The Toronto Blue Jays used Monday’s MLB non-waiver trade deadline to help bolster their minor-league system, adding three young players at very different stages in their development. Here’s a look at the newest members of the Blue Jays organization.
Hernandez is essentially major-league ready, and is the highest-touted prospect the Blue Jays acquired Monday. Baseball America ranked him No. 8 in their midseason look at Houston’s top 10 prospects, and MLB.com’s Pipeline ranks him as the No. 5 prospect in Toronto’s system, just behind this year’s first overall selection Logan Warmoth and ahead of last year’s first overall selection T.J. Zeuch.
"Teoscar is a guy that we’ve liked for a while. He’ someone who we feel can make an impact in the short-term and the long-term," Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins said. "If we had a need tomorrow, he could fill in immediately as an everyday major-league player."
A 24-year-old, right-handed hitting outfielder, Hernandez has spent his 2017 in triple-A where he’s batting .279/.369/.485 with 35 extra-base hits in 79 games. He’s split his time between right and centre field, but he can play at all three outfield spots.
"He’s a well-rounded player," Atkins said. "He runs well, throws well, gets on base, has some power, can play all three outfield positions. It’s extremely difficult to acquire talent that you can say all of those things about that you will have five-plus years of control of and can potentially be someone that you can count on year in and year out."
Hernandez made his major-league debut last August, coincidentally in a series against the Blue Jays. His first ever taste of big league pitching actually came against the man he was traded for: Francisco Liriano. Hernandez walked and flew out in his first two plate appearances before taking Liriano deep for his first major league hit.
For now, Hernandez will report to the triple-A Buffalo Bisons. But there is an extremely strong possibility you’ll see Hernandez in a Blue Jays uniform before the end of the season. He would seem a shoo-in for a September call up once the minor-league season is through and major-league rosters expand, but if playing time were to open up before then there’s a chance he won’t have to wait that long.
"If we have the need," Atkins said. "Certainly, I can’t see why he wouldn’t be here in September."
Atkins had a hand in drafting Pannone four years ago when he was working for Cleveland, who selected the left-hander out of the College of Southern Nevada in the 9th round of the 2013 draft. Pannone was drafted as a position player but quickly converted to a left-handed starting pitcher by Cleveland, who have slowly worked him up their minor-league system since.
This year things have come together in a big way for Pannone, who has a 1.96 ERA and 9.8 K/9 in 19 starts across high- and double-A. He’s only allowed more than three earned runs in an outing once all season and he’s walked only six batters over his last six starts.
"He’s a great athlete," Atkins said. "It just so happened that our professional scout’s information and insight, our analytical department, our baseball operations staff, their thoughts and opinions aligned with the things that I learned about him when I was in Cleveland."
Pannone features a low-90’s fastball along with what Atkins described as "a good breaking ball and a feel for a change-up." It’s possible he could end up as a reliever at the major-league level, which would allow his fastball to play up. But for now, the Blue Jays view Pannone as a starter and will likely begin him with their double-A affiliate, the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
"A left-handed pitcher that’s performing very well and has not just objective predictors of success but also has a lot of subjective predictors of success and indictors of success," Atkins said of Pannone. "He has the left-handed weapons as a starting pitcher, has been durable, and is performing at an average age at double-A and someone that could be a major-league starting pitcher."
Taylor was selected by Cleveland in the 10th round of the 2016 draft and has played only 60 professional games since, slashing .297/.344/.432 as a second baseman in rookie ball and low-A. Still only 19, he’s extremely untested as a professional but the Blue Jays like the tools he’s shown thus far.
"A young middle-infielder that is an above-average runner and has had some success already," Atkins said. "He’s a very well-rounded athlete that could complement a major-league team one day."
As of late in the day on the 31st, the Blue Jays were working through a passport issue with Taylor and were unsure what level of the organization he’d be sent to.