I thought about how I would lead into this, the ranking of teams’ farm systems, but don’t have a good way to do it, other than say it is something that I like to tackle every year. Obviously, in the grand scheme of things my rankings aren’t going to make waves with Keith Law, John Sickels, or the staff at Baseball America. However, these rankings by any outlet are rather arbitrary in nature, and I like any of them, will try to give everybody some reasoning behind them. Scouting and prospects are a big part of the game. We can see that by how teams are clinging onto them in a lot of cases this year, instead of dealing them away for proven players. A lower ranked system doesn’t necessarily correlate to a bad team, and a highly ranked system doesn’t mean it’s a good major league team. It just gives us all a look at organizations who might get healthy in a few years, and which ones are going to have to find other means.
Anyway, this is supposed to be fun, so if you want to discuss, let’s do so…
Toronto, much like Tampa Bay, became masters of manipulating the old draft compensation system and accumulated massive amounts of extra picks the past couple of years. Ever since Toronto’s current GM Alex Anthopolous came aboard, they have made scouting and development a priority, and it looks like it is paying off in an incredibly deep farm system. Having a large scouting department is great, but they still have to find the players, and back it up with the money to get their picks. Toronto has done just that, and they should start seeing the fruits of that labor shortly. Let’s start with the Toronto top 20.
Top 20 Prospects:
1. Travis d’Arnaud (C)- d’Arnaud really blossomed offensively in 2011, something I was skeptical he could do. There is some swing and miss in his game, but the power is for real, slugging his way to an OPS over .900 in AA at 22 last year. He generates good bat speed with strong hands, and uses the whole field nicely. Defensively, he should be above average.
2. Justin Nicolino (SP)- I like Nicolino quite a bit, as evidenced by the ranking. A tall lanky lefty, Nicolino already sits 89-92 with his fastball, and I believe there might be more in his frame. If there is, the sky is the limit for him. He shows advanced ability to pitch, owns an above average change, and his breaking ball is steadily improving.
3. Jake Marisnick (OF)- I’ve had the pleasure to watch Marisnick in the Midwest League, and I like what I see. An above average athlete, Marisnick has 5 tool potential. Offensively, his power is developing nicely, and he is an excellent runner with good speed. Defensively, he is above average with a quality arm and reads balls well off the bat and chases them down. The best of an athletic and quality Lansing outfield.
4. Anthony Gose (OF)- Gose is an even better athlete than Marisnick. In fact, I would call him elite. He is off the charts fast, which helps him be a superior defender in CF, along with his above average arm. His deficiency is with the bat. He has made improvements there, but he strikes out way too much at this point, and needs to improve there. His power numbers improved, and he is still just 21, and played in AA already. Huge ceiling here.
5. Noah Syndergaard (SP)- Must be nice having a guy that can touch 100 as your 5th best prospect. Snydergaard is a sturdily built righty with a power fastball and curve combination that both have plus potential. He could stand to use his height to more effect, and needs consistency on his curve and to strengthen his change, but the potential is there to be a top of the rotation type guy.
6. Aaron Sanchez (SP)- Sanchez doesn’t quite have the numbers of the other two pitchers on this list thus far, but he owns quality stuff, and has more projection as well. The righty owns a quality pitchers frame, a low to mid 90’s fastball, a potential plus curve, and an improving change. His command has to get better but should do so as he fills his frame out and gets used to his body.
7. Daniel Norris (SP)- Toronto landed the quality lefty in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft, which could be a steal. Norris has a power arm and repertoire, owning a low 90’s fastball, curve, slider, and change up. Didn’t pitch for the Jays in 2011, and will be interesting to see where he starts.
8. A.J. Jimenez (C)- One thing Toronto seems to have plenty of is quality catching prospects. Jimenez would easily be the best in most systems that don’t include d’Arnaud. Offensively, Jimenez shows a good idea of the strike zone, hitting for average and has the frame that suggests he could hit for a little power as well. Defensively, he is plus. He owns a strong arm and is a quality athlete for a catcher.
9. Deck McGuire (SP)- Pretty solid across the board, McGuire owns a low 90’s fastball, quality slider, and decent change up. Not nearly as exciting as some of the other pitching prospects in the system, but could be a solid mid-rotation guy for years to come. Sturdy frame suggests innings eater.
