TORONTO — One year ago, the Toronto Blue Jays owned one of the best farm systems in baseball and fans were patiently waiting for a crop of famous last names to arrive in the big leagues.

That’s exactly what happened, and graduating a pair of top five prospects in Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette is sure to put a dent in the system.

But the Blue Jays’ minor-league pipeline isn’t about to dry up, even if the last names aren’t as immediately recognizable like they were over the last couple of years.

The system is led by Nate Pearson, who morphed from really good prospect into one of the best pitching prospects on the planet, but there’s a couple of standout position players right behind him, followed by a quartet of exciting arms and inarguably one of the best groups of catching prospects in baseball.

All in all, it’s a system with some depth, as well as a sprinkling of high-end talent.

“We had some acquisitions via the trade deadline and the draft, and we also had some great development stories, predominately on the pitching side of things,” Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins said when asked to assess the 2019 season on the developmental side of things. “We feel very good about our overall catching depth and our overall pitching depth. Having transitioned a lot of position player talent, we feel very confident that we have a solid core of young pitchers at the Double-A and Triple-A level, and some have already surfaced in the major leagues. It’s lining up well.”

More talent will be on the way next June when the Jays select fifth overall thanks to their 95-loss season in 2019, but they’ll head to the draft table with new director of amateur scouting Shane Farrell calling the shots rather than Steve Sanders, who led the past three drafts and produced names like Pearson, Jordan Groshans and Alek Manoah, earning him a promotion in Pittsburgh.

The draft has been an obvious key to keeping the pipeline stocked, and Groshans at pick No. 12 is already looking like an absolute coup.

“We feel very good about our drafts,” Atkins said. “We feel really good about our process. In the end, you really don’t know until they have ultimately transitioned to the big leagues, and not just transitioned but established themselves as major league players. That’s why we always talk about depth. We are in a situation now where we have transitioned players and have an abundance of prospects that will continue to transition to the major league level, or potentially that we’ll have to trade away. We feel this organization is in incredible shape.”

Without further ado, let’s break down the pipeline in a couple of different ways, and then get to the list of 50-plus names in the system.

Top 50 by position

Catchers: 5
Corner infielders: 3

Middle infielders: 11

Outfielders: 9

Pitchers: 22

How they were acquired

Trade: 10

MLB Draft: 22

International free agency: 17

Rule 5 Draft: 1

Graduated (11): 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (1), SS Bo Bichette (2), C Danny Jansen (3), RHP Sean Reid-Foley (8), 2B Cavan Biggio (10), OF Billy McKinney (17), C Reese McGuire (19), RHP Trent Thornton (20), LHP Thomas Pannone (21), 1B Rowdy Tellez (35), RHP Jacob Waguespack (36).

Gone (5): RHP David Paulino (26; released), OF Cal Stevenson (32; traded to Houston Astros), OF Dwight Smith Jr. (40; traded to Baltimore Orioles), C Max Pentecost (48; retired), 1B Chad Spanberger (49; traded to Milwaukee Brewers).

Fell off (5): SS Ronny Brito (29), RHP Andrew Sopko (30), RHP Jon Harris (39), OF Brock Lundquist (41), C Hagen Danner (47).

Trending up: SS/OF Otto Lopez (from not ranked to 17), C Alejandro Kirk (from 43 to 7), C Gabriel Moreno (from 37 to 8).

Trending down: SS Kevin Smith (from 5 to 16), OF Anthony Alford (from 9 to 27), RHP Hector Perez (from 11 to 32).

 

1. RHP Nate Pearson
Last year’s ranking: 4

Age: 23 (08/20/96) Acquired: Drafted 28th overall in 2017

Expected starting affiliate: Triple-A Buffalo

Embedded Image2019 REWIND: After losing all of 2018 to a broken arm, Pearson came into 2019 with two goals: stay healthy and build up innings. Check and check. The fact that he dominated while doing so was just a bonus, and it’s the reason he’s considered one of the top two or three pitching prospects in the game. Not only did the 6-foot-6 right-hander crack 100 innings in a season for the first time, he was also allowed to pitch deeper into ballgames, holding the high-octane, 100-mph stuff while doing so.

2020 OUTLOOK: Pearson could get major-league hitters out right now if the Jays wanted to put him in the opening day rotation. But with just three Triple-A starts under his belt and a rotation full of veterans ahead of him, Pearson will get some more seasoning in Buffalo as the club works with what’s probably a cap of 130 to 140 innings this year. Service time considerations could come into play, as well, leaving the floating Super Two date in June as a good time to watch for Pearson’s arrival.

ETA: 2020

 

2. 3B Jordan Groshans

Last year’s ranking: 7

Age: 20 (11/10/99) Acquired: Drafted 12th overall in 2018

Expected starting affiliate: Low-A Lansing

2019 REWIND: The Texas high schooler was on his way to launching himself up prospect lists by slashing .337/.427/.482 with a pair of homers in 23 games for Low-A Lansing, before a left foot injury interrupted things after a month and eventually shut him down for the year. The good is the production. The bad is an injury that lingered a lot longer than the Jays expected. The club, however, expects him to arrive at spring training good to go.

2020 OUTLOOK: With the foot issue – described as a stress injury on the top of the foot – now part of the narrative, health is first and foremost for Groshans this year. Already drawing Josh Donaldson and David Wright comparisons, Groshans has been able to stay at shortstop up to this point, but the bat will play anywhere. If he’s healthy, the Jays could send him straight to High-A Dunedin, rather than another cup of coffee with the Lugnuts. He should easily be a top 50 prospect by season’s end.

