Let me go behind Baseball America’s paywall a little bit so that you don’t have to….
Geoff Pontes penned an excellent article for BA about ten prospects with intriguing profiles from an analytics perspective.
Joey Murray burst onto the scene with a breakout 2019. His low arm slot, combined with a high spin fastball, missed a lot of bats that season. Since then, he’s been limited to one appearance, and was left off the Blue Jays 40 man roster last week. He’s a giant question mark, but there might be a team willing to take a flyer on him in the Rule 5 draft and see where he’s at next spring training.
Murray wasn’t on Pontes’ list, but he’s an excellent example of the kind of unheralded prospect who checks a lot of boxes as far as analytics go. And two Blue Jays pitching prospects do make his list: reliever Adrian Hernandez, and 2021 draftee Gunnar Hoglund.
We wrote about Hernandez earlier this fall, and you’re welcome to take a scroll back to read that if you like. Blue Jays pitching development coordinator Cory Popham told us how Hernandez came into 2021 determined to use his change up more, and that combined with an uptick in his fastball saw him pitch at three levels this year. Pontes’ take on Hernandez:
Due to the spin efficiency and clean axis upon which it spins, Hernandez’s 12-6 curveball generates an above-average amount of depth, which allows the pitch to play off both his fastball and elite changeup.
Why He Stands Out: Hernandez’s changeup is among the most elite in the minors, owing to a few characteristics. First, he generates a tremendous amount of armside run, with an average of greater than 17 inches of horizontal break arm-side. Secondly, he does a tremendous job of killing lift, or creating tumble to go with his elite fading action. Finally, his changeup averages 10 mph of velocity separation from his four-seam fastball. The pitch has similar qualities to Devin Williams now-famous airbender, and Hernandez’s version produces raw spin rates in the 2,200-2,300 rpm range. Hernandez’s fastball averages roughly 18 inches of ride, which helps counteract its below-average velocity and raw spin rates. Because his changeup fades significantly one way and his fastball runs the opposite way, hitters struggle to differentiate the two pitches.
Pontes feels Hernandez could pitch multiple innings per outing for the Blue Jays in the next 18 months. We say it could be a lot close than that.
Hoglund, the fifth pick last June, will not make his pro debut until next May at the earliest. While there might be some question marks about his progress over the next year, there is no doubt about his ability to put movement on the ball:
Why He Stands Out: Prior to his elbow injury last spring, Hoglund boasted some of the best four-seam spin and shape in the 2021 draft class. On average, Hoglund was spinning fastballs at 2600+ rpms, on a near perfect 1:00 axis and generating on average 20+ inches of induced vertical break. He pairs his fastball with a sweepy slider that consistently averaged nearly 2,800 rpms of spin. His nearly 14 inches of sweep on average with slight drop give the pitch two-plane break. Against college competition, the slider generated a 51% whiff rate. Time will tell how quickly Hoglund’s feel for spin returns or if it returns at all. The player we saw last spring had the stuff to vault himself into the top 10 of the 2021 draft class had he not succumbed to injury.
The Blue Jays have an impressive crop of athletic catchers, with Venezuelan Gabriel Moreno leading the way. The Blue Jays are expected to select another VZ backstop in January in 11th (overall) ranked Luis Meza:
And because we can never have enough Gaby Moreno content, here are a couple of tidbits. One is from Michael Caplan, who writes for prospects1500.com. Caplan admits to being a Moreno fan:
I became a total fan while watching Moreno play. His ability to put bat to ball is exceptional and he is quite comfortable driving it to the opposite field. Plays with obvious passion, can handle catcher, and from the one game I saw him at 3B – he likely could play some 2B or 3B to get his bat in the lineup more often. I will be very surprised if Moreno isn’t called up to Toronto in ’22.
And while we fully expect Moreno to take over full time behind the dish for the Blue Jays at some point in the near future, it’s worth remembering that his catching experience is still somewhat limited. Veteran scout Bernie Pleskoff feels the same way:
Finally after reading this lengthy feature about Blue Jays 2021 draftee Thomas Ruwe and the trails and tribulations he has faced on his way to pro ball, it’s next to impossible not to be pulling for him: