I know what you are thinking - didn't you just write far too many words about prospects? Yes, my last entry was indeed a farm related post (mostly) but that was a ranking reflecting adjustments to the off-season list based on over half a season of work in 2015. The monthly isn't so much about ranking but taking note of who's hot, or not, that deserves a mention as well as assorted player movement and such like.
Speaking of - various reports on Tuesday confirmed that, as predicted last week, Jeff Hoffman is moving up to AA and will start for the Fisher Cats on Friday. More on that in a bit. Hoffman is, of course, all tangled up in trade speculation as the deadline approaches in just over two weeks. The debate rages about the balance between giving up the long-term return on blue chip prospects against the games - and potential playoff games - that can be won by acquiring a premium talent with said prospects. On one hand, it's certain the Blue Jays have to make SOME move this month, and more than just a minor deal for a Danny Valencia-type. It boggles the mind how the fan base might react if they stand pat or, worse, fold their tent. But at the same time, every start by RA Dickey that's not ace-level serves as a cautionary tale about what they might have had in Noah Syndergaard. A Sportsnet poll question asked whether you'd give up Jeff Hoffman for Johnny Cueto (who's set to be a free agent at the end of the season. My answer is that unless I intend to get him under contract before he ever hits the market (and with the Jays' 5-Year limit that's not even a pipe-dream) then no, I don't. Flags fly forever but Cueto alone, as good as he is, doesn't guarantee a flag. Not Norris either though he has more potential to not pan out.
I know it takes value to get value so here's my list of available players with, in my opinion, top trade appeal.
Max Pentacost (value down, can't be centerpiece at this point)
Matt Smoral (ditto, and for the same reason)
Dawel Lugo (stats aren't much, scouts really like the potential though)
Jario Labourt (impressed on the big stage Sunday)
Not all of these guys are centerpiece types of course, but could, for example, Reid-Foley, Lugo and Labourt get you Matt Latos? Yeah, and it might be an overpay, maybe get them to kick in former Jays prospect Sam Dyson or go for closer AJ Ramos while you're at it. Alex Anthopoulos insisted rental players with no control after this season were his last option, but that's what dominates the SP market and it will take some of his best magic to go get a top-end SP with control. It might also mean persuading ownership to take on Cole Hamel's contract or whatever part of it the Phillies will not carry (and assuming you can convince him to waive his NTC) and even if you can do that, you get even more complex negotiations depending on the amount of cash changing hands.
Beyond Hamels, there's Tyson Ross in San Diego (yes please!) or maybe Andrew Cashner aaaand...who? Maybe Mike Fiers, but with 4 years control he shouldn't be on the market. Interestingly, Cashner has an xFIP of 3.70 and our own Drew Hutchinson has an xFIP of 3.78 - if we could get the on field results to match that figure in the second half it would make a big ol' difference. And yes, as I mentioned last week, if someone like the Reds looked at that figure and decided it represented the true Drew and accounted him that trade value, yes, I'd put him in the deal because of all our young pitching assets, he's burned the most control and has the lowest ceiling.
Now, about those minor leagues...
There's not a lot of news out of Buffalo in terms of prospecting. The continued tease that is Daniel Norris continues, for the second time he's been one-more-good-start from getting the call and had the ball bounce away from him. Alex defended his July 1 outing, pointing out the weather led to a lot of bad breaks - but Sunday's game was ugly ever how you parse it. On the offensive side, 3B/1B Matt Hague continues to pound on the door to a crowded room, but there's also Sean Ochinko. The back-up catcher, in 83 AB over 23 GP between May 19 and July 8 hit .386 with a .961 OPS. He'd be starting if the Jays didn't need Josh Thole's bat to stay active (as if...)
In New Hampshire, it's all about Dalton Pompey until the Blue Jays decide he's safe to move up. I'm wondering how much more Ezequiel Carrera they can deal with myself. Also have to take notice of reliever Danny Barnes who's proven himself worthy of promotion if they can find room among the old-timers.
Looking at Dunedin there's the remarkable Alford and Tellez show though it's only 17 games, there's no reason to think either is a SS illusion in terms of talent. The other story offensively is that Mitch Nay, who'd begun to make a few folks invoke then name "Ahrens" finally woke up on June 25 and has been mostly on fire since. He's hit .393 over those 61 at bats - and drawn 7 walks - while running up a .981 OPS, but he didn't hit a single homer over that hot stretch and that's still something the team is looking for. There's not to much on the pitching side to note that hasn't already been said in the previous column, but I'll tip my metaphorical cap to unheralded to Jeremy Gebryszwski who's put up an ERA of 2.48 over his last five appearances with 23 K's against 4 walks in 29 innings. Fact is, the 2011 2nd round pick has only had 2 truly bad starts this year, without those his ERA is 2.80 with good supporting numbers. He's probably as good as most of the guys who've gotten starts in New Hampshire.
In the Lansing rotation, the top remaining performer is Shane Dawson who won't be back until the men's baseball team at the Pan-Am games wraps up, almost certainly on July 19. He stands as the most obvious candidate to be promoted to Dunedin to take over Jeff Hoffman's vacated slot. Next in line is Jesus Tinoco, who's quietly avoided the control issues that hit some of the other young Latin players in the system when they got to full season ball. If there's a guy that a lot of folks are sleeping on on the full season teams, it's Tinoco. Still, the Jays may prefer to move him a bit slower and wait a few more weeks to move him up. He's only 20. There are 3 or 4 relievers worthy of promotion here too. On offense, it's all about Ryan McBroom but with Tellez and Dean both sucking up AB in Dunedin, there's nowhere for him to go.
In Vancouver, if the chain reaction effect takes Dawson to Dunedin the next link in the chain is Clinton Hollon who's shown himself capable of stepping up to Lansing. I'd be shocked if he wasn't there before August (unless he's part of a trade). 2015 draftee Jon Harris will likely move too at some point but probably not for another month or so. Other than those two, and recovering Ryan Borucki, there's not much to talk about at this level. Oh, and recently drafted RP Travis Bergen is off to a hot start.
Continuing the theme of chain-reaction promotions, my pick for Bluefield is Juliandry Higuera. He's been by far the best pitcher for the Appy League team and in the discussion for best in the league. CF Rodrigo Orzoco is hitting well enough to get noticed too, head and shoulders betterthan the other full-time guys.
Finally in the GCL, the last link in the chain is the 2015 draftee that has opened everyone's eyes, Jose Espada. If my chain-promotion theory is right he's the clear choice to move up. Offensively, 33rd rounder Kalik May is lapping the field but recently signed steal Reggie Pruitt hasn't missed a beat and either or both are worthy of consideration to move up.I expect both in Bluefield in short order.