ETA: 2022

 

3. SS Orelvis Martinez

Last year’s ranking: 14

Age: 18 (11/19/01) Acquired: IFA 2018 ($3.5 million)

Expected starting affiliate: Short-Season Vancouver

2019 REWIND: Given just $400,000 less than Vladimir Guerrero Jr. got as a bonus in 2015, the Jays sent their prized Dominican possession straight to the Gulf Coast League, where he promptly put up a .901 OPS as a 17-year-old. Bat speed and power are the calling cards, and the fact that power is already showing up in games is drool- worthy.

2020 OUTLOOK: As with most bonus baby J2 signings, Martinez is still up the middle at shortstop, but the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder is likely going to outgrow the position very quickly and could end up at third base. Where the Blue Jays send him to start the year will be interesting. He could probably hold his own at Low-A as an 18-year-old, or the Jays could go the cautious route and send him to Vancouver in June. If he goes to Lansing and continues to hit, his prospect stock will blow up.

ETA: 2023

 

4. RHP Simeon Woods Richardson

Last year’s ranking: N/A

Age: 19 (09/27/00) Acquired: Trade with New York Mets

Expected starting affiliate: High-A Dunedin

2019 REWIND: The Blue Jays liked the no-hyphened righty in the 2018 draft, but their hopes were dashed by the Mets, who took him four picks ahead of where the Jays sat at pick No. 52 (Griffin Conine). A year later, the Jays finally got their hands on SWR as part of the Marcus Stroman trade. Already in the midst of a bit of a breakout, he took it up a notch post-trade, registering a 2.54 ERA across six starts at High-A Dunedin.

2020 OUTLOOK: With pretty good control for a teenager, SWR has a chance to make the Stroman haul – one that was criticized for being too light at the time – look pretty darn good by mid-season if he can build upon his breakout. He should reach Double-A at some point and the development of his changeup will be key.

ETA: 2022

 

5. RHP Alek Manoah

Last year’s ranking: N/A

Age: 22 (01/09/98) Acquired: Drafted 11th overall in 2019

Expected starting affiliate: High-A Dunedin

Embedded Image2019 REWIND: Two years after selecting Pearson in the first round, the Jays plucked another massive right-hander in the first round, popping this 6-foot-6 right-hander out of West Virginia with the 11th pick last June. Like Pearson, Manoah was sent out west to Vancouver to start his pro career and he did what he was supposed to do — strike out a bunch of guys and get his feet wet after a long NCAA season.

2020 OUTLOOK: With both of them over 260 pounds, Pearson and Manoah’s diets might be similar, and their development plans of the college right-handers will be, too. There’s no guessing where a healthy Manoah will start 2020, as he’s fully expected to go to High-A Dunedin and he could be on the fast track if his fastball/slider mix baffles Florida State League hitters right away.

ETA: 2022

 

6. LHP Anthony Kay

Last year’s ranking: N/A

Age: 24 (03/21/95) Acquired: Trade with New York Mets

Expected starting affiliate: Triple-A Buffalo

2019 REWIND: The second arm added to the system via the Stroman trade, Kay was rewarded after seven Triple-A starts with a September cameo in Toronto. The results were mixed all year due to wavering command at times, but overall he was able to build on a solid 2018 campaign, which was his first pro season after having 2017 wiped out by Tommy John.

2020 OUTLOOK: Pencilled into a rotation spot when the season ended, Kay was the one hurt the most by the Jays going out and adding Hyun-Jin Ryu, Tanner Roark and Chase Anderson to the rotation. Starting back in Triple-A will give Kay a chance to dial in the command and work on his curveball and changeup. The southpaw will be needed in the big-league rotation at some point this year.

ETA: Made MLB debut Sept. 7, 2019

 

7. C Alejandro Kirk

Last year’s ranking: 43

Age: 21 (11/06/98) Acquired: IFA 2016

Expected starting affiliate: Double-A New Hampshire

2019 REWIND: Making the biggest year-over-year jump on this list from No. 43 last January, Kirk is a big-bodied hitting machine who was able to convince some scouts that he can stay behind the plate long term. Signed out of Mexico for peanuts four years ago, Kirk now owns a .315/.418/.500 slash line in 151 minor-league games and has become one of the more interesting finds in the Blue Jays’ system. He walked 56 times in 2019 and struck out only 39 times.

2020 OUTLOOK: The Willians Astudillo comps are legit, but unlike the versatile and portly Twins catcher/infielder, Kirk’s only defensive position is behind the dish. After using his compact swing to take care of Low-A and High-A last year, Double-A will provide an interesting test for Kirk, and you could make the argument for a call-up straight from New Hampshire if he continues to rake and walk more than he strikes out.

ETA: 2021

 

8. C Gabriel Moreno

Last year’s ranking: 37

Age: 19 (02/14/00) Acquired: IFA 2016 ($25,000)

Expected starting affiliate: High-A Dunedin

2019 REWIND: If Kirk’s breakout year and massive jump didn’t excite you, maybe Moreno’s will. Similar to Kirk, Moreno rarely strikes out and he started hitting for more power in 2019, piling up 17 doubles, 12 homers and five triples for Low-A Lansing, finishing with an .823 OPS.

2020 OUTLOOK: Now a stop behind Kirk at High-A Dunedin, Moreno could be considered one of the top all-around catching prospects in the game by the time you’re reading this list next year. No matter which one you like better, the Jays are in an enviable position with their catching pipeline, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see one of them used as a trade chip at some point.

ETA: 2022

 

9. RHP Eric Pardinho

Last year’s ranking: 6

Age: 19 (01/05/01) Acquired: IFA 2017 ($1.4 million)

Expected starting affiliate: Low-A Lansing

2019 REWIND: This Brazilian’s season got off to an inauspicious start when he experienced some elbow soreness in March, delaying his debut until June. When Pardinho did finally get on a mound, he looked pretty good, registering a 2.41 ERA over seven starts at Low-A Lansing, but he was handled with care and shut down early.

