The Toronto Blue Jays possessed an elite farm system entering 2011 that saw several of its top stars graduate to the big leagues and lose their prospect tags. J.P Arencibia, Kyle Drabek, and Brett Lawrie – widely regarded as the three brightest young faces in the organization – made contributions at the big league level in 2011. While the Blue Jays will not be returning a system viewed by many as among the top three in the game like last year, they do still have some top tier talent that has the potential to help the big league club this year, or net a significant return in a trade.
Catcher Travis D'Arnaud:
Acquired in the trade that sent Roy Halladay to the Phillies, D’Arnaud has always been regarded as a solid prospect, but he took a nice leap forward this year and will likely be ranked as the best among Jays prospects this winter. In his first action in double-A, D’Arnaud posted a .914 OPS with 21 homers. Those are solid numbers for any position on the diamond but for a backstop they are particularly impressive. While Toronto already has a catcher at the big league level whom they are quite fond of in Arencibia, D’Arnaud is likely to force himself into the catcher discussion this year for the big league team or end up being used as trade bait.
Centerfielder Anthony Gose:
If for some reason D’Arnaud does not find himself atop the Jays’ prospect lists this winter, it will be because Gose made an incredible leap from a relative afterthought to most analysts in Toronto’s trade with Houston last year to an elite talent drawing comparisons to a pre-Red Sox Carl Crawford. Gose began the year as a 20 year old in double-A and posted a tremendous .763 OPS for a player as young and as defensively adept as he is. Gose also stole a ridiculous 69 bases while being caught only 15 times, a stellar 82% success rate. While many think that the Jays acquired their center fielder of the future this past season in Colby Rasmus, Gose (like D’Arnaud) is likely to force the issue at some point later this year. Should Gose for some reason find himself on the trade market, few outfielders would draw as much interest as he would. One way or another, you can probably expect to see Gose in the show sometime in the late summer of 2012.
Starting Pitcher Andrew Hutchison:
Hutchison entered 2011 as a C level prospect in the minds of most prospect mavens but that’s certain to change this offseason. Across three levels of the minors in ‘11 the 20 year old Hutchison struck out 171 batters and walked only 35, demonstrating insanely good control for a pitcher at that age. The young Jays prospect also recorded an ERA of 2.53 through 149 1/3 innings. It’s curious how many “experts” missed this guy last year but he’s going to be on everyone’s radar for 2012. It’s unlikely that the Jays let this guy see major league action in 2012 as a starter, but it would not be a surprise to see him in a bullpen role ala David Price in 2008 or Joba Chamberlain circa 2007 if the Jays find themselves on the cusp of contention in September.
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