Sunday, 18 May 2008

The Unsung Heroes

We seem to say far too little on this blog about minors leaguers in the Jays system. And when we do it's usually David Purcey or Adam Lind or Travis Snider. But there are other fine performances going on in the Jays system - delivered by guys who are not only not in the Big Three, but are often the sort of guys that Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus and the like can't be arsed to pay any attention to.

but if Shawn Marcum has taught us anything, it's that you don't have to make the top 150 prospect list to have bona fide major league ability. so her are a few names the causal fan might not recognize, but who stand a chance of making some big league noise one day:

Davis Romero (LHP) - Who is he? He's a slender (5' 10" 160#) lefty who's having a remarkable comeback from torn labium surgery (corrected per feedback comment).

Usually expectations for the first year after surgery are very tempered, and labium surjery is even less predictable than TJ, but DR is defying that convention. The 25 year old LHP is starting in AAA and has a solid ERA of 3.86 and 30 K's in his 26 innings of work as a starter. what's more, if you take away one disastrous start, that ERA falls all the way to 1.52 in his other seven appearances. And his line is perfectly reflective of the rest of his minor league career. While he's starting with Syracuse, he doesn't go deep into games and he probably doesn't have the stamina to start in the majors (though he did average 6 IP per start in AA in 2006) but if his minor league performance is any indication, you can look for a ton of high quality set-up innings in a blue Jays uniform sometime relatively soon.
One thing that is sometimes discussed among Jays' fans is the potential of trading Brian Tallett at some point, given the emergence of Jessie Carlson. Well, whether or not Carlson proves to be a long term keeper, Davis Romero is the guy who's going to someday make Tallet trade bait.

Brandon League (RHP) - Included here simply because he's no longer a rookie and thus kind of "off the radar" in terms of prospect discussions. He's got a 15:2 K:BB ratio in his last 13 IP in AAA and seems to have gotten his issue under control, yet the major league pen is so crowded there's no way for him to get reps in the majors. Interestingly, in 4 of his last six appearances he pitched 3 innings and pitched them well. The speculation has started in JaysLand that perhaps he's being stretched out for a return to the rotation. I could get enthused about him either way, I just don't want to see him wasted in middle relief....and I'd prefer that when he became a prominent major leaguer, as he's likely to do, it be in a Jays uniform.

Scott Campbell (2B) - The 23 year old native of New Zealand has been one of the biggest surprises in the Jays system. Drafted 300th overall (in the 10th round) by the Jays in 2006, he was bounced from low A ball (where he was good but not great) in 2006 to AA in 2007 and he's been ripping up the Eastern League all season. The kid is an on-base machine (.401 at the moment) with a high average (.338) and middling power for his position. He needs some defensive versatility to have a future with the Jays, since he's behind Aaron Hill, but if 2B is his only position, he'll still be a valuable trade chip soon if this level of performance holds into AAA. i think given that there's nothing impressive blocking him, he might get the promotion in mid-summer.

Ryan Patterson (OF) - Having an up and down season, shows flashes and then fades. Might be "the next Reed Johnson" someday but doesn't have the reputation for balls-out play that Reed does.

Brett Cecil (LHP) - actually, this guy is a high profile guy who most people put up in the top Five prospects for the Jays but perhaps you have been asleep since we haven't said much about him here (and I assume you get all your Jays news from The Southpaw, right? I said am I right?) Well, anyway, this kid, who was a supplemental first rounder for the jays just last year) is 21 and in AA and has a 3.18 ERA. He's reeled off 3 straight starts of 4.2IP and allowed only three ER in those 14 innings. He's still not going deep into games - the Jays say that will change as the season wears on - but unless he hits a roadblock, this kid will likely finish the season in AAA and come to camp next spring with an outside chance of making the majors. He could be a reliever in the bigs right now, but the Jays will keep him starting as long as he shows promise there.

Brian Dopirak (1B/DH) - maybe this guy was signed for organizational filler but at some point you have to take notice. The former Cubs Minor League Player of the year (who hit 38 doubles and 39 homers in Lansing when it was a Cubs affiliate) saw his power drop markedly in the two succeeding seasons. Signed as a minor league free agent, the 24 year old is having a fine, though not quite as powerful, campaign in Dunedin He's on a pace to top 40 doubles and 20 homers but more importantly for his future, he's sporting a robust .425 OPS this year. Whatever the teams original intent, as soon as Snider can play the field again, he needs to get kicked up to AA and see if he can maintain.

