The "hurry up and wait" nature of this MLB offseason has impacted virtually all involved in the game.
But it's especially true for prospects gearing up to get their first major-league call in a 2022 season that's surrounded by uncertainty right now. At least seven Toronto Blue Jays youngsters find themselves in that position.
From promising stars to bullpen long shots, here is a list of Toronto prospects who could crack the major-league team at some point this year.
Gabriel Moreno — C
Last season's stats: 159 PA | .367/.434/.626 | 8 HR | 45 RBIs
The Blue Jays' top prospect, Moreno turned heads from start to finish last year.
Moreno's double-A dominance earned him a promotion to triple-A Buffalo in September, and he was one of three Blue Jays prospects named an All-Star in the 2021 Arizona Fall League. The 21-year-old Venezuelan doesn't go yard too often — he finished last year with eight homers in 159 plate appearances — but Moreno's discipline and loud contact make him an extra-base machine.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) June 5, 2021
He's also proven to be a plus-defender, sporting the type of strength and athleticism that the Blue Jays lack in their current catching corps of Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire and Alejandro Kirk.
Kyle Johnston — RP
69 IP | 1.57 ERA | 55 Ks | 29 BBs | 1.159 WHIP
As the Jays continue to address some unanswered questions within their pitching staff, Johnston may emerge as a big-league contributor this season.
The 25-year-old right-hander was acquired in a trade that saw Daniel Hudson get shipped to the Washington Nationals in 2019. Though he's seen reps as both a starter and a reliever, Johnston's best chance to make the big leagues for the first time would be out of the bullpen.
A fastball-slider pitcher, Johnston finished his 2021 season with the Bisons, sporting a 1.04 ERA and 7.3 strikeouts-per-nine rate in 17.1 triple-A innings.
Jordan Groshans — SS/3B
316 PA | .291/.367/.450 | 7 HR | 40 RBIs
Toronto's Marcus Semien-sized mystery in the infield remains unsolved, and should the team fail to acquire a top-billing name in the offseason, Groshans may have a big opportunity coming his way soon.
Granted, Groshans hasn't played above double-A ball so far in his young career, but the 22-year-old has exceeded expectations wherever he's landed since recovering from a serious foot injury back in 2019. A right-handed batter, Groshans has an elegant and powerful swing that's worked well for him in the lower levels. He's also a highly touted defender who's projected to settle in at third base for the bulk of his pro career.
Jordan Groshans just made a big league play from the hole. pic.twitter.com/uZm5elomOf
— Future Blue Jays (@FutureBlueJays) July 10, 2021
The Texas native had a .817 OPS and 40 RBIs with New Hampshire last season. Given time and the right tools, he should become a middle-of-the-order hitter for the Jays soon.
Joey Murray — SP
An entire season lost to injury may hinder Murray's chances of getting the call this year. Murray isn't on the Blue Jays' 40-man roster and has been flying under the radar through a rather exceptional minor-league career.
But if he's able to get back to form and dominate in the way he did prior to his 2020 ailment, there might be a spot for him in the big leagues. Murray's calling card is his fastball, which tops out at 92-93 m.p.h., but features elite spin rate. His curveball is a worthy secondary pitch.
Joey Murray’s ‘invisiball’ to Alejandro Kirk for the K. That’s content! pic.twitter.com/Y7I0LTme0Z
— Ryan Di Francesco (@RyanDifrancesco) April 2, 2020
The former eighth-round pick is primarily a starter, but he might crack the majors as a reliever.
Zach Logue — SP
125 IP | 3.67 ERA | 144 Ks | 27 BBs | 1.112 WHIP
A 3.32 ERA and 9.4 strikeout rate in triple-A will draw any team's attention. That's what the left-handed Logue brought over 18 appearances with the Bisons last year.
Strangely, Logue struggled in New Hampshire to start the 2021 campaign, posting a lacklustre 4.54 ERA over seven starts. But he got his groove back in Buffalo and may now be in a great position to take a crack at the major-league roster.
The 25-year-old throws a 93-m.p.h. fastball, plus a good slider and a changeup. With no minor leagues in 2020, Logue took the time to develop a cutter in addition to his primary weapons.
Bowden Francis — SP
132.2 IP | 4.34 ERA | 136 Ks | 48 BBs | 1.116 WHIP
The Rowdy Tellez deal has worked out pretty well for the Blue Jays so far.
— Buffalo Bisons🦬 (@BuffaloBisons) July 25, 2021
In addition to one of their top relief contributors in Trevor Richards, the Jays also acquired right-handed starter Francis in that July trade — and he immediately became the team's No. 28 prospect, according to MLB.com.
Though Francis's numbers didn't jump off the page in his 73 innings with the Bisons, there is plenty of upside in the 25-year-old's slider and sinking fastball.
Hagen Danner — RP
35.2 IP | 2.02 ERA | 42 Ks | 12 BBs | 0.925 WHIP
Danner was originally drafted as a catcher by the Blue Jays in the second round back in 2017, but struggled through three seasons before converting into a reliever.
Since then, the 23-year-old has taken off.
Pitching in high-A Vancouver, Danner has been surprisingly stellar with a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and has even touched 100 m.p.h. Seeing his potential, the Blue Jays added him to the 40-man roster, which puts the righty in a good position to jump all the way up to the majors if his dominance persists.
The one big challenge will be the command of his slider, which has been shaky and could be exploited as Danner moves up the ranks.
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