2012 – Top 10 Blue Jays Prospects

Though they have not not yet lost their rookie eligibility, I have excluded Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra because I fully expect that they will reach 130 career ABs in the coming days. Other graduates include Drew Hutchison, David Cooper, and Aaron Loup.
This list is composed using proximity to the Majors as well as their potential impact upon reaching them. Travis d’Arnaud is the consensus pick as the Blue Jays top prospect though he likely would have graduated if not for his PCL tear. The decision to place Syndergaard over Sanchez came down to Syndergaard’s better control but they could very easily be flipped. Sanchez’ ceiling projects to be much higher than Syndergaard’s because of his advanced curveball but he likely has to improve both control and command to be an effective pitcher in the Majors.

Roberto Osuna is only 17 years old but has been dominant thus far in his time as a professional in the Toronto Blue Jays organization. With a fastball that already sits in the low-to-mid 90s and the potential for two other above average offerings, Osuna should only improve as he gains physical maturity and gains professional experience. He could add a few more ticks to his pitches by the time he reaches the Majors but talent evaluators don’t believe there’s that much projection left in his body. He has the potential to move quickly through the Blue Jays system a year behind the Lansing 3.

Dan Norris was the best prep left-hander in the 2011 draft but had a rough first professional season. His ERA of 8.93 across two levels is more than twice his FIP of 3.99. The strikeout numbers were there for Norris but he was hurt by spotty control and an elevated BABIP. Look for him to bounce back in Vancouver or Lansing depending on how he starts in the Spring. He too could rise quickly through the Jays system if he could command his pitches but lefties that throw as hard as Norris often need time to refine their arsenal. Though Norris is older than Osuna, he may end up repeating a level and following behind the young Mexican right hander.

Marcus Stroman’s positive result for a stimulant he claims was ingested in an over-the-counter supplement was obviously disappointing but he should bounce back next year and compete for a spot at the back-end of the Jays’ bullpen when his suspension is completed. He was drafted with the belief that he could make an impact quickly at the Major League-level. He could still be stretched out in the future as a starter but Stroman’s body type and arsenal could be better suited to being a late-inning reliever.

Sean Nolin is the dark horse of the Top 10 as talent evaluators aren’t high on his stuff. However, the LHP has continued to succeed as he’s moved through the Jays’ system reaching AA New Hampshire at 22 in 2012. Look for him to move to Buffalo at some point in 2013 if he starts quickly in New Hampshire. He could reach the Majors before any of the other pitchers on this list but lacks the overpowering arsenal to occupy a higher position on this list.

1. Travis d’Arnaud 2. Noah Syndergaard

3. Aaron Sanchez

4. Roberto Osuna

5. Dan Norris

6. Marcus Stroman

7. Sean Nolin

8. DJ Davis 9. Matt Smoral 10. John Stilson
  • 1) Travis d’Arnaud – 1st Round S, 37th overall – R/R – C – 2/10/1989 – 6’2″ 195 lbs.

Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff G PA HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2007 18 Phillies GULF Rk PHI 41 151 4 4 23 0.241 0.278 0.348 0.626
2008 19 2 Teams 2 Lgs A–A PHI 64 267 6 23 39 0.305 0.367 0.464 0.831
2008 19 Williamsport NYPL A- PHI 48 197 4 18 29 0.309 0.371 0.463 0.833
2008 19 Lakewood SALL A PHI 16 70 2 5 10 0.297 0.357 0.469 0.826
2009 20 Lakewood SALL A PHI 126 540 13 41 75 0.255 0.319 0.419 0.738
2010 21 Dunedin FLOR A+ TOR 71 292 6 20 63 0.259 0.315 0.411 0.726
2011 22 New Hampshire EL AA TOR 114 466 21 33 100 0.311 0.371 0.542 0.914
2012 23 Las Vegas PCL AAA TOR 67 303 16 19 59 0.333 0.38 0.595 0.975
6 Seasons 483 2019 66 140 359 0.286 0.343 0.474 0.816

Stats by: Baseball-Reference.com

Though it should be no surprise, drum roll please. Quantrill’s Quandaries’ #1 Blue Jays Prospect of 2012 is… 23-year old catcher from the LBC, Travis d’Arnaud. The final piece of the Roy Halladay trade with the Phillies to make the Majors, Travis d’Arnaud has the potential to have the biggest impact. Hampered by injuries during his minor league career after being drafted in the 1st round of the 2007 draft out of Lakewood HS, d’Arnaud had put together two elite offensive seasons in AA in 2011 and AAA in 2012 before tearing the PCL in his left knee (the less important cousin of the MCL/ACL) in late June while attempting to break up a double play. The injury sidelined d’Arnaud for the remainder of 2012 and cooled talk of him supplanting incumbent catcher JP Arencibia by Spring 2013. Though knee injuries can be devastating for catchers, d’Arnaud should make a full recovery and because there was no further damage to his knee should not be affected behind the plate.

