The Changing Prospect Landscape

The Toronto Blue Jays innocently began what eventually became a major organizational shift in philosophy back on July 20th in a ten-player trade with the Houston Astros and culminated in even more prospects being dealt to the New York Mets in the trade for R.A. Dickey. Here's who Toronto lost down on the farm, which losses could hurt long-term, and how it changes their farm system.

Since July 20th the Blue Jays have dealt away nearly half of their Top 20 prospects from just a year ago -- Travis D'Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino, Adeiny Hechavarria, Carlos Perez, Kevin Comer, and Asher Wojchiechowski -- only right-handers Anthony DeSclafani [ranked 24th and traded to the Marlins], Joe Musgrove [ranked 25th and traded to the Astros], outfielder Wuilmer Becerra, and David Rollins did not find residence in the Top 20.

The Key Losses; Syndergaard, Nicolino, d'Arnaud, and Marisnick...

..and in that order. While d'Arnaud was not only the top Jays' prospect and clearly one of the most big league ready prospects they had, the presence of cost-controlled J.P. Arencibia for the next three full seasons made d'Arnaud an expendable commodity. Still, d'Arnaud is arguably the better long-term hitter so dealing him away still hurts.

His loss, however, does not nearly hurt as much as trading away Noah Snyndergaard [to the Mets] and Justin Nicolino [to the Marlins]. While Snyndergaard and his 97-98 mph fastball hurts from a long-term ceiling standpoint, the loss of Nicolino, arguably one of the safest bets in all of minor league baseball to reach his ceiling, is not any worse.

Losing the pair, two of the big "Lansing 3", now creates a pretty big hole in the middle minor league levels of pitching depth for the Blue Jays. Throw in the departure of Desclafani too, only now top prospect Aaron Sanchez remains from what was a great minor league pitching rotation that was destined for the high-A level in 2013.

The series of trades certainly help the big league club and in many ways had to be done as it seems Toronto can make a race of it in the AL East, but make no mistake, it comes at a long-term price because a year from now the Double-A level which probably would have had four quality pitching prospects in it and close to big league ready, will most likely have a glaring hole.

The loss of Marisnick, another high ceiling prospect, hurts but it is a worthwhile gamble because he has been and still remains a bit of a 'tweener' -- he's either a Gold Glove caliber, potential All Star offensive talent in centerfield, or he'll become a solid regular corner outfielder with average big league power. Trading him this offseason when his stock was arguably at its lowest comes with its own set of gambles.

Other Long-term Potential Losses; Wuilmer Becerra and Kevin Comer.

Losing the likes of Carlos Perez, Joe Musgrove, Hechavarria, and Desclafani does hurt, but each one has either a combination of limited ceiling or long-term question marks that helps offset trading them away. However, Comer and Becerra in particular are a different story because both appear to be "throw-ins".

Comer, the infamous player to be named later, completed the ten-player trade with the Houston Astros for J.A. Happ and others, and arguably has the highest ceiling and the safest projection of any prospect included in that deal.

He has an above average secondary arsenal, including a plus curveball, and a fastball that already tops out at 95 mph. Throw in the fact he had barely pitched 40 innings in the Jays' system and will spend the majority of the 2013 season as a 20-year old, Toronto sold low on him, especially when considering he was essentially thrown into the deal.

Becerra, a Venezuelan outfielder, was basically thrown into the R.A. Dickey trade too. Hardly a sure-fire bet of eventually reaching his ceiling, the fact that his ceiling is quite vast makes his inclusion in the trade a bitter pill to swallow. Hit in the face with a pitch in his debut season last year, he had all of 32 professional at-bats under his belt before changing organizations and therefore was sold at a basement bargain price.

Trading players in A-ball, especially those in the short-season leagues, is a good practice at its core but even they should be dealt at market value and it's not very apparent that either Comer or Becerra were bringing back much more value in return. Comer in particular could have been the headliner in the Astros trade according to some talent evaluators, not just the throw-in.

The Effects of the Trades

Yes trading d'Arnaud, Marisnick, and Hechavarria hurts more in the short-term, but they are losses that can be negated by the fact that the Blue Jays received players in return, or already had replacements in place, that shouldn't be key losses for the time being.

And while losing the likes of Comer, Becerra, Musgrove, and others hurts the the Blue Jays' lower level depth, that was clearly the organizational strength then and even now after the trades so it's a collective situation that doesn't sting too much.

Where the recent flurry of prospect trading activity really stings, however, is at the middle minor league levels. Most fans and media are fine with trading away lower-level prospects like Nicolino and Syndergaard [Desclafani should not be overlooked either], but a year from now when the organization is missing some much needed pitching depth at the Double-A level those same folks will be viewing a sizeable hole.

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