DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The rebuilding plan that Alex Anthopoulos undertook when he became the Blue Jays' general manager in 2009 is starting to bear its fruit.
Toronto possesses one of the youngest cores in all of baseball, but it's the current depth of the Blue Jays' Minor League system that is perhaps most impressive of all.
Anthopoulos and his player development staff have made it a top priority to gather as much young talent as possible in order to start contending for not just one season, but for years to come. They arguably have the game's best young pitching prospects and an overall system that is consistently ranked in many observer's top three.
"Andrew Tinnish and his staff have done a tremendous job of finding and signing some athletic guys with good arms, with size and makings of good deliveries," Blue Jays assistant general manager Tony LaCava said of the club's scouting director. "They're progressing through the system now, and we've got those kids now that are going to be at a full season.
"We're fortunate to have a group of arms that we like, and the reality is, you can never have enough."
where to watch
A look at where the Blue Jays' Top 20 prospects are starting the 2012 season:
Click here for the complete Top 20 list on Prospect Watch.
The rebuilding process began Dec. 16, 2009, when Toronto dealt ace Roy Halladay to the Phillies for prospects Kyle Drabek, Travis d'Arnaud and Michael Taylor, who was immediately traded to the A's for Brett Wallace. Nearly seven months later, Wallace was flipped to the Astros for Anthony Gose. That jump-started the overall plan, which was further augmented by Toronto's dedication to stockpiling picks and going over slot to acquire elite prospects in the First-Year Player Draft.
Under Anthopoulos' watch, the Blue Jays spent a franchise-record $11.6 million in the 2010 Draft. First-round selection Deck McGuire provided the club with a workhorse type of pitcher that had an ability to rise through the ranks relatively quickly, while higher risk and higher upside pitchers such as Noah Syndergaard, Justin Nicolino and Aaron Sanchez followed soon thereafter.
It was more of the same in 2011, as Toronto spent $11 million on the Draft despite not coming to terms with top pick Tyler Beede. The system received yet another injection of quality arms highlighted by the likes of left-hander Daniel Norris, Joseph Musgrove, Kevin Comer and John Stilson.
"They'll tell us," LaCava said when asked what the decision-making process will be for the placing the club's most recent Draft picks. "It's going to be in short season, but we'll keep watching them here before deciding. That's the beauty of having the three teams [in the low Minors].
"We have the Gulf Coast, we have the Appalachian League and the Northwest League. We decided to add that team when we consciously made an effort to draft younger players and sign a lot of players from Latin America. We have to sort through them and they're so young, and they need the levels, they need the touches. We'll watch them closely and then we'll decide which level they should go."
With the Minor League season getting under way, fans can keep track of the Blue Jays' top prospects throughout the year on Prospect Watch. And get scores, stats, news, schedules, tickets and more for all of Toronto's Minor League teams on the Blue Jays' affiliates page.
The next wave of pitching talent will be on full display at Double-A New Hampshire, where McGuire will be joined by Drew Hutchison, Chad Jenkins and Asher Wojciechowski. The defending champs in the Eastern League should once again have a high-caliber catching prospect to work with as A.J. Jimenez makes the jump from Class A Dunedin.
The staff at Class A Lansing could be just as impressive, as starters from the 2010 Draft class look to participate in their first full-length season in the Minors. Syndergaard headlines that group of hurlers, which also includes Sanchez and Nicolino.
At Class A Dunedin, an impressive trio of outfielders likely will garner the most attention. Jake Marisnick, who is ranked as Toronto's No. 3 prospect according to MLB.com, will make the jump and will be joined by Canadians Michael Crouse and Marcus Knecht.
Debuts and Draftees
Norris' stock in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft fell because of signability issues, but Toronto was able to get him under contract. Similar issues surfaced with Comer and Musgrove, but both find themselves in the Blue Jays' system and ready to begin their professional careers in short-season Class A ball. They will be joined by outfielder Jacob Anderson, who was a sandwich pick in 2011 and projects as a future five-tool right fielder.
Teams on TV
The Las Vegas 51s are among a growing number of teams whose games are available on MiLB.TV. The 2012 MiLB.TV package will include more than 2,500 Minor League games streamed live, as well as games archived for on-demand streaming soon after completion.
This could be an exciting team to watch as the club's best two prospects -- d'Arnaud and Gose -- ascend from Double-A New Hampshire. Gose will center a dynamic outfield that likely will also include the still promising Travis Snider and right fielder Moises Sierra.
Cuban prospect Adeiny Hechavarria also will embark on his first full season in Las Vegas after being promoted from the Fisher Cats late in 2011. The 51s have a deep squad filled with lots of players who could be ready to make the jump to the big leagues in 2012 if any injuries present themselves at the Major League level.