The future success of every Major League team lies largely in its Minor League pipeline. With that in mind, MLB.com is looking at each team's farm system, from the Top 20 Prospects to the more under-the-radar types.
This offseason, the Blue Jays dipped into their wealth of prospects to make a pair of blockbuster trades that will help the team contend in the American League East in 2013.
And although those trades brought in R.A. Dickey from the Mets, as well as Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and company from the Marlins, they certainly took a toll on the farm system.
Toronto sent two players on the 2013 MLB.com Top 100 Prospect list -- Travis d'Arnaud (No. 6) and Noah Syndergaard (29) -- to New York in exchange for Dickey, and packaged three Top 100 prospects -- Jake Marisnick (70), Justin Nicolino (72) and Adeiny Hechavarria (82) -- in its deal with Miami.
"Well, I'm always very positive from the standpoint of where we're at, and I think we're in great shape," said Doug Davis, Minor League field coordinator. "Obviously, we lost a lot of key players, but I think also we've done a very good job, from a scouting standpoint, to bring in other young guys. Now the focus kind of goes back to some of the younger players, to continue to develop them and let them sort of fill the holes."
To Davis, this year's process is no different than if the top prospects simply broke through with the Major League club. Though such players as d'Arnaud and Syndergaard have never played a big league game in a Blue Jays uniform, their talent and development will still help Toronto put a much-improved product on the field in 2013.
"That's one of our goals, to try to create value in our players, whether they're going to help our own team or [general manager] Alex [Anthopoulos] is going to be able to use them to go out and get other players," Davis said. "So [the trades] were very positive from a player-development standpoint."
And even with all the movement this winter, Davis is confident that the Blue Jays still have a fair share of prospects who are ready to start filling those vacancies.
Top 20 prospects
At the top of the list is a trio of pitchers: right-handers Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna, and left-hander Daniel Norris. None of them pitched above Class A last year, but all carry high expectations heading into 2013. They are joined on the top half of the list by five other hurlers: right-handers Marcus Stroman, John Stilson and Adonys Cardona, and left-handers Sean Nolin and Matthew Smoral.
Among all the pitchers is a pair of athletic outfielders, Anthony Alford and D.J. Davis; the latter is one of the fastest players to come out of the 2012 Draft. Another hitter who figures to help ease the blow of losing d'Arnaud is catcher A.J. Jimenez, fresh off Tommy John surgery in 2012.
As for the infield, offensive-minded middle infielder Christian Lopes impressed in his pro debut last year, but he is still a few years from contributing at the Major League level. Fellow infielder Ryan Goins, however, could bring his well-rounded game to the big leagues as soon as this season after spending all of last season at Double-A New Hampshire.
Under the radar
Javier Avendano might not fit the typical bill of a high-end prospect -- he's 22 and hasn't pitched above Class A -- but he's coming off a dominant 2012 after Toronto claimed him in the Minor League portion of the Rule 5 Draft in December 2011. The crafty right-hander pitched his way to an 8-1 record and a 1.27 ERA in 16 games (14 starts) with Class A Vancouver last year. Over five seasons at rookie-level and Class A -- the first four of which were spent in the Cardinals system -- Avendano is a combined 19-10 with a 1.75 ERA in 85 appearances (48 starts).
Then there's the case of right-hander Marcus Walden, who was once very much on the radar but has fallen off in recent years. Walden, drafted in the ninth round in 2007, has been hampered by injuries in the early stages of his pro career. He underwent Tommy John surgery, which forced him to miss the entire 2010 season, but seemingly turned the corner in 2012, going 5-2 with a 3.10 ERA in 14 starts at Lansing before posting a 9-2 mark and 2.85 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) at Dunedin. In his first fully healthy season, Walden displayed a hard sinker, a hard slider and a low-to-mid-90s fastball that originally caught the Blue Jays' attention in the '07 Draft.
Hitter of the year
With d'Arnaud out of the picture, this category is wide open. Therefore, it's fitting to go with Jimenez, who is easily the biggest beneficiary of d'Arnaud's departure. Jimenez is known for defense, but he's proven he can also handle the bat. He hit .303 in 102 games with Dunedin in 2011 and .305 in 70 games at Lansing one year earlier. With d'Arnaud now no longer blocking his path to the Majors -- coupled with only playing 27 games before the surgery last year -- Jimenez has plenty of motivation for a big comeback season.
Pitcher of the year
It'd be hard to go wrong selecting Sanchez, but it's Nolin who gets the nod after not losing a single decision last year. Nolin went 9-0 with a 2.19 ERA in 17 appearances (15 starts) with Dunedin last year and didn't miss a beat after his promotion to New Hampshire. In his three starts with the Fisher Cats, he went 1-0 with a 1.20 ERA, allowing just two earned runs over 15 innings while striking out 18. Nolin doesn't necessarily overpower hitters; instead he relies on his superior feel for the game to consistently retire them.