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Jansen among top 10 catching prospects

Blue Jays prospect had strong season across three levels in 2017
MLB.com

TORONTO -- Danny Jansen's stock is rising in the Blue Jays' Minor League system, and so is his ranking among some of the top prospects in baseball.

Jansen's strong showing last season secured him a spot on MLB Pipeline's updated list of the top 10 catching prospects. The 22-year-old is ranked eighth after hitting .323/.400/.484 across three Minor League levels in 2017.

TORONTO -- Danny Jansen's stock is rising in the Blue Jays' Minor League system, and so is his ranking among some of the top prospects in baseball.

Jansen's strong showing last season secured him a spot on MLB Pipeline's updated list of the top 10 catching prospects. The 22-year-old is ranked eighth after hitting .323/.400/.484 across three Minor League levels in 2017.

Internally, the Blue Jays have been touting Jansen's upside since 2014, but it was last year that he established himself as Toronto's potential catcher of the future. He remained healthy for the first time and set personal bests in every major offensive category.

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

Jansen's production forced the Blue Jays to make the easy decision of adding him to the 40-man roster this offseason. He needed protection from the Rule 5 Draft, and the Blue Jays are content to use one of his three option years this season with the expectation that Jansen will start for Triple-A Buffalo.

The Blue Jays are expected to break camp with Russell Martin and Luke Maile on their big league roster. Jansen and fellow prospect Reese McGuire are currently the only other catchers on the 40-man roster, and they will be competing against each other for the third spot on Toronto's depth chart. On the surface, that might not seem like a big deal, but it quickly becomes one if either Martin or Maile sustains an injury.

In the meantime, the Blue Jays will look for Jansen to continue his development in the Minors. He is in Toronto this week to participate in the club's Rookie Development Program, which acts as an orientation camp for the next wave of young talent. He will meet with the media on Friday, and then participate in Toronto's inaugural Winter Fest at Rogers Centre the following day.

Jansen began the 2017 season ranked as Toronto's No. 22 prospect by MLB Pipeline, and he moved up to No. 17 midway through the year. His ranking will almost assuredly climb once again in '18, and the upward trajectory coincides with the path he has taken in the Minors. After beginning last season at Class A Advanced Dunedin, Jansen received a pair of promotions within a couple of months, even garnering some attention as a potential September callup.

Jansen, a 16th-round pick in the 2013 Draft, hit at every level. One reason for his breakout season was improved health. Another was getting prescribed glasses. A third was the experience that comes with being around for parts of five seasons and learning to avoid some of the pitfalls that come with being a professional athlete.

"Hitting has always been something that when I start thinking on it, it kind of goes bad," Jansen told MiLB.com in December. "This year, I came in and said, 'I'm not going to think about mechanics. I'm going to be athletic, balanced and just be me and swing. See where that takes me. Not really thinking about my hands, but letting my hands do what they do.'"

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

 

Toronto Blue Jays

7 Blue Jays prospects who could emerge in '18

Alford, Jansen may see big league playing time next season
MLB.com

TORONTO -- Toronto's Minor League system is still a work in progress, but with a developing core of young talent, the Blue Jays have a lot more depth than they did at this time last year.

With the exception of a brief appearance from Anthony Alford, and the September callups of Teoscar Hernandez, Richard Urena and Carlos Ramirez, 2017 was not a year for Blue Jays rookies. It should be a different story in '18.

TORONTO -- Toronto's Minor League system is still a work in progress, but with a developing core of young talent, the Blue Jays have a lot more depth than they did at this time last year.

With the exception of a brief appearance from Anthony Alford, and the September callups of Teoscar Hernandez, Richard Urena and Carlos Ramirez, 2017 was not a year for Blue Jays rookies. It should be a different story in '18.

Here's a closer look at some of Toronto's top prospects, who could become factors at some point next season:

OF Alford (No. 3): Barring something unexpected, Alford will not make the team out of Spring Training, but he could become an option midway through the year. Toronto's outfield of Steve Pearce, Ezequiel Carrera, Kevin Pillar and Hernandez won't be enough to bury Alford on the depth chart, and it seems like only a matter of time before he receives an opportunity. Alford hit .343/.373/.443 in the Mexican League this winter, and he will look to carry that success into the spring. He has more upside than just about anyone on this list, and he remains a core piece of the future.

C Danny Jansen (No. 17): Jansen is expected to open the year with Triple-A Buffalo, where he will compete against fellow prospect Reese McGuire for a possible promotion. Toronto appears inclined to start the season with Russell Martin and Luke Maile behind the plate, but if Martin goes down with another injury, it could open the door for Jansen. The 22-year-old has always been respected for his defensive abilities, but his stock soared in 2017, thanks to batting a combined .323/.400/.484 in all three levels of the Minors. Jansen appears to be the catcher of the future.

Video: KC@TOR: Ramirez whiffs Bonifacio to end top of 6th

RHP Ramirez: Ramirez was an unknown at this time last year, but the converted outfielder rose through the ranks, thanks to a borderline historic season. Ramirez did not allow an earned run over 25 appearances in the Minors, and his brief audition with the big league club was a success with five earned runs over 16 2/3 innings. Ramirez will compete for a job this spring, but regardless of what happens, he figures to assume a prominent role at some point during the year. The scary thing is with only three years of pitching under his belt, Ramirez might just be getting started.

