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It is the middle of winter and minor league baseball news is almost non-existent.  Baseball America and John Sickels' prospect books are a month away from my mailbox so to keep me going I thought I would look at the Jays minor league system one more time.  This time I decided to put myself in JP Ricciardi's shoes and ask myself What help is likely coming from the system in the next couple of years?  Which prospects should I count on and which ones should I discount?


Curtis Thigpen is the Jays best, and perhaps the only, hope for the future.  Thigpen has exceeded expectations since he was drafted in 2004 in the second round, 57th overall.  His success and development is a credit to the Jays scouts and minor league coaches.  Thigpen had been the number two catcher in his final year at the University of Texas and as a result was not seen as a top catching prospect.  Many scouts liked Thigpen's athleticism but thought he might end up at second base.  Thigpen has been an overachiever since he was drafted and advanced to AAA in his third season.  In this years Arizona Fall League Thigpen was the starting catcher in the championship game and was singled out for credit by his coach.  At this point it looks like Thigpen could be penciled in as at least one half of a catching platoon for 2008.  The major knock against Thigpen is his arm where he is in Greg Zaun territory.  His manager in AAA this season will be former major league catcher Jody Davis, who will work with Thigpen to improve his catching skills.

Other than Thigpen there are no obvious starters.  Eric Kratz is an excellent defensive catcher and could make it as a defensive specialist.  Josh Bell's defense has not developed; Brian Jeroloman's offense is still not there.  Jon Jaspe's offense is good but the Jays left him in Pulaski this season as a 21 year-old which is not a good sign, if they see potential the Jays push their prospects.  The wild card is Robinzon Diaz, a slasher of a hitter whose defence and attitude have been questioned by coaches and teammates.  After two full seasons in Dunedin, Diaz will face a make or break year this year in AA.

Summary:  Thigpen looks like a sure bet to make it, everyone else is a long shot.

First base

Chip Cannon.  Following a strong AFL campaign Cannon will look to build on that success at Syracuse in 2007.  Cannon has two major objectives this season and achieving either one will give him a much-improved chance to be a major leaguer.  Objective number one will be to make better contact and cut down on his strikeouts.  Cannon struck out 30% of the time in AA, a percentage that usually increases in AAA and the major leagues.  The strikeouts can be tolerated if Cannon were to hit a whole load more home runs, call it the Ryan Howard method.  That brings us to objective number two, Cannon hit 27 home runs last season, if he can get close to 40 in AAA the strikeouts will be more tolerable.

After Cannon the pickings are slim, minor league free agents Kevin Barker and Josh Kreuzer manned first in AAA and high A in 2006, with David Hicks and Luke Hopkins handling the bag lower down.  Hicks has no power and Hopkins doesn't make enough contact or hit for average.

Summary:  Cannon is still a long shot to be a major league starter.
Second base

Major league second basemen are often shortstops in the minor leagues who get converted to second, a la Aaron Hill.  Ryan Roberts, who spent some time with the Jays last season, is another overachiever.  Roberts is a converted third baseman and is close to major league ready as a fielder, and is close as a hitter, and could make it due to his drive to succeed.  Roberts has never been highly touted but continues to put up numbers at each stop and among all the Jays prospects could make it and prove the scouts wrong.  Manny Mayorson and Juan Peralta, at AA and high A, are below major league caliber with their bats.  At the lower levels Sean Shoffit started strongly last season but faded, Wesley Stone had a very good 2005 but a disappointing 2006.  Scott Campbell had a strong rookie campaign this season.

The Jays have a wild card at second base, Anthony Hatch, who is going to settle at second having been a utility infielder for his first two seasons.  Hatch has hit wherever he has played but has had injury woes.  Hatch had surgery on both wrists in the off-season, if he can return from that surgery and continue to hit he could move quickly up through the system.
Summary:  Ryan Roberts is a long shot but could be a late bloomer; the others have a lot to prove.


The shortstops are the big-time athletes among the fielders but they need to convert the athleticism into results.  It is easy to see the athleticism in Sergio Santos; he has size, speed, a great arm and pop in his bat (at least in BP).  Unfortunately Santos has been unable to make good contact against AAA pitchers and a .214 batting average last season kills his prospects.  Santos was young for triple A when he first arrived but now he turned 23 on the last fourth of July so he is at an age where he is expected to perform in AAA.  Santos has the arm for short but not the range so he profiles as a major league third baseman but until his bat improves Troy Glaus has no worries.  In some ways Ryan Klosterman is similar to Santos, he has pop in his bat (16 home runs in 2006), has some speed and a good arm, but strikes out a little too often.  Klosterman is more of a dirt-bagger, a scrappy player, who hits better than Santos, and because of that is now a better prospect than Santos.  None of the lower level shortstops hit enough to put much faith in them, Chris Guttierez, Jesus Gonzalez, Jason Armstrong and Jonathan Diaz each underperformed with the bat.

