Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fangraphs, BA and BP Top 10 Prospect Rankings

   Now that we've taken the jump and ranked our top 10 Blue Jays prospects for 2014, we thought that we would see how some more august evaluators ranked them.   Here's a comparison of the rankings by Fangraphs, Baseball America, and Baseball Propsectus:

Baseball America
Baseball Prospectus
Aaron Sanchez
Marcus Stroman
Mitch Nay
Daniel Norris
Roberto Osuna
Franklin Barreto
Alberto Tirado
A.J. Jimenez
D. J. Davis
Matt Smoral
Dawel Lugo
Chase DeJong
Sean Nolin
Jairo Labourt

   BP shows they're not afraid to go out on a limb by picking Stroman over Sanchez.  While there's little debate that Stroman is closer to being ready for MLB than Sanchez is, the consensus seems to be that Sanchez ultimately has the higher ceiling.  Nick Faleris of BP isn't sold on Sanchez, however, and is of the opinion that "with Sanchez I feel like I'm constantly teased with "This might be really great when it clicks and he's spotting and consistently executing the curve."  Even with his strong finish in Arizona, there is some truth to that observation.
   Picking Stroman ahead of Sanchez is not a quantum leap, but it's going out on the edge just the same.  There isn't a long list of righthanded starters under 5'10" who have been successful for a prolonged period of time at the major leage level.  BP guru Jason Parks likes Stroman's overall package over Sanchez' just the same:  "I was eventually persuaded to believe the diminutive arm was not only a starter but a superior prospect, one with an upside similar to Aaron Sanchez, with a more mature arsenal, better all-around feel, and a low risk/high floor if the rotation projection failed to actualize."  So, if starting doesn't work out, Stroman's power stuff would play better in the back of a big league bullpen as a fallback position.
   We're not sure we're comfortable with the pick of Stroman over Sanchez, just the same.  There's only a year's difference in age between the two, but obviously Stroman is ahead on the development curve, largely because of his time at Duke, and the Jays' preference for taking things slowly with their top high school arms. We've argued before that Sanchez was probably going through the normal and necessary ups and downs of minor league life this year.  You have to like Sanchez' size, and the seemingly effortless way the ball explodes out of his hand.
   Another surprise was the inclusion of Nay, who was high up on both BA's and Fangraphs' list, but is nowhere to be found on BP's.  Nay had an impressive pro debut, and was named the Appy League's 4th best prospect.  He was called up to Vancouver for the NWL playoffs, and was the final series MVP.
So, there is a lot to like about Nay.  BP didn't share as high an opinion of Nay, and pointed out his lack of speed as being a negative both in the field and on the bases as he progresses.  Nay didn't make our top 10 list, but he did merit serious consideration, and is solidly in the next tier of prospects.  To us, the upside is there, but we would like to see how he fares over a full season of minor league ball before making the committment to him.
  It's interesting to see that Davis was ranked 8th by Fangraphs and BP, but 3rd by BA, who tabbed him the 2nd best Appy League prospect.  While he was one of the youngest players in both his draft class and his league last year, we were expecting a little more from Davis, and after a hot start, it was disappointing that he tailed off, and didn't get a promotion to Vancouver for the playoffs like his teammates Nay and Dawel Lugo did.  This may have owed more to the fact that there was more of a need for infielders in Vancouver than there was for outfielders, but we would have thought that Davis would have at least benefitted from exposure to that atmosphere. We're somewhere in the middle on our opinion of Davis.  The defense is without question, but the bat is still developing. We're talking about a premium athlete, who isn't necessarily a premium prospect just yet.  That the Cubs were rumoured to be asking about Davis speaks to how other organizations view him.
     We were also a bit surprised that Barreto made BA's list, but not the other two.  Barreto turned many heads with this bat this year, and is no longer flying under the prospect radar.  Questions about his defence and his ultimate position must have influenced Fangraphs and BP to leave him off their lists.
   Fangraphs took a flyer on Smoral, who the Jays snapped up as a first round sandwich pick in 2012, after he had missed all of his senior year of HS with a foot injury that delayed his pro debut until this year.  Smoral had trouble finding the plate consistently in the GCL this summer, but 6'8" lefties who throw in the low to mid 90s tend to get a longer look.  Only 19, Smoral likely will spend time in the GCL for at least part of the summer.  We don't doubt his ability, because he showed flashes of it in Florida, but he's so far away that we didn't include him in our top 10.
   Lugo was an interesting choice by BA.  BA loved Lugo's Bluefield Jays, including 7 of them on their top 20 Appy League prospects list, with Lugo coming in #5.  There is no question about the bat, but like Barreto, his future position is in doubt.  BA did name Lugo as having the best infield arm in the organization.  Lugo hit .297/.317/.469 at Bluefield, and after his late-season callup to Vancouver, Canadians manager Clayton McCullough told Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province that Lugo has "some serious juice in his bat."  Only 19, we wonder if the Jays will challenge him by sending him to full-season ball at Lansing next year.
   BA and our list are in agreement about A.J Jimenez.  The defense is there, and there seems little doubt that he could play in the bigs right now defensively, but there are concerns about his offence, enough that while we think he does have a big league future, it will be as a back up, unless his bat comes around.
   When it came to our final pick, we had a difficult time choosing between several players.  We ultimately settled on Tirado, and to our relief, the three evaluators seem to agree with us.  Fangraphs calls him "(A) right-hander (who) does a decent job of commanding his low-to-mid-90s fastball and he induces a lot of ground-ball outs. His second best offering is a changeup and his breaking ball is showing signs of improving."
  It's curious to see that Kevin Pillar didn't make any of the lists. Fangraphs had him at #14 last year (prior to the trades).  Perhaps his 100+ AB in the bigs eliminates his propsect status, but he's still a prospect to us, and you have to give him props for far how he's come in a very short time.
  BP went out a little bit further on a limb by taking DeJong and Labourt at the end of their list, but neither one is that much of a stretch.  Labourt was dominant at times at Bluefied, and struck out 10 in 5 plus innings for Vancouver in the playoffs. DeJong struck out 66 Appy batters in 55 innings.  Both are the long, lean and athletic type of builds that the Blue Jays covet.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Grouping Prospects by Major League Readiness