LHP Thomas Pannone (No. 22) and LHP Ryan Borucki (No. 13): The Blue Jays used a rotating cast of characters to fill out their rotation in 2017, but this year, the backup roles should belong to a couple of promising prospects. Borucki began last season with Class A Advanced Dunedin and by the end of the year moved on to Buffalo, which is where he will return in '18. Pannone was acquired as part of the deal for reliever Joe Smith, and he is coming off a year in which he posted a 2.36 ERA over 25 starts. These two will be the first line of defense in case injuries continue to be a problem.

Video: Borucki named Blue Jays' Pipeline pitcher of the year

RHP Conner Greene (No. 11): Greene was added to the Blue Jays' 40-man roster earlier this offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. He has the ability to maintain upper-90s velocity deep into his starts, but command continues to be a problem, as does the development of his secondary pitches. Toronto remains committed to him as a starting pitcher despite this past season's 5.29 ERA in Double-A, but if at some point that changes, he could become a potential dominant reliever.

3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (No. 1): A list of Toronto top prospects cannot be complete without mentioning Guerrero. Just like teammate and fellow prospect Bo Bichette, it seems almost impossible that Guerrero will become a factor this early, but considering his talent, it also can't be ruled out entirely. He'll begin the year in either Dunedin or New Hampshire, but he should be in Buffalo by the end of the season. Guerrero has the potential to become a generational position player, something Toronto has not developed since Carlos Delgado.

Video: Top 100 Prospects: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

 

Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto's Bove named East Scout of Year

MLB.com

TORONTO -- Sabermetrics have become an integral part of evaluating baseball players, but Russ Bove is proof that the traditional way of discovering young talent is still alive and well. In fact, it's what helped the Blue Jays land top prospect Bo Bichette.

Bove -- named the East Coast Scout of the Year at this week's Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. -- was part of the group responsible for Bichette being selected in the second round of the 2016 MLB Draft. Bichette has turned into one of Toronto's best assets, but at the time the pick was no sure thing.

TORONTO -- Sabermetrics have become an integral part of evaluating baseball players, but Russ Bove is proof that the traditional way of discovering young talent is still alive and well. In fact, it's what helped the Blue Jays land top prospect Bo Bichette.

Bove -- named the East Coast Scout of the Year at this week's Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. -- was part of the group responsible for Bichette being selected in the second round of the 2016 MLB Draft. Bichette has turned into one of Toronto's best assets, but at the time the pick was no sure thing.

There was some internal skepticism about Bichette's skill set coming out of high school, but Bove saw all of the tools required to become an elite hitter. Bove lobbied for the power-hitting infielder, and in the weeks leading up to the Draft, he played a role in moving Bichette's name higher on Toronto's board.

"It's a battle, but they do have a place," Bove said in reference to the emergence of advanced stats. "I just get a little concerned when you start using analytics on high school players. It's just so hard to compare apples and apples [at that level]. But we're fortunate. Joe Sheehan, who's our analytical guy, is very flexible.

"Bichette did not come off too great with analytics, only because high school position players [are] typically the biggest failures. So we had to keep convincing Joe, and we kept moving Bo Bichette up our board, and fortunately we were able to pick him."

Video: Bo Bichette discusses his strong first pro season

Bove's career began in 1983 with the Major League Scouting Bureau. He spent 11 years as an East Coast supervisor for the Brewers, worked as an area scout for the Expos and served as the Mets' scouting director before joining the Blue Jays in 2011 as a special assignment scout. Some of his recent success stories include Marcus Stroman, Anthony Alford, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., T.J. Zeuch and just about everybody found on Toronto's list of Top 30 prospects by MLBPipeline.com.

Almost every scout has a favorite success story, and Bove did not have to think very long when asked. He pointed to infielder Ian Desmond, who was taken in the third round of the 2004 Draft. At the time, Desmond went to a high school that did not have the best reputation for developing baseball players, but Bove liked what he saw, stuck to his beliefs and helped prove there is an exception to every rule. Based on Bichette's case, he's still doing that for the Blue Jays, too.

Scout of the Year Awards have been handed out every year since 1983. They cover the East, Midwest and West regions, and there's also an additional award for International Scout of the Year. In order to be eligible, scouts must have at least 25 years' experience. Mel Didier was the last Toronto scout to receive the award in 2011, while last year Toronto's Pablo Cruz took home top international honors.

"In our view, and in our minds, the unsung heroes of the game are guys like Russ, who pour their heart and soul and make countless sacrifices for the game, for the organization that they work for," Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said. "When you think about someone being honored as the scout of the year and you pull back and think about the individual sacrifices, commitment and ultimately accomplishment, it's the bloodline and the heart and soul of our organization."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

 

Toronto Blue Jays

Blue Jays stand to lose talent in Rule 5 Draft

MLB.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The final day of the annual Winter Meetings should be rather eventful for the Blue Jays as they took to add some talent in the Rule 5 Draft but also run the risk of losing one of their better prospects.

Toronto has not lost a player in the Rule 5 Draft since infielder Brad Emaus in 2010 but that might change Thursday morning. The Blue Jays have several players at risk of being selected because of a 40-man roster that had a limited number of open spots.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The final day of the annual Winter Meetings should be rather eventful for the Blue Jays as they took to add some talent in the Rule 5 Draft but also run the risk of losing one of their better prospects.

Toronto has not lost a player in the Rule 5 Draft since infielder Brad Emaus in 2010 but that might change Thursday morning. The Blue Jays have several players at risk of being selected because of a 40-man roster that had a limited number of open spots.

