Monday, April 30, 2012

Just so you know . .

I try, for the most part, to focus the content of this blog almost entirely on the Blue Jays and their system. You know by now that i refrain from comments on other baseball teams for the most part, except as how they relate to the Jays, or on other sports at all. Also, with the occasional rare exception i don't talk much about what's going on in my life or what else I do. But it occurs to me that from time to time there are long gaps (long in my view anyway) between posts here and that looks kind of lazy on my part (well, I am kind of lazy, but that's a different story).

The truth is that i'm trying to get a writing career off the ground, while at the same time being terminally unemployed and constantly looking for income. Plain and simple. You may remember that six weeks or so back I did an off-topic post announcing the publication of my e-book Painted Ponies. That's the tip of the iceberg. I'm working, ever so slowly, on a novel that i need to be working much harder on and it takes away writing time from other things, but it's the future. So there may be times when I just don't find the day-to-day machinations of the Blue Jays compelling enough to take time out and post here instead of working on the book, particularly as the field of Blue Jays blogs is more and more saturated with content. if i may say, off topic, when some of the more popular bloggers get into what is essentially full time paid blogging such that they can afford to throw up several posts a day, folks like me simply can't play in that arena..

Also, I have a few other things that I keep my hand in in an effort to both raise my profile (for the books) and bring in a little revenue. For instance, writing for Examiner.com and blogging about my other major interest (which those of you who've known me for years know about).

I really regret that I am forced to neglect this space at times in favor of these other goals. But I'm in a position where I have to make some choices which generate income. I've been unemployed for almost 2 years, and my UI benefits have been exhausted for over nine months. The job search has been insanely unproductive and there's not a lot of prospects on that front. So for my few loyal readers, be patient with me as I try to make things happen which will help turn this thing around.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bring on the Rays

Well I confess the obvious - no matter how much I know it's going to happen, it grinds my gears to see the Jays lose to bad teams. The thesis for contention is you hold your own against the good teams, play .500 or a bit better, and beat up on the sucky teams. This weekend did not please me in that regard.

However, there's a lot to like so far, most notably the good pitching (despite the recent bullpen miss-steps, the Jays are second in the AL in team ERA, perhaps more impressive they have registered the lowest BAA against in the AL to this point. It's .199 and the second lowest is .230 and that's not nothin'.

By contrast, the incoming Rays are (shockingly) a mess right now on the mound. their team ERA is worst in the AL and they've walked more batters than any staff in the league. The Rays have the worst run-differential in all of major league baseball, the Blue Jays are in the top 10.

The picture is somewhat better for them on offense, not because they've been good (as a team they are middle of the pack, and that's with Carlos Pena thinking he's Pujols) while the Blue Jays are 12th in the league in OPS, but the gap between the two is considerably smaller. If the Jays can show some patience over the next few days and see if the wildness continues, good things should happen.

The projected pitching matchups are...

Romero v. Niemann - Niemann has had only one start and it was below average but not awful. Romero seemed to have found his stride last time out.

Morrow v. Price - Price's problem has been control, he's walked as many as he's struck out and the Jays need to give him every opportunity to continue that pattern.

Alvarez v. Hellickson - Alvarez has been terrific, and Hellickson has been the one Rays pitcher that got results, but he walked 7 and struck out 5 so far and that gives the Jays an opportunity to change that.

Whatever worries you might have had about the Jays bullpen wobbles early on, remember that Tampa's group has two guys who have not been embarassingly bad so far.

On offense, Longoria is of course being Longoria which is to be expected. More surprising is that Pena and Luck Scott are even better to this point. The rest have ranged from ordinary to awful. hopefully the Toronto pitching will force one of the three hot hitters to beat them and not let down against the struggling guys.

I'm optimistic that we're catching the Rays at a good time. Over the last four years the Jays are 25-47 vs. the Rays, and it's time that changed if they want to contend with them this year.

Also of note, Evan Crawford is getting a lot of praise as the new man in the pen even though he's only thrown one relatively meaningless inning. I have no evidence for this, and the journalistic professionals seem to think it's unlikely, but with the Jays continued lack of specificity about the 5th starter opening, I wonder if a left-handed pitcher of Crawford's quality doesn't open the door - on purpose - for Luis Perez to get a shot as the stop-gap #5? The safe money is probably on Laffey simply because he pitched Monday night which puts him on rotation to start again on 4/21 - but I want to be on record with my Perez hunch were I can brag if i turn out to be right.


