Columnists

Read more from TSN's columnists

Jan 21, 2023

TSN's Top 50 Blue Jays Prospects 2023: 50-26

TSN Blue Jays Reporter Scott Mitchell ranks the organization's top 50 prospects, with Nos. 50 through 26 revealed today and the final 25 coming on Wednesday.

Top 50 Blue Jays Prospects: What is the state of the system?

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.

Today, starting with how the system breaks down and the changes from last year, it’s the back half of this year’s top 50, followed by the top 25 tomorrow.

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

 

Blue Jays Logo
50. OF David Guzman

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

Expected starting affiliate: Dominican Summer League

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: I usually reserve this spot for a notable signing from the most recent international signing period, and this year Guzman was the name that came up the most behind No. 12 prospect Enmanuel Bonilla. He signed for $650,000 on Jan. 15.

 

OUTLOOK: Described as a “short and boxy” left-handed hitter, Guzman was inked because he shows a good feel for the barrel and the ability to use all fields.

 

MLB ETA: 2028

Eliander Alcalde
49. RHP Eliander Alcalde

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

Expected starting affiliate: Single-A Dunedin

YEAR IN REVIEW: Coming off a 2.93 ERA in the Dominican Summer League in 2021, Alcalde made his stateside debut and was good enough in the complex league with a 4.15 ERA that he made an appearance in Single-A and threw 3.1 shutout frames.

OUTLOOK: The stuff isn’t going to wow you and the little right-hander is listed at just 5-foot-9, 171 pounds, but despite the lack of projection he has a quick arm and a bit of a feel for what he’s doing on the mound.

MLB ETA: 2027

Michael Dominguez
48. RHP Michael Dominguez

  • Last Year's Rank
    NR
  • 2021 Rank
    NR
  • 2023 Age
    22
  • Acquired
    2019 Draft

Expected starting affiliate: High-A Vancouver

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: Sent to the Arizona Fall League at the end of the 2021 season, Dominguez held his own there as a 20-year-old starter, showing an ability to get some swing-and-miss. That continued into 2022 as the right-hander struck out 11.6 per nine across two levels, finishing in High-A with a solid seven start run that saw him post a 3.64 ERA.

 

OUTLOOK: Sitting in the low-to-mid-90s with his fastball, Dominguez’s slider elicits some ugly looking swings with its unique shape, and he’s been working to refine that this winter. If the Newport News, V.A., native — the same hometown as Allen Iverson — can find some consistency with that offering this summer, he could enjoy a breakout campaign with some success once he lands in Double-A.

 

MLB ETA: 2025

Miguel Hiraldo
47. 2B Miguel Hiraldo

  • Last Year's Rank
    18
  • 2021 Rank:
    9
  • 2023 Age
    22
  • Acquired
    2017 IFA

Expected starting affiliate: Double-A New Hampshire

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: As I worked through the early versions of this list, Hiraldo, one of my personal favourites over the years, had actually fallen off numerous iterations. Three years ago, most were convinced he’d be able to hit his way to the big leagues, but that has not come to fruition as he heads into his age-22 season coming off a .660 OPS and a career-high 29.4 per cent K-rate at High-A Vancouver. That’s not what you want. Formerly viewed as a 2B/3B hybrid, Hiraldo is now mostly keystone-only.

 

OUTLOOK: Looking for something that works, Hiraldo spends time hitting with Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Willy Adames in the winter and that’s intriguing because that’s the type of high-strikeout infield power Hiraldo could provide from second base if everything clicks. There’s been no evidence of that happening yet, but Hiraldo hangs on here for another year.

 

MLB ETA: 2025

Blue Jays Logo
46. 2B/SS Luis Garcia

  • Last Year's Rank
    29
  • 2021 Rank
    NA
  • 2023 Age
    19
  • Acquired
    2021 IFA

Expected starting affiliate: Florida Complex League

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: After an impressive DSL debut in 2021, Garcia struggled to adjust with the bat in his stateside debut, striking out 25.3 per cent of the time to hold his slash line to .201/.296/.302, while splitting time between second base, third base and shortstop.

 

OUTLOOK: Garcia will have to battle a ton of young infielders for playing time at the lower levels, but his bonus — at $520,000, he was handed the third biggest bonus in the Jays’ 2020-21 international free agency crop, behind only Manuel Beltre ($2.35 million) and Martin Gimenez ($1 million) — will get him some more run.

