Columnists

Read more from TSN's columnists

Jan 25, 2023

TSN's Top 50 Blue Jays Prospects 2023: 25-1

After revealing 50-26 on Tuesday, TSN Blue Jays Reporter Scott Mitchell completes his ranking of the organization's top 50 prospects with the final 25.

Top 50 Blue Jays Prospects: Tiedemann has true ace upside

By: Scott Mitchell

From using the minor-league system to build a potential championship core of position players, to peddling prospects as trade chips for almost two years now, the philosophy of how the Toronto Blue Jays are employing their farm system is changing once again.

There will still be players shipped out to supplement the big-league roster later this year, but the focus now is on developing a consistent pipeline of starting pitching that allows the team to keep things sustainable because going out and buying all of it — as they’ve mostly done other than Alek Manoah — can't go on forever.

Thanks to those aforementioned deals, it’s just an average system overall these days, headlined by a potential ace, some intriguing bats and a number of close-to-ready arms that could help add some much needed swing-and-miss to the big-league bullpen in the near future.

I won’t bore you with anymore preamble.

Here’s a quick look at how my top 50 lists have broken down in each of the past four years if you want to go back in time:

As always, special thanks to the people who contributed to this ranking over the winter, and a big thank you to those who enjoy reading it every year.

After revealing No. 50 through 26 on Tuesday, here are the top 25 prospects in the Blue Jay system.

TOP 50 BY POSITION
Catchers: 2
Corner infielders: 8
Middle infielders: 6
Utility guys: 5
Outfielders: 8
Pitchers: 21

HOW THEY WERE ACQUIRED
Trade: 3
MLB Draft: 23
International free agency: 24
Rule 5 Draft: 0
Undrafted free agent: 0

GRADUATED (0)
No one.

GONE (9+3 NR)
1. C Gabriel Moreno (traded to AZ for Daulton Varsho)
4. 3B/SS Jordan Groshans (traded to MIA for Anthony Bass/Zach Pop)
5. RHP Gunnar Hoglund (traded to OAK for Matt Chapman)
9. 3B/SS Kevin Smith (traded to OAK for Matt Chapman)
22. LHP Zach Logue (traded to OAK for Matt Chapman)
25. 2B/OF Samad Taylor (traded to KC for Whit Merrifield)
37. OF Josh Palacios (claimed off waivers by WSH)
40. OF Chavez Young (traded to PIT for Zach Thompson)
45. RHP Nick Frasso (traded to LAD for Mitch White/Alex De Jesus)
NR LHP Moises Brito (traded to LAD for Mitch White/Alex De Jesus)
NR RHP Max Castillo (traded to KC for Whit Merrifield)
NR RHP Jonatan Bernal (traded to KC for Foster Griffin)

*NR-Not ranked last year
 
FELL OFF (11)
19. SS Rikelbin De Castro, age-20, A
23. RHP Bowden Francis, age-27, MLB
26. OF/1B Sebastian Espino, age-23, AA
27. C Victor Mesia, age-20, A
33. RHP Joey Murray, age-26, AA
34. OF Zac Cook, age-25, AA
39. OF Cam Eden, age-25, AA
42. 1B Cristian Feliz, age-20, FCL
44. RHP Eric Pardinho, age-22, A+
47. OF Will Robertson, age-25, AA
50. 3B/1B Gregori Cano, age-18, DSL
 
AFFILIATE LEVELS
Triple-A East: Buffalo Bisons
Double-A Northeast: New Hampshire Fisher-Cats
High-A West: Vancouver Canadians
Single-A Southeast: Dunedin Blue Jays
Florida Complex League: FCL Blue Jays
Dominican Summer League: DSL Blue Jays

 

Hagen Danner
25. RHP Hagen Danner

  • Last Year's Rank
    24
  • 2021 Rank
    NR
  • 2023 Age
    24
  • Acquired
    2017 Draft

Expected starting affiliate: Triple-A Buffalo

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: One of the few relievers the Jays have decided to protect from the Rule 5 draft over the last handful of years despite limited experience, Danner’s first season on the 40-man roster was essentially a wash as he dealt with a UCL elbow sprain that sidelined him until the Arizona Fall League in October. Danner got some valuable work in under the desert sun, striking out eight batters over 7.2 frames and posting a 3.52 ERA for Salt River. Most importantly, Danner was once again flashing the high-90s fastball, touching 98, and the power slider that you can envision being employed in high-leverage situations in the majors if everything clicks.

 

OUTLOOK: It’s no secret the Jays are still looking to develop more swing-and-miss power arms in their system so they don’t have to spend money on the free agent market to acquire it, and Danner is one of the few prospects in the upper minors with that profile.

