Joe Sclafani can’t put a finger on whether it’s the pitchers or the position players who stand out in the Blue Jays farm system.
“I wouldn’t say it skews one way or the other,” the club’s director of player development said. “That’s probably because my job is to be inherently optimistic.”
The man overseeing the Jays’ pipeline has some reasons to be optimistic three weeks into the minor-league season. Three of four affiliates have winning records and three prospects — Chad Dallas of the Vancouver Canadians, Max Castillo of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and Nick Allgeyer of the Buffalo Bisons — have already been named pitcher of the week.
A drop to 21st in MLB.com‘s pre-season system rankings, from No. 7 a year earlier, has coincided with the Jays’ evolution from rebuilding side to contender at the big-league level. Some of their best prospects have graduated, while others were traded in order to add right-hander José Berríos and third baseman Matt Chapman to the young core.
“It is what it is on that front, but we’re pretty excited about the system we still have,” Sclafani said this past week over the phone from Buffalo.
Beyond catcher Gabriel Moreno (the Jays’ top prospect, hitting .323 with an .815 OPS at Triple-A Buffalo through Saturday), infielder Orelvis Martinez (ranked second, with five home runs in 48 at-bats at Double-A New Hampshire ), Castillo and Dallas, Sclafani also singled out:
- Vancouver shortstop Addison Barger, who leads the Northwest League in RBIs and triples.
- Class-A Dunedin right-hander Matt Svanson, who hadn’t conceded a run after eight innings of his first full professional season.
- Dunedin lefty Ricky Tiedemann, whose fastball touched 98 miles per hour in a recent outing.
Sclafani said the club’s off-season focus was on ways to help players get off to strong starts, after development time lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to encourage chemistry.
“You can’t just flip a switch and learn how to win in the big leagues, especially when there’s that much pressure and 45,000 people every single night and it matters,” said Sclafani. “So we’re trying to do our best to prepare those guys for when they actually do get those opportunities, that they can go up and contribute.”
Competing in high-pressure, high-leverage situations was impossible in 2020, when minor-league seasons were shut down because of the pandemic. The Jays assigned every player to a support group during the downtime and worked with them, with whatever resources they could find. But there was no way to recreate some elements of the minor-league experience: the grind of the schedule, the camaraderie of long bus rides, the ups and downs of a season.
Sclafani believes the impact will be felt in the minors for another couple of years, but adds that not all players are a year behind when it comes to their projected timeline to reach the majors: “The developmental curve looks different for all of them.”
This year will be a challenge, but also an opportunity.
“Industry-wise, we don’t rank at the top any more, but I think some of those guys aren’t getting as much credit as they deserve,” he said. “I’m excited for them to go prove it.”
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
The Canadian News
Canada’s largets news curation site with over 20+ agency partners