Friday, 11 December 2009

Farm Report 2009: The Shortstops

Continuing in my series of Farm System reviews, it's time this week for the shortstops. As before, it is highly debatable how one ranks the first and second prospect on the list. Ultimately, these simply come down to a judgment call, or a hunch.
(See the 2008 list here)

1. Justin Jackson: 12-11-1988 / 6'1", 186 / 1st round supplemental, 2007

No player in the Blue Jays system has been more personally frustrating to me than Jackson. Going into the 2007 draft, he was my first choice for the Jays' first pick and I was thrilled that they got him at #45 overall. I've said enough about Jackson in the past that it's easy to repeat myself but so be it. Jackson is a gifted, fluid, natural fielder who can almost certainly make it to the majors on his glove alone.

But the hope would be that he turns out to be something more than an all-glove guy who can't hit. Jackson has shown maddening inconsistency at the plate, having entire months of top-prospect production mixed literally with a month or two of complete disappearance at the plate.

In 2009, he shook off an invisible April and roared through the first half of may before being sidelined by a shoulder injury. After spending some three weeks on the DL he came back to the lineup but the fire in his bat was gone and he struggled for 60 more games before being DLed again and sent to see the surgeon.

There's no good spin to put on his 2009 totals. However, in an obvious attempt to not let go of my man-crush on Jackson, I'm giving him a mulligan on 2009 because of the injury. It's not that big a stretch to explain his terrible bat as being a result of trying to play through a painful shoulder. I still think he has more upside than the #2 guy.

2. Tyler Pastornicky: 12-13-1989 / 5'11, 170 / 11th round, 2008

Pastornicky has one really above average skill - he's very fast and is a smart baserunner. He had 51 steals in 2009, and has succeeded on almost 4 of every 5 attempts as a pro. He's also accumulated nine triples in Lo-A Lansing before being promoted to Dunedin late in the year. Otherwise, offensively, he's still pretty raw. He's displayed no power potential to this point, and he OBP skills are just ordinary at this point. If he could get to a place where he could get on at a .370-.380 rate or better the lack of power wouldn't be an issue.

On defense, he's reported to be fundamentally sound and talented enough to stay on the position, but nothing that makes the highlight reels. In 2009, Pastornicky didn't OPS as well as Jackson did the year before, yet some observers are praising Pastornicky while panning Jackson's 2008 in Lansing. My guess is that it's a matter of expectations, and there's a reason Pastornicky didn't have the level of expectation that Jackson did.

The bottom line for me is this - if you ask which player is more likely to get close to his ceiling, it's possibly Pastornicky. But Jackson clearly, in my mind, has the much higher ceiling and so he gets the nod.

3. Gustavo Pierre: 12-28-1991 / 6'2", 183 / signed as a free agent

Playing 2009 at the tender age of 17, Pierre spent the entire season for the Gulf Coast Jays short season team. The kid was a high profile signing out of the Dominican Republic and his talent is well regarded but at this point, it is simply too early to speculate if he'll be able to translate his skills to on field success. The sample size of professional work simply doesn't lend itself to statistical analysis. The one thing that does jump out at you though, is that his plate judgment needs a LOT of work.

4. Ryan Goins: 2 - 13 - 1988 / 5'10", 170 / 4th round, 2009

Goins is an interesting, somewhat under-the-radar player. Well regarded enough to go in the 4th round, the LH hitter did reasonably well at NY-Penn League Auburn before being promoted in mid-August to Lo-A Lansing where he struggled in 18 games. Regarded as a "high-energy" player and a good teammate, Goins will be worth keeping an eye on in a Jays system that struggles to develop shortstops.

Beyond that, there's no one of note. There are those among the Jays armchair analysts who would suggest I might ought to mention Angel Sanchez, who played for the Las Vegas club in 2009. So I'll mention him - just long enough to dismiss him with prejudice. Sanchez is a 26 year old who was a minor league free agent signing last January and will no-doubt be traveling on by the same road this winter.

He was somewhat well regarded in the Kansas City system in 2006 but missed all of 2007 with Tommy John surgery. In 2008 he was a non-factor offensively although he seemed to have developed decent doubles power in 2009 but some reports have his defense having regressed from his days as a prospect. Frankly, Sanchez does nothing particularly well. It's not impossible that he, or a player much like him, could fill one of the Jays' major league shortstop openings next year, but you shouldn't expect to be pleased with what you see if he does.

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