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Keith Law published his top 100 prospects and his top 20 prospects by organization over the last two weeks in The Athletic.

I didn't want to ask questions about the rankings, it doesn't matter that player X is four or five spots above where Batters Box ranked him. So I asked questions that were more general. If you haven't read Keith's rankings they are substantially similar to those on Batters Box. Keith is not as high on Addison Barger, he has concerns about his ability to hit left handed pitching. He has similar concerns with Spencer Horwitz. Keith includes Manuel Beltre and Alex De Jesus in his top 20, so I asked about them, in general terms.

BB: There have been a lot of articles in the Toronto press about the new facility in Dunedin and the usefulness of the hitting and pitching labs there. They have even suggested that some players have asked to be drafted by the Jays or signed with the Jays because of the facility. How unique is the Jays facility?

KL: I can't speak to that at all, sorry. I haven't done any real research into the specifics of teams' facilities. I don't want to speak out of turn.

BB: When I look at player development I see three aspects, the draft, player development and luck. With luck I include injuries and when a low round pick turns into a player with major league value. I have several questions about this. First, the Jays drafting doesn't seem to have a theme, or a philosophy, behind it. In 2021 it was almost all pitchers. In 2022 mostly hitters and hitters with a bat first profile, generally non athletic. How would you grade the Jays drafting generally?

KL: I think they're more geared towards best player available than to a specific category of players. Last year's draft ('22) was a terrible college crop, with almost no college pitching up top, so they made a pretty clear adjustment around that. I'm not sure they'd normally go for a HS arm in the first round, but given who was on the board at that point, you could easily argue Barriera was the BPA. Anyway, I think they're drafting quite well over the last three or four years, especially if you consider their ability to convert some high picks into help for the major-league roster via trades.

BB: What do you think of the 2022 draft approach, drafting good bat to ball guys.

KL: I don't think that was their draft approach last year, though. Toman isn't necessarily that, and I don't think that's Doughty's defining characteristic. It is definitely true of Kasevich, though.

BB: In regard to player development, some teams have earned a reputation for their development (Dodgers, Guardians and Rays for example). When you think of the Jays and player development what comes to mind?

KL: No single thing comes to mind here. They're around the middle of the pack in development. They've had enough successes and failures on both sides of the ball that I wouldn't say that they're especially good or bad at developing any category of player. They do have a big group of position-player prospects from high A to the DSL who came into the org through international free agency who present them with a big player development opportunity, but also a challenge. These are talented kids who have a lot of work ahead of them to become the players we think they can become. I hope the struggles of Orelvis Martinez this year lead the Jays to reconsider pushing some of those kids.

BB: Minor league strikeout rate is often used as a statistical scouting method for pitchers. You have ranked two pitchers in your Jays top 10 that have a lower strikeout rate in Sem Robberse and Hayden Juenger. Is this where pitchability and the ability to pitch to (weak) contact is an offset to the lower strikeout numbers?

KL" Yeah, 'statistical scouting' isn't really a thing. You can and should look at strikeout rates for pitchers, but it's a supplement to scouting, not a replacement for it. Both those guys have reasons why they're in my top 10 with those lower rates. Robberse has everything you want in a mid-rotation type except for power - he lost velocity last year versus 2021, and that meant he missed fewer bats. If he returns to his 2021 velocity levels, on all his pitches, his strikeout rate will almost certainly go up, and with his command and feel for pitching that will make him that potential mid-rotation guy. Or maybe he even gains a little more velocity than that. I like guys who miss bats, but I'm willing to project on some pitchers to improve in that area, or to boost guys who show other ways to get around higher contact rates (e.g., weak contact/groundball tendencies).

BB: A number of the Jays international signings had poor 2022's. I am thinking of Luis Meza, Manual Beltre, Estivan Machado and others. They are all still young and you have Beltre in your top 20. At what age, or stage, do you start to give up on a young prospect?

