How close are the Blue Jays’ top hitting prospects to playing in the majors?

Arden Zwelling and Ben Nicholson-Smith discuss when the Toronto Blue Jays might consider calling up their top-performing players from the Buffalo Bisons, including, Orelvis Martinez, Addison Barger, and Spencer Horowitz.

KANSAS CITY — Some top Blue Jays prospects are putting up eye-catching offensive numbers at triple-A, and their production has not escaped the attention of decision makers on the big-league team.

In Spencer Horwitz (.353/.488/.485, 1 HR), Addison Barger (.314/.435/.586, 3 HR) and Orelvis Martinez (.333/.392/.681, 6 HR), the Blue Jays have a trio of promising young hitters atop their triple-A batting order. Each one could help at the big-league level this season, and some may be big-league ready now.

At the same time there’s more to big-league performance than hitting, which adds nuance to the question of how soon the team’s top triple-A bats might help at the highest level.

“Three in particular are doing really well,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said. “We want them to continue to keep getting better and make tough decisions for us. It was a good week for them especially Orelvis. But their development is important and playing every day is important, so it’s definitely a balance.”

Take Martinez, for instance. Now 22 years old, he’s playing full-time at second base for the first time and he has five errors to his name in just 15 games. Maybe he’ll be able to handle the position with time, but regular playing time is likely required to reach that answer. 

“Errors are going to happen, but I think him getting the reps there is key for his development,” Schneider said. “We know he can hit. It’s about making his whole game a little more tight.”

If the Blue Jays were to promote him now, they’d either have to accept a major defensive downgrade up the middle (highly unappealing) or stall the overall development of a top prospect (also unappealing).

With that in mind, Horwitz and Barger may be closer to the big-leagues (all three are on the 40-man roster). Since the 26-year-old Horwitz has already reached — and succeeded in — the majors, he’d be a logical candidate for a promotion if someone like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Justin Turner or Daniel Vogelbach were to hit the injured list.

[brightcove videoID=6351429137112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

Meanwhile, Barger might be best positioned to get the call if an infielder or outfielder went down. The big-armed 24-year-old’s been playing third base and right field in the minors, giving him valuable versatility.

Also worth noting: while former top prospects like David Price, Evan Longoria and Kris Bryant were previously held in the minors to suppress their service time, that doesn’t appear to be a concern here. At this point, the Blue Jays could call up Martinez or Barger tomorrow or on Sept. 1 with no difference in their projected timelines to free agency.

In time, all three Blue Jays prospects will surely get their chances in the big-leagues, but on a contending team variables like defence, baserunning and preparation must also be considered when weighing promotions. Because mistakes at the minor-league level are to be expected, but in the majors results are paramount, so there’s less room for patience.

“You want them to be doing well, not just offensively, but you want them to be doing well baseball wise,” Schneider said. “You’ve got to have guys play the game. To me it’s kind of a lost art. Guys can hit the ball hard and throw it hard, but you’ve got to play. It’s going to win you or lose you games. The whole package matters.”

[brightcove videoID=6351435421112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

MANOAH’S PATH BACK

After a strong showing at triple-A in which he allowed two runs in 5.2 innings while striking out five on Friday, starter Alek Manoah will return to the mound soon for another rehab outing with the Buffalo Bisons.

The start will take place Wednesday or Thursday depending on weather, and after throwing 92 pitches Friday, he’s not expected to have any restrictions on workload. So, how soon might he back in the majors, and under what circumstances?

Manoah is “on a good track,” Schneider said, and now the Blue Jays want him to build on what he did against the Columbus Clippers. The manager watched the entire outing on video and came away impressed with Manoah’s command and the shape and speed of his slider.

“And a lot of his misses were good,” Schneider added. “They were close.”

Of course, Manoah is just one part of the equation for the Blue Jays. Their rotation has been their biggest strength so far this year, so there’s not exactly a need to rush a pitcher whose rehab window extends to May 6.

Plus, they “definitely want to keep (Yariel Rodriguez) on turn” as a starter for the time being. With all of that in mind, it stands to reason that the Blue Jays will proceed deliberately with Manoah, knowing that these logjams tend to resolve themselves with time.

“A lot of it is how he is and how we are,” Schneider said. “So a good problem to have. But yeah, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

GRADUAL PROGRESSION FOR VOTTO

When Joey Votto rolled his ankle in a spring game on March 17, he wasn’t expected to miss this much time, but he remains on the sidelines with no timetable for getting into a game.

“He’s ramping up baseball activity, and running more but it’s still kind of been the same for about a week or 10 days,” Schneider said. “Not hitting live (batting practice) or anything like that. Kind of just on the same slow track.”

Schneider said there’s no additional injury, but noted Votto wants to be fully ready once he does get into minor-league games.

“Probably just a 40-year-old taking a little bit longer to heal.”

FURTHER INJURY NOTES

Reliever Chad Green (shoulder) is meeting with a team doctor in Toronto to determine next steps. In the meantime, he’s not throwing. … Left-handed pitching prospect Brandon Barriera is visiting with Dr. Keith Meister this week after experiencing elbow soreness. … Right-handed pitching prospect Landen Maroudis is getting an MRI after experiencing forearm soreness.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.