[note - I have no idea what's going on with this thing and the code. Font sizes are all over the place, color code is dropping out. I've no idea what's going on]
Getting right to this one, due to the lateness of the hour. but one juicy tidbit: According to interviews on the Fan590:
*Per Buck Martinez, the reports on Colby Rasmus are glowing. Buck says he's a new man with a new attitude, a new stance and he's really impressing everyone.
*Per John Farrell, Dusty McGowan has been cruising through his bullpen work and progression and has the staff excited.
*Per several sources, there are already 30 team member working out in Dunedin and the R&C report date hasn't arrived yet.
*Home Opener tickets sold out in less than two hours. last year it took aver a month.
*There's optimism all around about Adam Lind and his physical readiness to play 1B this year which will in turn presumably provoke optimism about his hitting.
*Per several reports Brett Cecil is in much better shape than he was this time last year.
*Some are suggesting that people ought to be very cautious in assuming Kyle Drabek won't make the rotation out of Spring.
[important players in italics]
Dunedin Blue Jays
Sean Nolin - Possibly no one among the pitchers took a bigger leap forward as a prospect in 2011 than Nolin. After reporting out of shape and unmotivated in 2010, he was a new man in 2011 and the results reflected it as he made the Lansing squad and other than a brief stumble in June was consistently reliable all year.
Casey Lawrence - a non-drafted free agent, Lawrence is the definition of an underdog in any organization. In the Jays exceedingly deep system he must feel like he's climbing Everest. He was a mainstay in Lansing all year and got a brief late-season look at Dunedin when injuries opened the door. He's pitched quite well at every level but the odds are stacked heavily against him.
Egan Smith - had a pretty okay year at Lansing, albeit he gave up WAY too much contact, but ultimately he's a placeholder who will be brushed aside when the hot-shot kids come along. Odds are he's going to get exposed pretty badly the higher he moves up the ladder.
Andrew Liebel - The former 3rd round pick was an okay prospect before injuries wrecked his season (at Dunedin) in 2010. Last year he worked through three levels and made it back to Dunedin for eight wholly unimpressive appearances. and He'll be 26 next month. I wouldn't be stunned if he's cut before opening day, but he's certainly not blocking anyone.
Matt Fields - a starter in 2010 who lost almost all of 2011 to injury, if he recovers strongly he might end up in some rotation here, but ultimately he's "just a guy" unless he steps up strong in Spring so he could end up waiting for a break in the bullpen.
Danny Barnes - dominated at Lansing, no reason at all for him to not make this roster.
Dustin Antolin - taking a bit of a flyer here. Antolin's stuff was well regarded before missing a big part of 2010 with TJ surgery. He came back quickly last year but as in most cases, the first year back is not really indicative of what the player will end up being able to do. There are a couple of other reasonable candidates for promotion but if this guy recovers his full pre-surgery form this spring, he's the one with the most promise.
Aaron Loup - can't see much in the stats, but the jays sent him to the AFL so it's possible they see something of value here.
Scott Gracey and Steve Turnbull - Were both quite good in the first third of the season at Lansing, and just so-so after being promoted. both are in their age 25 season so there's little reason to think they are more than OP at this point.
Casey Beck, Matt Daley, Sean Shoffitt - Becks always had nice K numbers but too many walks. He missed most of last year and he's 25 this year, Daley was a train wreck (previously he had a similar story to Beck), and Shofitt is a converted outfielder who's still learning but he's 27 - any or all of them may well be shown the door, particularly in light of a couple of guys from Lansing who might make their case in spring.
Catcher - Carlos Perez - He had his worst year as a pro in Lansing last year but odds are the team will not hold him back on that account. It's not a sure thing though as there's no pressure from below. If it was any other level he might repeat, but there's a case to be made for having him at the team's Florida complex and in the warmer weather.
First Base - Gabriel Jacobo - this is a complete guess, but it seems to me that the speculation in some quarters that the team will go ahead and promote KC Hobson despite an unimpressive season on both offense and defense are wildly optimistic. In his absence, there's a void here (as there is, in fact, all around the Dunedin infield) and Jacabo, taken in the Rule 5 draft seems as good a fit here as anyone. He was a perfectly respectable hitter in Hi-A ball in 2010 and marginal at AA in 2011. Unless the team really thinks they have stole something special, plugging him into a glaring hole seems logical.
Second Base - Oliver Dominguez and/or Ivan Contrares - both are OP with absolutely nothing to recommend them but the fact that anyone below them who's actually kinda good isn't ready for this level yet.
