These 7 young Jays could compete for jobs in spring

November 16th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Keegan Matheson’s Blue Jays Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The Blue Jays have some decisions to make. Sometimes, that’s a good thing. 

When Spring Training opened nine months ago, the Blue Jays barely had a competition to speak of. Otto Lopez vs. Nathan Lukes for the final roster spot was as close as it got, so the stakes weren’t exactly high. Next spring will be different. 

Needs at third base, left field, second base and the first base/designated hitter spot mean that multiple free-agent and trade additions are coming, but the Blue Jays finally have a wave of homegrown talent ready to compete for jobs. Prospects will always break your heart, but good organizations develop prospects in bulk to create these exact scenarios, where there’s enough competition to consistently produce one who really “pops.” 

These competitions will be crowded, including Davis Schneider coming off his breakout 2023 season and Ernie Clement, who deserves a bigger part of this conversation than he’s gotten. Then, we come to the Top 30 prospects:

LHP (No. 1 prospect)
Fresh off being named Pitcher of the Year in the Arizona Fall League, Tiedemann salvaged what he could from a season where shoulder and biceps issues limited him to just 44 innings in the regular season. Tiedemann will be one of the biggest stories in camp -- again -- and in the likely case he starts the year in Triple-A, it’s no longer about waiting on development. Tiedemann will be up when the Blue Jays think he makes them a better ball club, period.

Keep Tiedemann’s workload in mind. Measuring that by innings alone doesn’t work, but regardless, Tiedemann isn’t going to throw 200 in 2024. This leaves the door open to shorter starts or “bulk” outings as they manage this through the season. Nate Pearson is a lesson on how unpredictable elite pitching prospects can be, but Tiedemann’s talent makes it easy to dream.

INF (No. 2)
Martinez is the ultimate “prospect.” He could hit 40 home runs for the Blue Jays one day. He could also strike out 40 times in his first 100 at-bats in the big leagues. He’s the classic case of “if it all comes together …” because his power is special. Remember, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. compared him to “a young Hanley Ramirez.”

Martinez is playing more second base down in the Dominican Winter League, which matters. That’s likeliest to be his long-term position, though he can handle third base. His assignment out of camp? Go to Triple-A and take one more step forward. If the Blue Jays want to swing big on the trade market, though, Martinez is a name to watch.

3B/OF (No. 5)
In February, with Matt Chapman entering his free-agent year, I was asked who the Blue Jays’ starting third baseman would be in 2024. I said Barger, and in Spring Training, he backed that up.

The rest of the season didn’t go Barger’s way, as an elbow injury limited him to 94 games across three levels, in which he batted .246 with a .745 OPS. As the season went on, he also started to see far more time in right field, where his huge arm plays well. There’s some Brett Lawrie energy to Barger’s game, which fans will love. For now, Barger needs a strong camp to force his way into a competition for a job.

INF Leo Jimenez (No. 6)
Jimenez lives under the radar, but the slick-fielding infielder already has a spot on the 40-man roster and hit .287 with an .808 OPS in Double-A last season before a late promotion to Triple-A cooled his bat. Still just 22, he has plenty of development ahead, but his 40-man spot means the clock is ticking. At the Trade Deadline, I highlighted Jimenez as a trade candidate, which hasn’t changed.

OF Alan Roden (No. 7)
Roden is the player not being discussed enough. The 2022 third-rounder hit .317 with a whopping .430 on-base percentage between High-A and Double-A in 2023. He’s the exact type of hitter the Blue Jays are trying to develop to complement power bats and could be a factor by midseason. Roden needs to be on your (very) short list of players to watch in February.

1B (No. 16)
Horwitz, like Roden, is an on-base machine, posting a .450 OBP in Triple-A Buffalo last season. His big league stints showed flashes of that and this staff likes Horwitz -- a lot -- so the opportunities will continue. Toronto’s offseason moves impact Horwitz as much as anyone on this list, given how many ways those 1B/DH at-bats could disappear, but he has a path to a semi-regular role.

1B/3B Damiano Palmegiani (No. 18)
You can call him this year’s Davis Schneider. No pressure, right?

The 2021 14th-rounder is, just like Schneider, a prospect who has slugged his way onto top prospect lists and demanded more attention. He’s coming off a fine showing in the AFL, too, where he played 17 of his 22 games at third base. Palmegiani is a better defender than he’s gotten credit for and is slowly becoming a dark horse in this third-base puzzle.