Speaking with Paxton Schultz on Utah Valley University, being traded to the Blue Jays, and the 2023 season

Born in Orem, Utah, Blue Jays prospect Paxton Schultz didn’t have to look too far when considering his post-secondary options to continue his baseball career, “I was born and raised in Orem and I had a close connection with the coach (Eric Madsen) and I got to know him and the rest of the staff very well and that made the decision very easy. My college choices pretty much boiled down to the University of Utah or Utah Valley but that connection with the staff and being close to home, Utah Valley was a great pick for me.”

With the Wolverines, Schultz posted a 4.61 ERA through 46 appearances (30 starts) and posted an 8.9 K/9 through 209.0 innings, earning Academic ALL-WAC honours all three years at Utah Valley University.
In his first appearance with the Wolverines, Schultz struck out four batters, three of which came in the eighth inning with all three sent down looking. “I remember my first weekend as a freshman, we were playing Wichita State and I came in as a reliever, and I went three innings, nine up, nine down, and I faced some talented players like Alec Bohm and Greyson Jenista. To have success at the next level early gave me a lot of confidence that season.”
After his Junior season in 2019, Schultz was drafted by the Milwauk …

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Author: Tyson Shushkewich / Blue Jays Nation

Blue Jays prospect Damiano Palmegiani talks about Vauxhall, his junior college playing days, and the 2023 season

Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Blue Jays prospect Damiano Palmegiani has a unique Canadian-inspired backstory.

Although he was born in South America, Palmegiani’s early baseball career began in Surrey, British Columbia with programs such as Cloverdale Minor Baseball. The righty batter would eventually take his talents to southern Alberta and joined the Vauxhall Jets at their academy to finish his high school playing days.
“When I was in grade nine, baseball was already a priority for me and something I wanted to do through high school, college and beyond. One of the Vauxhall coaches, Joel Blake, and his dad Tim had been coaching me in British Columbia (Cloverdale Minor Baseball) and offered this (Vauxhall) as an option. When I was given the low down of the program and looking at the alumni and where they ended up, it was a no-brainer and sealed the deal.”
Vauxhall, Alberta, deemed the Potato Capital of the West, sits roughly 20 minutes north of Taber, Alberta and two and a half hours southeast of Calgary.
“I used to have to negotiate with one of my teammates who had a car to drive us down to Taber so we could go to McDonald’s or one of the other restaurants Vauxhall didn’t have,” Palmegiani said.
Prospect Damiano Palmegiani speaks to Blue Jays Nation about his time in Vauxhall, being drafted twice by the Jays, and his goals for the 2023 season…
Palmegiani faced a tough decision in his grade 12 year, as he had a commitment to California State University, Northridge for the 2019 season but was also draft …

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Author: Tyson Shushkewich / Blue Jays Nation

Minten’s monster performance, Woll working his way back: Leafs Prospect Roundup

Minten’s monster performance, Woll working his way back: Leafs Prospect Roundup

Following a brief holiday hiatus, the Leafs Prospect Roundup is back to kick off 2023. From some of the top names in the system such as Matthew Knies, Fraser Minten, and Nick Moldenhauer, to some of the more under-the-radar prospects like Ryan Tverberg, Braeden Kressler, and Joe Miller, there is plenty to catch up on so let’s get to it.
Fraser Minten | C | Kamloops (WHL)
With teammates Logan Stankoven and Caedan Bankier off representing Canada at the World Juniors, Minten has been charged with leading the Blazers’ offensive attack, and he continued to do just that over the holidays.
Already riding a three-game goalscoring streak heading into last Tuesday’s matchup against Kelowna, the Leafs’ 2022 second-round pick registered his first hat trick of the campaign and added an assist in what would go down as a 6-4 win for Kamloops. Minten has been deadly on the man advantage all season, and that was the case once again on this night. He sniped a pair of powerplay goals, including a late go-ahead goal that would stand as the winner, before adding an empty netter to complete the hat trick.

Fraser Minten with another powerplay snipe to put the Blazers up by one late in the third period#LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/EbVoVPPWdA
— Nick Richard (@_NickRichard) December 28, 2022

It was a …

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Author: Nick Richard / The Leafs Nation

Blue Jays Nation’s 2023 Preseason Top 50: Prospects #50-46

It’s that time of the season when top prospect lists come out, and Blue Jays Nation is no different.

