This 30-part series will look at the projected Top 5 freshmen contributors for each big league club for the year ahead. The rankings take into consideration a mixture of ceiling, readiness and potential playing time allocation, which is to say some players with lower ceilings may be ranked ahead of others with higher ceilings because they project to have a greater impact in the coming season.
In a Nutshell: The Jays have two or three players that could be significant contributors to the club in 2015 but the list drops off dramatically from there and features mostly role players. The majority of the high-ceiling depth in the system — outside the Top 3 — resides in the lower levels.
1. Daniel Norris, LHP: The Jays re-made the offence during the offseason but the pitching remains largely the same, which really can’t be viewed as anything but a negative at this point. The lack of movement is good for young hurlers like Norris and Aaron Sanchez, though. The rookie southpaw currently projects as the fifth starter in the rotation even though management is publicly stating that they think he needs more seasoning. The truth is that they’re probably hoping Norris runs away with the job in the spring. He has a chance to be a No. 2 or 3 starter in the Majors but he still struggles with consistency and his command.
2. Dalton Pompey, OF: A relative unknown two years ago (unless you were a FanGraphs reader), Pompey is now on the cusp of claiming a starting role on his hometown club. The young Canadian outfielder has the chance to develop into a five-tool threat in the Majors but he’ll likely provide mostly defence and speed during his rookie campaign, as well as some on-base acumen. His body and swing suggest power could develop in time and he should eventually hit for a solid batting average.
3. Aaron Sanchez, RHP: Sanchez has a chance to compete for the fifth starter’s role along with Norris but he’s more likely ticketed for a high-leverage relief role unless the Jays manage to strike a deal with a Francisco Rodriguez or Rafael Soriano. The good news is that he excelled in that role last season during a trial period… but both his command and his control remain works in progress and they’re not likely to improve as quickly while he working shorter stints in the ‘pen. He has the ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter if everything clicks.
4. A.J. Jimenez, C: The Jays will enter spring training with three capable big league catchers (Russell Martin, Dioner Navarro, Josh Thole) so Jimenez will almost certainly open the year in Triple-A. The Jays’ lineup is probably better with Navarro in it, but he’s probably not going to be happy as an everyday DH and Edwin Encarnacion won’t necessarily be happy as a full-time first baseman. As a result, the catching ranks should thin out a little bit, which could help Jimenez eventually see some big league time as a glove-first backup who has shown the ability to hit a little bit when healthy (he’s battle ongoing elbow problems and had Tommy John surgery in the past).
5. Rob Rasmussen, LHP: As it stands, the members of the Jays bullpen will likely log a lot of travel miles between Toronto and Buffalo where the Triple-A club resides. Rasmussen has the raw ability to be a key member of the ‘pen but he has a couple things working against him. Most importantly, he struggles with his command and control. As well, as a smallish southpaw he struggles to generate a downward plane on his offerings and he works up in the zone too often, which can be quite dangerous in the AL East, as well as in the Rogers Centre.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.