Summary:  Klosterman is the best option here but in these days of offensive shortstops he might top out as a utility player.

Third base

The third basemen at Syracuse, John Hattig and Rob Cosby, don't field well enough to stay there at the major league level, and likely don't hit enough to play elsewhere, although Hattig has been hampered by injuries.  Elsewhere the third basemen struggled with the bat.

Summary: Third is the weakest position in the system.  The Jays signed 16-year-old Balbino Fuenmayor last season to try and improve but he is a long way away, assuming he develops better than Leance Soto.

Centre field

Wayne Lydon has left the organization, Justin Singleton is too old and strikes out too much, Dustin Majewski hit .233 at AA, Yuber Rodriguez less than that in A ball and Ryan Patterson is a corner outfielder. 

Summary:  Majewski is a big maybe, then it is hope for 2006 draftees Adam Calderone or Chris Emmanuele.  Probably the second weakest position in the system.

Corner outfielder

Finally some good news, Adam Lind and Travis Snider are the Jays top two prospects.  Ryan Patterson is highly rated by scouts but struggled with his promotion to AA in mid-2006.  Patterson has an unusual stance and the jury is still out on whether he can keep that approach through the major leagues.  After Patterson, John-Ford Griffin missed most of 2006 due to injury and David Smith had an OK 2006 in AA.  Ontario player Jonathan Baksh hit well in his first season as did young Joheromyn Chavez.

Summary: Lind and Snider look good, Patterson could be OK.

Hitter's summary: The Jays will count on three players, Lind, Snider and Thigpen.  All others have issues with Patterson, Cannon, Roberts and Klosterman's potential swinging between fringe major leaguers and career minor leaguers.

Starting Pitcher

Most major league relievers were starting pitchers in the minor leagues.  Pitchers who profile as relievers are often used as starters in the minors to give them a regular turn in the rotation and a chance to work on their pitches over their five or six innings.  In 2006 the Jays moved pitchers Billy Carnline, Kyle Ginley and Chase Lirette into the rotation even though they profile as relievers.

Starting pitcher is the Jays best-stocked position, at least in terms of quantity.  Dustin McGowan and Casey Janssen are first in line for starting jobs in 2007, McGowan needs to learn how to command his impressive repertoire and Janssen needs to learn from his 2006 exposure to major league hitters.  Remember that Janssen did have some success against major leaguers before he lost confidence and changed his approach last season.

After McGowan and Janssen the Jays have a lot of AA pitchers who have yet to prove themselves at AAA, Josh Banks, Ismael Ramirez, Ricky Romero, David Purcey, Ty Taubenheim, Jesse Litsch, Chi-Hung Cheng, Eric Fowler.  Seeing who gets to be a part of the AAA starting rotation will be one of the interesting parts of the spring.  Banks and Taubenheim have spent time in AAA but neither has been able to consistently dominate hitters.  Romero, Ramirez and Litsch are on their way up and need to prove themselves.  Ramirez has good stuff but might profile as a Francisco Rosario type reliever; Romero is a classic lefty, Litsch a righty, each without dominating stuff, their success depends on location and developing that "out pitch".  Cheng and Fowler are lower in the system and might develop into lefty relievers.  Purcey is the biggest wildcard, he could be the best of the bunch if he finds his control, or he could flame out.  Brandon Magee, a 2006 draftee, could move quickly in 2007.

Summary:  McGowan and Janssen are the best options for the start of 2007.  There are half a dozen guys lined up behind them, all with question marks, and all hoping to prove themselves worthy of a shot in 2007.  Does quantity turn into quality? 

Relief Pitcher

Kyle Yates, Franciso Rosario, Jamie Vermilyea, Davis Romero, and Tracey Thorpe are all close and either one could potentially win a bullpen spot with the Jays sometime in 2007.  Thorpe and Rosario have the best stuff, featuring mid 90's fastballs.  Yates, Vermilyea and Romero are control type pitchers, Yates a curveball specialist, Vermilyea a sinker slider, ground ball pitcher and Romero the crafty lefty.  When it comes to the major leagues it is all about results rather than potential and you could argue that the soft-tossers have a better chance than the hard throwers.  Paul Phillips, Billy Carnline, Kyle Ginley, Chase Lirette, Po-Hsuan Keng have entered the prospect pipeline but are a few years away.

Summary: There could be some bullpen help available in 2007, 2008 and 2009.  Unfortunately unless some of them develop into closers the trade value of relievers is not high.

Pitching summary:  The Jays have quantity but it needs to be major league quantity, not AAA quantity.