I ran a poll on Twitter, allowing followers to decide if I do a Top 30 or Top 50, with significant interest in both options. While the Top 30 won, we’ve decided a Top 50 in 30 articles would be best.
So for the first five articles in January (better known as #BJNProspectSZN) we’ll be doing five prospects per article, starting with prospects ranking 50–46.
There are many factors that determine a top prospect. The eye test is the biggest driver in determining a top prospect, but proximity to the majors, ceiling, and floor are also important. Moreover, statistics are another key ingredient, as it is everything working together to give you numbers.
As for the grades, it’s important to remember that they are relative to the league in which they play. A kid from Dunedin is not going to have a 50-grade hit tool if he were placed in the big leagues. But relative to the league in which he plays, a .300 hitter is eligible to have that grade.
For these prospects, I’ll be going over their background, numbers in the minors, pitch mix (if they’re a pitcher), and giving a scouting report (if feasible, rookie league guys are difficult).
Without further ado, here are the five prospects in this article.
#50 Yondrei Rojas:
The 20-year-old righty wa …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Minten steps up, Moldenhauer picks up where he left off, Lisowsky lighting it up: Leafs Prospect Roundup

Minten steps up, Moldenhauer picks up where he left off, Lisowsky lighting it up: Leafs Prospect Roundup

It was a bit of a lighter schedule for the Leafs’ prospect pool this past week, so this week’s edition of the Leafs Prospect Roundup will be done rapid-fire style. Let’s dive right in.
Fraser Minten has taken on a more significant workload for Kamloops since teammates Logan Stankoven and Caedan Bankier left to join Team Canada’s World Junior squad and has risen to the challenge. The Blazers played a couple of games against Prince George last week, with Minten netting a goal and an assist in each contest, including the overtime winner in Friday’s matchup. He is up to 13 goals and 15 assists in 22 games for the season.

MINTS CALLED GAME 🔥🚨@MapleLeafs pic.twitter.com/Pn9w6OkGtN
— Kamloops Blazers (@blazerhockey) December 17, 2022

Pontus Holmberg appears to have carved out a full-time role with the Leafs, and the term “prospect” may not apply to him for much longer. Lauded for his responsible style of play and strong defensive game, Holmberg had the biggest offensive night of his young career in Tuesday’s blowout win over the Anaheim Ducks. The 2018 sixth-round pick tallied three assists on the night and now has two goals and five assists through his first 17 NHL games.
One of Holmberg’s three assists against the Ducks came on Joey Anderson’s first goal as a Leaf. Now in his third season with the organization, Anderson is finally getting an extended run in the Leafs’ bottom-six, and he has been effective in the early going. Playing limited minutes, Anderson has helped his line to control the run of play for the most part, and while the sample size is still qu …

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Author: Nick Richard / The Leafs Nation

Winter League wrap-up: Could Rainer Núñez win the LIDOM MVP? Bowden Francis continues to dominate, and more!

At the end of November, we looked at how each Jays prospect was doing in their respective winter leagues. Today, we’ll do the same.

I don’t think it’s a hot take to say that a Blue Jay prospect could be a Most Valuable Player candidate in the Dominican Winter League (LIDOM). Let’s start there.
Rainer Núñez MVP-calibre campaign:
When Estrellas de Oriente drafted Rainer Núñez in the fourth round of the 2022 LIDOM draft, one has to imagine what they were expecting from the young first baseman.
I wouldn’t assume they expected an MVP calibre season for the rookie, but that’s what they’ve gotten so far.
Núñez, who recently turned 22 years old, is slashing .270/.314/.487 in 118 plate appearances with Estrellas. While that’s impressive in its own right, he currently leads the league with seven homers, again, as a 21/22-year-old.

Le dio pa’ la calle el MVP de esta semana 💥 ¡HOMERUN de Rainer Núñez que empata las acciones para las @EOBASEBALLCLUB! 🐘🔥#LIDOM #CopaBanreservas ⚾️🏆 pic.twitter.com/MXZbP0qcVs
— LIDOM (@LIDOMRD) December 7, 2022

His seven home runs are tied for the most since the 2019 season. Furthermore, the last time someone his age led the league in homers was back in the 2012-13 season. That season saw Marcell Ozuna (also a rookie) hit nine homers as a 22-year-old, which is a LIDOM record for rookies.
A comparable MVP season came from Peter O’Brien in the 2019-2020 season. He slashed .243/.386/.479 with nine homers in 210 plate appearances. While O’Brien was older, he did also have a higher on-base percentage. 
Núñez could very well be in contention for the MVP award this season, and with less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, it’ll come down to the wire. The Dominican Winter League is free to watch on MLB . tv, so definitely tune in! Estrellas are currently fourth in the LIDOM standings, so they’d be in the playoffs if it were to start today!
Vinny Capra:
Next up, we’ll look at Vinny Capra, who also plays for Estrellas.