Friday, April 13, 2012

One Week in the Books

Catch your breath, look around, take in the scenery, what do you see?

Looking at the big league club, I'm mostly pleased. The starting pitching has been almost uniformly excellent, the the bullpen has turned in a lot of good work, two blown saves notwithstanding, and the staff overall has a 2.57 ERA.

The hitters are not yet where they need to be but I have a theory about that (which also applies to Sergio Santos in the first couple of outings) - they seem to be a bit TOO keyed up with their big expectations. almost as if the expectation of winning every game (which is good) leads to too much pressing to put every game away (which isn't).

To the surprise of many, Kelly Johnson, Edwin Encarnacion, and Raji Davis have carried the offense which, despite a lot of struggling, has still scored an above average number of runs. The next six games at home feature three against the worst team in the division and three against what may be the best. it should be a fascinating early season barometer for whether they are going to settle quickly into a groove or continue to be slightly off-balance.

Looking across the farm system, I just want to note the guys who are making a case to climb the prospect list out of the gate. I won't say too much about disappointments as the sample size is too ridiculous too speak negatively about anyone. also, there's less to say about the guys who are already top-10 guys, it's more about the lesser lights who are shining brighter.

Here's the Southpaw Hot Sheet for the week (in future weeks there will be a "not" list too)

1. Sean Nolin, SP, Dunedin - if you are not paying attention to this guy, WAKE UP! He pitched as great a game Thursday night as you will see in the Jays system this year. Don't sleep on him.

2. John Stilson, SP Dunedin - Is still building up his endurance, but hasn't given up a run in two appearances and has looked like everything we hoped he'd be.

3. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS Las Vegas - still hitting over .400 with consistent hard line-drive contact. Not just PCL inflation here so far.

4. Marcus Kencht, LF, New Hampshire - not a lightly regarded guy, but off to a hot start.

5 (tie) Justin Jackson and Brad Glenn, OF, New Hampshire - the former top-prospect Jackson and the always lightly regarded Glenn are carrying the NH offense right now.

HM: Andy Burns - I've noted a couple of scouts comment on Burns, the Lansing SS, as a nice sleeper to watch.

Who has impressed you so far?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Home Cooking!

Not too much to add to what you already know, but one can hardly let the home opener arrive without throwing out a post of some sort, right?

Initial observations, with the MASSIVE caveat that it is ridiculously earlyto have an opinion about anything at all:

Kelly Johnson is getting off to a good start impressing the doubters.

Colby Rasmus isn't.

John Farrell's managing is off to an impressive (to me) start.

The bullpen has been magnifico!

The team ERA as a whole is 1.93, good for second in the AL, however on the flip side, they have an intolerably high 14 walks in 28 IP which is something that will need to get better. Of course, the Orioles are #1 (thanks to the Twins' horrible offense) so, grains of salt and stuff like that.

In other news, McGowan hasn't thrown yet and won't for another week or more and it's said he will have to essentially "start over" in terms of rebuilding his arm strength, just like it was mid-February. So when you hear that's he's thrown with no ill effects. figure at least six weeks from that point before they start figuring out how to work him into the majors.

Brett Cecil will make his first AA start on Monday.

Joel Carreno will get a start or two in Vegas while the Jays go with 4 starters. they will have to do some maneuvering in order to line his pitch schedule up with the next day they need a #5, which is April 21. The same is true of Cecil, by the way.

Meanwhile, Aaron Laffey fills the empty roster spot in Toronto and if we are all blessed he won't ever actually be called upon to throw a pitch before he's shipped back out. I'll accept it if he ends up with some garbage innings but I'd much rather have another look at Chad Beck. I suspect maybe this is a bit of a good-faith payback to Laffey since they had made some promises to him when he signed. This at least gives him a chance to see his income go way up for a couple of weeks.

