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The Batters Box top 30 prospects returns tomorrow after a break in 2020. The 2021 minor league season was a different one from when we last rated propects. It started late, it finished later, the minor leagues were reorganized and the number of affiliates reduced.

Before the season there was a lot of discussion around the impact of the reduced number of affiliates. In 2019 the Jays had four full season teams and four short season teams. In 2021 there were four full season teams and two short season teams (Florida and the Dominican complex teams). That left fewer opportunities for players particularly around the A ball level. It also meant that some players who in 2019 would go to Vancouver or Bluefield now would have to go to Dunedin or stay in the FCL. It was a sink or swim for the prospects at that level.

There was also the uncertainty around how much repetitions did players get in 2020. Some players spent time at the minor league complex, others had no official reps in 2020. Some scouts suggested that players were rusty to start 2021 and that play was often poor in the first few months of the season. Those comments faded as we got into summer. But when we look at prospects performance in 2021, we might have to forgive slow starts from players who might have had to sit out 2020.

The major objective of the minor leagues was achieved in 2021 as the system produced help for the major league team. Alek Manoah was outstanding. Santiago Espinal, Reece McGuire and Alejandro Kirk were valuable pieces of the roster. Josh Palacios, Kevin Smith, Riley Adams, Otto Lopez, Ty Tice, Nick Allgeyer, Kirby Snead, Tayler Saucedo and Bryan Baker all were introduced to major league baseball.

In addition to Manoah, Kirk and Espinal graduating from the top 30 list, Nate Pearson, Thomas Hatch and Anthony Kay graduated due to time spent on the major league roster, most of it on the IL unfortunately.

The Blue Jays traded seven players off the 2019 top 30 prospects list, and that doesn't include Austin Martin who was drafted in 2020. The traded players were Simeon Woods Richardson, Kendall Williams, Yennsy Diaz, Griffin Conine, Riley Adams, Josh Winkowski and Hector Perez. In addition Patrick Murphy and TJ Zeuch were lost on waiver claims. Between the trades and graduations there is plenty of room for some new blood on the 2021 list.

As I looked over the top 30 list for 2021 I had a couple of general observations. First, there will probably be a lack of pitching support for the major leagues in 2022 from the system. Most of the top rated pitchers on the top 30 are those from the 2021 draft. You can see why the Jays selected so many pitchers in this years draft. Also the Jays have traded Simeon Woods Richardson, Josh Winkowski and Kendall Williams in the last two years.

Luckily, or with good foresight, the Jays have four starters locked up for the next few years. Ryu, Berrios, Gausman and Manoah provide a strong core. Who could the Jays count on to be a fifth starter or a backup for injuries? You do have the previously mentioned trio of Pearson, Hatch and Kay. Ross Stripling could return to a starters role. But they all have questions over how effective they can be in the major leagues. There are two AAA pitchers on the 40 man roster, Bowden Francis and Zack Logue. Both are 25 years old and there is some uncertainty as to whether they can be successful in the major leagues. The Jays signed several free agents last season to pitch at AAA and AA as their system didn't have enough depth to fill those spots internally. They will likely have to do the same in 2022.

It will take a few years for the system to provide pitching help. The pitchers drafted in 2020 and 2021 are working their way up but it will be 2023 or more likely 2024 before they can be counted on.

The other thing I noted was the volume of injuries in 2021. I already mentioned Pearson, Hatch and Kay all who were injured in 2021. But think of the Jays top prospects. Gabriel Moreno missed a lot of time, Orelvis Martinez and Jordan Groshans couldn't finish the season. Leo Jimenez also missed a lot of time. One of the Jays top international prospects, Estivan Machado, had one at bat. Joey Murray pitched two thirds of an inning, Eric Pardinho pitched two innings, CJ Van Eyk had Tommy John surgery after the season, as he told our own Niall O'Donoghue. At the higher levels both Josh Palacios and Chavez Young missed time.

Injuries are part of the game but the Jays seemed to have more than their fair share in 2021.

Between the trades, graduations and injuries the Jays system has lost some of its luster. Once you get past the first few top prospects there are questions and concerns over most of the list. This is normal in the prospect world but it seems more pronounced for the Jays system this year.

Over the next three days we will reveal the top 30. And then on Friday we will review some of those who just missed. There was a lot of very close decisions at the bottom of the list and we will see that on Friday.

Top 30 Prospects Returning | 14 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
bpoz - Monday, January 10 2022 @ 07:35 AM EST (#410323) #
Thanks Gerry and da Box's other contributors.

I did not know about the TJ to Van Eyk. So his 2021 stats were weakened by the bad elbow.
Gerry - Monday, January 10 2022 @ 08:37 AM EST (#410325) #
I would say Van Eyk's starts were cut short by a bad elbow but his other stats were correct as his elbow went towards the end of the season. Here is Niall's interview with Van Eyk where he says he tore his UCL in his last start. Van Eyk had issues with his delivery that were noted during the season. He was working on having a more consistent delivery when he was injured.
John Northey - Monday, January 10 2022 @ 09:11 AM EST (#410326) #
For those wondering about the past here are the links... So this will be interesting to see. Especially vs the 2021 FanGraphs, current MLB, and Baseball America lists. Sadly the BA is limited to subscribers so I can't check it, nor can most here I suspect. I do get the Athletic so I'll see Keith Law's when it comes out at least.

