Travis d’Arnaud, Anthony Gose Lead Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects
Expected to contend in the American League East this season, the Toronto Blue Jays have been decimated by injuries. Long before the team learned on Tuesday that right fielder Jose Bautista would have season-ending surgery to stabilize a tendon in his left wrist, the Blue Jays disabled list was packed with talented names, many of whom rose through the organization’s farm system.
Kyle Drabek, who was one of the top prospects in baseball before he lost his rookie status last season, underwent his second Tommy John surgery in June after logging a 4-7 record and a 4.67 ERA in 13 starts.
Drew Hutchison, a 21-year-old right-hander, was having a promising rookie campaign with a 5-3 record and a 4.60 record in 11 starts before he left his June 15 start with an elbow ailment and soon underwent Tommy John surgery.
Brandon Morrow, who was not a product of the Toronto farm system but is one of the team’s top of the rotation starters, missed a chunk of the season with a strained oblique and has made just 14 starts this season.
Promising young bats like Brett Lawrie and David Cooper are on the DL, along with Bautista and catcher J.P. Arencibia. The injuries have created opportunities for the Blue Jays to gauge the potential of promising players like infielder Adeiny Hechavarria and outfielder Moises Sierra, who are No. 11 and No. 14 respectively on MLB.com’s list of the top 20 Blue Jays prospects.
Just as they have young starting pitchers with untapped potential at the Major League level -like the 28-year-old Morrow, 27-year-old left-hander Ricky Romero, and 22-year-old right-hander Henderson Alvarez – the Blue Jays have intriguing starting pitching prospects in the minors such as Daniel Norris, Noah Snydergaard, Justin Nicolino and Aaron Sanchez.
Here are the top 10 prospects in the Blue Jays farm system:
Part of the package Toronto received from Philadelphia in the December 2009 trade of Roy Halladay, the 23-year-old d’Arnaud is rated as the top catching prospect in baseball by MLB.com and was No. 19 on Baseball America’s 2012 Mmid-Season Top 50 Prospects List. His 2012 season at Triple-A Las Vegas ended when he tore the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee earlier this summer. He batted .333 with 16 home runs, 52 RBI and a .975 OPS in 303 plate appearances. If d’Arnaud is deemed Major League ready in 2013, the Blue Jays could trade Arencibia.
2. Anthony Gose
A second round pick out of high school in 2008 by the Phillies, Gose was traded to Houston in the deal that shipped Roy Oswalt to Philadelphia on July 29, 2010. That same day, the Astros sent him to Toronto for top prospect Brett Wallace. Ranked No. 38 on Baseball America’s mid-season top 50 list, the 22-year-old Gose was overwhelmed with his first taste of the majors, batting .183 with 36 strikeouts in 82 at-bats this summer, but he is a defensively superb outfielder with plus speed and a bat that hits for average. He is hitting .290 with a .372 on-base percentage, 10 triples, 30 stolen bases, five home runs and 43 RBI at Las Vegas. Gose did steal 10 bases with the Blue Jays. If he learns to get on base regularly in the majors, he will likely be among baseball’s leaders in stolen bases.
One spot above Gose on Baseball America’s mid-season list, the 21-year-old Marisnick is also a plus defensive outfielder with speed. The Blue Jays envision a day when Gose and Marisnick are patrolling the outfield with current Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus. The gifted Marisnick, who originally committed to play baseball at the University of Oregon (where he would have also been given a chance to make the football team as a walk-on) before he was drafted in 2009, was swayed from his college plans when he accepted a $1 million signing bonus from the Blue Jays. At Dunedin this season, Marisnick hit .263 with six home runs, 35 RBI, seven triples, 10 stolen bases and a .800 OPS in 266 at-bats. He received a promotion to Double-A New Hampshire, where he is scuffling with a .218 average and a .581 OPS, but he does have 14 stolen bases.
A second round pick out of high school in 2010, the 20-year-old left-hander was challenged with a professional debut in the short-season Northwest League last year. Facing older competition, he posted a 1.03 ERA in 12 games (including nine starts) and was promoted to low Single-A Lansing, where he got his feet wet with a 3.12 ERA in three outings. This year, he has spent the entire season at Lansing in the Midwest League and has been dominant, logging a 2.41 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP and a .239 batting average against in 27 games (including 21 starts).
A first round selection out of high school in 2010, the 20-year-old Sanchez is Nicolino’s rotation mate at Lansing. Sanchez has an 8-4 record with a 2.24 ERA and a .190 opponent’s batting average. He is working on his command, and perfecting a change-up to accompany his plus fast ball and curve.
A supplemental first rounder out of high school in 2010, the 20-year-old Syndergaard has a high 90s fast ball and a power curve. Rated No. 77 on MLB.com’s top 100 prospects list, Syndergaard is 8-5 with a 2.74 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP and a .219 batting average against in 26 games and 18 starts at Lansing.
A second round pick out of high school in 2011, the 19-year-old Norris has faced a tough adjustment to professional baseball. He was tagged with a 7.97 ERA and a .301 batting average against at Bluefield in the Appalachian League earlier this year and he served up eight runs and nine hits over 3.1 innings in his first start for Toronto’s short-season Northwest League affiliate. Yet MLB.com has him at No. 95 on its top 100 prospects list, and Norris does possess a plus fast ball with a developing change-up and curve ball.
Currently getting a taste of the majors with Toronto – he is hitting .213 in 47 at-bats – the 23-year-old Hechavarria is a superb defensive shortstop who has the athleticism to play second base and third base. He batted .312 with six home runs and 63 RBI at Triple-A Las Vegas, but it is uncertain whether Hechavarria will hit enough to be a regular or if his bat will limit him to a utility role long term in the majors.
The 23-year-old Sierra is getting his first taste of the majors with Hechavarria. He is batting .294 in 68 at-bats for the Blue Jays, filling in for Bautista. Featuring a strong and accurate throwing arm, Sierra hit .289 with 17 home runs and 63 RBI at Las Vegas this season before his call up to Toronto.
10. Chris Hawkins
A third round pick out of high school in 2010, the 21-year-old Hawkins has not shown much power in his two-plus seasons in the Blue Jays organization, swatting just seven home runs in 965 plate appearances, but the club thinks his power will develop over time. Best suited as a corner outfielder, Hawkins has a .274 average with two home runs, 43 RBI and 11 stolen bases at Lansing.