On the occasion of the news that Henderson Alvarez will get the call to start for the Blue Jays on Friday night when the Angels come to town, and taking advantage of an off day, I present to you the last (official) in-season Farm Report two days early. I anticipate more and more news this week about draft pick signings (several have been strongly implied on Twitter lately including something from Matt Dean today that was a pretty broad hint) so I want to go ahead and get this out of the way and clear the decks. Per the usual format, pitchers and hitters listed separately. There's enough being said about Brett Lawrie already that I will omit him here even though his time in Toronto has been very short.
1. Drew Hutchison - As I was writing this tonight Hutchinson was firmly cementing the #1 spot on this list by thoroughly dominating the Tampa Yankees, allowing a single baserunner in six shutout innings. Hutchison has given up a mere 15 runs in nine Hi-A ball appearances and seven of those came on one game (pretty much the only non-excellent start he's had since April). The right-handed Hutchison is still 2 weeks short of this 21st birthday. He might be, ya know, kinda good at this whole pitching thing.
2. Henderson Alvarez - Just four months older than Hutchison, the two men have very similar results this but Alvarez is thought to have somewhat better stuff - and he's pitching in AA. Since July 1, Alvarez has accumulated 39.2 IP, during which he's struck out 37 and walked . . . five.
3. Nestor Molina - Molina, whom I've raved about all year, also has very similar statistical results to the men above him - very low walk numbers, solid-to-excellent strikeout rates, excellent ERA and WHIP. the only major difference is age - Molina is over 19 months older. This, however, is somewhat mitigated by the reality that this is Molina's first year as a starter. He only has ~70 IP more as a pro than Hutchison does. It would be difficult to say which will ultimately be more successful.
4. Justin Nicolino - No we're not done yet with the high-K low-walk studs. Fiftenn months younger than Hutchsion, 2010 draftee Nicolino is a 6'3" lefty but his stat line in Vancouver is even better than that of the three pitchers above him on the list. The 19 year old has a 1.07 ERA in the Pioneer League and is clearly head and shoulders above the competition. I've been puzzled for a couple of weeks now why he hasn't been promoted to Lansing.
5. Noah Syndergaard - Another 2010 draftee off to a seriously impressive start, the 6'5" RHP is not yet 19. Still he ran off a string of five outstanding appearances in Bluefield before being promoted to Vancouver recently where his first start was more of the same. Stop me if you've heard this, but here's another guy with more strikeouts than innings pitched and a better than 3:1 K/BB ratio.
6. Mitchell Taylor - yet another 2010 draft choice, the 7th rounder Taylor trailed not very far off Synergaard's pace at Bluefield. The 6' LH starter has pitched in nine games (started five, but it's the nature of short-season ball to do "split-starts" with two starting pitchers) and has, you guessed it, more than a K per IP and a 3.5:1 ratio.
7. Brad Mills - the definition of the finesse lefty (think Jamie Moyer), Mills is now in Toronto but his work this year deserves mention as he's been called the most effective starter in the PCL. At first glance his stats are not on par with the younger men above him on the list, and his stuff is certainly far less remarkable, but doing what he's done in that league deserves notice just the same.
And one other starter for you to keep an eye on is Sean Nolin, another 2010 draftee who's doing very good work in Lansing.
Honorable mention for a few relievers doing excellent work: Danny Barnes is owning the competition in Lansing; Wes Ethridge and Bobby Korecky, both considered too old to be at the level they are pitching to be prospects, are nevertheless pitching very well; So is journeyman Sean Henn in Las Vegas.
1. Travis d'Arnaud - He just keeps getting better. the weaknesses of BA as a stat aside, he has hit .386 since July 1 (and that after hitting .410 in May). the 22 year old catcher is becoming legitimately one of the best prospects in baseball.
2. Marcus Knecht - The thing to watch with the 2010 3rd round Canadian outfielder, beside the prolific hitting ability, is the steadily impressive BB:K rate. There's little to even express caution about in Knecht's offensive game.
3. Jake Marisnick - Knecht's team-mate who shares the outfield with him, Marisnick - a 6'4" CF - recovered from an average May in fine form. Since July 1 his OPS is over .950 and, important for a player of his age and experience, his walks almost equal his strikeouts over that span.
4. David Cooper - by now you are familiar with the scouting reports that suggest Cooper is a marginal guy as a prospect at best, and I'm not here to dispute them - still, the guy just keeps hitting. Over the last 10 games his BA is .405, and he hasn't had a full month this season in which his OPS wasn't over 1.000 fueled by prolific walks and a ton of doubles.
5. Anthony Gose - the NH center fielder is riding his hottest stretch of the year, with an OPS of .982 in his last 10 games. He's still working on some aspects of his game, but it's worth remembering that he's less than 8 months older than Marisnick and he's two levels higher.
6. Adam Loewen - Since May 1 the one-time-pitcher turned RF has been raking. His BB:K ratio has been a bit troublesome but at this writing, he's last 10 games has seen him draw 9 walks against 10 strikeouts. If his walk rate comes up for good he'll have little left to prove in AAA.
7. Eric Acre - shout out here to the 25th round pick in this year's draft. The 5'9" catcher-turned outfielder is ripping up the competition for the GCL Jays. He had some off-field issues that reportedly dropped his stock in the draft (the Jays drafted him in the 27th round in 2010 as well but he didn't sign) and he was a bit of a bargain but still, this is surprising. His OPS is 1.067 and his OBP is .432 despite a BA of only .270 - the former stat is second in the league and the latter is 4th - oh, and he leads the GCL with 11 homers (in 115 AB).
HM: Adeiny Hechevarria - an offensive non-entity (despite having been called perhaps the best defensive SS in professional baseball) for most of the season but over the last 10 games (7/27 - 8/7) he's hitting .381 with a .970 OPS. This is probably just a hot streak but if it's a sign he's figured something out (new mechanics for instance) then look out.
Big week ahead, and an exciting finish to the season afoot on all levels.