MLB 26-and-under power rankings: No. 5 Toronto Blue Jays

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FOX Sports’ 26-and-under power rankings are a new twist on classic prospect ratings. Yes, prospects are important, but with all the game-changing young talent already available, farming systems alone cannot tell the whole story. So let’s take a deep dive into each one MLB club, ranking them all by players in an organization who start their season 26 or younger, from the bigs to the farm. Every weekday until March 27th, we’ll be counting down from last to first.

No. 5 Toronto Blue Jays
Total score for 26 and under: 22 (out of 30)

The Blue Jays epitomize what this list is all about.

Look at most farm system rankings and the Blue Jays will fall somewhere in the bottom half. A series of trades, potential graduations and missing top picks over the past decade have weakened their organizational upside.

But those rankings don’t take into account the prolific 26-and-under talent already on Toronto’s major league roster, a group that includes four recent All-Stars who could help deliver the Blue Jays their title first division since 2015.

Outside of San Diego, Atlanta and (probably) Houston, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better collection of young position players than the group Toronto has. It’s largely those players who will dictate whether the Blue Jays compete for their first World Series championship since back-to-back titles in 1992-93.

Major League Hit: 10 (out of 10)

Most major leaguers would be lining up at the door for a 32-homer, 132 OPS+ season. The fact that it was a step back for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. it’s a testament to his immense potential and his extraordinary 22-year-old season the previous year.

Guerrero just turned 24 and is already a two-time All-Star. He broke out in 2021 when he hit 48 homers while leading the league in on-base percentage (.401), slugging (.601) and OPS (1.002). It was with these totals in mind that last year was relatively underwhelming.

Pitchers adjusted, throwing him more breaking balls as he lived low and away, which led to ground balls and chases more often. He still hit the baseball, ranking in the 96th percentile in average exit velocity and the 94th percentile in strikeout rate, and remains one of the most likely candidates to rejoin and compete for another MVP award. AL (finished second in 2021). ).

In Guerrero and Bo Bichette, the Blue Jays have one of the best under-26 duos in baseball. Bichette struggled for much of the first half last year before exploding in the second half of the season. He had an OPS over 1.000 in his last 40 games and has now posted an OPS over .800 in four MLB seasons, the last two of which he played in 159 games each while leading the AL in hits. Despite ranking below average defensively at his position, his combination of offensive tools already makes him one of the most dangerous stoppers in the game.

Toronto also has one of the best offensive tandems behind the plate in Alejandro Kirk, 24, and Danny Jansen, 27. The emergence and poise of Kirk, who was named an All-Star last season for the first time , made Toronto comfortable with one of baseball’s top catching prospects, Gabriel Moreno, in Arizona this offseason.

The Moreno deal brought another impactful young talent to Toronto in 26-year-old Daulton Varsho, who checked a lot of boxes for a Blue Jays team in need of better outfield defense and more left-handed bats in the bullpen. alignment As good as the Blue Jays were last year in a second consecutive 90-plus win season, the 2023 version could be more complete.

Potential hit: 2 (out of 5)

In an effort to improve their major league roster, the Blue Jays prospect list has taken a hit in recent years. This is especially the case when it comes to the position player.

The last example was Moreno, but there are others. Shortstop Austin Martin, the Blue Jays’ top pick in 2021, was traded to Minnesota in the Jose Berrios deal. Center fielder Jordan Groshans, Toronto’s top pick in 2018, was sent to Miami last summer to improve Toronto’s bullpen with Anthony Bass and Zach Pop.

Still, the Blue Jays have some depth in their middle infield prospect ranks, even if most of those players, including Orelvis Martinez and Tucker Toman, are long-term projects.

Despite falling outside of most top 100 lists, Martinez is considered the best position player prospect in the system. He has played primarily shortstop last year, but also split time at third base last year and could end up at the latter spot. The power is obvious in the 21-year-old — he has 65 homers in 256 career minor league games — but the jump to Double-A last year led to a slew of strikeouts and difficulty getting on base . He was only 20 years old, so there is time for his plate discipline to improve.

A couple of players who could help early are Otto Lopez, who starred for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic, and Addison Barger. Lopez’s utility and contact skills could lead to an Opening Day roster spot for the 24-year-old. Barger, a sixth-round pick in 2018, was also an option to start the year in the big league club before being optioned to Triple-A on Monday.

Barger may not be far off, though, especially if there’s an injury to the infield. The 23-year-old was the biggest player development story in the system last year, posting an organization-best 151 wRC+ while posting an OPS over .900 in every stop since high-A all the way up to Double-A and Triple-A. He has logged time at all spots in the outfield, which could make it easier for Toronto to call him up, even if only in a platoon situation against righties.

Big League Pitches: 7 (of 10)

After a string of first-round performers, 2019 top pick Alek Manoah flipped the mold. He zoomed through the system, going from low-A in 2019 to cutting major league hitters in 2021. Last year, the 6-foot-6 righty earned his first All-Star and finished third in the AL Cy Young Award voting.

Manoah possesses a distinctive ability to induce smooth contact with his four-tone blend. The combination of Manoah and Kevin Gausman should give the Blue Jays one of the most formidable starting pitching duos in baseball for years to come.

Beyond Manoah and reliever Nate Pearson, however, is a veteran pitching staff in Toronto.

The Blue Jays had two first-round picks in 2017. The first, shortstop Logan Warmoth, hasn’t progressed past Triple A. The second, Pearson, became the top prospect in the Blue Jays’ system. But he’s still trying to hold his own as a Major League player.

Injuries played a big role in changing Pearson’s expectations from a potential ace to a bullpen piece. The hard-throwing right-hander is competing for a spot on the Major League roster, but regardless of where he starts the year, this will be a big season for the 26-year-old. His high velocity fastball can still be a weapon if he shows more command and control.

Pitching prospect: 3 (of 5)

That brings us to the top prospect in the Blue Jays system and Toronto’s lone player on the top 100 prospect lists, pitcher Ricky Tiedemann.

While the 20-year-old lefty never pitched beyond Double-A last year, and the Blue Jays’ rotation doesn’t immediately need his services, he can force his way onto the major league roster in next year, or sooner.

A 19-year-old last season, Tiedemann posted a 2.17 ERA with 117 strikeouts in 78.2 innings while moving up from Low-A to High-A to Double-A. He thrived at every level, averaging over 11 strikeouts over nine innings in each stop. The Blue Jays have handled Tiedemann carefully and will likely continue to exercise caution, especially after dealing with shoulder soreness this spring, but the 2021 third-round pick has the potential to provide top-line upside as the Blue Jays fourth or fifth option behind. Manoah, Gausman and Chris Bassitt.

The Blue Jays lost a bunch of highly regarded pitching prospects in recent years, with Nick Frasso going to the Dodgers in the Mitch White deal, and Simeon Woods Richardson going to Minnesota in the Berrios trade, but there should still be ‘have help coming soon Yosver Zulueta. The 25-year-old Cuban right-hander has been held back in recent years by Tommy John surgery and a torn ACL.

Zulueta threw just 55.2 innings in his return last year, but he did so while ascending from low A to Triple A. He still hasn’t fully tapped into his control, walking 32 batters in those 55, 2 innings, but also struck out 84 batters in that time. While he might have the arsenal to start, it wouldn’t be surprising if Toronto opted to use those 90s fastballs in the Blue Jays bullpen at some point this year.

Rowan Kavner covers the Dodgers and NL West for FOX Sports. He previously served as editor of the Dodgers’ digital and print publications. Follow him on Twitter at @Rowan Kavner.

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