Toronto Blue Jays: Top 10 Prospects For 2013

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Blue Jays ProspectsEntering the current offseason, the Toronto Blue Jays boasted one of the top farm system in the majors. With spring training drawing near, Toronto’s list of top prospects has dramatically changed after the organization implemented trades designed to win it all in 2013.

First, the Blue Jays acquired starting pitchers Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson, shortstop Jose Reyes, second baseman Emilio Bonifacio and catcher John Buck for a slew of highly regarded prospects, including outfielder Jake Marisnick, starting pitcher Justin Nicolino,  infielder Adeiny Hechevarria and pitcher Anthony DeSclafani along with Major Leaguers Henderson Alvararez, Yunel Escobar and Jeff Mathis.

Then, Toronto landed 38-year-old knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and catcher Josh Thole from the New York Mets for catcher Travis d’Arnaud (who is the top catching prospect in baseball), starting pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard, minor league outfielder Wuilmer Becerra and Buck.

If those trades were not made, d’Arnaud would top the Blue Jays prospects list while Marisnick, Syndergaard, Nicolino and Hechevarria would be in the top 10. Minus those names, here are the Blue Jays top 10 prospect entering the 2013 campaign:

1) Aaron Sanchez represents the Blue Jays recent strategy of drafting high school pitchers and giving them ample time to develop. The 20-year-old right-hander was a supplemental first rounder (34th overall) in 2010 . Sanchez needs more seasoning in the minors, especially with his command as evidenced by his 5.1 walks per nine innings last year at low Single-A Lansing. He also posted a 2.49 ERA and a .204 batting average against with 97 strikeouts in 90.1 innings while allowing just 64 hits.

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2) Drafted in the first round (22nd overall) out of Duke University last summer, 21-year-old power right-hander Marcus Stroman is still serving a 50-game suspension for testing positive for an illegal performance-enhancing drug. Daniel Norris and Roberto Osuna are projected to have higher ceilings than Stroman, but they remain in the low levels of the minors while Stroman is an experienced college arm who could make his Major League debut in 2013 and eventually emerge as a closer.

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3) A sixth round pick out of San Jacinto College in 2010, 6-foot-5, 235-pound left-hander Sean Nolin had a breakout season in 2012. He was 9-0 with a 2.19 ERA, a  1.08 WHIP, a .226 batting average against and 90 strikeouts in 86.1 innings at advanced Single-A Dunedin and posted a 1.20 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP and a .170 opponent’s batting average in three starts at Double-A New Hampshire. Nolin features a low 90s fast ball, a change-up, a slider and a curve ball – all thrown with command.

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4) Just 17, Roberto Osuna was signed as an international free agent from Mexico. The nephew of former Major League reliever Antonio Osuna, the right-hander has a low 90s fast ball that should increase in velocity, and a plus change-up.  He pitched so well in the rookie Appalachian League (1.50 ERA, 1.00 WHIP in seven games) that was was promoted to the short-season Northwest League, where he logged a 3.20 ERA, a 1.17 WHIP and a .192 batting average against in five starts.

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5) A first round pick (17th overall) out of high school in 2012, outfielder D.J. Davis is an exceptional base stealer. a superb defensive center fielder and projects as a leadoff hitter. He made three stops after signing last summer, including two rookie league stints and a short stay in the Northwest League. He swiped 25 bases in 60 games while batting .250 with five home runs.

6) The highest rated left-hander in the 2011 draft, 19-year-old Daniel Norris slipped to the second round because teams were uncertain about whether he would sign or head to college. The Blue Jays gambled and won. The organization likes his poise, and though he recorded a 8.44 ERA and a  1.78 WHIP between rookie ball and the sort-season Northwest League last year, Norris has a high ceiling as a starter.

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7) Before a stress fracture in his foot ended the senior season of Matthew Smoral, the 6-foot-8 left-hander was one of the best high school pitchers in last summer’s draft. Toronto selected him as a supplemental first rounder (50th overall) and found a way to lure him from his commitment to the University of North Carolina.

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8) A third round pick from Texas A&M in 2011, 22-year-old right-hander John Stilson was effective at Dunedin in the Florida State League last season but had trouble adjusting to Double-A New Hampshire in the Eastern League, which is often a difficult leap for pitchers. Featuring a power fast ball with a change-up and a breaking ball, Stilson might be best suited for a relief role since he tends to have command issues.

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9) Catching prospects like A.J. Jimenez and Santiago Nessy have a clearer path to the Blue Jays parent club now that d’Arnaud is with the Mets. A ninth round pick in 2008, the 22-year-old Jimenez has a strong and accurate arm and has thrown out 42 percent of base stealers in five minor league seasons. He hit .303 at Dunedin last year before batting .257 at New Hampshire.

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10) An 18-year-old right-handed pitcher out of the Dominican Republic, Alberto Tirado logged a 2.63 ERA, a 1.02 WHIP and a .198 batting average against in 14 starts at two minor league stops (Gulf Coast League and Appalachian League) last year. He has a mid-90s sinking fast ball, a plus change-up and a developing slider.