Keith Law: Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays: Top 10 prospects 

January, 30, 2015
Jan 30

Organization Ranking: 19

I've ranked every farm system, as well as the top 100 MLB prospects for 2015. Below, I've ranked at least the top 10 Jays prospects, plus an overview of the system and any other names of note beyond the top 10. I also discuss any prospects who might help the big league club in 2015, one or two prospects whose stock has taken a big hit in the past year, and a sleeper prospect who I think can jump into the main top-100 list for 2016.

Non-Insider subscribers: Check out the free Tampa Bay Rays top-10 prospects report to see what these entail

Markakis deal is a head-scratcher 

December, 3, 2014
MarkakisAP Photo/Kathy WillensNick Markakis had 42 extra-base hits and 50 RBI in 704 plate appearances in 2014.
I've liked much of what the Atlanta Braves have done this autumn, starting with replacing most of their front office and continuing with the trade of Jason Heyward, but the Nick Markakis contract doesn't make much sense in any context. He'd be a great one- or even two-year flier for someone willing to bet on a change of scenery (and hitting coaches) helping him, but giving him a four-year, $45 million deal that runs through his age-34 season doesn't fit any of what the club appeared to be trying to do.

Markakis peaked at age 24, and has since devolved into a high-contact singles hitter who plays adequate right-field defense with a great arm. (He was a very good pitching prospect back at Young Harris College, with more teams looking at him as a pitcher in the 2003 draft than as a hitter.) The Orioles never found the missing link with Markakis to regain that lost power, as he has become exceedingly short to the ball, hitting it on the ground too often and driving it to the gaps too infrequently.

He has lost more than 25 extra-base hits a year from his first two full seasons in the majors and only a major change in approach -- both mental and mechanical -- will get it back. It could happen, but I certainly wouldn't put real money on it, and this contract seems to price in some kind of offensive bounce back.

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Josh Donaldson a surprising haul for Jays 

November, 28, 2014
The Toronto Blue Jays won the offseason two years ago with their huge deals with the Miami Marlins and New York Mets; those were mostly aimed at remaking their rotation. So far this winter, their moves have focused on overhauling the lineup, and while wins in November don't always mean wins the next October, a deal that nets them Josh Donaldson for Brett Lawrie and a trio of prospects is a damn good start for Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos. He's added one of the best players in baseball for a package of prospects that doesn't quite add up.

[+] EnlargeJosh Donaldson
AP Photo/Ben MargotJosh Donaldson, pointing northeast, presumably.

Donaldson turns 29 next month, is just entering

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Russell Martin will help Jays' young arms 

November, 17, 2014
The market for Russell Martin quickly established itself at the four-year mark for $70 million to $74 million, and the first team to commit to five years seemed likely to get the player. With the Dodgers and Cubs both involved and working with seemingly infinite payrolls, the Jays had to go to five years to have any hope of landing him. They've done that in a deal that pays Martin $82 million.

In practical terms

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Assignments for Law's top prospects 

April, 3, 2014

With the help of Christopher Crawford of MLB Draft Insider, we have compiled the minor league assignments for all prospects in Keith Law's organizational top 10 rankings.

Due to injuries and late assignments, some minor league rosters are not yet official. In those instances, we took our best guess as to where those prospects will be assigned to begin the year.

Note: Players with an asterisk have been traded since the top-10 lists came out, and they are listed with their assignment for their new club.

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Picking division and award winners 

March, 29, 2014
Yu DarvishAP Photo/Darron CummingsThe AL leader in strikeout rate last year, Yu Darvish is an AL Cy Young frontrunner.
Keith Law offers up his win-loss predictions for all 30 teams and winners for the six major postseason awards. Furthermore, explanations for each team are included, along with notes on key players or possible impact call-ups. Award predictions follow the division picks.

AL East

It's hard to pick against a Boston Red Sox team that returns so many of the players who helped them win the World Series last year, losing Stephen Drew but replacing him with one of the majors' best rookies in Xander Bogaerts.

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Byron Buxton is the real deal 

March, 9, 2014
Byron Buxton Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty ImagesByron Buxton has shown little to dissuade evaluators about his sky-high projections.
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Here are some notes from my last game of Florida spring training for the year, a game which pitted the Minnesota Twins against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Byron Buxton, the best prospect in baseball coming into this year, didn't disappoint, hitting a hanging slider from Toronto starter Drew Hutchison deep over the left-center field wall, showing off his speed with a couple of sub-4.1-second run times from home to first, and smoking a ground ball in the ninth inning ... that led to a double play with the infield in, but hey, let's not quibble over details.

Buxton saw a ton of pitches across his five at-bats, taking the first pitch every time, putting himself in good position to get a pitch to hit in every at-bat but one. There's little new to say here; he's a true five-tool guy, showing or projecting as plus in all five of those categories, with an improving approach at the plate. He did let the ball travel well on him on Saturday, taking advantage of his quick wrists to start his bat a little later than most hitters would. His only real miscue was failing to call for a fly ball to shallow center on the shortstop side, so that the shortstop ran out to catch it and had to peel off at the last second, after which no one caught it.

Max Kepler didn't put anything into orbit like Buxton did, but acquitted himself well through three at-bats, including a double to the right-center wall off a Kyle Drabek curveball, a four-pitch walk, and a base hit off Hutchison.

