With the All-Star break upon us, it is a perfect time to take a breather from the trials and tribulations of the Big Club and examine what is happening down on the farm. Let’s do some prospecting!
The Blue Jays’ 38th overall pick of this year signed quickly in order to being playing pro-ball as soon as possible. The 17 year old Syndergaard was assigned to the Jays extended spring training camp and then assigned to the Jays’ Gulf Coast team in rookie ball. The The 6′ 5″ 200 pound right-handed pitcher was 11-3 with a 1.27 ERA at Legacy High School in Texas. He struck out 135 batters and issued 24 walks in 88 innings this season.
Much was made of Syndergaard’s draft status, being drafted in the supplemental part of the 1st round with many scouts claiming “who is this guy?!” and “they could have had him in the 5th round!” I don’t really have a problem with this pick because of the Jays drafting philosophy of taking who they feel is the best player available at the time of the selection. They are not in the business of strategizing who goes in what round, they are in the business of making their team better based on who they think they best players are available.
For example, let’s say I am in a fantasy baseball draft and based on my evaluations and observations, I predict that Jose Bautista will mash this season. It’s the 4th round of the draft and I need some pop so I can either pull the trigger and get the player I want, or wait until the 8th round where I “probably” should be able to get him (according to everyone else). So I wait and pick Aaron Hill because everyone else says he’s the best available and wait to grab Bautista in the 8th round. Lo and behold Bautista is scooped in the 7th round! Now I am without Bautista and am saddled with a .187 hitting Aaron Hill who I didn’t even want in the first place. Moral of the story: you take who you feel is best.
Syndergaard made his debut on Monday, pitching 2 innings with no walks while generating 5 groundouts 1 one flyout.
The Blue Jays’ second pick of this year’s Amateur Draft has been assigned to the GCL along with Noah Syndergaard. Compared to Orel Hershiser for his makeup, Aaron Sanchez has a fastball that runs 91-93 MPH with a plus curve at 75-76 MPH with late downward break. Tall and pencil thin at 175lbs, he has an extremely projectable body that should see his fastball velocity increase as he fills out. One “anonymous scout” says this about him: “with the arm speed he already generates he has a good chance to end up with a plus fastball/plus curveball combination.” He is yet to make his first appearance in the GCL, but will likely appear soon, following in Syndergaard’s footsteps.
Like Syndergaard, Asher Wojciechowski was drafted this year in the sandwich round and signed quickly. Signed out of the well-respected college baseball program of The Citadel, Wojciechowski is further advanced and was assigned to single-A Auburn. The Blue Jays view him as a “bulldog-like” starting pitcher. Since he was a closer, he is being stretched out by starting games but only going 3-4 innings. Regardless, he has been putting up stellar numbers by relying on his fastball that tops out at 94mph with good downward plane and a slider that projects as above average. He does have a changeup that is not yet playable but he is working on it as a 3rd pitch.
Update: Wojciechowski has been shut down for the season due to reaching his innings limit of 140 for the year.
Torontonian Marcus Knecht has made a smooth transition from the Intercounty Baseball League to the New York Penn League in this his first season of pro ball. Interesting to note is that Knecht has only been playing DH. Either his OF defense is so far advanced that the organization is just concentrating on the development of his hitting or he is all bat and no glove. It is something to keep an eye on.
Update: The reason for Knecht being relegated to DH duties is that he is recovering from a separated shoulder that was the result of crashing into an outfield wall in May.
The Blue Jays signed Canadian-born oft-injured pitcher Shawn Hill back in January. Reconstructive elbow surgery has kept Hill sidelined until now. In Shawn Hill’s first rehab start for the GCL Blue Jays, he went 5IP/5H/1R/0BB/5K. Today, Hill threw 5 scoreless with 3 strikeouts. He gave up 5 hits with no walks and got the win.
His best season was 2007, when he went 4-5 in 16 starts with the Washington Nationals. He posted career lows in ERA (3.42) and WHIP (1.14).