When looking at a farm system, it's useful to group its prospects into three broad categories, all based on major league readiness.  There's close to ready, for prospects who have either had a brief taste of the majors, or have fared well at AAA (or maybe even AA, since many teams like to skip their top prospects to the bigs from there).  Then there's not-quite-ready, the level for prospects who likely need at least another year (or more) of seasoning, followed by the not ready level - for prospects who show signs of hope, but are still several seasons away.
   We've looked at the top prospects in the Blue Jays system by these three categories, with some comments. We've decided to exclude players like Anthony Gose, Moises Sierra, and Kevin Pillar, who have had varying trials of at least a month.

Close to Ready
A.J. Jimenez
Marcus Stroman
Sean Nolin
John Stilson

  Much has been made of the fact that Jimenez appears ready defensively, but not with the bat.  He put up decent minor league numbers at 2 levels this year, but that was mostly fueled by a strong start.  There are whispers that he is becoming somewhat injury prone, as well.  With Dionner Navarro, Eric Kratz, and Josh Thole ahead of him on the depth chart, Jimenez likely needs more seasoning at Buffalo.
  Stroman might make the team out of spring training, although the club doesn't need to rush to put him on the 40 man, and might keep him at Buffalo for a half season.  Nolin appears on the verge of earning a job in the big league rotation if he has a strong spring.  Stilson likely makes the team if the club deals some of its bullpen depth at the upcoming winter meetings.

Not Quite Ready
Aaron Sanchez
Andy Burns
Kenny Wilson
Daniel Norris
Dalton Pompey
Dwight Smith
Deck McGuire

   Sanchez will be challenged by a promotion to AA this season, and while there have been concerns about his delivery and his control, he seems poised to take off.  He is still at the stage where the club will be limiting his pitches and innings, but more will be expected this season.  Burns made huge strides this season, but will likely spend the year at Buffalo, working on playing a variety of positions.  Wilson had a bounce back year, but needs more seasoning at AAA.  Norris, Pompey, and Smith are a bit further away, and will play at High A next year.  We can see Norris getting a mid season promotion if he continues to progress as he did last year.  Even though he's been a disappointment, we can't give up on former 1st round pick McGuire just yet.  The forgotten man of most prospect lists, he showed signs of putting things together at New Hampshire last year, and while it's a bit of a longshot, we won't be all that surprised if he lives up to his promise at Buffalo this year.

