Sanchez named Blue Jays' top prospect
Stroman, Osuna join right-hander on list of Top 100 players in Minors
TORONTO -- The accolades continue to roll in for Blue Jays right-hander Aaron Sanchez after he was named to MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list on Thursday night.
Sanchez was ranked Toronto's top prospect and came in at No. 23 overall on the list of players from across the Minor Leagues. That marked a jump of 12 spots after Sanchez began the 2013 season ranked 35th.
The former first-round pick also was joined by teammates Marcus Stroman (No. 55) and Roberto Osuna (No. 93), as the Blue Jays were one of 18 clubs with at least three players on the list.
The annual ranking of baseball's biggest and brightest young talent 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 2014.
Sanchez had somewhat of an up-and-down season for Class A Dunedin in 2013 because of some minor injuries. Sanchez finished the year strong, though, and eventually earned some rave reviews with an impressive stint in the Arizona Fall League, where he posted a 1.16 ERA in six starts.
The California native has been invited to the upcoming Major League portion of Spring Training in February, but he's expected to begin the season with Double-A New Hampshire. Sanchez possesses an overpowering fastball with a well-above-average curveball and a changeup that continues to improve.
Sanchez's biggest obstacle is command, as he walked 40 batters over 86 1/3 innings for Dunedin. That continues to be a work in progress and is one of the main reasons fastball location has become his biggest priority for the upcoming season.
"It's something that I go to the park working on every day," Sanchez recently said. "There's always room for improvement, and if that's what I need to do, I'm going to work my hardest to get that done.
"It's just about attacking hitters. There's nothing more to it. It's baseball and it's a fun game."
Stroman was named to MLB.com's list for the first time in his career. The team's first-round pick from the 2012 First-Year Player Draft turned a lot of his skeptics into believers this past year with a strong stint in Double-A and alongside Sanchez in the AFL.
The 22-year-old Stroman is generally considered to be ready for the big leagues, and he has an outside chance to head north with the Blue Jays when Spring Training ends. However, the more likely scenario would see Stroman begin the year at Triple-A Buffalo, with a debut not coming until later in the season.
Stroman also possesses an overpowering fastball and a dominating slider, but it's his changeup that proved to be just as effective in 2013. It's a pitch Stroman threw only occasionally while at Duke University, but it has since become a big part of his arsenal in the Minor Leagues.
"It has been the main point of emphasis in everything that I've done the past year and a half," Stroman said. "I never realized how much of a weapon a changeup is until this year. It really messes up the hitter's timing. If you can control a changeup, I honestly think it's the best pitch in baseball.
"It's not a splitting changeup -- like Joel Peralta -- but it has a decent amount of fade to it. I used it predominantly to lefties, but a point of emphasis from last year was throwing it more to righties. And I've got a pretty good feel for it. I'm looking forward to using it as a weapon in 2014."
Osuna's ranking remained relatively unchanged this year despite only pitching 42 1/3 innings with Class A Lansing because of a right elbow injury. Osuna dropped just three spots from No. 90 overall and continues to be one of the club's most promising arms, but he is at least a few years away from the Major Leagues.
There are some other familiar faces on MLB.com's list of the Top 100 Prospects. Former Toronto farmhands Noah Syndergaard (No. 11), Travis d'Arnaud (No. 22), Jake Marisnick (No. 65) and Justin Nicolino (No. 81) all made the list again this year.
The four promising prospects were traded last offseason in a pair of blockbuster trades with the Mets and Marlins. Syndergaard saw his position rise 18 spots from No. 29 overall, while d'Arnaud actually lost ground and finished 22nd overall compared with last year's No. 6 ranking.
In news that certainly won't be encouraging to Blue Jays fans, Boston has nine prospects in this year's Top 100 list, which is the most of any team in baseball. The Cubs and Astros finished second, with each organization having seven players on the list.