Toronto signified their intent to contend by signing Hyun-Jin Ryu during the winter of 2019, and he repaid their confidence with an excellent season in 2020. The rest of their pitching decisions didn’t pan out quite so beautifully, but the offensive core of a yearly contender is growing together north of the border (well, assuming they can play north of the border sometime soon), and it’s just a matter of time before they amass enough pitching to scare the bullies that beat up the AL East year over year.
Format: Position Player | Age on 4/1/2021 | Highest level played | ETA
1. 3B Austin Martin | 22 | NCAA | 2022
Toronto picked up some windfall profit when Baltimore reached down the board to save money on their second overall pick, pushing some evaluators’ top overall player, Austin Martin, down to fifth after Miami and Kansas City preferred pitchers Max Meyer and Asa Lacy. I’m not quite that high on Toronto’s top pick but do think he was a nice value for them at the five spot. His draft stock was volatile mostly because his defensive home is unsettled. He’s a good enough athlete to play up the middle, but his struggles with accuracy as a thrower have bounced him around the field a bit. I think this issue is among baseball’s toughest to fix. Toronto might try him at shortstop because he’s got good hands, but he might follow his college path to third and then centerfield if he can’t find something that works. An underrated aspect of baseball is just how accurate infielders have to be on throws, and if Martin has just area code accuracy, he won’t play on the dirt. Doesn’t much matter for our purposes, where we care much more about his elite plate skills, plus-plus hit, plus run and average power.
2. RHP Nate Pearson | 24 | MLB | 2020
The season did not play out as planned for Nate Pearson, but we could say that about everyone, so I think his injury riddled campaign sort of flew under the radar. High velocity pitchers get hurt, so Pearson’s continued inability to stay on the mound would be a huge red flag in a normal off-season. In a Pandemic, it just blends in with all the other despair. I was high on life and Pearson last off-season, but now I wonder how much impact a guy can make coming off an 18-inning season. I mean I still want a guy who can throw 102 miles per hour for an inning. I just don’t want it to cost me a guy who can throw 102+ innings.
3. RHP Simeon Woods-Richardson | 20 | A+ | 2021
Even after losing a year, SWR is well ahead of the age-to-level math. The primary return for Marcus Stroman, Woods-Richardson headed to High A Dunedin after the trade and dominated the competition across six starts as an 18-year-old (4.9 years younger than league average). His plus command of a four-pitch mix stems from impressive balance born of an athletic base physically developed beyond his years. Real chance he debuts later this year as a 20-year-old.
4. C Alejandro Kirk | 22 | A+ | 2022
Captain James T doesn’t look like your typical headliner, but he’s got a unique set of skills that scream media star. A true every-man. Certainly a fan favorite and a fantasy value at his current ADP in the late 300s, depending on your preferred game-maker. His low intensity swing manages to catch up to just about everything (so far), allowing him to wait late to fire and watch a lot of pitches sail on by. Before 2020, Kirk had always walked more than he’d struck out. Sometimes a lot more than he struck out. Kirk is so good at this particular skill he makes me wonder why all catchers don’t have great eyes. I know it’s a very different angle, but Kirk just makes it look so easy I start to think anything is possible.
5. 3B Orelvis Martinez | 19 | R | 2023
At 3.5 million, Martinez netted the second highest bonus of his international class, behind only Victor Victor Mesa, who often brings to my mind that theme song from “Sister Sister.” Toronto sent Martinez straight to the Gulf Coast League in 2019, slipping the international circuit altogether to challenge O-Mart in a league where he was 2.5 years younger than the average player. The gamble paid off, as Martinez posted a 150 wRC+ and invited the club to push him again in 2021, where I suspect he’ll open in whatever looks like low A these days.
6. SS Jordan Groshans | 21 | A | 2022
Groshans has a lot going on in the batter’s box. His load involves a hitch (timing mechanism in the parlance of our times) in both his hands and his lead leg. So, two separate timing mechanisms. Maybe I’m nitpicky, but his profile doesn’t have a ton of room for error. He’s been snake-bitten by difficult injuries and lost a lot of at bats along the way. The raw power is plus, but I’m concerned he’ll need truly elite hand speed to fight through all the moving pieces, or he’ll need to eliminate some extraneous movement, which can make a hitter feel uncomfortable, especially as he’s getting extended run in pro ball for the first time in his life. It’s kind of a wild thought. This 2018 draftee out of high school will get a chance for his first real season in pro ball in 2021. The most he’s played at any level is 37 games in rookie ball in 2018.
7. RHP Alek Manoah | 23 | A- | 2022
A two-way player throughout his baseball life, Manoah could always rake, and he could always throw gas. Good skill set for yard work and baseball. Toronto likes its pitchers large, and Manoah is 6’6” 260 lbs., so you’d notice him waking into a room. He dominated low A across six brief starts after being selected 11th overall in 2019, but that doesn’t matter much. I suspect his plus plus fastball slider combination will go basically unchallenged until he reaches AA.
8. OF Dasan Brown | 19 | R | 2024
An 80 runner who figures to keep his wheels with age thanks to his sprinter’s build, Brown doesn’t really stand out in any other area but has enticing fantasy topside as a burner with a chance at average tools across the board. He’s played just 14 pro games at rookie ball, so not much to discuss on the stat sheet.
9. RHP Adam Kloffenstein | 20 | A- | 2023
Another pitching prospect picked up at Arms Big and Tall, Kloffenstein stands 6’5” 243 lbs but pitches mostly low in the zone, generating impressive ground ball rates (60+ percent!) in his brief tenure as a pro.
10. RHP Thomas Hatch | 26 | MLB | 2020
Hatch edges out 2020 draftee CJ Van Eyk, Otto Lopez, Eric Pardinho and company because his time is now, and he showed enough in his 2020 debut to enter Spring Training with an inside lane on a rotation job. He was pretty traditional fastball, slider, change this year but could mix in his cutter or sinker more often if asked to turn over a lineup a couple times. Plus command gives him a relatively high floor and a chance to surprise with nice ratios in 2021.
Thanks for reading!
I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.