Some of the Jays higher ranked SP prospects got beat up this weekend in their first start, but there's a lot of caveats this early in the year so be patient with that.

finally, Henderson Alvarez is not yet 22, and in a few hours he will officially be the youngest pitcher to ever draw the home-opener assignment for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Gotta love it!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Days of Cecil Past

It shouldn't take one of my trademark long winded posts to cover this, particularly when i'm writing as usual after everyone else you read has already weighed in. but I do have acouple of observations on today's rotation shuffle.

Item: Drabek in - If you've been following me you know I've said for ever since McGowan came up lame that there was an unstated competition between Drabek and Cecil to be the guy who was still in Toronto when McGowan returned. Turns out Cecil accelerated that process. Which, IMO, is ultimately a good thing for everyone although I'm sure Cecil doesn't see it that way now. I've had a barely disguised desire all winter to see Drabek and McGowan come to camp and be so very good that Cecil is clearly the sixth best option because they are more likely to be integral to the future than he is (and this became more obvious with McGowan's contract extension).

For reasons which I'll get to in a moment, I always figured that before Hutch & co. arrived, the Jays needed to field a rotation of Romero/Morrow/McGowan/Alvarez/Drabek for as long as possible to see what they had there. In my opinion, with health, that might be their best five even when the kids start arriving. Spending a lot of time being fair with Cecil was counter-productive to that end (as signing or trading for another veteran pitcher, such as Gavin Floyd, would have been). So while it's the least remarked upon item of the day, it's the best news to me - Drabek is in, and likely will be until/unless he proves he's not worthy. Even when McGowan is ready.

Item: Laffey to Vegas - Good. with all the available options, anything which puts Laffey in a Blue Jays uniform can only be considered disastrous news.

Item: Cecil to New Hampshire - Just to be clear, if you have not heard Cecil was given the choice of AAA or AA and wisely chose the latter. it's closer, the pitching environment is much better, and he apparently has a good working relationship with AA pitching coach Tom Signore. That said, let's be frank - you've probably seen the end of Cecil as a starter for the Blue Jays. He's either going to end up in another organization or, more likely, take the Janssen/Litsch track to the bullpen. where, by the way, he might very well be a pretty high quality option. Remember guys like Scott Downs and Darren Oliver who were mediocre or worse starters and excellent LH relievers.

John Farrell's comments today about the choice of Carreno was as revealing as you can get. He said the management believes they need power from their starters. Hard throwers. As a starter, that's the thing Cecil manifestly ain't gonna be. He would have had to have ben exceptional to overcome that bias and I don't think even being exceptional puts him back in the top five if everyone is healthy. when four spots out of five are preemptively locked in, assuming health, the window is very small. In all likelihood, it's closed on Cecil as a starter in Toronto, just as it has on Litsch. However, down the road that's good news for the Jays bullpen. It might be difficult to do at the distance of AA ball, but if Cecil can learn from Casey Janssen to embrace the idea that being in a major league bullpen is better than being a stubborn minor league starter - if he can learn from Darren Oliver how to turn a mediocre starting repitoire into highly effective set-up skill-set, then he still has a place in the Blue Jays future.

Item: Joel Carreno in the rotation - Yes he starts the third game, but be very clear that he's the 5th starter and the place-holder for McGowan. There's a clear path for the Jays to tweak the rotation so as to put him in that spot, and it's obvious that between him and Drabek he's the guy who can slide into a relief role until he's needed to start again which barring a miracle recovery from Dusty will be April 21.
Carreno is the sort of guy who should do well in his first turn or two through the league. one might suspect that the longer he's exposed the more his tendency to a bit of wildness will let the league catch up to him, but he's not going to be in the rotation long term - more than a month would be surprising. Then comes McGowan and, should a need arise in June or later, it's more likely to be Jenkins, Hutch, or McGuire - albeit if Carreno dominates in this stint they may reward him with another go and ride him until the results fade. The point is, though, that there's reasonable reason for optimism.