Shortstop - Peter Mooney - another total guess on my part, but here's why I put him here: the diminutive Mooney is a college player, who's 21 this year, older than any other reasonable candidate for this job except Andrew Burns (both were drafted in 2011). The difference is that Mooney made it as far as Lansing last season (albeit for only 7 games) and he hit quite well at all three stops. By contrast Burns got 23 games at Vancouver and did poorly enough that no promotion is forthcoming yet. Also, while neither is a top-notch prospect, Mooney is more likely to end up an OP so there's less value loos if he's pushed too hard. They could go anywhere really with this one but there won't be a major prospect here.
Third Base - Kevin Aherns - not good enough to be promoted, no one pushing him from behind, and SOMEONE has to play third here. Might as well be him.
Left Field - Marcus Kencht - After three very ugly positions, things are looking up. The entire Lansing outfield in 2011 was made up of guys to be excited about. Kencht is probably the least of the three, but he's also surely the third best hitting starter on this team. He's probably be in right on another team.
Center field - Jake Marisnick - do I really need to elaborate? I'll give you this much - it's not impossible that he will force a mid-season promotion, but given what's ahead of him (Rasmus and Gose) there's really no reason for them to push any harder than they have to.
Right Field - Michael Crouse - hit almost as well as Marisnick in 2011, but folks who make prospect lists did not rank him nearly as highly. Be optimistic, but guardedly so.
DH - Marcus Brisker - Not really. He's an above average fielder and he will more likely spell the three fellows above while they take a break and DH rather than play here full time himself. but they have to find the guy some at-bats if they think very well of him (which buy most accounts they do)
Bench - Catcher Joe Bowen, infielders Brian Kervin and Kevin Nolan, outfielder Kenny Wilson - and only Wilson was EVER a prospect.
If I haven't said it enough, I'll repeat, there is much about this roster that is tentative. almost anything in the infield and the bullpen could be different. Mostly because most of the players filing those spots are just that - filler. I expect the D-Jays to struggle in the first half, with the great outfield unable to carry the team. But if a couple of the young gun pitchers are promoted for the second half things could turn around nicely.
Justin Nicolino - It's pretty much impossible to pick a #1 and #2 here, both had almost identical results in a tiny late-season sample at Lansing. But Nicolino had a mach larger sample of work at Vancouver (and was untouchable by the way) so we'll give the nod to the lefty.
Noah Syndergaard - Bigger, harder throwing, and right-handed, but somewhat less polished than Nicolino. He had really good results but some (Kieth Law for instance) thinks the off-speed stuff needs work and the implication is he'll move a tic slower.
Aaron Sanchez - Most feel he has the best stuff of the three, but his command was considerably slower to develop. It's not inconceivable that he could be help back in extended and assigned to Vancouver but most feel they Jays would very much like him to make the Lansing squad. One to watch in Spring.
John Stilson - I'm being really aggressive here because I don't know the status of his health, which was at issue last year. He's a guy who was a potential first round pick out of college in the 2011 draft with considerable upside before he was hurt and the Jays got a potential steal in the third round. He's already 21 and the Jays under Anthopoulos have demonstrated a pattern of starting higher round starting pitchers drafted out of college on the full season farm teams. As i see it, only his health would keep Stilson from following that pattern. Reports so far are good on that score.
Sam Dyson - Health wise, this is much more of a question mark - there's been a report or two of setbacks, again, for this chronically injured pitcher. Drafted in 2010 and less than 3 months from his 23rd birthday, IF he's healthy he pretty much HAS to be on a full season squad, if not to start the year then as soon as he's up to game speed. But there might be less than 50/50 odds that he will be that healthy.
Tyler Ybarra - Drafted in 2008 all the way down in the 43rd round, the 6'2" lefty was always a project, when he lost all of 2010 to injuries things looked bleak. But bouncing back for Bluefield last year, he was dominant - in relief at first but later moved into the rotation to close out the season. Because of that, and because he's now 22, he's at the front of the line of secondary candidates to jump into the Lansing rotation. if he doesn't start he will probably still make the team in relief and wait for an opening.
Mitchell Taylor - He probably needs something to break his way, because he's less likely to make this squad in relief, but he's a good enough candidate to be mentioned (especially with the injury questions above). A somewhat undersized lefty, Taylor nevertheless put up big strikeout numbers in Bluefield. It might seem odd to suggest a couple of Bluefield pitchers instead of guys out of Vancouver, but other than the Big Three guys at the top of this list, the rest of the Canadians rotations was undrafted free agent filler who didn't pitch all that well and are anything but prospects. If any of them pitch in Lansing it will strictly be as an OP.
Dayton Martze - None of these bullpen guys are really names to watch, Ybarra would be the most exciting guy here if he ends up in the pen. But Martze did accumulate 71 K's last year and in the absence of anything else, look for the strikeout guy as the one to watch.