Catcher Max Pentecost, right-handers Jordan Romano and Andrew Case and left-hander Angel Perdomo are among the possible candidates who might be swept up. That would be a blow to Toronto's depth but general manager Ross Atkins also believes potential interest is a testament to how much his Minor League system has developed over the past year.

Video: MSS@PEO: Case's hurls 1 1/3 scoreless innings

"It's one of the downsides of your system improving, but it's a good sign when other teams are recognizing that value," Atkins said. "It's not a matter of not wanting to protect Player X, it's more about deciding who to ultimately protect. We wish we could protect a lot more than the five that we did."

Toronto has made a selection during each of the last two Rule 5 Drafts. Two years ago, right-hander Joe Biagini became a surprise success story as he made the team out of Spring Training and turned into a prominent reliever. Last year wasn't as successful, with right-hander Glenn Sparkman getting hurt in Spring Training and later being returned to the Royals' organization.

If the Blue Jays add someone through the Rule 5 Draft this year it would likely be a reliever. Toronto could target a Minor League starter it feels could transition to the bullpen for at least the upcoming season. Teams pay $100,000 to make a selection in the Draft but that player must be kept on the big league roster all season or be offered back to his original team for $50,000.

"We'll definitely be active because we are working around the clock on our alternatives and understanding what could be there," Atkins said. "We'll see what's there when we pick."

Toronto has the 12th overall selection.

Holiday shopping?

The Blue Jays are expected to leave the Winter Meetings on Thursday afternoon without having pulled off a deal outside of the Rule 5 Draft, but it might not take much longer for the dominos to start falling. Atkins suggested on Wednesday afternoon that Toronto could make a couple of moves before the league pauses for the holidays.

Yelich on the block

If the Marlins continue selling off their top assets in the coming weeks, there's a good chance they would look to deal outfielder Christian Yelich, and the Blue Jays would undoubtedly be interested. The problem is the asking price, which is believed to be likely prohibitive for Toronto.

Video: Must C Combo: Yelich hits and robs a home run

There was some speculation Wednesday about a package centered around shortstop prospect Bo Bichette. Even if Toronto was willing to consider that, the Marlins are expected to want a lot more and it doesn't seem all that realistic the Blue Jays can justify the cost. With five years of control and $58 million remaining on his contract, Yelich is a bargain and that's one reason why the Marlins will net a huge return. Toronto's top prospect (per MLBPipeline.om) Vladimir Guerrero Jr., isn't going anywhere.

"Yelich is an incredible player and would complement any Major League team exceptionally well," Atkins said. "There aren't many Major League teams that wouldn't have interest in him. A young, controllable asset, youth, speed, defense, versatility, bat, any outfield position, incredibly attractive. He also would cost a lot."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

 

Toronto Blue Jays

Blue Jays out of running to sign Ohtani

Two-way Japanese star narrows field, to meet with clubs this week
MLB.com

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have been informed they are out of the running for 23-year-old Japanese star Shohei Ohtani.

Ohtani narrowed his list of potential suitors Sunday night and Toronto did not make the cut. The pitcher, slugger and outfielder is believed to prefer a West Coast team, and while there may be an exception or two in the final group, it will not include the Blue Jays.

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have been informed they are out of the running for 23-year-old Japanese star Shohei Ohtani.

Ohtani narrowed his list of potential suitors Sunday night and Toronto did not make the cut. The pitcher, slugger and outfielder is believed to prefer a West Coast team, and while there may be an exception or two in the final group, it will not include the Blue Jays.

Hot Stove Tracker

Toronto has some company in this department. According to multiple reports, American League East rivals New York, Boston and Tampa Bay are all out of the running as well. A list of finalists is believed to include the Mariners, Padres, Giants, Rangers, Cubs, Dodgers, Angels and possibly the Rockies.

:: Shohei Ohtani coverage ::

"We felt confident about our presentation," Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. "We were given feedback by Shohei Ohtani's representation that we controlled everything within our power."

Blue Jays assistant general manager Andrew Tinnish and Pacific Rim operations scout Dan Evans were among the club officials who watched Ohtani in person. Toronto devoted a significant period of time chasing Ohtani but was always considered a heavy underdog in these sweepstakes.

The news came less than 48 hours after Ohtani was officially posted by the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. Teams still in the running are expected to meet Ohtani and make their pitches in person. The most Ohtani can receive from any organization is approximately $3.5 million (Rangers), and any team would also have to pay a $20 million posting fee. He has until Dec. 22 to sign with an MLB club.

The low cost for such a potential impact star meant every team in baseball at least explored the possibility of signing Ohtani. From the Blue Jays' perspective, he would have been a perfect fit considering he wants to be a member of the starting rotation and a regular piece of the lineup. Toronto is looking for another starter and a corner outfielder, so at least on paper, these two sides were a match.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman strongly suggested that Ohtani would prefer to play in a small market, which would have been another knock against Toronto.

"I started getting a feel that wasn't good a few days ago," Cashman said. "I know that our presentation was excellent. The feedback from that was outstanding. I did get a sense that I can't change that we're a big market and I can't change that we're in the East. That was something that, presentation or not, might be difficult to overcome."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

 

Toronto Blue Jays

Blue Jays claim Guerrieri amid flurry of moves

Righty a former first-round pick by Rays; catcher Lopez, pitchers Santos, Cole, Campos outrighted
MLB.com

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays added a former first-round Draft pick on Monday afternoon and made a series of moves to trim their 40-man roster before the official start of free agency.

