The Blue Jays Top 10 was a fairly obvious group. Most lists I’ve seen have had the same 10 or 11 players in various forms of order. Consensus was fairly easy.
When we move down to the next tier of prospects, there is some depth, but things are not as cut and dried as they were with the first group. Still, it’s one of of the more impressive list of prospects in this rank for the Blue Jays this decade.
11. Kendall Williams RHP
Like all high schoolers, Williams didn’t have to rely on much more than his fastball, and the task for the June 2nd rounder is to learn a repertoire of secondaries to rely on that offering, which already touches 94 and is made more effective by his downward plane and the late life his 6’6″ height appears to give him. Williams fanned better than a batter per inning over 6 GCL outings, and should be headed to Vancouver next season. He has some distance to travel as a prospect, but there is tremendous upside here.
12. Patrick Murphy RHP
There are some who suggest that Murphy took a bit of a step backwards this year after a breakout 2018 and a lot of turned heads at spring training 2019, but it was more of a speed bump.
Always concerned about Murphy’s injury history, the Blue Jays shut him down while he was with New Hampshire three times this season, skipping a start in each workload-related instance.
An added blip for Murphy this season was that part way through the season, Eastern League umpires decided that the toe tap he used to create some deception in his delivery was a balk, sending him back to the mechanics drawing board. Murphy did give up some contact after he eliminated the tap, and he pitched only 11 innings from July 1st on as the Blue Jays gave him some time to adjust and recover.
Murphy consistently sits at 97 with his fastball and touches 100, a bowling ball of a pitch that can be tough to square up. He combines that with one of the better curves in the system, and a change that has made significant progress. Murphy may not win a spot at the back of the rotation in spring training, but his MLB debut will happen some time next year.
13. Joey Murray RHP
Granted – Nate Pearson, Alek Manoah, and Williams all had their innings monitored to some extent this season, but no Starting Pitching prospect in the Blue Jays organization made as much progress as Murray in 2019.
Murray and his invisiball – an 89-91 high spin rate of a pitch – combined with his arm slot and deceptive delivery propelled him from the 8th round to AA in just over a year. Murray led the system in strikeouts, K%, K-BB%, K/9…..while he’s not necessarily a strikeout Pitcher, you get the picture.
According to MLB Pipeline, Murray lacks projection and a put-away secondary, but he missed a lot of bats for a guy with that profile. He does give up flyball contact, but he’s a dark horse to make a start or two for the big club next summer.
14. TJ Zeuch
Still technically a rookie, Zeuch made a decent MLB debut after throwing a no-hitter in his third last start with Buffalo.
Zeuch’s 2019 season did not get underway until June because of shoulder soreness, but he made up for lost time fairly quickly. He pitches to contact, relying on that downward plane to make his sinker difficult to barrel. Zeuch should battle for a spot in that back of the Blue Jays rotation next spring. A strong infield defence behind him is of critical importance.
15. Griffin Conine
Ideally, Conine would be lower on this list, but considering the lack of OF depth in the system, he scores higher than a guy with a 36% K rate probably should.
But that power – Conine hit some majestic shots in his first full pro season (one truncated by a PED suspension), and his ABs were must-see online viewing. If he can develop better pitch recognition, see more pitches, and put a few more balls in play, the Blue Jays can live with a high K rate. His OF skills need development, too.
16. Leo Jimenez SS
A glove-first guy, Jimenez profiles as an MLB SS. He has little power, but shows an up-the-middle approach at the plate with a contact-oriented swing. He has an ability to get on base, and could develop into a top-of-the-order, sparkplug kind of guy.
Jimenez, Miguel Hurtado, and Orelvis Martinez should all get to experience a cool Midwestern April with Lansing next year, and they will be exciting to watch.
17. Yennsy Diaz RHP
He may have spit the bit in his brief audition with the Blue Jays this summer, but Diaz has a live arm that teams tend to give as many chances as they can to.
A starter in the minors, it seems highly likely that Diaz will compete for a bullpen job in March. His 95-97 FB and curve will likely play up in short stints. I like this idea – he seemed to lose some focus as his starts progressed at times this year. It may take him some time to adjust to the role, but Diaz could develop into a relief power arm.
18. Chavez Young OF
Young had a breakout 2018, and was the only player in all of MiLB to record 50 XBH and 40 SBs. The more advanced Pitchers in the Florida State League had Young chasing in the first half, and his numbers took a drastic tumble before he backed off the plate, and started to see pitches better.
The switch-hitting Young tends to hit for average from the left side of the plate, and for more power (and whiffs) from the right. He’s a premium athlete who can play all three OF positions. There’s not one outstanding tool in Young’s game, but he can do a lot of things well, and will be looking to build off a solid second half in 2020.
19. Anthony Alford OF
It’s now or never for this physical specimen….and judging by how the Jays used him in September, the latter seems to be case.
I admit to some blindness in Alford’s case. Throughout his time in the minors, he always had time for a guy with a blog. He patiently answered a lengthy list of questions in detail on his flight home from a crash course in pitch recognition in the Aussie League after he gave up on his college football commitment in 2014. A guy with his upbringing would have every right to some bitterness and prickliness of personality, but there is none with Alford. He’s a genuinely good teammate and even better person.
But unless Alford has a spring training for the ages, the soon to be out of options Alford’s dream may be coming to an end – at least with the Blue Jays. Too much lost time to make up for, too much time missed due to injuries. Alford has game-changing speed, has tapped into his power potential somewhat, and has made tremendous strides on defence. All that seems to be lacking in his career is 500 MLB ABs and a season full of good health.
Let’s hope he comes out of the gate mashing.
20. Santiago Espinal UT
You don’t usually find a guy like Espinal anywhere near a top prospects list, but all this guy has done since being acquired in 2018 is get consistently better.
Espinal can play all three up the middle positions, and he has the athleticism to add a corner infield or outfield spot if need be. He put up a .750 OPS with New Hampshire, and after his promotion to Buffalo in August, upped that to .793. A guy who travelled to the Niagara Frontier in late August and had a seat right behind home plate was impressed with Espinal’s ability to recognize spin and location, and watched him hit a couple of barrels.
The Rule 5 eligible Espinal does a lot of little things very well: plays solid defence in several spots, gets on base/puts balls in play, can steal the odd base, and generally displays a high baseball IQ. He doesn’t project as an everyday, 1st Division player, but he could fill a valuable role on a major league club.