KL: I don't have a hard and fast rule on this, but I like to see progress of some sort - adjustments on the field, improvements in the stat line, even progress in Trackman data. If a kid doesn't have a better year at the plate but he's hitting the ball harder, that's still progress. When players stop making progress, that's when I start to give up. And I agree that their IFA group as a whole didn't do as well last year as I'd hoped.

BB: You still have hope for Orelvis, despite his free swinging ways. Are there major league players you can think of who have gone from a swing for the fences approach and had a successful major league career?

KL: Sure, tons. Whatever you might think of Joey Gallo now, he's generated almost 15 WAR before turning 29. If Orelvis is only a .290 OBP guy with this power and good defense at third, he'd be a starter on at least a handful of teams. I don't think he's that player right now, but that's within reach - and he's only 21 this year. Start him at AA again with some real help on swing decisions and see if he makes any adjustments.

BB: Are there new technologies that help a player develop more selectivity at the plate? I would think that there are visual training systems that simulate at-bats that should help a player and grade his swing decisions.

KL: Yes, I wrote about some of that in my piece on Austin Riley back in August of 2021. There are simulators that help hitters work on pitch recognition and tracking.

I want thank Keith for answering these questions. It is a very busy time for him, as he said himself, he has published a book of sports over the last two weeks.

Keith Law Answers Some Questions | 35 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
mathesond - Wednesday, February 15 2023 @ 08:02 AM EST (#426654) #
Thanks Gerry for asking the questions, and thank Keith for taking the time to answer them.
Jonny German - Wednesday, February 15 2023 @ 08:06 AM EST (#426655) #
BB: What do you think of the 2022 draft approach, drafting good bat to ball guys.

KL: I don't think that was their draft approach last year, though.

I'm happy to hear this, as the concept of trying to focus the draft on one particular skill didn't make sense to me. Hope Law is right and it's just a narrative that got traction without really being grounded.
jerjapan - Wednesday, February 15 2023 @ 08:20 AM EST (#426656) #
Great stuff. I agree with Law that the org has shown admirable flexibility drafting, and am glad to hear Law praise the results.

His comments on statistical scouting are interesting too. What signs of progress that maybe don’t show up in the stats are you guys hoping for from some of our underwhelming IFAs?
John Northey - Wednesday, February 15 2023 @ 11:19 AM EST (#426657) #
With statistical scouting - I suspect what he is talking about is using the public stats (Avg/HR/BB/SO etc.) which often show crazy variation in the minors. What I suspect teams measure more is how well hitters judge the strike zone, how hard they hit the ball depending on pitch/location, how far they range to left/right/back/forward in the field, how accurate their throws are and how hard they throw it. Pitchers on speed, accuracy, judgement - does he throw a fastball down the pipe on a 0-2 count? How does the pitcher adjust when behind or ahead? Lots of variables and the raw end result (hit/out) isn't as important as did he throw the right pitch with the right movement at the right time. If the hitter is a bad one he might get him out with a crappy pitch, or a great hitter might take a great pitch out of the park. Teams need to factor all of that in.

We don't have clear stats for 'quality of opponent' to help judge if a player is facing top talent or scrubs. But teams should have that in some form and that is the statistical scouting they'd use. For amateurs the variability gets even wider, especially with high schoolers. A guy could have a 0 ERA or a 1000 batting average but if they never faced high end opponents they might not be that good vs a guy who plays against better competition with worse stats. I'd use statistical scouting at that level as a reason to go see - if a guy has extreme stats (such as a 0 ERA/1000 Avg) he is worth checking out but might not be worth signing. Similar in the minors, I've seen guys with video game stats in A ball or even in AAA who couldn't cut it in the majors, but others with poor stats can. For example, George Bell at 22 in AAA hit just 200/217/376 over 131 PA but we all know he was far better than that. Jesse Barfield in A ball hit just 236/302/326 over 1024 PA. I could find more ugly minor league stats for players quite easily but those 2 should get the idea across. Sil Campusano in A ball though hit 313/412/537 over 416 PA at 19 but was a 0.0 WAR player. I'm a stats junkie but I do get the limits of it.
ISLAND BOY - Wednesday, February 15 2023 @ 11:36 AM EST (#426658) #
Interesting to see luck mentioned as a component along with drafting and development. LA Dodgers never would have drafted then-first baseman, Mike Piazza, if his father, Vince hadn't asked his good friend, Tommy Lasorda, to pick him. Lasorda, in turn, convinced the Dodgers to draft Piazza in the 62th round. Lasorda also got Mike to change position to catcher and we all know how that turned out.
bpoz - Wednesday, February 15 2023 @ 12:06 PM EST (#426659) #
Great questions from Gerry, answers from KL. Also the analysis from John N regarding the info we see in the stats compared to the meaning of what we never see.

