Saturday, 2 October 2010

2010 Positional Review: First Base

One game to go in the major league season, the Jays have (finally) justified my pre-season prediction (I said 83 wins) and I've calmed a bit since ranting over Cito (again) last night, so lets get to it:

1. David Cooper (24) - On July 1, one could have made a very good case for just closing the Cooper file and stamping the outside "Bust" and moving on. Sure, it would have been too early given that, at that point, he only had a little over 2 seasons worth of at-bats, but all of those at bats which had occurred above A-ball were most uninspiring. His slash lines, in 751 AA at bats was a most modest .242/.335/.390/.725 with no hint of better work to come. His impressive half season in 2008 noted but perhaps dismissed as an aberration.

Since then, things have changed. In 220 at bats since that mid-season date, those slash lines are .309/.387/.505/.892 and while one has to be aware of sample size considerations, if Cooper has made some sort of mechanical adjustment to produce this result then there's cause for optimism in those numbers. Watch for stories over the winter that might explain the sudden turnaround, and perhaps more telling, watch whether his spring training work convinces the Jays he's ready for AAA.

2. Michael McDade (21) - The 6'1', 260 pound McDade, who turns 22 early in May, was the most prolific young slugger in the FSL. He led the circuit in homers and was first in slugging among players not considered too old for the league. There is, however, work still to do. McDade struck out 141 times in 128 games, and put up 5.2 K's per walk. Also, his season was the inverse of Cooper's. A massive May propeled him to an impressive first half (.869 OPS) but after the break, his OPS was a much more modest .676 (albeit in a league where offensive expectations are diminished) and it's not unreasonable to ask if, at his weight, he didn't wear down over the course of the season.

3. K.C. Hobson (20) - Butch Hobson's son was steady in the GCL this year, and a bit slow on the transition to low-A Lansing (though he finished well) but he's well regarded. He was considered a bit of a steal with the 6th round pick in 2009, and he made Baseball America's GCL Top 20 Prospects List (along with three of his teammates) at #14. In the shallow pool of Blue Jays 1B prospects, that's enough to rank him third on this list, and he might be a breakout candidate for 2011.

4. Lance Durham (23) - while old for the level at 22, Leon "Bull" Durham's son led the Auburn club in OPS, and he was one of the top dozen or so hitters in the circuit. While he has some pop and struck out more than once a game, it's worth noting that his OBP was .371, over 110 points higher than his BA. the way the distribution of 1B fall in the system next year (Cooper to AAA perhaps, McDade to AA, and Hobson back to Lansing) the obvious opportunity is there for the Jays to test Durham by skipping him up to Dunedin. If they do, we'll presumably know a lot more about what his skills are this time next year.

5. Balbino Fuenmayor (21) - no real reason to consider the former bonus baby a prospect at this point. He's never gotten the hitting skills polished enough to succeed and even though he's still young, he seldom even shows intriguing flashes anymore. I only mention him because of the press he got when signing, and because I hate for any list to not have at least five names.

There are no "others to watch" among actual 1B in the Jays' system (if there were, Balbino wouldn't be at #5) but you might be aware that excess players from other positions might end up at 1B. Adam Loewen is b all reports a fine OF but if crowding forces him to a new position, you gotta like a 6'5" target to throw to at 1B. If Keven Aherns late season resurgence is real, you might see other 3B in the system including Shawn Bowman and Mark Sobolewski eventually migrate across the diamond, but that's some time off yet.

I suppose, given his underwhelming defensive reports, one ought mention Eric Thames in this conversation as well. Finally, extra catchers who have offensive upside might end up playing 1B. Jon Talley was often found at DH so he's a candidate (although he didn't light up the scoreboard either) and versatile Sean Ochinko has a pretty good chance.

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