Vinny …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

2022 TLN Prospect Rankings: #11 Ryan Tverberg

“Your favourite Toronto Maple Leafs prospect you don’t know about yet.”
That’s the tagline I led with each time I wrote about Ryan Tverberg in the 2021-22 season for our TLN Prospect Roundups, which occurred often given the success he had last year. Over the course of the 2021-22 season, Tverberg went from an intriguing late-round swing to a legit prospect in the system with his breakout campaign at the University of Connecticut.
One of the biggest risers year over year, Ryan Tverberg goes from not even landing as an honourable mention on the TLN Top 20 rankings in 2021 to knocking on the door of the top 10 this time around.
Ryan Tverberg
RW | UConn (H-East) | Age: 20 | 6-foot-0 | 190 lbs | Shoots: RAcquired: 2020 Draft, 213th Overall | 2021 Ranking: N/A
Way back on Day 2 of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, it appeared the Leafs were done following their 11th selection of the draft. It was a busy day for Toronto, moving up and down the draft board, but with 11 picks already made and no selections remaining for the team, it was more than fair to assume they were done at this point.
But Reid Mitchell, Director of Hockey and Scouting Operations for the Maple Leafs, had other plans. He was pushing hard for a player out o …

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Author: Kyle Cushman / The Leafs Nation

2022 TLN Prospect Rankings: The Goaltenders

The TLN prospect rankings are well underway, we’ve already knocked off our no votes, honourable mentions, and the first five prospects on our list. The thing you might remember from when we began this series is that we have purposely kept goaltenders out of it, as they are clearly their own thing. Rather than all of us trying to debate the value of a potential 20 game backup vs. potential bottom pairing defenseman vs. defensive specialist forward, we’re going to admit that it’s hard enough to compare goaltenders to each other let alone skaters.
So instead here are our top five affiliated goaltenders within the Leafs organization that aren’t established NHL goaltenders. So if you are looking for Matt Murray vs. Ilya Samsonov takes, you’ll have to check back likely in September. We do have goaltenders under contract with the Marlies on our list so, there’s that.
The one that thing really needs to be considered by everyone is that we have no idea what impact a goaltending coach change will make. With the exception of Dennis Hildeby, most of these goaltenders were brought in to work with Steve Briere and whether they are a fit for Curtis Sanford will be an interesting transition …

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Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation

Nets “angling” for Raptors’ Scottie Barnes in Kevin Durant talks

Nets “angling” for Raptors’ Scottie Barnes in Kevin Durant talks

Even though the prospect of a Kevin Durant trade is looking less likely by the day, the Toronto Raptors are keeping their feelers extended. The sticking point in trade negotiations may end up being reigning Rookie of the Year and Raptors fan favorite Scottie Barnes, who has long been considered an immovable piece of the […]
Nets “angling” for Raptors’ Scottie Barnes in Kevin Durant talks – Raptors Rapture – Raptors Rapture – A Toronto Raptors Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Author: Mike Luciano / Raptors HQ

2022 TLN Prospect Rankings: The No Vote Club

The 2022 TLN prospect rankings officially began yesterday, as Jon Steitzer opened the festivities by looking at the players who graduated from last summer’s rankings. We aren’t at the top 20 just quite yet, though, as first, we need to take a brief look at each of the players who did not receive a single top 20 vote this year.
First, a reminder of the criteria to be eligible for this year’s rankings. To be considered a prospect in the TLN rankings, the player must be under the age of 24 and has to have played 41 or fewer games (no more than the equivalent of half a regular season.) It should also be clear the player has to be on the Maple Leafs reserve list. No players that are on AHL or ECHL deals are included in the rankings. We’ve also excluded goaltenders from the rankings. Both prospects on AHL/ECHL contracts as well as the goaltenders in the pipeline will be discussed throughout the next month, just not as part of the actual rankings themselves.
John Fusco
RD | 5’11 | 181 lbs | Shoots: R | Harvard (ECAC) | Acquired: 2020 7th Round, 189th Overall
Despite being 21 years old and entering his DY+4 season in 2022-23, John Fusco has played a minimal amount of hockey at a high level.
When he was drafted as an overage prospect in 2020, Fusco was still playing in the United States High School Prep system with Dexte …

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Author: Kyle Cushman / The Leafs Nation