Thursday, November 3, 2011
2011 Positional Review: SS, 3B, and 2B
Circumstances compel me to combine lists this year in these infield position. Quite frankly, there's no significant 2B prospect at all and anything the Jays develop there will be a converted shortstop. Similarly, there's no significant 3B above short-season ball, and it's not impossible that should a player develop at this position it might well be a converted shortstop.
Thus I will present these players in a combined list, with a crop of other lesser players who have some aspect worth your attention.
1. Adeiny Hechavarria , SS (22) - The class of this list is clearly Hech, who some describe as the best defensive SS in professional baseball (and the rest call him second best to his countryman in the Red Sox organization). the odds are high that that glove WILL get him into the majors. Alcies Escobar, for instance, And Elvis Andrus are wizards who's bat would not otherwise play in the bigs. What kind of a hitter he will be remains to be seen. When he was promoted to AAA in mid-August, his bat seemed to explode in the offense friendly league, and of course the common meme was "so what? it's the PCL?" but there are nevertheless some reason to not be so flip about that breakout.
For starters, Hech did not JUST see his stats go up to a level you might expect a no-bat guy to produce down there. Comparisons are difficult because comparing him to a weak hitter who's a decade or more older (such as Dewayne wise) isn't fair, and there are few players of his age level and background who were already in the PCL. but the fact remains that if the base conclusion is "the guy can't hit" then there is only so much the PCL can do for him. look at Jon Diaz for instance.
Second, and more importantly, the offensive explosion actually started two weeks BEFORE his promotion. From the double-header on July 27 through his promotion to AAA, Hech hit .375/.417/.518/.935 and that's worth noting, even if it's a small sample, because he'd done nothing like that previously in his pro career. I recall that in 2010 David Cooper was sitting on a very mediocre line at mid-season, then roared throug hthe second half and observers had little way to understand that. later we learned he made a significant adjustment in his approach and re-discovered his college offensive production. I have no inside information but it is quite possible Adeiny likewise unlocked his upside via some adjustment in his mechanics. I am not arguing he's ever going to be Tony Fernandez, but he might be on par with the slick fielders I mentioned in the first paragraph at least.
2. Matt Dean, 3B (18) - Admittedly an aggressive rating, this reflects both a lack of depth at the position and my appreciation of the great press he got in the wake of the draft. don't be fooled by his relatively low draft position, he was widely regarded as a low first round talent that was unsignable. if there's one guy in the system who might make the Jays consider moving Lawrie to the post-Baustista outfield, it's Dean.
3. DJ Thon, SS (19) - Yes, I'm going to keep calling Dicke Thon Jr "DJ" until someone gets him to say he doesn;t like it. Thon, like Dean, was an unsignable first round talent that the Jays managed to sign anyway. He didn't show a lot of that this year because he was weakened by a kidney disorder that was identified during spring physicals. There's nothing really remarkable about his season for the GCL Jays, other than his great July (.911 OPS in 20 games) but you have to give him a mulligan on this one.
4. Christian Lopes, SS/2B, (18) - another highly regarded player who dropped in the draft on questions of signability. At least one list had him among the top 50 prospects going into the draft. Like Dean, I'm ranking this guy on his clippings since he has no professional at bats under his belt.
5. Kellen Sweeney, 3B, (19) - a 2nd round choice in 2010, Sweeney also frustrates with his lack of pro-stats for reference. Injured early in 2011, he missed most of the season and accumulated only 35 at bats. Still, in his meager professional sample, he's shown excellent plate discipline and he's still highly regarded.
6. Gabriel Cenas, 3B, (17) - Signed for a significant bonus out of Venezuela in 2010, the youngster got only 53 at-bats in the DSL this year. It's impossible to project whether Latin bonus babies will live up to the cash they received. One need look no further than Balbino Fuenmayor for evidence, or the next guy on this list. but on paper, the kid is a legitimate prospect.
7. Dewal Lugo, SS, (16) - bonus baby signed this summer, assigned to but did not play for the DSL team. This ranking is based only on the amount of his bonus. In truth, I consider him a better prospect by that measure than Cenas, and my master list reflects that. but given Cenas has a touch of experience, a defer to him for this list.
8. Gustavo Pierre, SS, (19) - the lanky Dominican bonus baby continues to try the patience of Jays prospect geeks. the bat which has been thought to have real potential has yet to emerge, and his error total in 2011 was astonishing. It says something about his natural ability that the Blue jays did not simply concede the point and move him to 3B or the outfield, but the comments of observers point to that eventually happening. His 44 errors (as poor a measure as errors are, particularly in the low minors) cannot be overlooked. On the other hand, it would be insane to write off a kid at 19 who has his physical gifts.
Other players who, for one reason or another, may be worth your attention in 2012:
Ryan Schimpf, 2B - the best actual current 2B prospect in the system, you should not be excited
Chino Vega, SS/IF - that's actually just the nickname of Jorge Vega-Rosado, but I like it better so I'm going with it. He was drafted in the 28th round, and he's an undersized buy, but he spanked the GCL in impressive fashion.
Ryan Goins, SS - competent guy, drafted in the 4th round in 2009. Nothing flashy but might soldier on until he's a factor.
Andrew Burns, SS - 2011 11th round pick
Shane Optiz, SS - considered a sleeper in some quarters
Jon Diaz, SS - at 26, he's on the clock, but John Farrell raved about his defense in spring training and it's not impossible that, now that John McDonald is out of the picture, he might not sieze the chance to be the next all-glove no-hit reserve infielder in toronto next spring.
Also, one last token mention of former first round 3B Kevin Ahrens, who's done nothing to make you happy, and one-time-SS-cum-utility player Justin Jackson, who look so good this year until mid June before swooning back into utter mediocrity by the end of the season. I had such hopes for that kid