The Toronto Blue Jays have one of the hottest farm systems in the game. Two of their long-time prospects recently got the call.
The Blue Jays called up one of their more intriguing pitching prospects Sean Reid-Foley this past Monday. He was able to throw to his minor-league battery mate Danny Jansen in his MLB debut, as the Blue Jays promoted their highly-coveted catching prospect on the same day.
— Buffalo Bisons (@BuffaloBisons) August 14, 2018
Reid-Foley has long been on the Blue Jays prospect list falling just a tad with the younger wave of Blue Jays prospects dominating on the farm. Jansen was the opposite, climbing from the bottom of top 30 lists to becoming one of the top catching prospects in all of baseball.
Now, they are MLB players.
Sean Reid-Foley, RHP
The pitcher who has become lovingly known as SRF was drafted in the second round of the 2014 MLB Draft. He’s a big righty — listed at 6’3”, 220 — with good stuff. At one point he and Conner Greene were seen as the top pitching prospects in the system, but that has changed over the years (especially with Greene not in the system).
Here’s the deal with Reid-Foley. He has a four-pitch arsenal, each one at least average, but slightly above average on his good days. He has a big fastball that sits in the mid-90s but touches the uppers, a good slider, a more-recently added curveball and a change that provides nice deception to compliment the fastball.
The issue has been command, primarily in his fastball. He seems to be figuring out his wonky mechanics to get the issues under control, walking 3.35-per-nine in the minors this season, but it is still a work in progress. It’s fair to assume his command issues are in his head, making him sometimes take something off his pitches and pretty hittable on his bad days.
Last year was a miserable season for Reid-Foley, especially coming off a huge year in the FSL in 2016. There were reports of declining velocity, seeing his lowest strikeout rates, and an increase in fly balls, especially homers. Both of those issues seemed to be coming back to his norms this season, looking much better in both departments.
When SRF is on, he can rack up the strikeouts and keep hitters and runners at bay mixing up his pitches. But, he can be his own worst enemy, losing command of the strike zone and putting himself into a hole. Once viewed as a top-end starter, there is still plenty of big-league potential here, but more likely as a fourth or fifth starter. His MLB debut wasn’t terrible, but not sensational neither. He went five innings, allowing six hits, and three earned runs while striking and walking out three. He did land 62 of his 97 pitches for strikes on the positive side.
Danny Jansen, C
Reese McGuire. Max Pentacost. Those were the names you heard when talking about Blue Jays catching prospects. That was until last year, however. A huge breakout campaign for Jansen, one in which he jumped from High-A to Triple-A, left him atop the catching prospect charts in all of baseball.
Our own John Sickels had him ranked at No. 6 in his Blue Jays preseason top 20. Here’s why:
Age 22, 16th round pick in 2013 from high school in Appleton, Wisconsin; hit just .206/.299/.331 in 2015 and .218/.316/.269 in 2016 but exploded in 2017 with .323/.400/.484 line in High-A, Double-A, Triple-A, 10 homers, 41 walks, 40 strikeouts in 368 at-bats; outburst attributed to physical maturity and recovery from ’16 hand injury; excellent strike zone judgment, power has improved as he’s grown stronger; talented receiver with low error and passed ball rates, positive scouting reports on athleticism; still needs to improve throwing, caught just 24%, but all other backstop skills quite good; catcher development is weird; I’m not a skeptic overall and expect he’ll continue to get on base but I am not sure about the power; ETA late 2018.
It all got better for Jansen in 2018. He saw a continued increase in power, eclipsing his career-high of ten by two before his promotion, and showed no decline in his plate presence, striking out 49 times, walking 44 and positing a .390 OBP. Behind the plate he threw out 23 percent of his runners and oddly posted a career-high five passed balls. The arm may never get to elite levels, but as John mentioned, everything else checks out.
The 23-year-old has made a quick splash in the bigs. He went 2-for-3 in his debut and followed that game with his first big-league home run. He’s made contact in every at bat, not striking out just yet, so he is seemingly unfazed by the next level. They are testing him early, and he’s responded by throwing out two of the attempted six base runners.
There is little reason to think the catching job isn’t there for Jansen in 2019. He will be an intriguing one to watch, especially paired with a young rotation that he already has some familiarity with.