Thursday, 29 September 2011

2011 in Review: Lansing Lugnuts

In the afterglow of what was likely the best regular seasons night in professional sports history, made all the more enjoyable by several rather remarkable sub-plots (and the fact that one of the Evil Empires was so throughly humiliated) it seems very anti-climatic to be doing another write up on the Jays minor league teams, but the roads must roll and there’s a lot of things on my calendar at this time of year so I had better start making up some ground.

It’s made a bit better because we no arrive at one of the more fascinating affiliates to talk about. There’s some real heft to this list, as you will see.

1. Jake Marisnick, CF, 20, 6'4" 200
It’s probably impossible for me to overstate just how much I love me some Jake Marisnick.  He’s easily a Top 5 prospect in the Blue Jays organization, and he was ranked third in the MWL by Baseball America (though they also commented that any of the top five could have been #1). Not only did he have an outstanding offensive and defensive year, while accumulating sterling reports from every scout who saw him, but from May onward, he got better and better as the season progressed, posting a .983 OPS in August. Overall his final OPS was .888 and, to add to the juicy goodness here, he stole 37 bases.  Given their situation in CF and RF, the Jays can afford to be patient with Marisnick, taking him one level at a time. But I don’t know if I can stand to wait until 2015 to see him competing for a job in Toronto.

2. Marcus Knecht, 21, OF, 6'1" 200
Overshadowed somewhat by Marisnick, the RH hitting Knecht is a fine hitter and a fine prospect in his own right. Pushed to LF not because he’s a poor defender but because his teammates are just that good, Knecht wore down a bit in August but overall had a fine season. The Toronto native and third round pick in the 2010 draft finished the year with an .851 OPS and solid marks across the board, with the exception of a too-high strikeout rate.

3. Michael Crouse, 20, RF, 6'4" 215
A 16th round sleeper from the 2008 draft, Crouse carries the tag of having great tools but needing polish. Coming into 2011 he had an impressive half season on his second try at the GCL to brag about, and not much else statistically speaking. It was something of a surprise that he started the year in Lansing but clearly he was up to the challenge. August was even less kind to him than to Knecht, as he missed all but six games but consider the final stat line for these three guys:

M: 118 G, 462 AB, 148 H, 27 D, 6 T, 14 HR, 77 RBI, 43 BB, 91 K, 37 SB, 8 CS
K: 121 G, 439 AB, 120 H, 34 D, 3 T, 16 HR, 86 RBI, 67 BB, 124 K, 4 BB, 3 CS
C: 101 G, 364 AB, 95 H, 26 D, 5 T, 14 HR, 55 RBI, 44 BB, 113 K, 38 SB, 8 CS

M: .320/.392/.496/..888
K: .273/.377/.474/.851
C: .261/.352/.475/.827

Clearly Jake has a much better contact rate at this point, and Knecht is considerably slower than the other two, but beyond that it’s remarkable how similar the results are in many ways. For instance, Crouse actually had a better walk rate and XBH rate than Marisnick did, despite the lower contact rate. Crouse is reportedly quite the physical specimen too.He was right there with Marisnick all season, with the exception of a noticeable slump in June.

4. Carlos Perez, 20, C, 6'0" 193
2011 was a year Perez would probably like to forget. In may ways, he got untracked offensively in only one month (July) and reportedly had some rough patches on defense as well. Overal he finished with a .675 OPS, but he came into the season with such good numbers that it’s probably wise to give him a mulligan on this season. If it’s anything the Jays have, it’s the luxury of taking their time with catching prospects.

And on the mound...

1. Sean Nolin, LHP, 21
Nolin doesn’t just have good stats but he’s got a good story to go with it. Seems the 6'5", 235 horse, who was drafted in the 6th round in 2010, had shown up after signing last year pretty out of shape, and he didn’t have much on-field success in six starts for the rookie level squad. The Jays were pleasantly surprised when a different Nolin showed up for spring training in 2011. Toned up, and pitching much more crisply, Nolin earned a spot on the Lansing roster and never looked back. He racked up 113 K in 108 IP, while posting a 3.6 ratio of strikeouts to walks and a 1.23 WHIP. Between solid results and having made an impression with his work effort, the Jays think they have something to be proud of in Nolin.

2. Casey Lawrence, RHP, 22
Ok, let me be frank - Lawrence is probably not really a prospect. His entire career will be an uphill battle against that perception. He was an undrafted free agent, signed by the Jays after the 2010 draft. Then he went right out and kicked serious ass in the NYP league, built around impeccable control. In 2011, pitching most of the year for Lansing, he maintained solid     rate stats in every area, except that he gave up a much higher HR rate than in 2010. This might have been a fluke, or it might be a sign that he’s one of those guys who’s skills play well at the lower level but gets exposed as they move up. He’s one of those guys you want to root for, and that’s why i tip my rhetorical hat to him here, but he’s got a lot to overcome yet.

3. Danny Barnes, RHRP, 21
I really hesitate to include a reliever on a list like this, particularly at such a low level. As a general rule relief prospects below AA probably aren’t prospects at all. But Barnes was dominant. He struck out 13.5 per 9, while having a WHIP of 0.97 and an ERA of 2.32. He might be the exception. Impressive work for a 35th round pick.

Drew Hutchison pitched about half a season here too, but look for him on the Dunedin list. Syndergaard and Nicolino also had a few starts here but they’ve been covered.

As much as I hate to trap myself into a deadline I don’t meet, I’m hoping to get the Dunedin review up over the weekend.


1 comment:

Mylegacy said...

Marisnick and Gose - Gose and Marisnick.

What a lovely problem. To me Gose is more exciting - more like a Lawrie personality. Marisnick however is a more complete prospect at this point. I really feel at least one of them will give us a CFer for the ages!

Ironically - deep inside my inner fibers - I suspect that Crouse (who when standing next to Marisnick makes him look like his kid brother) might be the surprise guy who gives both these guys a serious run for their money.

Imagine an outfield will all three of them. Imagine what one, two or three of them could get us in a trade...oh...I wish I was AA and had the chance to plot the future moves...the next 10 years are going to a wonderful journey...don't miss them...don't even be late!

Tammy - looking forward to the rest of your write-ups on our teams with baited breath (I just ate several worms). Groan.