Toronto claimed righty-hander Taylor Guerrieri off waivers from the Rays. Catcher Raffy Lopez, right-hander Luis Santos, right-hander Taylor Cole and right-hander Leonel Campos were outrighted off the 40-man roster and now become free agents.

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays added a former first-round Draft pick on Monday afternoon and made a series of moves to trim their 40-man roster before the official start of free agency.

Toronto claimed righty-hander Taylor Guerrieri off waivers from the Rays. Catcher Raffy Lopez, right-hander Luis Santos, right-hander Taylor Cole and right-hander Leonel Campos were outrighted off the 40-man roster and now become free agents.

Hot Stove Tracker

The Blue Jays currently have 36 players on their 40-man roster. A group of prospects likely will be added before December's Rule 5 Draft, and free agents were able to start signing with teams as of Monday at 5 p.m. ET.

Guerrieri is a 24-year-old from Georgia who was taken with the 24th pick of the 2011 Draft. Prior to 2013, he was ranked as the No. 44 prospect in baseball by MLB.com, but a series of injuries and a suspension for recreational drug use stalled his development in the Minors.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound starter missed almost the entire 2017 season following Tommy John surgery. In '16, he went 12-6 with a 3.76 ERA over 28 appearances, 26 starts, for Double-A Montgomery. Guerrieri has an option remaining on his contract and is an option to start the year with Triple-A Buffalo to bolster Toronto's depth in the rotation.

Lopez, Santos, Cole and Campos all spent time with the Blue Jays in 2017. Lopez appeared in 24 games while filling in for the injured Russell Martin and hit .222 with four home runs and 12 RBIs. He became expendanable with the continued presence of backup Luke Maile and the possible need to protect prospects Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire and Max Pentecost from the Rule 5 Draft.

Santos joined the Blue Jays in September and seemed like a possible candidate for a long-reliever job in 2018. He posted a 2.70 ERA over 10 appearances out of the bullpen for Toronto, but prior to that he posted just a 4.07 ERA in 24 games for Buffalo. Campos and Cole each had brief stints out of the bullpen this year, but their departures from the 40-man roster do not come as a surprise.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

 

Toronto Blue Jays

Blue Jays' Arizona Fall League overview

First-rounder Zeuch making progress, leads Toronto's crop in AFL
MLB.com

After being limited by injuries in his first full professional season, T.J. Zeuch is eager to make developmental strides in this year's Arizona Fall League.

Zeuch, 22, made two trips to the disabled list for a back injury while with Class A Advanced Dunedin, the first of which cost him roughly two months during the heart of his season.

After being limited by injuries in his first full professional season, T.J. Zeuch is eager to make developmental strides in this year's Arizona Fall League.

Zeuch, 22, made two trips to the disabled list for a back injury while with Class A Advanced Dunedin, the first of which cost him roughly two months during the heart of his season.

"It was definitely a quick lesson in patience," said the Blue Jays' No. 5 prospect. "For the first three weeks I just had to sit around and do nothing, and I think that was the hardest part of the whole process. Once I was able to get going and start doing some rehab and working out, it was a lot easier for me to handle."

The 6-foot-7, 225-pound righty still fared well during his truncated stint in the Florida State League, where he finished with a 3.38 ERA and a 46-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 58 2/3 innings (12 appearances/11 starts). What's more, Zeuch, with his advanced four-pitch mix, furthered his reputation as a ground-ball machine by recording three times as many ground-ball outs as he did outs in the air.

Now pitching in the Fall League, Zeuch, the Blue Jays' first-round Draft pick in 2016 (No. 21 overall), began his offseason campaign by tossing three perfect innings with four strikeouts in his first start for the Peoria Javelinas on Saturday.

But even with Zeuch's immediate success, the Pittsburgh product is keeping his primary objectives in focus this fall.

"Obviously having missed such a large part of the season with an injury I need some more work to maintain that starter role, and this is a great opportunity to face some great competition and get some more work in," Zeuch said.

"It's a big learning opportunity. Get better at reading hitters, and some of these guys have Double-, Triple-A or even big league time. We have great catchers who I talk with and learn from them, kinda get their perspective on things and learn different ways to use different pitches."

Blue Jays hitters in the Fall League

J.D. Davis, OF -- Davis followed up his breakout 2016 campaign in the Florida State League with a similarly strong showing in his first taste of Double-A, hitting .249/.361/.379 with 34 extra-base hits and 20 steals over 128 games with New Hampshire. Set to play much of the 2018 season at age 26, the undersized outfielder possesses an intriguing combination of tools and secondary skills.

Lourdes Gurriel, SS/2B -- Gurriel would rank fourth on Toronto's Top 30 Prospects list had he not signed (a seven-year, $22 million deal) at age 23. Injuries limited the promising middle infield to just 64 games in his stateside debut -- he played 46 games in Double-A -- during which he batted .229/.368/.339 with five home runs.

Max Pentecost, C/1B -- Pentecost was named a mid-season and post-season All-Star in the Florida State League this year despite playing in just 72 games, two shy of tying his career high. The 24-year-old produced when healthy, hitting .274 with nine homers, and he was back behind the plate for the first time since 2014, before a rash of surgery-requiring shoulder injuries threatened his career.

Video: Pentecost happy to be in the Fall League

Blue Jays pitchers in the Fall League

Andrew Case, RHP -- Case struggled to advance beyond the Class A level during his first three seasons -- he served a 50-game suspension in 2016 after failing to attend a mandatory drug test -- before putting it all together to pitch at three levels including Triple-A in 2017. Altogether, the 24-year-old right-hander, who relies on a sinker-slider pairing, posted a 2.86 ERA over 66 innings (50 games) while going 12 for 17 in save opportunities across the three stops.

