Friday, 30 April 2010

Monthly Prospect Review - April

It has been my custom (for at least one previous season but just go with me here...) to, in an effort to not over-react to small samples, refrain from too much prospect-porn and reserve my reactions for one monthly post.

I'll readily concede that the idea that there is some important difference made by the turning of the calendar in terms of dividing up stats is just goofy. It's one of my pet peeves that someone will say "Player X always hits good in May" as if he suddenly becomes better at the game in that particular month. But for the purposes of an exercise such as this one, it's a handy frame of reference - nothing more.

Last year I did these reviews by level, but I think this year I'll try doing them by position because really, in terms of looking to the future of the major league club, there's a greater relationship between JP Arencibia and Travis D'arnoud than there is between Arencibia and Brett Wallace who is his AAA teammate.

So, let's dive in:


J.P. Arencibia - Arencibia frustrated prospect watchers last year as he struggled to consistently impress for the 51's. It was noted in this space that he was rushed (in my opinion) by opening the year at AAA, but it was also revealed after the season that JPA had been battling a kidney ailment all season, for which he had surgery after the season - and it was further revealed that he had LASIK eye surgery post-season as well.

So far this year, the results of either or both are promising. Last yer JPA had one walk for every 19 plate appearances. In the 2010 season, so far, he's essentially doubled his rate by lowering that figure to one every 9.4 plate appearances. His slugging percentage is up a bit as well, though more due to increased contact that dramatically higher power numbers. Still, the notion that JPA might push his way into a major league job in a few months is not nearly so far fetched now as it might have seemed a month ago.

Brian Jeroloman - Jeroloman is another guy who frustrated farm system observers last season only to have revealed after the season that he was having nagging health issues. Jeroloman's calling card coming into the 2009 season was that he was an eximplary defender who's primary offensive ability was an excellent eye at the plate that led to an impressive OBP, especially for a player who was otherwise not much of a threat. In 2009 the walk rate slipped a bit, but the batting average crashed to .217 and his strikeout rate zoomed to one ever three at bats.

None of that this year as Jeroloman is going nuts in the new season. His slash lines look like this - .330/.444/.566 as he's trying to get back in the conversation concerning the future ofthe Blue Jays behind the plate.

Travis D'Arnaud - The third man in the Halladay deal is holding up his part of the bargain. While he's on the 7 Day DL right now, D'Arnaud was rocking a .909 OPS when the (reportedly very minor) injury arose.

Yan Gomes - When Jon Lott touched base with Tony LaCava about the Jays' depth of catching prospects, Gomes' name didn't come up, but don't overlook the man who inherited JPA's job for the Tennessee Volunteers. Picking up playing time in Dunedin while D'Arnaud nurses his injury, Gomes is sporting a .385 batting average, and a 1.018 OPS (coning into tonight's action). Admittedly, it's in 12 games but he acquitted himself well last season in rookie ball as well. Should the seemingly inevitable string of promotions happen in a few months, Gomes is making the case to become the starter in Dunedin if/when D'Arnaud gets the call.

Jon Talley - Almost impossible for him to put himself on the radar, especially as a catcher, the big (6'3", 220) left-handed hitter might well end up as a 1B or DH. At this point, he's nothing more than a sleeper though.

Antonio Jimenez - Lott quotes LaCava as saying "We love this guy!" and this season he's giving them reason. In nine games since coming off the DL (where he opened the year) the 20 year old (as of May 1) catcher has a .351 BA and a .963 OPS, and has thrown in eight stolen bases for flavor. At his age and given the Jays new "go slow" philosophy, look for him to spend the whole season in Lansing unless he dominates to a ridiculous extent.

Sean Ochinko - Another player who didn't make Lott's list, Ochinko is a versatile guy who can play 3B and presumably 1B and thus would seem to be less than a lock to stick behind the plate, though most teams don't move a player off C or SS until they have to. The 22 year old isn't off to the offensive start of the other guys here, but is well regarded as a hitter and given their relative ages, might move up to Dunedin (if/as/when) before Jimenez does.

Carlos Perez - Scouts consider the 19 year old Perez to have perhaps the most upside of any player listed here. He'll begin play with Auburn when short-season teams start play in early June.

Santiago Nessy - A 17 year old Venezuelan power prospect, Nessy will suit up for the Gulf Coast League Jays in June.

First Base

Brett Wallace - Caveats about PCL stats aside, Wallace is rocking Las Vegas with eight homers and a 1.000 OPS through the first 21 games of the season. Those burning up the comments sections and call in shows with their desire for him to be recalled show simmer the hell down though, he also has a strikeout per game and could make a bit better contact. The Jays will likely promote him around mid-season if and when they find a trade partner for Lyle Overbay (and keep in mind there are not a lot of 1B openings around the majors).

Brian Dopirak - Historically Dopirak has been slow to impress when starting a season at a new level and that continues to be the case. There's no story here until and unless he heats up.

David Cooper - Picked up where he left off in 2009, which is to say, he continues to be a disappointment. Much more of this and the word "bust" will be more than whispered when his name comes up.

Mike McDade at Dunedin and Balbino Fuenmayor at Lansing are both struggling. 2009 draftee KC Hobson will likely begin play with Auburn when June rolls around and is probably already a better prospect than either of these two.

Second Basemen

Jarret Hoffpauir - A 26 year old non-prospect picked up in the off-season from the Cardinals, he's worth mentioning only in that (a) the upper level depth at this position is all but non-existant right now, and (b) he's the owner of a .890 OPS in Vegas right now, with 8 walks against only one strikeout in 19 games. Don't expect more than a Joe Inglett type though as a best case.

Scott Campbell - Nominally on the AA roster, he's been on the DL all year. His prospect status is tied to the extent of his injury and the effects of missing so much time.

John Tolisano - Also on the DL. Was on a mild hot streak over the seven previous games but the sample is too small. No news here yet.

Ryan Schimpf - owner of a .398 OBP in Lo-A Lansing. A bit old for the league though so adjust expectations accordingly.


Adeiny Hecheverria - Lott tweets that Alex Antholoulos says he's getting exciting reports from observers regarding Adeiny's work so far in Extended Spring Training. He's supposed to be assigned to the Hi-A team in a couple of weeks but look for him to move up pretty quickly if he lives up to the praise. My hunch is that he'll take over as the Jays' SS sometime around mid-season in 2011.

Justin Jackson - got off to a respectable start in Dunedin in five games (playing mostly 3B because of the crowding at SS) before going on the DL. Sample size is too small here to say much.

Tyler Pastornicky - Holding his own in Dunedin, with an (expected) lack of power but solid contact and an impressive walk rate and good speed.

Ryan Goins - Not doing too well for a 22 year old in Lo-A ball. Needs to pick it up.

Gustavo Pierre - Expected to be assigned to the Auburn team which will be a squad worth watching this year.

Third Basemen

Brad Emaus - In eleven games he has 11 walks and only two strikeouts. The 24 year old 3b/2b has a .479 OBP and a 1.047 OPS in AA New Hampshire. If he keeps up this pace he;s going to force the Jays to move him up to AAA. I wouldn't be stunned if the Jays have him at 3B for the major league club next Opening Day.

Kevin Aherns - Just three games since being activated off the DL, nothing relevant can be said so far.

Robert Sobolewski - The Miami product is much improved, so far, over last year's production. Sobo has a .924 OPS and, given their relative ages and experience, it's not inconceivable that if Emaus is promoted, Sobo might leap-frog Aherns to go to AA.

I'll take this opportunity to stop here and post Part II tomorrow, for the sake of length. Still to come - Outfielders and pitchers.

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