 

MLB ETA: 2027

Rafael Lantigua
45. INF/OF Rafael Lantigua

  • Last Year's Rank
    46
  • 2021 Rank
    NR
  • 2023 Age
    25
  • Acquired
    2016 IFA

Expected starting affiliate: Triple-A Buffalo

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: Pint-sized and scrappy, Lantigua built off of his 2021 breakout with another solid but powerless season that saw him slash .286/.346/.373 with a couple of homers across 42 Triple-A games after being promoted from New Hampshire. The draw here is the defensive versatility and the hope his high-contact rate can help him get to enough power to make the offensive package viable in a bench role. He’s posted some sneaky-good exit velocities in the range of 106-107 mph, which is about as hard as Santiago Espinal hits the ball at the MLB level.

 

OUTLOOK: It’s a full-on bench-type utilityman profile here, but Lantigua played every single position other than catcher and first base last season and that glovework will likely get him some time in the big leagues eventually.

 

MLB ETA: 2024

Adam Kloffenstein
44. RHP Adam Kloffenstein

  • Last Year's Rank
    17
  • 2021 Rank
    11
  • 2023 Age
    22
  • Acquired
    2018 Draft

Expected starting affiliate: Double-A New Hampshire

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: It’s now been five years since the Jays gave Kloffenstein a significant over-slot bonus in the third round, yet he’s still trying to find his footing. The 2022 season was another inconsistent picture for the big 6-foot-5, 243-pound righty, as he started strong in High-A, but struggled in Double-A to finish with a combined 5.54 ERA across 112 innings. The numbers weren’t pretty. In addition to allowing 126 hits allowed, he also walked 55 batters. Kloffenstein has been prone to the big inning and the wheels fall off quickly when it starts going poorly.

 

OUTLOOK: During the shutdown of 2020, Kloffenstein was hitting 97-98 mph with his fastball down in Texas, but he’s dropped back into the 91-94-mph band, and no one is really sure where that velocity went. Instead of being a conversion candidate with the idea of his stuff playing up in a bullpen role, Kloffenstein, who has proven to be durable, seems to be tracking as a kitchen-sink-type backend starter in the Jacob Waguespack mould up to this point.

 

MLB ETA: 2025

Alejandro Melean
43. RHP Alejandro Melean

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

Expected starting affiliate: Double-A New Hampshire

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: Approaching six years in the system now, Melean’s prospect stock has taken a bit of a wild ride. Debuting at No. 38 in 2019 and then ranked No. 31 on this list as a potential breakout candidate way back in 2020, the right-hander struggled when he emerged from the pandemic, posting a 5.16 ERA across 82 frames in his full season debut in 2021 and has mostly been a piggyback or short-stint starter over the past couple of years. The reason he’s bounced back onto this list in 2023 is the work he did at High-A last year, registering a 1.69 ERA across 32 frames and using his sweeping slider with regularity. 

 

OUTLOOK: What some evaluators noticed in Melean this season was an ability to mentally recover quicker when things went wrong and not let it snowball. There was more of a bulldog, attacking mentality and it usually worked, even though he took his lumps with a five homers allowed across his eight starts at Double-A. The stuff isn’t the most exciting in the world, but Melean hovers in the 92-94 mph range with his fastball and has a decent changeup to complement the slider. Despite feeling like he’s been around forever, Melean heads into his age-22 season already having some Double-A experience under his belt.

 

MLB ETA: 2025

Blue Jays Logo
42. OF Yeuni Munoz

  • Last Year's Rank
    43
  • 2021 Rank
    NR
  • 2023 Age
    19
  • Acquired
    2021 IFA

Expected starting affiliate: Single-A Dunedin

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: The Munoz stock holds pretty steady after injuries limited him to just 28 plate appearances in the complex league, but those trips to the plate did have some juice to them. Across nine games, Munoz slashed .318/.464/.545 with a bomb, a triple and a stolen base, while also walking six times as an 18-year-old.

 

OUTLOOK: The compact 6-foot-1, 190-pounder has a corner outfield profile and some very intriguing raw tools that have him on the radar. Last spring, Munoz wowed in a BP session, launching balls over the left field wall with regularity. If the approach allows him to get to it, there’s bat speed and power here.

