Even as the Blue Jays prepare for spring training and the upcoming season, there is always an eye on the future in Toronto. More specifically, players in the farm system who could help the team down the road in the Majors.
The problem is that there is no exact science when it comes to predicting who is going to come through and pay dividends long-term. You could quite easily have a highly touted prospect who doesn't pan out, or someone who comes from nowhere to surprise everyone.
In fairness though, you are just as likely to have a player who lives up (or down) to their scouting reports. In terms of the Blue Jays specifically, this leads to the question of who currently has a chance to rise up through the ranks and make it?
Along these lines, Baseball America is currently working through their preseason prospect rankings for all 30 Major League teams. Here is a look at three Blue Jays players in particular (subscription required), who Geoff Pontes predicts are on the verge of breakout seasons:
Enmanuel Bonilla - outfielder
As per Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com, Enmanuel Bonilla was signed last January by the Blue Jays, for $4.1M. At the time, he was ranked number seven on the top 50 international prospect list by MLB pipeline, and fourth by Baseball America.
It speaks volumes, that the $4.1M signing bonus was the biggest ever by the Blue Jays. Bonilla is renowned as a pure power hitter, with a strong arm and good instincts which can allow him to play any position in the outfield.
The 17-year-old played 50 games during his first year with the Blue Jays organisation, in the Dominican Summer League. He produced three home runs, 22 RBI and 27 walks, on the way to an enticing .307/.407/.429 slash line and .836 OPS.
Defensively, Bonilla played 49 games in the outfield, all in centre field. Along the way he recorded just four errors, on the way to a .969 fielding percentage.
In respect of the right-handed bat's updated scouting report, Pontes writes that he has a good balance between aggression and patience. However, he is still working through teething issues with spin and good breaking balls in the zone.
The believe is that Bonilla will eventually be moved permanently to a corner outfield spot. Regardless, Pontes tabs him as an exciting outfielder, with the potential to be an above average hitter at the Major League level.
Landen Maroudis - pitcher
Landen Maroudis is an interesting selection, given that he has yet to pitch in a game since joining the Blue Jays organisation. This alludes to just how highly Pontes rates the pitcher, not that he is alone in this.
Maroudis was picked in the fourth round of the 2023 MLB draft, 121st overall by the Blue Jays. He received a $1.5M bonus, considerably above the slot value of $547,100 for the 121st pick. (He had an NC State commitment to consider.)
The 19-year-old was an excellent two-way player at Calvary Christian High School, also excelling as a shortstop. He will now focus purely on his pitching, with the Blue Jays projecting him as a future starter in their rotation.
Most of the attention is paid towards Maroudis' fastball, with it currently averaging between 91-93 mph, but capable of reaching 96. He does have four pitches in his arsenal, but his main backup is a low-mid 80s changeup.
Currently at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, the righty is expected to grow into his frame, which will only help him in developing more power in his pitches. Pontes references average command in his secondary pitches, but this should only improve with time and experience.
Overall, Pontes does not have quite the same level of confidence in Maroudis that he does in Bonilla, which is entirely understandable. Regardless, the young arm has enticing upside to become a capable starter down the road at the Major League level.
Sam Shaw - second baseman
Sam Shaw saw a dream come true, when he was selected 274th overall by the Blue Jays in the 2023 MLB draft. As a lifelong fan of the team, he was now going to get to play for the organisation.
Shaw impressed a lot of people in the pre-draft MLB combine, so it was somewhat of a surprise that he lasted until the ninth round. Regardless, everyone else's loss was the Blue Jays' gain.
It turns out the Blue Jays have had their eye on the Victoria native for quite a long time. As per Shi David of Sportsnet, their interest became reaffirmed by his showing at the 2022 Canadian Futures Showcase.
Shaw played nine games for the Blue Jays during 2023 in the Florida Complex League, with 40 plate appearances. He had no home runs or RBI as he hit .207 with a .701 OPS, although he did manufacture 10 walks.
Defensively, the 18-year-old started three games at second base and six in centre field, committing two errors in the process (with both coming at second base). He is also capable of playing at first base, due to his combination of soft hands and good instincts.
From Pontes' perspective, Shaw has an advanced understanding of the strike zone and the potential for a high/consistent level of contact with the ball. Overall, the Baseball America prospect writer is impressed with the teenager's maturity.