2020 OUTLOOK: This might be the year the Blue Jays loosen the reins, but it’s important to remember that, while he’s advanced for his age, he’s still a teenager and will be until this time next year. He’s also just 5-foot-10, so the workload and durability questions will always be there. The Jays may decide to keep him in the warm weather and start him in Dunedin rather than back in Lansing.

ETA: 2022

 

10. 2B Miguel Hiraldo

Last year’s ranking: 15

Age: 19 (09/05/00) Acquired: IFA 2017 ($750,000)

Expected starting affiliate: Low-A Lansing

2019 REWIND: Considered one of the top hitters in the 2017 international class, Hiraldo has done nothing to change that assessment over the past two seasons. After slashing .300/.348/.481 for rookie level Bluefield, Hiraldo was promoted to Low-A Lansing and tripled in his only game. A shortstop and third baseman in 2018, the Jays started working Hiraldo more at second base last year, and that could end up being his ultimate home now.

2020 OUTLOOK: A bit under the radar at this point, Hiraldo enters full season ball in his third professional season and could be a breakout candidate if he continues to show a well-rounded offensive game in the Midwest League.

ETA: 2023

 

11. RHP Kendall Williams

Last year’s ranking: N/A

Age: 19 (08/24/00) Acquired: Drafted 52nd overall in 2019

Expected starting affiliate: Short-Season Vancouver

2019 REWIND: A lanky, 6-foot-6 right-hander with a mid-90s fastball and a potential plus curveball, the Jays plucked Williams out of IMG Academy prep school in the second round last June and gave him a 16-inning cameo in the GCL, where he allowed just six hits and struck out 19.

2020 OUTLOOK: It’s likely going to be a slow burn with Williams, who will need time to add to his 205-pound frame. Like the Pearson/Manoah comparison, the Jays set out a developmental blueprint for a high schooler with good stuff when they sent the next man on this list, Adam Kloffenstein, to Vancouver in his second pro season.

ETA: 2024

 

12. RHP Adam Kloffenstein

Last year’s ranking: 13

Age: 19 (08/25/00) Acquired: Drafted 88th overall in 2018

Expected starting affiliate: Low-A Lansing

2019 REWIND: A teammate of Jordan Groshans at Magnolia high school in Texas, the Jays went almost $2 million over his slated third round slot bonus to get this XL right-hander into the system. Sent to the Northwest League last summer, Kloffenstein posted a 2.24 ERA across 13 starts with his four-pitch mix.

2020 OUTLOOK: With a 6-foot-5, 243-pound frame built to haul innings, Kloffenstein looks like a mid-rotation starter today. But he’s another player in this system just entering full season ball, which means there’s room for his stock to go boom if he carves up much older competition in his age-19 season.

ETA: 2023

 

13. OF Griffin Conine

Last year’s ranking: 18

Age: 22 (07/11/97) Acquired: Drafted 52nd overall in 2018

Expected starting affiliate: High-A Dunedin

Embedded Image2019 REWIND: Conine’s 2019 season took a turn for the worse well before the calendar even flipped, as the son of former big-leaguer Jeff Conine was handed a 50-game suspension shortly after the 2018 season came to an end. On the bright side, the stimulant Conine positive for was ritalinic acid, which is commonly used to treat ADHD, so it’s not your usual PED ban. Conine then went out and showed it didn’t affect his power one bit, bashing 22 homers in 80 games for Low-A Lansing. 

2020 OUTLOOK: While big power is Conine’s calling card, it also comes with far too many strikeouts, a problem that will have to be rectified as he moves up the ladder. Conine K’d 35.9 per cent of the time in Low-A, and that’s the key number to watch as he tries to tackle Florida State League pitching in 2020.

ETA: 2022

 

14. RHP T.J. Zeuch

Last year’s ranking: 12

Age: 24 (08/01/95) Acquired: Drafted 21st overall in 2016

Expected starting affiliate: Triple-A Buffalo

2019 REWIND: Another Blue Jays prospect who got off to a late start in 2019, a lat strain shut Zeuch down for all of spring training and delayed his season debut until June. The 6-foot-7 sinkerballer ended up making 13 starts at Triple-A Buffalo before he was summoned to the majors and posted a 4.76 ERA across 22.2 innings.

2020 OUTLOOK: With a profile that doesn’t exactly fit in today’s game, Zeuch started pitching up in the zone more in the big leagues and the Jays have tinkered with his pitch usage to help him miss more bats. Seen as a potential back-of-the-rotation starter, Zeuch has a deep repertoire of pitches and gives pitching coach Pete Walker something to mould.

ETA: Made MLB debut Sept. 3, 2019

 

Jansen shares his excitement to catch for the Jays’ new pitchers

Blue Jays catcher Danny Jansen joins Bryan Hayes, Jeff O’Neill and Jonas Siegel to discuss the Jays’ off-season acquisitions, his thoughts on sign stealing and his role as one of the club’s young core.

 

15. OF Dasan Brown

Last year’s ranking: N/A

Age: 18 (09/25/01) Acquired: Drafted 88th overall in 2019

Expected starting affiliate: Short-Season Bluefield

2019 REWIND: The Jays went about $119,000 over slot to get the Oakville kid inked after drafting him in the third round last June. The tool box is as attractive as it gets, even if Brown is lightyears away from the majors. Speed is his calling card, but there’s also raw power in the 6-foot, 185-pound frame that removes him from the Billy Hamilton category.

2020 OUTLOOK: Brown got a taste of the GCL last summer after signing, showing a good approach at the plate and swiping six bags on the basepaths. The Jays will take their time and send Brown out to wreak havoc on the bases for another short-season affiliate this summer.