D’Arnaud’s first season in the Blue Jays’ organization was rather disappointing as he only managed to appear in 71 games because of a back injury for the 2010 Dunedin Blue Jays. Offensively, d’Arnaud couldn’t find his groove in 2010 but would return healthy and ready to slug in 2011. d’Arnaud would finish 5th in wOBA, 4th in OPS, and 5th in wRC+ on his way to winning Eastern League (AA) MVP at age 22. Though young for the league, d’Arnaud emerged as a legitimate power threat as he slugged 21 HRs (4th in EL). d’Arnaud would end up tearing a ligament in his thumb playing in the World Cup for Team USA but arrived healthy in Spring 2012.

Given his enormous success in AA at 22, d’Arnaud was widely anointed as the Jays’ No. 1 prospect prior to 2012. Assigned to the hitter-friendly PCL, d’Arnaud was expected to torch the league and force his way to Toronto by September 2012 at the latest. However, the Californian catcher started the season slow OPS’ing a pedestrian .778 in April with 2 HRs before exploding for 10 HRs in May and a 1.144 OPS.

Interestingly, d’Arnaud received several starts at 1B in Las Vegas to prepare him for a potential platoon situation with incumbent Toronto catcher JP Arencibia. Though d’Arnaud’s bat is a much more valuable asset when he starts behind the plate, the Jays’ front office likely believes it would play at 1B at least in the short-term while the Jays figure out who will start behind the plate for the long-term. Considering the incumbent at 1B Adam Lind has struggled mightily the past few years especially against lefties, breaking in a rookie at first base should not hurt the Jays’ offence as much as one might think.

Tools:

Hit:

Earlier in his career, d’Arnaud was primarily a pull-hitter that tried to yank everything over the fence but has since developed his approach to hit to all fields. Though he has struggled with plate discipline throughout his minor league career, talent evaluators believed that he still had the potential to hit for average at the Major League-level. Mark Anderson wrote prior to 2012 that d’Arnaud doesn’t have ability to adjust mid-pitch but that he does within an at-bat/game. He believes that d’Arnaud improved his pitch recognition and patience in 2011 and this likely contributed to his reduced strikeout rate in 2012.

Kevin Goldstein, then of Baseball Prospectus, wrote prior to 2012 that d’Arnaud had the ability to hit .280-.300 because of his “quick bat” and “outstanding hand-eye coordination”. Though he had made “strides in his plate discipline… it could still use refinement.” Anderson currently rates his hit tool as solid with the potential to be above-average.

Power:

Goldstein wrote prior to 2012 that d’Arnaud had the potential to hit 25 HRs annually at the Major League-level and his injury-shortened season in the PCL did not nothing to dispel that notion as he slugged 16 HRs by the time of his injury in June despite a slow start to the season. Power numbers are inflated in Las Vegas but its hoped that his plus bat speed and compact swing will produce plenty of power for him to be an above-average Major League catcher in that department.

Glove:

Goldstein wrote for Baseball Prospectus prior to 2012 that: “d’Arnaud has the potential to be a plus defender, but he still needs to improve his receiving skills and the quickness of his release.” Mark Anderson, of BaseballProspectNation.com, wrote that d’Arnaud’s:

“Receiving and pitch handling improved dramatically in 2011 thanks in part to an increased focus on the intricacies of the position. Still struggles with better breaking balls, particularly in the dirt, but that should improve with experience. Overall blocking is solid. Game calling is still a work in progress.”

While there are still concerns about d’Arnaud’s work behind the plate, most talent evaluators are confident that they will be resolved to some degree with greater experience. Catchers’ defensive peaks typically don’t occur until a player’s late 20s, early 30s and so d’Arnaud should have plenty of time to refine his game behind the plate and his bat should allow to do so in the Majors. Keith Law of ESPN.com likes his defense which he rates as plus already. Mark Anderson rates him as an average defender behind the plate with the potential to develop into an above-average or plus catcher in the Majors.

Arm:

In a post, Jeremy Warnemuende of MLB.com wrote “d’Arnaud’s defense has been equally impressive [as his bat],… his throws from home to second base have been clocked as low as 1.84 seconds.”

Mark Anderson wrote that the ball didn’t always come out of d’Arnaud’s hand “clean” and that his footwork and release could get “sloppy at times”. His raw arm strength ranged between average and plus but he believes that it should sit at the upper range as he gains more professional experience behind the plate.

Speed:

Mark Anderson wrote that he was consistently under average from home to first and thought that he’d slow with the rigours of playing behind the plate throughout his career. Though he may be under average for a Major Leaguer, d’Arnaud will likely be faster than the average catcher in his career. He may not win games with his legs, but he won’t lose them either.

Overall:

Predictions:

In the end, d’Arnaud’s ceiling is much higher than Arencibia as he projects to hit for both average and power and provides superior defence behind the plate. d’Arnaud should, barring a major setback, supplant Arencibia as the Jays starting catcher at some point in 2013. Before the season, Goldstein’s ‘perfect world projection’ was that d’Arnaud could be an All-Star catcher who could hit in the middle of the order. His 2012 season has likely done nothing to shake that prediction except for increased concerns about his injury risk and long-term ability to stay behind the plate.

In August, Gregor Chisholm featured an interview with Alex Anthopoulos on his blog, North of the Border in which the two discussed Toronto’s catching situation and d’Arnaud’s path to the Majors:

d’Arnaud would be a candidate for DH and 1B?

“I don’t know about first, we had him take some balls at first base in Las Vegas but right now I think Edwin has pretty much established himself as the guy getting the bulk of the reps at first. I think Travis, at the end of the day, can certainly force his way up here. We’ll find at-bats for him if that was to end up being the case.”

On how d’Arnaud’s injury impacted his timeline…

“He would have been up now, the way he was playing in Las Vegas. When J.P. got hurt, Travis certainly would have gotten the opportunity to come up and play the same way when John Buck was hurt a few years ago, J.P. was having a great year down there and got the opportunity. There’s no question he was definitely performing well enough and worthy of a call-up like some of the other guys have gotten but unfortunately he got hurt. Long-term he’s going to be fine, we still think he’s going to be a tremendous player and a tremendous prospect. This really doesn’t change anything. When players are good you find room for them.”

Where d’Arnaud starts the 2013 season following his injury-shortened 2012 season is unclear. But all signs point to him starting the season in AAA with the Buffalo Bisons since he missed a lot of at-bats with his PCL tear. It was initially hoped that he would be healthy in time to make up for some lost time in the Arizona Fall League. However, d’Arnaud has not recovered in time and the Jays chose to send Sean Ochinko to fill their allotted catcher’s slot.

If incumbent JP Arencibia were to be moved in the offseason in order to shore up the team’s needs in the off season then it should be expected that d’Arnaud would break camp with the big club. He was already ready for the Majors when he went down with the knee injury. He may be hampered by his long lay-off in the early months, but d’Arnaud should still be able to be a Major contributor to the team. If Arencibia is retained, d’Arnaud may see some time at 1B/DH in order to fit his bat in the lineup next year which wouldn’t be as much of a waste considering it gives the team insurance against extended struggles/injury.

ETA: Spring-Early Summer 2013; All-Star 2015… hopefully.

  • 2) Noah Syndergaard – 2010 1st-round (S), 38th overall – RHP – 29/08/1992 – 6’5″ 200 lbs.
Year Age Tm Lg Lev G BF IP ERA FIP SIERA GB% LD% BABIP K% BB%
2011 18.83 Bluefield APP ROK 7 129 32 1.41 2.33 2.88 50.6% 11.1% 0.278 28.7% 8.5%
2011 18.83 Vancouver NOR A- 4 73 18 2 1.59 2.53 47.8% 10.9% 0.326 30.1% 6.8%
2011 18.83 Lansing MID A 2 36 9 3 1.87 3.01 36.0% 16.0% 0.32 25.0% 5.6%
2011 18.83 MiLB Total 0 0 13 238 59 1.83 2.03 2.79 47.4% 11.8% 0.3 28.6% 7.6%
2012 19.83 Lansing MID A 26 404 98.7 2.74 2.34 2.81 53.7% 12.8% 0.303 28.0% 7.7%
0 0 MiLB Total 0 0 39 642 157.7 2.4 2.22 2.81 51.3% 12.5% 0.302 28.2% 7.6%

Another one of Alex Anthopoulos’ young, high-ceiling pitching draft picks from 2010, Noah Syndergaard at 6’5″ and 200 lbs. is a prototypical power pitcher who can run his fastball into the upper-90s with ease. After a short but successful stint in the GCL in 2010, Syndergaard thoroughly dominated the competition in 2011 across three levels striking out 28.6% of the batters he faced while walking just 7.6%. Syndergaard wound up finishing the year with Lo-A Lansing where he made two starts.

Entering 2012, talent evaluators expected big things from the big, tall Texan and they would not be disappointed. Despite the move up to Lansing, Syndergaard maintained his impressive strikeout rate while limiting his walks in 2012. His curveball’s development is well behind that of Aaron Sanchez, but his control is currently much better than Sanchez.

Like Nicolino and Sanchez, Syndergaard started the season strong in April as they started under the piggybacking system that saw Syndergaard paired with former college-pitcher Anthony DeSclafani in starts until July. Syndergaard struggled a bit working as a reliever when DeSclafani got the start as he allowed 17 ER in just 24 IP. Though he was still striking out a lot of batters, he allowed significantly more walks and the only three HRs he would allow all year.

“It’s kind of frustrating, but at the same time, I know there’s a goal, there’s a plan that the Blue Jays have for me,” Syndergaard said of alternating starts and relief outings. “I’m OK with it, but I definitely feel more comfortable starting. I still haven’t figured out the relieving role. It would be a lot easier to acclimate to my routine if I was a starter every five days. The first few relief appearances, it was tough to get my arm loose, but I feel that I have a set routine going and get my arm loose.

Hopefully, the Jays and Syndergaard won’t have to worry about getting him loose before a relief appearance ever again because when July hit, the ‘Lansing 3′ + Desclafani were given their own rotation slots. The big Texan returned to dominant form with an increase in strikeouts, a drop in walks and the absence of a long ball for the remainder of the season. On the season, opponents hit a paltry .182 against him in games that he started.

