The Blue Jays had a lot of players who could have made the back end of the top 30 list. It was hard to pick who should be in the top 30 and who just missed. So here are the 31's, all of whom are worth watching in 2022.
Francis was number 31 on our list. At this stage Francis is a tweener, he could be a back end major league starter or be limited to AAA. Francis came to the Jays in the Rowdy Tellez trade. In a couple of ways Francis pitched well. In Buffalo he allowed 56 hits in 73 innings and struck out 71. But....he walked 31, or almost one every two innings, and he allowed 16 home runs, or just under two per nine innings.
Francis has been a little homer prone in his career. His best job at avoiding the long ball came at Nashville, just before he was traded. Like Zack Logue, who is in the top 30, Francis has fringy stuff, and needs pinpoint control to avoid being hit around. That control will determine how successful he is in the major leagues.
Juenger was drafted in the sixth round of the 2021 draft by the Jays. Juenger pitched in 11 games for Vancouver and was excellent. In 20 innings he had a WHIP of .75 and a K9 of 15.3. Juenger could easily start 2022 in New Hampshire.
Juenger is still just 21 and has a reliever profile. Juenger pitches from a lower arm angle and has a big slider with late movement. Because of his reliever profile Juenger was left off the top 30 but he could be the first 2022 draftee to make the big leagues.
Castillo was dropped off the 2019 top 30 list. Castillo had a decent year in AA. He made 20 starts and had a 1.4 WHIP and a 7.9 K9. Neither of those numbers suggest he will be good enough for the major leagues.
Castillo's splits versus lefties and righties are similar which doesn't inspire confidence that he could survive as a reliever.
Brown, from Oakville, is another who dropped off the top 30. There are five tools in baseball but the hit tool matters more than the others and that where Brown falls short. He hit .222 in the complex league this year and struck out in 33% of his plate appearances. He also didn't show any improvement from month to month this season.
Brown played this year as a 19 year old, and was probably hurt by the 2020 lockout. In 2022 he will play as a 20 year old and, despite his struggles, he is described as having the tools necessary to succeed. But he will need to show progression in 2022 to get back on a top 30 list.
Robertson was a fourth round pick in 2019 and hit well in that year. But injuries caused him to miss much of the first half of 2021. When he returned he hit .361 in nine games in July for Vancouver. But then he tailed away through the end of the season. Chalk 2021 up as a missed opportunity and look for a rebound in 2022.
Barger hit the third most home runs in the system in 2021, behind Kevin Smith and Orelvis Martinez. He also walked in almost 10% of his at-bats while playing all around the infield, short, second, third and first. So what's not to like? How about a 33% K%?
For Dunedin Barger hit .249, had an OBP of .334 and a slugging percentage of .492. It's a selective approach but he swings for the fences. Barger had a 39% fly ball result on batted balls but also popped up in the infield 27% of the time. All of those indicate an uppercut, home run swing.
Barger did get 5 games in Vancouver to end the season and he will likely start there in 2022. But the strikeout rate is a worry as the pitchers get better.
Johnston came over to the Jays in the Daniel Hudson trade. He began the season starting in New Hampshire but in June the Jays switched him to the bullpen and his results were excellent. He was promoted to Buffalo in August and pitched in 14 games in relief for the Bisons. In those games he held hitters to a .169 batting average and only walked three in 16.2 innings for a 0.75 WHIP. He had 14 strikeouts in those 16 innings suggesting that his "stuff" was less than outstanding. But he was keeping hitters off base.
Johnston was not added to the 40 man roster but he is listed here as he could get a relief call from the Jays in 2022.
Santos is an 18 year old pitcher from Venezuela. Santos had a weird July to start his season in the FCL. In 18.2 innings he allowed 15 hits and walked three for 18 baserunners. 13 of them scored leading to a 5.30 ERA for the month. August was much better, a 2.13 ERA. Santos earned a promotion to Dunedin for two end of the year starts. One of them was against a strong Tampa team that hit him around a bit but the experience set him up to start there in 2022.
Fangraphs notes his mid 90's fastball and out a 55 grade on his slider. That's a good base to develop off. Santos is listed at 5'11" so he may end up in relief.
The FCL Jays had a strong hitting lineup in 2021. The player most mentioned by scouts was Gabriel Martinez, a 19 year old outfielder from Venezuela. He was 18 for half the season. Martinez hit .330 in the FCL and walked more than he struckout, giving him a .448 OBP. He didn't show much power, just 8 doubles but he should get stronger. Martinez was given three games in Dunedin at the end of the season, and hit .333 there. Martinez should stay in Dunedin to start 2022 and will look to add some power to a good bat.
Frasso was the Jays fourth round pick in 2020. Frasso might have been nursing a sore elbow because he was treated gingerly by the Jays this spring. He didn't pitch until May 20th and then went two innings. He threw two more innings on May 27th and one on June 3rd and that was it. Frasso was headed for Tommy John surgery. He did finish the season with a zero ERA and eight strikeouts so there's that. Frasso might not be back in 2021 but if he could recover by mid August he could get a shot to pitch in the Arizona Fall League.
Rojas is a 18 year old Cuban pitcher who pitched in the FCL in 2021. Rojas only threw 23.2 innings but limited hitters to 5.3 hits per nine innings and struck out 14.8 per nine. At this stage Fangraphs describes Rojas as an average velocity pitcher who throws a fastball and a curveball with an over the top delivery. As Rojas matures he should add velocity to his fastball and I am sure the Jays have him working on a change up.
Spraker spent most of the year in New Hampshire, got a cup of coffee in Buffalo but made a name for himself in the Fall League. Spraker is 26 and has been in the system since 2017. His stats in New Hampshire were decent, good hits allowed, lots of strikeouts but 23 walks in 42 innings. In the AFL he walked just two in 11 innings, did something change or was it a small sample size?
In 2020 Spraker was tasked by the Jays to develop a cutter to go with his sinker. He did get a cutter but also added a four seam fastball which has been successful for him in 2021. Despite his fall success the Jays did not protect Spraker for the rule 5 draft.
Ruwe is probably not a prospect but I just wanted to note his season. The Jays signed him as a 25 year old filler. He was assigned to Dunedin and gave up three runs in one third of an inning in his first appearance. He repeated that two days later and now sported an 81.00 ERA. He gave up one run in one inning in his next appearance which lowered his ERA to 37.80. After six appearances the Jays dropped him to the FCL for a month where he did not pitch. He returned to Dunedin a month later and over the next two months had an ERA under two, a WHIP around one and struck out 27 in 15 innings. That got him a promotion to Vancouver where he struck out 17 in 10.2 innings.
I don't think Ruwe is a prospect but it shows how pitching evaluation can change. I don't know what the Jays did to him in his month in limbo but it worked.
Ruwe is 6'9" and has a history of injuries and perseverance. Ruwe's story is also one that explains how modern pitchers can be trained. See this story from Driveline that explains how they helped Ruwe get this far.
Zulueta is a Cuban pitcher who was being hyped at the start of 2021. In spring training he was hitting 96-99 with his fastball but he tore his ACL in his first start of 2021 and missed the season.
Zueleta will be 24 at the start of 2022 and the Jays will likely be aggressive with him to see if he needs to be protected at the end of 2022. Zueleta has already had Tommy John which also slowed his development so hopefully it will be full steam ahead in 2022.
That concludes the Batters Box top 30 coverage for 2021. Now let's look forward to the season starting on time in April.