The Blue Jays returned to the postseason in 2020, quickly pivoting from their rebuilding phase into competing in the American League. This turnaround has been fueled by a young core of talent that the Blue Jays have developed through the Draft, trades and the international market, and following an offseason that saw the Blue Jays add star power in George Springer and Marcus Semien, the organization is ready to take the next step.
What’s most encouraging from a prospect standpoint is that the Blue Jays did their heavy lifting in free agency, without touching their top-end prospects. Toronto’s front office has long targeted sustainable championship baseball, and while that’s a lofty goal, balancing Major League talent with a strong farm system is the simplest equation for producing just that.
The Blue Jays still rank as MLB Pipeline’s No. 7 farm system after graduating the likes of former No. 1 overall prospect, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio in recent seasons. There’s another wave of infield talent coming right around the corner, too, in No. 2 prospect Austin Martin and No. 3 prospect Jordan Groshans.
Martin fell to the Blue Jays at the No. 5 pick in the 2020 Draft, a surprise at the time for the talented all-around star from Vanderbilt. Martin has primarily played shortstop for the Blue Jays early, but he’s also seen time in center field and at third. Groshans, who boasts some of the best power in the Blue Jays’ farm system, will develop right alongside Martin and brings tremendous offensive upside.
The next step for this system is to produce steady waves of pitching that match its positional success. No. 1 prospect Nate Pearson is on the cusp of that and should be a fixture in the Blue Jays’ rotation this season, and he’s got plenty of company coming behind him in No. 4 prospect Simeon Woods Richardson, No. 7 prospect Alek Manoah and No. 10 prospect Adam Kloffenstein. Both Woods Richardson and Manoah should be expected to open the season at the Double-A level, and given how sharp they’ve looked early in 2021, they’re ready to accelerate their expected timelines.
Catching is another organizational strength behind starter Danny Jansen with No. 5 prospect Alejandro Kirk already profiling as a Major League bat in 2021. The club also has No. 8 prospect Gabriel Moreno, who could develop into a Major League starter, and No. 19 prospect Riley Adams, whose power bat could put him on the radar as early as next spring.
The Blue Jays will continue to reach into this pipeline through the 2021 season, especially on the pitching side, where organizations across baseball will have their depth tested as they stretch back out to a full 162-game season. The Blue Jays have kept a strong foundation here, though, giving themselves plenty of options in-season, including the Trade Deadline.
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the 2020 preseason list to the 2021 preseason list:
Jump: Joey Murray, RHP (2020: NR | 2021: 18) -- Murray eventually crept into the Top 30 as some of the Blue Jays’ top prospects graduated in 2020, but the right-hander has really built some momentum entering 2021. Murray’s fastball spin rate is exceptional, creating an “invisible” pitch up in the zone, and a recent velocity bump has him sitting in the 92-93 mph range. Murray has an opportunity to force himself into the Major League picture this summer.
Fall: Kevin Smith, INF (2020: 23 | 2021: 30) -- One year ago, Smith was coming off a tough 2019 season with Double-A New Hampshire but still wasn’t all that far removed from a breakout 2018, when he hit 25 home runs with an .886 OPS between Low Class A and High Class A. The missed season allowed other prospects with more upward momentum to surpass Smith, but the Blue Jays are encouraged by the work he’s done to reset his plate approach and his strong defense helps to project him as a big leaguer.
Players are graded on a 20-80 scouting scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average. Players in parentheses have the same grade.
Hit: 65 -- Austin Martin
Power: 60 -- Orelvis Martinez
Run: 80 -- Dasan Brown
Arm: 60 -- Jordan Groshans (Orelvis Martinez, Kevin Smith)
Defense: 60 -- Dasan Brown (Rikelvin de Castro)
Fastball: 80 -- Nate Pearson
Curveball: 60 -- CJ Van Eyk (Eric Pardinho, Patrick Murphy)
Slider: 60 -- Nate Pearson
Changeup: 60 -- Simeon Woods Richardson (Julian Merryweather)
Control: 60 -- Simeon Woods Richardson
How they were built
Draft: 16 | International: 12 | Trade: 2
Breakdown by ETA
2021: 9 | 2022: 6 | 2023: 10 | 2024: 1 | 2025: 4
Breakdown by position
C: 3 | 1B: 0 | 2B: 0 | 3B: 0 | SS: 9 | OF: 3 | RHP: 14 | LHP: 1