10. Drew Hutchison (SP)- Hutchison doesn’t have the physicality of other Jays prospects, but his results speak for themselves. A righty that lives off deception, ability to pitch, and an above average change up, Hutchison has mid-rotation ability. His fastball is good enough, and if he sharpens his slider, he could be better than most thought he would.
11. Adonys Cardona (SP)- A 17 year old with a high ceiling, Cardona has a little way to go, but he could be vaulting up this list easily over the next couple of years. The fastball reportedly gets into the 90’s already, and has some heaviness to it. Needs work on secondaries.
12. Asher Wojciechowski (SP)- People are a little all over the board on Asher. Some think he has mid-rotation possibility, some see him as a high leverage reliever. Owns a quality fastball, above average slider, and developing change up.
13. Joel Carreno (SP)- I listed Carreno as a starter, though I believe he ends up in the pen for the Jays in 2012. His smallish frame and average command lead me to that conclusion. However, the guy produces. Quality fastball/change combo could be excellent in short stints.
14. Jacob Anderson (OF)- It’s a real small sample, but Anderson showed he could mash in rookie ball last year. A solid athlete for a guy that projects for above average power, Anderson should end up in LF. His bat Will Carry him, but I like the potential.
15. Kevin Comer (SP)- The Jays persuaded at least one 2011 draftee away from Vanderbilt. Comer has the ideal frame you look for, and has a quick arm. He is a good athlete with a chance to develop a quality power repertoire. Pretty substantial upside.
16. Dwight Smith Jr. (OF)- Smith looks to be a pure hitter. He uses all fields well, and potentially could hit for some power. He isn’t the best runner in the world, but has good arm strength. If the power comes along, he could fit well into RF down the road.
17. Joseph Musgrove (SP)- Musgrove looks like a future innings eater in the Aaron Harang type mode to me. A big bodied righty with a quality fastball and curve. A 3rd to 4th starter upside.
18. Roberto Osuna (SP)- Osuna has tremendous potential. Signed as a 16 year old out of the Mexican League, Osuna already sits in the 90’s with his fastball and has a good idea how to pitch.
19. Michael Crouse (OF)- The 2nd player in that quality Lansing OF, Crouse is a tooled up athlete, who has the chance to hit for power and possesses above average speed.
20. Matt Dean (3B)- Dean could be a big mover up this list. Offensively could hit for average and power. Defensively, he could be a quality defender, maybe even top tier.
Just Missed The List: Moises Sierra (OF), Carlos Perez (C), Adeiny Hechavarria (SS), Chad Jenkins (SP), Marcus Knecht (OF), Dickie Thon (SS), Griffin Murphy (SP), Mitchell Taylor (SP), John Stilson (SP), Tom Robson (SP), Kellen Sweeney (3B), Christopher Hawkins (OF), Micheal McDade (1B), Christian Lopes (SS), Mark Biggs (SP), Jeremy Gabryszwski (SP), and David Rollins (RP)
Sleepers: Marcus Brisker (OF) and Sean Nolin (SP). Brisker is the third of the athletic outfielders in Lansing this past season. Has great physicality, above average speed, but needs to work on his strike zone some. Nolin is a pretty mammoth lefty, but he got in better shape, and got better results. Nolin owns a decent fastball in the low 90’s and a quality change. If he sharpens curve, he could surprise.
Rebound Candidate: Carlos Perez. Perez struggled some in 2011, and I had him as the systems’ best catcher before 2011. Still has all the tools to be successful at the dish and behind it. I expect a pretty substantial bounce back.
Verdict: Honestly, I really wanted to put this system #1 if truth be told. Despite the enormous amount of depth, and talented athletes here, most of the prospects are of the good variety, and the system does lack a little bit of big time impact types. That isn’t a huge knock at all, in fact, that could change greatly. The issue is so many of these quality players are in low A ball or lower, and we just don’t know enough about them at this point. If a lot of these guys like Aaron Sanchez, Cardona, Dean, Perez, Crouse, etc…take a step forward, this system could easily rival Kansas City pre-2011. I love the young pitching here, and I couldn’t include guys like Kyle Drabek and Henderson Alvarez because of innings. Obviously, with a system as deep and talented as this one, help should be arriving in Toronto soon, who has a pretty young squad to begin with.