Fast-forward to today and it's a completely different picture. Although half of the top four have yet to "prove" themselves in the minors, their ceilings are extremely high and the Jays may actually have an issue at some point when young players start knocking on MLB's door.
The top spot on this list is automatic, but the others are ranked in terms of ceilings.
1. Brian Dopirak : will be 27 in 2010
Brian deserved the same shot Randy Ruiz got last season based on his performance in AA and AAA. The Jays were very lucky that the Cubs were silly enough to release him outright in 2008, even though he was named their minor league player of the year just 4 years earlier. How much would they like to have him now that Derek Lee is getting a bit too expensive for their budget? Between AA and AAA, Brian his 27 HR in 546 AB all the while hitting .315. He is also playing winter ball this year in Venezuela and has 7 HRs in only 137 AB. His glove works very well at 1B and he is a lot more agile than his big body would indicate. He should get a fair shot at 1B if Overbay is dealt. If not, and this would be unfortunate, he will need to wait for a break and continue to waste time in the minors.
2. Santiago Nesi : will be 24 in 2010
Although the Jays signed Santiago while he was listed as a Catcher, there is little talk of keeping him at the position now that the Jays paid him a $750,000 bonus. Not only do they have better options at the position, but his arm is well below average and his defence isn't strong enough to keep him there. However, his bat would definitely play well at 1B, and he is a big guy at 6'2" 220 lbs. He is the best power hitting threat the Jays have in the system after JP Arencibia, and his stroke is more compact than JP's, meaning that he should be able to make more consistent contact without subtracting too much power. I'm very curious to see where the Jays start him in 2010 and can't wait to read about the results.
3. David Cooper : will be 23 in 2010
David was drafted 17th overall in the 2008 draft, and like many of the 2007-2008 draft picks he has struggled to get going ever since. Maybe it's the pressure, but between him, Justin Jackson, Kevin Ahrens, and others, there are many Jays prospects that are under performing thus far since being drafted in a high position. David spent 2009 in AA New Hampshire and hit 10 HR in 473 ABs while keeping a .253 average. The Jays are still hoping his learning curb starts to take off, so they sent him to the AFL this year, and the results were very similar. He hit 1 HR over 78 ABs and kept a lowly .231 average. He doesn't run well at all, doesn't hit as many extra base hits as other 1B in the system, and isn't very big at 6'0" and 200 lbs. I'm still holding onto his high ceiling for one more year, but if he doesn't add muscle and start driving the ball with authority in 2010, I'll be giving up on this once high on our list prospect.
4. Michael McDade : will be 21 in 2010
Michael is a sixth rounder from the 2007 draft and hails from Las Vegas. He is one big boy at 6'1" and 260 lbs, and drives the ball accordingly. He had 16 HRs in 406 ABs in his first full season at LoA Lansing, and more importantly had 46 extra base hits overall. He drives the ball with authority and swings a little too freely, but that should be addressed as he matures and gains more experience - instruction. He still has issues hitting LHP (.234) in comparison to RHP (.293), but did learn to hit it a bit more consistently in the second half of the season. He hit .277 on the season and really came on after the all-star break with a .296 average to go along with 8 of his 16 HRs. So he was able to maintain his power while hiking his average quite a bit. Out of all the Jays prospects, he ranks in my top 3 to watch in 2010 in terms of prospects that can make some serious breakthroughs and jump up the rankings. It all depends on how he does in HiA and whether he learns to hit LHP.
As I've said, the Jays finally have some real potential at 1B, something they haven't had since Carlos Delgado strolled through the system. I can't wait to see how they perform in 2010 and look forward to their progression through the minors, or in MLB in Dopirak's case.
Next up will be 2B.