Saturday, 17 September 2011

2011 in Review: The Bluefield Blue Jays

The Blue Jays affiliates boasted an impressive five teams in the playoffs this year and Bluefield was among them. all props to the team, and kudos to Dennis Holmberg for winning Manager of the Year. But while there is real player development value in giving the kids playoff experience, ultimately for the purposes of this review is targeted to individual results, and that's where I'm going to focus my attention lest I bloviate even more than usual.

1. Chris Hawkins, LF, 20, 6''2", 195
Hawkins played most of the season at 19, and while he was the 2nd best hitter on the team, in terms of results, Hawkins was a third round pick (in 2010) and the other guy went in the 32nd round so I'm gonna give Hawkins the benefit of the doubt here. He has nothing to apologize for on his results though. The k's are not a bit high as one might expect given his age and experience, he showed good power and a very respectable OBP. There's a lot to like here.

2. Kevin Pillar, RF, 22, 6'0" ,200
The "other guy" is Pillar. Pillar hit for more power, made more contact, and struck out less than Hawkins. so why is he not #1? Besides the relative draft positions - age. Pillar had a bunch of success, but he spent the whole season at a level 2-3 spots lower than a 22 year old normally finds himself. Which raises questions about how seriously the Jays see him as a prospect. Still, the Blue Jays minor league field coordinator Doug Davis said in a Batter's Box interview that Pillar has an off-the-charts make-up which made him a tremendous leader in the clubhouse. Sometimes these guys do come from unexpected places and mate reasonable talent with tremendous drive and turn out to be something worth watching. By rights, he ought to be skipped all the way to Dunedin next year but he probably has to establish himself at Lansing first. Still, if he's not in Dunedin by the end of 2012 you know he's one of those low-level mirages.

3. Art Charles, 1B, 20, 6'6", 221
The big man on the team led the squad in homers, and RBI, but also posted well over a strikeout per game which is a rate which will expose him badly as he moves up the ladder. He did also lead the team in walks, so there may well be something there, but I'm sure the Jays are really going to be working on better contact without losing the power. As with Pillar, I have no real information on his defensive skills.

4. Dan Arcila, 2B/SS, 21, 6'1" 170
Listed as a SS, he played 2B most of the time for Bluefield to accommodate slow-developing bonus-baby Gus Pierre. I can't really tell you whether or not Arcila has the defensive chops to play SS if the opportunity were available. I can tell you that he had a higher slugging percentage than Charles (though with considerably fewer walks and K's).

5. Gutavo Pierre, SS, 19, 6'2", 193
Pierre opened the season in Lansing where his defense completely disappeared (an incredible 36 in 56 games) and his bat was, as you might expect, non-existent. Shifted to Bluefield after the short-season teams began play, Pierre worked from the DH position for many games early on as the team decided to let him focus on one side of the ballgame. His bat did recover moderately, (though he did fade over the course of the season) and his error rate fell to 8, but with so many games at DH, that has to be understood in context. There's still a ton of work to do here.

And on the mound . . .

1. Aaron Sanchez, RHSP, 19
Stat aside, the obviously most talented arm in Bluefield, once Syndergaard moved up at least, was Sanchez. The pitcher Mel Queen said was the best prospect he'd seen since Chris Carpenter was brilliant at times, and wobbly at others. Overall the biggest concern is refining his command.

2. Tyler Ybarra,  LHP, 21
Ybarra was a lowly 46th round choice in the 2008 draft, albeit understood as a potential sleeper. He got a mere 20 innings in 2009 in the GCL and lost all of 2010 to injury. He was working his way back in 2011 and boy did he ever. He started out in relief, then worked his way into a "tandem start" arrangment in which he pitched several innings as would a SP. down the stretch he did get five starts and the Jays seem likely to continue to use him in that role.He's notable for his nifty 2.15 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, .200 BAA, and 3.38 K/BB ratio. Ybarra certainly doesn't have the pedigree, but he put himself on the radar at est in 2011.

3. Mitch Taylor, LHSP, 19
The 7th round selection in the 2010 draft contrast with Sanchez in that his calling card is a much better refined strike-throwing ability. His stats are somewhat reminiscent of Bobby Bell's from a couple of years back though being left handed should give him a higher ceiling. On the other hand, he was sent home early and unofficial reports suggested it was a discipline/coaching issue.

4. Dave Rollins, LHSP, 21
Being somewhat older, and having been a 24th round choice, I'm a bit more skeptical of Rollins than of the two above him. However, on the other side, Rollins is more advanced than Joe Musgrove who was taken much higher so he deserves props. Rollins pitched almost 36 innings over two levels and walked a mere 3 batters while striking out 29.

There are fewer names here partly because most of the high achievers didn't stick around and will appear on the Vancouver or Lansing list and partly because with a newly created level within the Jays farm system, there is a bit more filler on this team (and Vancouver) than would be ideal.. But don't be surprised if some sleepers from this bunch emerge.

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