 

MLB ETA: 2023

Adrian Hernandez
24. RHP Adrian Hernandez

  • Last Year's Rank
    21
  • 2021 Rank
    NR
  • 2023 Age
    23
  • Acquired 2017 IFA
    2017 IFA

Expected starting affiliate: Triple-A Buffalo

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: Another Twitter darling of mine over the past couple of years, Hernandez was well on his way to making his major-league debut last year in the second half before he was felled by shoulder soreness in June and did not look the same when he returned in August. Pre-injury, Hernandez was building upon an impressive spring training that saw his elite changeup make some quality major-league hitters look foolish with a 1.88 ERA and 34 punchouts in 21 appearances, including eight saves. Post-injury, Hernandez had a 7.23 ERA and allowed 21 hits across 18.2 frames. Sent to the Mexican Pacific Winter League, Hernandez registered a 3.38 ERA across 24 appearances.

 

OUTLOOK: Passed over in the Rule 5 draft in December, the Jays were elated to keep their claws on Hernandez and the 22-year-old Mexican righty should give them some MLB-ready bullpen depth at Triple-A to start the season. If he’s fully recovered from the shoulder issue, the changeup specialist should be able to rediscover his form with the most entertaining pitch in the organization because velocity isn’t a big part of his arsenal. The Jays have worked on trying to help him add velo, but it’s still 90-91 mph at the best of times. With 246 punchouts across 181.2 career minor-league innings, the cambio has worked at every stop thus far.

 

MLB ETA: 2023

Alex De Jesus
23. 3B/SS Alex De Jesus

  • Last Year's Rank
    NA
  • 2021 Rank
    NA
  • 2023 Age
    21
  • Acquired
    2022 Trade

Expected starting affiliate: High-A Vancouver

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: Sent to Toronto in the Mitch White deal at the trade deadline, De Jesus combines big power with big swing-and-miss issues, especially chasing down and away. After the trade in August, he struck out 34.5 per cent of the time at High-A Vancouver, slashing .211/.298/.333 with two homers across 104 trips to the plate. Overall, the numbers in his age-20 season looked much better once you factor in his production with the Dodgers as it amounted to an .803 OPS and 14 bombs.

 

OUTLOOK: De Jesus struck out 151 times last year — there are a lot of moving parts in his right-handed swing — and that’s going to be the only number that matters as he enters the high minors. The package of tools, however, is exciting if things click and that’s exactly why the Jays wanted him as a lottery ticket in the trade. The wiry 6-foot-2, 170-pounder likely ends up at the hot corner defensively.

 

MLB ETA: 2026

Josh Kasevich
22. SS Josh Kasevich

  • Last Year's Rank
    NA
  • 2021 Rank
    NA
  • 2023 Age
    22
  • Acquired
    2022 Draft

Expected starting affiliate: High-A Vancouver

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: Described as pesky hitter who can cover the entire zone, the Jays popped the Oregon infielder with their first of three second-round picks last July, signing him for a touch underslot. There was a real theme with the bats the Jays and scouting director Shane Farrell targeted last July — high contact hitters who may need a tweak for the power tool to show up. It seems the organization believes they can help hitters do more damage once they enter the system and a high-contact base is a good starting point. The numbers from Kasevich’s debut bear that out, with an Alejandro Kirk-like 7.4 per cent K-rate but zero home runs in 122 trips to the plate.

 

OUTLOOK: How the power develops over the next two seasons will be the separator between utility guy and potential everyday player, and Kasevich worked with a different hitting coach this winter with that goal in mind. The Jays believe Kasevich is a sure-shot shortstop in the end, which helps his value, but outside evaluators are split on that and he did see nine starts at the hot corner in his pro debut. In order to find more juice, he’ll have to change the 59.6 per cent groundball rate that he showed in his debut.

 

MLB ETA: 2025

Estiven Machado
21. 2B/SS Estiven Machado

  • Last Year's Rank
    20
  • 2021 Rank
    19
  • 2023 Age
    20
  • Acquired
    2019 IFA

Expected starting affiliate: Single-A Dunedin

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: After suffering through numerous injuries over the first two-plus years of his pro journey and getting just one at-bat in game action, Machado suddenly was able to stay on the field last year, amassing 380 plate appearances at Single-A. It wasn’t exactly an impactful debut, as Machado drove the ball into the ground far too often and also struck out 25.5 per cent of the time. On the plus side, he did walk at a 10 per cent clip, and showed a solid up-the-middle profile with the glove. A switch-hitter, he’s much more advanced from the left side, slashing .300/.379/.393 against righties, compared to batting just .146 against southpaws.

 

OUTLOOK: The extreme 52.8 per cent groundball rate will have to change and it’s likely going to take time for the switch-hitter to develop any punch, but consider his first healthy campaign a stepping stone season and he got better as the year went on. Thanks to an influx of infield talent from the draft, there’s a real glut of prospects vying for time in the lower levels this year, making spring training an important stage for Machado to continue showing progression.