Not Ready
Frankie Barreto
Roberto Osuna
Alberto Tirado
Jairo Labourt
Dawel Lugo
Tom Robson
Shane Dawson
Miguel Castro
Mitch Nay
Richard Urena
Matt Smoral
Adonys Cardona
LB Dantzler
Rowdy Tellez
Chase DeJong

  It's not hard to see that the true strength of the system lies below High A.  We've lumped Osuna in this group, because he won't be pitching again until August, and will likely be at the rookie level.  So, he may be starting all over again in A ball in 2015.  There are some intriguing prospects in this lot, starting with Barreto.  He's one of several shortstops who aren't projected to stay at that position.  Lugo likely will shift to 3rd, while scouts say that Urena is the true shortstop of the group. Tirado made our top 10 list, but may not even progress to full season ball in 2014.  Robson and Dawson are Western Canadians who probably will.
  Some top prospect lists had Nay ranked high, although there are doubts about his defence, and his speed is already below average.  Tellez is the prospect we're most excited about, and wanted to rank him in our top 10, but there's not enough of a body of work to go on to put him there yet.  Smoral and Cardona are long term projects who didn't progress as much as we thought they would this year.  Castro is intriguing, but like Tellez, has only a small sample size to evaluate him on.  DeJong's fastball has not quite shown up yet, but is still well regarded by scouts.
   It's easy to see some of this depth being used in trade talks at next year's winter meetings.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Clutchlings Top 10 Blue Jays Prospects

   Eleven months ago, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopolous had completed the near-emptying of the club's farm system when he included top prospects Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard in the R.A. Dickey deal, and Justin Nicolino and Jake Marisnick in the Jose Reyes trade.  Months earlier, Anthopolous had started the process with the dealing of a number of prospects to Houston in the J.A. Happ deal.  The Jays' system was thin on both quality and quantity at the same time.
   Despite this, the Jays had a reasonably successful farm system this year, thanks in part due to a successful June draft (despite not signing top pick Phil Bickford, who was taken with the 10th pick).  And with the 9th and 10th pick next year in what is being labelled a deeper prospect pool, the club is poised to return to prominence as a drafter and developer of talent. Baseball America ranked the Jays as the 11th best system after the 2013 season - an impressive achievement, all things considered.
   We bring you, then, our Top 20 Blue Jays Prospects:

1.  Aaron Sanchez
   The resounding thud you may have heard in late August/early September was the crush of supporters leaping off the Aaron Sanchez bandwagon.
   Sanchez missed a month this year due to shoulder issues.  He was a bit rusty when he came back.  And had one outing in July when he was shelled.
   Otherwise, Sanchez had a pretty good year.  Dominant, at times.
   Because fellow prospects and former teammates Noah Syndergaard and Justin Nicolino remained healthy and were promoted to AA, there were many analysts who were quick to dump on Sanchez.  Too upright in his delivery, said some.  Not enough legs in the last phase, said others.  He walks too many.  Not a true ace, more like a #2, at best.
   All of the above was said even though he was lights out in his last two starts with Dunedin, where he was one of the younger pitchers in the league.  And the walks are still high, but were down a full 1.0 walk per 9 innings from 2012.
   The bashing continued in the Arizona Fall League.  In a recent chat, prospect guru Keith Law opined:
 I compared what I saw from Sanchez in Fall League to video from when I saw him in 2012, and it confirmed my initial impression – he’s shortened his stride and is finishing too upright. The Sanchez I’d seen in the past missed bats with his fastball; the one I saw in AZ threw 28 fastballs and didn’t get a single swing and miss on it.
   Jeff Moore of Baseball Prospectus is apparently off the Sanchez bandwagon, too:
     Sanchez has dynamic stuff, but outings like these have become all too common. He stayed out of trouble on Monday because he doesn’t give up hard contact and misses enough bats, but he was unable to finish the fifth inning. He will be able to get away with poor control more so than most pitchers because his fastball sits in the mid-90s and touches 97 and because he pairs it with a plus breaking ball, but his ceiling will be limited if he doesn’t get it everything under control.
   This in spite of the fact that Sanchez gave up no runs in that start.  Sure, maybe the bullpen saved him, but he gave up no runs for the second straight start.  And was named to the AFL All-Star game. Sanchez finished on a dominant run in Arizona, surrendering only 1 earned run in his last 4 outings.
   Our point is that maybe in this day and age of instant information, some analysts, perhaps trying to stay ahead of the curve, are quick to praise or condemn prospects literally from one outing to the next. Sanchez was pitching over his head a bit in the AFL, but he responded well to the challenge.  When he wasn't on the injured list this season, he showed top of the rotation stuff.  Sanchez throws a mid 90s fastball, and mixes in an elite curve (which he's had trouble controlling) and change.
   This season was a bit of a speed bump for Sanchez. Something all athletes deal with - the elite ones deal with them successfully. He firmly re-established himself in Arizona as a premium prospect. The trials that he endured this season will help him to better the next twist in his road to the majors.

