Saturday, 20 October 2012

Positional Rankings: Middle Infielders

And so the smoke is rolling around the Farrell story, and it begins to look like something MUST be on fire. The Jays are said to be discussing the compensation with the Sox and for some perverse reason I keep getting the feeling we'll be hearing the name Zack Stewart involved somehow. But since I know nothing on that front I can say nothing but speculation, of which I will offer one bite before getting down to business:

So many of the lists which name the "hot prospects" to become managers in the big leagues include the name of Tory Lovello. I speculate that if/when Farrell departs, Lovello will be elevated to the manager's chair and Chad Motolla will be elevated to the First Base coach role (and unofficial asst. hitting coach). That is unless Sandy Alomar Jr impressed them SO much they are willing to lose both Farrell and Lovello because unless he's the manager here, i'll wage lovello follows Farrell back to Boston.

Now to business. This second in the series of positional lists looks at the middle infield prospects in the Blue Jays' system.

1. Adeniy Hechavarria - (4/15/89)- The guys who get paid to evaluate players continue to say "great fielder, not much bat" but Hech did make great strides offensively this year. Note well that he played in 41 major league games, and in the final 35 his OPS was .714, which sounds weak but actually puts him right in the same neighborhood with two other excellent glove-men, Elvis Andurus and Alcides Escobar - which is frankly the ceiling we were all hoping for all along. Anything more is gravy. I still harbor a suspicion that if one of the two is not traded, the Jays may see an opportunity in the unfortunate incident involving Yunel Escobar to pressure him to submit to a move to 2B (Yunel would seem to have little firm ground to take a stand on at this point).

It would be a bit of a rush for Hech BUT consider this: Over the next two seasons, the Jays will look to integrate three key rookies into their line-up, and that potentially at the three most important defensive positions on the field. It would not be wise to try to d this all at once or in very close succession. It seems to me that there is some wisdom in staggering the introduction of Hech, dArnaud, and Gose into a full time position as much as is practical. Circumstantially, barring a trade, Hech is the one for whom the door is most open as of right now. I look for the Jays to try to land someone like Marco Scutaro who can be shifted to a super-utility role at any given time as needed to accommodate this process.

2. Christian Lopes - (10/1/92) - Lopes was being praised for maturity and professionalism, and a great bat, before he played a game as a senior in high school. He was a shortstop then but he was drafted with 2B in mind and that's where he's played s a pro. He started a bit slowly when assigned to Bluefield in June (an aggressive placement) but came on very strong hitting over .350 in his last 20 games with that team, with a .986 OPS. He was promoted to Vancouver for the playoff drive and started off hot before running out of gas over the last week or two. A conservative placement next season would be to return to Vancouver but I would not be at all surprised to see him pushed to Lansing. The team may well fast-track him if he has no setbacks.

3. Franklin Barreto - (birthdate uncertain) - Ranked here simply because of the great amount of praise the Jays got for signing him. He may end up in CF eventually, but he's not yet played a professional inning so we don't really know anything but that he was a very coveted player as an amateur.

4. Dawel Lugo - (12/13/94)- also highly praised by scouts, Lugo does project to stick at SS and be a good one, though it's unclear at this point how his bat develops. The Jays aggressively began his career in the GCL (rather than the Dominican Summer League) and he didn't hit that well (hardly anyone on that team did) but he'll likely improve going forward - we just don't know how much.

5. Ryan Goins - (2;/13/88) - Workmanlike, low-ceiling utility player. His upside ranges from a Joe Inglett type to maybe something like a Jason Bartlett (as a hitter) but with less glove.

6. Andrew Burns - (8/7/90) -  the flip side of Thon, he came in with no real "credentials" to be considered a top prospect but he stepped up to Lansing this year and, before injury, was having a nice little campaign. He shows quality baserunnning (15 of 17 in steal attempts) and sold doubles power (25 in 78 games) while showing a good eye at the plate (an OBP 103 points higher than his BA).

7. Richard Urena - (birthdate uncertain) - another highly priced Latin American signing, this one from 2011,  I know very little about this guy and the ranking flows entirely from his ranking among Latin free agents that year. Has yet to appear in a pro game.

8. DJ Thon - (11/16/91) it's uncertain how much of what happened in 2012 was the lingering effect of the illness of the previous year, and how much is simply a lack of development and how much is just not being good enough. He needs a breakout season to re-establish his credentials though.

9. Ryan Schimpf (4/11/88) - Dramatically increased his results accros the board in 2012. Strictly a 2B, the smallish (5'9") infielder still produced plenty of pop and a respectable OBP. On the other hand, he played most of the season in Hi-A ball at the age of 24. He needs to do it again.

10. Luis Castro - (birthdate uncertain) - it can be very difficult to rank Latin free agent signing before they have ever played a professional game, and the only real tool you have to work with is how much the signing was hyped and the price point. Castro was considered the 9th best available guy in last year's crop.