 

MLB ETA: 2026

Manuel Beltre
20. SS/2B Manuel Beltre

  • Last Year's Rank
    11
  • 2021 Rank
    19
  • 2023 Age
    19
  • Acquired
    2019 IFA

Expected starting affiliate: Single-A Dunedin

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: The Jays’ top signing in the 2021 international signing period for $2.35 million, Beltre’s first two minor-league campaigns have been marked by professional at-bats and low exit velocities that have most wondering how much power he’s going to have. The .374 on-base percentage so far is impressive and Beltre doesn’t even turn 19 until June, giving him lots of time to add strength and get to some more pop down the line.

 

OUTLOOK: Once Beltre got off the complex, he seemed very ready for the Single-A challenge, hitting one of his two homers on the season in his five games for Dunedin. Opinions are split whether Beltre is a major-league shortstop in the end and the Jays are starting to split his time between the six-spot and second base, but he’s as steady as they come at the position and if you hit it to him it’s going to be an out. He was tabbed by a couple of people as a potential 2023 breakout.

 

MLB ETA: 2026

Leo Jimenez
19. SS Leo Jimenez

  • Last Year's Rank
    10
  • 2021 Rank
    20
  • 2023 Age
    22
  • Acquired
    2017 IFA

Expected starting affiliate: Double-A New Hampshire

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: Signed six years ago, Jimenez is still a huge mystery when it comes to his future projection. The glove is legit at short, and he’s been able to show some intriguing flashes at the plate, but only in spurts. With a .398 career on-base mark, there’s no doubting Jimenez’s approach. The really interesting part that makes him so mysterious is the power he’s been able to show in batting practice and some of the raw numbers, leaving him as a yearly breakout candidate if he can ever get a 400-plus at-bat season.

 

OUTLOOK: Jimenez, who’s now burned through one of his option years after being added to the 40-man roster in November of 2021, will hit Double-A in 2023 and it will be one of the more interesting names to monitor now that he’s in the upper minors given his MLB-ready glove and roster status. He could hold his own at shortstop in the big leagues this year if he was needed.

 

MLB ETA: 2024

Adrian Pinto
18. INF/OF Adrian Pinto

  • Last Year's Rank
    NA
  • 2021 Rank
    NA
  • 2023 Age
    20
  • Acquired
    2022 Trade

Expected starting affiliate: Single-A Dunedin

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: Acquired in the spring training deal that sent Randal Grichuk to Colorado and brought back Raimel Tapia, Pinto was a trade target based on the metrics of a huge Dominican Summer League debut in 2021, as well as an intriguing package of tools in a pint-sized 5-foot-6, 155-pound frame. Pinto made his mark quickly, entering a spring training game late in the schedule and doing this: opposite field base hit through the right side, steals second, steals third, scores on a sacrifice fly. The big-league coaching staff took notice with some “Who the heck is this kid?” comments and it’s the type of spark-plug profile that excites when it’s combined with plus wheels and a strong arm.

 

OUTLOOK: The numbers don’t jump off the page for Pinto in his first year in the Blue Jays org, but he skipped over the complex league and still stole 18 bases and posted a 119 wRC+ across 47 Single-A games. Just like the Rockies the year before, Pinto played short, second and centre field, and didn’t look out of place at any of them. He’s one name I’m fairly confident in saying will likely be pushing top 10 on this list a year from now if he stays healthy.

 

MLB ETA: 2026

Dasan Brown
17. CF Dasan Brown

  • Last Year's Rank
    38
  • 2021 Rank
    14
  • 2023 Age
    21
  • Acquired
    2019 Draft

Expected starting affiliate: High-A Vancouver

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: Maybe the best story of development within the organization over the course of the last calendar year, the Oakville, Ont., product started translating some of his tools into baseball skills, slashing .283/.383/.420 with six homers and 24 steals across three levels, finishing his year in Vancouver with an impressive run. After posting a .633 OPS in 2021, that’s major progress. Simply put, Brown just had a better idea of what he’s supposed to do in the batter’s box and his confidence grew as the year went on. 

 

OUTLOOK: If Brown can hit at all, his 80-grade speed, athleticism, quick twitch and centre field defence form the potential to make him a very valuable player. There’s still a long way to go with breaking balls, but it was a big leap year for the raw Canadian and there could be a Jarrod Dyson-type career waiting for him as a floor if he can figure out how to make much more contact as he climbs the ladder.

 

MLB ETA: 2026

Otto Lopez
16. INF/OF Otto Lopez

  • Last Year's Rank
    8
  • 2021 Rank
    12
  • 2023 Age
    24
  • Acquired
    2016 IFA

Expected starting affiliate: Triple-A Buffalo

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: Lopez continues to simply hum along and put up great batting averages, get on base and display pretty good glovework at a few different spots. That’s a very good ballplayer, but also one who’s hard to rank because there isn’t huge upside. It's a very Santiago Espinal-ish profile — but without the shortstop glove — and that can be a valuable piece to a contender. Over the past two seasons at Triple-A, the Montreal-raised Lopez has put together an impressive .294/.368/.411 slash line in 134 games, adding in a little bit of speed with 29 steals in 35 attempts. With some new rules expected to emphasize speed on the basepaths a bit, maybe the right-handed hitting Lopez benefits long-term. He also went out and hit another quiet .304 in 22 Dominican Winter League games.