 

MLB ETA: 2027

Robert Robertis
41. OF Robert Robertis

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

Expected starting affiliate: Single-A Dunedin

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: Robertis is proof that prospects are weird sometimes and you never really know what to expect on a year-to-year basis, especially at the lower levels. If you look above at the previous rankings, you’d think this is the left-handed hitter’s debut on this list. Except it’s not. He landed at No. 49 way back in 2020 after signing for a fairly hefty $750,000 out of Venezuela during the old July 2 international signing period in 2019. Hurt developmentally by the pandemic, it was mostly quiet on the Robertis front until he showed up in Double-A in September in an emergency situation and started raking with a pair of homers in a five-game cameo. Prior to that, he had not popped one over the fence since 2021 in the Dominican Summer League.

 

OUTLOOK: The sample size is the tiniest possible, but Robertis bouncing back on this list is more about the reports on the type of at-bats he was putting together and the fact he did not look out of place as a 19-year-old in Double-A behind the scenes. This is the danger with comps because he’s not going to turn into a borderline Hall of Famer, but the swing has some Bobby Abreu to it if you look closely. Despite passing the test in New Hampshire, he’s still quite raw.

 

MLB ETA: 2026

Yhoangel Aponte
40. OF Yhoangel Aponte

  • Last Year's Rank
    16
  • 2021 Rank
    50
  • 2023 Age
    19
  • Acquired
    2021 IFA

Expected starting affiliate: Florida Complex League

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: Sometimes you run a guy up the list early and it works out — hello, Yosver Zulueta — and many times it does not. After sitting at No. 16 on this list a year ago, Aponte’s debut didn’t exactly match the excitement and he showed he’s a touch rawer than most expected. He doesn’t turn 19 until next month so it’s not time to give up, but a 29.1 per cent strikeout rate across 44 games was not ideal.

 

OUTLOOK: Players adjust as teenagers at different speeds so Aponte’s sophomore season will be monitored closely in the lower levels. The reports on the glove in centre field were still solid, but not as sparkling as they were last year and there’s a chance he ends up in a corner. But it’s too early to say much other than 2023 is an important one for Aponte to add something with the stick and cut down on the whiffs. He has already shown the ability to hit the ball hard, periodically showing exit velos in the 110-mph range.

 

MLB ETA: 2027

Nolan Perry
39. RHP Nolan Perry

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

Expected starting affiliate: Florida Complex League

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: A prep arm drafted out of Carlsbad High School in New Mexico, the Jays bought Perry out of a commitment to Texas Tech for $200,000 and it already looks like it could be a smart investment. While he didn’t get into any game action in his draft year, as is par for the course for most of the Jays’ prep arm picks recently, Perry showed up at their development camp in the fall and was throwing maybe the most impressive bullpens in the draft class alongside a number of veteran college arms.

 

OUTLOOK: The key word here is projectable. At 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, and still a teenager, Perry’s heater sits in the 91-93-mph range, and you can find many reasons to believe there’s more in the tank as he gets stronger and works with the Jays development group. There may also be a surprising feel for pitching, tying it all together as a potential mini breakout candidate when he gets into game action.

 

MLB ETA: 2027

Jimmy Robbins
38. LHP Jimmy Robbins

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

Expected starting affiliate: Double-A New Hampshire

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: After the pandemic wiped out his 2020 season, Tommy John surgery stole 2021 from Robbins, who was plucked late in the 2019 draft out of Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla. Prior to 2022, Robbins’ name had been on my radar as a back-end starter type, and he proved why last summer, posting an impressive 2.59 combined ERA at three different stops and eventually making it to Double-A for an impressive five-start run. Before the TJ, Robbins was up to the mid-90s with his heater, but that type of velocity has not returned.

 

OUTLOOK: There’s a pretty easy recent comp here and it is former Jays prospect Zach Logue, who was traded to Oakland as part of the Matt Chapman trade last spring. Robbins has shown an ability to miss bats up to this point, but it’s all about deception and inducing soft contact more than stuff as the lefty sits in the low-90s with the fastball. Like Logue, Robbins will have to prove it at every level and won’t have much margin for error in the big leagues, but sometimes these guys surprise and just keep getting outs.