Kyle Ginley (RHP) - You gotta love THIS guy! In nine starts on two levels, the little noticed 17th round draft pick in 2006 has only posted an ERA of 1.35 and he's striking out almost a batter per inning and only given up two home runs. The 21 year old has been slightly more prone to the walk at High A than at Low A but has otherwise been just as good. Nathan Staner (RHP) -

Nathan Staner (LHP) - He's 24 and in Lansing so he's too old for the competition. He needs to be jumped up to AA to see what he really has to offer, but with that caveat, - boy he's ripping up low A ball. 45K in 40 innings, a 1.67 ERA, only eight walks and one home run allowed. LH pitchers tend to run a bit behind on development anyway. So you can't write him off, but I'm impatient for the Jays to really test this guy.

Cody Crowell (LHP) - I think I'm the only one out there talking about this guy. sometimes I do pick up on a nice line and brag on a guy who never turns out....usually something I didn't know about him that the organization did, but this guy certainly has impressive numbers. The 22 year old lefty has a 1.59 ERA at low-A Lansing and an incredible 29 K's in 17 IP.

Edger Estranga (LHP) - another 22 year old lefty reliever, he sports a 0.73 ERA and a solid K rate. Both these young men need promotions to a more challenging level.

Marc Rzepczynski (LHP) - This guy got some notice last year, then opened the season on the DL. He has two starts at Lansing now and has seemed to pick right up, He bears watching.

Justin Jackson (SS) - He's been in an awful slump since coming back from a stint in the DL but he clearly had his stroke working in April (he had a .941 OPS in the first month of the season). The 19 year old evokes visions of Tony Fernandez physically and is said to be a similarly talented defender and possesor of "tools." it would be a very good thing if he came as fast as Fernandez did, and had a similar career. Because it's so easy to compare him to Fernandez - one of my very favorite All time Jays, I can't help but be the number one cheerleader for Justin Jackson.
If he succeeds to the level of his abilities, he's going to do a whole lot to repaid JP's drafting image.

Eric Eiland (OF) - The 19 year old left handed hitter is just getting his start in Low A ball after being held back in extended spring training, but the guy who's said to have more Tools than Tim Taylor is off to a blazing start in a small sample (4 games). Keep your eye on this one.

Johermyn Chavez (OF) - The one guy listed here without an impressive stat line to talk about, the 19 year old Venezualan still bears watching. He had an encouraging April but is currently 7 for 50 in May.

So, halfway through the first half, here's one man's informal Dandy Dozen ranking of the Jays most promising minor leaguers:

1. Travis Snider
2. David Purcey
3. Brett Cecil
4. Adam Lind
5. Brandon League
6. Justin Jackson
7. Eric Eiland
8. Kevin Ahrens
9. Davis Romero
10. Scott Campbell
11. J.P. Arenchiba
12. Kyle Ginley

~ WillRain


eyebleaf said...

respect for the look down on the farm. i'm glad to see that league is doing well down in 'cuse. i still have lofty dreams for him. he's a rudey.

jwjays said...

Errata: Davis Romero is coming back from a torn labrum, not Tommy John surgery (

He had his injury and surgery in 2007 about the same time as Casey Janssen had his in 2008 and was ready for spring training this year. It's almost a disservice to Davis; I'm pulling for him in large part because it sets precedence for Janssen.

dybbuk said...

You figure Arencibia is our best catching prospect?

The Southpaw said...

Re: Romero - yes, thanks for the save, I'll edit that. Also, I, like you, take comfort in what this says about Janssen's recovery but at the same time, I love the little guy and want to see him succeed in a jays uni.

On Arenchibia -

I listed him because I think that he's generally considered to have the best overall skill set. Jerolman is head and shoulders the best defender but his bat is looking like the next Brian Schnider (which is to say he glove will keep him in the majors, but he'll never be regarded a good overall catcher).
I, for one, have almost no faith in Diaz becoming a good all around major league catcher. I've seen too many better Latin catcher prospects come and go for us and have become a cynic. I had a lot of hopes for Quiroz. I'd love to be proven wrong. I thought Thigpen had a shot to be at least a Zaun type but he has sucked so VERY hard this year that I think he's closing his own window in Toronto.

That kinda makes JPA the choice by attrition.

dybbuk said...

Fair enough, although I believe his name is Arencibia no H. I say it's too early to dismiss Diaz (lol, just because he's latin) or Thigpen.