ETA: 2024

 

16. SS Kevin Smith

Last year’s ranking: 5

Age: 23 (07/04/96) Acquired: Drafted 129th overall in 2017

Expected starting affiliate: Double-A New Hampshire

2019 REWIND: There were a lot of good stories in the Jays’ pipeline last year, but this one isn’t as positive. Smith enjoyed a huge breakout in 2018, hitting 25 homers and stealing 29 bases to push his way into the organization’s long-term picture alongside Bo Bichette up the middle. Then things went sideways for Smith, as a swing change didn’t work out as hoped and he struck out 151 times in 116 games at Double-A. He was then sent to the Arizona Fall League, where he continued to strike out at an alarming rate.

2020 OUTLOOK: The Jays will attempt to reboot Smith in New Hampshire and hope he can make the needed adjustments, both in terms of approach and his swing mechanics.

ETA: 2021

 

17. SS/OF Otto Lopez

Last year’s ranking: Not ranked

Age: 21 (10/01/98) Acquired: IFA 2016

Expected starting affiliate: High-A Dunedin

2019 REWIND: Lopez is flying under most radars, but as a player he’s so, so fun and comes with a high floor. In the versatility age, Lopez fits. Last year alone he made starts at shortstop (78), second base (18), left field (10) and right field (one), giving him the look of a future super-utility man who can get on base. In Low-A, Lopez slashed .324/.371/.425, adding 30 extra-base hits and 20 steals.

2020 OUTLOOK: Lopez will head to the Florida State League this year and attempt to duplicate that line against more advanced pitching. Smooth with the glove, Lopez will find a role in the majors one day.

ETA: 2022

 

18. 2B/SS Santiago Espinal

Last year’s ranking: 16

Age: 25 (11/13/94) Acquired: Trade with Boston Red Sox

Expected starting affiliate: Triple-A Buffalo

Embedded Image2019 REWIND: A 10th-round pick of the Red Sox in 2016, Espinal came over in the swap that sent eventual World Series hero Steve Pearce to Boston. The Dominican-born, Miami-based product isn’t flashy and doesn’t have much power, but he put together a solid .287/.347/.393 slash line at Double-A and Triple-A last year and can capably play three infield spots.

2020 OUTLOOK: Espinal is a tweener in every sense of the word. He’s not a true shortstop with the glove, but is probably a better fit for second base on a daily basis. The bat is too light for a corner, but he can dabble at third base. Added to the 40-man roster this winter, the right-handed hitter is on the verge of his MLB debut and could conceivably win a bench gig this spring.
ETA: 2020

 

19. RHP Joey Murray

Last year’s ranking: Not ranked

Age: 23 (09/23/96) Acquired: Drafted 236th overall in 2018

Expected starting affiliate: Double-A New Hampshire

2019 REWIND: Coming into the season with zero fanfare as an eighth-round pick out of Kent State University in 2018, Murray went out and struck out 169 batters to finish tied for seventh in all of the minor leagues in Ks. All of the success led to the right-handed being promoted twice, finishing with a 3.50 ERA across 43.2 Double-A innings.

2020 OUTLOOK: Murray doesn’t overpower hitters, instead getting it done with a sneaky low-90s fastball that features a high spin rate. He showed that mix will work in Double-A last year, but he’s going to be asked to prove it over and over again. Even though there’s a glut of arms ahead of him, Murray has positioned himself amongst the next wave in the system.

ETA: 2021

 

20. RHP Tom Hatch

Last year’s ranking: N/A

Age: 25 (09/29/94) Acquired: Trade with Chicago Cubs

Expected starting affiliate: Triple-A Buffalo

2019 REWIND: The most important moment of Hatch’s season wasn’t the trade that sent him from the Cubs to the Jays at the deadline in exchange for reliever David Phelps, it was the cutter he had started developing earlier in the year. The Jays helped him hone that further, and the right-hander finished out the season with a 2.80 ERA and just two walks in six starts for Double-A New Hampshire.

2020 OUTLOOK: At this point, there’s at least 10 names being considered for the Triple-A Buffalo rotation, and Hatch is one of them. Considering he’s made 53 starts at Double-A over the past two years, it’s time to take the next step. The Jays added him to the 40-man roster in November so he’s a phone call away from his big-league debut.

ETA: 2020

 

21. RHP Patrick Murphy

Last year’s ranking: 24

Age: 24 (06/10/95) Acquired: Drafted 83rd overall in 2013

Expected starting affiliate: Double-A New Hampshire

2019 REWIND: It was a tale of two seasons for Murphy, who was humming along in Double-A with a 3.69 ERA and a .201 batting average against when he walked off the mound on June 2 after holding the Altoona Curve to one run over seven innings. From there, his season went sideways when umpires ruled his delivery, one that featured a toe-tap, to be illegal, leaving the big right-hander searching for answers in the middle of a season. Murphy made just seven more appearances, running up a 7.84 ERA in those outings.

2020 OUTLOOK: The Jays liked what they saw with the revamped delivery, and there was even talk that it had helped Murphy add more velocity on his fastball. It’s an important year for him, especially if he wants to avoid a move to the bullpen. His arrival date will depend on what kind of results he gets with his new delivery over a larger sample size, but he could debut at some point this summer.

ETA: 2020

 

22. RHP Josh Winckowski

Last year’s ranking: Not ranked

Age: 21 (06/28/98) Acquired: Drafted 462nd overall in 2016

Expected starting affiliate: High-A Dunedin

2019 REWIND: Drafted in the 15th round four years ago, Winckowski has gotten results, evidenced by his career 3.35 ERA. After posting a 2.32 mark across 13 starts in Low-A Lansing, the right-hander was promoted to High-A, where he continued to have success with a 3.19 ERA.

2020 OUTLOOK: With a back-end starter profile and a fastball/changeup mix, Winckowski doesn’t get a whole lot of love in the prospect realm, but he’s a solidly built 6-foot-4, 202-pounder who shows good command and an ability to eat innings. Double-A will be a good test this year.