Item: Carlos Vilianueva is still in the bullpen - (so is Luis Perez) some members of the media, particularly Bob McCowan, have openly questioned why the Jays have given no hint that Villianueva is a candidate to plug into these gaps. of course the simple answer is that he's not stretched out, but John Farrell has specifically said "that's not going to happen." for whatever reason, the Jays have decided they simply do not want to do that.
The question does not pose answers that are THAT obvious from the outside looking in. Mike Wilner was ask on the air during the season preview show tonight about the possibility and he called it a myth that Villianueva pitched well as a starter last year, but that's not really true. Carlos V got 13 starts and for the first nine of those, he was excellent. He had a 3.67 ERA, a .648 OOPS, and solid if not eye-popping ratios. but he went completely off the rials over the last 4 starts, with an ERA over 9 and a DL trip at the end. The common assumption was that the decline is and was attributable to fatigue, and perhaps it was, or perhaps the Jays think the league caught up to him, or some combination of the two. In any case, don't hold your breath on this idea.

Item: Dusty McGowan is still on the DL - earlier in the week the team said he wouldn't try to throw for 5-7 days and Farrell commented that ever how long you laid off, it would take about that much longer to get back into game action. From there you need to build back up to at least 74-80 pitches on rehab. Looking at the calendar then, Dusty doesn't project to be in a re-hab start before the middle of the month at the earliest, and there will not be less than three of those. that means there's not any possibility that McGowan pitches in Toronto during the month of April.

For the purposes of the following projection, I'm penciling him in lightly for May 1, but if we don't hear a good report about him throwing a bullpen by next Monday afternoon you can expect that date to start slipping even further back. If the Jays get into the third week of may without him, they might start suffering some setbacks. by that time, they should have a pretty solid read on both Drabek and Carreno, as well as have had seven or eight looks at the four options in New Hampshire.

4/5 -- at Cleveland - Romero
4/6 -- off
4/7 -- at Cleveland - Morrow
4/8 -- at Cleveland - Carreno
4/9 -- Boston - Alvarez
4/10 - Boston - Drabek
4/11 - Boston - Romero
4/12 - off
4/13 - Baltimore - Morrow
4/14 - Baltimore - Alvarez
4/15 - Baltimore - Drabek
4/16 - off
4/17 - Tampa - Romero
4/18 - Tampa - Morrow
4/19 - Tampa - Alvarez
4/20 - at KC - Drabek
4/21 - at KC - Carreno (most likely)
4/22 - at KC - Romero
4/23 - at KC - Morrow
4/24 - at Baltimore - Alvarez
4/25 - at Baltimore - Drabek
4/26 - at Baltimore - Carreno (?)
4/27 - Seattle - Romero
4/28 - Seattle - Morrow
4/29 - Seattle - Alvarez
4/30 - Texas - Drabek
5/1 - Tex - Carreno/McGowan
5/2 - Tex - Romero
5/3 - at LA - Morrow
5/4 - at LA - Alvarez
5/5 - at LA - Drabek
5/6 - at LA - Carreno/McGowan
5/7 -
5/8 - at Oak - Romero
5/9 - at Oak - Morrow
5/10 - at Min - Alvarez
5/11 - at Min - Drabek
5/12 - at Min - Carreno/McGowan
5/13 - at Min - Romero

After this you have 10 of the next 13 against TB, NY and Tex and the other three against an NL team (true it's the Mets but still, the NL has been a problem for the Jays). So Carreno will have 3-4 chances to make a name for himself, and Drabek will have 4-5 to begin to prove he's the guy the team hoped he'd be a year ago. Before Dusty pushes someone out. and as I said, by 5/13 the quartet in AA will have each had at least 7 starts (if healthy)) so if the Jays get to the hard part of the schedule and someone isn't pulling his weight, they will have had time to get a solid read on on the "Plan B" options.

I realize a lot of folks are saying tonight things which amount to "See? this proves the jays should have gone out and gotten Floyd/Gonzalez/Latos/somebody!" I'm still not in that group. I'd rather watch our guys as block our guys.