2. Marcus Stroman
   Opinion on Stroman is even more prolonged and sharply divided. The 5'9" fireballer is either a potential back of the bullpen arm, or a future mid to end of the rotation starter.
   The Blue Jays have given Stroman every chance to be a starter, even though the  21st pick in the 2012 draft was predicted by some to have the shortest path to the bigs - as a reliever.  A 50 game PED suspension pushed Stroman's progress back a bit, but he more than made up for lost time when he returned to action in May.
  Stroman was sent to AA New Hampshire's starting rotation to build up his arm strength, and work on his change-up.  Which he did, with resounding success.  When the major league rotation was riddled by injury and inconsistency, there were many calls for Stroman's promotion.
  Here's what one scout had to say about the righthander in August:
   One of the most inspiring minor league pitching performances I’ve seen this year. He’s very athletic on the mound and attacks hitters, shows three plus pitches and plus command. The concerns over the durability are legitimate…go back the last 25 years and you won’t find a right-hander his size that’s been a starter in the league for longer than three years. That said, he seems to feed off those questions and I love guys with a chip on their shoulder. He could compete in the big leagues right now.
   Stroman is used to naysayers who point to his lack of size.  He uses that as fuel to propel him on. Stroman is strong and athletic, and gets a lot of his lower body into his delivery, which should lessen the wear and tear on his arm/shoulder.  Stroman has a deceptive delivery, turning his back to the hitter, making it hard to pick the ball up.  With 3 plus pitches, Stroman should be a lock for the starting rotation, either out of spring training, or at some point in 2014.

3.  Daniel Norris
   This may be a bit of a reach for us.  Norris is a top 10 prospect for sure.  The way he battled through tough outings last year and in April of this shows the character this young man has.  Even though he was born and raised in Tennessee, Norris loves to surf, and his Twitter feed reveals a laid back, So-Cal attitude, with a strong faith that may help him deal with the ups and downs of being a starting pitcher. The kid seems to know how to put things in perspective.
  After the first week of May, Norris was lights out for Lansing, and was the mainstay of the rotation.  The ever-cautious Jays shut him down for a month with elbow tenderness, but he showed no ill effects when he came back, although he was on a 60 pitch limit until late August.  This may have kept us from seeing what Norris is truly capable of, although a pair of starts for playoff-bound Dunedin at the end of the summer gave us a glimpse. His month on the DL, coupled with his slow start, likely cost Norris a spot on BA's top 20 Midwest League prospects list.
  There are some who say Norris profiles as a middle of the rotation starter, or even a reliever.  His fastball sits in the low 90s, and he can dial it up when need be.  He has a plus curve, a change that has come a long way, and he added a slider this year.  He became consistent with his delivery,  release point and control.  We say that middle of the rotation is Norris' floor, and we're looking forward to more from him, likely at High A this year.