ETA: 2021

 

23. RHP Elvis Luciano

Last year’s ranking: 22

Age: 19 (02/15/00) Acquired: Rule 5 Draft 2018

Expected starting affiliate: High-A Dunedin

Embedded Image2019 REWIND: One of the more out there picks in Rule 5 Draft history, Luciano was successfully stashed on the Jays’ major-league roster all season as a 19-year-old. Sheltered and handed low-leverage situations, Luciano finished with a reasonable 5.35 ERA in 25 appearances out of the bullpen, but he walked 24 batters and plunked three more in those 33.2 innings.

2020 OUTLOOK: Now that he’s free from his Rule 5 requirements, the Jays can send Luciano back to the minors to continue developing as a starter, which was the master plan all along. Time will tell how the odd development curve affects him, but Luciano has a live arm — he averaged 94.1 mph on his four-seam fastball — and the delivery to find a home in the rotation. 

ETA: Made MLB debut March 31, 2019

 

24. 2B Tanner Morris

Last year’s ranking: N/A

Age: 21 (09/13/98) Acquired: Drafted 147th overall in 2019

Expected starting affiliate: Low-A Lansing

2019 REWIND: Selected in the fifth round out of the University of Virginia, Morris was sent straight to Vancouver, where he posted a .730 OPS in 64 games. The most advanced part of Morris’ game is his approach, as the 6-foot-2, 190-pounder walked in 16.7 per cent of his plate appearances.

2020 OUTLOOK: There are some Cavan Biggio vibes here when you look at Morris’ college pedigree, approach and left-handed swing. He’d have to make some adjustments to tap into the power like Biggio has, but Morris is expected to be able to solve low-level pitching pretty quickly this year.

ETA: 2022

 

25. OF Josh Palacios

Last year’s ranking: 46

Age: 24 (07/30/95) Acquired: Drafted 132nd overall in 2016

Expected starting affiliate: Triple-A Buffalo

2019 REWIND: Drafted in the fourth round back in 2016, Palacios is a player the Blue Jays considered adding to the 40-man roster this winter, which shows he’s one of the more interesting options in a system light on impact outfielders. He was passed over in the Rule 5 Draft, giving him a chance to build on the 134 wRC+ he posted across 82 games in Double-A.

2020 OUTLOOK: Considering he’s turning 25 this summer and held his own in Double-A, Palacios is probably ready for the International League and a Bisons uniform. Defensively, Palacios split his time between all three outfield spots in 2019, but he fits better in a corner.

ETA: 2021

 

26. OF Will Robertson

Last year’s ranking: N/A

Age: 22 (12/26/97) Acquired: Drafted 117th overall in 2019

Expected starting affiliate: Low-A Lansing

2019 REWIND: After posting an OPS over 1.000 in his final season at Creighton University, this left-handed hitter went from the Bluejays to the Blue Jays when Toronto selected him in the fourth round. Like most college picks, Robertson was sent out west to the Northwest League’s Vancouver Canadians, where he slashed .268/.365/.404 with six home runs in 263 plate appearances.

2020 OUTLOOK: As always, full season ball will begin to tell the full story of where Robertson sits on the developmental curve, but he has a chance to quickly move his way up a thin organizational outfield depth chart with a good year.

ETA: 2022

 

27. OF Anthony Alford

Last year’s ranking: 9

Age: 25 (07/20/94) Acquired: Drafted 112th overall in 2012

Expected starting affiliate: MLB

Embedded Image2019 REWIND: Even in a rebuilding year, Alford was only able to earn 30 big-league plate appearances last season. In his age-25 year, he spent the majority of his time in Buffalo, posting an uninspiring .259/.343/.411 slash line with seven homers and 22 stolen bases. He also dealt with more injuries, including an oblique that cost him six weeks.

2020 OUTLOOK: As you can see below, Alford is almost three years removed from his major-league debut, and his prospect stock has taken hit after hit during that time. He’s now out of options, and while the 26th roster spot will help him stay off the waiver wire, Alford needs to start producing with the bat from the moment the first pitch is thrown in Grapefruit League play.

ETA: Made MLB debut May 19, 2017

 

28. SS Leonardo Jimenez

Last year’s ranking: 28

Age: 18 (05/17/01) Acquired: IFA 2017 ($825,000)

Expected starting affiliate: Low-A Lansing

2019 REWIND: The Jays gave this slick fielding native of Panama the second biggest bonus in their 2017 J2 class behind Eric Pardinho. Jimenez has pretty much come as billed, as he didn’t hit a home run in 95 rookie ball games over the past two years and has drawn solid reviews for his glove work.

2020 OUTLOOK: After slashing .298/.377/.377 in the Appy League last year, Jimenez will enter full season ball at Low-A Lansing, where he should form a double play combo with Miguel Hiraldo, the third biggest bonus baby from their 2017 international class.

ETA: 2023

 

29. SS Rikelvin de Castro

Last year’s ranking: N/A

Age: 17 (01/23/03) Acquired: IFA 2019 ($1.2 million)

Expected starting affiliate: Short-Season GCL Blue Jays

2019 REWIND: Last year, de Castro was celebrating his Sweet 16 in January and then celebrating signing with the Blue Jays for $1.2 million in July, the top bonus the club handed out.

2020 OUTLOOK: If Orelvis Martinez’s assignment last year is used as the blueprint, de Castro will debut in the Gulf Coast League this summer as a 17-year-old. Ranked No. 27 on MLB Pipeline’s top 30 international prospects for 2019, de Castro is described as a potential plus defender with a line-drive stroke from the right side of the plate.