 

OUTLOOK: After having made very brief big-league cameos the past two seasons, Lopez will need injuries to give him an opportunity in 2023, and there’s a group of infielders now bubbling up around him that could potentially limit that. His best positions are second base and left field, but he also appeared at shortstop and centre field in his brief MLB time.

 

MLB ETA: Debuted 2021

Spencer Horwitz
15. 1B/LF Spencer Horwitz

  • Last Year's Rank
    35
  • 2021 Rank
    NR
  • 2023 Age
    25
  • Acquired
    2019 Draft

Expected starting affiliate: Triple-A Buffalo

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: Horwitz built on his 2021 breakout and Arizona Fall League stint by crushing Double-A to the tune of a .297/.413/.517 slash line. Most importantly, the Radford College product bashed 10 homers in 70 games, just two off the 2021 total of 12 that he hit in 109 games. It was backed up by some big exit velocities at times, too. Elevated to Triple-A Buffalo in July, Horwitz’s numbers were muted, in part due to a wrist issue he was rehabbing into the offseason, but he still managed to post a 101 wRC+ and get on base at a .361 clip. Defensively, Horwitz is mostly first-base-only, but he’s learning to also stand in left field in order to get his bat into the lineup. The bat’s the calling card here and he needs to hit for some power and continue to get on base at an above-average clip.

 

OUTLOOK: There aren’t many hitters like Horwitz in the system and the high-contact profile from the left side helped him get added to the 40-man roster in November. With a good feel for the zone and a knack to find the barrel consistently, Horwitz will compete for a bench role right away in camp this spring, but he’s likely ticketed for Triple-A to stand in line as one of the first call-ups when injuries strike.

 

MLB ETA: 2023

Hayden Juenger
14. RHP Hayden Juenger

  • Last Year's Rank
    31
  • 2021 Rank
    NA
  • 2023 Age
    22
  • Acquired
    2021 Draft

Expected starting affiliate: Triple-A Buffalo

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: Juenger almost made it the majors last year one year removed from being drafted, compiling 88.2 innings in a hybrid-type role at Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Buffalo. There was both good (100 strikeouts) and bad (a whopping 18 homers allowed and some wobbly command at times), but the slider is an out-pitch that will allow Juenger to potentially play a Swiss Army knife role on a pitching staff.

 

OUTLOOK: Organizations are attempting to think more outside the box with their bullpen arms these days and Juenger may be the Jays’ best attempt at developing a bat-missing, one-time-through-the-order arm that can help curb workloads and save tired bullpens. He’s not going to be a traditional starter and the profile doesn’t scream closer, but the stuff, featuring a mid-90s heater, and results are both impressive up to this point.

 

MLB ETA: 2023

Nate Pearson
13. RHP Nate Pearson

  • Last Year's Rank
    3
  • 2021 Rank
    1
  • 2023 Age
    26
  • Acquired
    2017 Draft

Expected starting affiliate: Triple-A Buffalo

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: If you’re wondering why he’s even on this list as a prospect, Pearson has still only somehow managed to throw 33 career innings up to this point, under the 50-inning/130-at-bat MLB rookie qualifications. Once the darling of this system for the better part of two years and the rotation saviour, Pearson is just another cautionary tale of pitching prospects breaking a fan base’s heart. While it’s far from over yet for the big Floridian, the dream of a top-of-the-rotation starter have died, and the Jays are now hoping to get an impact bullpen arm out of this story. With that said, Pearson still has the potential to play a very, very key role in this club’s championship aspirations over the next couple of years. Of course, he could also get hurt again and be an afterthought by May, which has unfortunately been the case in most years up to this point. After a bout with mono and a lat strain washed his entire 2022 season, the year in review for Pearson begins and ends in the Dominican Winter League. Encouragingly, he ended things on a dominant note, providing 12 quality innings for Tigres del Licey in Santo Domingo, punching out 16, allowing just five hits, and not allowing an earned run.

 

OUTLOOK: Pearson lands at unlucky No. 13 on this list for a reason — his career path up to this point has been at the mercy of the baseball gods. His body has given out almost every spring like clockwork under the physical demands of trying to get ready to throw 90-100 pitches every five days. With that now out of the way, the Jays are hoping Pearson can free himself enough mentally to just go out and use his elite stuff to battle through four to six outs at a time. There’s reason to believe the triple-digit radar gun readings will return out of the ‘pen, and the upside is as high as it gets in his new role.

