February 26, 2024

Blue Jays 2024 top 20 prospects: Ricky Tiedemann, Orelvis Martinez lead the way


The Blue Jays continued to trade from their system last year, restocking it with a solid 2024 draft class, although the 2023 draft class’s first full year in pro ball was kind of disastrous. They did get a bounceback year from their No. 2 prospect and their international scouting group continues to unearth talent from all over to buttress the system.

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Top 100 MLB prospects 2024: Keith Law’s rankings, with Jackson Holliday at No. 1

Blue Jays 2024 top 20 prospects

(Note: Seasonal ages as of July 1, 2024. Scouting grades are on the traditional 20-80 or 2-8 scouting scale.)

1. Ricky Tiedemann, LHP (2024 top 100 ranking: 52)

Bats: L | Throws: L | Height: 6-4 | Weight: 220 | Seasonal age in 2024: 21

Tiedemann threw just 44 innings in the regular season around injuries to his left shoulder and biceps, making four starts in the AFL to try to make up for some of the lost time. He did regain the velocity that had been missing at the end of 2022, bumping 98 mph and pitching at 93-96 in the outing I saw in the desert, with a plus changeup and a big-breaking slider that wasn’t up to its past standard that day. The slider’s pretty high spin and has good tilt, giving him two real weapons, one for lefties and one for righties, which also helps as his fastball doesn’t have a ton of life or movement and hitters square it up more than the velocity might imply.

His delivery isn’t ideal for durability, as his shoulder stays open late, with some sling to the arm stroke, and that might be putting undue pressure on the joint. You have to start a guy with these weapons, and if he stays healthy enough for it he’s a mid-rotation starter or better depending on the control (maybe 45 now, but he’s shown better) and command (40). Two years of missed time and suboptimal mechanics give him a lot of reliever risk, though.

2. Orelvis Martinez, 3B (2024 top 100 ranking: 57)

Bats: R | Throws: R | Height: 5-11 | Weight: 200 | Seasonal age in 2024: 22

The Jays challenged Martinez with an assignment to Double A to start 2022 when he was just 20 years old and had only 27 games of High-A experience, so it wasn’t a huge shock that he struggled, hitting .203/.286/.446 with a 28.4 percent strikeout rate. The Jays returned him to Double-A New Hampshire in 2023 and he looked like a different guy, improving his swing decisions across the board, posting the best walk rate of his career and his lowest strikeout rate since Rookie ball. He’s always had the raw power, with 86 homers across the last three seasons, but needed to hit enough to get to it, so improving not just the raw contact and walk numbers but getting into better counts and choosing better pitches to attack was and still is the key for him to be more than an extra guy in the majors.

He can handle shortstop if need be but at best he’ll be an average defender there; I’ve seen him at third and think he can be above-average at the hot corner, while some scouts think second base will be his eventual home. A 30-homer, .320-.330 OBP hitter at either spot is an everyday player on just about any club, and that’s his upside if he keeps working on his approach.

3. Arjun Nimmala, SS (2024 top 100 ranking: 59)

Bats: R | Throws: R | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 170 | Seasonal age in 2024: 18

Nimmala was one of the youngest players in the 2023 draft class, turning 18 this past October, yet he fell to the 20th-overall pick, where the Blue Jays were ecstatic to get a player I’d ranked as a top-10 talent. Nimmala offers the upside of a true shortstop with 25+ homer power, with good actions at short and a plus arm, while he can show a powerful and efficient right-handed swing that should launch balls as he fills out. He’s still physically immature, hardly surprising for his age, and as he gets stronger he might start to run a little better and drive the ball harder while also getting more consistent around the bag at short. He showed a little swing and miss in high school, but in a brief stint in the complex league he actually displayed more patience and very little tendency to chase.

He’s going to be younger this season than some guys in the upcoming draft, and there’s no rush to send him right to full-season ball. Now that commissioner Rob Manfred has axed the short-season level between Low A and the complexes, there isn’t an ideal spot for a guy like Nimmala, but I hope the Jays play it conservatively given his age and his upside.

4. Leo Jimenez, SS

Bats: R | Throws: R | Height: 5-10 | Weight: 215 | Seasonal age in 2024: 23

Jimenez has always been a solid defender at shortstop with a good eye, but he’s had trouble staying on the field, even through minor injuries, and was so slight when he entered pro ball that he had difficulty making quality contact. In 2023, he played in a career-best 94 games, and he boosted his peak exit velocity for the third straight year, reaching 110 mph in Triple A. He’s got a simple right-handed swing that emphasizes contact, with some tendency to pull the ball, and now he’s grown into the strength to hit like that and have some more success. He’s a high-floor guy as a utility infielder who can play shortstop, with the potential to be someone’s regular at some point because of the defense and the high contact rates.


