Prior to the 2009 season, we identified 10 prospects to watch in the Blue Jays' farm system. Of those 10, only two remain on the 2010 list.
J.P. Arencibia, C: The 2007 first-round pick out of the University of Tennessee, Arencibia was the organization's Minor League Player of the Year in 2008 when he hit .298 with 27 homers and 105 RBIs between Advanced A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire. The Miami native struggled offensively in 2009 at Triple-A Las Vegas, where he hit .236 with 21 homers and 75 RBIs. It's way too soon to panic though because he projects as their catcher of the future, a power-hitting offensive threat whose defense is improving.
David Cooper, 1B: Already a polished hitter when taken with the club's first-round pick out of Cal-Berkeley in 2008, Cooper batted .333 with 29 doubles and .502 slugging percentage in a quick three-level debut that summer. He hit the wall the following year, which was his first full season. A left-handed line-drive hitter, he batted .258 with 10 homers and 66 RBIs at New Hampshire. With newly acquired Brett Wallace in the first base picture, a position change or shift to DH may come down the line but his sweet swing keeps him in the mix.
These eight players were on our 2009 list but are not on the 2010 list, due to the loss of rookie status, trades, poor performance, injury, the addition of other prospects to the list, etc.
Kevin Ahrens, 3B: Selected in the first round of the 2007 Draft, Ahrens falls off the list due to the arrival of several more talented players. Drafted out of high school, Ahrens has developed more slowly than the Blue Jays had hoped but remains well-regarded. He hit .215 at Dunedin in 2009 and likely returns there to regroup this year.
Scott Campbell, 2B: Injuries derailed the 2006 10th-round Draft pick's bid to become the first native of New Zealand to reach the big leagues. The Gonzaga draftee hit just .229 at Las Vegas and .269 at New Hampshire in a combined 79 games in 2009 while shifting over to third base as well.
Brett Cecil, LHP: The first-round pick out of Maryland in 2007 was a closer in college but is now looking like a staple of the Jays' rotation. He used up his rookie eligibility when he pitched 93 1/3 innings for the Blue Jays last summer and went 7-4 with a 5.30 ERA.
Justin Jackson, SS: Drafted out of high school in North Carolina, the son of former big leaguer Chuck Jackson lost most of '09 to a shoulder injury that sent him into a tailspin at the plate and eventually required surgery. He still has great upside, especially on defense, but it may take a little longer to get there. He's hit just .221 over three pro seasons but has speed and smarts.
Brad Mills, LHP: The lone member of the four southpaws on the pre-2009 list to fall off the Top 10 without having lost rookie eligibility, Mills' season looked promising early. He made his big league debut after being the system's Pitcher of the Year in 2008 thanks to a combined 1.95 ERA at three levels. After struggling in his first two starts, he returned to the Minors and pitched eight shutout innings when a rib injury ended his season in July.
Ricky Romero, LHP: 2009 was considered to be a "make or break" year for the 2005 first-rounder out of Cal State-Fullerton. Arm trouble kept him from reaching his potential in his first four seasons. He definitely made it. He went 13-9 with a 4.30 ERA in 178 innings and heads into 2010 as the presumptive ace of the staff.
Marc Rzepczynski, LHP: First question to be answered, it's pronounced "zipSINsky" though he was nicknamed "Scrabble" this year at Spring Training. Lansing's Pitcher of the Year in 2008 as he posted a 2.83 ERA in 124 innings despite missing a month with a broken hand, the fifth-rounder from 2007 zoomed from obscurity to the Jays rotation in 2009. He throws four pitches and posted a 3.67 ERA in 11 starts for Toronto in '09.
Travis Snider, OF: The club's top offensive prospect coming into 2009 after an up-and-down '08 season, the 2006 first-rounder has matured and developed into a solid player who should be the starting left fielder for the foreseeable future. He hit .241 with nine homers and 29 RBIs in the bigs and .337 with 14 homers at Vegas in '09.
The following eight players are new additions to the Blue Jays' Prospects to Watch list.
