Guerrero Jr., Bichette lead flock of Blue Jays
This offseason, MiLB.com is taking a look at the most outstanding campaigns by players in each system across Minor League Baseball and honoring the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization.John Schneider was drafted by the Blue Jays, spent his
This offseason, MiLB.com is taking a look at the most outstanding campaigns by players in each system across Minor League Baseball and honoring the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization.
John Schneider was drafted by the Blue Jays, spent his entire playing career in the organization and has managed Toronto prospects for nine seasons. He's excited about the current state of his system.
As the skipper of Class A Advanced Dunedin, Schneider saw his fair share of talented Blue Jays prospects in 2017. Led by
"I think the last two [Drafts], in particular, have brought in some pretty good, fresh, young talent into the system," Schneider said. "Whenever you talk about that, the first two guys people talk about are Bo and Vladdy. Both had outstanding years for their first full season. When you get a couple guys like that, with the notoriety they got in the [All-Star] Futures Game and all that, it gives the organization a little bit of a shot in the arm. It starts with good drafting and then us as development, we try to just keep on that same path."
Blue Jays Organization All-Stars
"He's always been a blue-collar type of catcher behind the plate," Schneider said. "Pitchers love throwing to him, managers love having him on their team. And I think what really set him apart this year was just having a consistent offensive approach, knowing what worked for him and really sticking to it."
Jansen still has work to do behind the plate after throwing out 24 percent of attempted basestealers, though he was charged with only four passed balls.
First baseman --
While he spent most of his time at first, the University of Cincinnati product played 12 games in the outfield, creating versatility down the road.
Second baseman --
With the Fisher Cats, Lopes batted .271 while achieving career bests with seven jacks and 50 RBIs. He also stole 19 bases in 28 chances. The 23-year-old is another versatile option as he played 52 games at third base and two at shortstop.
Third baseman --
Guerrero Jr. earned a trip to the Futures Game en route to collecting 13 long balls and a system-leading 76 RBIs across both Class A levels.
"The impressive thing about Vladdy is just the way he goes about his work every day, the way he shows up at the field every day," Schneider said of MLB.com's No. 4 overall prospect. "He's got a smile on his face, ready to work. That rubs off on his teammates, and for a young kid, an 18-year-old kid, to not only do the things he did on the field, but the way he went about it in the clubhouse, on the back fields, in the cage, all that stuff is pretty impressive."
While Schneider was impressed with Bichette's work at short, he noted that MLB.com's No. 26 overall prospect still has room to improve after committing 23 errors.
"He gets a lot of publicity about his offensive numbers and rightfully so, but this dude can play short. And he wants to play short in the big leagues," the manager said. "With Bo, defensively it's making the routine play and just a few things here or there on a couple plays, whether it's coming in or backing up, plays that he's been working on and just polishing up his overall game."
"We all know Eddy's almost or [is] a five-tool player -- he can do a lot of things," the skipper said. "You see speed, you see power, you see athleticism, you see a great throwing arm. So all the tools are there for him. Really excited to see what he does next year, building off a really good first full season."
"Big, strong kid, plenty of power and really figured out how to put himself and put his body in a better position to hit this year without sacrificing that power," Schneider said. "So it was a fun year to watch him do his thing."
After a tough first half -- he hit .248 with four homers in 43 games -- Panas took off. The left-handed hitter recorded personal bests with a .276 average, 18 long balls, 55 RBIs and an .839 OPS.
On May 23, Alford collected his first Major League hit, then broke the hamate bone in his left wrist and went on the disabled list. The Ole Miss product began a rehab stint with Dunedin on July 12 and was back with Double-A New Hampshire nine days later. After ending the season with Triple-A Buffalo, Alford has been competing in the Mexican Pacific League this offseason.
"For one, he's a really good athlete and two, he's very, very durable; he takes great care of himself off the field," Schneider said. "We've kind of pigeonholed him to the corners in the infield, but he caught a few games this year, we threw him in the outfield -- he can do it all. If you're there watching [batting practice], he's probably all over the diamond at some point: second base, turning double plays, or in the outfield or wherever it is."
Right-handed starting pitcher --
"Jordan is a big, strong dude, plenty of velocity, wipe-out slider and [he's] really trying to work on that third pitch to get him through the batting order a few times," Schneider said. "But to watch him mature as a pitcher and to understand that he doesn't need to throw as hard as he can every pitch and try to strike everybody out, that's really what got him going on the right foot this year."
Left-handed starting pitcher --
"[He] really trusted his slider and learned how to pitch down in the zone with his fastball," Schneider said. "So he was getting by the last couple of years with a really good changeup and he still has that, but now you add in better command of his fastball and a better slider, and he's doing pretty well."
With the more varied arsenal, Borucki led the system with 157 strikeouts. The 23-year-old was 8-8 with a 2.93 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 36 walks over 150 innings as he finished the season at the Minors' highest level.
Relief pitcher --
"To his credit, he retooled his delivery last year, and he's got a tremendous sinking fastball -- 95, 96, 97. He's not afraid, he's got the mentality of a reliever, so he's coming right at you," Schneider said. "When it's on, he's got a plus slider, too. So when you got a good, sinking fastball and a hard breaking slider, it makes it pretty tough on those hitters when they're trying to get on base."
Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan.