Friday, 11 December 2009

Farm Report 2009: The Relievers

Finishing up on the position by position look at the Jays' farm system, I give you the relief pitchers - with two qualifiers:
A. ANY failed starter at the upper levels is a potential relief prospect. Even guys who have started in the majors (Ray, Mills, even Richmond) who are not necessarily "failures" but who are squeezed out of the major league rotation are potentially valuable major league relievers.
B. I'm going with guys who were in the system last year. I'll mention the Rule 5 pick since he's a reliever but I haven't had time to assess how he fits into the rankings if at all.

1. Tim Collins: 8 - 29 - 1989 / 5'7", 155 / Signed as undrafted free agent

By now the descriptions of Collins and the allusions to his lack of size are taking on both a bit of a mythical nature and, at the same time, becoming a bit redundant. I mean how many times can a writer think he's being clever calling the lefty "The Little Giant" as I did last year or whatever?

What does NOT get old is watching Collins dominate his older and bigger opponents. At Dunedin he struck out 13.8 batters per 9, while holding opponents to a .199 BA and giving up only 2 homers. In a brief (nine appearances) look at AA in late August Collins took a bit to adjust and posted an uncharacteristically high ERA (5.68) but beyond the obvious sample size caveat one must also point out that an undrafted guy even ARRIVING at AA while still 19 years old is remarkable.
It's also fun to notice that in his next to last appearance for new Hampshire, he recorded eight outs - seven of them via the strikeout.

There's still some question how well his stuff will play against higher level competition, but how can you NOT be a huge fan of this guy?

2. Danny Farquhar: 2 - 17 - 1987 / 5'10", 170 / 10th round, 2008

Farquhar is, himself, not a huge guy, but the 22 year old RHP is certainly producing big results. After owning the FSL for most of the first two months of the season (0.53 ERA, .164 BAA) Farquhar was promoted to AA and barely missed a step. In fact, from the time of his promotion until August 22, Farquhar had an ERA of 1.47 before running out of gas a bit in the last two weeks of the season (6 earned runs in nine innings over that stretch). Overall, his AA opponents batting average was only .193 and he averaged a K per inning. All that said, he is yet a bit wild but it's hard to complain given the results.

Farquhar is a fairly unique guy who throws equally well from a number of different arm angles while still being able to confuse the hitter as to which pitch is coming. that deception no doubt has contributed to his success so far and his ability to keep that up will play a big role in how well he does at higher levels. The Jays are pretty deep in bullpen options right now, but it's not inconceivable Farquhar could force his way into the major league pitcher by late summer, and certainly he's likely to be in the mix a year from now.

3. Trystan Magnuson: 6 - 6- 1985 / 6'8", 210 / 1st round (supplemental) 2007 draft

How cool would it be to stand Collins next to this guy in the team photo, eh? The huge RHP would automatically make you think "power stuff" but, as often happens with the taller guys - not so much. Magnuson is always going to have to overcome skepticism. the only really glowing report I remember from the 2007 draft concerning this guy was from Kieth law who really praised the pick, most others called it a "signability" move. He was an old draftee who'd just turned 22 then, and after the Jays wasted a season trying to convert him to a starter, he's now even further behind the age curve for his level (arriving in AA after his 24th birthday).

Still, he's not entirely without results. He posted a 2.77 ERA in Dunedin and didn't give up a run in five AA appearance. On the other side of the discussion, his K rate is not as high as it should be for a truly gifted reliever in the low-to-mid minors, and (as often happens with really tall guys) he has to be on guard against mechanical issues leading to too many walks (although his BB rate this year was ok, it just looks bad because his K rate should be higher).

My guess is that this guy isn't going to be an impact guy, but he might well have a few years as a serviceable middle reliever in the mold of someone like one time Jays "prospect" Gary Glover.

4. Kyle Ginley: 9 - 1 - 1986 / 6'2", 210 / 17th round, 2006 draft

Ginley is one of THOSE guys. The guy with the tantalizing arm who can never stay on the field long enough for you to get a solid idea of what he can do with it. In 2008, Ginley got 23 starts around a couple of injuries. As a 21 year old, he started the year at Lansing and dominated for six starts. He had a 6:1 K:BB ratio and gave up only one homer in his six starts, posting a 1.24 ERA (albeit with a not-so-pretty BAA of .280). Upon being promoted to Dunedin, he had 16 starts where none of his stats impressed, but he spent time on the DL more than once so it was difficult to figure exactly how much if his difficulties were due to injury.

So 2009 should have been a big year in terms of finding an answer to that question, right? Right. Problem is he only pitched 7.1 innings in 2009. So...ya know...unanswered questions still. Now, it's possible the Jays will keep trying to get him out there as a starter, if for no other reason than to build up the innings of work he gets in. But with his growing injury history, a switch to the 'pen seems like a possibility so I'm taking a leap of faith and listing him here.

Other names to pay some attention to:
Zech Zinicola - Drafted from the Nationals in the Rule 5 draft today. Put up pretty ugly numbers over there but Jays assistant GM Dana Brown (hired from Washington) thinks well of him;
Josh Roenicke - technically not a prospect and part of the Scott Rolen deal, has closer stuff and makeup, but might get squeezed off opening day roster depending on impending events;
Reider Gonzalez - has been a starter to this point, but he's another little guy (5'9") in a very deep field of starter prospects so I'm thinking if he makes the majors for the Jays it will be in relief;
Zach Dials - I'm not high on this guy but he racked up a lot of saves in 2008 and some observers mention his name as a fringy prospect.

Within the next week I'll publish my Top 40 list and include a link in the sidebar, then I'll see where things go from there.

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