One other point I should address. It was pointed out to me on Batter's Box that I argued (albeit, before the come-apart of the last couple of weeks) that ZIPS possibly undersold Cecil and that there was a reasonable expectation that he was projectable as a 2 WAR guy, and that that comment seems to stand in opposition to my comments in other places that Cecil's future ultimately is in the Jays pen or out of town (and that a comment I was making before the last couple of weeks). In fact, in my view, the two do not conflict. In my opinion (and the actual data might prove me wrong) a 1.5-2 WAR pitcher is just an average guy. the sort of person who might give you 180-200 innings and an ERA+ of 95-105.
That's what I thought Cecil was a month ago. that's what i think he is long term right now (although i concede the possibility that if the last couple of weeks are the sign of a deeper issue that might change the paradigm). The "bullpen future" comment is not "getting off the Cecil bandwagon" but rather my strong confidence that the team has five major-league ready SP who are notably more talented than he is. that is, to put a finer point on it, all that was necessary for Drabek to pass him was for Drabek to simply be a reasonable facsimile of what the team thought they were getting. If he ends up being as good as the projections a year ago suggested, he's considerably better than Cecil.
So saying Cecil is a 1.5-2 WAR guy and saying "he's at best the sixth best option, and in time will slide from that point" are not contradictory statements. A year from now, Cecil might well be the 8th, 9th, or worse option - and STILL be the guy that, if he were pitching for, say, Kansas City, be a 2 WAR guy.

So you can see - I believe in our depth. let's get this part started, I smell playoffs!

Monday, April 2, 2012

40 Names to know for 2012

One of the weaknesses of Top Prospect lists is that there has to be some limit to who is considered a prospect, which ends up excluding young guys who are not veterans, but also not prospects. Additionally, you don't get a chance to comment on guys who are in some unusual circumstance.

Glaringly, there's little chance to say "watch this guy" when "this guy" is not widely considered a "top prospect." So the idea behind the "names to know" list is to have more flexibility that a standard prospect ranking.

The last time I made such a list, I made it for 2011 in the fall of 2010. I'm pretty pleased with the top of the list - through #19 I was in good shape. But over the next 19 I managed to praise Bad Emaus, Darin Mastroianni, Gus Pierre, and Griffin Murphy, as well as nod in the direction of several other low-ceiling guys. In the final third, I was clever/lucky enough to take note of Luis Perez, Justin Nicolino, Mike Crouse, Chris Hawkins, Yan Gomes, and Nestor Molina.

The list was almost entirely prospects or near-prospects, as I was treating it more as a different sort of "top prospect" list. Looking back at my description on that list, I was basically just excusing the idea that I could call as many as 60 players "prospects" when really, thinking you have even 20 future major league regulars in your system is wildly optimistic (notwithstanding, the trick is to know WHICH 20).

That was a bit of fail on my part as it ends up being awfully redundant. This one will be a bit wider in focus. These are the top guys I will be watching this year to see something big happen. that includes major leaguers, real top prospects, and other minor leaguers who might come out of nowhere (as Molina did last year).

The order here is an approximation of how interested I am in the outcome, more so than a ranking of who are the best players.

1. Dustin McGowan - Call me childishly naive if you want, I believe in this fairy tale. I'm so hungry for the storybook magic that I am prepared to set myself up for the crushing disappointment which will ensue if his shoulder blows up again. If he stays healthy, he could be among the 10 or so best starters in the AL, he really is THAT good. It's all a matter of how quickly his feel comes back (command and control) and how many innings he can throw.

2. Brandon Morrow - This time last year, I said Morrow could easily be a Cy Young candidate. I stand by that assessment and any year now, you will see it happen. If things go well for both these guys, Ricky Romero - without any regression - could find himself the third best guy in the rotation . . .

3. Henderson Alvarez - . . . and by 2013, maybe 4th. Alvarez, barring injury, is going to take his place among the best pitchers the Blue jays have ever developed. The only question besides injury is how rapidly that curve develops and whether there are any back-steps along the way. with health and good performance, there's a chance that those 4 guys will settle in as the core rotation for the next 3-4 years, not unlike the heyday of the Maddox-Braves or the Hudson-Athletics. Young bucks in the minors not even factored in.

4. Colby Rasmus - So much turns around how well this kid finds his groove again. The Jays will have a good offense even if he flops again, but it would be so much better if he didn't, plus the projection going forward has fewer question marks if he gets good again. If he's only mediocre, the uncomfortable questions of how and when Anthony Gose is integrated into the big leagues become problematic in terms of looking ahead at the construction of the team in upcoming years.

