Murray, Conine carry changing Jays system
Each offseason, MiLB.com goes position by position across each system and honors the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. Click here to locate your favorite club.The Blue Jays began the season with four players on MLB.com's list of Top-100 prospects, with
Each offseason, MiLB.com goes position by position across each system and honors the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. Click here to locate your favorite club.
The Blue Jays began the season with four players on MLB.com's list of Top-100 prospects, with high-profile sluggers
But things look a bit different now as the year comes to a close. Guerrero and Bichette have graduated north, taking the Toronto lineup by storm and making major waves across the league. That leaves two top-100 prospects in the system -- right-hander
Though the ranks may run thin on household names, they're not devoid of players worthy of excitement. Several Jays prospects posted impressive 2019 campaigns, particularly at the lower levels. Even more firepower is expected to join the Jays' fray somewhere down the line.
Blue Jays Organization All-Stars
"He's really good," Lansing manager Dallas McPherson said. "He's a polished hitter. ... When he stays locked into his approach, he can hit to all fields with power. Behind the plate, really good receiver. Good catch-and-throw guy, blocks well, but receiving, he's a head above everyone else."
MiLB.com Organization All-Stars: Team by Team
First baseman --
McPherson attributes much of Rodriguez's return to form to his refined approach at the plate.
"The biggest thing I saw different from the year before was just his ability to go the other way and his ability to take what pitchers give him," the skipper said. "Not get too big, not try to do too much. Just stay within himself and take what they give him and really stay on the ball and drive the ball the other way."
Second baseman --
"He was exciting, man," Bisons hitting coach Corey Hart said. "Defensively, he was amazing, and he swung the bat really well and put good at-bats together. He hit the ball hard, and like, he hit the ball in the gaps a lot after like the first week or so. He could've easily been hitting like .400 ... I'm excited to see him play more and see how high that kid's ceiling is."
Third baseman --
"We've had some power guys before in Buffalo the last two years I was there and they were lefties, so it was nice to have a righty because the wind blows in from right a lot," Hart said. "So it was nice to have somebody that could hit a ball well, or like even decent, that would go out of the park."
"He finished really strong," McPherson said. "The most encouraging part about the way he finished is he really seemed to get better at managing the ups and downs, the challenges that come with the game. As the season progressed, he really seemed to get better at just handling that day-to-day struggle, that day-to-day failure and being able to bounce back. I think that probably led to the jump at the end of the season as much as anything."
Conine's efforts garnered him kudos as the most exciting hitter at the Class A level. His manager agrees with the label and was grateful to have in his lineup over the summer.
"He can literally single-handedly carry a team when he's doing well," McPherson said. "His greatest challenge is knowing how to keep those hot streaks a little bit longer and to swing and miss a little bit less. He's going to swing and miss, that's who he is as a hitter. But the upside that comes with that is the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark any time when he swings to any part of the ballpark."
"He was one of my favorite players," Hart said. "He was just a completely all-around good baseball player. He can play baseball. And he was just fun to watch. He won our team MVP. He was awesome. He did everything well."
But what McPherson enjoyed most about having Pruitt in Lansing was not anything you'd find on a stat sheet.
"The best thing about Reggie is he's probably one of the most coachable kids I've ever had," McPherson said. "He's a pleasure to be around every day, he's a pleasure to have in the clubhouse, he's a great teammate. ... He can just do a lot of things on the baseball field. He can change the game on defense, he can change the game on the basepaths and he really made a lot of strides this year with his swing."
Utility player --
Burns returned to the Minors in 2019, and the veteran infielder quickly made an impression with numbers almost universally better than his figures with Buffalo in 2016, erupting for a line of .275/.364/.470 and 63 RBIs. He bashed a career-high 19 homers, eclipsing double-digits in the category for the first time since 2014. Hart was ecstatic to see Burns' success given the path he'd taken and believes it was a catalyst in getting him to where he is today.
"He learned a lot about himself and he learned a lot about how to attack pitchers," Hart said. "He learned a lot about his swing when he was in Korea. I think it helped him out, and for him to be able to bring that to over here and get back into affiliated ball and have that kind of season and to help the young guys out as well ... tremendous job."
Left-handed starter --
"That's a big pretty jump from Vancouver to Dunedin," Czajkowski said. "He handled himself well. Complete professional on how he does his work. Very meticulous. Great guy for our guys to look up to when it comes to work ethic. They all kind of fed off of each other ... he was a true pro."
Right-handed starter --
Altogether, Murray finished with a 2.75 ERA over 137 1/3 innings. He was dominant wherever he pitched, particularly in Dunedin -- which gave Czajkowski a front-row seat.
"The way that he strikes people out, sometimes with the 89-mph fastball right at their belt, it's kind of embarrassing to swing through," the coach joked. "But it happens, it's funny. Yeah, I thought he did very well. ... He competes extremely well for us."
Honorable mention: Toronto's top prospect Pearson posted a 5-4 record and a 2.30 ERA with 119 strikeouts over 101 2/3 frames between Dunedin, New Hampshire and Buffalo.
Relief pitcher --
"Jackson was very successful because we didn't put him in a lot of very high-leverage games early on when he got to us," he said. "He had just come from Lansing. We had like two other closers at the time in Brad Wilson and Dany Jimenez, so there was no need for a closer. But a good setup guy to get to those guys, and then when those guys moved, Jackson slipped in [with] no problem.
"And he took off. I mean, it was like our bullpen, similar to our starting pitchers, were great. They all kind of fed off of each other. I think they all got along down in the bullpen. And the competition was fierce. Lot of good arms, guys who could repeat what they were doing. He probably didn't have the saves amount because a lot of times we didn't have the save opportunities. ... When it came to closing, yeah, he was good."
Jordan Wolf is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter: @byjordanwolf.