MLB 2020 Farm System Overview: Toronto Blue Jays

While we wait for the 2020 MLB season to get underway, it’s time to take a closer look at players who could one day be on opening day rosters. For the next month or two, we’ll be examining each team’s farm system, which will contain several prospects that will either one day be contributors for them, or could be used to acquire impact major leaguers. 

Since we’ll be going in alphabetical order by city, our first farm system overview will be of the Arizona Diamondbacks. We’ll rank their top ten prospects, discuss some of their other notable minor leaguers, and then analyze the overall state of the farm system.

#1: RHP Nate Pearson

Photo Cred: Sportsnet

Age: 23

Height: 6’6″ Weight: 245 lbs

Drafted: 28th Overall- 2017

Fastball: 80 Breaking Ball: 60 Third Pitch: 52.5 Command: 50

Overall Grade: 59.25

Teams have always been a little gun-shy with regards to drafting junior college products early, but in recent years, they’ve come around to the idea. A major reason for that has to be the development of Nate Pearson, who has flourished since being drafted 28th overall in 2017. “Nasty Nate” has generated a lot with his fastball, which, in my opinion, is the best pitch of any pitcher in the minor leagues. Not only does it exceed 100 MPH with ease, but it explodes up in the zone with rising movement, and thus can simply be un-hittable. That’s not all he brings to the table, however, as his power slider and changeup complement that fastball exceptionally; no pitching prospect has a better pitching arsenal that him. Heck, the refinement of his command is also well ahead of schedule, and he should consistently rank near the top of the league in K/BB ratio. He likely would’ve made his debut in mid-May before the season was officially delayed, but whenever he makes his debut, he’s going to be as electric as it gets as the ace of Toronto’s rotation for years to come.

#2: RHP Alek Manoah

Photo Cred: Sportsnet

Age: 22

Height: 6’6″ Weight: 260 lbs

Drafted: 11th Overall- 2019

Fastball: 65 Breaking Ball: 65 Third Pitch: 50 Command: 50

Overall Grade: 56

As they demonstrated by selecting Pearson, the Blue Jays aren’t afraid to take chances on power pitchers in the draft. Alek Manoah is a bit of an unorthodox pitcher, which likely caused him to slip out of the top ten in the 2019 draft, but Toronto was more than happy to snatch the West Virginia product. At 6’6″, 260 pounds, he’s someone that’s going to receive a lot of attention naturally, yet he repeats his delivery as well as someone who weighed 60 pounds less. Furthermore, his fastball-slider combination is just lethal, and, as mentioned, the repetition of his delivery signals that he’ll be able to continue to command his pitches well. He does need to work on his changeup, but the 22-year-old is an absolute horse with frontline starter potential written all over him. He and Pearson have the potential to be as exciting of a rotation duo as there is.

#3: C Alejandro Kirk

MLB: FEB 22 Spring Training - Blue Jays at Yankees
Photo Cred: Sportsnet

Age: 21

Height: 5’9″ Weight: 220 lbs

Signed: September 24, 2016

Hit: 59.8 Power: 49.5 Field: 51.4425 Arm: 55 Speed: 32.5

Overall Grade: 55.289225

Sometimes, we can worry too much about how a player looks – do they have the projectable frame – that we forget to actually assess their overall skills. Measuring in at 220 pounds and just 5’9″, Alejandro Kirk doesn’t have the prototypical body type that teams tend to covet. Yet, he still manages to consistently produce. The 21-year-old has actually drawn more walks throughout his career than he has struck out, which is usually unheard of, and his feel for contact is fantastic. Even if he’s just an average power hitter, he has quite the impressive offensive profile for a catcher, which alone gives him value. However, he’s also likely to be at least an average defender behind the plate, as he’s made improvements in that area. His body type may prevent him from receiving enough recognition, but there isn’t any doubt of my mind that Kirk has the abilities of an everyday catcher. One may worry about his ability to catch 130-140 games a season, but he’s one of the more underrated prospects in baseball.