Once considered the Jays’ SS of the future, Jackson had shoulder surgery last year to end his season. He was demoted to Lansing from Dunedin this year and has been playing miserably ever since. I think it is fair to say that Justin Jackson is now officially a failed prospect.
d’Arnaud was acquired in the deal that sent Roy Halladay to the Phillies. He has performed above expectations and has impressed with his leadership skills. The book on d’Arnaud is that he has stellar defensive skills but a streaky bat. Those concerns have been put to rest this season as he has performed well offensively in the pitcher-friendly FSL. Projected to be the Jays’ catcher of the future, d’Arnaud was sidelined mid-season by a back injury but bounced back nicely. He may spend the rest of the season in Dunedin since he is blocked at AA by Brian Jeroloman.
Coming into camp 25 pounds slimmer due to an offseason diet and training regimen, Jenkins was assigned to Lansing to begin the 2010 season. It was anticipated that Jenkins would dominate the younger competition at class-A ball. Although he didn’t dominate, he pitched well – well enough to garner a promotion to Dunedin. He had excellent control, walking only 13 hitters in his 13 starts, although opposing batters did hit at a high .277 clip. He’s brought his low 90’s fastball and the makings of a plus slider to Dunedin but has struggled since his call-up, which is no surprise when looking at his periphery numbers. When he becomes more consistent with his slider, he will be able to turn in more starts like he did against Clearwater two weeks ago: 7IP, 5K 5H 1ER and 13 groundball outs.
It has been a hard-luck year for Moises “Muscle Milk” Sierra. He was on the DL for the better part of the first half of the season with a microfracture in his shin and now is out for the year after breaking his hamate bone. It is disappointing because this was going to be his breakout season and fans will miss the chance to see one of the better outfield arms in all of the minor leagues. His time on the DL will give him a chance to work out even more and drink more of that Muscle Milk.
Primarily a 2-pitch pitcher, Collins flashes a 93mph fastball to go with a swing-and-miss curveball. For every 9 innings pitched, Collins is good for about 15 strikeouts. He’s changeup is a work in progress and he has recently experimented with adding a cutter to his arsenal. Part of his success stems from how quick a worker he is. Think Dave Stieb. “I try to push the tempo on the hitters. They absolutely hate it. As soon as they step in, I’m already going and they’re wanting to step out. They get flustered. As soon as you get them uncomfortable in the box, you’re in control.” Despite being a reliever, Collins ranks 14th in the league in strikeouts (15Ks off the league leader who has 95IP). Collins has mastered the art of deception and his pitches are very difficult to pick up out of his hand.
Collins is dominating AA and should be up in AAA Vegas in no time at all. In fact, Alex Anthopoulos recently remarked that he expected to see Collins with the major league club at some point in 2011.
Farquhar, who throws his pitches from multiple arm angles, has struggled to find consistency with his mechanics and as a result his control has suffered. He’s still good for a strikeout per inning but his walk total is unacceptably high. However, take a way a few appearances where he has imploded and he has been a more than capable reliever.
Being groomed as a future closer, Farquhar has 15 saves on the season.
The 6’7″ 210lbs ~Canadian~ Magnuson has translated his intimidating presence on the mound into effective performance. Keith Law describes him as a “Strike-throwing reliever with three weapons: a fastball at 90-94, a hard cutter/slider and a split-change.” He is on the roster for the Futures Game, one of the better events surrounding the all-star game. He should be due for a callup to AAA at some point soon, since he is repeating the AA level and has put up almost identical numbers. He doesn’t have much more to prove.
Interesting note: he is good friends with teammate Tim Collins which makes for quite an odd couple.