I respect the bb/k ratio which Kirk, Jansen and Vlad did in the minors and continued to do in the majors. Jansen made improvements in his hitting last year but got injured.

Players got promoted reasonably well. They must have earned it.

Ryan Day - Wednesday, February 15 2023 @ 12:47 PM EST (#426660) #
If Orelvis is only a .290 OBP guy with this power and good defense at third, he'd be a starter on at least a handful of teams.

The second coming of Tony Batista?
John Northey - Wednesday, February 15 2023 @ 02:26 PM EST (#426662) #
Batista was a 13.8 WAR guy in the end. 12.1 in his first 6+ years (spent enough time in minors in his first 2 seasons to easily be a 7 years control guy). Up at 22 (2024 for Orelvis), everyday player at 25, all star at 26, was an expansion team draft pick (Arizona), traded with John Frascatore to the Jays for Dan Plesac, then lost on waivers by the Jays the year after he made the All-Star team to Baltimore. Jays got 6.0 bWAR from him, Baltimore paid a lot more to get 4.8 in about half a year more (2 1/2 seasons vs 1 full and 2 partials in Toronto).

Yeah, if Orelvis does that the Jays would probably be happy, but still dream of more.
Mike Green - Wednesday, February 15 2023 @ 03:53 PM EST (#426666) #
Thanks, Gerry and Keith.  I went to look up Joey Gallo and Orelvis Martinez, and what do you know, they share the same birthday November 19.  That makes comparison easier.  At age 19, they were essentially comparable with Gallo and Martinez both dominating low A ball.  At age 20, Gallo was quite a bit better, making the transition to double A well in mid-season after dominating high A ball.  Gallo has had much higher walk rates than Martinez, and higher HR/FB rates. 

I agree that Orelvis could be a 3 WAR third baseman.  I wonder who Keith thinks would be Dasan Brown's reasonable upside.  Including the playoffs his HR/FB last year was north of 15%, he runs well, he will draw a walk and he could be a 60 defensive centerfielder.  There's a fair bit there to offset the worrisome contact issues. 
Nigel - Wednesday, February 15 2023 @ 04:42 PM EST (#426667) #
I have little belief that Martinez's current profile can translate into something useful. Tony Bautista was exactly the name that popped into my head. But, Tony wasn't a horrible K% player. He was a 15% (K rate) hitter with well below average BB%. Tony was hacktastic and not Galloesque in his lack of contact. Gallo has made it work (more often than not) on the back of huge power and a very high BB rate. The current Martinez profile just doesn't work. With his age, of course there's hope.
jerjapan - Wednesday, February 15 2023 @ 04:44 PM EST (#426668) #
Cheers to talking baseball with the sun shining and spring training on the horizon!  (literally, in my case.  I'm trying the leftfied Blackburne imperial stout. it's, uhh ... decadent?).
I see the team invited Cam Eden to spring training, which is as good of a sign I've seen that the org sees a possible 4th OF type in him.  he started popping up in the back end of some prospect lists, but ultimately, I think this all implies that his D is viewed as a legit plus.  we know the speed is close to elite. 

Eden's not young though, so this is a big year for him.  25 when the games start to count, although I tend to give prospects a mulligan on the pandemic year.
6th round pick in 2019, same year they went overslot 119K on Brown, all of 17 years old at the time, in the 3rd round.  The kid's from Oakville ... nice to have an exciting prospect out of the GTA. 

