Blue Jays breakout prospect candidates of 2024
It’s time for the yearly game we like to call subjective fun with the term breakout.
On a large-scale level in 2023, the Toronto Blue Jays system didn’t have a banner year in terms of breakouts, especially if you define it as prospects jumping onto the top 100 national radar.
On an internal level, there were a handful of nice stories, including Orelvis Martinez’s steps forward, Alan Roden’s emergence, Damiano Palmegiani’s power surge, and Kendry Rojas’ innings jump.
Before we get to the 2024 breakout guesses, here’s the list of potential breakouts that I highlighted last year: LHP Brandon Barriera; 3B/2B Tucker Toman, 3B/2B Cade Doughty, LHP Adam Macko, RHP Sem Robberse, OF/INF Adrian Pinto, SS/2B Manuel Beltre, 1B/3B Damiano Palmegiani, C Carlos Vasquez, OF/C Zach Britton, RHP Nolan Perry.
Scoring that out, I’ll take a win with Robberse, who pitched well enough at Double-A New Hampshire to be the key piece in the trade for reliever Jordan Hicks at the deadline, as well as Palmegiani, and a mini-breakout in Perry, who jumped into the top 25 of my top 50 list this year despite just 38.1 innings in the complex league.
He could’ve been back on the list again this year — Barriera, Toman, Doughty, Mack and Pinto would’ve all been considered again, as well — but as a new rule I tried to refrain from picking the same player in back-to-back years.
Here are eight potential 2024 breakouts:
SS/2B Leo Jimenez, Triple-A Buffalo
Leo Jimenez Toronto Blue Jays
I try to spread the breakout love across all the levels of the system, and if I’m betting on an upper-level breakout it’s this guy.
Jimenez has been on my radar for a few years now as a potential breakout candidate and coming off the biggest power surge of his career, maybe it’s time.
There’s a legit shortstop glove and a great approach at the plate, but quietly there’s also some raw power here that could explode if things click.
He hit a career-high eight homers last year and still hasn’t turned 23 yet.
LHP Kendry Rojas, High-A Vancouver
Kendry Rojas Dunedin Blue Jays
Ricky Tiedemann is the only consensus top 100 prospect in the Jays system these days, but Rojas might be one this time next year if he continues along the same trajectory.
The lanky Cuban lefty is more polish than pure stuff, but the heater has climbed into the 92-93 mph range and there could be more in the tank as he matures physically.
After getting to a career-high 84 innings last year at Single-A, Rojas is a prime breakout candidate with 100-plus frames in the tank.
RHP Landen Maroudis, Florida Complex League
It hasn’t reached Tiedemann levels of behind-the-scenes buzz like the lefty had going two years ago off of development camp reports alone, but quietly and quickly Maroudis has added some physicality to his 19-year-old frame, and he could hit the ground running.
This is where the definition of breakout candidate is murky because Maroudis won’t be subjected to a huge workload in his first pro turn, but it still might be enough to earn him national praise if the stuff looks crisp.
His true breakout season might be 2025 or even ’26.
RHP Fernando Perez, Single-A Dunedin
One of my favourites heading into the season, Perez is a command and control artist currently, but there’s also some emerging stuff that could change his outlook really quick.
He’s one of many interesting arms to watch on the Single-A Dunedin pitching staff to begin the year — Barriera and Perry should be there, too, and maybe Juaron Watts-Brown — and while Perez’s arsenal may never earn him blue-chip prospect grades, he’s the type of arm that you look up in five years and they’re comfortably contributing at the back end of a rotation every five days.
3B/SS Alex De Jesus, Double-A New Hampshire
Alex De Jesus
A more traditional breakout here who could really pop if things click, De Jesus heads into what would be his sixth minor-league season if you included the pandemic year.
Signed by the Dodgers and then flipped to the Jays in the trade that also netted Mitch White in exchange for Nick Frasso, who’s the best prospect of the bunch by a wide margin currently, De Jesus has taken the scenic route thus far.
After having shoulder surgery in September, the start could be slow, but rectifying that problem will only help down the road and despite the injury he showed some positive strides with his strikeout rate and burgeoning power in 2023 at High-A Vancouver.
The upper minors will be a test, but the tools are here for a breakout.
OF Yhoangel Aponte, Single-A Dunedin
Yhoangel Aponte Toronto Blue Jays
Is this my new guy? Now that I’ve moved on from Yosver “the starter” Zulueta — he still might be a lights-out reliever — Aponte might be the prospect I’m somewhat irrationally higher on than others.
Technically, I already have been, pushing him all the way up No. 16 on the 2022 list, before shuffling him back down to No. 40 a year ago after a ho-hum complex league debut.
But look who’s back after bopping nine homers and putting up an .841 OPS across 50 games in the lower levels last year.
If he keeps the Ks in check and continues to show growing power, Aponte has a chance to really click over the next year or two.
OF Jace Bohrofen, High-A Vancouver
Jace Bohrofen Arkansas
Selected 184th overall last summer after some had him projected as a top 75 pick, Bohrofen went out angry and got hot almost immediately, slashing .299/.443/.636 with seven dingers in his 24-game debut.
Experienced 21-year-old college bats are supposed to mash in the lower levels, and it’s a good sign Bohrofen did just that.
The profile is much different than Roden’s approach-driven breakout a year ago, but if things go according to plan this year Bohrofen could take a similar path, crushing High-A Vancouver to begin the year and finishing things up in Double-A, which would absolutely qualify as a breakout.
RHP CJ Van Eyk, Double-A New Hampshire
CJ Van Eyk Surprise Saguaros
Thanks to Tommy John surgery, we haven’t heard much from Van Eyk since he made 18 starts at High-A Vancouver way back in 2021.
But last year ended on a high note for the 2020 second-round pick, as Van Eyk’s stuff was jumping for scouts in the Arizona Fall League, setting him up for a very important personal season.
If there’s one thing the Jays could use this year, it’s an upper-level arm breaking out and becoming a key rotation depth piece.
It could be Van Eyk if his health cooperates.