Syndergaard’s continued success following the Lansing pitchers’ graduations from piggybacking is also encouraging because it meant that he was still having success even against batters that were seeing him for the second time in a game. Aaron Sanchez was the opposite as his results as a reliever were significantly stronger than as a starter especially in the second half when Sanchez’ innings were increased.

Repertoire:

Fastball (FB):

Syndergaard’s best pitch is his four-seam fastball which sits in the mid-90s and touched as high as 100 mph in 2012. Syndergaard’s height gives his fastball a great plane to the plate. Mark Anderson of BaseballProspectNation.com believes that his arm angle “makes him difficult to square and helps induce ground balls.” He also believes that his ability to add sink which he has shown thus far should become more consistent as he gains further professional experience. His velocity could rise even further as Syndergaard fully matures and could put him in elite company, though it is already a plus-pitch.

Curveball (CU):

Video by: JayJournalJared

Syndergaard throws a hammer curveball which he throws in the 77-80 mph with 12-6 break and nice shape per BaseballInstinct.com. Syndergaard uses it as an out pitch and can throw it for strike or finish out of the zone to induce swings and misses. Needs to become more consistent which should occur as he gains experience. Currently shows a plus-pitch at times with the ability to induce swings and misses (Anderson).

Changeup (CH):

Syndergaard also throws a circle changeup which sits in the mid-80s but lags behind his other offerings. His feel for the pitch is inconsistent and will need to improve for him to be a successful pitcher in the Majors. The pitch “[s]hows occasional sink that can work well against LHH,” writes Mark Anderson, “[It is a p]otential average pitch with experience/repetition.” Currently unable to throw consistently for strikes.

Overall:

Syndergaard’s control was the primary factor in his ranking ahead of Aaron Sanchez in this list. It was also encouraging to see him improve as the 2012 season wore on and he faced lineups again. Syndergaard will certainly need to improve his secondaries as he rises through the ranks because he will not always be able to reach back for more velocity to blow past hitters. Eventually, they would catch up. Though he has shown the ability to throw his fastball consistently for strikes, his secondaries are not nearly as reliable and will lead to trouble if hitters are allowed to sit on his heater in the higher levels.

Syndergaard will also need to improve his command, which Mark Anderson believes because of his athleticism and arm action, currently projects to be average. He believes it will improve rapidly with greater experience and physical development. Syndergaard has the raw stuff that will allow him to be successful without pinpoint accuracy, but he could become an elite pitcher in the Majors if he were to possess above-average command of at least two of his pitches.

Predictions:

Syndergaard, like Sanchez and Nicolino, will likely start 2013 with the Dunedin Blue Jays in the Florida State League. As mentioned in their profiles, the organization has expressed a willingness to aggressively promote its pitching prospects as they enter their 20s. If Syndergaard can improve his secondaries and/or better command his fastball, then he could see a rapid rise through the remaining levels like Henderson Alvarez and Drew Hutchison before him.

Look for him to get a taste of AA at some point in 2013 and compete for a rotation spot by 2014 at the earliest. Despite their rankings in this list, expect to see Nicolino in the Majors first, followed by Syndergaard, and then Sanchez barring injury and/or rapid regression/progression.

  • 3) Aaron Sanchez – 2010 1st round (Supplemental) 34th Overall – RHP – 7/1/1992 (20) – 6’4″ 190 lbs
Year Age Tm Lg Lev G BF IP ERA FIP SIERA GB% LD% BABIP K% BB%
2011 18.92 Bluefield APP ROK 11 190 42.7 5.48 3.74 3.78 44.5% 7.0% 0.339 22.6% 9.5%
2011 18.92 Vancouver NOR A- 3 51 11.7 4.63 3.29 4 44.8% 20.7% 0.286 25.5% 15.7%
2011 18.92 MiLB Total 0 0 14 241 54.3 5.3 3.64 3.84 44.6% 9.6% 0.329 23.2% 10.8%
2012 19.92 Lansing MID A 24 364 87.3 2.47 3.38 3.57 58.1% 10.7% 0.278 25.8% 13.2%
0 0 MiLB Total 0 0 38 605 141.7 3.56 3.48 3.71 52.4% 10.2% 0.299 24.8% 12.2%

Aaron Sanchez is a supplemental 1st round pick for the Blue Jays that was one of Alex Anthopoulos’ first draft picks and an example of his strategy of drafting high-ceiling high school arms that the Jays can develop slowly. Sanchez is poster child for projectability as he was just 6’3″, 170 lbs. when he was drafted in 2010 but has since grown an inch and added 20 lbs to his frame.

He pitched 25 innings in GCL and the NYPL to impressive results including a 2.16 ERA which hid that he was walking more than 6 batters per 9 innings though that was offset by a strikeout rate that was more than 13 per 9. Obviously, the brass were encouraged by his ability to strike people out but concerned that his control problems would hamper his success as he faced stiffer competition.

