The AFL season is over and the Phoenix Desert Dogs have their fifth straight championship ring. More attention getting, for our purposes, is that several Blue Jays prospects including slugging catcher prospect JP Arencibia will be garnishing their digits with a bit of the traditional jewelry.
Arencibia went to Arizona with instructions to work on taking pitches and drawing walks and his early work in that area was encouraging. But is the AFL season wore on, he either lost focus on that or simply got tired and was challenged more. In 95 fall league at bats he drew five walks, which is good when you consider he only drew seven in 262 AA at bats. The problem comes in that he drew all those walks in the first 12-15 games of the AFL season and he finished out the last dozen games or so (without being able to see the entire gamelog it's difficult to be precise) without a walk. Still, it's hard to be too troubled given that JPA has played far more games in a year this year than he ever has before.
Overall, he posted a .782 OPS in Arizona. Contrary to popular expectations, I think he'll get assigned to AA New Hampshire to start the season next year with the expectation he'll move up to AAA a couple of months down the line. I, for one, think that if you want him to take more walks, you don't start him out in the PCL where the temptation to swing for the fences will be huge.
Other Jays on the Phoenix team include Scott Campbell, who couldn't get in a power groove but drew 14 walks in 64 plate appearances for a .446 OBP; Ryan Patterson who was struggling early but finished the season en fuego (he hit .405 and slugged .703 in his last 10 games) to finish the fall season with a nifty .831 OPS (compare to the .719 he posted in AA) - Patterson is still a lefty masher who's punchless against RHP though; hard-throwing Kyle Ginley, who was making some progress before getting lit up in his last two appearances to finish with an ERA over eight; non-prospects Mike MacDonald and Aaron Harang who were even worse (while pitching in relief for the Dogs); and relief prospect Zach Dials, whose stat page refuses to load.
Don't sweat the pitching too much. Ginley had nagging injuries all year and just needed some reps, Harang and MacDonald are organizational filler who, in my opinion, had no business in Arizona to start with. Be pleased with how the hitters did against what is, in most cases, AAA pitching.
Meanwhile, further west, the Hawaii Winter League has also wrapped for the season. Hard charging 2b/3b prospect Brad Emaus posted an eye-popping ratio of 17 walks to 7 strikeouts in 98 plate appearances. And that while slugging .494 along the way. If this kid develops just a little more power you can relax about the question of who follows Scott Rolen at 3B in Toronto.
Also playing in Hawaii was raw, but talented, CF prospect Eric Eiland. There's nothing to praise about his Hawaii performance - 3 singles and 7 walks, along with 17 strikeouts, in 48 plate appearances. But don't get too down on the kid, he has to be gassed, and it is worth remembering that he's still a year ahead of where Rios was at this age.
Finally, new project Adam Loewen, in his first real look at professional ball from a hitter's perspective, collected hits in 4 of the 10 games he got into, going 6 for 29 (half of those hits coming on one 3/4 day) but also drew a respectable five walks for a .368 OBP. Loewen will be one of the most intriguing stories of 2009 for Jays fans.
While I'm on the subject of winter baseball, minor league free agent 3B Jesus Guzman, late of the A's system, continues to rake the ball (as he did last year in AA) in the Venezuelan winter league. He's posting the following line in 115 ab:
.400 - .500 - .696 - 1.196
And has more walks than strikeouts. Given what has passed for third baseman in AAA for the Jays the last several years, I certainly hope the Jays are paying attention here. Anyone who signed him now would risk losing him in the Rule Five draft but as soon as that event is finished, the Jays need to be first in line for Guzman.