 

MLB ETA: 2024

Chad Dallas
37. RHP Chad Dallas

  • Last Year's Rank
    30
  • 2021 Rank
    NA
  • 2023 Age
    23
  • Acquired
    2021 Draft

Expected starting affiliate: High-A Vancouver

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: The Jays have gone the college arm route in the early rounds of the past few drafts numerous times, hitting on Alek Manoah at the top of the draft but not much else. Dallas, selected two years ago out of Tennessee, struggled in his pro debut last year, walking far too many and getting hit pretty hard at times, too, finishing with a 4.60 ERA that was supported by a 5.50 FIP. Walking 51 batters across 88 innings doesn’t exactly set you up for success. 

 

OUTLOOK: The slider is filthy, but hitters have a fairly easy time laying off it when Dallas was nowhere near the zone with his mid-90s fastball. If those struggles continue in the upper minors in 2023, Dallas — or Cheese as he’s known around the Jays complex — could be a conversion candidate where his stuff could play up in the bullpen, while also mitigating those command woes.

 

MLB ETA: 2025

CJ Van Eyk
36. RHP CJ Van Eyk

  • Last Year's Rank
    12
  • 2021 Rank
    10
  • 2023 Age
    24
  • Acquired
    2020 Draft

Expected starting affiliate: High-A Vancouver

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: Van Eyk underwent Tommy John surgery in September 2021 and missed the entire 2022 season.

 

OUTLOOK: It’s not a cautionary tale just yet, but Van Eyk is proof not all TJ surgeries go according to plan. While it was always known Van Eyk would miss 2022, he did endure a setback late last year that stalled his return to the mound. He’s expected to be ready to go at some point this spring. When healthy, Van Eyk has starter traits and a bat-missing deuce.

 

MLB ETA: 2025

Kendry Rojas
35. LHP Kendry Rojas

  • Last Year's Rank
    28
  • 2021 Rank
    NR
  • 2023 Age
    20
  • Acquired
    2020 IFA

Expected starting affiliate: Single-A Dunedin

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: Another breakout candidate coming into last year, Rojas dealt with a shoulder/upper back issue in May and didn’t return until August, but there were some flashes and reasons to believe in the Cuban lefty. Across his 12 appearances at Single-A, the athletic Rojas showed an ability to miss some bats, even as the control wavered at times and he finished with a 4.08, but a 3.19 FIP.

 

OUTLOOK: The lanky lefty’s fastball has some ride, but it needs some extra juice if Rojas’ prospect stock is going to really take off. He has the frame to add more velocity to the 90-mph he’s working with right now, which would combine nicely with the pitchability he’s shown early on as a recently converted outfielder.

 

MLB ETA: 2026

Irv Carter
34. RHP Irv Carter

  • Last Year's Rank
    14
  • 2021 Rank
    NA
  • 2023 Age
    20
  • Acquired
    2021 Draft

Expected starting affiliate: Single-A Dunedin

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: Signed to an over-slot deal out of the 2021 draft, Carter made his organizational debut last year and proved to be very hittable over a 47.2 inning sample size. Across the complex league and Single-A levels, Carter put up a 5.48 ERA, allowing 10 homers.

 

OUTLOOK: There’s a wide range of outcomes here, and Carter will be a yearly breakout candidate thanks to the 6-foot-4 frame, mound competitiveness, and a traditional three-pitch mix that includes a low-to-mid-90s heater. If things ever click, he could take off, but for now he’ll hover in the middle of this list.

 

MLB ETA: 2026

Davis Schneider
33. 2B/OF Davis Schneider

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

Expected starting affiliate: Triple-A Buffalo

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: Players picked this late aren’t supposed to make much noise, but Schneider enjoyed a breakout 2022 and now likely has a big-league future ahead of him. The tools are average, but Schneider has a lot of characteristics of a major-league hitter with good strength and a quick hands that help him handle fastballs up in the zone. Across three levels, the New Jersey native posted a .253/.366/.457 slash line, showing some sneaky pop with 16 bombs. Internally, the organization views Schneider a lot differently than they did a couple years ago when he was barely on the prospect radar.

