A Minor Review of 2018: Toronto Blue Jays

Welcome back to my annual off-season series that has a quick-and-dirty review of all 30 minor league systems around baseball. This feature began way back in 2008.

First Taste of The Show: Danny Jansen, C: Jansen couldn’t have been more under-the-radar as a 16th round draft pick out of an obscure Wisconsin high school. But he showed promise with the bat pretty much right away, although he battled through inconsistencies, which eventually led to glasses and to a breakout season in 2017. Jansen has become a threat on both sides of the ball and has shown solid make-up and drive. He may still be scratching the surface on what he’s capable of, especially at the plate, as he’s shown a solid eye, good bat-to-ball skill, and promising gap pop.

The Draft Pick: Jordan Groshans, SS: I’ll admit that I thought the Jays selection of Groshans 12th overall was a reach. But he then went on to hit .331 with a BB-K of 13-29 in 37 rookie ball games, showing a better approach at the plate than expected. He has the physical attributes to hit 20+ home runs as he matures as a hitter but should begin his pro career with lots of extra-base hits into the gaps. There’s debate around where he’ll end up defensively but he has a chance to hit well enough that it won’t really matter where he plays on the diamond. I’m curious to see if the Jays hold him back in extended spring training or let him loose in Low-A ball.

The Riser: Kevin Smith, SS: A lot was made about Smith becoming a more complete hitter at the beginning of the 2018 season as the advanced college product dominated Low-A pitching. He showed a much better approach at the plate with more walks, fewer strikeouts and added pop (although more line-drive than over-the-fence). He then received a promotion to High-A ball around mid-season and continued to produce over-the-fence power but his approach at the plate de-evolved to more of his pre-2018 style. The walks dried up and the strikeouts rose. The good news is that he still hit for a lot of power in a league that doesn’t offer up a lot of homers and he finished the year with 25. He’s shown good athleticism and has the arm strength to play at any position on the infield, even if his defense is more solid than spectacular. Smith’s prospect value is up but I’m hoping to see more of the early-2018 Smith rather than the later-2018 Smith.

The Fallen: Griffin Conine, OF: Conine’s pro career didn’t begin until June of 2018 so how can he already have fallen from grace? After an uneven junior year in college, the son of Jeff Conine (one of my favorite players of all-time, believe it or not) was nabbed for using a banned substance and will sit out the first 50 games of 2019. The loss development time can really sting a player but Conine may actually benefit from the extra time in extended spring training, assuming he properly dedicates himself. He has some troubling swing-and-miss tendencies that could be tackled in a more controlled environment. The raw power is there to be a big league regular if he can become a smarter player at the plate and improve his approach.

The 2019 Contributor: Bo Bichette, SS: Yeah, I could write about Vladimir Guerrero Jr. but as someone that lives in Canada I’ve already met my Vladdy story quota for the year with the media’s overindulgence on the subject matter. So I’m going to make the bold prediction that Bichette will actually be the better big league contributor in 2019. Allowed to operate with less fanfare (and with perhaps a little added motivation to prove himself), Bichette has looked outstanding this spring with a solid approach and lots of hard-hit balls. There is little doubt that he’s ready for the challenge of Triple-A ball after a solid 2018 in Double-A. Bichette has a chance to be a multi-level threat with a plus hit tool, power, smart base running and solid defense (plus the all-important plus make-up).

The 2019 Sleeper: Brock Lundquist, OF: It’s hard to ignore Lundquist’s season from a statistical standpoint. He has some pedigree, too, having been an interesting prep prospect that was drafted (but not signed) by Oakland and then had a solid college career at Long Beach State. Selected in the sixth round of 2017, Lundquist opened up last year in Low-A ball where he displayed some unexpected pop while hitting a lot fewer balls on the ground and may have gotten away from his strengths as a hitter. He moved up to a much more pitcher-friendly league at mid-season and became a better hitter. He still had the increased fly-ball approach but he used the whole field more and ended up hitting .337 with more line drives and fewer strikeouts. My hunch is that he’ll top out as a fourth outfielder type who will be hampered by his inability to play center field… but I’m reserving full judgment until I see what Brock Lundquist shows up in 2019.

The 2019 Lottery Ticket: Hagen Danner, C: The Jays organization has some really strong catching depth in the lower levels of the system. Danner was a 2017 second-round prep pick that some liked more on the mound. The multi-focus as an amateur has put him a little behind the eight ball, as well as some lost development time due to injuries, but he started to tap into his raw potential as a hitter late last year. Danner’s best tool is his raw power. He also posted a promising 14.6% walk rate in 32 games last year, but hits with an extremely pull-conscious approach and has a fair bit of swing-and-miss to his game (25.5%). On the defensive side, the strong arm is there but he needs polish on all defensive aspects. He has a shot at opening 2019 in Low-A ball with some of the club’s other promising catchers.

We hoped you liked reading A Minor Review of 2018: Toronto Blue Jays by Marc Hulet!

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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What do you think Nate Pearson’s going to do this year? Did he look good in spring?