Gerry's sleeper prospect LJ Talley went 7th that year, for 200K less than slot, as a senior.  man, hitting on those underslot seniors is nice.  Vinny Capra was the same, if I recall right?

Gerry - Monday, February 20 2023 @ 11:42 AM EST (#426705) #
Baseball America have released their top 30 prospects on their website. I did a comparison between the Batters Box top 30 and BA's.

There were 23 players on both lists with the same names in the top six.

BA included Nate Pearson and Enmanuel Bonilla, both of whom were not considered for Batters Box list. The other five players were all ranked in the 20's by BA. They were Kendry Rojas, Manual Beltre, Alejandro Melean, Yondrei Rojas and Trent Palmer. Palmer had TJ surgery in 2022 and will miss 2023.

The seven players who Batters Box included were Tanner Morris, Adrian Hernandez, Jimmy Robbins, Irv Carter, TJ Brock, Estiven Machado and and Davis Schneider.

I think most of the differences between the lists are understandable as there is a lot of debate as to who belongs just inside the top 30 and who should be just outside. The biggest surprise is BA's omission of Adrian Hernandez.
bpoz - Monday, February 20 2023 @ 12:55 PM EST (#426707) #
Thanks Gerry. We had some major surprises on our prospect list by players that legitimately earned it.. Tiedemann, Zulueta and Barger according to most of us. There were a few others.

I hope and actually expect a few this year as well. Barger was the only one whose 2021 gave us a clue that he could do what he did. Zulueta and Tiedemann were basically out of the blue.

I am guessing and hoping that Leo Jimenez stays healthy enough to improve a lot. His D is fantastic I understand. Kloffenstein could regain his velo and Quinones could stay healthy and maybe find the strike zone. These are my stab in the dark picks.
Marc Hulet - Monday, February 20 2023 @ 07:46 PM EST (#426709) #
With Adrian Hernandez... Teams are moving away from one-inning guys and also favouring fireballers. Hernandez just doesn't fit the modern bullpen all that well.

I've been posting my projected Top 10 Blue Jays prospects expected to start at each minor league level on Twitter and Vancouver is due up tomorrow with Dunedin the next day. The Low-A ranking has both Rojas on my list so I'm not surprised to see BA include them. I've seen them both pitch a couple times and came away impressed.
Glevin - Tuesday, February 21 2023 @ 11:24 AM EST (#426713) #
"I've been posting my projected Top 10 Blue Jays prospects expected to start at each minor league level on Twitter and Vancouver is due up tomorrow with Dunedin the next day. The Low-A ranking has both Rojas on my list so I'm not surprised to see BA include them. I've seen them both pitch a couple times and came away impressed."

I saw your stuff there Marc. Interesting writeups.
bpoz - Wednesday, February 22 2023 @ 10:59 AM EST (#426719) #
Thanks Marc. great stuff. I take it Gage Stanifer did sign with us. I did not find his signing reported. I did hear that he has a high 90s FB.
Marc Hulet - Wednesday, February 22 2023 @ 07:19 PM EST (#426724) #
Yes, somewhat surprisingly he signed. Stanifer tops out at 94-95 mph right now.
greenfrog - Wednesday, February 22 2023 @ 07:43 PM EST (#426725) #
Addison Barger is #53 on the Fangraphs top 100 prospects list. They’ve assigned him a 50FV rating. Very impressive.

From today’s chat (there is also a link to some video of Barger):

Thomas: Yours is the only list I’ve seen with Addison Barger ranked so high, let alone the middle of the list. What are you seeing that others don’t?

Tess Taruskin: (Re: Barger) Lefty bat-speed and defensive utility with a strong arm. There’s huge upside there, and the fact that he brought it to a level where he wasn’t the oldest on the field.”

greenfrog - Wednesday, February 22 2023 @ 07:52 PM EST (#426726) #
Here’s the more detailed writeup:

“Barger has huge left-handed bat speed and a shot to stay on the dirt, just not at shortstop.

