The Toronto Blue Jays system has often been an outfield factory. In times of yesteryear, it was usually outfielders that were sent packing to pick up spare parts. Glenallen Hill and Mark Whiten immediately jump to mind. Once again this season the Jays minor league holds a plethora of talented outfielders.
In theory, you place power hitters at the corners and a speedster in the center. Which is all fine and good, but you need some speed in every outfield position or you are going to give up a lot of hits. There is a good reason why John Kruk didn't spend his career out in right field. A good arm is needed, although some teams survive with weaker arms for a bigger bat. In Arizona, for example, they are weathering the 25 foot throws of Luis Gonzalez. In Toronto, we endured the throws Shannon Stewart bounced to his relay man.
For 2004, the Jays system is stacked, although the rankings were set before rosters were put out, the reports will stand true. I noticed as I compared to 1994 some similarities with this year's crop, especially in Syracuse - a young power hitter, a Latin ballplayer with a good bat, and a veteran of the minor leagues.Syracuse:
Gabe Gross - pick up any prospect report and in it you will find this former Auburn University Quarterback and honour role student. Reading Gross' name reminds me of former collegiate QBs the Jays have taken a look at: Jay Schroeder, Rodney Peete, Rob Hertel, not to mention one who left the Jays to be a collegiate QB, Chris Weinke. Gross may not have followed his father to an NFL career, but will make it to the big time on his own. Gross, a starting right fielder for Team USA this past summer, will most likely find his clean cut image and strong arm in left field for the Jays in 2005. Gross historically is a slow starter, but keep an eye out as he may force the Jays hand for a promotion in the near future, and is the most likely to see time with the big club before September.
|Gross - 2003 New Haven|
|Gross - 2003 Syracuse|
Alexis Rios - historically not one who draws a walk, but has drawn comparisons to Dave Winfield and Juan Gonzalez. Rios, drafted in the first round in 1999 because the Jays brass supposedly believed he would be easier to sign to a cheaper bonus, never really utilized his tools until his 2002 season in Dunedin. That this is his sixth minor league season is a stat most overlook. At 6 foot 5, his frame is developing, and he is converting his tools to skills. A former honour student in High School, he won the Eastern League title of "Most Exciting Player" last year.
|Rios - 2003 Syracuse|
Chad Hermansen - the late addition of Sean Douglass cost Hermansen his spot on the 25 man roster. Hermansen is a career minor leaguer who has never filled the bill as the tenth overall pick in 1995. He kills fastballs, but grows stale on the bench. Hermansen is merely this year's version of Mike Colangelo and Rob Ryan.
|Hermansen - 2003 Las Vegas (PCL - AAA)|
Noah Hall - 91 walks last year made JP and his computer wizards leap with glee. 78 stolen bases in 3 years didn't impress. Hall is destined for the fourth outfielder spot at best, and the sands of time are dwindling for him. I personally am impressed with Hall, and in past stops he has earned the title of "fan favourite." Sadly, Hall will have to hope for a failure above him to earn any significant playing time.
|Hall - 2003 Harrisburg (Eastern League AA)|
Shawn Green – like Gross is now, he was the fast rising slugger. Also like Gross a former first rounder, though Green rose faster. The rest need not be dealt with in a prospect report, baseball fans know the history.
Robert Perez - the Rios equivalent, he is the Latin player. Like Rios, saw a lot of pitches in the minors, but used his tools effectively. Perez was not one who drew a lot of walks, but had 6 stops where he hit .287 or better. That said, here is hoping Rios is a much better Blue Jay then Perez was.
Rich Butler – shares similarities with Hermansen and Hall. Like the duo, Butler could run. A local boy, Jays' fans hoped he would make it, and it looked like he had until he was taken in the expansion draft. Seemingly a better ball player then his brother Rob, but Butler had a short-lived career.New Hampshire:
Jason Waugh - A's fans had their eyes on Waugh and Perry as the return in the Griffin trade, knowing a Jason was on the way. Waugh has not put up exceptional numbers, but has done the job, and is improving. In College he was named the "Best Defensive Outfielder," and proclaimed himself a first ball hitter. He is working on being more selective now in the professional ranks. Waugh drew 42 walks last year, and was 0-5 in stolen base attempts. Don't look for Waugh to last that much longer in the system with all that is ahead of him.
|Waugh - 2003 Dunedin|
Tyrell Godwin - do you want the ball player or the Rhodes Scholar? Godwin has hit for good average, does not strike out, and is a stolen base threat. Godwin has a past injury history, and was a first round draft pick twice before the Jays nabbed him in the third round. Godwin has the tools, but not the skills the current regime values. Godwin will be trade bait soon.
|Godwin - 2003 Dunedin|
Justin Singleton - name ring a bell? Expo fans remember his papa roaming the outfield quite nicely. Singleton may not be the ball player Ken was, but should make an impression in his third AA campaign.
|Godwin - 2003 New Haven|
Maikel Jova – is a nice story with his repeated attempts and final escape from Cuba. Having played shortstop in Cuba, Jova brings natural athleticism to the table. 29 walks in 348 minor league games won't impress the front office, so unfortunately for him he will have to find something else to get notcied. Look for him to wave good bye to comrades who go on ahead of him.
|Jova - 2003 Dunedin|
Wille Canate - coming over as rule five pick for the world series team, Canate's claim to fame may be just putting cream pies in team mates faces. After the Jays purchased him from the Reds, Canate spent a year gaining splinters, and then faded into history in the minor leagues.
Brent Bowers - like some players might be this year, he was the victim of superior talent ahead of him. Bowers, a contact hitter with some speed, did manage to swipe 156 bases in the Jays system before departing.
Todd Steverson: When I think of Steverson I think of Otis Nixon. The Jays signed Nixon to buy time for either Steverson or Stewart to develop. Steverson, a first round pick, caught the eye of many including the Detroit Tigers who saw him, and stole him in the Rule Five draft. Evidence that the Rule V draft can hurt more then help - see the careers of Steverson and Canate.