Keep your eye on: Ronniel Demorizi - (1/19/95) -  another Latin signing, being developed as a 2B - he spent the summer in the Dominican and didn't make any significant noise. Might be something here but he's a long way off.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Positional Rankings: Outfielders

On the occasion of the LCS opponents being set with the Cardinals storming back to knock out the Nats, I begin my annual fall series looking at the jays farm system by position. I note with interest that a couple of other sites have picked up on my schtick and are probably doing it better but I was doing it first so I'ma keep on doing it.

Anthony Gose (who would have been probably #1 or at least #2) graduated from eligibility this summer as did Moises Sierra who would have fallen no lower than 7th and possibly higher. I also included a couple of bonus listings at then end in recognition of some special circumstances.

1. Jake Marisnick - (3/30/91) - reports have begun to emerge that the Jays spent a good deal of this season refining a change in Marisnicks swing (as they have constantly refined Gose's since his acquisition) and that his season stats do not necessarily reflect anything other than the side effects of that process. I'm as big a believer in Jake as you will find, in fact I'm more excited about him than I've been about any Jays outfield prospect in more than a decade, save Travis Snider (Shaddup!). So I'm willing to grant him a LOT of slack. But as i look around the net i don't see any professional evaluators very down on him so I'm going to assume it's not just me. Marisnick did see to "lock in" on the new swing over the last 10 games posting an OPS of ..969 over that stretch, but it's a tiny sample. At lease one (non-Jays)scout has been quoted as saying he expects a huge breakout season next year in AA. That would work for me.

2. D.J. Davis - (6/27/93) - On draft day i wasn't particularly high on this pick and his work in the GCL was not of a caliber to make me reconsider. But the Jays saw enough to promote him to Bluefield where, in another 10 game sample, he showed quite well..My post-season reading indicates that most observers are high on Davis, considering him a potential Top 10 prospect (no mean feat in this organization) so I'm deferring here to better informed views. Davis is described, in several ways, in similar terms to what you've heard about Gose, except that I've heard nothing to indicate he has the arm Gose does. In fact, the stats indicate that the Bluefield sample was also blessed by a really high BABiP and a quite high ground ball rate which would lead one to suppose that Davis used his speed to pressure young defenders fielding ground balls and that led to the offensive success. Which reminds you of whom?

3. Dwight Smith, Jr. - (10/26/92) - Another 2011 draft pick I was only lukewarm on, in contrast to the reviews of many others. He didn't do a thing at the plate to raise my view of him this year, albeit his season was saddled with an astonishingly low BABiP. Still, there've been enough good reports that I'll give him a mulligan on the first year, and he ends up this high partly because it wasn't a great year for high-profile outfield prospects in the Blue Jays system.

4. Chris Hawkins - (8/17/91) -  Case in point. Hawkins is a LF, unlike the CF above him (albeit Smith probably won't stick there) and as such has to develop as a hitter in order to be a premium prospect. Looking back,Hawkins might have been a bit too highly regarded based on his previous work as he came into the 2012 season. It's a lot harder to hold him in high regard now. Another season like those so far and he'll free fall down this list.

5. Kevin Pillar - (1/4/89) - so far i've factored in heavily scouting reports and draft pedigree and so forth to look beyond stats. Pillar is the opposite of that. Lightly regarded, expected frankly to probably be an org guy, and a bit old for his level - Pillar did nothing but flat out hit this year. He hit better than any other outfielder in the system in fact. Still, scouts agree his ceiling is limited, though he's praised for work ethic, passion, and making the most of his skills. Me:/ I'm already thinking "Reed Johnson 2.0"

6. Wuilmer Becerra - (10/1/94) second only to RHP Roberto Osuna on the list of Jays Latin American players signed in the summer of 2011,  the Jays thought enough of Becerra to start him in the GCL rather than the Dominican League, which is aggressive.  Sadly for our purposes and for his development, he played a total of 1 games before he was hit by a pitch and spent the rest of the season on the DL. There's no point in commenting on his stats. on raw tools he might be the second best guy on this list, but he's so very far away and so much could go wrong.

7. Dalton Pompey - (12/11/92) - Another guy who spent most of the season on the DL. Altogether he accumulated only 20 games played so statistical observations are so much wishcasting - but I'll do it anyway in this regard: Pompey finished the season with 11 games playing for the championship-bound Vancouver Canadians. and in those  11 games he walked nine times. Potential to break out next year.

8. Jacob Anderson - (11/22/92)  here for the tools. After blowing the doors off in his brief 2011 stint, a lot was expected and Anderson delivered virtually nothing on those expectations. some scouting reports suggested he looked confused or hesitant at the plate. He's too high a profile talent to start giving up on but he seriously needs to rebound next year.