The Jays have three position players that appear to have an excellent chance to contribute to the parent club.  They also have fifteen pitchers who could help, but none are sure things.  The Jays farm system will be judged in the next few years on how many of those pitching prospects make it.  As we have seen this winter pitching talent can net a very high return in the trade market.  With all the money floating around MLB these days, JP's fortune could also be tied to the future of these pitching prospects.

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Mike Forbes - Tuesday, January 02 2007 @ 09:44 PM EST (#161478) #
Great report. I love all the minor league stuff you guys do. With all these picks and a supposedly fairly deep draft this year, next years report should look alot better for the future than this one does.
Rob - Tuesday, January 02 2007 @ 11:24 PM EST (#161481) #
A summary of the hitter summaries:
Looks good: Thigpen, Lind, Snider
Maybe: Patterson, Klosterman
Not so much: Cannon, Roberts, Balbino, Majewski

Or, if you prefer the Top 30 ranks of hitting prospects:
Looks good: 3, 1, 2
Maybe: 4, 6
Not so much: 5, 7, Rising, not listed.

I found this interesting, which means I'm probably the only one.

And Gerry, thanks a lot for the Phelps memories.
Anders - Wednesday, January 03 2007 @ 01:31 AM EST (#161482) #
Shaun Marcum was left off the list, presumably because he spent a lot of time in the show last year. I don't know about other people, but I like him better than Janssen, and I think the Jays could do worse than having him in as the number 5 guy after the way he pitched last year.
Mylegacy - Wednesday, January 03 2007 @ 02:01 AM EST (#161483) #

I've always been very interested in the Baby Jays, going back to 1982 - 83.

I'd like to comment more on this thread in more detail, and might later if I get more time...BUT, about  Casey Janssen... this guy is a VERY good pitcher. His minor league stats have been VERY impressive. He was rushed last year and was quite good at first. He had a pitch that he was throwing from a low to a higher plane and I remember the announcers being very impressed about it and comparing it to ?, unfortunately I can't remember who they compared it to...BUT, I remember being impressed with the comparison and impressed with Casey's pitching. For some reason he got away from that pitch and that seemed to coincide with his effectiveness being reduced. He can throw up to 93-94. That is a slightly + major league fastball. I think he might be a real sleeper this year.

I have said here many times the reason we are in the state we are in is that we were counting on League, McGowan and Rosario to all be front line guys by now. League is there, this year if a FINALLY healthy McGowan and Rosario rise to their potential we will be in EXCELLENT shape.

I often hear that the Jays have very few non-finesse pitchers... it ain't true... League, McGowan, Rosario, Thorpe, Houston, Purcey and Berroa can ALL pitch in the upper 90's.

Gerry - Wednesday, January 03 2007 @ 08:42 AM EST (#161484) #
One additional comment, with the Jays having only a few high impact prospects, at least ones with few question marks, Baseball America is likely to rank the Jays in the mid-20's once again when they rank all the organizations farm systems.
ayjackson - Wednesday, January 03 2007 @ 09:55 AM EST (#161485) #

I'm a little confused at your profiling of Lirette and Ginley as relievers.  They seemed to have success this year as starters, and their certainly young enough to develop their secondary pitches.

What is the rationale behind this?

ayjackson - Wednesday, January 03 2007 @ 10:03 AM EST (#161486) #

I too am quite encouraged at Mr. Janssen's prospects.  Last year's stats, despite the dissappointing struggle that led to his demotion, hold up pretty well.

Opponents' OPS against him was only .758, his WHIP was 1.32 and his GB% was 60.  These are encouraging numbers.  Some will point to his K rate of 4.2, but when you're not allowing a lot of baserunners, and have the knack to induce grounders, the big K isn't as crucial.

Chuck - Wednesday, January 03 2007 @ 10:23 AM EST (#161487) #
It is the rare pitcher that survives for very long with such a low K rate. Janssen did strike guys out in the minors, so hopefully we'll see evidence of that this season.
John Northey - Wednesday, January 03 2007 @ 11:10 AM EST (#161488) #

If Janssen continues the struggles in the second half, and given he is viewed as being able to K more than he has, perhaps he should get the 'Halladay treatment' - ie: given a personal coach and sent way down to rework his arm action, then worked through the system until he is ready to do well at the bigs again.

Like Halladay Janssen had a quick start despite a poor K rate, then collapsed.  Halladay had more success (163 quality innings over 1 season plus a Sept callup) and a bit better K rate (5.4 per 9), but a horrid K-BB ratio (barely better than 1-1).  Janssen is 2-1 for K-BB ratio.  Given those differences it might not be as effective but it did work amazingly well once, why not try again? 

One more factor, Halladay started the process in his age 23 season and continued in his age 24 season while Janssen would be doing it in his age 25 season. 

