It’s tough to see how things get better than they were in 2021. Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien were grand slam one-year signings. Vladimir Guerrero chased a triple crown. Alek Manoah dominated as a rookie. Jose Berrios pitched well down the stretch after the club swapped two top prospects to get him. And therein lies the upside. The club was able to sign Berrios to a long-term deal, and I have a hard time imagining Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson outproducing him over the next few seasons. Another plus: this organization knows what it’s doing. This system remains solid despite the recent graduations and trades with another couple potential-star-level prospects in the pipeline and several interesting upside and depth pieces behind them. All the team’s best players are young, and the ownership group is rich enough to push anytime it wants. Perhaps Kevin Gausman will adequately replicate Robbie Ray. Perhaps Teoscar Hernandez and Vladimir Guerrero will hold serve at the levels they established in 2021. And perhaps the top guy on this list will inject enough life into the lineup that they’ll rarely miss Marcus Semien

 

Format: Position Player | Age on 4/1/2022 | Highest level played | ETA

1. C Gabriel Moreno | 22 | AAA | 2022

Moreno was carving a path to the big leagues when he was hit by a pitch that broke his thumb. He had slashed .373/.441/.651 with 8 HR in 32 games at AA to that point. He’s not a big dude, listed at 5’11” 160 lbs (he’s bigger than that), but Moreno generates loud contact to all fields thanks to extreme control of a quick swing powered by quick-twitch, rotational athleticism. He’s good on defense, too, which is good for his baseball value but might be a little irritating at times for our purposes, given the team’s depth at that spot and the toll catching can take on a player’s body. I suspect he’ll share the DH/Catcher role with Alejandro Kirk, but he’s a good enough hitter to play anywhere if the Jays want to try him somewhere else. 

 

2. SS Orelvis Martinez | 20 | A+ | 2021

I’ve been watching Get Back this week. I can’t really offer an objective perspective because I grew up immersed in The Beatles’ catalog because my mom was a superfan, but I suspect pretty much everyone will find some scenes interesting. It’s fun to hear the band talking about other musicians. It’s fun to hear them praising Elvis and singing “Blue Suede Shoes,” and that’s my long and winding road back to the Blue Jays and their Elvis, who could be the king of third base in Toronto by 2023. A 6’1” 188 lb prototype ballpalyer, Martinez struggled a little in his first 27 games at High-A but popped nine home runs anyway and posted a 99 wRC+. His season-long line of 28 HR and 4 SB in 99 games with a .261/.345/.549 provides a pretty good look at what Martinez could be at peak, except that he did this as a 19-year-old who was much younger than his primary competitors, and the Blue Jays are great at developing hitters, so his rocking 2021 could also just be a hint of what’s to come from Orelvis. 

 

3. 2B Otto Lopez | 23 | AAA | 2022

Lopez can hit well enough to hang in the majors, in terms of making contact, but the question will be whether or not the 5’10” 160 lb righty can do enough damage to hang in an everyday lineup. He hit just five home runs in 113 games across two levels last year but added 32 doubles and four triples, slashing .315/.379/.437 with 22 stolen bases in 26 attempts. You can see the appeal. He also struck out just 13.4 percent of the time in 43 games at AAA. If he gets a real shot, I see him adding power across time and doing enough in batting average and stolen bases to be a fantasy asset while he learns to access his functional thump in games.

 

4. SS Kevin Smith | 25 | MLB | 2021

Get ready for some Mallrats jokes! Pretty sure I got one in there somewhere last season, and I apologize for any future bits that don’t land. Gotta focus. Focus! Smith was doing just that in 2021, zeroing in on swing decisions that left him with an enticing 23.7 percent strikeout rate after punching out 32.3 at a percent clip in 2019 at AA. He also walked about twice as much: from 6.2% to 11.2% and slashed .285/.370/.561 with 21 HR and 18 SB in just 94 games. That’s a loud season for a former first-round pick taking his first licks at AAA. Felt like his success went mostly under the radar, and his MLB performance in 36 plate appearances (.094/.194/.188) certainly didn’t win any advocates, so it’s under the radar he’ll stay. I’m not saying he should top anyone’s wishlist, but I do think he’ll get a legit shot to stick this season and could be a boon even in redraft leagues. 