ETA: 2025

 

30. C Riley Adams

Last year’s ranking: 44

Age: 23 (06/26/96) Acquired: Drafted 99th overall in 2017

Expected starting affiliate: Triple-A Buffalo

2019 REWIND: Posting a .434 on-base percentage in 19 games to start the season earned Adams a promotion from High-A to Double-A, where he held his own with a .258/.349/.439 slash line across 332 plate appearances. After a down year in 2018, it was a tremendous bounce back for the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder. 

2020 OUTLOOK: Adams’ profile isn’t going to excite many, but it’s probably that of a big leaguer in the end. With others in the pipeline catching up to him, Adams is likely headed to Triple-A to start his age-24 campaign. Capable defensively with some pop in his bat, Adams looks like a classic backup catcher.

ETA: 2021​

 

31. RHP Alejandro Melean

Last year’s ranking: 38

Age: 19 (10/11/00) Acquired: IFA 2017 ($750,000)

Expected starting affiliate: Short-Season Vancouver

2019 REWIND: Listed at 6-foot and just 175 pounds, Melean is slight but still features a low-90s fastball and the makings of a pretty good slider. The Venezuelan right-hander has been brought along slowly and has battled injuries, throwing just 21 innings for the club’s Appalachian League affiliate in Bluefield.

2020 OUTLOOK: It may not be 2020, but Melean is a breakout candidate down the road once his workload increases. He’ll pitch the 2020 season at age-19, and could be on the verge of testing his repertoire in full season ball at Low-A Lansing late in the year.
ETA: 2023

 

32. RHP Hector Perez

Last year’s ranking: 11

Age: 23 (06/06/96) Acquired: Trade with Houston Astros

Expected starting affiliate: Triple-A Buffalo

2019 REWIND: One of the two arms remaining from the Roberto Osuna trade — the third, David Paulino, was released last year — Perez was the definition of up and down last year. Through his first 84.1 innings, Perez posted a 5.34 ERA and walked 47 batters. Over his final eight starts, however, Perez settled down, registering a 2.92 ERA, but still walked 20 batters in 37 innings.

2020 OUTLOOK: Those command hiccups have Perez trending towards a move to the bullpen, a change that could happen as early as this spring. With a glut of arms in the upper levels, the Jays finally have enough depth to transition those who can’t hack it as a starter into potentially valuable bullpen pieces at the major-league level. Perez’s stuff is still terrific and he could end up in a high-leverage role down the line.
ETA: 2020

 

33. RHP Yennsy Diaz

Last year’s ranking: 25

Age: 23 (11/15/96) Acquired: IFA 2015 ($1.6 million)

Expected starting affiliate: Double-A New Hampshire

Embedded Image2019 REWIND: Thrown into an out-of-nowhere August spot start for some reason, Diaz got just two outs on the road against the Baltimore Orioles, walking four and allowing a pair of earned runs. His season at Double-A was similarly unremarkable, as Diaz posted a 3.74 ERA across 144.1 innings, striking out 7.2 batters per nine innings.

2020 OUTLOOK: Everything you just read about Hector Perez applies here, too. While Diaz has flashed in a starter’s role, his future could reside in the bullpen, where his stuff would play up and potentially allow him to have much more impact. Heading into spring training, Diaz finds himself in the glut of arms that will need to find rotation homes in Double-A or Triple-A.

ETA: Made MLB debut Aug. 4, 2019

 

 

34. 1B/OF Ryan Noda

Last year’s ranking: 23

Age: 23 (03/30/96) Acquired: Drafted 459th overall in 2017

Expected starting affiliate: Double-A New Hampshire

2019 REWIND: It’s never a good sign when your walk rate decreases and your K rate and power drop while moving up a level. But that’s exactly what Noda’s numbers did as he arrived in High-A last year and slashed .238/.372/.418 in his age-23 campaign.

2020 OUTLOOK: A 15th-round pick three years ago, Noda has to continue to produce at each level, and Double-A will be a stiff test for the University of Cincinnati product. The huge walk rate is the drawing card and there’s some power in his left-handed bat, but Noda has to make enough contact and keep the strikeouts under control for it to play in the upper minors.

ETA: 2021

 

35. RHP Julian Merryweather

Last year’s ranking: 31

Age: 28 (10/14/91) Acquired: Traded with Cleveland Indians

Expected starting affiliate: Triple-A Buffalo

2019 REWIND: Talked up constantly by the Blue Jays front office last year, Merryweather finally returned to the mound after losing his 2018 season to TJ surgery, only to experience a setback and throw just six total innings before being shut down at the end of June. He was healthy enough to return and throw six innings in the Arizona Fall League, but it was essentially another year of lost development.

2020 OUTLOOK: It’s now or never for Merryweather, the lone player the Jays have to show for the Josh Donaldson trade. He’s already 28 and on the 40-man roster, so while he’s still being developed as a starter and will claim one of the Triple-A rotation spots if he emerges from spring training healthy, he’s another arm that could realistically be transitioned into a bullpen role at some point.

ETA: 2020

 

36. 2B Samad Taylor

Last year’s ranking: 45

Age: 21 (07/11/98) Acquired: Trade with Cleveland Indians

Expected starting affiliate: High-A Dunedin

2019 REWIND: Acquired alongside Thomas Pannone in the trade that sent reliever Joe Smith to the Indians, Taylor has something you can’t teach — speed. Over the past two seasons, Taylor has swiped 70 bases, but the 5-foot-10, 160-pounder has also been caught 26 times. Contact is also an issue for the second baseman, as he struck out 107 times last season and slashed .216/.325/.364 in his first taste of High-A.

2020 OUTLOOK: Taylor has some interesting tools, but he has yet to come close to putting it all together. It’s only his age-21 season, so there’s time, but it will be interesting to see if the Jays decide to move him up a level or try to build some confidence with a return trip to Dunedin.