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Scouting Stroman, plus Rays and Nats 

March, 8, 2014
Marcus StromanAP Photo/Gene J. PuskarMarcus Stroman fanned 129 batters in 111 2/3 innings at Double-A last season.
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays rolled out a number of young arms Friday, led by Toronto's No. 2 overall prospect Marcus Stroman, who is in the running for a rotation spot. Stroman showed his full four-pitch repertoire and has the durability to start, but problems keeping his fastball down led to trouble for him.

Stroman was 91-95 mph over his three innings of work, getting a little arm-side run but no sink or downhill plane. He left several fastballs up, with Kevin Kiermaier hitting a 92 mph four-seamer out to deep right.

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Complete guide to 2014 prospect rankings

February, 11, 2014
Now that the 2014 preseason top prospect package is complete, here are links to all of the rankings, videos, podcasts and chat wraps.

Top 100 prospects Insider
Index | Prospects No. 1-50 | Prospects 51-00
10 who just missed
Top 20 impact prospects for 2014

Top 10 prospects by team Insider
AL East | AL Central | AL West
NL East | NL Central | NL West
Astros No. 1 in farm system rankings

Videos Video
Why Buxton is the No. 1 prospect
AL breakout prospects | NL breakout prospects
Twins, Pirates just behind Astros in farm rankings

Podcast Listen
Discussing the top 100 rankings
Xander Bogaerts and Mets GM Sandy Alderson

Chat wraps
Keith Law
Astros GM Jeff Luhnow
Byron Buxton
Addison Russell

Roy Halladay a HOF test case 

December, 10, 2013
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Roy Halladay's retirement brought about the usual postcareer canonization we hear when any very good player hangs them up -- He's a surefire Hall of Famer! He's a lock! If he's not a Hall of Famer, just tear the place down!

There's a five-year waiting period between a player's retirement and his first year on the ballot, a lag I always assumed was there to help escape the emotional response to the end of a great player's career and add the perspective that distance can provide. Halladay may very well get into the Hall of Fame, and I'd certainly be thrilled to see him get in as a fan and as someone who got to see several of his best years up close when I was working for Toronto, but I don't think his case, examined objectively, is quite so clear-cut.

In fact, Hall voters have summarily rejected a number of pitchers comparable to Halladay, which is why I think Halladay could turn out to be a very interesting test case for the modern era.

Halladay's HOF résumé

Halladay's case for the Hall revolved around his high, lengthy peak, as he won two Cy Young Awards, deserving both of them, and having a solid case for a third in 2011, while ranking in the top five in his league in Baseball Reference's WAR eight times, all in a 10-year span.

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Analyzing the Navarro and Stewart deals 

December, 2, 2013
I liked Dioner Navarro as a potential value signing in free agency this winter, looking at the catcher for one year and about $2 million (which could easily stretch to $2.5 million to $3 million, with continued acceleration in free-agent salaries this winter) to see if his offensive spike in 2013 had any legs to it.

He does a few things well enough to merit giving him a major league deal and a starting job, including solid walk rates, average pop and above-average throwing, but just hadn't performed anything like this in five years, and the breakout came back in the National League.

The Toronto Blue Jays seem a lot more optimistic about Navarro than I was, giving him two years and $8 million guaranteed, which isn't every-day player money, but is more than just a backup's cost.

Toronto received nothing but grief from the catcher's spot in 2013, where J.P. Arencibia posted a .227 OBP in nearly 500 plate appearances -- the only player with at least 400 PAs to post an OBP under .240 in 2013.

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10 disappointing AFL players 

October, 16, 2013

On Monday, I wrote about players I saw last week in the Arizona Fall League who made positive impressions on me, some of whom caused me to improve my own evaluations of those players over where they were before my trip.

Today I'll look at the other side, 10 players who didn't meet my expectations, and in some cases who'll slide down my prospect rankings as a result. I've also appended notes on other players of interest who didn't fit squarely in either category.

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Who looked best in Arizona Fall League 

October, 14, 2013
Kris BryantAP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastKris Bryant, Chicago's first-round draft choice in 2013, has been impressive so far.
I miss living in Arizona for many reasons, but one is the loss of easy access to the Arizona Fall League. This year, I just had a four-day, eight-game trip to scout the many prospects in that circuit. I did get to see every team's BP and two-thirds of the league's pitchers, so while it wasn't as much as I would have liked, it was enough to form some quick impressions and start some fresh evaluations.

Today I give you notes on the players who, in one way or another, stood out to me in a positive light, in most cases raising my opinions of those players. Two stipulations here:

1. I didn't see everybody, so the omission of any player isn't an indictment of his performance
2. The Fall League is a great place to scout, but sometimes players are tired or rusty from the layoff since the end of the minor league season, so the looks aren't always ideal.

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Picking the 'real' All-Star teams 

June, 27, 2013
If we are supposed to believe that the All-Star Game counts for something other than TV ratings and MLB revenues, why don't we see rosters built to win the game? It's part popularity contest, part reward for having a good two months to start the season, but very little about how the rosters are selected makes it look as though the teams are there to win.

Lineups built to win the game would look like All-Star lineups but would move some players around to different positions to try to build the strongest team possible, while also avoiding those hot-start players who aren't the best choices at their respective positions.

Here are the lineups, including one starter and one reliever per team, that I'd set up to give each league the best chance to win one game.

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