Though his end results in 2011 were not where he’d have liked them, there was encouragement to be drawn from his peripheral numbers and the talent evaluators continued to believe that his raw stuff would inevitably bring results. However, he was still moved up to Vancouver by season’s end and would join other members of the Canadians’ staff in moving up to full-season ball for 2012.

Talent evaluators disagreed for the most part prior to 2012 about how the Jays’ top pitching prospects should be ranked though more often than not he wound up looking up at both Justin Nicolino and Noah Syndergaard. Out of Goldstein, Law, Rode, Sickels, and Mayo, only Law ranked him ahead of Nicolino and Syndergaard going into the 2012 season.

However, those that predicted he’d break out in Lo-A Lansing in 2012 came out smelling like Nostradamus because Sanchez was nearly unhittable. He’d relinquish just 6.4 H/9 and only 11 extra-base hits in 87 1/3 IP. Unfortunately, the control problems that had plagued him at the lower levels remained as he walked 13.2% of the batters he faced. He was helped out by a career high in ground ball % and a career low in BABIP but that is not to detract from what overall was a very positive season at an important stage in Sanchez’ development.

Repertoire:

Fastball (FB):

Despite his slight build, Sanchez already sports a four-seam fastball which reportedly touched as high as 100 mph this past season:

My fastball jumped. At the beginning of the year it was 92 to 95, in the middle it was 94 to 96, lately it has been around 95 to 99. Reportedly I hit 100, but you never know if those readings are accurate. – Aaron Sanchez to JaysProspects.com, September 2012

“Like a typical four-seamer,” writes JD Sussman at Bullpen Banter, “Sanchez’s fastball is straight but it’s explosive and often invokes both swings and misses.” Despite a fastball sitting consistently in the mid-90s, Sanchez still has the potential to add a few more pounds to his frame and could conceivably add a few more ticks to his average fastball which would put him into elite territory.

Curveball (CU):

Sanchez has also shown a plus-curveball that features late break that Baseball America ranked as the best in the system. While he is yet to show that he can throw his breaking ball consistently for strikes, he is still just 20 years old and should still have plenty of time to become more consistent in his delivery.

Changeup (CH):

Though his changeup “lags behind the curve in all facets right now” according to Sussman, the pitch has the potential to be “devastating”. Because curveballs are almost inherently difficult to throw for strikes, Sussman believes that Sanchez will be best served by catching his changeup to the rest of his arsenal as it should be easier to throw for strikes.

In an interview with Jared Macdonald of JaysJournal.com in May 2012, Blue Jays VP of Baseball Operations Tony La Cava was asked about the progress with Aaron Sanchez’ changeup:

Speaking of weapons, Aaron Sanchez. In terms of that changeup, that third pitch, how’s it coming along?

“We think it’s going to be the third plus pitch that he has. Fastball velocity it keeps getting better, and movement, and angle, and command of it just continues to get better and better. His breaking ball is an out pitch, it’s a knockout curveball, and his changeup is, at times, plus also. So that’s three out pitches we think, and he’s just 19.

Overall:

Sanchez greatly improved his stock in 2012 and showed that talent evaluators were not crazy for having Sanchez in their Top 10s despite what had thus far been lacklustre results for the young right-hander from Barstow. In his post-2012 rankings, Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com bumped Sanchez up from 8th to 3rd and in the process leapfrogged him past Nicolino, Norris and Syndergaard. It’s not surprising considering the dominance Sanchez displayed and the growth of all three of his pitches, but does show the confidence that Mayo has in Sanchez’ raw stuff and his ability in the future to harness it.

Predictions:

Sanchez should start 2013 with the Dunedin Blue Jays of the Florida State League and if the Jays feel he is ready, might push him as high as New Hampshire by season’s end. The front office has signalled that it is more comfortable aggressively promoting its pitching prospects once they’ve entered their 20s and so it is unlikely that Sanchez will be held back unless it is determined he needs serious work before making the jump to the next level. That work could very well be the control problems that have plagued him throughout his minor league career, but hopefully the extra year of growth and development will help in reducing his walk rate in 2013.

Look for him to be knocking on the door in Toronto by 2014 when he will be just 22. His exact arrival will likely be determined by the other options available as John Stilson, Deck McGuire, Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison all figure to compete for spots in the rotation and are further along. If Sanchez is still suffering control problems in a few years, the Jays may opt to use one of the aforementioned names and let him continue to develop in the minors. However, if those names falter, it could facilitate Sanchez’ first taste of the big leagues.

