injuries over the past couple of seasons and threw just 15.1 innings this past season.

To catch up on some work, Pearson has gone to play in the Dominican Winter League for the Tigres del Licey and has pitched in a relief role appearing in five of the team’s first ten games.  The now 25-year old has been unhittable as he tossed five hitless and scoreless innings, allowing just one walk while striking out five.  Hopefully Pearson can keep building confidence and jump back on to the 26-man roster for the 2023 season.

Addison Barger

It has been five years since the Blue Jays selected Addison Barger in the sixth round of the 2018 June Amateur Draft and the 22-year old had arguably the best offensive season of all Blue Jays prospects, as he played at three levels and combined to hit 26 home runs and 91 RBI with a slash line of .308/.378/.555.

Now ranked 13th on the club’s top prospect list by Major League Baseball, Barger has gone down to play in the Arizona Fall League for the Salt River Rafters.  He has struggled to collect hits so far as he is just 10 for 49 (.204), but he has shown a good eye at the plate as he has collected eight walks over 59 plate appearances (plus two additional hit by pitches) and has struck out just seven times.  He has split his time between second base and short stop, and while he hasn’t made an error at second base, he has made three errors in 33 opportunities at shortstop.

Addison Barger was one of the top offensive players in the Blue Jays farm system in 2022 and is showing a good eye at the plate in the Arizona Fall League.

Tanner Morris

Tanner Morris climbed up to Buffalo from New Hampshire this past season after posting a slash line of .312/.430/.468 in 43 games with the Fisher Cats, however, he struggled with the Bisons posting a .174 batting average with no extra-base hits over 126 plate appearances.  Morris has joined Barger in Salt River and currently leads the team in walks as he has received 13 free passes against seven strikeouts over 13 games.  While there has not been much power (two extra-base hits), he has been able to post a slash line of .306/.490/.417. Morris has split time pretty evenly between second base, third base, and left field so far.

Zach Britton

Linked to one of the most popular closers through the 2010s by name only, Zach Britton has joined both Morris and Barger in the Arizona Fall League.  Britton sits second on the Rafters team with a .686 slugging percentage and a 1.210 OPS as he has gone 16 for 35 (.457) through 11 games with five extra-base hits and 11 RBI.  Britton has been developing as a catcher through the Blue Jays farm system, but he has only seen time at the two corner outfield positions so far with Salt River, but has yet to make an error.  I would like to see the Blue Jays continue with this approach next year with Britton as an outfielder as he is older than both Gabriel Moreno and Alejandro Kirk so it is unlikely he’ll every pass them and the team is weak in outfield prospects.

Adrian Hernandez

The Blue Jays signed Adrian Hernandez as a 17-year old international free agent back in 2017 and was off to an outstanding start in 2022 until an injury sidelined him near the end of June.  Over his first 18 appearances in Triple-A, Hernandez had a 1.80 ERA, however, after allowing runs in three of his final four appearances in June he went to the injured list and was out until early August.  When he returned to Buffalo he allowed 14 earned runs over 12.2 innings which saw his ERA jump to 4.96 for the season.

To help build back on his early success, Hernandez is playing in the Mexican Winter League for the Caneros de Los Mochis.  He has made four appearances through 16 games and has yet to allow a run over 4.1 innings pitched, including striking out five and allowing just four base runners (two hits and two walks).

Alejandro Melean

The 6’0, 22-year old Alejandro Melean is ranked as the club’s 30th best prospect and looked good through the first part of his 2022 campaign as he had a 1.69 ERA over 32 innings with Vancouver, however, he struggled when he moved up to New Hampshire.  Melean’s ERA tripled and his WHIP almost doubled with the Fisher Cats, and despite throwing more than 60 innings this year he went back home to Venezuela to pitch in their Winter League.

Next. Ideal starting rotation for 2023. dark

Melean is pitching for Aguilas del Zulia and has made just one start so far through their first six games and it did not go well.  He was unable to get out of the second inning after surrendering four hits, including a home run and five runs total (four earned).