“The Blue Jays coaxed Barger away from a Florida commitment with $270,000, and he barely played during his first two full seasons, one of them lost to the pandemic. Toronto didn’t accelerate his promotion schedule to make up for the lost time, so he began 2021 back at Low-A as a 21-year-old and (mostly) flew under the FanGraphs prospect radar as an old-for-the-level player until 2022, when Barger hammered High- and Double-A pitching as a 22-year-old. He hit 26 homers and 33 doubles and posted a 148 wRC+ at Vancouver and New Hampshire before he was promoted to Triple-A Buffalo at the very end of the year. Barger then went to the Arizona Fall League, where his left-handed bat speed stood out among lots of other good hitting prospects. His swing is a spectacle, lots of fun when he’s on time and frustrating when he’s late, utilizing a narrow, open stance and a huge leg kick. Barger can really cut it loose and is a threat to do damage on every swing. Though he’s been playing a lot of shortstop, he isn’t a fit there and his hands and actions are below average. He’s okay at second and third base, but the Blue Jays’ infield is already pretty loaded, so he’s likely to see time in the outfield this year. Ideally he’ll play a few different positions based on the game situation. We think there will be enough power for Barger to produce like an average regular in a multi-positional role.”
Glevin - Thursday, February 23 2023 @ 11:44 AM EST (#426736) #
Apparently, Jays have 3 top-100 ZIPS prospects (Barger, Tiedmeann, and...Orelvis? Roberse?) We'll see tomorrow.
Mike Green - Thursday, February 23 2023 @ 12:01 PM EST (#426737) #
It'll be Orelvis.  ZiPS likes him. 
Glevin - Thursday, February 23 2023 @ 01:34 PM EST (#426738) #
"It'll be Orelvis. ZiPS likes him. "

They really like young for level for and Orelvis was 20 in AA and hit 30 Hrs. Yes, he has a lot of risk but there is real potential there still.
Mike Green - Thursday, February 23 2023 @ 02:01 PM EST (#426739) #
I've said before that I don't buy it at all. I think that Joey Gallo or Tony Batista is Orelvis' realistic upside and his downside is not making the major leagues at all.  I'm in a minority, I realize.

Dasan Brown's realistic upside is, in my opinion, something like Mike Cameron.  And on this, I'm definitely a minority of one.  One of my beefs from the statistical point of view is the failure to integrate post-season performance.  You can't look at Brown without doing that for last year.  You shouldn't treat it as more important than the regular season because it was "clutch", but you shouldn't ignore it either.  Which everyone seems to do.  If you take into account the post-season, Brown did a lot better than Martinez at single A (granted at one year older).  And he has other advantages- baserunning, defence.   
John Northey - Thursday, February 23 2023 @ 02:29 PM EST (#426740) #
Stanifer signed for $125k according to BR. I love high potential signings in the post round 10 stage as the risk is minimal outside of cash. Appears that 8 guys that round signed for $125k and one for $160k (Geo Rivera a P out of JC for Cleveland). With just 20 rounds now it becomes more important to get those high potential guys drafted and then signed. $125k btw is the max you can sign a guy for before it affects the draft signing cap.
Sal - Thursday, February 23 2023 @ 02:48 PM EST (#426741) #
"They really like young for level for and Orelvis was 20 in AA and hit 30 Hrs. Yes, he has a lot of risk but there is real potential there still."
I am going to guess it is the other Martinez: Gabriel. Performed very well despite being very young for the level, and had a more balanced profile offensively with few red flags.
Nigel - Thursday, February 23 2023 @ 05:13 PM EST (#426742) #
A few thoughts based on some firsthand Vancouver viewing - I think Barger, defensively, is an OF over time; but I don't think its impossible that he could fake 3B. I think a middle infield role is a bridge too far due to a lack of instincts and quickness. Mike, you aren't totally in a category of one on Brown. I'm very high on him too but I'm not sure there's Mike Cameron power in the package (although there's definitely more power there than has been shown to date). The rest of the Cameron comp definitely holds.
John Northey - Thursday, February 23 2023 @ 08:26 PM EST (#426743) #
So for 2024 we see the Jays try to resign Chapman, move Varsho to CF, put Barger in LF, let KK go, or KK accepts a backup role.