 

MLB ETA: Debuted 2020

Enmanuel Bonilla
12. OF Enmanuel Bonilla

  • Last Year's Rank
    NA
  • 2021 Rank
    NA
  • 2023 Age
    17
  • Acquired
    2023 IFA

Expected starting affiliate: Dominican Summer League

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: Not much to say here other than the Blue Jays have had their eyes on Bonilla since he was 14 years old, drawn to an advanced hit tool, burgeoning power and reportedly a pretty good idea of what he’s doing at the plate for someone who just turned 17 on Jan. 22. He’s already a physically-imposing teenager, with the phrase “specimen” thrown around a few times. Listed at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, that’s likely going to be outdated pretty quickly and some who have eyed him this winter think he’s in the 6-foot-3 range.

 

OUTLOOK: The Jays gave Bonilla the largest international bonus in franchise history at $4.1 million, surpassing the $4 million given to shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria back in 2010 and some guy named Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who got $3.9 million to sign in 2015. Next is third-ranked prospect on this list, Orelvis Martinez at $3.5 million, and that track should be the current standard set for Bonilla as he starts his pro journey as a teenager in the DSL later this year: just hope he becomes a top five prospect in the system at this point. I’ve been hesitant to run these guys up the list too quickly — Martinez debuted at No. 14 — but it all depends on the strength of the pipeline, and it’s not exactly a deep system right now. Bonilla has the tools to make this ranking look low, too.

 

MLB ETA: 2028

Gabriel Martinez
11. OF Gabriel Martinez

  • Last Year's Rank
    41
  • 2021 Rank
    NR
  • 2023 Age
    20
  • Acquired
    2018 IFA

Expected starting affiliate: High-A Vancouver

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: Billed as a potential breakout prospect last January, Martinez went back to Single-A Dunedin and enjoyed a power surge, turning on 11 homers just one year after zero across 34 games. Blessed with a quick swing and hands, added strength as he just now enters his twenties is the simple reason for the pop now starting to show up in games with a lift-heavy approach. The hit tool isn’t in question. Martinez can manipulate the bat to find the barrel and he’s got that hitting gene.

 

OUTLOOK: Left unprotected in the Rule 5 draft this past December, Martinez unsurprisingly was not picked and will likely head back to High-A Vancouver, where he finished his campaign with a .324/.381/.490 slash line across his final 113 plate appearances. Still just age-20 in 2023, the real test for Martinez and his fairly aggressive ways in the box will come at Double-A, which he may not have to wait long for.

 

MLB ETA: 2025

Dahian Santos
10. RHP Dahian Santos

  • Last Year's Rank
    13
  • 2021 Rank
    NR
  • 2023 Age
    20
  • Acquired
    2019 IFA

Expected starting affiliate: High-A Vancouver

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: Listed at 5-foot-11, 160 pounds, Santos comes with the typical projection questions you see all the time surrounding a starter’s workload and whether he can add some more velocity to his low-90s heater. One thing that isn’t in question, however, is whether he owns a plus slider. After tinkering with the grip on that offering last spring, Santos came out in 2022 showing a devastating sweeper that right-handed A-ball hitters essentially had no chance against. He used it strike out a ridiculous 120 batters across just 73.1 frames in Single-A, before punching out another 22 in 12.2 frames at High-A, where he struggled early but improved across four late-season starts.

 

OUTLOOK: Santos’ three-pitch mix — he also shows some feel for a changeup — has been getting good results early on as a teenager, but 2023 will provide a good indication of where he’s really at on the starting pitcher scope as he starts to face some more advanced hitters who may at least attempt to lay off the slide piece. Even if he struggles numbers-wise, the stuff is going to keep him high on this list next year.

 

MLB ETA: 2026

Sem Robberse
9. RHP Sem Robberse

  • Last Year's Rank
    7
  • 2021 Rank
    24
  • 2023 Age
    21
  • Acquired
    2019 IFA

Expected starting affiliate: Double-A New Hampshire

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: While the numbers don’t jump off the page in this era thanks to a lack of strikeouts, Robberse quietly enjoyed a solid campaign split between High-A and Double-A, where he was three or four years younger than the average age at both levels. Across 111.1 innings, Robberse logged a 3.23 ERA and allowed just 95 hits. The issue for Robberse is a lack of swing-and-miss, evidenced by an 18.3 per cent strikeout rate in his five starts with New Hampshire. 

 

OUTLOOK: Already a great developmental success story after being signed for $125,000 out of the baseball hotbed that is the Netherlands, the Jays are hoping it adds another chapter with another velocity bump and that’s been the clear focus for Robberse this winter. According to those who have seen him, the 6-foot-1 right-hander has gained about 15 pounds this off-season and now tips the scales at an even 200, and the Jays are hoping that helps him add a tick or two to his 91-mph fastball. If he comes into spring training in the 92-95-mph range, like a few think he can, Robberse’s prospect stock could shoot through the roof.