5. Brett Lawrie - I've drunk the kool-aid. I won't be bitterly disappointed if he's not at least on the fringes of the MVP race this year and every year, but I'd be more than a little surprised. if he doesn't get hurt, a decade from now we will be pretty confident he's the best baseball player the Blue Jays have ever developed (don't quibble me about whether or not they "developed" him - I use that word for players who's first major league appearance was in a Blue Jays uniform)

6. Kyle Drabek - mainly what i'm watching here is (a) how he handles being on the outside looking in if McGowan pushes him back to the minors; and (b) will he be good enough (and Cecil shaky enough) to force his way into the rotation. I'm also watching to see if he becomes the 5th guy in a quintet that is so very good that there's no way to squeeze a Hutchison or whomever into the majors.

7. Adeiny Hechavarria - I know i know, the whole business of everyone assuming that any apparent offensive improvement can be written off as the PCL effect will constantly be hanging over every discussion. I'll be watching every corner to see what the scouting says because so far, they are saying he's taken an important leap in his hitting ability.

8. Travis Snider - I love Eric Thames and do not want to see him fail, but if he doesn't Snider is really up against the roster math barring injury. I intensely dislike that and I'm watching for him to (a) destroy AAA pitching in order to force the question; and (b) mentally handle the situation in the meantime.

9. Aaron Sanchez - Can he step up and join Syndergaard and Nicolino in posting results consistent with what the scouts are seeing? In that draft he was my irrational favorite and I'm real interested in seeing if his command improves this year.

10. Jake Marisnick - Some think he could be the Jays top prospect a year from now and maybe even climb into the top 20 or so in all the minor leagues. maybe my favorite position player prospect in the system, I'm a sucker for hearing observers praise him and i expect there will be a ton of that this summer.

11. Mike Crouse - Everyone knows about Jake Marisnick, Crouse is the sleeper. But in terms of raw physical ability, there's still some room for a ton of projection, and he stayed in the same neighborhood with Jake most of last year before some nagging August injuries.

12. Adonys Cardona - Another pitcher who has a big place in my heart, particularly having read some comments on how well he did in 2011. This is a guy who MIGHT put his name on everyone's lips by this time next year.

13. Carlos Perez - the team still loves him, despite an off year in his first go at full-season ball. they believe the Latin prospect had difficulty adjusting to the cold in Lansing and never got on track. He'll try again at that level to start the season.

14. Chris Hawkins - will he explode at Lansing this year the way Marisnick did last year? some think it's possible.

15. Chad Jenkins - not really one of my favorite prospects overall, but I'm pretty curious as to whether the improvements noted in ST are for real. If they are, the AA rotation could be insane.

16. DJ Thon - finally healthy, will he take some time to get rolling or step up and put himself solidly on the map?

17. John Stilson - really want to see him healthy, if he is then he'll be one of the guys we will be excited about six months from now.

18. Anthony Gose - Go-go Gose will always be fascinating because of his wheels, what I'll be interested in is whether he improves the hit-tool as much as the team seems to expect he will. I'd love to have seen that play out by starting the year with 8-10 weeks in AA, both because i like it as a true test of his potential improvement, and because with both he and d'Arnaud, I'd like to see the Jays slow their progression to give the positional conflict more time to play out.

19. JP Arencibia - I could say, in this spot, that I'm watching d'Arnaud (and I will be of course) but Travis seems to be more a guy who's on a specific steady growth curve in terms of skills I can't see from this distance. I have no doubt he will be knocking down fences in Vegas. My curiosity is to what extent, if any, will JP be able to defy the presumption that he's the lesser hitter of the two and he's destined to be pushed aside eventually. Particularly in light of how tight he is with Lawrie.

20. Roberto Osuna - will the push him to the GCL? If so, it will be something to watch to see how he handles the older players. A guy who pitched in the Mexican league and held his own at 15 is certainly a guy to watch.

21. Marcus Kencht - I can't not mention the third part of the Three Amigos outfield which moves up to Dunedin this year. some observers think he's the best pure hitter of the three.

22. Asher Wojciechowski - I admit it, I'm not as sentimental about him as i am about some of the other SP prospects, and have a very strong hunch he ends up as a power-reliever. But I am interested to see if his second-half recovery last year is an indication of what can be expected in 2012 and beyond.

23. Matt Dean - my favorite position player pick in the 2011 draft, and a guy I was irrationally exuberant about signing, i expect Dean to follow the path blazed by Hawkins and Marisnick before him and step up big to justify his signing bonus.

