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Yesterday's prospect list consisted mainly of players in the lower minors. By contrast, today's prospects, #20-#11 on our Top 30 list, are (with two notable exceptions) well on their way to The Show. Check out the Middle Ten.

20. John-Ford Griffin, OF
Born November 19, 1979. Acquired in a January 2003 trade with the Oakland Athletics.


This off-season will likely see the end of the John-Ford Griffin / Jason Arnold Conjoined Twin career path. Drafted in the first and second rounds, respectively, by the Yankees in 2001, the pair was first traded to Oakland together in the big Ted Lilly – Jeremy Bonderman – Jeff Weaver trade, then headed to Toronto following the 2002 season. In 2003 and 2004, Arnold’s performance and Griffin’s health were intermittent, but this season, Jason's early success in the bullpen was soon overcome by severe homeritis and he is unlikely to last the winter in the Toronto organization. John-Ford, meanwhile, enjoyed a healthy season and delivered 30 homers and 103 RBIs, the only Jay farmhand to reach both the 30-100 markers (Chip Cannon fell short by 2 RBI).

Griffin will be 26 years old next year, and his walk rate needs to improve from good to great for him to be more than a bench player in the majors. Nonetheless, he has already reached the standing of valuable insurance for the big club. Given his status as a former first-rounder and one of the all-time greats of a top-flight NCAA program (Florida State), it’s still conceivable he could be on the Phil Nevin career path. (JG)

19. Ismael Ramirez, RHP
Born March 3, 1981. Signed as an amateur free agent in 1998.


Ramirez was signed out of Venezuela in 1998 and made his North American debut in Rookie Ball in 2001. Ramirez impressed in 2003 at Low-A Charleston, making 22 starts with a 3.02 ERA, and followed that by improving his numbers in 2004 (27 starts, 2.72 ERA) in Dunedin. This year, Ramirez made 27 starts for New Hampshire, and saw his ERA rise to 4.12 ERA. But his WHIP was 1.25, 8% better than league average; moreover, he walked few and struck out batters at the league average rate, so his K/BB ratio was an impressive 3.9. Ramirez’s weak link remains his home run rate -- he allowed 19 round-trippers this year, one more than Josh Banks.

Ramirez sits at around 90-92 with the fastball, and complements it with a slider and change-up. His main challenge this year was to achieve a consistent release point with his delivery: he starts with his arm way over to the non-pitching side and has a tendency to drop his arm and slingshot the ball to the plate. The New Hampshire staff worked hard with Ramirez to help him become more consistent with his arm angle. If all goes well, he could move to Syracuse next year, although the Jays' pitching surplus might keep him at Double-A. (GM)

18. Rob Cosby, 3B
Born April 2, 1981. Selected in the 10th round of the 1999 amateur draft.


How is it that Rob Cosby’s name is only vaguely familiar to many minor-league watchers, yet he outranks such relative household names as John-Ford Griffin, Jamie Vermilyea, and Miguel Negron? Well, the last time we saw Cosby prior to 2005 was in a mere handful of at-bats at Double-A. Before that, he toiled without distinction at High-A Dunedin. But after sitting out most of 2004 recovering from knee surgery, the Cosby show was on in New Hampshire. It featured big time power, with an Isolated Power mark of .199 -- achieved while playing half his games in an absolute pitchers' haven. This came at the expense of his previously good walk rate, but encouragingly, it wasn’t accompanied by the high strikeout totals you’d normally expect with a slugging percentage over .500.

The year lost to injury makes projecting Cosby more difficult: It’s not safe to assume he would have posted these numbers as a 23-year-old in Double-A, but he also can’t be adjusted downward as much as one normally would for being older and more experienced than his competition. The answer will come next year, when Cosby will go to Syracuse and establish whether he can maintain his batting average or improve his walk rate. (JG)

17. Ryan Patterson, OF
Born May 2, 1983. Selected in the 4th round of the 2005 amateur draft.


Patterson had a smashing debut in 2005. He was in close contention for the NYPL Triple Crown, but fell short in home runs by one (to fellow Doubleday Cory Patton) and batting average by .016. He started the year the same way he finished it, posting a solidly consistent season.

Patterson is usually described as having a right-field skill set, but the Blue Jays gave him the starting CF job in Auburn to see what he could do. While I can't speak to his defensive ability with any accuracy, it’s worth nothing that he was frequently moved to RF or LF in the 7th or 8th for defensive purposes.

