Toward the end of the 2016 season, I posted a three-part series on Toronto Blue Jays prospects who were ranked outside of the organization’s top 30 that I felt were worth keeping an eye on. Of the 20 unranked prospects that I made a note of, 3 have worked their way into the organization’s top 30 on MLB.com (RHP Jordan Romano – 23rd, 1B Juan Kelly – 24th, and OF Jonathan Davis – 29th). While it’s too early for me to produce a good, quality list of those outside of the 2017 Top 30 Prospects rankings who I think you should be keeping an eye on, I thought I’d revisit and provide an update on the ones from my list from last season.
10 of the 20 who made my list are currently on a roster in the Blue Jays farm system, with 9 others apparently penciled in to play in a short season league later this summer. I’m unsure on the whereabouts of RHP Jeremy Gabryszwski as he doesn’t show up on any roster, nor have I seen any news about him being released or injured, so I can’t confirm his status with the organization.
Let’s start with Buffalo:
Jason Leblebijian: Last year at a game in Binghamton, Conner Greene told me “this guy,” meaning Leblebijian, “is gonna be a big leaguer!” While that does remain to be seen, the 25-year old third baseman who was drafted in the 25th round in 2012 has adjusted well to AAA. He’s cooled off a bit from the hot start he had, but he’s finished April hitting .333/.480/.587 with 4 doubles, 4 homers, 15 RBIs, and 2 stolen bases.
Christian Lopes: Drafted in the 7th round in 2011, I feel like the 24-year old Lopes is sort of a forgotten infield prospect in the farm system. He finished April hitting .275/.310/.363 with 4 doubles, 1 homer, 8 RBIs, and 3 stolen bases.
Moving on to New Hampshire:
Jonathan Davis: The 24-year old outfielder, selected in the 15th round of the 2013 draft, posted a slash line of .254/.390/.381 in the month of April to go along with 2 doubles, 2 home runs, 5 RBIs, and 1 stolen base.
Shane Dawson: Like most of New Hampshire’s starting rotation, he’s had a less than ideal start to the season as the 23-year old Canadian lefthander, taken in the 17th round of the 2012 draft, finished April with a record of 1-2 in 4 starts to go with a 5.48 ERA, a WHIP of 1.30, and an opposing batting average of .273.
Moving on to Dunedin:
Connor Eller: The 23-year old righthander taken in the 22nd round of last year’s draft has done well in the bullpen for Dunedin thus far, posting a 2.45 ERA in 7.1 innings of work to go along with a 1.36 WHIP and a .185 opposing batting average.
Juan Kelly: Last year, I felt this 22-year old switch hitting first baseman was one of, if not the best, hitters in the system that no one was talking about. He finished April hitting .267/.327/.378 with 7 doubles, 1 homer, and 8 RBIs for Dunedin.
Conor Panas: The 24-year old outfielder from Toronto, taken in the 9th round of the 2015 draft, spent a good portion of April on the disabled list. In his 8 games of duty, he’s posted a slash line of .207/.324/.310 with 1 homer, 2 RBIs, and 1 stolen base.
Jordan Romano: The 24-year old righthander from Markham, taken in the 10th round of the 2014 draft, posted a record of 2-0 in 4 starts (plus 1 bullpen appearance) to go along with a team leading 3.47 ERA, WHIP of 1.59, but an alarming opposing batting average of .293, which is a stark contrast to the .191 opposing average he had last year with Lansing.
And Finally, looking at Lansing:
Bradley Jones: If I had to choose only one prospect on this list so far this year to really keep an eye on, this would be the guy. The 21-year old slugging first baseman taken in the 18th round of last year’s draft has done nothing but hit, and hit homers since he was drafted. He finished April hitting .372/.415/.674 for Lansing to go with 4 doubles, 2 triples, 6 homers and 23 RBIs. He’s leading the team in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base plus slugging, triples, home runs, RBIs, and total bases. Furthermore, he finished April leading the entire Jays’ farm system in homers (although tied with Dunedin’s Max Pentecost), RBIs, and slugging percentage. The Jays might already have Rowdy Tellez, Ryan McBroom, and Juan Kelly (and even the C/1B/DH Max Pentecost) ahead of him, but be sure to keep an eye on this prospect’s progress. In his first 83 professional baseball games (split between Bluefield and Lansing) he’s hit .313/.357/.604 with 22 doubles, 3 homers, 22 homers, and 78 RBIs to go along with 16 stolen bases. Prorated for a full 144 game season, that’d come out to 38 doubles, 5 triples, 38 homers, and 135 RBIs. Don’t sleep on this prospect at all.
Nash Knight: The 24-year old infielder who’s seen time at first base, second base, and designated hitter in 2017, was signed as an undrafted free agent. He finished April hitting .257/.422/.257 to go along with 2 RBIs and 1 stolen base.