For months, the Blue Jays were so healthy you may have forgotten the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons existed.
Beyond September, does this represent a new pipeline of talent in 2024 and beyond? Let’s take a look:
Canada’s new favorite baseball player is riding the hottest start in franchise history. He’s hit .385 with seven home runs and a 1.358 OPS over 20 games, but somehow his value goes even beyond that.
Schneider broke out when the Blue Jays needed him most and was such a perfect fit because he did everything this club wasn’t. He was pulling the ball in the air, hitting for power and providing energy in big spots, fitting every inch of the “fearless” definition Bo Bichette wants to see from this team. Add in the fact that Schneider is a 28th-round pick, hadn’t cracked our Top 30 Prospects until this season, plus the mustache? He’s already a cult hero.
What is Schneider’s realistic potential, though? He should be first in line to take Whit Merrifield’s role, leaning more towards second base with the odd left-field reps mixed in. He has earned the opportunity, after years of playing part time and stepping aside for higher-priority prospects, to be a starter in the big leagues. What a journey.
There’s nothing left for Horwitz to prove at Triple-A. Sure, he could do another lap, but is it getting better than a .337 average and .450 on-base percentage?
Horwitz, like Schneider, is why I prefer to frame coverage like this as prospect “reporting.” When I say that I like Schneider, Horwitz or another prospect, it’s because the people I talk to within the organization like them. Prospect coverage can get bogged down by aggregation and trying to be “first” on a prospect, so I’ve always believed that the real value comes from speaking to people smarter than me. One might argue those aren’t hard to find.
Those people love Horwitz. Like Schneider, he has plenty of fans throughout the organization. With Brandon Belt set to become a free agent this offseason, Horwitz makes too much sense as a 1B/DH who plays the odd day in a corner outfield, and his on-base ability should translate to the big leagues. To have Horwitz step into that role would allow the Blue Jays to focus their spending elsewhere, which holds tremendous value. His ability to play a passable outfield once or twice a week is a major factor here.
If Schneider’s likeliest path is at second and Horwitz’s is at first, Barger’s comes at the hot corner. With Matt Chapman set to be a free agent, the Blue Jays need to find a long-term solution at the position, and they’ll have options -- but their internal level of belief in Barger is one of the biggest factors that will shape this offseason.
Since the Blue Jays’ No. 5 prospect returned to Triple-A on June 21 after an elbow injury, he’s hit .268 with an .834 OPS and six home runs over 53 games. Barger dabbles at shortstop and second base, but third base is his primary position, and he’s been playing more right field lately, which matters. One of Barger’s best assets is a big throwing arm, which fits at both spots.
The Blue Jays aren’t about to hand Barger a job, but he’ll have a shot to compete. Expect the Blue Jays to explore the third base trade market alongside free agency. It would make sense to have a veteran at third and let Barger compete for a role that could expand based on his play. If you liked Brett Lawrie and/or Red Bull, you’ll love Barger.
This is the wild card. Martinez, the Blue Jays' No. 2 prospect, doesn’t turn 22 until November, either, so there’s still no need to rush.
Martinez has hit .267 with an .859 OPS and eight homers in 40 games since joining Triple-A Buffalo. He could develop into a power hitter capable of chasing 40 home runs in the big leagues, but we’ve also seen what it looks like when Martinez’s swing and plate approach get exposed. There are 100 miles between his ceiling and floor, but that’s what makes a top prospect so exciting.
Starting Martinez in Triple-A in 2024 still makes sense, but as Barger chases third and Schneider chases the job at second base, Martinez is next in line and still loaded with upside. Remember: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. called him a “young Hanley Ramirez.”