Toronto Blue Jays’ Top 5 Prospects Post-Trade Deadlineby Andersen Pickard August 11, 2021 0 comments
The Toronto Blue Jays have spent a large chunk of 2021 sitting in the fourth-place spot in the American League East, but that is far from an accurate representation of how they have performed. Fighting for a Wild Card bid in one of baseball’s fiercest divisions, the Jays made a splash at the recent trade deadline. Toronto went all-in on their pursuit for starting pitching as they acquired Jose Berrios from the Minnesota Twins for top prospects Austin Martin and Simeon Woods-Richardson.
With these key players on their way out, the Blue Jays’ farm system has been shaken up and rearranged. Let’s dive into the new five faces who make up the future of baseball in Toronto.
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1. Nate Pearson, Starting Pitcher
Pearson rose through the Jays’ system as an elite starter, boasting the exact skills and repertoire that made him a first-round pick in 2017. The right-hander is a big-bodied 24-year-old who checks in at 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds. The fastball is his top pitch, and it’s nearly perfect. This heater sits in the upper-90s and has hit triple-digits on numerous occasions, bringing with it both speed and swing-and-miss stuff. He complements it with an equally lethal slider, which has incredible break as well as sneaky low-90s velocity. He also throws a changeup and curveball, both of which are solid but definitely aren’t the highlights of his four-pitch mix.
Pearson soared through the minors in 2019, eclipsing the farm system and reaching Triple-A after starting the year at High-A. All in all, he posted a 2.30 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and .176 WHIP with 119 strikeouts and 27 walks that year. He opened 2020 in the majors but posted a 6.00 ERA with a concerning 0.81 BB/K rate. One concern about the right-hander in the minors was his durability, and that was exposed as soon as he reached Toronto. In 2020, he missed time with an arm injury that impacted his velocity. He has also dealt with a pair of groin injuries this season. At the end of the day, the hope is that these are mere hiccups for the young phenom. There is no doubt that he can still be a talented starter once he rehabs and finds his groove in a 162-game season.
2. Gabriel Moreno, Catcher
Teams love players who produce no matter the environment. That is the outcome that Moreno has demonstrated so far in his young career. A talented player who can hit for both contact and power, the 21-year-old is raking with a .373/.441/.651 slash line in addition to eight homers, 45 RBI, 14 walks, and 22 strikeouts at Double-A this season. Praised for his high baseball IQ and ability to put balls in play, Moreno’s long-term projection as a hitter has very few concerns. Meanwhile, it’s easy to rave about his ability as a catcher, too. A phenomenal athlete with a mere 5-foot-11 and 160-pound frame, Moreno is a capable receiver and thrower.
The developmental progress Moreno makes defensively over the next few seasons will be fun to watch. While he may be blocked by fellow prospect Alejandro Kirk, who was promoted to the majors recently, Moreno projects as a long-term catcher who makes an impact at the MLB level. Further, he’s already at Double-A despite being just 21 years old. This means that the Blue Jays can take things slow with his development and allow him to become a top-tier rather than rush him through the minors. He should be called up in Summer 2022, but it would not be shocking to see Toronto wait until 2023 before promoting him.
3. Orelvis Martinez, Shortstop
Martinez is currently at High-A Vancouver, so he won’t be a part of the Jays’ plans for at least another couple of years. Still, there is plenty of reason to be excited abo the 6-foot-1 middle infielder. Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $3.5 million in 2017, Martinez has shown an ability to hit the ball hard with plenty of power. This strong bat coupled with an impressive defensive makeup surely makes scouts salivate as his profile is fairly safe to project. He has also shown maturity at the plate, working counts and fighting deep into at-bats. A fairly versatile player, Martinez will trek through the minors as a shortstop but could find himself at third base once he reaches the majors.
At just 19 years old, Martinez is slashing .271/.358/.565 with 21 homers, 73 RBI, 34 walks, and 89 strikeouts through 77 games at Single-A and High-A this year. That’s a high strikeout rate, but such a trade-off is commonly expected when a player produces as much pop as Martinez does. His development in 2022 will be critical in determining his future outlook. This is a player that fans should certainly begin to get excited about; he should rapidly ascend through prospect rankings over the next 12-plus months.
4. Jordan Groshans, Shortstop
Just 21 years old, Toronto acquired Groshans with the 12th pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. He’s a well-rounded player with success both at the plate and in the field. A member of the Jays’ alternate site in 2020, Groshans has shown that he is developing into a legitimate player who can have an impact in the majors down the road. The right-hander has a balanced swing, strong bat, and ability to produce loud contact. He is also capable of both putting the ball in play and slugging for power. As for Groshan’s defense, he has shown great athleticism in the infield. While not super speedy, he has a strong arm and enough range to stick at shortstop down the road.
Groshans will be blocked at shortstop by Bo Bichette, though plenty of things could change. Groshans or Bichette could find a new position, an injury could occur, or perhaps even a trade goes down. The fact of the matter is that Groshans should impress significantly once he reaches Triple-A, making it challenging for Toronto to keep him in the minors. The 6-foot-3 infielder could make his MLB debut within the next 365 days.
5. Gunner Hoglund, Starting Pitcher
Hoglund landed with the Blue Jays in the first round of the 2021 MLB Draft and quickly sneaks into their top-five prospects list. A talented southpaw from Mississippi, Hoglund impressed in college before undergoing Tommy John surgery. While he missed out on being a top-10 pick, the 21-year-old secured his first-round status by throwing a solid mid-90s heater with a tight, mid-80s slider. These are his two best pitches, and while neither is an excessive or elite pitch, they complement each other nicely and help make Hoglund the talented hurler that he is today. He also throws a low-80s changeup and has experience with a curveball. While neither are phenomenal, both provide a change of pace and could be used to throw off batters.
At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, it’s fair to argue that Hoglund’s best trait is his control. He is able to hit the strike zone very consistently while still putting a premium on velocity and mechanics. Any type of medical concern always warrants mentioning during the draft process, but there is no concern that Tommy John surgery will have any major impact on this youngster’s trajectory. Rather, he should find his way to Toronto around 2024.
What Does the Future Hold?
Evidently, the Blue Jays have a bright future ahead of them even after trading away a pair of their top prospects. Groshans replaced Martin, a fellow infielder at Double-A, on this list while Hoglund took the spot of another starter in Woods-Richardson. The biggest void for Toronto right now is an elite pitching prospect, though this comes with a disclaimer. For starters, Pearson was this exact player before reaching the majors and stumbling a bit. Meanwhile, Alex Manoah was also highly regarded but graduated from the farm system with his promotion (and subsequent success) in the majors.
All in all, the Blue Jays are in a transition period right now. Manoah is in the majors, Pearson’s status as a prospect is morphing, and two key names in the farm system were traded. Going forward, the Jays will look for some of the names mentioned above to step up and become the new faces of the Blue Jays’ future.
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