#4: RHP Simeon Woods-Richardson

Photo Cred: Toronto Star

Age: 19

Height: 6’3″ Weight: 210 lbs

Drafted: 2nd Round- NYM 2018

Fastball: 57.5 Breaking Ball: 55 Third Pitch: 52.5 Command: 52.5

Overall Grade: 54.5

The Mets not only traded away their first-round pick in 2018 (Jarred Kelenic) to the Mariners, but they also managed to also ship away that year’s second-round pick. It always seemed inevitable that the Blue Jays would eventually trade Marcus Stroman, but rather than the Yankees, Twins, Astros, or Braves, the team sent him to the Mets, receiving pitching prospects Simeon Woods-Richardson and Anthony Kay in return. Woods-Richardson was clearly the headliner, as his upside is off the charts. The 19-year-old has an atypical vertical release, which really works well with his rising fastball, as well as his breaking ball and changeup. That deception that he creates makes him very tough to hit, and, to his credit, his walk rates have been tremendous so far in professional ball. There’s really not much to nitpick about Woods-Richardson, who is a much more polished player than you’d expect for his age. He already reached High-A last season, and I expect him to continue to move quickly through Toronto’s farm system.

#5: RHP Eric Pardinho

Photo Cred: The Athletic

Age: 19

Height: 5’10” Weight: 155 lbs

Signed: July 2, 2017

Fastball: 55 Breaking Ball: 55 Third Pitch: 50 Command: 55

Overall Grade: 54.5

Pearson, Manoah, and Woods-Richardson are all power pitchers, so in a perfect world, they’d be completed by at least one finesse pitcher. Well, this may just be a perfect world for Toronto; young right-hander Eric Pardinho fits that profile, as he’s drawn comparisons to a young Zack Greinke. Signed from Brazil for $1.4 million, the 19-year-old   still in the process of adding more velocity as he gains more mass, but as an undersized righty, he’ll thrive thanks to his excellent feel for pitching and command. Plus, along with his mid-90s fastball, his curveball at its best is a terrific offering, while his slider and changeup are at least average. We’ve yet to see Pardinho pitch much, due to elbow and back issues, and he was expected to be shut down until 2021, per MLB Pipeline. Well, strangely enough, since it’s likely that there won’t be a minor league season, he may not actually be behind his development schedule at all, especially with how advanced he is. He doesn’t have the upside that the top pitchers in this farm system have, but he may have the highest floor- he’ll be a very useful low-end #2/high-end #3 starter.

#6: SS Orelvis Martinez

Photo Cred: Prospects1500

Age: 18

Height: 6’1″ Weight: 188 lbs

Signed: July 4, 2018

Hit: 51.5 Power: 60.5 Field: 49.98425 Arm: 57.5 Speed: 47.5

Overall Grade: 53.9423225

The Blue Jays found a future star prospect when they signed Vladimir Guerrero Jr. from the Dominican Republic, so it’s safe to say they have a good track record finding players from there. They went back to the Dominican Republic to find their next hyped offensive prospect, signing Orelvis Martinez to a $3.5 million bonus. His bat speed and strength means that he should hit for a lot of power at the next level, which is likely what enticed Toronto to him. Besides that, however, he’s not a great athlete, and if he’s going to be a long-term third baseman, will need to smoothen out his approach. He’s only 18-year-old and was in Rookie Ball last season, so honestly, we need a larger sample size before coming to any conclusions; he could develop into a starting third baseman, but he also good just be a one-trick pony. Only time will tell.

#7: 3B Jordan Groshans

Photo Cred: The Athletic

Age: 20

Height: 6’3″ Weight: 205 lbs

Drafted: 12th Overall- 2018

Hit: 53.025 Power: 56.65 Field: 50.405 Arm: 60 Speed: 52.5

Overall Grade: 53.6671

Sticking with the theme of powerful left-side infielders, the Blue Jays surprised many when they selected high school shortstop/third baseman Jordan Groshans with the 12th overall pick, choosing to sign him to a below-slot deal rather than draft well-regarded pitchers Brady Singer and Matthew Liberatore. Personally, I was a little skeptical of the move when it happened, but in hindsight, it’s clear the see why they pounced on the chance to get Groshans, taking in that affordable signing bonus into account. After all, it not only allowed them to get the next prospect on this list in the third round, but also, a powerful infielder. The 20-year-old Groshans has a very aggressive swing, but is able to control it and not strike out too much, while the lift he creates with his swing allows him to get the most of his power. He won’t stick at shortstop long-term, but he’ll be a power-first third baseman with the ability to post solid on-base percentages, with at least average defense. Even if he doesn’t reach his upside, which is similar to a younger Josh Donaldson, he certainly has the makeup of an everyday player.

