After three straight losing seasons and fourth-place finishes in the American League East, the Blue Jays showed improvement during the shortened 2020 season, securing the No. 8 spot in the expanded postseason with a 32-28 regular-season record. And while they were unable to advance beyond the Wild Card Series, falling to the AL champion Tampa Bay Rays via a two-game sweep, it nonetheless was a breakthrough year for the Blue Jays and their young Major League roster.
While the graduations of former top prospects Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette have negatively affected Toronto’s farm system -- ranked by MLB Pipeline as the fifth-best in baseball going into 2019 -- back-to-back strong Drafts by the organization, along with the rise of some recent Blue Jays international signees, still has the system in good shape overall.
Flame-thrower Nate Pearson and catcher Alejandro Kirk are poised to make an even more significant impact next season after their strong finishes to the season as members of the postseason roster. What’s more, they soon could be joined in the Major Leagues by other top Blue Jays prospects such as first-rounders Austin Martin and Alek Manoah and trade acquisition Simeon Woods Richardson.
After making a top 12 pick in three straight Drafts, the Blue Jays will try to find value in the second half of the first round next year with the No. 19 overall pick. They’ve had mixed results with their later first-round picks in the past half-decade, with Pearson (No. 28 overall in 2017) the most encouraging example.
FARM SYSTEM RANKINGS
2020 Midseason: 7 | Preseason: 16
2019 Midseason: 10 | Preseason: 5
2018 Midseason: 5 | Preseason: 9
2017 Midseason: NR | Preseason: NR
2016 Midseason: NR | Preseason: NR
2015 Midseason: NR | Preseason: 10
Only the top 10 systems were ranked from 2015 to 2019 preseason; the top 15 systems were ranked 2019 midseason.
TOP 5 PROSPECTS
Returned: Dany Jiménez, RHP
Martin was the second-ranked player on MLB Pipeline’s Draft Top 200 but fell to the Blue Jays with the No. 5 pick. The Vanderbilt product was regarded as the best pure hitter in the 2020 class and signed for the 12th-highest bonus in Draft history ($7,000,825). Van Eyk and Palmer also received slightly above-slot deals, and the Blue Jays landed a premium athlete with projection in Frasso. Jiménez, a Rule 5 pick by San Francisco, was returned to Toronto in early August after the Giants had designated him for assignment.
2021 IMPACT PROSPECT
Nate Pearson, RHP: Pearson had flashes of dominance during his first four starts before landing on the injured list late in August with right elbow tightness. The ailment proved a non-issue for the 24-year-old right-hander as he struck out five batters while hitting 101 mph during a two-inning relief appearance in the postseason. Despite having obvious upside as a reliever, Pearson has a significantly higher ceiling as a starter, possessing all the raw ingredients needed to become a true front-of-the-rotation force.
2022 TOP PROSPECT
Jordan Groshans, SS: The former first-round pick (No. 12 overall in 2018) offered a glimpse of his upside as a hitter in 2019 -- .337/.427/.482 at Class A Lansing – before suffering a season-ending foot injury in mid-May, after just 23 games. The 21-year-old has impact potential at the plate, with the ability to hit for both average and power, and he should have no problem meeting the offensive demands associated with the hot corner even if forced to move off shortstop.
Hit: Austin Martin
Power: Jordan Groshans
Run: Dasan Brown
Arm: Chavez Young
Field: Dasan Brown
Best athlete: Dasan Brown
Fastball: Nate Pearson
Curveball: Patrick Murphy
Slider: Nate Pearson
Changeup: Simeon Woods Richardson
Control: Simeon Woods Richardson
HOW THE TOP 30 WAS BUILT
Toronto’s Top 30 Prospects list is mostly homegrown, as all but two players were either drafted or signed as international amateurs by the organization. The fact that former first-round picks occupy four of the top five spots and that more than half of the players (9) ranked in the top 17 were international signees reflects the team’s scouting successes in those departments. Acquired along with Anthony Kay from the Mets in the 2019 Marcus Stroman deal, Simeon Woods Richardson is Toronto’s next-best pitching prospect after Pearson and could be ready to contribute in 2021. Julian Merryweather (No. 20), an Indians Draft pick in ‘14, made his big league debut at age 28 this past season, making eight appearances, including three starts.
Top 30 by Position
Catchers Alejandro Kirk (No. 6), Gabriel Moreno (No. 8) and Riley Adams (No. 22) are all on the 40-man roster and will give Toronto plenty of options next season, along with incumbents Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire. The club’s group of seven shortstop-capable infielders ranked in the top 15 features a pair of Top 100 prospects in Martin and Groshans, and another, Orelvis Martinez (No. 7), who is very much in the conversation. Right-handers Pearson, Woods Richardson and Alek Manoah (No. 5) all look like future rotation candidates for the organization and could pitch together in the big leagues sooner than expected.