 

MLB ETA: 2024

Adam Macko
8. LHP Adam Macko

  • Last Year's Rank
    NA
  • 2021 Rank
    NA
  • 2023 Age
    22
  • Acquired
    2022 Trade

Expected starting affiliate: High-A Vancouver

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: There are three prospects on this list that the Jays brought into the organization via trades in 2022, and Macko is the easiest to project playing an important role. Acquired in the Teoscar Hernandez trade, this Slovak-born, Ireland-raised, Alberta-schooled lefty’s career has been marked by injury and inconsistency since being drafted in the seventh round in 2019 out of Vauxhall High School, about two-and-a-half hours southeast of Calgary. Despite the limited time on the mound, the profile has also changed a lot in four years, as Macko went from a pitchability-type lefty with the ability to spin a breaking ball to touching the upper-90s with his heater and punching some impressive spin rates on both offerings. That newfound gas has contributed to some command issues, evidenced by 53 walks issued across his 95 minor-league innings. On the flip side of that, he’s punched out 148 batters in that span. After throwing just 38.1 innings last year and being shut down in May, Macko returned healthy — and wild — in the Arizona Fall League, putting him in a good spot for his first spring with his new organization.

 

OUTLOOK: It will be interesting to see what the Blue Jays player development group does with the 6-foot lefty, compared to the Seattle organization. Anecdotally, the M’s place a high priority on throwing breaking balls, and more fastball usage could be the key for Macko – both in terms of staying healthy and dialling in the command of that important pitch. First and foremost, he just needs to stay healthy and pitch in order to sort out whether his future is in the rotation or as a Jose Alvarado-type high-octane reliever who walks a few.

 

MLB ETA: 2025

Cade Doughty
7. 3B/2B Cade Doughty

  • Last Year's Rank
    NA
  • 2021 Rank
    NA
  • 2023 Age
    22
  • Acquired
    2022 Draft

Expected starting affiliate: High-A Vancouver

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: The third of three second-round picks the Jays held last July thanks to Marcus Semien and Robbie Ray walking in free agency, Doughty split time between second base and third base with the Tigers and that’s exactly what the Jays did in his pro debut, as well. What the 6-foot-1, 195-pound right-handed hitter did with the bat was noticeable, as he slashed .272/.370/.495 with six homers across 119 trips to the plate.

 

OUTLOOK: Opinions are mixed on Doughty’s bat, but the power he showed in his pro debut was exciting and there are those who believe there’s much more to come thanks to the bat-to-ball skills and work ethic. If he continues to show pop, there’s a potential well-rounded, everyday third baseman here.

 

MLB ETA: 2025

Addison Barger
6. 3B/SS Addison Barger

  • Last Year's Rank
    NR
  • 2021 Rank
    NR
  • 2023 Age
    23
  • Acquired
    2018 Draft

Expected starting affiliate: Triple-A Buffalo

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: During the first week of spring training coming out of the lockout last March, Kevin Gausman was throwing his first live BP session on a backfield in Dunedin. One of the first hitters he faced turned on a high fastball and launched it over the netting in right field. It was Barger. And it was a sign of things to come. Not able to crack this top 50 list in the four years after being drafted in 2018 out of a Tampa-area high school — a PED suspension in 2019 followed by the pandemic had Barger missing out on a whole lot of important developmental at-bats — Barger broke out in a big way in 2022, starting the year in High-A and finishing it in Triple-A thanks to a monster .308/.378/.555 slash line and 26 bombs. The most impressive part of Barger’s season was an ability to cut down on the Ks at each stop, going from a 26 per cent strikeout rate at High-A to 25.3 at Double-A to 13.9 per cent in his eight-game cup of coffee at Triple-A. How did it all happen? Essentially, added strength and a much more refined approach to match his strengths helped improve his contact rate and unlock his huge pull-side power in 2022. The fact he kept improving as the year went on has some wondering if they’re still underestimating the ceiling.

 

OUTLOOK: While the key for Barger when he does make his big-league debut will be keeping the strikeouts at a manageable rate in order to get to his power, the defensive versatility he brings is going to help keep him on the roster. In possession of arguably the strongest arm in the Jays’ minor-league system, Barger’s best position defensively is going to be third base in the long run, but he can also play short, second and is learning the corner outfield spots, as well. On this Jays roster, there’s room for a Ben Zobrist super-utility type, and if Cavan Biggio fumbles away another opportunity at securing that role, Barger will be up next. It will be interesting to see if MLB arms can find holes in an approach that’s always geared to pull and lift, but the shift ban will help his type of hitter.

 

MLB ETA: 2023

Tucker Toman
5. 3B/SS Tucker Toman

  • Last Year's Rank
    NA
  • 2021 Rank
    NA
  • 2023 Age
    19
  • Acquired
    2022 Draft

Expected starting affiliate: Single-A Dunedin

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: Viewed as a potential first-round talent, the Jays put their bevy of picks, and the bonus money that comes along with them, to work in the 2022 draft, going well over the slot value of about $846,000 at pick No. 77 and giving Toman a cool $2 million to buy him out of a commitment to LSU. Once he arrived at the complex, the switch-hitter impressed with his work ethic and put up a solid .289/.391/.368 run in a quick debut of just 46 plate appearances. The son of a coach — his father, Jim, is a long-time NCAA coach who just resigned his post at Middle Tennessee State — Toman is a first-guy-in, last-guy-out type of player and the player development group had to force him to take some time off this winter. That's a good sign. 