 

5. 3B Jordan Groshans | 22 | AA | 2022

A 6’3” 205 lb right handed power bat, Groshans had a very good season in a lot of ways. One was that he played baseball. His 75 games at AA were the most he’s played in a single season by 26 games. Another good outcome was that he didn’t strike out much. A 19.3 percent K-rate doesn’t make him elite in that area, but combined with a 10.8 percent walk rate, the ratio advertises good plate skills for a player many have dubbed a natural hitter. The only downside to his season is seven home runs, a little less than you’d hope to see from a guy with plus raw power. It’s a trade the Jays will happily make, I think, at least for now, at least as long as it comes along with decent health and a slash line something like the .291/.367/.450 he posted in 2021. 

 

6. SS Manuel Beltre | 17 | DSL | 2025

If I have to pick one guy from Toronto’s group to jump up some lists this season it’ll be Manuel Beltre, a 5’9” 155 lb shortstop who often pops into my Twitter feed from team-focused accounts with access to their workouts. Beltre didn’t hit much in the DSL this year but managed a 119 wRC+ anyway because he walked at a 17.6 percent clip and struck out in just 13.9 percent of his plate appearances, producing an odd .225/.391/.346 with 2 HR and 10 SB along the way. I like the apparent plate skills but also the little videos I’ve seen of him working at this craft. I’m a sucker for good marketing, I guess. In his work, he’s always building torque and core explosiveness. It’s something Toronto is extremely good at evaluating and teaching, and I suspect Austin Martin’s lack of such when they got him up close and worked with him for a while helped make him available at the trade deadline. Beltre might be a little higher than his profile warrants at the moment, but the aircraft is boarding now. If he makes it to Low-A and plays well as an 18-year-old, hype machines around the internet will start whirring. 

 

7. RHP Gunnar Hoglund | 22 | NCAA | 2024

Hoglund was trending toward being a top ten pick in 2021 draft but blew out his arm and needed Tommy John surgery, which did not dissuade the Blue Jays from drafting him 17th overall. This presents dynasty players a bit of buying opportunity for the patient, as Hoglund was about as pro ready as college pitchers come, featuring plus command of three plus pitches (fastball, slider, changeup) from a balanced 6’4” 220 lb frame. If he adds a little velocity after rebuilding his baseball self from the ground up, Hoglund could carve right through the minors with high K-rates and microscopic ratios. The AL East is hard to predict when it comes to young pitching. Plus command of plus off-speed stuff is essential to survival there, so there’s plenty of reasons to slow-play him on draft day, but a healthy Hoglund would have the skills to succeed even in this baseball pressure cooker. 

 

8. 2B Samad Taylor | 23 | AA | 2023

A 5’10” 160 lb powder keg right handed hitter, Taylor offers an interesting look at one of the organization’s core competencies: teaching rotational explosion. After hitting seven home runs in 108 games in 2019 at High-A, Taylor blasted 16 in just 87 games in AA, slugging .503 after posting a .364 at his previous stop. Nonetheless, he was left exposed to the Rule 5 draft, should it ever occur, partly because his 29.4 percent strikeout rate means he might pass through undrafted. I tend to doubt it. He slashed .294/.385/.504 as a 22-year-old middle infielder at AA, and somebody like Baltimore, Arizona or Colorado should be all over that. It might hurt his development to strike out something like 35-40 percent of the time in a part-time MLB role, but it might also help him a lot to work with a big league staff all season. It’s a little hard to see how they make room for him in Toronto, so I’m hoping he gets a change of scenery.

 

9. SS Miguel Hiraldo | 21 | A | 2023

A 5’11” 170 lb righty who can play anywhere on the field, Hiraldo had a great 2019 in the Appalachian League but took a slight step back in A ball two years later, losing 91 points on his slugging percentage and 50 points of batting average in the process. He got on base at a similar clip (.348 in 2019, .338 in 2021), so it wasn’t a lost season by any stretch, but anyone expecting Hiraldo to add some strength or in-game power during the lost season had to be a little disappointed. He did steal 29 bases in 34 attempts but isn’t a burner and likely benefited from the three-throws-over rule, which I hate with a darkness so black you can only see its outline during a December lockout.