Still, I am surprised not to hear of this being done more often, taking a top prospect who is having issues and giving him a top quality personal coach for a year while in the minors.  Perhaps it is done more than we know but isn't announced as such.  AFAIK Halladay was the only one who had it done though after showing some success in the majors (sent to A ball and worked back up without injuries being the cause).

Jordan - Wednesday, January 03 2007 @ 11:59 AM EST (#161489) #

Terrific work, as always, Gerry. It's great to see Tracey Thorpe back on the prospect lists -- after his injuries and slow return, I had pretty much written him off, prematurely it seems. If he does somehow manage to make it all the way back for the Jays, it would be the equivalent of finding a $50 bill in an old coat pocket. He was very highly regarded when he first came into the system.

I have to think that Travis Snider's eventual destination is going to be first base or DH rather than the outfield, but that's fine -- assuming the Jays hold on to Alex Rios (as I hope they will), they can count on a Lind-Wells-Rios outfield for years to come. Out of all the fringe-type prospects Gerry mentioned, I'm highest on the three Ryans: Roberts, Patterson and Klosterman. I think they'll all contribute at the major-league level at some point, though I agree none appears likely to be an everyday starter.

krose - Wednesday, January 03 2007 @ 12:57 PM EST (#161493) #
Thanks Gerry. This is an interesting thread for this rather slow part of the year.

Could we try a bit of a tangent with this thread and consider how the prospects might fit with the 40 man roster? I realize that there will likely be trades prior to, or during, spring training. However, several of the top level pitching prospects are out of options and there may not be room for them on the 25 man roster post spring training. I believe McGowan and Rosario are two who fit this category.

If the season were to start tomorrow could we project a strting five of Halliday, Burnett, Chacin, Marcum and Towers? (If there is a problem with numbers on the active roster, Towers might escape being sent down without a claim. However, if he has regained his composure, as he's done in the past, he could be a valuable pitcher at the price he is paid.) Ryan, League, Frasor, Tallet, McGowan, Rosario and Accardo would need to be the relief core because they cannot be sent down. Are Roney, Janssen and Taubenheim also out of options?
ayjackson - Wednesday, January 03 2007 @ 03:27 PM EST (#161497) #

I was certainly under the impression that Janssen, Accardo and Tallet had options remaining, and that McGowan would likely be granted a fourth.

ds - Wednesday, January 03 2007 @ 04:07 PM EST (#161500) #

Accardo,  Taubenheim and Janssen still have options.  The Jays have applied for an extra option year for McGowan but it is unlikely to be given.  Roney I am not so sure about.

CeeBee - Wednesday, January 03 2007 @ 04:09 PM EST (#161501) #
Thanks for the very interesting prospects discussion. I love reading the minor league reports  and this article really hit the mark on a snowy January day.
krose - Wednesday, January 03 2007 @ 07:19 PM EST (#161505) #
Gerry: Although the thread is intriguing, the issue of not being able to post directly to board leaves one not so self assured. A little help would be appreciated!
infielddad - Wednesday, January 03 2007 @ 08:07 PM EST (#161507) #
I think it is being overlooked that Janssen is a relative neophyte as a pitcher.  He really only became a pitcher on a full time basis his final year at UCLA.  When you consider he is very smart, an extremely hard worker, and will be starting only his 4th year focused solely on pitching, I believe his upside is still signficant.
Also, some of the players who are question marks played last season with signficant injuries but were not shut down.  At least one  played the entire season at perhaps  60-70% of his ability.  With offseason surgery and optimism for a full recovery, things can change drastically from what some, who did not know how debilitating the injury truly was, might consider a disappointing season.

Gerry - Wednesday, January 03 2007 @ 10:43 PM EST (#161508) #

I did leave Marcum off as I looked on him as being a major leaguer now.  While I believe in Marcum I don't see a huge difference between  Dave Bush and he, and JP said Bush was not an AL East pitcher, so I think JP would only use Marcum as a starter as a last recourse.

I think Janssen will come back stronger, which is what I suggested in the story.  In baseball we have a tendency to look at what a rookie did last and assume that's how good he is.  But most players struggle to adapt to the major leagues and those that can adapt survive.  I think Janssen will adapt and thrive.

Ginley and Lirrette began as relievers and moved to be starters, Ginley made two starts in ten appearances.  Carnline also started as a reliever and moved to being a starter.  These guys could end up as starters but they need to develop their third or fourth pitches to be successful.

krose, I am not up to speed on the 40 man, I don't really follow it that closely.  There will probably be a stroy on this site re: the 40 man soon.  Not sure what you meant by the second post, are you logged in to see all comments?

ayjackson - Thursday, January 04 2007 @ 10:13 AM EST (#161518) #
Sickels has downgraded Travis Snider from an A- to a B+.
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