Addison Barger has 20-homer potential. (Nathan Ray Seebeck / USA Today)

5. Addison Barger, 3B

Bats: L | Throws: R | Height: 6-0 | Weight: 210 | Seasonal age in 2024: 24

Barger’s come into some pretty decent power, with 26 homers across three levels in 2022, although he hurt his throwing elbow early last year and didn’t repeat the performance. He’s played short, third, and right, and has utility value because of the versatility and the power, although he’s not a shortstop except in emergencies and he’s going to have to work at third base as he keeps getting bigger. If he sticks there, he could be a low-OBP 20-homer guy who plays every day. I think a utility role is more likely, as he doesn’t really have a position and the bat might not play every day in right or left.

6. Kendry Rojas, LHP

Bats: L | Throws: L | Height: 6-2 | Weight: 190 | Seasonal age in 2024: 21

Rojas looks like a back-end starter, with a low-90s fastball that’s ticked up the last two seasons and that has the shape to be a plus pitch, along with an average slider and fringe-to-average changeup. He missed a big chunk of 2022 with a lat injury, so having a more or less full, healthy season in 2023 was a win. He returned to Low-A Dunedin and made 20 appearances, throwing 84 innings and working deeper into games. The Cuban lefty has a loose, athletic body and looks like he could easily show up with 2 more mph at any time, at which point the outlook would change. Right now it’s fourth or fifth starter with that pitch mix, as long as he builds up to that workload.

7. Enmanuel Bonilla, OF

Bats: R | Throws: R | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 180 | Seasonal age in 2024: 18

Signed in January 2023 for a bonus of $4.1 million, Bonilla is one of the best athletes in the system and extremely strong already, a plus runner who can stick in center and who has plus raw power right now. His hit tool is the main question, as you’d expect for an 18-year-old who hasn’t played in the U.S. yet; he hit well enough in the Dominican Summer League, .307/.407/.429, with a 24 percent strikeout rate, the latter a bit worrisome as he’ll see much better stuff even in the complex league this summer. For pure upside, he might lead the whole system, but he doesn’t offer the probability of even someone like Nimmala, who’s just three months older.

8. Brandon Barriera, LHP

Bats: L | Throws: L | Height: 6-2 | Weight: 180 | Seasonal age in 2024: 20

Barriera showed up to spring training very out of shape last year — I had one scout guess he’d put on 50 pounds or more between the 2022 draft and March 2023 — and then had soreness in his shoulder and elbow, so the Jays’ 2022 first-round pick had about as bad a first full season as you can have. He threw just 20 innings and his velocity was down when he did get on the mound. He’s lost a lot of weight this offseason and seems to be regaining some of the arm strength, so there’s some cause for hope heading into spring training. He can really spin two breaking balls and showed a plus changeup in high school. I wrote last year that “if (Barriera) stays healthy this year, he’ll almost certainly be on the top 100 a year from now.” Yeah, well, high school pitchers, man.

9. Fernando Perez, RHP

Bats: R | Throws: R | Height: 6-3 | Weight: 170 | Seasonal age in 2024: 20

Perez hails from Nicaragua, and he made his U.S. debut last year in the Florida Complex League, showing plus control already with velocity that improved as the season went on. He was more 88-91 mph early in the year but was consistently in the low 90s later in the season with good life on the fastball, averaging over 92 on the entire season, and he can spin a promising curveball as well. He’s got a big frame and should end up a strong kid who can handle some innings and probably throw even a little harder. He’s a ways off but projects as a league-average starter.

10. Chad Dallas, RHP

Bats: R | Throws: R | Height: 5-11 | Weight: 206 | Seasonal age in 2024: 24

Dallas led the Blue Jays system with 144 strikeouts last year, a huge bounce-back season for him after he was really not good in High A in 2022, walking 51 in 88 innings and posting a 4.6 ERA. He spent most of 2023 in Double A, cut his walk rate by over a quarter, and missed a lot more bats, although he was still homer-prone enough to keep some questions open about his ultimate role. He’s very slider-heavy, throwing more sliders than four-seamers last year, with the slider breaking almost straight downward, so he can use the fastball up to set a hitter’s eye level and then go down with the breaker. He’ll mix in a cutter and traditional curveball as well, so he has other weapons, but I worry this particular pitching plan won’t work to turn over a big-league lineup multiple times. There’s back-end upside for sure, just some risk that major-league hitters will lay off the slider below the zone and force him to throw strikes with the fastball.