ETA: 2022

 

37. OF Chavez Young

Last year’s ranking: 33

Age: 22 (07/08/97) Acquired: Drafted 1,182nd overall in 2016

Expected starting affiliate: Double-A New Hampshire

2019 REWIND: As a 39th-round pick, Young is already a success story, but his prospect stock took a hit with his move to High-A in 2019. Coming off a season that saw him slash .285/.363/.445 with 44 stolen bases at Low-A Lansing in 2018, the switch-hitter’s numbers fell to .247/.315/.354 with 24 steals at High-A Dunedin last year.

2020 OUTLOOK: While he’s not seen as a true centre fielder and doesn’t have the power normally required to play in a corner, Young is a player who could have value despite all that. With the outfield depth chart pretty bare, Young will get a chance to prove it Double-A this year and we’ll know a lot more a year from now. The speed and defence give him a nice floor.

ETA: 2021

 

38. 2B/SS Logan Warmoth

Last year’s ranking: 27

Age: 24 (09/06/95) Acquired: Drafted 22nd overall in 2017

Expected starting affiliate: Double-A New Hampshire

Embedded Image2019 REWIND: At this point, Warmoth is trending towards being remembered as “the other guy they picked in the first round that year” thanks to Nate Pearson going six picks later with the draft choice handed to them when Edwin Encarnacion signed with the Cleveland Indians in December of 2016. Seen as a polished college product with a high floor out of North Carolina, Warmoth has hit just six pro home runs in 225 games and crated when promoted to Double-A last year, slashing just .200/.290/.277 across 254 plate appearances.

2020 OUTLOOK: Approaching the age of 25, Warmoth will head back to New Hampshire and attempt to turn things around alongside two other infielders from the 2017 draft in shortstop Kevin Smith and 3B/2B Cullen Large.

ETA: 2021

 

39. OF Forrest Wall

Last year’s ranking: 42

Age: 24 (11/20/95) Acquired: Trade with Colorado Rockies

Expected starting affiliate: Triple-A Buffalo

2019 REWIND: Added to the system in the Seunghwan Oh trade from the 2018 deadline, the 35th-overall pick from the 2014 draft enjoyed a solid season in Double-A New Hampshire, slashing .270/.353/.419 with nine home runs and 13 steals. Elevated to Triple-A for a 14-game cameo to finish out the year, Wall posted a .786 OPS.

2020 OUTLOOK: Wall is the type of prospect that could get an opportunity and run with it at the major-league level because there’s a floor of speed, approach and outfield defence to fall back on. As mentioned in other blurbs on the outfielders, there’s not much in the system so an injury or two could quickly give Wall and/or Josh Palacios a chance.

ETA: 2020

 

40. RHP Maximo Castillo

Last year’s ranking: Not ranked

Age: 20 (05/04/99) Acquired: IFA 2015

Expected starting affiliate: Double-A New Hampshire

2019 REWIND: Moving from Low-A to High-A in 2019, Castillo kept his strikeout rate intact, dropped his walk rate, continued to be stingy with the home run ball, and lowered his ERA by nearly two full runs to 2.69. That’s what you call a successful campaign.

2020 OUTLOOK: Even though he’s not highly regarded, Castillo has gotten results, but Double-A will start to tell the real story for the 6-foot-2, 256-pound right-hander. It’s not overpowering stuff, so he’ll be challenged in the upper levels.

ETA: 2022

 

41. RHP Edisson Gonzalez

Last year’s ranking: N/A

Age: 20 (10/02/99) Acquired: Trade with Tampa Bay Rays

Expected starting affiliate: Low-A Lansing

2019 REWIND: A wiry 5-foot-10, 160-pound right-hander with a whip-like arm action, the Jays added Gonzalez to the system in the Eric Sogard trade that went down just prior to the deadline. Since the trade was officially announced at the end of the minor-league season, Gonzalez didn’t get to throw a pitch for his new organization, but his 2.45 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 62.1 innings in A-ball with the Rays stand out.

2020 OUTLOOK: The body type screams reliever, and that’s usually what you’re acquiring for a pending free agent like Sogard. But Gonzalez has shown good control and the ability to miss bats, so you never know.
ETA: 2023

 

42. SS Kevin Vicuna

Last year’s ranking: Not ranked

Age: 22 (01/14/98) Acquired: IFA 2014

Expected starting affiliate: High-A Dunedin

2019 REWIND: Listed at 140 pounds, it shouldn’t shock you when you find out Vicuna offers next to nothing in the power department. Over a full season in High-A last year, Vicuna slashed .250/.314/.326 with one homer and 19 stolen bases.

2020 OUTLOOK: While the bat may be extra light, the glove is extra special and Vicuna could hold his own at shortstop in the majors tomorrow. There’s a logjam of middle infielders ahead of him, so Vicuna could return to High-A in 2020.

ETA: 2022

 

43. 3B/2B Cullen Large

Last year’s ranking: Not ranked

Age: 24 (01/22/96) Acquired: Drafted 159th overall in 2017

Expected starting affiliate: Double-A New Hampshire

2019 REWIND: Within a span of 137 picks back in 2017, the Jays selected infielders Logan Warmoth (22), Kevin Smith (129) and Large (159). They were all promoted to Double-A last summer, and all three suffered the same fate, striking out way too much and generally looking overmatched at the level. All three of them were then sent to the Arizona Fall League in an attempt to rebound.

2020 OUTLOOK: After slashing just .234/.273/.330 in 24 games at Double-A, Large will return to the level in 2020, hoping to put things together. He’s also looking to hit for more power this year, after hitting just nine homers in his first 151 minor league games.

