Sanchez, Gose, strong 2012 Draft class highlight Toronto's farm clubs
By Gregor Chisholm
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' farm system isn't quite what it used to be, but that doesn't mean there aren't any top prospects capable of making their way to the Major Leagues.
Toronto parted with a large portion of its young talent this offseason to acquire the likes of R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Emilio Bonifacio in a pair of blockbuster trades.
Former No. 1 prospect Travis d'Arnaud and highly-touted pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard are gone, but that has opened the door for outfielder Anthony Gose, right-hander Aaron Sanchez and a promising group of talent from the 2012 First-Year Player Draft to take center stage.
Sanchez was the one core piece the Blue Jays refused to part with this winter. He has been tabbed by some experts as a star in the making, and by this time next year, Sanchez could find himself at the top -- or at least near the top -- of all the major prospect rankings.
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Gose, meanwhile, got his first taste of the big leagues last year, but since Toronto has a team built to win now, the organization the luxury of providing him with more seasoning at Triple-A Buffalo.
Minor League Baseball is under way, and you can keep track of the Blue Jays' top prospects throughout the season on MLBPipeline.com and Prospect Watch. Get scores, stats, news, schedules, tickets and more for all of Toronto's Minor League teams on MLBPipeline.com/bluejays.
Buffalo's first season in the Blue Jays organization has already gotten off to an exciting start. The club entered play Monday with a 3-1 record and featured a game in which Gose not only ran through an outfield fence, but then was propped up by a teammate to fix the wall.
The Bisons have postseason expectations for a team that might not be stacked with prospects, but has plenty of veteran talent. That should help Buffalo remain competitive in the International League, while also providing some key depth to Toronto in case of injuries at the big league level.
Last year, most of the talk surrounding the Blue Jays' Minor League system was about the "Lansing Big 3." Justin Nicolino and Syndergaard have since been traded, and Sanchez received a promotion, but there's a new group of young arms that has taken over at the Class A club.
No. 2 prospect Roberto Osuna leads the way for the next wave of talent, while 2011 Draft pick Daniel Norris can also be found in the group. One of last year's top picks, lefty Matthew Smoral, is there as well, while Anthony Alford is expected to be assigned to the roster.
Double-A New Hampshire will be of particular interest to Blue Jays fans, because if there's any injuries to Toronto's rotation, it's possible the replacements could be found on the Fisher Cats.
Former No. 1 Draft pick Deck McGuire is coming off a disappointing season, but will have another opportunity to re-establish his standing within the organization, while John Stilson and Sean Nolin are both nearing the end of their developmental stage.
Debuts and draftees
The Blue Jays were one of the more creative teams during last year's Draft. With spending limits placed on organizations following the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement, Toronto opted to allocate almost all of its money to a small group of elite players.
Players taken from rounds four through 10 received almost the bare minimum in signing bonuses, which meant the club could entice others who were considered tough signs. That was the case with Alford and Smoral, who both claimed they wouldn't agree to a deal, but now find themselves in the organization following lucrative offers.
Alford and Smoral are expected to spend part of this season with Class A Lansing following brief stints in the Minors last year. First-round pick D.J. Davis, an outfielder, likely will play for short-season Class A Vancouver, while right-hander Marcus Stroman is serving a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a banned substance last season.
Stroman will likely begin the season at Double-A New Hampshire, but it might not be too long before he begins his ascension to the Major Leagues. He was considered close to being ready for the big leagues when he was drafted last June out of Duke.
Teams on TV
The Buffalo Bisons are among a growing number of teams whose games are available on MiLB.TV. The 2013 MiLB.TV package will include more than 3,500 Minor League games streamed live, as well as games archived for on-demand streaming soon after completion.
Gose should be an exciting player to watch with the Bisons. His range in the outfield and arm strength are big league caliber, but Gose still has to work on his approach at the plate. The Blue Jays want him to increase his plate discipline, while continuing to work on making more contact and improving his bunting skills.
Buffalo possesses a veteran squad featuring plenty of former big leaguers, including Ryan Langerhans, Ramon Ortiz and Claudio Vargas. Right-hander Brad Lincoln is also on the roster, and while he should be back in Toronto at some point this year, for now, he represents organizational depth.