  • 4) Roberto Osuna – RHP – IFA 2011 – 2/7/1995 (17) – 6′ 2″, 230 lbs.
Year Age Tm Lg Lev G BF IP ERA FIP SIERA GB% BABIP K% BB%
2011 16.33 Mexico MEX 0 13 89 19.7 5.49 5.64 5.34 46.2% 0.355 13.5% 12.4%
2012 17.33 Bluefield APP ROK 7 95 24 1.5 2.74 3.07 44.4% 0.279 25.3% 6.3%
2012 17.33 Vancouver NOR A- 5 85 19.7 3.2 2.84 3.02 36.0% 0.265 29.4% 10.6%
2012 17.33 MiLB Total 0 0 12 180 43.7 2.27 2.79 3.05 40.7% 0.273 27.2% 8.3%
0 0 MiLB Total 0 0 25 269 63.3 3.27 3.67 3.79 42.7% 0.302 22.7% 9.7%

The Blue Jays turned heads when they signed Roberto Osuna out of Mexico for $1.5M (though likely 75% went to his Mexican team. Osuna, the nephew of former Major League reliever Antonio Osuna, had been pitching in the AAA-quality Mexican League and at the age of 16 was holding his own as the 2nd youngest player ever in the League that features former MLBers and players twice his age.

In his first season in the Blue Jays’ system, the young right-hander did not disappoint across two levels striking out more than a quarter of the batters he faced. Despite still being just 17 years-old, Osuna was promoted mid-season to the Vancouver Canadians of the college-heavy Northwest League.

Source MLBDirt.com

He once again turned heads around the league with his debut for the Canadians on July 28th when he K’d the first 6 batters en route to 13 total in just 5 innings of work against Seattle’s 2012 1st-round pick Mike Zunino and the Everett Aquasox. Though the scouts had come mostly to watch the latter, they came back with great impressions of Osuna who K’d Zunino swinging in the 1st before walking him in the 4th. Osuna gave up a single moving Zunino to 3rd but then proceeded to strike out the side. Those were his only blemishes on a night when Zunino would not disappoint when he hit a game-winning 3-run homer later in the night.

Osuna has also been hailed for his great mound presence and an advanced feel for pitching which is probably aided by having a father (a veteran of the Mexican League) and an uncle (a long-time reliever for the Dodgers) to coach him during his early development.

Repertoire:

  • Fastball(FB)
    • Already has good command of a sinking fastball which he throws between 92-94 mph and peaks at 96 mph.
    • Michael Schwartze of MLBDirt.com and others have said that there isn’t much projection left in his frame
    • Good arm-side run according to Schwartze
    • Osuna could have a plus pitch when he reaches the Majors wrote Schwartze based upon good command and velocity for his age
  • Change-Up(CH)
    • “Osuna’s best secondary pitch was his changeup. The pitch had almost splitter like movement. It had a good amount of drop with a little bit of fade. It was very deceptive and really fooled batters. He had a very impressive feel for it especially for how young he is. The pitch sat about 80-82 MPH.” (MLBDirt.com)
  • Slider/Slurve/Curve?(SL)
    • Osuna also throws a slider/slurve according to Schwartze which sits 80-83 mph
    • When he was signed, Osuna threw a high-70s curveball which it seems the organization has moved him away from in favour of a slider which can be slurvy at times but “looks more like a slider than a curve to me” – (Schwartze)
    • “He located it pretty well and generated a good amount of swing and misses. There were times where it caught a little too much of the plate and did not break consistently but it was still an impressive pitch and he had a good feel for it. He liked to throw it in 2 strike counts and threw it to both lefties and righties to both sides of the plate.” – (Schwartze)
  • Overall
    • John Sickels of Minor League Ball believes he will have three above-average offerings in the fastball, change-up and slider
    • He graded him as a C+ prospect prior to the 2012 season but by August had upped his status to a “strong B now, perhaps even a B+”
    • Schwartze was impressed by Osuna’s “maturity, feel for pitching, and command” and thought he could move quickly for his age

Predictions:

Osuna demonstrated in 2012 that he was ready to face much older competition and considering his success, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him start next year in full-season ball with the Lansing Lugnuts. While he would be a year ahead of Syndergaard/Sanchez in his development timeline, his already mature mind/body should allow him to succeed in the Midwest League in 2013.

In an interview with Jared Macdonald of JaysJournal.com, VP of Baseball Operations and Assistant GM Tony LaCava explained the organization’s strategies for developing teenage pitchers using a piggy-backing system:

Well piggybacking’s been done in the past in other organizations, especially with younger pitchers. It’s a way to get a five-month season out of pitchers who normally, if you just let them go full go, would run out of innings by, at the latest, mid-July. We’re trying to get them into a mindset of going five months which is a full minor league season — ultimately we want them to go six months — and to protect them during their teenage years where they’re being asked to do more and they’re still growing, they’re still physically growing. It’s our way of making sure we do the right things by them from a health standpoint. – Tony LaCava, May 7th 2012

It may be that Osuna will find himself as the partner of Daniel Norris, Taylor Cole, Javier Avendano or Griffin Murphy next year in a piggy-backing system in Lansing in order to coax a full-season out of his young arm.

Osuna should be a Major Leaguer before long even if his fastball doesn’t gain velocity as he matures with the potential for three plus-pitches. Osuna is currently looking like a solid #2-3 who should follow a year behind the development of Syndergaard/Sanchez. However, it is still a bit early to pencil him in for 200 innings annually, so don’t expect him to be competing for a rotation spot until 2015 at the earliest.

