A dozen and a half Blue Jays minor league players applied for free agency earlier this week, in accordance with MLB and MiLB rules. Players with six years of minor league experience are eligible to apply.
There are few surprises in the list of Blue Jays farmhands who will shop their services around, but two names do stand out.
LHP Thomas Pannone came to the Blue Jays in the Joe Smith deadline deal in 2018. He made a half dozen starts for Toronto in 2018, and another six appearances from the bullpen. Thought to be in the mix for a spot in long relief in the 2020 pandemic-shortened campaign, Pannone spent the entire summer at the alternate complex in Rochester before being outrighted from the 40 man roster in late August.
OF Forrest Wall, like Pannone, came to Toronto in another 2018 deadline deal. A supplemental 1st rounder by the Rockies in 2014, Wall’s performance did not match the levels his tools might have suggested. A strong (.814 OPS) first half for New Hampshire in 2019 earned Wall a promotion to AAA, and he received an invitation to spring training last year. The left-handed hitter was part of the Blue Jays’ 60-man pool this year, and spent the 2020 season at Rochester. With Jonathan Davis’ strong showing with the big club and the emergence of Josh Palacios at the alt site this year, Wall likely slid on the depth chart. But as recently as April, Blue Jays farm director Gil Kim was talking up Wall, and the organization had high hopes for him:
Forrest has a calm demeanour, but when Forrest turns it on, he’s he’s very exciting, because he has plus wheels, controls the strike zone very well, and he’s got some juice in the bat, so he’s an exciting player, and we were happy to see some of the strides that he made in his second big league camp – we felt like he was playing with more aggressiveness, more confidence, and that translated to to watching a guy out there who was having an impact on the game on both sides of the ball. He earned every bit of that promotion to AAA (last summer), and he went up there and got his feet wet, and really he’s a committed worker. He came into a second big league camp wanting to play a little more aggressively, and that’s exactly what he did so we’re really excited with his progress.
Will either player return to the Blue Jays fold next season? That seems doubtful, although both would be coveted by some organizations looking for depth from the left side. Chances are that the Blue Jays have moved on from Pannone and Wall, and the reverse is likely true as well. Both have likely gone as far as they can go in the Toronto system, and will look for opportunities elsewhere. The Blue Jays do have considerable pitching depth, but such is not the case in the outfield, which is why Walls’ free agency is something of a surprise. But with over 400 players having filed this week, Toronto will likely look to bolster its outfield depth from that group.