4.  Sean Nolin
   Nolin profiles as a middle of the rotation innings eater (in a few years at least, for the latter).  And there's nothing wrong with that (see Buehrle, Mark).
   Nolin blew through two levels in the minors in 2012, as well as 2013.  He was called up for a major league start in May, and stage fright may have been the culprit, as he was shelled.  Nolin throws a FB that averages around 91 mph.  He also throws a change, curve and cutter that all profile as "solid average" with the evaluators at Baseball Prospectus.  He has a fluid, repeatable delivery, and his size is ideal for a future rotation regular.
   His numbers for 2013 were comparable to Stroman's.  One or both will likely join the Jays pitching staff at some point in the season.

5.  Kevin Pillar
   Pillar rose so quickly through the minors that we really have never given him the credit he deserves.
He advanced through two levels this year, and got a shot in late August and September with the big club when injuries sidelined all of the starting outfield at one point.
   Pillar hit .307/.353/.461 between New Hampshire and Buffalo.  He was overwhelmed at the major league level, going hitless in his first 13 bats, but finished strong to get over the Mendoza line, ending up with a line of .206/.250/.333 in 102 MLB at bats.
   Pillar has always had the "overachieving fourth outfielder" tag applied to him.  As a 32 round draft choice, he's more than used to battling long odds.  Pillar has speed (not necessarily elite, base-stealing speed), and can play all three outfield positions.  That the Jays let Rajai Davis walk after the season likely opens a spot for Pillar, who offers more versatility, and potentially a more impactful bat.  We're starting to think that the Reed Johnson comps are more of a floor than a ceiling.  This kid has hit at every level.
   As we said in another post, it won't be a bad thing if Pillar gets 300 at bats for this club.  He has risen to every challenge the organization has put in front of him.  He doesn't have one overwhelming tool, but his bat, defensive skills and versatility, coupled with his smarts on the basepaths, will make a strong contribution to the team.

6.  Roberto Osuna
   Osuna's truncated season got off to a dominant start. Pitching as a 17 year old in the Midwest League, where he was the 3rd youngest player, Osuna allowed only 3 earned runs total in 3 of his first 4 starts, striking out 22 batters in 15 innings.  This was on the heels of a spectacular pro debut the season before with Bluefield and Vancouver, the latter of which is still talked about by lower mainlanders.
  And then Osuna was removed from an April 30th start with elbow soreness.  He was diagnosed with a tear of the UCL, and was sent for a month of rest followed by rehab in Florida.  Upon his return in June, it appeared that the strategy worked, as he was back to his dominant self in his first two starts, hitting 97 with his fastball.  He was rocked over his next three starts, however, and was shut down for the season, and underwent Tommy John surgery to replace the damaged ligament.
   The surgery took place in late July, and given the rehab timetable from TJ,  Osuna won't begin even soft-tossing for at least another month.  If the average recovery time is one year, he should be pitching again by sometime late in the summer.
   Since he's ony 18, that's maybe not a huge deal.  Osuna wouldn't even be draft eligible until next June if he was American.  The consensus is that even though he may have something of a high maintenance body, he has electric stuff, and shows an advanced feel for pitching despite his age.  If there is to be a benefit to TJ surgery, it's that most pitchers who have battled back from it have paid more attention to their conditioning, which would be a good thing for Osuna.

7.  D.J. Davis
   Still considered to be very raw, Davis was one of the youngest players in his draft class.  The club has taken things slowly with the 2012 1st round choice.
    All of the other tools in Davis' kit appear to be there in abundance, except for the bat, which is still a work in progress.  Baseball America thinks highly of Davis, and ranked him as the 2nd best prospect in the rookie level Appalachian League this year (although BA admits that this year's class pales in comparison to previous years).  Davis has tremendous range in centrefield, and is considered one of the fastest prospects in all of milb, although that hasn't necessarily translated into high stolen base totals yet.
   The Blue Jays will likely challenge Davis with an assignment to full season ball this year, which should accelerate his development. There are still likely some ups and downs in store for him, however.