  • 5) Daniel Norris – LHP – 2nd Round, 74th overall – 4/25/1993 (19)

Year Age Tm Lg Lev G BF IP ERA FIP SIERA GB% BABIP K% BB%
2012 19.17 Bluefield APP ROK 10 157 32.7 8.54 4.03 3.68 41.1% 0.373 22.3% 8.3%
2012 19.17 Vancouver NOR A- 2 41 7.7 10.57 3.85 5.71 29.0% 0.452 12.2% 12.2%
2012 19.17 MiLB Total 0 0 12 198 40.3 8.93 3.99 4.07 38.4% 0.391 20.2% 9.1%
0 0 MiLB Total 0 0 12 198 40.3 8.93 3.99 4.07 38.4% 0.391 20.2% 9.1%

Daniel Norris was widely considered to be the best left-handed prep pitchers in the 2011 draft because of his fastball with plus velocity and a power curve. He was considered quite the steal when the Jays managed to sign him out of the 2nd round for a significant amount less than his rumoured asking price. He was considered a Top 15 talent at the time that only dropped down because of his rumoured asking price.

He started his first professional season in 2012 in Extended Spring Training before being assigned to the Appalachian League’s Bluefield Blue Jays. Despite less than ideal performance in Rookie ball, Norris was moved up to the college-level Northwest League’s Vancouver Canadians. There Norris struggled in two starts with an ERA over 10 despite an FIP under 4. Norris is far too young to be worrying about his results against much older competition, but to say this season was a disappointment would not be a stretch.

Repertoire:

Daniel Norris on his pitching arsenal:

I throw a 4-seam fastball that will usually sit around 92-95 getting up to 6 or 7, a two-seam fastball at 89-93, a change at 83-86, a slider at 83-85 and a curve at 71-74. I would have to say my ‘out’ pitch is my curve however all of them can be out pitches with good command. That goes for any pitcher.

Source: CanadianBaseballNetwork.com

Norris has all the makings of a future star if he can put these tools all together. However, thus far he has struggled with the two C’s: command and control. Look for him to work on both in 2013.

Prediction:

Norris is immensely talented and should eventually achieve results to match his raw stuff. While it would be nice to believe that Norris can fly up the prospect charts and into the Majors overnight, he is likely to take a few seasons to harness his potential and compete for a spot in Toronto.

It’s likely he will either return to Vancouver next year after Extended Spring Training or try his hand at full-season ball with the Lansing Lugnuts. He’ll be just 19 years old next year but if he makes Lansing in the Spring, then it would match the development path of 2010 high school draftees Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard. Norris needs to be stretched out much like his predecessors in Lansing this year so he will likely find himself being used in a piggy-backing at schedule to begin 2013.

  • 6) Marcus Stroman (RHP) 1st round, 22nd overall – 2012 – 5/1/1991 (21)

Year Age Tm Lg Lev G BF IP ERA FIP SIERA GB% BABIP K% BB%
2012 21.08 New Hampshire EAS AA 8 38 8 3.38 5.08 4.11 58.3% 0.304 21.1% 15.8%
2012 21.08 Vancouver NOR A- 7 45 11.3 3.18 1.35 2.1 48.1% 0.296 33.3% 6.7%
2012 21.08 MiLB Total 0 0 15 83 19.3 3.26 2.89 3.22 52.9% 0.3 27.7% 10.8%
0 0 MiLB Total 0 0 15 83 19.3 3.26 2.89 3.22 52.9% 0.3 27.7% 10.8%

Marcus Stroman was among the last of the Jays 2012 draft picks to sign a contract but would soon find himself in the Northwest League. There were rumours that the Jays would offer to quickly promote Stroman through the minor leagues in time for a possible promotion in September but his suspension for testing positive for Methylhexaneamine (a banned stimulant that he claims he ingested in an over-the-counter supplement). Though almost assuredly an accidental indiscretion, the positive test will now inevitably raise questions about his make-up.

In his final season at Duke, Stroman started 14 games with a 2.39 ERA, 26 BB, and 136 K in 98 innings. His 12.49 K/9 was third in all of college in 2012. His results at Vancouver were equally as impressive as Stroman struck out a third of the batters he face in his 11 1/3 innings of work before being promoted to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats of the Eastern League (AA). Once in AA, Stroman’s walk rate spiked while his K rate dropped in just 8 innings before his 50-game suspension. It would have been interesting to see if he would continue to pitch strong in the lead-up to September but his suspension ended the mystery.

Repertoire:

  • Fastball: Stroman served as Team USA’s closer and as a reliever in college managed to hit as high as 100 mph with his fastball. As a starter, however, he operated more in 92-93 range while occasionally touching as high 96. His fastball has been described as having “good, natural life” near the bottom of the strike zone. However, his moderate stature limits the amount of downward plane that he has to work with.
  • Slider: Stroman also sports a slider which he typically throws in the 83-85 mph range which shows glimpses of being a true plus or even plus-plus pitch. Stroman is able to hit both sides of the plate for strikes or bury in the dirt. If Stroman can bring a plus slider to the plate every appearance, then he could be a very powerful weapon for the Jays in the late innings even as a strictly fastball-slider guy.
  • Cutter: Stroman’s repertoire also features a cut fastball that is thrown in the 87-88 mph range which he uses primarily against lefties to great effect.
  • Change-up: Sits in the 82-83 mph range. Stroman shows good arm speed which gets hitters out front of the pitch when working off of his fastball. Potential to be an average offering.

