We covered what's surely to be one of the ugliest lineups you'll see in this series yesterday with the Astros, and things look a bit better today. But over on the Astros post, commenter WHYG Zane Smith noted that you can't really compare these lineups to real-world teams, because this exercise ignores a pretty substantial amount of the talent that's currently around the game- players drafted before 2000, and players signed as amateur free agents. So just keep that in mind whenever you note that, "Hey, this lineup kind of sucks."
But we're moving on to the Blue Jays today, and they're able to put together a much stronger group of players than Houston could. This is really just a fun exercise to see how successful each organization's recent draft classes have been, with an eye towards the present rather than the past, though. And remember, the key question being asked here is, "What kind of team could this organization build for 2011 using only players signed and drafted since 2000?"
1) DH Brad Emaus - 2007 11th Round Pick
The second baseman has gotten a ton of attention this spring because of his status as the Mets' Opening Day starter at the position, but he's already lost his spot on their roster and may end up back in Toronto given his Rule 5 status. Still, it's hard to ignore that the 25-year-old has some legitimate batting skills and may latch on somewhere else. Don't forget that Rule 5 draft rules still apply though, so any team that acquires him would still have to keep him on their 25-man roster or the MLB disabled list.
2) LF Travis Snider - 2006 1st Round Pick (14th overall)
The 23-year-old got inconsistent playing time with the Blue Jays in his first two stints with the club, but he's established as an everyday player this year and is expected to emerge as one of the better hitters in the game. Strikeouts will be a key issue for Snider going forward, but he showed patience in the minors and scouts still really like him.
3) C J.P. Arencibia - 2007 1st Round Pick (21st overall)
Another good first-round pick from the J.P. Ricciardi era, Arencibia was a monster at Triple-A last season and is off to a hot start as Toronto's primary catcher this year. Contact issues will always limit his OBP, but the plus power is legitimate and he may have enough bat to be a star-level player.
4) 1B Adam Lind - 2004 3rd Round Pick
It's not really clear what the Jays have in the 27-year-old Lind anymore. He was exceptional while knocking out 46 doubles and 35 homers in 2009, but he's hit just .237/.286/.414 since the beginning of last season. Toronto owes him $15 million through 2013 on an extension he signed before last season, but at this point it seems like his 2014-2016 club options aren't going to be exercised.
5) 2B Aaron Hill - 2003 1st Round Pick (13th overall)
Hill's story isn't that different from Lind's, as he posted a monster 2009 with huge power numbers, but has totally fallen off the cliff since then. Hill had 36 homers and a .330 OBP in 2009; since the beginning of 2010 he's hit .208/.270/.383. BABIP has absolutely killed Hill, though: since the beginning of last season, his .206 BABIP is by far the worst in baseball; Carlos Pena has the second-worst, and he's at .228.
6) RF Eric Thames - 2008 7th Round Pick
He's only played 14 games above Triple-A, but his only competition is Gabe Gross, and he hasn't played since being released in May of last year by Seattle. This shouldn't be a knock on the 24-year-old, though, who's done nothing but kill the ball the past two years. Thames may only end up being a good platoon bat, but there's potential for more and he's off to a strong start at Triple-A.
7) 3B Ryan Roberts - 2003 18th Round Pick
The utility player is off to a monster start with the Diamondbacks this year, and while he's likely to fall back down to Earth soon he's still a very useful player. His .262/.345/.421 line in 454 PA's is pretty good for someone with his defensive versatility; he should be able to stick around as a role player for a while.
8) SS Russ Adams - 2002 1st Round Pick (14th overall)
I'm sure that most Jays fans remember Adams from his time as Toronto's shortstop in 2005-2006, but he's spent most of the past five years in the minor leagues with a couple of organizations. He's currently with Triple-A Buffalo in the Mets' farm system, where he's currently struggling after a solid 2010.
9) CF Darin Mastroianni - 2007 16th Round Pick
He's 25 and he's only played 13 games above Double-A, but he's a guy worth watching. He's a solid defender in center with good speed, and his recent performance has been fantastic: since the beginning of 2009, he's hit .299/.390/.380 with 118 steals in 146 attempts (80.8% success rate). He should end up being a very solid fourth outfielder given those traits.
1) LHP Ricky Romero - 2005 1st Round Pick (6th overall)
People used to kill Toronto for passing on Troy Tulowitzki in favor of Romero, but that decision looks a lot more reasonable now. Romero is a weird guy because he was such a high draft pick, then prospect evaluators soured on him a bit, and then he showed up in the majors and emerged as a front-line starter. Last May I wondered aloud if the Jays already found a new ace for their rotation in Romero; now I'm pretty much positive they have.
2) RHP Shaun Marcum - 2003 3rd Round Pick
The Jays parlayed Marcum's bounceback 2010 into third base prospect Brett Lawrie, and now Marcum's set as one of the better pitchers in the NL. Durability is a question, as 2010 was his first MLB season with more than 159 innings pitched, but the quality of the innings shouldn't be an issue: ZiPS projects him to finish 2011 with a 3.15 ERA.
3) LHP Brett Cecil - 2007 1st Round Pick (38th overall)
He's off to a rough start and his fastball is down 2 MPH from last year, but it's far too early to predict the 24-year-old lefty's demise after pitching 172.2 innings of 4.03 FIP ball last season, good for 2.5 wins. He's probably not a top-of-the-rotation guy, but should a mid-rotation role in Toronto for a few years. With that said, Toronto just demoted Cecil to Triple-A, so clearly they think he's a guy in need of some work. A rare example of a college closer successfully being converted to the rotation, though. My eyes are on you, Andrew Cashner.
4) RHP Jesse Litsch - 2004 24th Round Pick
The Blue Jays recently optioned Litsch to Triple-A when Frank Francisco came off the DL, but it wasn't due to poor performance, as the 26-year-old posted a 3.63 ERA with very strong peripherals in his first three starts in Toronto this year. Presumably memories of last year (5.79 ERA) play into that, but Litsch was good in 2008 before injuries struck, and he's off to a nice start this season.
5) LHP Marc Rzepczynski - 2007 5th Round Pick
He's settling in as a reliever for the Blue Jays now, but he's spent practically his entire career as a starter. He posted a 3.49 xFIP in 124 innings as a starter in Toronto, and always had dominant minor league numbers before running into some trouble with the long ball in 12 Triple-A starts last season.
Set Up: Casey Janssen - 2004 4th Round Pick
Janssen was a useful piece for the Jays in 2006 and 2007 before tearing his labrum, often a death sentence for pitchers. But after missing 2008 and initially struggling upon his return in 2009, Janssen was one of Toronto's better relievers last year. He always struggled with missing bats in the majors before the shoulder injury, but he managed to strikeout out 8.3 per 9 last year while maintaining solid walk and ground ball rates. And with a fastball that averages 91.3 MPH, he's actually throwing harder than he did pre-surgery. Funny how that works sometimes.
Closer: Brandon League - 2001 2nd Round Pick
He's closing in Seattle now and has been a very good reliever the past few years with a fastball that touches the upper 90's. But Toronto fans probably like to think of him as "The Guy Who Got Us Brandon Morrow" now though.
DISTRIBUTION OF PICKS
2000: 0; 2001: 1; 2002: 1; 2003: 3; 2004: 3; 2005: 1; 2006: 1; 2007: 5; 2008: 1; 2009: 0
6th or later: 5