 

10. SS Leo Jimenez | 20 | A | 2023

The Blue Jays have a type, especially on the international front. Otto Lopez, Manuel Beltre and Leo Jimenez are all pretty good examples as handsy middle infielders who need to add strength and torque. Jimenez is a fairly extreme version. The 5’11” 160 lb right handed hitter posted an obscene .517 on base percentage in 54 games in Low-A but slugged just .381 despite hitting .315. He walked in a whopping 21.5 percent of his plate appearances, striking out at a 14.5 percent clip and stealing just four bases in five attempts. He hit one home run and eight doubles with zero triples. So what the hell is he doing here? Good question, that. Maybe I should’ve reserved this spot for RHP Joey Murray, but he missed most of the season with an elbow sprain and threw just 0.2 innings in August after rehabbing, so we don’t know what we have there, and the other guy I considered here, Estiven Machado, has played exactly one as professional, taking one plate appearance in the complex league. 

Back to Leo Jimenez of the absurd .517 OBP, he reportedly added strength heading into the season but still employs a powerless swing. He’s clearly got room to risk more rotational force. His success or failure will come down to how well he enfolds the club’s teaching and starts to really let loose on pitches he can damage. It’s not an easy thing to learn. In fact I think it’s more innate than it is teachable, or at least I’d think that if clubs like Cleveland, Los Angeles, Houston and Toronto hadn’t shown such a knack for helping guys unleash their inner swinger. If he posts another thumpless campaign in 2022, he’ll probably drop off my list, but for now I’ll put him here because he’s the kind of guy you pick up the instant you see him collecting extra base hits in bunches. 

Thanks for reading!

I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.

32 Comments
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NATRONEMEANSBUSINESS
NATRONEMEANSBUSINESS
7 months ago

ETA on O. Mart? 2022 mid/late or 2023 super two?

Harley Earl
Harley Earl
8 months ago

Itch,

You seem a little higher on Groshans this time around. I don’t think he even made your top 10 Blue Jays prospects a year ago. The fact that he adapted quickly and hit for a solid average at AA change your mind?

IV
IV
8 months ago

Always look forward to your lists. Did not realize Otto was someone who should be that highly valued. Will be looking acquire him cheaply from another team.

2 Questions for you today if you have time, both concerning a 15 team AL only Dynasty league (5×5 with only change being Saves are Saves+Holds).

1) Both the Rendon and Moncada owners are looking to trade them this offseason. I need a 3B. Of the two, who do you think is a better target?

2) have a list of depth guys I have/am looking to acquire cheaply. Just curious if any will be making your upcoming lists. Not sure if I should trade them away or hold them.

Yohel Pozo, Rangers
Brent Honeywell, Athletics
Emmanuel Rivera, Royals
Joey Cantillo, Guardians

I V
I V
Reply to  The Itch
8 months ago

Thanks! Appreciate the response and advice.

Mike Jones
Mike Jones
8 months ago

Not really a fantasy question but I’d love your take. What would it take, prospect wise, to get Ramirez from the Guardians? I would suspect they don’t want to move him as they are trying to sell the fans on a rebrand, but if TOR is willing to overpay a bit, CLE might bite. What prospects would you say could get it done? My friend floated Moreno, Martinez, Hoglund. I wondered if that was too steep?

Norman Ginsberg
Norman Ginsberg
8 months ago

Any knowledge about players available in today’s Minor League draft?

Sport
Sport
8 months ago

Good morning Itch! Great stuff as always. I’m about into the 30th round of a 40 round start up,5×5, 12 team, and really hoping to snag Hoglund a little later. Might consier Otto as well thanks to the this article.

So far my minors are Francisco Alvarez, Jordan Walker, Luis Matos, Hedbert, and Eury Perez.

Looks like about the usual top 80 prospects are gone. Names still left are Cowser and Mayo I have queue’d up. We’ll see if they last. Besides Kjerstad and Kwan, are they any particular names you would target general rankings leave out of the top 100 or 125? Possibly guys like Peyton Battenfield or Kristian Robinson?

Thank you for the whole series. I had some names wrote down but I’m going back through the past write ups!

Sport
Sport
Reply to  Sport
8 months ago

So I added Pages, Brendan Donovan, Wiemer, Preciado to the list of targets with Kjerstad, Kwan, and Battenfield. Anyone else you like late?

And I didn’t realize you were a teacher! Would explain why there is a break from your responses and I totally get that! I was a teacher for 20 years!

I look forward to seeing your response later in the day!

Sport
Sport
Reply to  Sport
8 months ago

We are rolling through this draft pretty good. I only have 3 spots left to add a minor and I curently have F.Alvarez, Yorke, Mayo, J.Walker, O.Peraza, L.Matos, Hedbert, Wiemer, and Eury Perez.

Still out there are Preciado, Blaze, Pereira, Eddys Leonard, and Pages.
Maybe I’m jumping the gun on your Cleveland write up, but what’s the feeling on Jhonkensy Noel? Top 100?

