Spring Breakout offers lessons, growth for Blue Jays' top prospects

March 16th, 2024

TAMPA, FLA. -- Saturday’s Spring Breakout game was a glimpse of the Blue Jays’ future, combining Top 30 prospects who could help the big league club in 2024 and those who are still miles down the road.

It’s a future that the Blue Jays hope won’t include as many 9-1 losses, as Spencer Jones launched two home runs for the Yankees in Saturday's blowout, but there was still plenty to take from this on an individual level.

Here’s what stood out for the Blue Jays’ prospects:

Welcome to the spotlight, Arjun

Arjun Nimmala walked toward the three reporters who were covering the Blue Jays at George M. Steinbrenner Field. The 18-year-old stretched his hand out to introduce himself, every bit of the bright and confident young man we’ve heard so much about. Then, he took his place in front of the camera.

“Oh, wow. Nice mic,” Nimmala said when Sportsnet’s Hazel Mae held up a microphone to open the media scrum. Then, seeing the camera light flick on as reporters stood around him, Nimmala asked how it would work and who would be asking the questions. “I have no clue,” he said.

These are the small moments you remember five, 10 or 20 years from now if these players grow into the stars so many evaluators believe they will. There was a time when even Bo Bichette, Kevin Gausman or Jordan Romano were new to all of this -- bright camera lights and microphones included. If Nimmala -- the Blue Jays' No. 3 prospect, per MLB Pipeline -- stays on this path, he’ll become all too familiar with them soon enough.

Barger’s rocket

Take one glance at No. 6 prospect and you might be able to draw a few quick conclusions. He looks like he could pick up a stadium and move it across the street. There’s bound to be some big numbers that come along with a build like his.

In the third inning, Barger fielded a ball in right field and uncorked a rocket to home. The throw was measured at 103.8 mph, which would have ranked third among all throws from the outfield in the 2023 regular season, behind only Brenton Doyle of the Rockies and Ronald Acuña Jr. of the Braves.

Barger's throw was high and there wasn’t a play to be made, so the promising skills still need to be refined and focused. But it’s these rare physical tools that keep Barger ranked so highly on prospect lists.

In the very next inning, Barger ripped a triple off the wall in right-center with an exit velocity of 103.9 mph.

Diving Dasan

(No. 27 prospect) could play center field in the big leagues tomorrow. The Canadian outfielder has elite speed and can get to nearly any ball, which gives him a clear path up the ladder. In the fourth inning on Saturday, Brown broke in on a low, sinking line drive and made a fantastic diving catch to end the inning, just another glimpse of his incredible athletic talent.

The biggest factor for Brown, of course, is his bat. That took a step back in 2023 after an encouraging previous season, so this will be a big year for the 22-year-old in the upper Minors. Turning his speed into true base-stealing talent is key, too, but his glove is already a huge strength.

Rojas surprises with velocity bump

The most encouraging pitching performance Saturday? Lefty . The No. 10 prospect showcased the velocity bump that’s been generating buzz in camp, posting a scoreless bottom of the fourth with one hit allowed. Rojas averaged 94 mph and reached up to 96.7 mph, a welcome development after he spent the past two seasons climbing through the low-90s.

Sustaining this deeper into games is the real trick here, but it’s a fine start to see Rojas flashing this ability. The 21-year-old is likely headed for High-A Vancouver in 2024.

Barriera is back

No. 4 prospect Brandon Barriera, the Blue Jays' first-round pick in 2022, has barely pitched since being drafted. He was shut down after the '22 Draft and logged just 20 1/3 innings last season as he battled to get back to 100% physically. Now that he’s there, we finally got a look at the talent the Blue Jays identified when they selected him.

Barriera touched 97 mph twice on Saturday, regaining the velocity we didn’t get to see in 2023. The Blue Jays loved his polish as a high school arm, but this is the upside that he paired with it to make the whole package so enticing. A full season from Barriera will be one of the most important stories to track in this system in '24.