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.