 

OUTLOOK: There’s not much game power yet — especially from the right side of the box — but Toman projects as a well-rounded hitter with a huge ceiling. There’s a chance for plus power and a hit tool that carries some average, from a switch-hitter to boot. The Jays ran Toman out at third base and shortstop in his debut, and the position might be up for debate for a while as he develops. Some also believe second base is where he ends up because the arm strength is just average at this point. He’s also athletic enough to potentially play the outfield if it comes down that. There’s a whole lot of time to figure that out and the bat is what matters anyway.

 

MLB ETA: 2026

Yosver Zulueta
4. RHP Yosver Zulueta

  • Last Year's Rank
    15
  • 2021 Rank
    15
  • 2023 Age
    25
  • Acquired
    2019 IFA

Expected starting affiliate: Triple-A Buffalo

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: After defecting from Cuba in late 2018, Zulueta essentially didn’t pitch for almost three years after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2019 shortly after signing and then tearing his ACL covering first base on the very first batter he faced when he finally made his debut in the Jays system in 2021. When the wiry righty finally got on the mound last year, he quickly proved that he was worthy of the spring training buzz two years ago with a fastball that touched 100 mph and a hammer curveball that made A-ball hitters look silly at times. All told, Zulueta blew through every level in his age-24 season, finishing in Triple-A with an overall 3.72 ERA that did no justice to the stuff and the 84 punchouts over 55 frames. The reason the overall numbers didn’t look prettier was the command issues he battled, which is not much of a surprise given all the time off. Similar to Tiedemann, there aren’t any long outings in the bank as he maxed out at five frames in the first half of the season, before shifting into a bullpen role in August when the Jays were considering making him a postseason-push option down the stretch. Eventually, some shoulder soreness and knee inflammation ended that possibility. If this was 2019 and the Jays were on track to lose 90 games, Zulueta would absolutely be viewed as a rotation piece and given multiple chances in that role, but his future may be dictated by the big club’s World Series aspirations.

 

OUTLOOK: This could go one of two ways in 2023 and it’s all up to Zulueta himself. Now on the 40-man roster, he’s expected to head back to Triple-A Buffalo as a starter, possibly in some sort of ramp-up mode in order to manage his innings early in the year. If Zulueta throws strikes and starts getting through five or six frames every fifth day, he could be the club’s No. 5 starter by June. If he continues to scatter, a high-octane relief role will fit the Jays’ needs nicely and the ceiling is sky-high there. The message to Zulueta is similar to the one that worked so well for veteran Robbie Ray a couple years ago — fill up the zone, your stuff is that good. If healthy, Zulueta is going to play some sort of role with the Jays this year, and there’s a chance it evolves into an important one with his elite stuff. If you’ve followed me, you know I’ve been talking about this guy for two years now, and this ranking is betting that he can throw enough strikes to stay in the rotation. Even if he ends up in the newly elevated Rogers Centre ‘pen in 2023, don’t rule out another attempt at stretching him for 2024. 

 

MLB ETA: 2023

Orelvis Martinez
3. 3B/SS Orelvis Martinez

  • Last Year's Rank
    2
  • 2021 Rank
    4
  • 2023 Age
    21
  • Acquired
    2018 IFA

Expected starting affiliate: Double-A New Hampshire

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: There are so many ways you can look at Martinez’s second full pro season. If you simply look at the slash line, you’re going to be left wanting more because .203/.286/.446 does not jump off the page. If you look at the 30 home runs in Double-A and consider it came in his age-20 season — only two other players hit 30-plus bombs at Double-A, and one was 24 years old and the other was 28 — and you might be impressed. It’s game-changing power … if he can get to it. The scariest number, however, is the 28.5 per cent strikeout rate and that’s going to be the difference between Martinez being a big-league bat of some sort and potentially a very dangerous one. With Martinez, it’s all about swing decisions and zone control, and not necessarily a huge mechanical flaw that’s going to cause problems. The bat speed is there and there seems to be an ability to lock in and raise his level to the competition, as we’ve seen in the last two spring trainings when he’s touched big-league arms for impressive home runs. Martinez ran a BABIP of just .217 last year, so there’s been some bad luck involved, too, as the club’s internal batted-ball metrics had him closer to an .875 OPS, rather than his actual .732 mark from last year.