Jackson McClelland, RHP -- Another reliever coming off a breakout regular season, the 2015 15th-rounder split his year between the Class A Lansing and Dunedin, going 15 for 16 in save situations while compiling a 1.34 ERA and .209 opponents' average in 53 2/3 frames (45 appearances). A 6-foot-5 right-hander, he's said to feature a fastball that reaches 96-97 mph.

Danny Young, LHP -- The 23-year-old left-handed specialist was highly effective against same-sided hitters this past season, as he held them to a paltry .167/.237/.236 slashing line in 97 plate appearances. Though nothing he throws is overpowering, Young is naturally deceptive and knows how to keep hitters off balance with his three-pitch mix.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

 

Toronto Blue Jays

Blue Jays tapping into new markets for talent

Pardinho and Chavez hail from Brazil and the Bahamas
MLB.com

When people think about baseball talent in the Caribbean and South America, it's usually about the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, and rightfully so. But there are some interesting emerging markets starting to produce some exciting young players.

Two of those markets, Brazil and the Bahamas, are represented in Dunedin, Fla., as part of the contingent participating in Blue Jays instructional league play. There were actually four Brazlian players in the big leagues in 2017, with the Mariners' Thyago Vieira and the Braves' Luiz Gohara, both pitchers, making their debuts this season. The Blue Jays hope their Brazilian hurler, Eric Pardinho, will follow in their footsteps.

When people think about baseball talent in the Caribbean and South America, it's usually about the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, and rightfully so. But there are some interesting emerging markets starting to produce some exciting young players.

Two of those markets, Brazil and the Bahamas, are represented in Dunedin, Fla., as part of the contingent participating in Blue Jays instructional league play. There were actually four Brazlian players in the big leagues in 2017, with the Mariners' Thyago Vieira and the Braves' Luiz Gohara, both pitchers, making their debuts this season. The Blue Jays hope their Brazilian hurler, Eric Pardinho, will follow in their footsteps.

Toronto signed the right-hander for $1.4 million this past July, the largest bonus ever given to a Brazilian prospect. Pardinho, 16, was the highest-rated pitching prospect in this year's international class, ranked No. 5 on the MLB Pipeline Top 30. Instructs is really his first official action as part of his new organization.

"For one of the youngest guys in camp, he's showing a very solid work ethic, good mound presence and a feel for pitching that is impressive given his age," Blue Jays farm director Gil Kim said. "He's been impressive to watch."

Just 5-foot-10 and listed at 155 pounds, Pardinho doesn't necessarily pass the eye test. But Kim tips his cap to Toronto's international scouts for identifying his arm strength -- he's touched 95 mph with his fastball at times -- and the fact that he isn't a typical teenager from a country where baseball is just starting to grow. Pardinho did show that on the international stage when pitching for his country in the World Baseball Classic qualifier last fall.

"He is more advanced than you'd normally expect," Kim said. "That's probably a result of the development environment he's been in the last several years working with the Brazilian national teams. He's come in here as one of the more advanced guys."

Chavez Young was drafted, in the 39th round of the 2016 Draft, out of a Georgia high school, but the switch-hitting outfielder is a native of the Bahamas. While there hasn't been a big leaguer from there in a while -- Antoan Richardson was the last in 2011 -- there are some up-and-coming Bahamian prospects, including Futures Gamer Lucius Fox of the Rays and the D-backs' Jasrado Chisholm.

"We're seeing more and more players from the Bahamas, a lot went to high school in the United States like he did," Kim said. "He's an athlete who is a hard worker, but has some awareness and needs repetitions and the proper environment to develop."

Young, who turned 20 in August, had a solid season in the rookie-level Appalachian League, hitting .282/.332/.440 to earn a late promotion to short-season Vancouver, where he helped bring home a Northwest League title. He's continued to impress with his performance and demeanor at instructs.

"Since he arrived, he's stood out with his energy and work ethic," Kim said. "That's a big reason why he's been able to continue maximizing his potential. He's emerging as a leader in the organization. He's a very high-energy athlete who approaches each day with a lot of focus to what he's doing. He's a sparkplug with his ability and his personality."

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

 

Toronto Blue Jays

Blue Jays top Draft picks displaying maturity at instructs

Pearson, Warmoth, Adams, Danner among those impressing brass
MLB.com

The Blue Jays, like most teams, focus instructional league play on their youngest and newest players. As a result, a good amount of the most recent Draft class has been in Dunedin, Fla., in what amounts to their first real exposure to the organization.

When newly drafted players go out to make their debuts in the summer, they're largely left alone in terms of changing anything they do. Instructs is the first time the player development staff can have them all together and really start to work on things. A few of the Blue Jays' top picks were all together in Vancouver for the Northwest League's Short-Season, picking up a title along the way.

The Blue Jays, like most teams, focus instructional league play on their youngest and newest players. As a result, a good amount of the most recent Draft class has been in Dunedin, Fla., in what amounts to their first real exposure to the organization.

When newly drafted players go out to make their debuts in the summer, they're largely left alone in terms of changing anything they do. Instructs is the first time the player development staff can have them all together and really start to work on things. A few of the Blue Jays' top picks were all together in Vancouver for the Northwest League's Short-Season, picking up a title along the way.

