Saturday, 9 October 2010

2010 Positional Review: Middle Infield

I'm gonna make a small modification this year on this one. The depth at second base just seems awfully light to dedicate a whole weekly post to that position. Plus, perhaps more importantly, the excess shortstop depth is the pool from which potential future second basemen usually are drawn.

So first, the Second Basemen:

1. John Tolisano (22) - A second round choice in the (then) vaunted mega-class of 2007, Tolisano was allowed to repeat Hi-A dunedin this season with, as usual for him, mixed results. Tolisano progressed well month over month through the first half of the season, but an injury in early July ended his season just when he seemed to have accumulated significant momentum (albeit he had only 3 hits in his last 25 AB). In June he had an .881 OPS which is even more noticeable given the difficulty of the league for hitters. On the whole season, he improved his OBP and SLG over his 2009 rates, but only marginally so. On the other hand, his K rate went way up. Also, when the D-Jays' infield got overcrowded, Tolisano found himself spending some time in the OF as well as at 3B. He probably has to be challeneged with AA next season and it will be a key season for him to establish that he still has some promise.

2. Scott Campbell (26) - It tells you something about the depth of natural second basemen in the system that a guy who missed the whole season with injury (after having a variety of less serious injuries the year before) is arguably the #2 prospect at the position. Campbell is now two seasons removed from his breakout season and he's coming off (hopefully) a serious hip injury. I can't find any details about the extensiveness of the injury but hip injuries have killed careers so it's a matter of concern. But IF HEALTHY he still has the chance to reclaim the hitting ability he showed in 2008. Of course, for a man who was already defensively challeneged, a hip injury can't be helpful.

3. Ryan Schimpf (23) - the 2009 fifth rounder was just OK at Lansing, he got a late season taste of Dunedin and didn't adjust well. He has pretty good speed and is said to be "gritty" but that's more likely to make him a minor league hometown favorite than a potential major leaguer.

4. Brandon Mims (18) - A ninth round pick in 2010, the switch-hitting Mims got all of 2 professional at bats. Mims is said to be an outstanding defender, less is know by us amateurs about his hitting ability. He was reported to be a "signability" draft so expectations should be tempered.

5. Andy Fermin (21) - Let's be realistic here - Fermin (son of Felix) was a 32nd round pick in 2010, the odds that he even reaches the high minors, let alone the majors, are long against him. But he pounded GCL pitching (for only seven games) until he forced a promotion to Auburn where he held onto a pretty good OBP. His ranking is, again, a function of lack of depth, not promise.

Also note that some consider Brad Emaus (whom I will cover next week in the Third Base list) to be a potential second baseman and if he were ranked, he'd be an easy #1 on this list.

And the Shortstops . . .

1. Adeiny Hechavarria (22) - The Cuban bonus baby will turn 22 in mid-April 2011, and that is an age not uncommon in Hi-A ball and characteristic of the better AA prospects. Despite being somewhat raw, his natural tools make him an easy choice for one of the Blue Jays' very best prospects. After spending six forgettable weeks of 2010 in Dunedin, he was promoted to AA where he logged just over two months of play with noticeably better results. The Jays believed, rightly it seems, that Hechavarria would progress better under the management of Hispanic manager Luis Rivera. While he did make progress, the Jays can afford, with the acquisition in July of Yunel Escobar, to give the younger Cuban plenty of time. It won't hurt at all for him to return to AA to start the season and let his development dictate the promotion schedule. however, if you see the Jays promote Rivera to the manager's position in Las Vegas (which is open) then it's quite possible Adeiny will follow him there in the spring.

2. DJ Thon (19) - No, I don't know if anyone else calls hm DJ but hey, it's my blog and I can try to start a trend if I want. His given name is "Dicke Joe" and that's pretty much an open invitation. One assumes you can't be the sort of Jays fan who reads this site and not know he's the son of longtime Astros SS Dicke Thon and almost invariably, when a scout is asked about his ceiling the scout replies "pretty much like his dad, before the beaning." That is a solid, productive, but no0t star-level major league shortstop - probably something a lot like what we got from Marco Scutaro in 2009. Thon is said to be raw, though, and the Jays can afford to take their time with him. you shouldn't be surprised to see him spend five full seasons in the minors.

3. Gustavo Pierre (19) - Only six weeks younger than Thon, the bonus-baby Dominican has 424 professional at bats, but is still very much a raw project. Pierre draws raves for his tools and projectability (though suggestions he might grow into third base are not rare) but the statistical results are not impressive yet. He's still very much a person to be judged on the trained eye of scouts rather than results. Despite ordinary results at Auburn, there's a pretty decent chance that the Jays advance him to Lansing to start the season, though beyond that his movement will be earned. Like Thon, he's still a long way away.

4. Justin Jackson (22) - another once-anticipated member of the class of 2007, Jackson was my personal favorite from that class and I've taken longer to lose my enthusiasm for him than almost anyone, but he's not helping me. When the Jays activated Hechavarria, the crowding in the infield at Dunedin eventually resulted in Jackson being bumped back to Lansing which, to be fair, was the level a player his age probably should have been playing at. The former minor league team consistently over-promoted Jackson and while he has flaws of his own, they may have ruined him.
Consider that Jackson got a mere 42 professional games (in which he hit .187) before he was pushed to Lansing. In Lansing he hit .238 and was promoted to Dunedin in 2009 anyway. Though it was an injury marred year, there was little chance that even a healthy Jackson was going to do well there. A smarter plan might have been to return Jackson to the GCL in 2008 and let him EARN a promotion - to AUBURN. Let him spend all of 2008 at Auburn and then send him to Lansing in 2009 and don't promote him again until he has proven he's ready - spending 2 years in Lansing isn't the end of any real prospects career. Thus handled, Jackson would have reached Dunedin for the first time in 2010 at best, and would have been far more ready for it. At this point, Jackson stands on the cusp of what is pretty much a make-or-break season in which he has to demonstrate he can correct the flaws in his offensive game.

Also, watch Ryan Goins. While buried among ore talented guys at short, if I'd listed him at 2B he would have looked a lot better.

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