I wouldn’t mind adding one more arm. Strider, Bachman, Battenfield, Hoglund and Walston still out there. Any two or three of these jump out you?

Sorry for all the comments. Any help is appreciated!

Sport
Sport
Reply to  The Itch
8 months ago

Thank you! This is exactly the information I was looking for. I really appreciate it and I look forward to the rest of the teams!

Blue Meanie
Blue Meanie
8 months ago

Other sites quick to torpedo Groshans lack of pop. Nice to read a positive opinion.

junior56
junior56
8 months ago

Thanks for the list Itch! Added Lopez and Hoglund to the ever growing list.

Dave Phillips
Dave Phillips
8 months ago

Good Morning, I play in a 11 team H2H keeper league with our own minor league system that gives dibs on that minor player once called up. We keep 10 major leaguers and 5 minor leaguers. I am looking for your feedback on my last two major keepers.

Major
1. Fernando Tatis, Jr. | SS/OF
2. Walker Buehler | SP
3. Ozzie Albies | 2B
4. Yordan Alvarez | OF/DH
5. Jarred Kelenic | OF
6. Starling Marte | OF
7. Aaron Nola | SP
8. Kevin Gausman | SP

Minors
Spencer Torkelson | 1B
Herbert Perez | OF
Nolan Gorman | 3B
Josh Lowe | OF
Max Meyer | SP

#9 & #10 Major League Keeper Pool
Ryan Mountcastle | 1B/OF; Liam Hendriks | RP; Salvador Perez | C; Dansby Swanson | SS; Luis Garcia | SP; Alex Verdugo | OF; Luis Patino | SP

Thanks for any advisement you can give. I’m trying to get my ducks in a row for spring.Philip
Thanks for any advisement you can give. I’m trying to get my ducks in a row for spring.Philip
8 months ago

Thank you, Itch. You make Wednesday and Sunday that much better.

I’m holding Melendez and Moreno as my only catchers in my 20-team keep forever dynasty league. I don’t think I’ll contend in 2022, but 2023 looks very possible. I have a weak bullpen and am light on speed, plus young guys like Vaughn, Kirilloff, and others penciled into the starting line-up.

I am inclined to keep both catchers and see which one develops over the next two years. There may end up being positional versatility with these two guys as well, which will increase their value to the team.

However, I am looking to deal for some speed, preferably in the outfield. I have a feeling both of these guys will be hot commodities.

Would you feel comfortable trading either one and going with the other as your starting catcher? Is that a good risk? Or would you fight to hold both? I have lots of starting pitching to deal, so I don’t need to trade them necessarily.

I might try to get JRod for Volpe/Moreno/+, but I feel like I’ll regret letting Moreno go. Maybe not for Julio…

Thanks for any advisement you can give. I’m trying to get my ducks in a row for spring.

Philip
Philip
Reply to  The Itch
8 months ago

Thanks, Itch. Good word. I needed to hear this.

Ante GALIC
Ante GALIC
8 months ago

The Itch!!!

Awesome report, much appreciated.

a. I made two trades yesterday in my 4×4 dynasty [OBP, RC, TB, SB X WHIP, K/9, SVH, QS].One I regret, one I don’t regret. Guess which is which.

1. Give Seiya Suzuki to get Musgrove (this one I offered)
2. Give Steven Kwan to get Everson Pereira and Austin Nola (this one I accepted)

The only silver lining in accepting the worse of the two trades was that now that manager thinks I’m gullible and dumb. I thought it was Austin’s brother on my mobile app.

b. Here’s the team now. I like Lopez above a lot from your info and in this format. Would you add him over anyone on my team? Nola once he joins, I guess.

C-Garver
1-Cron
2-India
3-Biggio
SS-Bogaerts
CI-Schwindel
MI-Brujan
OF-Walsh, Arozarena, Betts, Fraley, Marte
UT-JLowe, Siri
Bench-Aranda, Burger, MChapman, Eguy Rosario, Jose Tena, Connor Joe, Steven Kwan, Seiya Suzuki
IL-Larnach
MILB-Dustin Harris, Jordan Walker, Masyn Winn, Cowser, Haskin, Wiemer

SP-Houck, Manoah, RSuarez, Cease, Roansy, Gonsolin, Ryan, TWalker, JWinder
RP-DCastillo, Chad Green, Hendriks, Iglesias, Kopech, Whitlock
Bench-Doval, Kittredge
MIL-Clayton Beeter, Cole Henry, Landon Knack, Lodolo, Walston, Owen White, Eury Perez, Slade Cecconi, Xzavion Curry

That’s the team. The commish expanded the bench rosters to 17 so I need to whittle it down to 7 total bench via 2 or 3:1 trades, drop players or move players to the IL to make the team legal come OD, but there’s time for that.

c. One administrative problem I am having with this team is that some players who have 0 or less than 130AB/50 IP MLB experience are NOT MiLB eligible in Fantrax. We only have 15 MiLB slots. Here’s the list.