First-rounders Nate Pearson, ranked No. 7 on the Blue Jays' Top 30 Prospects list and Logan Warmoth, ranked No. 4, along with third-rounder Riley Adams (No. 16) all performed well with Vancouver and are now wrapping a bow on their first pro experience at instructs. Results are secondary during a debut, usually, but it does allow for a pretty solid foundation of confidence to be built.

"Whenever you have a player of that talent and caliber debut well, it's always promising," Blue Jays farm director Gil Kim said. "But the main goal is to acclimate them to professional baseball and the organization. The performance was an added bonus."

Kim was talking primarily about Pearson, the right-hander, but his comments work for all of the three early-round picks. Pearson was dominant with Vancouver, albeit in a brief look, finishing with a 0.90 ERA, a .106 batting average against and 26 strikeouts in 20 innings before giving up one run on four hits and a walk while striking out 14 across eight playoff frames. Now Kim and his staff are getting a real sense of what makes the junior college product tick.

"He's a guy who has a very solid routine and goes about his work trying to get better every day," Kim said. "He's been impressive. What has stood out is his accountability to those routines, how serious he approaches his work and how humble he is. He, Logan and Riley, you wouldn't think they're [early picks] because they don't carry themselves with that air."

Video: Mayo analyzes Blue Jays prospect Nate Pearson

Adams has also stood out at instructs, both at the plate and behind it. The University of San Diego standout catcher hit .305 with Vancouver and threw out 40 percent of would-be basestealers, a good sign especially since some scouts thought his defense had headed in the wrong direction in 2017.

"He's committed to improving on both sides of the ball," Kim said. "He had a good offensive year in Vancouver and we're pleased with the strides he's made behind the plate."

Kim also likes the leadership Adams is already showing, something teams always want from their backstops, and he thinks that was one of the keys to Vancouver's title run. Adams has already made some adjustments on his own, including changing his set-up at the plate. During his junior year in particular, he had a very wide stance, a la San Diego alum Kris Bryant.

"He's not as spread out as he was during the college season or when he first came here," Kim said. "They are primarily changes driven by the player, and it seems like it's working out right now."

Meanwhile, Hagen Danner, Toronto's No. 9 prospect, continues to make progress. He is the lone high schooler taken in the top three rounds by the Blue Jays, selected in the second round between Pearson and Adams. He hasn't played in any instructs games as he works his way back from a left shoulder injury that knocked him out at the end of the Gulf Coast League season. That, along with the fact that he was a two-way player in high school, has him understandably behind his draft counterparts.

"He's been gradually working into practices here," Kim said. "As a young high school draftee who is really devoting himself strictly to catching for the first time, he's getting his body acclimated to that. But he's been very good."

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

 

Toronto Blue Jays

Bichette, Borucki named Blue Jays Prospects of the Year

MLB.com

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' Minor League system took a big step forward in 2017 and the duo of infielder Bo Bichette and lefty Ryan Borucki are two of the main reasons why.

Bichette has been named Toronto's Minor League Hitter of the Year by MLBPipeline.com and Borucki took home the honors for top pitcher. Each prospect took major strides in 2017 and has been soaring up the charts of the top prospects, not only for Toronto, but all of baseball.

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' Minor League system took a big step forward in 2017 and the duo of infielder Bo Bichette and lefty Ryan Borucki are two of the main reasons why.

Bichette has been named Toronto's Minor League Hitter of the Year by MLBPipeline.com and Borucki took home the honors for top pitcher. Each prospect took major strides in 2017 and has been soaring up the charts of the top prospects, not only for Toronto, but all of baseball.

Video: Top Prospects: Ryan Borucki, LHP, Blue Jays

The 19-year-old Bichette hit .362/.423/.565 with 14 home runs, 74 RBIs, 22 stolen bases and 41 doubles at Class A Lansing and Class A Advanced Dunedin this season. Along the way, Bichette became the first teenager to lead the Minor Leagues in batting average since Gil Torres in 1963.

Blue Jays' Prospects of the Year

"I'm not gonna lie, I looked at it a couple of times," Bichette recently told MLB Pipeline when asked about competing for the batting title. "But it wasn't really on my mind. I'm kind of a day-to-day person, so for me it was just going to the field and getting my work done and continuing to play well. That was all I was worried about at the time."

The hitting and pitching prospects of the year were chosen by the MLBPipeline.com staff. To receive consideration, players had to spend at least half the year in the Minors, appeared on the club's Top 30 prospects list and played the entire year in the organization.

Bichette, who is ranked Toronto's No. 2 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, had such a strong run with Lansing that even though he was promoted to Dunedin on July 10, the Florida native still picked up Most Valuable Player honors for the Midwest League. Bichette hit .371 in April, .388 in May and .421 in June for the Lugnuts. He also drew 28 walks and left the league with 32 doubles, three triples and 60 runs scored.

Fellow top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. joined Bichette in Lansing at the start of the season and also followed him to Dunedin after the All-Star break. They are arguably the best position player duo in any organization and provide a lot of hope for the Blue Jays' future.

"It was an awesome experience to play with him my first year," Bichette said. "To have someone -- I was doing really well, obviously, and to have him kind of right on my tail, right behind me in everything, was good for me, and I think it was good for him, too. We pushed each other, and I think we learned a lot from each other also. So it was really, really a cool experience to play with him all year."