Tim Collins, LHP: MLB.com's pick for the Jays' 2009 Minor League Pitcher of the Year is a diminutive (generously listed at 5-foot-7) reliever but his arm isn't small. Signed as a non-drafted free agent out of high school in Massachusetts, he posted a 2.37 ERA and fanned 99 in 64 2/3 innings at Dunedin last year, limiting hitters to a .199 average, after his 1.58 ERA in 39 games at Lansing in 2008. He has ranked among the relief leaders in average against and strikeouts per nine innings both years, with a surprisingly effective fastball and a plus curveball. He is quickly moving from novelty to legit prospect.
Prospects to watch
|Kevin Ahrens, 3B||J.P. Arencibia, C|
|J.P. Arencibia, C||Tim Collins, LHP|
|Scott Campbell, 2B||David Cooper, 1B|
|Brett Cecil, LHP||Travis d'Arnaud, C|
|David Cooper, 1B||Kyle Drabek, RHP|
|Justin Jackson, SS||Chad Jenkins, RHP|
|Brad Mills, LHP||Jake Marisnick, OF|
|Ricky Romero, LHP||Carlos Perez, C|
|Marc Rzepczynski, LHP||Zachary Stewart, RHP|
|Travis Snider, OF||Brett Wallace, 1B/3B|
Travis d'Arnaud, C: One of the prospects picked up from the Phillies in the Roy Halladay deal, d'Arnaud was a supplemental first-round pick in 2007 out of high school in California. He hit .305 in 2008. A strong defensive catcher who continues to improve behind the plate, he hit 38 doubles and 13 home runs at Class A Lakewood last summer but his average dipped to .255. His brother, Chase, is a shortstop in the Pittsburgh system.
Kyle Drabek, RHP: The key player acquired from the Phillies in the Halladay trade was Philadelphia's Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2009. A first-round pick in 2006, the son of former Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek has ace stuff in his fastball and hard curve, but his response to adversity as he recovered from Tommy John surgery in 2007 has been equally impressive. Between Advanced A Clearwater and Double-A Reading, he struck out 150 batters in 158 innings with a 12-3 record and 3.19 ERA in 25 starts, and inherits the mantle of Jays' top pitching prospect.
Chad Jenkins, RHP: Jenkins was taken with the 20th overall pick in 2009 out of Kennesaw State, where he was 8-1 with a 2.54 ERA, including a 41-inning shutout streak. He earned Atlantic Sun Conference Pitcher of the Year honors as well as All-Academic honors. A late sign, he'll make his pro debut this spring. He boasts a fastball in the low-90s with hard sink to both sides of the plate, a slider and a changeup and has the poise and presence you'd expect from someone with his smarts.
Jake Marisnick, OF: The Jays' third-round pick just turned 19. He has tremendous makeup and athleticism and will make his pro debut this spring. His strength and speed are among his best tools.
Carlos Perez, C: The Venezuelan catcher was the club's Gulf Coast League team MVP, the second year in a row he's won his respective team's award. Perez hit .291 in the GCL, showed fine plate discipline and is equally impressive behind the plate. He has a strong and accurate arm, and he throws out nearly half of opposing base-runners.
Zachary Stewart, RHP: Acquired along with third baseman Edwin Encarnacion and reliever Josh Roenicke (not on this list because he exceeded the service time for rookie eligibility), the third-round pick out of Texas Tech in 2008 has zoomed through the ranks in two seasons with a 1.70 ERA in 58 games and 129 strikeouts in 138 innings. He's seen time in both a starting and relief role with his two organizations and the Jays will see if he can make his changeup a serviceable enough third pitch to use him as a starter at Triple-A Las Vegas. Otherwise, look for a quick arrival in the bigs as a reliever. Stewart, who has allowed just three home runs in two seasons, throws a sinking fastball and a plus slider.
Brett Wallace, 1B/3B: Selected by the Cardinals with the 13th pick in 2008, Wallace went right to full-season Quad Cities that summer and between there and Double-A Springfield batted well over .300. He continued to rake in 2009, between the Cards and Athletics systems as he was dealt for outfielder Matt Holliday and was then traded to the Jays in the four-team Halladay blockbuster. A third baseman by trade, he moves to first with the Jays and his bat will be his quick ticket to the big leagues. He has power to all fields and, in two seasons, has hit .305 with 28 homers and 99 RBIs in 192 games.
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.