1. Brujan
2. JLowe
3. Aranda
4. Burger
5. Eguy Rosario
6. Jose Tena
7. Steven Kwan
8. Roansy
9. Winder
10. Doval

I sent a message to my commish, so far no response. When I visited the draft room before our supplementary 15-round draft (72 hours before the draft), there was a minors eligible button. I also noticed that there were many good MiLB prospects who were not available when you click on the button and this screwed up a lot of managers who were just going off frantrax’s default rankings.

d. Long and winding road, indeed. I grew up on three LPs as a child.

Tchaikovsky’s 6th symphony (Pathetique)
Beethoven’s 6th symphony (Pastoral)
Schubert’s 9th symphony (the unfinished)

I can recite any parts of any of those 3 works by heart, having listened to them 1000 times each.

e. Norm MacDonald quote of the day for December 8, 2021

‘A new FBI study shows that for the first time, Americans are more likely to be killed by a stranger than a loved one. Their advice? Introduce yourself to as many people as possible.

f. Marx Brothers quote of the day for December 8, 2021

Groucho: ‘Ah-ha! Sleeping on the job. A fine night clerk.’

Cheers,
Ante

Ante GALIC
Ante GALIC
Reply to  The Itch
8 months ago

The Itch!!

Talk about great idea! I have enough quotes. I should reach out to his estate to investigate.

Cheers,
Ante

Ante GALIC
Ante GALIC
Reply to  The Itch
8 months ago

The Itch!

I only have a 9-second clip of Cecconi throwing a FB and someone saying yep. No one wanted him, he’ll be there.

Cheers,
Ante

Sport
Sport
Reply to  Ante GALIC
8 months ago

I love the team you built!

When the real MLB teams filled out their 40 man rosters a few weeks ago, all the prospects like Juilo Rodriguez, Bobby Witt, MJ Melendez, etc. that got added to the 40 man lost their ‘green’ tag on fantrax.

So in our current draft that drafts MLB and MiLB roster spots, some managers weren’t able to move those players into a minor spot. The commissioner has the ability to manually do this on each team’s home page.

Fantrax has fast responding help on matters and said they are trying to fix the problem with those players.

Ante GALIC
Ante GALIC
Reply to  Sport
8 months ago

Sport!

Thanks for the info, much appreciated.

How did your draft go? Even if it didn’t go as planned, it’s in-season moves that’s the most important. In 2018, I drafted Verlander in the 4th round. It was a bold move and he had a MONSTER year. You need THAT in your draft or in-season to make an impact.

Cheers,
Ante

Cheers,
Ante

Sport
Sport
Reply to  Ante GALIC
8 months ago

I’m pretty happy with it. I waited a round to get a top SS and missed out on Tim Anderson who I think would have fit my stats well, but other than I was able to stick to my plan. Freddie Freeman dropping to the 3rd round kind of threw me a curveball and I couldn’t resist him, so I got Jose Ramirez, LouRob, Freeman in the first 3, plus added O’Neill, India, and Winker. I waited went young at SS with Luis Urias and Jose Barrero.

The young SP went crazy early in this draft so I wasn’t able to get Manoah, Baz, Freddy Peralta, ect., but I did get Houck, Ashby, Detmers, Dustin May, and Gonsolin!

I learned dynasty start up drafts are VERY unpredictable! But it’s been fun, and I think our bench spots aren’t too deep to keep some good talent from finding their way to the waiver wire.

Ante Galic
Ante Galic
Reply to  Sport
8 months ago

Sport!

Awesome picks. Love FF in roto and in the 3rd is crazy cheap value. Your SP is great, there’ll be moves in-season in April/May when people are hemming and hawing asking Grey about, meanwhile you add them ahead of time. I think Conforto should be good this year as should Matt Chapman and Gonsolin will also be hot.

Cheers,
Ante