Borucki also had a breakthrough season and pitched at each level of Toronto's Minor League system. He began the year in Dunedin and posted a 3.58 ERA over 19 starts before moving up to Double-A New Hampshire, where he was even better. Borucki posted a 1.94 ERA for the Fisher Cats in seven starts while striking out 42 over 46 1/3 innings and walking just eight. He finished the year with one appearance for Triple-A Buffalo and he's currently ranked as Toronto's No. 13 prospect.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

 

Toronto Blue Jays

Big stage means big hits for Blue Jays' Urena

MLB.com

TORONTO -- Richard Urena's disappointing season in the Minor Leagues seems to be a distant memory now that he's riding high under the bright lights of a big league ballpark.

Urena burst onto the scene earlier this month and hasn't looked back. His latest highlight came Tuesday night on a walk-off single in Toronto's 3-2 victory vs. Orioles star closer Zach Britton.

TORONTO -- Richard Urena's disappointing season in the Minor Leagues seems to be a distant memory now that he's riding high under the bright lights of a big league ballpark.

Urena burst onto the scene earlier this month and hasn't looked back. His latest highlight came Tuesday night on a walk-off single in Toronto's 3-2 victory vs. Orioles star closer Zach Britton.

The 21-year-old Urena has a five-game hitting streak and is batting .324 (11-for-34) with three extra-base hits and three RBIs over nine games. Urena also has been providing strong defense at shortstop and has become a bright spot during an otherwise frustrating finish to Toronto's 2017 season.

"I wouldn't say I'm surprised," Urena said through an interpreter when asked about his recent success. "But that's what you do in the Minors; you work so hard to get your way up here, and now that I have the chance I'm trying to prove that I can make the team next year. Surprised a little bit? No. But it's nice to go out there and put up good numbers."

The Urena hype machine has been working overtime since he was called up from Double-A New Hampshire at the start of September, but it's not always going to look this easy for the Dominican Republic native. Urena, who is ranked Toronto's 10th-best prospect by MLBPipeline, has some flaws that need to be worked out, but so far there have been no signs of the issues in Toronto.

In the Minors, Urena was limited to a .246 average and a .286 on-base percentage. He often found trouble by chasing too many pitches out of the zone, but in the big leagues has been able to take advantage of pitchers who have been going after him. The big test will come when opposing teams start making adjustments, but that doesn't take away from how he's currently performing.

Tweet from @BlueJays: Squad love. #Walkoff pic.twitter.com/ToAqXs4KHS

During Tuesday night's victory, Urena stepped to the plate with a pair of runners on base and one out. He attacked a 96 mph fastball that was left up in the zone and sent it to center field. The fact that it came while Urena was batting from the right side, where he only began hitting full-time in 2015, made it even more impressive.

"The zone here in the big leagues is a little more tight," Urena said. "So it's a little bit easier to look for a pitch that you're trying to drive and hit. It's a little bit easier to be patient and look for your pitches."

Urena's at-bat wasn't the only standout moment from the dramatic ninth-inning victory. Kevin Pillar began the inning with a rare walk and advanced to third when rookie Teoscar Hernandez displayed a nice piece of hitting by shortening his swing and going the opposite way for a single.

After a Darwin Barney groundout, manager John Gibbons decided to stick with Luke Maile instead of using a pinch-hitter. Part of the reason was because Steve Pearce is still out with tightness in his lower back and the only viable alternative was Rob Refsnyder, but the confidence paid off. Maile ripped a single off the glove of Manny Machado at third base to tie the game and set the scene for Urena.

"It's kind of changed the dynamic of our team and how we score runs lately," Maile said of Urena and Hernandez. "The one-run games, you're not as reliant on somebody hitting it over the fence. That's kind of refreshing and nice. That's not to say you don't enjoy the three-run homer because that always plays, but manufacturing sometimes is a big momentum piece and those guys bring it."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

 

Toronto Blue Jays, Richard Urena

Hernandez gives Blue Jays a glimpse of future

Rookie's power on display with two-homer day
MLB.com

TORONTO -- Teoscar Hernandez officially joined the Blue Jays more than a week ago, but Sunday afternoon might have been when he truly arrived.

Hernandez put on a show and provided the Blue Jays with a glimpse of the future by hitting a pair of home runs in an 8-2 victory over Detroit. The rookie outfielder finished 3-for-4 with three runs scored and five RBIs in the best game of his young career.

Full Game Coverage

TORONTO -- Teoscar Hernandez officially joined the Blue Jays more than a week ago, but Sunday afternoon might have been when he truly arrived.

Hernandez put on a show and provided the Blue Jays with a glimpse of the future by hitting a pair of home runs in an 8-2 victory over Detroit. The rookie outfielder finished 3-for-4 with three runs scored and five RBIs in the best game of his young career.

Full Game Coverage

The 24-year-old, the club's No. 5 prospect per MLBPipeline.com, became the first Toronto rookie with two home runs in the same game since J.P. Arencibia did it on July 22, 2011. He also became the 13th rookie in franchise history to finish with at least five RBIs and the first since outfielder Anthony Gose in 2012.

Sanchez officially done for season

Video: DET@TOR: Hernandez picks up two homer runs, five RBIs

"Time will tell, but I didn't think he had as much pop as he showed today," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He went to deep center and he went to the opposite field. There's life in his bat. Early on, the first couple of games I saw him, real aggressive at the plate and chased a lot of pitches out of the zone. I think if he just narrows it down, gets some strikes to hit, everything is there."

Hernandez's big day at the plate began in the bottom of the fourth inning when he sent a pitch from Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez over the wall in center field for his first home run of the season. He was back at it one inning later with yet another homer off Sanchez, this one going just over the wall in right.