 

OUTLOOK: There are all sorts of excuses for Martinez right now if you want to make them and they’re all somewhat viable. Whether you want to point to his age, bad luck, an upper minors adjustment period, whatever. The long and the short of it is he’s going to have to cut down on the swing-and-miss to fulfill his potential, and it’s very likely he heads back to New Hampshire with a glut of infielders ahead of him at Triple-A. A couple months of mashing and a renewed focus on swinging at better pitches could have him quickly back in the elite prospect conversation because the power is game-changing. Defensively, he looks like he’s settling in at third base, leaving himself and Addison Barger as potential successors at third base if Matt Chapman walks in free agency next winter.

 

MLB ETA: 2024

Brandon Barriera
2. LHP Brandon Barriera

  • Last Year's Rank
    NA
  • 2021 Rank
    NA
  • 2023 Age
    19
  • Acquired
    2022 Draft

Expected starting affiliate: Single-A Dunedin

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: The opinions on Barriera were wide-ranging coming into the draft last summer, and that hasn’t stopped. A biometrics darling with the potential for a blood rate Savant page, too, Barriera didn’t pitch after being drafted and was instead sent to the complex to work behind the scenes, a la the Ricky Tiedemann plan. That comparison, thanks to the arm they throw with, has been tossed around a lot, but expecting the same trajectory wouldn’t be fair to Barriera. Confident as they come, don’t rule it out either, as Barriera already put the league on notice in his post-draft interview by saying, “Looking at those 22 teams before me, they're going to regret this. I'm going to become the best pitcher in MLB.”

 

OUTLOOK: When I introduced myself to Barriera at the draft in Los Angeles during MLB all-star game festivities, he said he’ll see me soon, AKA in Toronto as a big-leaguer. It stuck with me because it’s the same thing Alek Manoah said the first time that I met him in 2019, and it’s a comparison that has actually come up this winter due to their Florida pedigree and confident, bordering on cocky for some, nature. With complete belief in his ability to get hitters out just like Manoah, you can dream on a top-of-the-rotation future here, as every team does when they pick a high-school arm in the first round. So much can go wrong for high-end pitching prospects, but with a fastball that has touched 98-99 mph — it’s a pitch that also has some cut on it — a power slider, a curveball and a developing changeup as a potential fourth offering, you have permission to go ahead and dream.

 

MLB ETA: 2026

Ricky Tiedemann
1. LHP Ricky Tiedemann

  • Last Year's Rank
    6
  • 2021 Rank
    NA
  • 2023 Age
    20
  • Acquired
    2021 Draft

Expected starting affiliate: Double-A New Hampshire

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: For everyone prospect who buzzes behind the scenes and actually breaks out, there are 10 who don’t. After wowing post-draft during instructional league in the fall of 2022, Tiedemann held up his end of the bargain in a big way and made those vouching for him look really smart really quickly in his pro debut. There’s no other way to put it — the lefty shoved. It wasn’t just the results, either. The obvious top-of-the-rotation stuff allowed him to blast through three levels all the way to Double-A as a 19-year-old, finishing with a 2.17 ERA across 18 starts with 117 strikeouts in 78.2 innings. The fastball sits in the mid-90s, touching 98, and he’s got two legit secondaries with an improving slider and a changeup that the California southpaw is already very comfortable with. Tying it all together is the fact he commands his entire arsenal pretty darn well, too, giving him legit ace upside. That label won’t be used often by me, either.

 

OUTLOOK: This is the prospect general media will latch onto this year and all sorts of narratives will be created on social media about when and why he should be in the big leagues. It already started last season, despite zero chance of it happening. Tiedemann put himself in this position with his sensational debut, and starting back in Double-A will leave him a hop and a skip away from the big leagues. But to pump the brakes a bit here, there’s still development left. First and foremost, pitching deeper into ballgames will be the key. Tiedemann wasn’t allowed to go more than five full frames in 2022, and never threw more than 84 pitches in an outing. Pitching tired and honing in his sequencing in the upper minors against more advanced hitters will be the polish on what already looks like an Aventador Lamborghini kit. The organization certainly isn’t counting on Tiedemann contributing this year, but his first half will dictate how quickly he’s pushed and like Alek Manoah, elite prospects tend to make their own timelines. Even though he may be limited to around 120 innings, some of those could be saved for the second half in the big leagues if 2023 mirrors his 2022.

 

MLB ETA: 2023

JUST MISSED: OF Alan Roden, age-23, Single-A; OF Devonte Brown, age-23, Single-A; 1B PK Morris, age-24, High-A; 1B Peyton Williams, age-22, Single-A; 2B/SS Michael Turconi, age-24, High-A; OF Roque Salinas, age-20, Single-A; RHP Nick Fraze, age-25, Double-A; RHP T.J. Brock, age-23, High-A; RHP Troy Watson, age-27, High-A; RHP Connor Cooke, age-23, High-A; LHP Jimmy Burnette, age-24, Double-A; LHP Brandon Eisert, age-25, Triple-A; RHP Lazaro Estrada, age-24, Single-A; OF/2B Marcos De La Rosa, age-21, FCL; RHP Fernando Perez, age-19, DSL.