9. Jesus Gonzalez - (1/11/95) - Like Becerra, he's a RH Venezuelan OF signed in 2011 and aggressively sent for his first professional work in the GCL. For the most part, he did about what you would expect there and you really shouldn't worry too much about that stat line.  Such players are always very raw.

10. Marcus Kenecht - (6/21/90) - After a breakout 2011 in Lansing, the LF was promoted to Dunedin for 2012 and went right off the cliff. While he maintained reasonably good power his BA was attrocious pretty much all year. He did post decent numbers for August, which perhaps lends some hope that this was a fluke down year. Need a solid season to get back on the map next year.

HM: Anthony Alford - can't put him on the list because he may never actually be a committed prospect for the Jays. But on tools, he'd definitely deserve attention. so I just mention him as a very special case and we can hope he wants to be the next Bo Jackson or something.

DM: Michael Crouse - like Knecht, the promotion to Dunedin was very unkind. After 59 games they returned him to Lansing and he continued to flounder. He doesn't have the pedigree of some other guys on this list and his leash is undoubtedly much shorter. Another guy who needs to bust out in 2013 or risk being cast aside.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Quick Point

A lot has been made lately about some measure of the Jays awful season being attributable to lack of veteran leadership. Even and especially when the subject of injuries come up, some sources - including a few veteran Blue Jays players - point not to the injuries themselves but also to that leadership issue and call for more veteran players. Most recently Jason Frasor was quoted as saying “Too many young guys, too many young guys.”

Really? Let's look more closely. JP Arencibia was in his age 26 season, and while that's generally considered the beginning of the average players peak years, catchers run a bit behind that curve in general and it was just his second season. So let's assign him as the oldest guy in the "young guys" camp. Among those players who played the most games at each position this year, and with the possible exception of left field they were exactly the guys the team intended to have at those positions, six of the ther eight besides Arencibia were veteran players, ranging from Adam Lind's 28 to Raji Davis and Jose Bautista at 31 (both born on October 19, 1980!). the intended and opening day bench included a 29 year old, a 30 year old, and a 45 year old. The 13th hitter, presumptively, was 25 year old Eric Thames who lost his job to Davis.

This, my friends, is NOT a team plagued by youth and inexperience - UNTIL the injuries swamped them. Yes, Gose, Gomes, Hechavarria, and Sierra were thrust into the limelight before they were ready. Because of injuries. Does Frasor mean to say that the team should have been holding a bunch of dewayne Wise types in AAA for the occasion of a run of injuries, and that the team would have faired better with those older guys instead;/

Let's look at the pitching.

Of the five guys who got the most starts this year, only one was younger than 27. Yes, it's true that Hutchison was arguably rushed and Drabek might not have been ideal (albeit if you can't stash a kid in the #5 hope that's asking a bit much - but Hutch was here precisely because of what? McGowan's injury.  So MAYBE you can accept "too many kids" in reference to the rotation. but in the original scenario you have maybe one more kid than is optimal (again, you HAVE to be able to break in at least one young gun at the bottom of the rotation, no matter who you are - even the Yankees would have done so had health not hampered them).

In the bullpen, there were veterans everywhere. Janssen, Oliver, Frasor, Cordero, Villianueva originally, how much more veteran can they be expected to get?

I'll accept the premise, not having been in the clubhouse to see for myself, that the veterans who were present failed to sprinkle the appropriate magic fairy dust or whatever. But please don't try to tell me that  there were not enough veterans there. the influx of unready youth was almost entirely the result of an unusual amount of time lost to injuries and unless one harbors the illusion that a better-than-league-average replacement guy could have been stashed at AAA (not getting at-bats, by the way, since you have to have the actual prospects playing) then you still haven't made a point. would the team have been obviously and considerably better off if they had been able to promote Dewayne Wise or Corey Patterson instead of Anthony Gose in August? Sure, occasionally you get a unpredictable fluke (like Boston got with Podsednick for a while) but you can't plan for those.

Bottom line, the team broke camp with ONE guy who was REALLY young in the starting line-up and that guy was thought by everyone to be the next franchise player and also played a position where there was no really sane alternative. there were two other sorta young guys, one who failed and lost his job to a veteran long ago.In the rotation there was two kids when arguably their ought to have been one. in the bullpen there was no youth issue period. THAT is not a calculation which leads to the conclusion "too many kids, man."

A further thought on this matter, posted 10/9:

By contrast to the above, the Oakland A's stormed down the stretch to overtake the high-dollar Rangers and win the AL West with:

a 23 year old rookie catcher
a 25 year old rookie first baseman
a 26 year old rookie center fielder
a 25 year old 2nd full year right fielder
a 23 year old rookie #2 starter
a 25 year old rookie #3 pitcher
a 24 year old rookie #5 pitcher
a 24 year old starter coming off injury
and three of their five busiest relievers at 25 or younger.

So by all means, tell me again how the Jays had too many kids to compete.