Brandon Berl - Of the guys who finished the year in Lansing, he had the best ERA and best SO/BB ratio in the bullpen. He's probably the guy who steps up to Dunedin if for some reason Antolin doesn't. But he's just a guy.
Eric Brown - 55th round draftee in 2011 was surprisingly effective in Vancouver and got a cup of coffee in Lansing at the end of the year.
Marcus Walden - per a source close to the team (see the comments) if Walden comes back healthy he has admirable velocity and still has promise, though at 23 this year he's on the clock and will need to advance to Dunedin in relatively short order to maintain some prospect hopes. Another source tells me the team thinks he, a starter in the past, may work better in the bullpen. We shall see.
Tyler Powell, Shawn Griffith - holdovers from last years, basically OPs - either of them might be cut before opening day in favor of any of the following . . .
Drew Permisson, Bryan Longpre, Phillip Brua - the better relievers in Vancouver, but just guys.
Andy Sikula, Ian Kadish, Jon Lucas - the better relievers in Bluefield - just guys.
Basically, the last 3 or 4 guys in the Lansing pen could be any 3 or 4 out of these nine guys (at least) and certainty at this level is impossible.
Catcher - Garret Maines - Statistically the most deserving guy, but all three of the reasonable candidates are too old for these levels and nothing to be excited about. the next hot prospect in the system is Santiago Nessy but I don't think they will find him ready for the full season teams yet. He's not yet 20.
First Base - KC Hobson - I still like this guy, but a .670 OPS and 25 errors at first base does not say "ready for a promotion." He will, however, be able to write his own ticket and a strong first half will surely get him promoted, it's not like there's anyone playing first at Dunedin to worry about.
Second Base - John Berti - drafted in the 23rd round out of college in 2011, he'll be 22 on opening day and that puts him ahead of the other potential candidates here. He was just okay in Vancouver last year, but he showed good speed and baserunning skills.
Shane Opitz - another position at which there are several options. the biggest name being Gus Pierre who flamed out when assigned here last year (making an astonishing number of errors) and who may have seen his last days at SS. Opitz wasn't overly impressive statistically for Vancouver last year but the reports on him were better than the numbers. None of the other candidates outperformed him or have better reports. One other name worth mentioning as a long shot is DJ Thon. He's very highly regarded, but a health issue (not an on-field injury) hindered his development in 2011 and it's an open question whether he will be ready for full season ball. The Jays would be ecstatic (and so would I) if he grabbed this job and proved he was ready for it.
Third Base - Kellen Sweeney - I'm a bit scared of this one since Sweeney only got into nine games that counted last year for Bluefiled before a freak injury sidelined him for the year. The buzz, however, is that the jays REALLY want Sweeney to win this job (presumably to make up for lost development time) So I'll give that the benefit of the doubt. One of the potential defensive alternatives for Pierre is 3B, but i can't see them throwing him into a new position on a full season team, he would definitely need extended Spring. one thing in Sweeney's favor is the incumbents who spent time here in 2011 were not impressive. Neither Bryson Namba nor Matt Nuzzo played well enough to earn a promotion, though they will probably be in the organization somewhere as filler.
Left Field - Chris Hawkins - almost certain to be the offensive star of this team, he's just beginning to show what he can do and he gained notice on more than one top prospect list. with the Three Amigos in Dunedin the jays can afford to let him relax and pile up numbers all year in Lansing.
Center Field - Kevin Pillar - No one in the Vancouver outfield impressed with their hitting in 2011, and Pillar led all hitters (yes including Hawkins) on the Bluefield squad in OPS. The difference in their status arises from Pillar being 2 and a half years older - he''s 22 already.
Right Field - Jon Jones - one of three marginal candidates to keep this spot warm for the day when Jake Anderson is promoted. He's the most experience of the three.
DH - Kevin Patterson - put up good numbers playing mostly 1B at Vancouver. And he's 23. There's not really another obvious candidate. He'll back 1B but mostly defer to Hobson's need to polish his defense since Hobson is the prospect.
Bench: Chris Schaffer and Jack Murphy, catchers; Gari Pena SS/2B; Matt Nuzzo or Bryson Namba 3B; Eli Boike, Nick Baligod, outfielders (the latter two will help stopgap in RF in some combination if Anderson's not ready for the assignment and look for a chance to distinguish themselves. And if I have to say it, being on the bench on Lo-A ball is the definition of "not a prospect."
Up next: An overview of the notable names in short-season ball, where roster placement gets really difficult to predict, mostly it will be an estimation of who we should expect/hope for in Vancouver and who's not quite ready for that yet.