11. Nolan Perry, RHP

Bats: R | Throws: R | Height: 6-2 | Weight: 195 | Seasonal age in 2024: 20

Perry was the Jays’ 12th-round pick in 2022 out of a New Mexico high school, and if you’ve checked his Baseball-Reference page, you may be surprised to see him here: in 38 1/3 innings in the Florida Complex League, he had a 7.28 ERA, allowing 34 runs (31 earned) on 46 hits and 16 walks. He did punch out 51 batters (28.3 percent) with a solid-average curveball that projects to plus and an average fastball at 90-94 mph. It’s a very simple, low-effort delivery, and he has the frame to become a mid-rotation starter in time if he develops a real weapon for lefties. Also, his season line looked somewhat better before his final outing of the year, where he went 2 2/3 innings and gave up eight runs on 10 hits.

12. Alan Roden, OF

Bats: L | Throws: R | Height: 5-11 | Weight: 215 | Seasonal age in 2024: 24

Roden was the Jays’ third-round pick in 2022 out of Creighton — yes, the Blue Jays drafted a Bluejay — and he had the best slash line in the system last year, hitting .317/.431/.459 between High A and Double A, walking more than he struck out. He’s limited to a corner and it’s fringy power, with exit velocities that don’t point to anything more than what he’s done, but the man does not swing and miss, and that will probably carry him to a big-league bench spot.

13. Adam Macko, LHP

Bats: L | Throws: L | Height: 6-0 | Weight: 170 | Seasonal age in 2024: 23

Macko was born in Slovakia, spent a year or so in Ireland, then moved to Canada, and from there the Mariners drafted him in the seventh round in 2019. He missed time in 2021 and 2022 with shoulder soreness but had a full season as a starter in High A in 2023, working mostly fastball-slider still but with a few more changeups and no real platoon split. Most scouts still put him in the bullpen, especially considering how often he’s been hurt, but there’s no downside to developing him as a starter and letting him prove he can’t do it. His 2023 line was hurt by worse performance from the stretch, but that’s the reverse of his previous experience, where he was oddly better with men on base (which makes me assume there’s nothing here either way). If he reaches the majors, he’ll be the first MLB player born in an independent Slovakia.

14. David Guzman, OF

Bats: L | Throws: L | Height: 5-7 | Weight: 160 | Seasonal age in 2024: 18

Signed for $650,000 last January, Guzman is a fun-sized corner outfielder (listed at 5-7, 160) who makes a ton of contact already, striking out barely 10 percent of the time in the DSL, with a chance for average power at his peak. He’s got great feel to hit all kinds of pitching for such a young player, while he’s a 55 runner who should end up in right field, with an accurate arm and great instincts in the field and on the bases. He turned 18 the day I wrote this paragraph, so he’ll play the whole summer here in the FCL as an 18-year-old.


Juaron Watts-Brown was a third-round pick in 2023. (Andrew Woolley / Four Seam Images via Associated Press)

15. Juaron Watts-Brown, RHP

Bats: R | Throws: R | Height: 6-3 | Weight: 190 | Seasonal age in 2024: 22

I really want to see what the Jays can do with Watts-Brown, their third-round pick in 2023, after his velocity and performance went backward in his junior year at Oklahoma State. He dropped to 91-93 mph last spring and his slider, a potential out pitch, was inconsistent, although at its best velocity it has tilt and power and he can move it in or out of the zone. He’s got a decent changeup that he’ll need to use more as well. He moves well and looks athletic enough to take to some delivery help. It’s also possible he just had a little draft-itis and he’ll be better this year. He has mid-rotation upside if he even gets back to where he was as a sophomore at Long Beach State.

16. Cade Doughty, 3B

Bats: R | Throws: R | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 195 | Seasonal age in 2024: 22

Doughty was supposed to be a polished college hitter who could go out to High A and hit right away; the LSU product hit a somewhat disappointing .264/.342/.459 with a 29.7 percent strikeout rate, which, according to my notes, is not polished. Some of the hard contact was there; Vancouver’s a tough place to hit and he led the team in homers while finishing third in doubles. He just didn’t have the approach he needed, struggling with all kinds of offspeed stuff and chasing more often than an SEC product should in High A. He’ll move to Double-A New Hampshire, a better place to hit, but the challenge for him remains recognizing pitches and whether something’s a strike.

