Toronto Blue Jays Bowden Francis Jersey

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TORONTO — The Blue Jays added four young players to their 40-man roster ahead of Friday’s deadline to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft, led by No. 11 prospect Leo Jimenez.

Along with Jimenez, Toronto added No. 27 prospect Zach Logue, No. 28 prospect Bowden Francis, and Hagen Danner. The Blue Jays also claimed right-hander Shaun Anderson from the Padres Friday, bringing their 40-man roster to a total of 38 players.

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With a farm system that’s still deep following a series of trades in 2021, the Blue Jays have been aggressive in protecting some of their top talent that may not yet be MLB-ready, including catcher Gabriel Moreno last winter, who has since skyrocketed to the club’s No. 1 prospect and catcher of the future. This group of four, however, balances present and future.

Jimenez, still just 20, spent most of his 2021 season with Low-A Dunedin, playing primarily shortstop. His glove is ahead of his bat at this point, which doesn’t offer much power at all, but he still managed to hit .315 in Dunedin and has performed well in the Arizona Fall League. Jimenez is a popular name internally with the Blue Jays and a fine candidate to take a jump in ’22 and ’23.

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Danner, 23, is another longer-term project and easily the most surprising name of the bunch. Originally drafted as an athletic catcher in the second round back in 2017, Tanner has transitioned back to pitching over the past couple of seasons. This summer with High-A Vancouver, Danner pitched to a 2.02 ERA over 35 2/3 innings, striking out 42. Protecting Danner now prevents another organization from taking a big swing on him as a bullpen arm in ’22, and this vote of confidence from the Blue Jays’ front office is noteworthy.

On the other end of this spectrum, we have Francis and Logue, each of whom will slide into the Triple-A depth picture in 2022.

Logue, 25, has been a workhouse coming up through the Minors and fared well in Triple-A this season after earning a promotion. At that level, Logue pitched to a 3.32 ERA over 89 1/3 innings.

Francis, 25, came over in a trade with Trevor Richards from the Brewers in exchange for Rowdy Tellez last season and fit in nicely. The big righty pitched to a 3.93 ERA over 132 2/3 innings split between the organizations, mostly at Triple-A. Both Francis and Logue could fill similar roles to what you’ve seen from a T.J. Zeuch, Anthony Kay or Thomas Hatch over the past 18 months, coming up to help the rotation or pitch in long relief when injuries strike.

From the waiver wire, Anderson, 27, has appeared for the Giants, Twins, Orioles and Padres over parts of three MLB seasons. He owns a career ERA of 5.75 in the Majors, throwing a fastball that reaches into the mid-90s with a slider he uses heavily. The Blue Jays have done well in recent years to unlock potential in more veteran pitchers, but the club is expected to make several more bullpen moves this offseason.

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The Blue Jays will still have some talent exposed in the Rule 5 Draft, of course, including No. 17 prospect Samad Taylor and No. 24 prospect Eric Pardinho. The Rule 5 Draft is scheduled for Dec. 8, which is tentative on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement after the current one expires Dec. 1.

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