Checking in on the Blue Jays 2023 MLB Draft class after one year

Arizona Diamondbacks v Toronto Blue Jays
Arizona Diamondbacks v Toronto Blue Jays / Vaughn Ridley/GettyImages

As the Toronto Blue Jays season spirals agonizingly into a massive disappointment resembling a dumpster fire, fans can’t help but think of more promising times. Many will look back to vintage years, the great teams of the ’80s, the back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993, and consecutive League Championship Series appearances in 2015 and 2016. In just under a week, team followers will also glimpse a new batch of players selected in the 2024 MLB Draft.

Last year, the Jays surprised some with their first-round selection of Arjun Nimmala, a then 17-year-old high school shortstop from Florida. He was the first first-generation Indian American drafted in the first round of the four major U.S. sports leagues. As the first pick of the class, Nimmala’s successes and failures have been updated sporadically throughout the season, but here’s a deeper dive at how he and the rest of the group have performed over the last year.

Starting a career in professional baseball at 18 isn't the norm, so finding immediate success shouldn’t necessarily be expected. Nimmala got into nine games in the Florida Complex League in 2023, collecting five hits in 25 at-bats (.200) with seven runs scored. This season, the Strawberry Crest HS product has struggled some while continuing to show signs of progress. In Dunedin, Nimmala, after scuffling early on, has found a rhythm, batting .315 from May 12th to July 6th, while displaying some of the power (11 extra-base hits during span) that led the Blue Jays to select him in the first place. Overall, the infield prospect is hitting .209 with five homers, 13 RBI, and a .750 OPS while playing against foes one to three years older on average. 

Juaron Watts-Brown was the next player Toronto selected, in the third round and 89th selection overall. He’s a 6’3”, 190 lbs. right-handed pitcher from Oklahoma State University. The California native started the year in Dunedin and pitched well, going 3-5 with a 3.43 ERA over 12 starts and 57.2 innings. That performance earned Watts-Brown a promotion to High-A Vancouver where he’s found the going considerably tougher. In his first start with the Canadians, the lanky righty was tagged for six hits and four earned runs in four frames. Watts-Brown’s development has been a bright spot for Blue Jays’ pitching prospects. 

It was supposed to be a big year for Landen Maroudis. The Clearwater, Florida native shot up the team’s prospect rankings and had a strong start to his season before being injured in his third start and undergoing elbow surgery. 

Connor O’Halloran was the Jays’ fourth pick in the 2023 MLB Draft, 157th overall out of the University of Michigan. The left-handed pitcher earned a graduation to Vancouver after pitching to a 3.13 ERA over 37.1 innings at Dunedin. The 21-year-old from Mississauga, Ontario has seen his ERA jump up to 4.99 with the Canadians, but he’s hardly been overmatched. 

Jace Bohrofen was taken in the sixth round out of Arkansas. The right fielder started the season in Vancouver and has flashed some power (26 extra-base hits) and speed, with six stolen bases. He’ll need to work on raising his average (.214) but is a candidate to climb another level before the season’s end. 

Of the later draft picks, Brennan Orf looks like he could hit. The first baseman is on a rehab assignment with Dunedin but showed off some thump (eight extra-base hits in 73 ABs) and an ability to get on base (.348 OBP) while starting the year at High-A ball.

Aaron Munson, the second to last player in this class, has had an outstanding 2024 season. As a right-handed pitcher from the NCAA Division II program at Angelo State, he has recorded 46 strikeouts with a 2.60 ERA in 34.2 innings and has earned two saves from the Canadians' bullpen. Despite not having a high-velocity fastball, Munson has managed to keep batters off balance with his pitch mix. Selected as the 574th player, he has been a pleasant surprise for the farm system this year.

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