As for the future, it’s a tough call. His line for the year is better than Adam Lind's .312/.371/.477 2004 Auburn line, but worse than the .351/.469/.605 that Vito Chiaravalloti posted in 2003 – good luck finding any prospect ahead of Lind and behind Chiaravalloti. In other words, once Patterson plays a full season, we’ll know more. (RP)

16. Chi-hung Cheng, LHP
Born June 20, 1985. Signed as an amateur free agent in 2003.


Chi-Hung Cheng is a lefty pitcher from Taiwan who features an outstanding curve and an improving fastball, now in the mid- to high-80s. He jumped from Pulaski in 2004 to Lansing in 2005, and held up admirably, continuing to strike out more than a batter an inning and keeping the ball down. He allowed only 8 homers all season -- no fluke, as his G/F ratio was 1.5/1. Most importantly, there was no indication of strain on his arm. He’ll need to refine his control if he’s going to succeed, however, since he currently walks a batter every two innings and plunks more than his share.

Cheng is only 20, so the Jays will probably move him slowly through the system. I expect him to start 2006 in Dunedin with his compatriot Po Hsuan Keng, and then perhaps get a taste of Double-A at the end of the season if the Fisher Cats are in contention. He’s still a long way from the Show, but there’s a lot to like here. (MG)

15. Ryan Roberts, 2B
Born September 19, 1980. Selected in the 18th round of the 2003 amateur draft.


One of the lowest-drafted players on this list, Roberts' ascent through the system has been gradual and grinding. But make no mistake, he is ascending. With 55 extra-base hits and 79 walks in 502 combined A-AA at-bats, Roberts is displaying both on-base and power skills -- his OBP has topped .370 in four of his five minor-league stops.

I've been comparing Roberts to Mark Bellhorn for a while now, but I’ve come to think there are two significant differences. One is that Bellhorn advanced much more quickly -- he was in the majors for a cup of coffee at 22 and was approaching 1,000 Triple-A at-bats by 25. The other is that Bellhorn is a very poor defensive player, whereas Roberts, who didn't have much of a defensive rep before this season, has drawn raves for his glove and his second-base pivots at New Hampshire. Bellhorn has had an up-and-down (literally) career, but although Roberts' bat might not be as potent, he's a more complete ballplayer (he can run a little, too) and should make an excellent backup second baseman and spot starter in the majors. If he can bring his strikeouts under control, he could be more than that. (JF)

14. Vince Perkins, RHP
Born September 27, 1981. Selected in the 18th round of the 2000 amateur draft.


Like Roberts, Vince Perkins was an 18th-round selection, chosen out of junior college in 2000. Perkins, who grew up and played youth baseball in British Columbia, throws hard, starting with a heavy 94-mph fastball that he can dial up to 96; he complements the heater with a change-up, slider and curveball. He has been bothered by injuries over the past few years, but aside from one stay on the DL, 2005 was much better in that respect. Perkins’ reportoire includes a 93-94 mph fastball that he sometimes dials up to 96. He’s a big guy out on the mound: 6'5" with wide shoulders.

Perkins spent the full year at Double-A, making 24 starts and ending up with a 4.03 ERA. Most of his numbers were around league average, except for his walk rate which, at 3.5, was higher than the league average of 3.1. It should be noted, however, that that walk rate was the best of Perkins’ career, so he is making progress. His K/9 rate, a relatively unimpressive 7.6, was bolstered by a 9.0 rate from July 1 through the end of the season. Perkins will move to Triple-A in 2006, and the key for him there will be to continue developing his off-speed pitches. Like many power pitchers, Perkins can over-rely on his fastball to get him out of trouble at the expense of perfecting the off-speed pitches. (GM)

13. Chip Cannon, 1B
Born November 30, 1981. Selected in the 8th round of the 2004 amateur draft.


In case you're wondering, his raw totals for the year were 460 AB, 26 2B, 5 3B, 32 HR, 98 RBI, 46 BB, 137 K. Cannon, as Omar Malave told Gerry in an interview earlier this year, is a dead-fastball hitter who can adjust to most breaking pitches on the fly. That served him extremely well in A-Ball, but as the breaking stuff got more sophisticated at Double-A, he struggled a little more. That's to be expected, and a tough adjustment was made tougher by arriving in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the minors. But Cannon did adjust: his New Hampshire OBP was 40 points higher in August/September than in his July debut. He did strike out a ton this year, but 32 home runs don't come without a lot of swinging and missing. At two of his stops, his batting average didn't crack .270, so nobody should expect the next Tony Gwynn here.