#8: RHP Adam Kloffenstein

Photo Cred: Toronto Star

Age: 19

Height: 6’5″ Weight: 243 lbs

Drafted: 3rd Round- 2018

Fastball: 60 Breaking Ball: 52.5 Third Pitch: 52.5 Command: 50

Overall Grade: 53.125

A major reason the Blue Jays drafted Groshans was to save money for later in the draft, which they used to select his high school teammate. Due to his strong commitment to TCU, Adam Kloffenstein demanded a $2.45 million bonus to sign in the third round, but in Toronto’s eyes, they were securing two first-round prospects for the price of one. At this point, the excitement about him is more about his projection than actual production, but it’s well placed. I love the sinking movement of his fastball, and with two breaking balls and a changeup, he has a four-pitch mix than he can rely on. As long as he can continue to refine his command, there’s no reason why he can’t ultimately be a #2/#3 starter, similarly to Woods-Richardson; there isn’t a major flaw to be worried about wit him.

#9: SS Miguel Hiraldo

Photo Cred: Notes From The Sally

Age: 19

Height: 5’11” Weight: 170 lbs

Signed: July 2, 2017

Hit: 51.5 Power: 57.5 Field: 47.3535 Arm: 55 Speed: 47.5

Overall Grade: 52.670095

As mentioned, the Blue Jays have always been active targeting offensive-minded players in the international market, which explains their decision to sign Dominican infielder Miguel Hiraldo to a very affordable $750,000 bonus. The 19-year-old had a reputation as one of the top hitters in that signing class, and he’s quickly made a name for himself in back-to-back short stints in Rookie Ball. Right now, he’s still growing into his frame, but over time, I’d expect his gap power to translate to more prodigious power, similarly to Manny Machado- he has some approach concerns, but does have a nice feel for contact. Now, if he stays at shortstop, he’s probably going to be a below-average defender. Yet, he’s still young enough to grow in that area, especially with his offensive upside. Regardless, he’s another youthful prospect in this farm system that’s worth keeping an extremely close eye on.

#10: LHP Anthony Kay

Photo Cred: Elite Sports NY

Age: 25

Height: 6’0″ Weight; 218 lbs

Drafted: 31st Overall- NYM 2018

Fastball: 55 Breaking Ball: 55 Third Pitch: 55 Command: 50

Overall Grade: 52.5

The secondary piece of the Marcus Stroman trade, Anthony Kay missed the first 21 months of his professional career after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but just as he got close to making his MLB debut, the Mets traded him to Toronto. With the Blue Jays, the former first-round pick was able to make two starts in the MLB, and probably will have a place in their rotation if play resumes. He doesn’t have a standout pitch, but the 25-year-old has a solid standard three-pitch mix; his fastball, for instance, has great spin that makes his fastball velocity play up. Now, his command isn’t great, which is a problem since he isn’t a major strikeout pitcher. Still, he has the tools to be a #4 starter, even if he perhaps doesn’t have a high upside.

Best of the Rest

  • Based on the position he plays, catcher Gabriel Moreno is someone to keep an eye on. However, his plate discipline, raw power, and defense are all relative concerns, so I’m not sure what he brings to the table outside of his solid athleticism for the position.
  • Kendall Williams was Toronto’s second-round pick last year, and fits the mold of a projectable high school right-hander. His command is better than expected for his age, however.

Farm System Overview

It’s not the deepest of farm systems, but the Blue Jays have eight players who could be considered top-100 prospects, including a very impressive group of power pitchers. Ironically, their position player group consists of catchers and infielders, which aren’t long-term needs whatsoever, but in the future, continuing to add more position player talent may make sense. In the end, however, all they need is more depth, as they clearly have the high-end young talent to compete in another year or two. Pearson and Manoah, in particular, are quite the duo to build upon at the front of their rotation.

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