We’ve looked at Adam Loewen here before while he was red-hot. New Hampshire manager Luis Rivera describes Loewen as “a tireless worker” with an uncomplicated swing. By forcing Loewen to stop trying to pull pitches, he has been able to use the whole field. “I think he’s on a good pace to be in the big leagues,” Rivera said. The manager has also commented that Loewen has made the most progress of anyone on his team so far this season. It has paid off as Loewen took Shawn Bowman’s spot on All-Star team. Bowman has a sore ankle.
After spending a month and a half with Dunedin, Adeiny was promoted to AA despite struggling. The reason for this is that New Hampshire is the best place for his development based on the coaching and resources available. It seems to be working: Hechavarria has performed better since the promotion. Apparently he is susceptible to the fastball on the outside corner which is what he will be working on.
Hechavarria singles in a AA game:[youtube shG6HErYRBY]
Matthias did a bang-up job of covering Darin Mastroianni in a previous post. To pick up where Matt left off, Mastroianni has kept up his offensive pace – hitting at a .31 clip. His running game, however, has been slowed. In the 49 games Mastroianni has played since his last check-up he has stolen “only” 14 more bases and been caught 5 times. He still has an outstanding BB:K ratio.
The centrepiece to the Roy Halladay deal, Kyle Drabek made headlines for throwing a no-hitter this season. The 22-year old is the Blue Jays top pitching prospect and leads the league in innings and wins as well as being second in strikeouts. Drabek possesses 3 plus pitches but lacks the focus to consistently put them all together. His __ walks also rank second in the league. He gets frustrated easily and sometimes just wants to get up and throw the next pitch and has a tendency to overthrow the ball. If his no-hitter is any indication, he is on the right path. Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star as a terrific piece on Kyle that you can read here.
I first saw Adam Calderone play at the Bobby Mattick Complex in Spring Training this year and I was impressed with his poise at the plate, his hustle and his overall speed. A natural athlete, Calderone has struggled to hit for average since being called up to Las Vegas mid-season but his stellar outfield defense has taken the pressure off of the Vegas pitchers in the notoriously difficult PCL. He has shown some surprising pop, hitting a combined 15HR so far this season.
After undergoing both Lasik eye surgery and kidney surgery in the offseason, top catching prospect JP Arencibia has really found his groove. Arencibia is just ahead of Jose Bautista for the organization lead in HR with 25. Yet he still has some development to do with his defense and holding runners from stealing. Coming off PCL Player of the Month honours for June (23G, .400 (38-for-95), 10 hrs, 12 2B, 23RBI) Arencibia will be the starting catcher for the PCL in the All-Star game and participated in the HR derby. Although he struggled in the derby hitting only one HR and was subsequently eliminated in the 1st round, in his defense it was held in a difficult HR park for right-handers. He is now part of a tradition of Jays sluggers to fail at the HR derby, joining Carlos Delgado and Vernon Wells.
Brett Wallace is pretty much major-league ready when it comes to the bat, but as Matthias saw when he was in Vegas, he still has to work on the defensive nuances of the first baseman position. Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos has publicly stated Wallace will spend the entire season at the AAA level to get that defensive experience. Expect to see him up with the big club in 2011 when Overbay departs. For a look at Wallace in spring training, click here.
Blocked at his natural position of second base by Aaron Hill, the Jays moved Emaus to third base and then promoted him to AAA Las Vegas. Since his promotion he has responded admirably, hitting even better than he did at the AA level (in fact he hit a HR in his first game at Vegas). We may see him at the hot corner throwing to Wallace at 1B in 2011 should Encarnacion and Jose Bautista no longer be with the major league team.
My boy Josh Roenicke had been lights out at AAA this season until last week when he imploded slightly, allowing 7 ER in his past 4 appearances. Despite the meltdown, it only increased his ERA to 3.38. Inconsistency plagued Roenicke during spring training and at times with the big club this season. It comes down to the fireballer locating his fastball and when he does that he is one of the better relievers in the system. Should the Jays deal many pieces from their current bullpen before the trade deadline, expect to see Roenicke back up and be a stud and be one of the anchors of the 2011 bullpen.