24. Christian Lopes - another pick I really like, but my expectations for him are a bit more realistic. Not that I won't be keeping a close check on him.

25. Jake Anderson - not a guy who was "my pick" after the draft, but his very small sample in the GCL last year got my attention and i'll be watching to see if perhaps I'd underestimated the guy.

26. Dwight Smith, Jr - I was underwhelmed with this pick, but I've seen some really nice reports on him over the winter. I'm happy to be proven wrong.

27. KC Hobson - last year was a big disappointment for a guy I had pegged as a sleeper. Really needs to rebound this year.

28. Kelen Sweeney - how well will he bounce back from a year lost to injury?

29. Evan Crawford - is he really as good as we've heard this spring? Anthopoulos raved, and Anthony Gose called him the best pitcher in the (loaded!) system. that's enough to make me look closely and then some.

30. Brett Cecil - I'm actually not that interested in him as a starter. He seems at this point more to be filler than future; but if - when - the Jays concede they have five better candidates for the rotation, I'm more than a little intrigued by the idea of moving him back to relief and seeing if he recovers the velocity he showed in college, or, like Darren Oliver and Scott downs, learns how to become a crucial late-inning lefty after a mediocre stab at starting. He might be traded at some point, but I can envision a future where he's a key cog in the Jays' pen. I find it hard to imagine one where he's a key starter for them.

31. Tyler Ybarra - if there's an under-the-radar guy who might explode as Molina did last year, Ybarra might be that guy.

32. Moises Sierra - time to turn tools into results, and difficult to evaluate (for an outsider like me) at Vegas. I'd rather they had held him back at AA for a half-season more.

33. Yan Gomes - how much time will the Jays devote to teaching him 3B in order to increase his flexibility as a potential major league reserve player?

34. Sean Ochinko - his ceiling is as a bench guy, at best - maybe something like what Eric Hinske turned out to be, albeit from the other side of the plate. I'm only curious if he re-establishes himself after an off year.

35. Gus Pierre - being converted to 3B, as has long been expected. Can the raw young man separate the process of learning a new defensive position from his hitting process? the appearance last year, looking in from the outside, was that his horrible defense affected his growth as a hitter.

36. David Cooper - is there any way he can convince rival scouts that he's a valuable asset to acquire for a team needing a first baseman?

37. Ericdavis Marquez - the guy with the most unusual name in baseball blew up large in the DSL last summer, I'll be watching to see if he can carry that success up the ladder, which is something many sleeper guys fail to do.

38. Kevin Pillar - low round pick, no pedigree, the sort of guy who dominates in the short seasons and is exposed at higher levels - but I always keep one eye out for the exception to that rule.

39. Chino Vega - Short season illusion from the little guy, or something going on there?

40. Jerry Gil - will this shortstop-to-pitcher conversion result in a quality player too?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Minor league rosrters!

Thanks to Gerry at Batter's Box, we can comment on the make-up of the opening rosters of the four full-season minor league teams in the Jays farm system. without a lot of fluff - here they are with my comments:
(top 25 most important names - according to me - bolded)

Las Vegas:

SP- Aaron Laffey, Scott Richmond, Jim Hoey, Tim Redding, Bill Murphy

Bullpen - Chad Beck, Andrew Carpenter, Jesse Chavez, Jerry Gil, Bobby Korecky, Ryan Igarashi, Robert Coello, Clint Everts

DL - Randy Boone, Stephen Marek

Thoughts - Watch Beck, Carpenter, and Gil. Everything else here is filler.

Catcher - Travis d'Arnaud, Yan Gomes

Infield - David Cooper, Ricardo Nanita, Ruban Gotay, Adeniy Hechevarria, Chris Woodward, Mike McCoy

Outfield - Travis Snider, Anthony Gose, Mosies Seirra, Danny Perales

DL - Brian Bocock, Gabriel Jacabo

Thoughts - an unusually solid squad for Vegas, which is really faint praise but still, there are four star-quality guys in the starting line-up and two more who should be solid contributors. The question is why is there so little in the way of a good option at 3B?