 

OUTLOOK: With the ability to take a walk and get on base — he’s posted a career .359 on-base percentage in the minors over five seasons — the right-handed hitter will have to produce at the dish because he’s not going to provide a whole lot of defensive value, with second base and left field being the best spots to use him. Stashed at Triple-A to begin the year, Schneider is behind names like Otto Lopez and Addison Barger when it comes to a potential call-up, but he’s now in the conversation after his breakout season.

 

MLB ETA: 2024

Tanner Morris
32. 2B/3B Tanner Morris

  • Last Year's Rank
    36
  • 2021 Rank
    30
  • 2023 Age
    25
  • Acquired
    2019 Draft

Expected starting affiliate: Triple-A Buffalo

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: There were a few early-season success stories on the position player side in 2022, and Morris was one of them. Following a couple seasons of ho-hum offensive production that were interrupted by a pandemic after he was drafted in the fifth round out of Virginia in 2019, Morris put it together early, slashing .312/.430/.468 for a 152 wRC+ over Double-A New Hampshire’s first 43 games. While the left-handed hitter struggled once promoted to Triple-A, he’s getting a bit of a pass due a nagging wrist injury that sapped the little bit of pop that Morris does have. Similar to some of the other bat-first prospects in this area of the list, Morris is limited athletically and will have to hit in order to carve out a career. Left field could be the horizon, but currently he can dabble at second base, where the range is limited, and help out at third base in a pinch.

 

OUTLOOK: Unlike Horwitz, Morris was not added to the 40-man this winter and will have to earn a call-up this season with his bat. The Buffalo roster will be full of positional versatility early in the season for manager Casey Candaele, who will likely have Horwitz, Morris, Otto Lopez, Rafael Lantigua and the next name on this list all playing at least two, and in some cases three, different spots.

 

MLB ETA: 2024

Zach Britton
31. OF/C Zach Britton

  • Last Year's Rank
    48
  • 2021 Rank
    48
  • 2023 Age
    24
  • Acquired
    2020 Draft

Expected starting affiliate: Double-A New Hampshire

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: A gritty competitor who’s still trying to prove he’s a catcher, Britton isn’t likely to be anything more than an emergency option behind the dish at the sport’s highest level. Instead, Britton will have to carve out a career as a left-handed bat who can hit the ball out of the ballpark and play a platoon role in the outfield, where his plus arm will play up nicely. Britton made some good strides towards that career outcome in 2022, reaching Double-A and cutting his strikeout rate significantly over a sample size of 76 plate appearances. Britton’s overall season line doesn’t jump off the page, but his work in the Arizona Fall League did as he slashed .404/.482/.575 over 14 games and generally looked like one of the circuit’s toughest outs on a nightly basis.

 

OUTLOOK: Britton is a player even I’ve been slow to come around on, evidenced by his No. 48 rank in back-to-back years, but some of the adjustments he’s made on his way up through the pipeline have been encouraging and there’s a chance he puts up some huge numbers in the left-handed hitter’s haven that is Delta Dental Stadium in downtown Manchester at Double-A.

 

MLB ETA: 2024

Blue Jays Logo
30. C Carlos Vasquez

  • Last Year's Rank
    NR
  • 2021 Rank
    NR
  • 2023 Age
    18
  • Acquired
    2022 IFA

Expected starting affiliate: Florida Complex League

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: One of the more out-of-nowhere performances in the system last year, Vasquez showed a nice package of skills in the DSL, finishing with a .284 batting average and a 21:25 BB:K rate across 37 games as a 17-year-old and earning a trip to the circuit’s all-star game. The plate discipline the 5-foot-8, 150-pound left-handed hitter showed was impressive and the approach gives him a good chance to hit the ground running in his state-side debut this year. He’s also shown good athleticism defensively behind the dish.

 

OUTLOOK: Signed for just $10,000 last January, there are a few who like Vasquez even more than bonus baby Luis Meza already, and those supporters feel the pop might even start to show up a bit once the teen gains some strength. This is a slow burn prospect, but the Jays have shown a recent knack with the position. I’ll leave you with a quote from a conversation where I simply asked who he was early on in the top 50 process: “Oh, you mean the lefty Gabriel Moreno.” That comparison will get your attention, even if it’s a loose one based on the hit tool and athlete.