8.  Andy Burns
   Burns has always been a sleeper prospect.  This year he woke up.
Burns redshirted his senior year of college after transferring from Kentucky to Arizona.  The year of missed development might have explained the mediocre results at the plate in his first two years of pro ball.  Burns
hit .327/.383/.524 in a half a season at Dunedin, before receiving a promotion to AA New Hampshire.  Predicatably, Burns struggled at first after the promotion, but hit .300 in August, as he adjusted to the higher quality pitching.  To continue his development, Burns was sent to the Arizona Fall League, where he acquitted himself quite well with a .312/.402/.403 line. The power wasn't there, but that's one of the last tools in the box to develop with most prospects.
 Burns was primarily a shortstop in college, but played mostly 3rd this year.  He spent some time at 1st, as well as the corner outfield positions in Arizona as well.  The Jays likely see him as a super utility-type player, who can contribute with the bat as well.  Burns could fill an important minor role with the club by 2015.

9 Franklin Barreto
   Barreto has drawn accolades (mostly for his bat) since he was a youth ball player.  Playing this year at the tender age of 17, Barreto was ranked the 5th best prospect in the GCL by BA.  He joined Bluefield late in the season to help with their playoff run.
   All the signs point to Barreto being a potential top of the order, impact bat.  The problem is, of course, where he ultimately will play.  Barreto has been a shortstop to this point, but his footwork and arm will likely limit his future there.  The plan for at least the next year will be to have Barreto remain at short, but all indications are that a move either to 2nd or the outfield is just a matter of time.  He has a plus arm, which coupled with his speed and baseball sense, could see him patrolling centrefield at the Rogers Centre just as Rogers decides to install grass on the playing surface.
  Barreto is still a number of years away.  The injury of Dickie Thon at Vancouver caused a series of promotions and shuffles that created a spot for Barreto at Bluefield, but we think that the fact that the Jays sent him there at a young age (and having only been in America for a few months) says a lot about his makeup, and that the club thought that he was up for the challenge. He did tail off at Bluefield after a flashy start, but he was one of the youngest players in the league, playing at a premium position for a contending team.

10.  Alberto Tirado
   To tell the truth, we had a hard time making up our minds about this slot, thanks largely to the fact that most of the promising talent in the system is at the lower end of the ladder, making decisions based on relatively small sample sizes.
  We went back and forth on a few prospects, who will be mentioned in a subsequent post, but finally settled on Tirado.  Both Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus' Jason Parks are extremely high on the young Dominican, who pitched as an 18 year old in the Appy League this summer.  Tirado, with his innings and pitches closely monitored like all young Jays hurlers, threw 48 innings for Bluefield, striking out 44.
   Tirado is not the big bodied pitcher that you can project a heavy workload on at this point, but there is still time for him to grow a bit. Several evaluations of him make mention of his size.  Tirado consistently commands his low to mid 90s FB down in the zone, creating a lot of groundballs. Like most young pitchers, his secondary offerings, headed by his change, are coming along.
   Tirado, who has flown a bit under the prospect radar to this point,  was part of a huge contingent of Bluefield Jays in Baseball America's Top 10 Appy League prospects list, coming in at #8.  As the Jays like to take their time with their young arms, fans in Vancouver have a lot to look forward to this summer, starting with the likes of Tirado.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Trade Talk Involving Prospects ?