ETA: 2022

 

44. RHP Kyle Johnston

Last year’s ranking: N/A

Age: 23 (07/17/96) Acquired: Trade with Washington Nationals

Expected starting affiliate: Double-A New Hampshire

2019 REWIND: Johnston, a sixth-round pick from the 2017 draft, came over in a trade deadline deal that has already paid off handsomely for the Washington Nationals, with Daniel Hudson close out their World Series victory. Johnston, meanwhile, is a 23-year-old right-hander who posted a 4.98 ERA across 124.2 High-A frames, split across two organizations.

2020 OUTLOOK: You don’t trade relievers you picked up off the scrap heap in March for much, no matter how well they pitch on the other end. Johnston has touched as high as 97 mph and has a slider that could eventually work well in a relief role.

ETA: 2021

 

45. RHP Yosver Zulueta

Last year’s ranking: N/A

Age: 22 (01/23/98) Acquired: IFA 2019

Expected starting affiliate: Will not pitch

2019 REWIND: Signed in June for a million bucks with the international bonus pool money acquired in the Kendrys Morales ($1 million) and Dwight Smith Jr. trades ($500,000), Zulueta underwent Tommy John surgery and will miss the 2020 season. 

2020 OUTLOOK: Already up to 98 mph and projectable, check back in about 18 months from now and we’ll see where this Cuban right-hander is at. 

ETA: 2023

 

46. C Philip Clarke

Last year’s ranking: N/A

Age: 21 (03/24/98) Acquired: Drafted 267th overall in 2019

Expected starting affiliate: Low-A Lansing

2019 REWIND: A member of the powerhouse College World Series winner at Vanderbilt last year, Clarke was sent to Vancouver after a long NCAA season and slashed .257/.359/.333 in his pro debut.

2020 OUTLOOK: He’s pulling up the rear in a deep catching pipeline, but Clarke’s bat and approach are both intriguing. As a college draft pick, Clarke’s first full season in the low minors will be interesting to track.

ETA: 2023

 

47. C Javier D’Orazio

Last year’s ranking: 50

Age: 18 (12/28/01) Acquired: IFA 2018

Expected starting affiliate: Short-Season Bluefield

2019 REWIND: Yet another catcher, D’Orazio is still a teen and will be until December of next year. The Venezuelan backstop was too good for the Dominican Summer League (DSL) last year, but struggled when promoted stateside to the GCL. He was 17, though, so take that with a grain of salt.

2020 OUTLOOK: Catchers take a long time to develop so there’s really no point in predicting anything other than the 18-year-old moving up a rung and continuing to learn the nuances of one of the toughest positions in sports.

ETA: 2025

 

48. OF/3B Peniel Brito

Last year’s ranking: N/A

Age: 17 (12/20/02) Acquired: IFA 2019 ($600,000)

Expected starting affiliate: Dominican Summer League

2019 REWIND: Hey, it’s a 17-year-old Dominican with huge power and a minor league journey that’s just starting. The Jays gave him $600,000 to get him to sign last July.

2020 OUTLOOK: He’ll probably rake in the DSL and then find his way Stateside.

ETA: 2025

 

49. OF Robert Robertis

Last year’s ranking: N/A

Age: 17 (11/29/02) Acquired: IFA 2019 ($750,000)

Expected starting affiliate: Dominican Summer League

2019 REWIND: Hey, another 17-year-old Dominican, but this one has some speed and a wiry teenage frame. The Jays gave him $750,000 to sign last July.

2020 OUTLOOK: See Brito above. It’ll be a slow burn.

ETA: 2025

 

50. RHP Sem Robberse

Last year’s ranking: Not ranked

Age: 18 (10/12/01) Acquired: IFA 2019 ($125,000)

Expected starting affiliate: Short-Season Vancouver

2019 REWIND: An under-the-radar signing out of the Netherlands last June with the bonus pool money acquired in the Kendrys Morales and Dwight Smith Jr. trades, Robberse is much more advanced than you’d expect an 18-year-old Dutch hurler to be. Sent to the GCL after signing, Robberse allowed just one run across 10.1 innings and didn’t walk a soul.

2020 OUTLOOK: Another name you can file away for years down the road, the Blue Jays believe they may have uncovered a diamond in the rough in the 6-foot-1 right-hander.

ETA: 2025

 

THE REST: C Hagen Danner, C Victor Mesia, 1B Kacy Clemens, 1B Yorman Rodriguez, 2B L.J. Talley, 2B Adrian Montero, 3B Angel Camacho, 3B Rainer Nunez, 3B Jose Zepeda, SS Glenn Santiago, SS Ronny Brito, SS Cameron Eden, SS Addison Barger, SS Estiven Machado, SS Jose Rivas, OF Jonathan Davis, OF Jhon Solarte, OF Gabriel Martinez, OF Amell Brazoban, OF Alberto Rodriguez, OF Mc Gregory Contreras, OF Demi Orimoloye, OF Brock Lundquist, OF Christian Feliz, LHP Zach Logue, RHP Sean Wymer, RHP Andrew Sopko, RHP Juan de Paula, RHP Jiorgeny Casimiri, RHP Dahian Santos, RHP Ronald Govea, RHP Emanuel Vizcaino, RHP Luis Quinones, LHP Rafael Monsion, LHP Nick Allgeyer, RHP Troy Watson, RHP Alex Nolan, RHP Nick Fraze, RHP Michael Dominguez.

RELIEVERS: RHP Jackson Rees, RHP Jackson McClelland, RHP Ty Tice, LHP Kirby Snead, RHP Zach Jackson, RHP Curtis Taylor, RHP Jon Harris, RHP Justin Maese, RHP Brad Wilson, RHP Bryan Baker, LHP Travis Bergen, RHP Corey Copping, LHP Jake Fishman, RHP Cre Finfrock, RHP Justin Dillon, RHP Graham Spraker, RHP Turner Larkins, RHP Mike Ellenbest.​