Prediction:

After Stroman returns from his suspension in 2013, he will likely return to New Hampshire and continue work as a reliever. It’s rumoured that the Jays want to use him exclusively as a reliever as he makes his way to the Major Leagues though they haven’t ruled out returning him to a rotation in the future. It is possible they will attempt to bring him along the same path that Chris Sale took to the Majors working first as a reliever and then moved back to the rotation after a year or two of work out of the bullpen.

I expect that if Stroman continues to succeed in his return to AA that he would be rather quickly to Buffalo to prepare him for a potential late-season call-up to the Majors for a cup of coffee at least. While it’s widely believed that Stroman has the polish to find success in the Majors almost immediately, Jays fans need to look no further than 2010 first-round draft pick Deck McGuire to find a player expected to move quickly to the Majors who has stumbled in the upper Minors. However, if unlike with McGuire the Jays decide to forego attempts to make Stroman a starter, he will likely find success with a reduced arsenal in a late inning role which some scouts believe his body-type is better suited to anyway.

    • 7) Sean Nolin (LHP) 6th Round, 186th overall – 2010 – 12/26/1989 (23)

Year Age Tm Lg Lev G BF IP ERA FIP SIERA GB% BABIP K% BB%
2011 21.5 Lansing MID A 25 447 108.3 3.49 3.16 3.13 38.5% 0.325 25.3% 6.9%
2012 22.5 New Hampshire EAS AA 3 60 15 1.2 2.2 2.9 40.0% 0.257 30.0% 10.0%
2012 22.5 Dunedin FSL A+ 17 344 86.3 2.19 3.04 2.92 41.5% 0.293 26.2% 6.1%
2012 22.5 MiLB Total 0 0 20 404 101.3 2.04 2.91 2.92 41.3% 0.288 26.7% 6.7%
0 0 MiLB Total 0 0 45 851 209.7 2.79 3.04 3.02 39.8% 0.308 26.0% 6.8%

Sean Nolin was the Blue Jays’ 6th-round draft choice (186th overall) in 2010 out of San Jacinto North Junior College. Nolin has turned heads in his first two full seasons as a professional by striking out more than 25% of the batters he’s faced. The 6’5″, 235 lb. left-hander appears rather intimidating on the mound but doctors believe he may have been suffering from a mild case of early onset Jon Rauch-itis from which he appears to be recovering.

Repertoire:

In 2011, Nolin’s first full professional season, the big lefty from Long Island came to camp slimmed down and in great shape. This allowed him to add a couple more ticks to his fastball while he worked on his secondaries.

Jays Journal, prior to the 2012 season, wrote:

Although he has an intimidating look on the mound, he’s not a power pitcher at all–consistently hitting high 80′s/low-90′s on the radar gun–but doesn’t make up for it with his command, at least for now. His four-seam grip changeup is his best off-speed pitch, but it still has a ways to go to consistently be even a major-league average pitch. His curveball is still considered a work in progress and he added a slider this year while toying with a cut version of his fastball, but none of the offerings are considered average pitches yet.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the young southpaw. But in 2012, Nolin continued to produce results despite moving up first to Dunedin in the Florida State League (Hi-A) and then to New Hampshire of the Eastern League (AA). While reports on the progress of his secondaries are slim, one must assume that they are progressing or else the more advanced hitters he faced in 2012 would have caught up to his fastball.

Again in 2012, Nolin’s best pitch was his low-90s fastball, which touched upwards of 95 in 2012, which Nolin uses to attack the lower part of the zone and get ahead of hitters. In an interview with Baseball Hot Corner, he noted that while he works off of his fastball for the most part, when his curveball is on, it serves as his ‘out’ pitch. It sits at 72-75 mph. His changeup, considered his best offspeed pitch prior to 2012, sat around 85 mph this past season. If he can bump his fastball up to be consistently in the mid-90s, his secondaries would feature good separation and should help him continue his success.

Prediction:

Though Nolin has had great success thus far in his career, he is not likely to continue as he moves up without improving his command of his secondaries. If he can add a few more mph to his fastball and sit consistently in the mid-90s and add two MLB-average secondaries, then Nolin could be a great back of the rotation starter for the Jays in the coming years.

Look for Nolin to start 2013 in New Hampshire but if he continues to succeed then Buffalo should be in the cards for next year. The earliest Nolin can be expected in Toronto would be for a cup of coffee in September barring an injury-plagued season worse than 2012.

1. Travis d’Arnaud 2. Noah Syndergaard 3. Aaron Sanchez 4. Roberto Osuna 5. Dan Norris
6. Marcus Stroman 7. Sean Nolin 8. DJ Davis 9. Matt Smoral 10. John Stilson

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s