Blue Jays' prospects poised to soar in 2017

Blue Jays' prospects poised to soar in 2017

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays are going to need a couple of years to rebuild their farm system, but there's at least a handful of prospects who could become factors before then.

Rowdy Tellez, Harold Ramirez and Conner Greene are among those who could force their way onto the big league roster in the not-too-distant future.

Blue Jays' top prospects

Toronto ideally would give each of them another year to develop but injuries, performance and lack of overall depth could eventually change those plans.

Here's a closer look at those three prospects plus a few others to keep an eye on in 2017:

Tellez, 1B (.297/.387/.530 at Double-A New Hampshire): Tellez has by far the biggest opportunity of any prospect on this list. He posted a .917 OPS over a full season for New Hampshire and will open the 2017 campaign at Triple-A Buffalo. The Blue Jays are expected to platoon Steve Pearce and Justin Smoak at first base but there's no guarantee that plan is going to work. If Smoak struggles with the bat, there's an outside chance Tellez will make the jump a little earlier than expected. Tellez's home run total jumped from 14 in 2015 to 23 over the last calendar year and his power will need to continue to trend up if he wants to become a regular big leaguer.

Ramirez, OF (.311/.360/.767 at Double-A): Ramirez was one of the prospects Toronto acquired alongside Francisco Liriano prior to the non-waiver Trade Deadline. He made a statement with Pittsburgh with 11 hits in 19 at-bats last spring and he'll be looking to do something similar for Toronto. He's coming off a relatively strong year at the plate, but after stealing 22 bases, Ramirez was successful just seven times out of 17 attempts in 2016. That's one area of his game that will have to improve, and he's expected to continue his development. Kevin Pillar is currently the only outfielder with a guaranteed starting job in Toronto, so while Ramirez won't make the team out of Spring Training, he doesn't have a lot of obstacles on his way to the Majors.

Ramirez's RBI single

Greene, RHP (10-9, 3.51 ERA at Class A Dunedin and Double-A): Former GM Alex Anthopoulos frequently heaped praise upon the hard-throwing Greene but his development slowed in 2016. He began the season at Class A Dunedin despite having finished the year prior a full level above. That likely came as a disappointment and it showed in his early results. Greene didn't make it back to New Hampshire until early July and once there he struggled over 12 starts. Greene appears to have responded well to the down year and has spent his offseason working out at his club's Minor League complex in Florida. He won't make the team out of camp, but if a starter goes down midway through the year Greene will be somebody to watch. The raw talent is there with an upper-90s fastball and a plus changeup, but development of his curveball will be key to the next step.

Greene on making improvements

Richard Urena, SS (.295/.335/.434 at Class A and Double-A): Urena was recently added to the 40-man roster so he could be protected from the Rule 5 Draft. He'll be back in big-league camp again this spring, but he's not expected to become a factor for the Blue Jays until at least 2018. Urena likely will begin the year in New Hampshire after appearing in 30 games at that level in 2016 but his timeline could potentially be sped up if something happens to shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Darwin Barney is the first line of defence but if Tulowitzki hits the DL for an extended period of time, Urena could potentially enter the conversation. He's the Blue Jays' top-ranked prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com.

Urena scores on an error

Honorable mentions: Outfielder Anthony Alford remains one of Toronto's top prospects but he'll need to forget about a disappointing 2016 season. Alford struggled with injuries and managed to hit just .236 with a .722 OPS at Class A Dunedin. ... Vladimir Guerrero Jr. won't be ready for at least a few more years, but he's far and away Toronto's prospect with the most upside. Guerrero made his North American debut this summer and he hit .271/.359/.449 in 62 games for low-level Bluefield ... LHP Ryan Borucki was protected from the Rule 5 Draft and with the lack of left-handed options in Toronto's bullpen, a strong start to the year could put him on the radar.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.