Pitching remains strength in Blue Jays' system
Right-handers Sanchez, Osuna top midseason re-ranking of team's prospects
The Blue Jays opened the vault this past offseason in an attempt to put a contending team on the field, but it didn't cost general manager Alex Anthopoulos just money, it also cost him a lot of core players from his Minor League system. Now it will be up to the next wave of young talent, to step up and fill the void.
Right-hander Aaron Sanchez (No. 1) headlines the list and has the potential to be an ace in the making but is still likely at least two years away. Hard-throwing right-hander Roberto Osuna (No. 2) also has continued to make waves with his high-ceiling level but is just 18 years old and has lots of seasoning to come in the Minors.
The next crop of potential Major Leaguers can be found on the rosters for Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Buffalo. Right-hander Marcus Stroman (No. 3) is at the top of the list and could be in line for a promotion to Toronto by the end of this season -- if not, he'll compete for a job during next year's Spring Training.
Stroman is joined by left-hander Sean Nolin (No. 5) and right-hander John Stilson (No. 6) in a group of pitchers who are getting pretty close to being Major League ready. When that three is joined by Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison -- who both underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012 -- Toronto should have a decent amount of options at its disposal next year.
There's no denying that Toronto paid a high cost in its recent offseason makeover as evidenced by Noah Syndergaard (14), Travis d'Arnaud (23), Jake Marisnick (48) and Justin Nicolino (64) all finding a spot in MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list.
But despite the very noticeable subtractions there is still plenty of pitching depth to be found. Seven of the club's top 10 prospects can be found on the mound and it's the position players where there's plenty of work to be done.
The Blue Jays are one of only seven teams that didn't have a player graduate from their Top 20 list. Nolin is the only member of the club's top prospects who appeared in a Major League game this season and his lone opportunity came during a start against the Orioles on May 24.
Nolin's lone appearance meant the Blue Jays ranked last in the Majors in big league service time from their Top 20 list. That's not necessarily a direct reflection of their offseason trades with the Marlins and Mets, though, as recently moved d'Arnaud, Syndergaard and Nicolino are still in the Minor Leagues while Marisnick wasn't called up by Miami until this week.
The downward trend of right-hander Deck McGuire has continued again this season. McGuire, a first-round pick in the 2010 Draft, once was one of the club's top prospects and began this season ranked 14th overall but has now fallen out of the Top 20.
McGuire has spent parts of the past three seasons pitching for Double-A New Hampshire and his prolonged struggles haven't shown any signs of going away. He finished the 2012 season with a 5.88 ERA in 28 starts for the Fisher Cats and this year also has an ERA well above five. Time is running out on the 24-year-old, who after the Draft was expected to make a rather quick ascension to the Major Leagues.
Infielder Ryan Goins (18) and right-hander Danny Barnes (19) also dropped out of the top 10. The 25-year-old Goins continues to display solid defense up the middle but hasn't enjoyed a very productive season at the plate in Triple-A Buffalo compared with the rest of his counterparts.
Outfielder Kevin Pillar has become one of the surprise stories of the Blue Jays' Minor League system. Pillar wasn't taken until the 32nd round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft but quickly rose through the ranks and could be the next prospect in line for a promotion to the Major Leagues.
Pillar began the season in New Hampshire but joined Buffalo in late June and hasn't looked back. The 24-year-old has caught the attention of Anthopoulos and while doing so also cracked MLB.com's Top 20 list for the first time in his career. He has the ability to hit for power and average while providing reliable defense in the field.
Third baseman Mitch Nay (17) and shortstop Franklin Barreto (18) now also find themselves on the Top 20 list. Nay was taken in the compensation round of last year's Draft while Barreto signed last year as one of the best international players available on the open market. Both players are still under 20 years of age and will have plenty of time to develop in Toronto's system.
Stilson and Nolin received the biggest jump on the midseason rankings as they both moved up three spots. Stilson began the year in Double-A but now finds himself pitching for Buffalo where he has posted an ERA that has hovered around two for most of the season. The club experimented with him as a starter in the past but he's now a full-time reliever with the potential to eventually become a late-inning option in Toronto.
Nolin received a brief promotion to the big leagues but is now back in New Hampshire where he continues to shine for the Fisher Cats. The 23-year-old has maintained his impressive control on the mound while continuing to strikeout more than a batter per inning.
The biggest drops came from outfielder D.J. Davis and left-hander Matt Smoral. Both players were taken during last year's Draft and hold plenty of potential for the future. Davis has enjoyed an impressive season so far with Bluefield of the rookie league and his drop in the rankings has more to do with the increased development of other players on this list.
Top 100 representation
The Blue Jays' crop of prospects is headlined by a pair of promising right-handers in Sanchez and Osuna.
Sanchez was part of the Lansing "Big 3" that was broken up during the offseason when Syndergaard and Nicolino were traded in separate deals. But Sanchez arguably has the potential to the best of the bunch and his progress this season -- despite a shoulder injury -- was enough to jump 11 spots in the overall rankings.
Osuna moved up 32 spots in the rankings and now finds himself as the 58th overall best prospect. It's an impressive feat for the native of Mexico who is still only 18 years old and finds himself in Class A Lansing. The only cause for concern is that Osuna dealt with a right elbow injury earlier this season that impacted his results on the mound and his ability to throw a lot of innings this season.
Because of the high rankings of Sanchez and Osuna, the Blue Jays are ranked 19th overall with 120 "prospect points" -- points awarded to a club based on its representatives on the Top 100 list, with 100 points going to the team with the No. 1 prospect, 99 to the team with No. 2 and so on. They are also tied with six other teams for 21st in the total number of players (two) in the Top 100.