FYI: This is one part of the Box I don't contribute to as my minor league knowledge is limited to the web and to be honest I can't remember 90% of who is in our minors anymore. In my teens and 20's I knew every player and could probably run off a list of top prospects for other organizations and even project out rosters for most (yeah, I had no life then). Now I have to keep my kids busy with virtual school.
Mike Green - Monday, January 10 2022 @ 09:33 AM EST (#410328) #
I clicked on one of John's links and came to the name "Cal Stevenson", and wondered what he was up to.  Last year, he was acquired by Tampa and played centerfield for their Southern League affiliate in Montgomery.  He slashed  .254/.368/.403 with 9 homers in 350 PAs and a 56/78 W/K.   He turns 26 in September, and he has Pillar-like odds against him making it as a major league centerfielder.  Youneverknow though.  The Rays do like players with a broad base of offensive talent. 
John Northey - Monday, January 10 2022 @ 10:08 AM EST (#410329) #
Every year I put a list of past top 30 lists in each group. The top 10 from 2004 (the first top 30 here) had Aaron Hill (excellent player), Josh Banks (negative WAR), Brandon League (lasted 11 seasons but just 2.7 WAR), Francisco Rosario (negative WAR), Shaun Marcum (nice 9 year career 13.4 WAR), Gustavo Chacin (4.1 WAR in 5 seasons, plus a cologne), Dustin McGowan (perpetual prospect 10 year career 1.6 WAR), Jamie Vermilyea (2 games 6 IP), John Hattig (29 PA 117 OPS+ - thought he deserved more of a chance), David Purcey (5 seasons 0.1 WAR). Surprised all 10 got at least a tiny chance. Hill the star, Marcum next, the rest were meh at best and probably replaceable by any AAAA guy you could find. Of the rest of the top 30 Adam Lind (12.7 WAR) was the best by far - many names I had forgotten about.
ISLAND BOY - Monday, January 10 2022 @ 11:44 AM EST (#410332) #
For those interested Matt W at Bluebird Banter is doing an analysis of every draft class from the beginning in 1977, He is doing 3 years a week from 1977 up to the present.

In 1977, the inaugural year, the Jays only picked 16 players in the draft and signed just 11 of them, primarily because they only had one short season team as a minor league system and had no room for any more. I hadn't known that the only productive player from that draft, Jesse Barfield, was drafted in the ninth round. The only other player to make it to the big leagues was Danny Ainge and he soon returned to basketball which was a sport he was actually good at.
BlueJayWay - Monday, January 10 2022 @ 11:46 AM EST (#410333) #
Wow. Somehow I had completely missed (or forgotten) that CJVE had TJS.
Gerry - Monday, January 10 2022 @ 01:43 PM EST (#410334) #
I think that was a Niall scoop. Fangraphs didn't mention it in their write-up of Van Eyk.
John Northey - Monday, January 10 2022 @ 03:00 PM EST (#410335) #
More details on Van Eyk - here in an interview. Video and text.
scottt - Monday, January 10 2022 @ 03:30 PM EST (#410336) #
Interesting. "We got like 14 other guys in there that tore their UCL this year too."

Who is "We"?

Gerry - Monday, January 10 2022 @ 03:48 PM EST (#410338) #
We is the Blue Jays.

If you mean who are the other guys, I can think of Jackson Rees, Nick Frasso, probably count Eric Pardinho. Yosver Zulueta and Joey Murray are rehabbing from other injuries but might get lumped into the "rehab" group.

That's all I have off the top of my head.
BlueMonday - Monday, January 10 2022 @ 04:59 PM EST (#410339) #
Sadly the BA is limited to subscribers so I can't check it ...

Baseball America 2020 Top 10 List:
1. Moreno, C
2. Pearson, RHP
3. Orelvis Martinez, SS/3B
4. Groshans, SS/3B
5. Hoglund, RHP
6. Otto Lopez, 2B/OF/SS
7. Kevin Smith, SS/3B
8. Manuel Beltre, SS
9. Ricky Tiedermann, LHP
10. Leonardo Jiminez, SS/2B

Their top 30 list is from 2021, so I think it comes out at another time of year.
John Northey - Monday, January 10 2022 @ 06:25 PM EST (#410340) #
Thanks BlueMonday. Baseball Prospectus also has their Jay prospect list up but again behind a subscriber paywall. I'm starting to collect all of them for the overall summary article I'll do closer to spring as more get published. I think BP, BA, and Keith Law have them behind paywalls. Some others have them just out there. I get the need for paywalls and I do pay for the Athletic but BP and BA haven't appealed enough to me to pay for them yet. (hey, I do have a budget)
bpoz - Tuesday, January 11 2022 @ 06:37 AM EST (#410341) #
Jan 15th (Sat) is the int'l signing date. There is a top 50 list which I have not gone through.
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