Norris leads Blue Jays' Top 100 Prospects quartet
Toronto's ranked talent on track to contribute significantly in 2015
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have four players who cracked MLB.com's list of the Top 100 Prospects, and three of them are expected to have major roles during the upcoming season.
Daniel Norris (No. 17), Dalton Pompey (No. 43), Aaron Sanchez (No. 44) and Jeff Hoffman (No. 87) earned spots on the annual rankings. The group represents the next wave of talent for Toronto, but it's as much about the present as it is the future.
Pompey and Sanchez are all but guaranteed of having a spot on the Opening Day roster, while Norris should figure prominently in the competition for the final spot of the starting rotation. If the Blue Jays are going to remain competitive in 2015, this group will need to prove they belong.
The annual ranking of baseball's Top 100 Prospects is assembled by MLBPipeline.com Draft and prospect experts Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis, who compile input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, proximity to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. The list, which is one of several prospect rankings on MLBPipeline.com's Prospect Watch, only includes players with rookie status in 2015. Team-by-team Top 30 Prospects lists for 2015 will be unveiled in March.
Norris has been considered one of Toronto's top prospects for the past several years, and his development went to a new level in 2014. The 21-year-old lefty began the season at Class A Advanced Dunedin, and he solved the command issues that previously plagued him in the Minors. Norris then rose through the system and was named to the Futures Game, and by September, he got called up to the big leagues.
Pompey had a similar rise. He also began the season in Dunedin and finished in the Majors after posting a combined .317/.392/.469 line at three levels of the Minors. Pompey is set to enter camp as the favorite to win the starting job in center field; he's competing with Kevin Pillar and Ezequiel Carrera.
Sanchez will be on the big league roster this season, but his role is up in the air. He's a candidate to close if the Blue Jays are unable to add another significant piece to the bullpen, though his long-term outlook figures to be in the rotation, where he has the potential to become a front-line starter.
Hoffman cracked the Top 100 even though he wasn't drafted until 2014, and he is currently working his way back from Tommy John surgery. Hoffman was a strong candidate to go first overall last year before an elbow injury caused his stock to drop just enough so that Toronto could take him with the ninth overall pick. He's already throwing off a mound and should be ready for a Minor League assignment by the middle of the season.
The Pirates have the most players on MLB.com's Top 100 list, with seven. The Twins and Cubs each have six, while the Blue Jays are tied with five other teams for the ninth most. In terms of overall rankings for the Top 100, Toronto finished eighth, with 213 prospect points.