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Jays' top prospects close to MLB-ready, but they'll have to earn it

Ricky Tiedemann Toronto Blue Jays Ricky Tiedemann - The Canadian Press

CLEARWATER BEACH, Fla. — Running back a veteran-heavy ball club with World Series aspirations means there’s not a whole lot of room for prospects to push their way into meaningful roles.

To start the season, at least.

A lot of things change during the 162-game grind, and injuries and unexpected poor performances will be a part of it, potentially giving young players an opportunity to nudge their way into the picture.

And there’s a group of players that are viewed internally as close to being ready to contribute.

The two names mentioned the most as spring training ramps up have been Ricky Tiedemann and Orelvis Martinez, for obvious reasons.

They’re the two best prospects in the system and both have already touched Triple-A, leaving them on the verge of the big leagues.

Asked who could have the biggest impact this season from the prospect group, GM Ross Atkins pointed to the top two names in the system.

“There’s the personal excitement around players that have either recently overcome an obstacle or are just on really steady trends that I’m excited for them,” Atkins said. “In terms of impact, Orelvis and Ricky T, those two guys could have such impact and that’s not taking anything away from others that have already had an impact or someone like Alan Roden or Will Robertson even, who would be really good complements to our team.”

While Tiedemann is going to bump up against an innings limit at some point this season after throwing just 62 total frames last year, including his Arizona Fall League stint, there’s a group of bats that have an obvious opportunity in front of them with the third base and second base spots at the big-league level fully in flux at this point.

Atkins believes Martinez and Addison Barger, the No. 7 prospect in the system, are as ready as they can possibly be for the big leagues.

“Yeah, I do,” Atkins stated simply when asked if those two are ready. "I do think Addison and Orelvis are up for the challenge. No one is every truly ready until you’ve experienced it, but I think that what they’ve done has demonstrated a level of being ready for the challenge.”

They may not be truly battling for a job this spring with veteran options in front of them, in addition to Eduardo Escobar and Dan Vogelbach being added as insurance on minor-league deals, but the layer of prospect depth at Triple-A may be more than that by August.

“This spring training will be telling for us … I’m excited about that around how this spring training will impact the initial deployment, but we’re going to have a lot of options, from the options that will start on the roster to the options that will be in Triple-A,” Atkins said.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at a handful of prospects who could contribute at some point soon.


2B/LF Davis Schneider

Davis Schneider Toronto Blue Jays

This is one man with a big-league job locked down thanks to his 176 wRC+ across 35 games last season, but exactly what that role looks like will be interesting to monitor.

Right now, he looks like a daily second base option and then potentially a left fielder against left-handed pitching, shifting one of Kevin Kiermaier or Daulton Varsho to the bench.

All of that makes sense, especially if he’s doing anything close to what he did last August.

He’s 14 at-bats away from hitting the 130 threshold and no longer being called a prospect.


2B/3B Orelvis Martinez

Orelvis Martinez Toronto Blue Jays

With prodigious power that has shown up in past spring trainings, Martinez has been on the radar for a long time as a big $3.5 million bonus baby from the 2018 international signing period.

He’s now super close to finally showing up in the big leagues at the age of 22 and his defensive versatility has improved to the point where you could realistically look at him as either the future at the hot corner or second base.

It seems like the Jays are leaning toward the latter, working Martinez regularly at second base this spring in order to allow him to settle in.

He had not played the position at all until he got to Triple-A last year, but the up-the-middle athleticism has him looking very comfortable at the keystone.

The adjustments Martinez continues to make in the batter’s box are the exciting part, and 2023 was encouraging in terms of swing decisions and a chopped strikeout rate.

There’s a chance he continues that trend when he’s recalled, initially struggling before proving once again he can make adjustments at a new level.

Martinez has gone from maybe being too hyped a couple years ago to now flying too far under the radar as a potential impact piece.


3B/RF Addison Barger

Addison Barger Toronto Blue Jays

The reason the Jays are comfortable working Martinez at second base is the rocket throwing arm and big power Barger possesses fitting nicely at the hot corner.

Two seasons ago, Barger broke out, bashing 26 homers across three levels.

Last year, he fell back to nine home runs as he dealt with an elbow injury early in the season, but he just didn’t quite look like the same hitter, getting a little too pull happy at times.

Recently, Barger has also taken comfortably to right field, where his plus arm would be an asset.

He might be the biggest lottery ticket in the system, as a player who could absolutely have a huge impact if things click.


LHP Ricky Tiedemann

Ricky Tiedemann Dunedin Blue Jays

With a full rotation of vets and depth options like Yariel Rodriguez and Mitch White on the 40-man roster ahead of him, Tiedemann will have to bide his time a bit.

That’s perfectly fine and somewhat necessary anyway, with Tiedemann’s workload needing to be handled carefully.

His career-high is 78.2 frames from the 2022 season, which means he’s not going to be pushed past the 110-120 mark in 2024, especially after shoulder and biceps issues slowed him last year.

That means the Jays will either have to get creative with the structure in order to allow him to have enough in the tank to continue to start in the second half of the season, or he breaks in as a high-octane southpaw out of the bullpen.

Both scenarios make sense and it will allow their best prospect to contribute to a potential World Series run.

He may need more development as a starter but there’s very little doubt about his ability to get MLB hitters out right now in some sort of role.


1B Spencer Horwitz

Spencer Horwitz Toronto Blue Jays

The Rodney Dangerfield of the Jays’ prospect group, all Horwitz does is hit and he simply gets no respect.

Last year, the 26-year-old left-handed hitter crushed Triple-A to the tune of a .337 batting average and .450 on-base percentage, but his lack of power — just 10 homers in 484 plate appearances at that level — continues to diminish his corner infield stock.

In addition to the stellar Triple-A numbers, Horwitz held his own in a 15-game big-league look, posting a 106 wRC+ across 44 trips to the plate.

It’s very clear he’s a major-league bat and that’s a huge win for a 24th round pick.

As of today, 39-year-old Justin Turner is slated for the primary DH role.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see Horwitz in that spot at some point this season, piling up boatloads of walks and being quietly analytically productive.


The next layer of depth

Leo Jimenez Toronto Blue Jays

If the five names above are the ones fully expected to contribute at some point or in some fashion this season, these next three names are just behind that group and more likely to be realistic 2025 options. 

But injuries happen and things can change quickly in this sport, so Leo Jimenez, Alan Roden and Damiano Palmegiani all deserve a mention being one call away in Triple-A.

If Bo Bichette gets hurt, Jimenez may get a look as the best pure defensive shortstop in the system.

If an outfielder needs an IL stint and Roden is producing for the Buffalo Bisons like he did last year in Double-A, he could get a chance.

Palmegiani could definitely push his way into the DH picture simply by raking like he did in his 20-game stint in Buffalo to finish last season.

Tiedemann, Roden and Palmegiani are the only names on this list who aren’t already on the 40-man roster.

That won’t affect Tiedemann much, but it could be the wrinkle that keeps Roden and Palmegiani away from the big leagues this season.