 

MLB ETA: 2028

Trent Palmer
29. RHP Trent Palmer

  • Last Year's Rank
    32
  • 2021 Rank
    22
  • 2023 Age
    24
  • Acquired
    2020 Draft

Expected starting affiliate: Injured

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: Palmer was enjoying a bit of a breakout in his first full pro season, missing a whole lot of bats and showing his every-fifth-day upside by tossing six no-hit innings with eight punchouts and no free passes in May. That eventually got him promoted to Double-A, where the results were up and down until his start on July 1 when he fired 5.2 shutout innings with nine strikeouts. Unfortunately, that was his last start of the year and very likely his last pitch until 2024 as he eventually underwent Tommy John surgery and is expected to miss the 2023 season. Stuff-wise, Palmer shows a quality changeup that he throws to both sides and a riding frisbee slider that gets a whole lot of swing-and-miss. The secondaries have helped him strike out 152 batters across 118.1 innings so far.

 

OUTLOOK: Palmer would be a few spots higher on this list if he was heading into 2023 healthy, but despite the track of TJ survivors he’s not going to pitch again in game until 2024 and you never really know if the stuff will return completely intact right away. If it does, the slider has proven to be a filthy weapon.

 

MLB ETA: 2026

Damiano Palmegiani
28. 1B/3B Damiano Palmegiani

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

Expected starting affiliate: Double-A New Hampshire

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: Called one of the hardest-working players in the pipeline, the Surrey, B.C., native has done exactly what he’s needed to do to enter the conversation since being drafted two years ago, and that’s hit. The corner infielder clubbed 24 home runs in 2022, while also running a palatable 22.1 per cent strikeout rate and a 11.4 per cent walk rate once he was promoted to High-A.

 

OUTLOOK: Heading to Double-A in his age-23 campaign, Palmegiani is jostling with a few other corner infield types like Rainer Nunez and PK Morris for the right to be viewed as the next option behind first baseman Spencer Horwitz at Triple-A. With his baseball acumen and willingness to listen and learn, Palmegiani has a chance to really break out in 2023 with a big statistical season.

 

MLB ETA: 2025

Rainer Nunez
27. 1B Rainer Nunez

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

Expected starting affiliate: High-A Vancouver

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: A rare corner power profile within the Jays’ pipeline, Nunez was one of the biggest breakouts in the system last year, hitting 19 home runs across two levels and slashing an impressive .304/.340/.484 in his age-21 season. Nunez still scorches far too many balls into the ground, but the Jays are continuing to work with him on continuing a swing tweak that has already helped him add some loft. With the glove, Nunez has turned himself into a pretty good defensive player at the cold corner.

 

OUTLOOK: After posting a 140 wRC+ in a fairly small sample size of 116 plate appearances at High-A, Nunez bashed seven homers in 37 Dominican Winter League games against grown men — most view the level of pitching as on par with Triple-A — may suggest he’s at least somewhat ready for the Double-A challenge once he gets there. He doesn’t walk much, and the K-rates will be interesting to watch in the upper minors with one of the higher chase rates in the org, so Nunez has to continue making enough contact to get to the massive power. If you’re looking for what Nunez, the upper-minors prospect, could look like if things continue to progress, here’s a positional and statistical comp: Right-handed hitting Lewin Diaz.

 

MLB ETA: 2026

Luis Meza
26. C Luis Meza

  • Last Year's Rank
    49
  • 2021 Rank
    NA
  • 2023 Age
    18
  • Acquired
    2022 IFA

Expected starting affiliate: Florida Complex League

 

YEAR IN REVIEW: After debuting near the bottom of this list last year a week after signing for $2.25 million when the 2022 international signing period opened in January, Meza makes a move up this list. But to be completely honest, it’s not really on merit. He struggled in his debut and it’s hard to find anyone who wasn’t at least slightly disappointed. But the tools that got him that bonus are still there, and a small-sample Dominican Winter League performance aren’t about to completely sewer a teenager’s stock. With that being said, the lack of pop was a concern for those who saw him and the .229/.267/.292 slash line with zero homers in 28 games backs that up.

 

OUTLOOK: Despite being outperformed by another catcher that you’re about to read about who was signed for a fraction of the bonus, catchers tend to develop at a snail’s pace — I wrote the same thing about Alejandro Kirk and Gabriel Moreno a few years ago and then they went and surprisingly rocketed their way through the system — so Meza has time, but he needs to mature physically before things have a chance to click.

 

MLB ETA: 2028

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.