New Hampshire:

SP - Drew Hutchenson, Deck McGuire, Chad Jenkins, Joel Carreno, Ryan Tepera

Bullpen - Evan Crawford, Danny Farquhar, Trystan Magnuson, Ronald Uviedo, Aaron Loup, Matt Daly, Yohan Pino, Fernando Hernandez

DL - Alan Farina, Wes Ethridge

Thoughts - It's striking that Carreno is back at AA, which he handled easily in 2011. One can only assume this is the most glaring signal yet that any pitcher the team thinks highly of as a prospect won't be tortured in Las Vegas barring some unusual circumstance. it wouldn't be shocking to see Drabek, if he's squeezed out in Toronto, pitching here instead of in AAA. further evidence might be noted by the presence of the first three names listed among the relievers, any of whom might easily be in AAA in another organization.

Beyond that logistical stuff, this looks to be one helluva rotation - among the best in the minors if Jenkin's reported improvements are for real.

Catcher - Antonio Jimminez, Brian Jeroloman

Infield - Mike McDade, Koby Clemens, Jon Diaz, Ryan Goins, Mark Sobolewski, Kevin Howard

Outfield - John Tolisano, Justin Jackson, Brad Glenn, Brad McElroy, Brian Van Kirk

Thoughts - Jimenez and McDade are the only guys with real promise here, though it would be a fun story-line if Clemens made something of himself (beware the temptation to get hooked on him, remember the cautionary tale of Dopirak). Goins might be a fringy prospect at best, the rest are basically OP at this point. That's not to say there won't be some offense. Glenn, McElroy and Van Kirk are all guys who are likely to hit well, but they are too old to be actual prospects.

Dunedin:

SP - Asher Wojciechowski, John Stilson, Sean Nolin, Casey Lawrence, Egan Smith

Bullpen - Matt Wright, Dan Barnes, Dustin Antolin, Sam Dyson, Scott Gracey, Dayton Marze, Shawn Griffith, Steve Turnbull, Boomer Potts

Thoughts - The top three in this rotation is only a little behind the AA crew in terms of potential, and likewise, the first 3-4 relievers are worthy of your notice. if Dyson's fragile health can sustain starting, then the rotation has that much more upside (he has a higher ceiling than lawrence or smith by far).

Catcher - Sean Ochinko, Jack Murphy

Infield - Jon Talley, Ryan Scimpf, Ivan Contreras, Kevin Nolan, Oliver Dominguez, Kevin Aherns

Outfield - Marcus Knecht, Jake Marisnick, Mike Crouse, Kenen Bailli, Jon Jones

Thoughts - It's no secret that this offense will be driven almost entirely by the starting outfield, but WHAT an outfield! The only other guy here worth your notice is Ochinko, who will be looking to rebound from his first off year. Some thing Jon Talley still profiles as a sleeper but, IMO, he's a DEEP sleeper.

Lansing:

SP - Justin Nicolino, Noah Syndergaard, Aaron Sanchez, Tyler Ybarra, Tony DeSclafini

Bullpen - Marcus Walden, Brandon Berl, Kramer Champlin, Dave Rollins, Javiar Avendano, Jesse Hernandez, Blake McFarland, Ajay Meyer

Thoughts - and again, this is potentially one of the best rotations in the minors. The top 3 guys here are all consensus members of the Blue Jays Top 10 prospects club. lansing fans have to love that. Not only that, but Rollins isn't a bad starter (so far) and Ajay Meyer, though he has no real pedigree, was darned good last year starting in short-season ball. On the other hand, there's no notable names among the career relievers here.

Catcher - Carlos Perez, Peirce Rankin, Chris Schaffer

Infield - K.C. Hobson, Kevin Patterson, Jorge Vega-Rosado, Jon Berti, Andrew Burns, Kelin Sweeney, Bryson Namba

Outfield - Chris Hawkins, Kenny Wilson, Kevin Pillar, Marcus Brisker

Thoughts - Two potential stars here - Hawkins and Perez, two more who have a chance to establish their prospect status after lost years - Sweeney and Hobson, and don't neglect to keep one eye on Pillar. Not an all-star lineup, but certainly enough offense to support such a great rotation.

Overall, the ability to boast at least nine (and potentially as many as twelve) future major league pitchers among three minor league rotations out of the top four is simply insane. Add to that 10 top shelf position player prospects and another 8-10 interesting guys and this is a system that very much lives up to it's clippings.