OF Anthony Alford and SS Richard Urena were added to the Blue Jays 40-man roster yesterday, along with LHP Ryan Borucki. Teams had until Friday's deadline to add players who met the qualifying minor league service time, or risk losing them in next month's Rule 5 draft.
Alford and Urena were no surprise. Urena finished the season at AA New Hampshire after an August promotion, and will likely begin the 2017 season there, before finishing up with AAA Buffalo. Alford struggled through an injury-plagued 2016 with High A Dunedin, but turned heads in the Arizona Fall League. He will start next season with New Hampshire. While both are not MLB-ready (Urena would be the closest of the pair; Alford has the higher ceiling), the Blue Jays could not risk losing them, even though the team selecting them would have to keep them on their 25-man roster for the season, or offer them back to the Blue Jays for half the $50 000 draft fee. Both are premium athletes, and should be a major part of the Blue Jays roster by 2018, 2019 at the latest.
Borucki was the biggest surprise. With limited room available, the club had to decide between him, fellow southpaw Angel Perdomo, and RHP Francisco Rios. Borucki's road to the 40-man was easily the longest. Considered one of the top prospects in Illinois in 2012, a torn UCL prior to the draft caused his stock to tumble. The Blue Jays, always ones to roll the dice under Amateur Scouting Director Blake Parker during the Alex Anthopoulos era, were not convinced that Borucki's medical reports would necessitate Tommy John, and took him in the 15th round, signing him for 3rd round money. After four outings with Bluefield after turning pro, his elbow had not fully responded, and further rehab was unsuccessful. Borucki went under the knife at the end of spring training the following year, and missed all of 2013. He came back with a vengeance in 2014, pitching at two levels, while being named the Appy League's 12th-best prospect. Baseball America was high on Borucki after that season:
Borucki showed polish and strike-throwing ability, producing the lowest walk rate (1.6 per nine) and highest strikeout-walk rate (5.0) of any lefthander in the league, starter or reliever. He projects for at least average control with a chance to be plus. His delivery has improved significantly, and he throws with significantly less effort from his loose, quick arm, while working over the ball more and not leaking with his hips. Borucki's fastball was 90-94 early in the season and sat 88-92, touching 94 later in the season. He relies on his two-seamer that has at least average sink and arm-side run. Borucki demonstrates advanced feel for a changeup with plus potential. His curveball is a below-average to fringe-average offering, and Borucki could begin throwing a slider this offseason. He has a starter's build at a lanky 6-foot-4 with a high waist and significant projection remaining.2015 promised to be a breakout season for Borucki. After finishing 2014 with Vancouver, he seemed destined to return to the midwest to start the season with Low A Lansing. Elbow soreness kept him in Florida after spring training camp broke, however, and then shoulder soreness limited him to all of 6 innings before he was shut down in July. Borucki broke camp with Dunedin this year, likely to be close to the team medical facilities and the warm Florida weather, but he struggled with his command, and was hit hard by Florida State League hitters. Finally reaching Lansing in mid-May, he became a mainstay in the Lugnuts' rotation, finishing 2nd in the Midwest League in ERA, 4th in WHIP, fanning just under a batter per inning while tossing a career-high 115 innings.
Despite his success in Low A, Borucki's inclusion on the 40-man came as a surprise to many Blue Jays fans, most of whom had never heard of him before. But this is a guy with great competitiveness, an advanced feel for pitching, pinpoint control, and perhaps the best change up in the organization this side of Marco Estrada. Perdomo the MLW strikeout leader, is a 6'7" fireballer who has battled control problems as a starter, and even though he's a potential power arm out of the bullpen (his fastball can touch 96, and can be very difficult on left-handed hitters), a team who takes him may have to live with that. As Miguel Castro demonstrated in his brief time with the Blue Jays, a four seam fastball is not enough to get MLB hitters out. Rios is intriguing as well, but did not miss as many bats in the FSL after a dominating first month of the season with Lansing. Still, with a fastball sitting 92-94, an above average curve and a slider that made huge strides this year, some team may want to take a chance on the Mexican. If there was one player the Blue Jays left unprotected who may be scooped up in the Rule 5 next month, it may be Rios. If he's moved to the pen, his curve would pair nicely with his fastball, which will likely experience an uptick in velocity. Just the same, having not pitched above High A, Rios would be a huge risk. All 3 pitchers have upside and a possible MLB future. The club obviously felt that Borucki's command would make him a likely target for a team looking for bullpen help.
It's always good to throw in some video. Here's a look at Borucki: