Looks like I made it just under the wire. The day after I post the final segment of my four-part review of the Jays' system, Top Prospect Alert posts the first of its Top Ten Prospects for each organization. The Jays are ranked 21st out of the 30 clubs (you'll have to scroll down a bit to find them), but the author indicates that this farm system is climbing the ladder rapidly, and I entirely agree.
What I don't entirely agree with is with the TPA Blue Jays' Top Ten, in both content and ranking.
In terms of the content, TPA places Francisco Rosario at #3, and while Rosario has (or had) huge upside, I don't think any pitcher who's just undergone serious surgery should be ranked this high on a prospect list until he's proven he's recovered from the procedure. Moreover, they have Guillermo Quiroz #6, and I think Quiroz would be fortunate to be on a Top 20 list, let alone a Top Ten: all he's shown after five years in the minors is that he might be the next Henry Blanco, and that's not something I get excited about.
In terms of the rankings, well ... reasonable people can differ in their opinions, and they can certainly differ in terms of how they define "prospect." Some rank minor-leaguers according to how close they are to the majors, others in terms of the certainty of their success, others in terms of their projected eventual impact. There's also the question of your criteria: there's a wide gulf between the Baseball America scouting approach and the Baseball Prospectus sabrmetric approach.
Mark Jerkatis, who conducts TPA's evaluations, has this to say about his methodology:
[I]n the “tools vs. performance” argument I lean toward statistical performance evaluation, and have shown over the last few years that it in fact does outperform traditional “scouting” methods if looked at in isolation. The reality is that looking at either method in isolation isn’t nearly as good as being able to blend both methods. So for me “prospect value” is actually measured on a continuum of both “peak value” and the likelihood of achieving it.
That mirrors my own approach pretty closely, and so the fact that his list and mine differ so much is really testament to the difficulty of getting potential to stand in a straight line. And like me, Mark does this for fun and not for profit, so I'm not going to give him too hard a time. I do have to note, however, that he still has Matt Ford listed in the Jays' system.
That said, here's the TPA Top Ten:
1. Jayson Werth
2. Dustin McGowan
3. Francisco Rosario
4. Jason Arnold
5. Gabe Gross
6. Guillermo Quiroz
7. Jason Perry
8. Kevin Cash
9. Brandon League
10. Alexis Rios
As mentioned, I'd drop Quiroz and Rosario, and I'm not really an Alexis Rios believer either. I'm not at all sure about Werth as #1 prospect, since he'll probably spend up to half the year in the big leagues, and even at that I think his most likely comp is someone like Bobby Higginson -- not bad, but not Dale Murphy, certainly. But Mark admits that identifying the #1 Jays prospect is difficult, and he's right, so I won't belabour the point further.
As for the rest, well, maybe the best thing to do is present my own off-the-cuff Jays Top Ten Prospects List, for compare-and-contrast purposes. My own ranking system is most similar to one I referenced earlier: the player's projected eventual impact in the majors. The only caveat is that I mark down A-Ball pitchers, because they're such crap shoots at this stage of their careers.
1. Russ Adams
2. Gabe Gross
3. Jason Arnold
4. Tyrell Godwin
5. John-Ford Griffin
6. Jayson Werth
7. Mike Smith
8. Dominic Rich
9. Jason Perry
10. Kevin Cash
T11. David Bush
T11. Dustin McGowan
T11. Brandon League
Okay, so it's a baker's dozen, I cheated. The only one I'm really unsure of his Jason Perry: maybe he ought to be higher, but as fantabulous as his debut was, Pioneer League stats are awfully risky to use for projecting upside. It's also possible that I've undervalued Dominic Rich, and that Gross should be #1 instead of Adams. The three 11th-place guys are all A-Ball pitchers, but I think each of their ceilings could easily outstrip Mike Smith's very soon.
So there you have it: the experts' view and your humble correspondent's view. Which of us is right, or less wrong, anyway? Operators are standing by for your call.