This marked the first time Hernandez had a multi-homer game and the second time he finished with three hits. He now has seven RBIs over his last five games and continues to make a strong impression while receiving playing time at all three spots in the outfield.

Video: DET@TOR: Gibbons discusses Hernandez's two-homer day

The Blue Jays don't have a lot to play for this month after falling out of contention, but these games still hold a lot of significance for rookies with something to prove. The injection of youth also provides a bit of a lift to the veterans on the roster who have been riding the ups and downs all year and now have some fresh faces added into the mix.

"If you've been around the game for awhile, it's nice to see the wide-eyed look, the excitement," Blue Jays infielder Darwin Barney said. "Brings some energy to these games where maybe both teams aren't necessarily where they want to be. There's a lot to be playing for, for some people, so it was fun to watch."

Hernandez is so new to all of this that he'll be forgiven for forgetting all about his media responsibilities after the game. He left early to celebrate with family and friends a game the Dominican native will never forget. More importantly, he's doing it while trying to make a statement that he should be considered as a potential option at the start of 2018.

Video: DET@TOR: Hernandez tacks on a run from a passed ball

Toronto is looking for better defense and more athleticism out of its corner outfield next year, which could open the door for Hernandez. The Blue Jays' offseason will dictate a lot of that, but the playing time is there now to leave a lasting impression with the front office and coaching staff.

"When we picked him up, we heard a lot of good things about him," Gibbons said. "He's athletic, he's got some pop in his bat. He can do a lot of things, he can run ... We acquired him for a reason."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

 

Toronto Blue Jays, Teoscar Hernandez

Urena continues to impress with first homer

MLB.com

TORONTO -- Teoscar Hernandez and Carlos Ramirez received most of the attention earlier this week, but they aren't the only Blue Jays callups to keep an eye on this September. Another rookie to watch is shortstop Richard Urena.

Urena has opened some eyes during his first week in the big leagues, and he drew more praise following Toronto's 5-4 loss to the Tigers on Friday night at Rogers Centre. The score wasn't ideal, but the Blue Jays did get to see their rookie shortstop hit the first big league homer of his career while also making several impressive plays in the field.

Full Game Coverage

TORONTO -- Teoscar Hernandez and Carlos Ramirez received most of the attention earlier this week, but they aren't the only Blue Jays callups to keep an eye on this September. Another rookie to watch is shortstop Richard Urena.

Urena has opened some eyes during his first week in the big leagues, and he drew more praise following Toronto's 5-4 loss to the Tigers on Friday night at Rogers Centre. The score wasn't ideal, but the Blue Jays did get to see their rookie shortstop hit the first big league homer of his career while also making several impressive plays in the field.

Full Game Coverage

The 21-year-old Urena was a surprise addition to Toronto's lineup when rosters were expanded on Sept. 1. He's ranked the Blue Jays' 11th-best prospect by MLBPipeline.com, so it's not like he lacks pedigree. But he still lacks experience, and after a disappointing run this year with Double-A New Hampshire, a call wasn't necessarily expected. It still arrived, though, and now he's making the most of the opportunity.

Video: DET@TOR: Urena fields and makes spinning toss for out

"You never like losing, and that still eats at you, but when you do see a game like he had, that does bring a smile to your face," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He's an up-and-coming kid who we've always liked in the organization.

"Probably got here a little ahead of his time, but he has done a tremendous job and a big night tonight. First home run, did a nice job defensively. Showed some nice range and he has a good arm. That'll do wonders for him and his confidence."

Urena picked up the first hit of his career on Monday at Fenway Park, and on Friday in Toronto it was the first homer. The Dominican native worked the count full vs. reliever Alex Wilson in the eighth inning and then lifted a 92.7-mph fastball over the wall in left field for an opposite-field home run. According to Statcast™, the ball was projected to travel 362 feet and left his bat at 100 mph.

Blue Jays fans should not get used to watching that. Urena reached double digits in home runs just one time out of his five seasons in the Minors, and he was limited to eight at New Hampshire prior to his September promotion. With a slash line of .247/.286/.359, there is still plenty of work to be done at the plate.

What Toronto should expect is impressive range and athleticism up the middle, and that was on display Friday night. In the top of the ninth inning, Urena went almost directly behind second base to field a sharp ground ball and then turned to fire a strike to first base. That stole a hit away from Andrew Romine and provided a glimpse at Urena's skill set.

"I've been working four or five years in the Minors to get ready for this," Urena said through an interpreter after the game. "For me, I'm just happy to be here. I know it's going to be hard, but I was ready for this."

As for the home run, it landed in the Blue Jays' bullpen and was returned to him after the game. No matter how many he ends up hitting in the big leagues, that will be one he never forgets.

"I feel very proud and very emotional about getting that off my back," Urena said. "It's my third or fourth game in the big leagues so far, and it always feels good to hit the ball out."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

 

Toronto Blue Jays

Teoscar stands out in Blue Jays debut

MLB.com

BALTIMORE -- The future is now for Blue Jays rookie outfielder Teoscar Hernandez.

Hernandez, who was acquired prior to the non-waiver Trade Deadline in a deal for lefty Francisco Liriano, made his Blue Jays debut during Friday night's 1-0 loss to the Orioles in 13 innings. He was one of five players who were officially added to Toronto's roster as part of the September callups earlier in the day.

Full Game Coverage

BALTIMORE -- The future is now for Blue Jays rookie outfielder Teoscar Hernandez.

Hernan