   When the Blue Jays acquired R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes, and Mark Buehrle without giving up anyone from the major league roster, we were as giddy as the 2 1/2 million fans who went through the turnstiles at the Rogers Centre this season, in anticipation of playoff glory.
   Such was not the case, however, and not only did the Blue Jays not get anywhere close to the post-season, but several of the prospects they gave up in the above deals gave life and hope to their new organizations.  The Mets were buoyed by the acquisition of Noah Syndergaard, who cracked both the Florida State and Eastern League top 10 prospect lists, and started for the American side at the Future Stars game, played at Citi Field during the All-Star break. Catcher Travis d'Arnaud, the Jays top prospect prior to the trade, made his MLB debut late in the season, and while he didn't set the world on fire, he and Syndergaard helped soften the loss of Matt Harvey for Mets fans.
   And the agony for Jays fans doesn't end there.  Outfielder Jake Marisnick made his debut for the Marlins, and Justin Nicolino made the top 10 Florida State League top prospects list as well, and was promoted to AA.
  With rumours abounding that the Jays were considering moving more prospects for Cubs starter Jeff Smardzija, it begs the question of whether or not trading prospects is a good idea.  The answer, of course, depends on the contending status of the team willing to trade them.  The Jays thought that they were on the cusp on contending last fall, and were just a few pieces away from a title.  In that case, improving your roster for players not on your 40 man makes sense.  Prospects, after all, are just that, and the players the Jays dealt away (with the exception of d'Arnaud) didn't fit with the slim window for winning the club was faced with.
And prospects don't always pan out.  Here's a list of Baseball America's minor league players of the year since 2000:
2000Jon Rauch, rhp, Winston-Salem/Birmingham (White Sox)
2001Josh Beckett, rhp, Brevard County/Portland (Marlins)
2002Rocco Baldelli, of, Bakersfield/Orlando/Durham (Devil Rays)
2003Joe Mauer, c, Fort Myers/New Britain (Twins)
2004Jeff Francis, lhp, Tulsa/Colorado Springs (Rockies)
2005Delmon Young, of, Montgomery/Durham (Devil Rays)
2006Alex Gordon, 3b, Wichita (Royals)
2007Jay Bruce, of, Sarasota/Chattanooga/Louisville (Reds)
2008Matt Wieters, c, Frederick/Bowie (Orioles)
2009Jason Heyward, of, Myrtle Beach/Mississippi/Gwinnett (Braves)
2010Jeremy Hellickson, rhp, Durham/Charlotte (Rays)
2011Mike Trout, of, Arkansas (Angels)
2012Wil Myers, of, Northwest Arkansas/Omaha (Royals)

  While that's a decent group of players, you can't call any of them other than Trout franchise players. 
 Dealing prospects, then, does make sense.  In the right situation.  The risk, of course, is that the players you deal for don't bring about the expected results, and/or the prospects dealt develop faster (or better) than had been thought.  To get quality, you have to give up quality.  Which is why we don't think dealing any of the Jays top prospects for Smardzija is wise.  We're not sure the return is worth it. David Price is the other name attracting a lot of attention in the rumour mill, but Tampa would likely demand several top prospects, and given his recent injury history, we're not sure that's good value, either.  Dealing prospects also can cause problems in the parent club runs into injury troubles, or if a player on the big club struggles.  Nicolino and Syndergaard may not have helped in either of these regards, but Marisnick and d'Arnaud certainly would've.
   There do appear to be two types of trades involving prospects.  There's the to-get-quality-you-have-to-give-up-quality type, as in the Dickey trade.  High-end talents from the system are given up to get a proven, first division major leaguer.  Then there's the quantity type of deal, where a team gives up a flock of minor leaguers, few of whom have high ceilings, but the team acquiring them is in development mode, and is selling off assets that don't fit into their long range plans.  That would be the case the the J.A. Happ deal the Jays made with Houston last year. The Blue Jays also pretty much emptied their farm system in the last half of 2012, in the deals with the Mets, Marlins, and Astros.  They weakened it from both a quality and quantity perspective.  Fortunately, their appears to be a wealth of arms close to making their full season debuts next season, so the system is on the upswing.  To support those players, however, you need to have a solid core of both position player and prospects and quality org guys.   While development takes priority over winning in the minors, you don't want your prized prospects to be on a team that loses twice as many games as they win.
  So, is the time right for the Jays to deal prospects, either from a quality or a quantity viewpoint ?  In our opinion, no.  While the system is on the rise again, it's too early to deal top talent like Sanchez, Stroman, or Davis (especially for someone like Smardzija).  And dealing talent from outside of the top 10 really would weaken the organization.  Most of those players would be toiling at the lower levels of the system, and after the success of Vancouver and Bluefield this year, the club on the next rung of the ladder, Lansing, is poised to have a breakout, prospect-laden season.
 How does the club improve, then?  By pursuing under-valued free agents, and by using some of their bullpen depth at the major league level to acquire an end of the rotation starter, and by hoping for a return to form for Dickey and Brandon Morrow, and that one or both of Sean Nolin or Marcus Stroman make significant contributions to the pitching staff.