17. Landen Maroudis, RHP

Bats: R | Throws: R | Height: 6-3 | Weight: 190 | Seasonal age in 2024: 19

The Jays’ fourth-round pick in 2023, Maroudis has a super-short arm action, working 90-93 mph with a potentially plus changeup, although he can get on the side of the ball and tip it to hitters. He had a below-average curveball in high school and will need to either improve that or switch to a slider. He was a two-way player as an amateur, so he might make some rapid progress just from focusing on pitching, like throwing a lot harder this year than last.

18. Yosver Zulueta, RHP

Bats: R | Throws: R | Height: 6-1 | Weight: 190 | Seasonal age in 2024: 26

Zulueta still has premium stuff, now mostly sinker/slider in relief, sitting 95-96 mph with both pitches capable of missing bats and getting groundballs (not at the same time, that’s only in quantum baseball), but the man cannot throw strikes, even now that he’s a full-time reliever: he walked 45 in 64 innings in Triple A, 15.6 percent of batters faced. If he cuts that down even a little, he can pitch in a major-league bullpen today, but this isn’t just the automatic ball-strike system messing with a guy’s walk totals — he’s missing by a lot.

19. Jace Bohrofen, OF

Bats: L | Throws: R | Height: 6-2 | Weight: 205 | Seasonal age in 2024: 22

Bohrofen looked like a steal in last year’s sixth round, a hard-hitting center fielder with 20-homer upside who’s had some trouble picking up pitch types and was mostly a fastball hitter in college. He’s not a burner but covered the necessary ground in center, while at the plate he went off after signing, with six homers in 17 games for Low-A Dunedin — one more and he would have tied for the team lead — and solid exit velocities peaking in the 105-106 mph range. He has average everyday upside, but needs to work on the pitch recognition to get there.

20. Sam Shaw, 2B/OF

Bats: L | Throws: R | Height: 5-10 | Weight: 180 | Seasonal age in 2024: 19

Shaw is from Victoria, British Columbia, and the Jays took him in the ninth round out of TNXL Academy in Florida based on their belief in his hit tool. He’s a very patient hitter for a teenager, rarely chasing, not even swinging that often, with enough strength for doubles power but maybe 8-10 homers at his peak. He doesn’t throw well, so on the dirt he’s limited to second base, although he’s played some center and can show 55 speed.

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MLB 2024 farm system rankings: Keith Law ranks all 30 teams, Orioles are new No. 1

Others of note

• Add Tucker Toman to the list of players hurt by the lack of short-season leagues, not that anyone in New York seems to care about all of the players who aren’t developing because of a little penny-pinching. (Once again: Let owners who want to operate an extra affiliate do so. If you’re too cheap to fund one more club between the complex and Low A, that’s your choice.) Toman was the Jays’ fourth pick in 2022 but got a first-round bonus for his bat and feel for the game; unfortunately his bat was not ready for Low A and he hit .208/.320/.313, struggling to recognize offspeed stuff and not making much hard contact, either

• I was hoping for a step forward from outfielder Gabriel Martinez this year in contact quality, but he stalled out, with peak exit velocities comparable to 2022, not enough to make him more than an extra outfielder. He’s a corner guy with great contact skills but an aggressive approach that leaves him without many walks — and pitchers will just challenge him in the zone if he doesn’t show he can do more damage.

• Middle infielder Manuel Beltre has gained quite a bit of muscle, but he’s still not impacting the ball anywhere near enough to be more than an up-and-down guy, even after a career-best six homers for Dunedin. He’s still young and a strong defender at either spot.

2024 impact

Tiedemann should see the majors this year in some role if his health allows it. Barger could end up on the bench as well.

The fallen

Dasan Brown can fly, but not to first base, as the Jays’ 2019 third-rounder hit just .218/.309/.315 in a second go-round in High A. He’s a tremendous athlete but it hasn’t translated to the batter’s box in any way.

Sleeper

Bonilla offers more upside than anyone not on the top 100 already, although he has yet to play anywhere above the DSL and we don’t really know where his hit tool stands.

(Top photo of Ricky Tiedemann: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA Today)





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