Second wave of Buffalo Boys has tremendous upside

April 11th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Keegan Matheson's Blue Jays Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

A year ago, Davis Schneider, Ernie Clement and Spencer Horwitz arrived in one big, refreshing wave. In an offense that felt stale at times, their arrival shook things up and, particularly in Schneider’s case, helped push the Blue Jays into the postseason.

The sequel could be even better.

So much can happen over the next few months, but the Blue Jays have a logjam of infield prospects in Triple-A Buffalo. This farm system needs to bounce back in 2024 after a difficult season a year ago, but at the top end, an approach that leans on quantity can work in the short term. Out of this group, if one prospect pops, the Blue Jays win.

Here’s a look at their early performances:

2B (Toronto’s No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline)

Martinez batted .286 with three walks and seven strikeouts through his first nine games, so at this point, we’re just waiting to see the power. It’s there, arguably better than anyone in this organization not named Vladdy, so Martinez is still a threat to hit 30 home runs if he gets hot. Martinez is a second baseman now, where he can do enough defensively to let his bat shine, and if anyone from this group is going to explode in 2024, it’s him.

Jimenez is too often overlooked. He isn’t the flashiest prospect, but he’s going to be a big leaguer. Jimenez worked six walks against four strikeouts through his first seven games, which is encouraging, and he’s playing as the Bisons’ everyday shortstop. Clement is the Blue Jays’ backup shortstop and Isiah Kiner-Falefa can handle the position, too, but Jimenez would be a consideration if there were an injury at that position. Jimenez’s ability to play a big league shortstop is also why he could be a popular name in trade discussions at the Deadline again in 2024.

Barger’s .926 OPS and 11 RBIs through 10 games look good enough, but the underlying numbers have been even better. Barger is hitting everything hard, and when his max-effort swing connects, there isn’t a stadium that can hold him. Barger will split time evenly between third base and right field, where his big arm (literally and figuratively) truly shines. Given his ability to play the corner outfield, Barger is only an injury away from the Blue Jays, but he might not even need that if he keeps this up.

3B/1B Damiano Palmegiani (No. 14)

It hasn’t been the hottest start at the plate for Palmegiani, who batted .143 with 13 strikeouts through his first nine games, but that will come around. An early positive has been his defense, with Palmegiani continuing to look like he can handle third. Palmegiani is still a good pick for your “2024 Davis Schneider,” given his power potential and ability to crush lefties.

Foolish numbers. Horwitz batted .424 with 11 walks through his first nine games, giving him a .568 on-base percentage. He was an on-base monster a year ago, too, so there’s really nothing left for Horwitz to prove at the Triple-A level. This is more about projecting him against MLB pitching. Horwitz controls the zone so well and will always take his walks, but the organization would love to see him use his elite eye to identify a few more opportunities to take risks and hit for more power. If he keeps putting up these numbers, though, he belongs in the conversation alongside Daniel Vogelbach and, eventually, Joey Votto.

OF (unranked)

What a start. Robertson opened his season 10-for-21 (.476) with four home runs in his first six games. Sure, it’s a small sample, but this carries over from an excellent second half to the 2023 season and a great showing in the Arizona Fall League. Robertson has always had the raw power potential, but it feels like he’s doing a better job now of getting to that power and using it in games. It’s important that Robertson is an outfielder, too, as the Blue Jays have struggled for years to develop players at that position. Robertson is on the outside of our Top 30 Prospects list looking in for now, but he’s already making a fine case to be included in our midseason update if he keeps this up.