Free agents post 2023: Chapman, KK, Belt, Cimber, Ryu, Bass.
Possible Replacements: Barger, Lukes, Kirk moving more to DH, Pop, and an assortment of prospects.

Feels good seeing a decent set of potential fill in's should the guys who are free agents bolt post-2023. 3B could be the big headache if Barger can't play it well and if O Martinez isn't ready. We'll see I guess, but for now lets enjoy the ride of 2023.
Glevin - Friday, February 24 2023 @ 09:43 AM EST (#426746) #
ZIPS has Orelvis as the #5!!!!! prospect in baseball. Tiedemann at #13 and Barger at #26 so ZIPs definitely likes the system.
Ryan Day - Friday, February 24 2023 @ 10:17 AM EST (#426747) #
Orelvis' ranking seems to be largely based on the idea he's a MLB shortstop, which isn't backed up by any scouting report I've read.
Glevin - Friday, February 24 2023 @ 10:20 AM EST (#426748) #
ZIPS thinks Orelavis is a below average SS according to the writeup.

"Most of that is a dispute over position; there’s a real question whether he can stick at short or will move to third base. ZiPS uses a Total Zone-esque method for looking at minor league defense, for which I have the location/angle hit of every defensive play in the minors. This method nailed players like Luis Robert Jr. as minor leaguers, and right now, it thinks Martinez is below average but not alarmingly so. If he turns out to be Hanley Ramirez-esque at shortstop, he drops very quickly in the rankings given the competition here."
bpoz - Friday, February 24 2023 @ 11:08 AM EST (#426749) #
If healthy we should have a decent sample size to evaluate the offensive ability of our position players by early June.

I can see some players adjusting to their league and their league adjusting to them in April for stat analysis.

I am looking forward to this minor league season.
jerjapan - Friday, February 24 2023 @ 12:40 PM EST (#426753) #
Great quote from KK on Ricky Tiedemann...
“A lefty throwing 97, 98 (miles per hour) with a couple of different breaking balls, nasty change-up,” said Kiermaier. “To me, he looked like he had four plus-plus pitches today. I’m all in on him. He’s a guy who could help us right now"
Kikuchi, Thompson and Thornton scheduled tomorrow and I am somehow still excited for baseball to start. 
SK in NJ - Friday, February 24 2023 @ 04:04 PM EST (#426755) #
Orelvis had 30 HR, a .242 ISO, and 8.1 BB% in AA at age 20. He has a lot of work to do, and he's likely in the "boom or bust" category of prospects, but I can see why some projection systems would still be high on him. He probably should have been in A/A+ in 2022 so it makes the power really stand out.
bpoz - Friday, February 24 2023 @ 07:45 PM EST (#426757) #
It is good to discuss the progress OR lack of progress of Orelvis. With 112 ABS he did not dominate A+ in 2021 but instead had a .201 Avg.

In 2022 the promotion was aggressive. In the 433 ABs he struggled .203 Avg. Nothing good all season with Avg, bb/k but the 30 Hr was VERY impressive, as is his age in AA. They also say that offense affects defense and vice versa. Orelvis will either progress in 2023 or not. I am very interested in finding out.

Gabriel Martinez is basically 1 baseball year younger than Orelvis. He hit .324 in 102 ABs compared to the .214 in 112 ABs at A+. Then the off season happens and the Jays decided on who goes where. My guess for 2023 is Orelvis AA and Gabe A+. I don't care if I am right or wrong.
Craig B - Thursday, March 09 2023 @ 11:37 AM EST (#426869) #
Always nice to hear from Keith!
Keith Law Answers Some Questions | 35 comments | Create New Account
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