Right now, Cannon puts me somewhat in mind of another lefty hitter, Ryan Howard, who's been manning first base in Philadelphia the last few months. At 23, Howard posted this line in the Florida State League: 490 AB, .304/.374/.514, 32 2B, 1 3B, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 50 BB, 151 K. The next season, at 24 in Double-A, Howard went off, to the tune of .297/.386/.647, 18 2B, 37 HR, 46 BB, 129 K. In his brief major-league career, Howard is sitting at 324 AB, .285/.350/.540, 21 2B, 22 HR, 31 BB, 105 K. I have serious doubts he can maintain that batting average while striking out once every three at-bats, but I also expect Howard to be an effective big-league hitter down the road, good for a .250 average and 30+ homers in 500 AB. If he can draw enough walks, keep the K’s under control and boost his average, that's what I think Chip Cannon could become by early 2007. (JF)

12. Curtis Thigpen, C
Born April 19, 1983. Selected in the 2nd round of the 2004 amateur draft.


The Blue Jays flew well under the radar to select Thigpen in the second round of the 2004 draft, and thus far, the backstop has not disappointed. After a solid half season as a Lansing Lugnut, the organization challenged him with a two-level promotion to New Hampshire. While his overall line there appears unspectacular, look a little closer and you’ll see that Thigpen did in fact adjust very well to Double-A pitching and Fisher Cats Stadium:

First two weeks: 38 AB, .211/.268/.342, 1 HR, 2 BB, 8 K
Rest of season: 103 AB, .311/.366/.456, 3 HR, 7 BB, 11 K

To be successful in 2006, the former Texas Longhorn should start the season at New Hampshire and earn a promotion to Syracuse by July. If he progresses as rapidly as he did this season, he might well make an appearance at the Rogers Centre by September. (JG)

11. Davis Romero, LHP
Born March 30, 1983. Signed as an amateur free agent in 1999.


The lefty swingman continued his fine pitching in Dunedin in 2005. DIPS loves him, as his BB and K rates are excellent while his HR-allowed rate is good. The only blight on his statistical record is the increase in his H/9 and HR/9 in 2005, particularly early in the season. He responded later in the season by keeping the ball down and inducing many more grounders in the second half.

Davis is only 22 years old. He’s short and thin, but throws an 88-91 mph fastball with a good curve and change. Wisely, the organization has carefully monitored his workload as a young pitcher, and it has paid off to date with a healthy arm. Romero will probably spend most of 2006 in the New Hampshire rotation, although it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him come out of the bullpen at times. A target of 140-150 innings at age 23 would seem about right. He remains a fairly unknown quantity, but success at Double-A in 2006 would likely change that. Whether his future is in the rotation or in the pen remains to be seen. (MG)

Arms dominate the Top 10 Pitching Prospects. I’m not giving away any secrets when I say that everyone on the minor-league crew sees the ordering of the top pitching prospects at least a little differently. We resolved our differences in good spirits and with the help of a calculator. Check out the results tomorrow.

Top 30 Blue Jays Prospects: #20- #11 | 7 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Lugnut Fan - Tuesday, September 27 2005 @ 10:28 AM EDT (#128967) #
I'm watching Thigpen's progression pretty closely. As has been stated many times on this forum, he is a little on the small and light side to be a MLB catcher. It will be really interesting to see what position they move him too (if they move him at all).
Pistol - Tuesday, September 27 2005 @ 10:31 AM EDT (#128968) #
Patterson is interesting. He's consistently hitting around .340-.350 regardless of where he's playing or whether it's a wood or aluminum bat. In addition to the above line he led the Cape League in average at .327 in the summer of 2004 (and the Cape is dominated by pitchers).
superdevin - Tuesday, September 27 2005 @ 10:45 AM EDT (#128969) #
good eye on the blue jays scouts to sign ramirez when he was 7 ;)
Jordan - Tuesday, September 27 2005 @ 10:47 AM EDT (#128971) #
They're getting younger all the time. :-) Error has been fixed.
rtcaino - Tuesday, September 27 2005 @ 10:59 AM EDT (#128973) #
I almost signed a deal when I was 7. Multi-million dollar signing bonus. But Boras made me hold out and then I got injured.
Ducey - Tuesday, September 27 2005 @ 12:17 PM EDT (#128977) #
Here is what Jim Callis at BA said in his recent chat re Yuber and Thigpen:

"Jim Callis: Rodriguez is very toolsy but just had an awful year. He wasn't disciplined and pitchers just took advantage of him. Thigpen did get some mention and his catching skills were better than what I thought they might be. He might be a very good supersub capable of playing almost anywhere, maybe even a regular catcher in the majors."
Gerry - Tuesday, September 27 2005 @ 10:23 PM EDT (#128998) #
BA have their FSL top 20 posted, both David Purcey and Adam Lind make the list.
Top 30 Blue Jays Prospects: #20- #11 | 7 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.