Top Jays Prospects: April Performance Reviews (LoA and HiA)

As we get into the 2nd month of the season, here is a review of the Jays prospects that are making big strides towards a successful season, many that are struggling, and some that are exceeding expectations thus far in 2011. Of note is the omission of David Cooper who is currently rostered with the Jays after earning a shot with a stellar month of April.

In order to make it a little more interesting, I’ll be covering 5 prospects from each level (LoA-AAA) for a total of 20 prospects in each category (Hot-Cold) and will add an honorable mention and one prospect that is exceeding expectation at each level. It will be split into 2 instalments (LoA/HiA and AA/AAA). Here is the first instalment:

LoA LANSING LUGNUTS

HOTTEST LANSING PROSPECTS

5) Michael Crouse (20)

  • 71 AB / 17 Hits / 4 doubles / 3 triples / 3 HRs / 17 RBI / 8 BB / 12 SO / 12 SBs / 1 CS / and a .239/.337/.507 line.
  • He hasn’t struck out much, is showing a lot of power and even more speed and could definitely improve on that by making better contact. If he improves his AVG and OBP in May, he could find his way to Dunedin in no time, along with both of his current Lansing OF team mates.

4) Marcus Knecht (20)

  • 51 AB / 17 hits / 5 doubles / 2 HRs / 10 RBI / 7 BB / 12 SO / 1 SB / and a .333/.424/.549 line.
  • This Canadian is improving as the season wears on and only has been slowed by an early injury that cost him a little more than a week’s ABs. He is hitting .406 over his last 10 games with 6 of his 7 extra base hits coming over that span of time.

3) Carlos Perez (20)

  • 78 AB / 24 hits / 5 doubles / 2 triples / 0 HR  / 9 RBI / 7 BB / 12 SO / 2 SB / 2 CS / and a .308/.360/.423 line.
  • Perez is getting exactly what he needs this season, a ton of playing time and experience behind the plate. He has slowed down slightly over his last 10 games (.268 avg), but overall you have to be impressed with the start to his first full season of pro ball. He should continue to get a chance at majority playing time in Lansing until the Jays are ready to move A.J. Jimenez to AA.

2) Drew Hutchison (20)

  • 5 GS / 27 IP / 26 HA / 6 BB / 29 Ks / 2 HB / 8 ER / 2.67 ERA
  • Thus far, he has been only roughed up once in a 3 inning start against Dayton that had him give up 7 hits, 2 walks, and 3 ER over that span. Otherwise, he has gone at least 5 innings in each start and leads Lansing starters in most categories (aside from whip, which has Casey Lawrenceleading with a 1.08 total). His average against stands at a decent .250, and he could be challenged mid-season with a promotion to HiA Dunedin if he keeps this pace up.

1) Jake Marisnick (20)

  • 85 AB / 31 hits / 5 doubles / 2 triples / 3 HRs / 21 RBI / 9 BB / 18 SO / 11 SB / 3 CS / and a .365/.455/.576 line.
  • If you don’t already own Jake in your fantasy pool, go out and grab him because he has Grady Sizemore (in his prime) like potential in terms of stats. He may even be better in terms of average. Still learning to steal bases effectively, he’s been caught a few times, but it’s still obvious that he’ll be a threat to steal each time he steps up to the plate. I have a feeling that when he is ready to make the jump to The Show, he may be taking over RF from Jose Bautista who will likely become a full time DH. Jake has proven to have enough arm and power to take on RF.

HONOURABLE MENTION:

  • Casey Lawrence (23): 3.38 ERA over 4 starts with a 1.08 whip mostly due to only having allowed 1 walk in 24 innings of work!!

COLDEST LANSING PROSPECTS

5 – Daniel Webb (21)

  • 4 GS / 19.2 IP / 27 HA / 6 BB / 11 Ks / 6.41 ERA / 1.68 WHIP
  • I don’t think anyone expected this horrible a start from Webb. The recipient of a $450,000  signing bonus after being drafted in the 18th rd of the 2009 draft, Webb sure hasn’t lived up to Jays expectations thus far. The one caveat is that he did have 1 great start of his 4, where he lasted 7 strong innings with 4 hits allowed, 0 ER, 2 BB and 2 Ks, so there is hope that he’ll be able to turn it around with some hard work.

4 – Misaul Diaz (21)

  • 5 GS / 19 IP / 23 HA / 14 BB / 12 Ks / 7.11 ERA / 1.95 WHIP
  • He leads the Lugnuts with 3 HRs allowed and is walking way too many hitters. What could that indicate? Well, it could be that he doesn’t yet trust his stuff and is therefore avoiding the strike zone, or that he’s just entirely wild. In either case, he needs to find the strike zone and to find it quick, because there are a ton of arms that will soon be knocking on Lansing’s door and will be looking to take his spot in the rotation.

3 – Dayton Marze (22)

  • 6 GP / 15 IP / 21 HA / 8 BB / 9 Ks / 6.00 ERA / 1.93 WHIP
  • Marze has inexplicably fallen apart after what was a dominant season in Auburn in 2010, when he had 8 saves and a 2.73 ERA to his credit. When a 22 year old reliever in LoA ball has an ERA over 6 and Whip close to 2 a month into the season, it’s very worrisome to say the least. We’ll see if he can pull through this tough period, but right now it looks like either something is wrong health wise, or he is over matched by hitters.

2 – Garis Pena (19)

  • 45 AB / 6 hits / 1 HR / 4 RBI / 3 BB / 18 SO / 1 SB / 1 CS / and a .133/.188/.200 line.
  • I’m giving Pena the benefit of the doubt here because he was rushed to Lansing despite having little success in the GCL. One would think that he would receive at least 1 season in Short Season LoA ball before going to Lansing, but the Jays decided to push him and see what he could do. Close to nothing is what that ended up being. Look for him to join Vancouver ASAP to get the experience he needs.

1 – Gustavo Pierre (19)

  • 76 ABs / 15 hits / 2 doubles / 5 RBI / 7 BB / 21 SO / 3 SB / and a .197/.265/.224 line AND 18 errors.
  • Unlike Pena, Pierre did get his time in SS and held his own despite being 18 years old at the time. He still has a long ways to go before he can be called a prospect at all and it seems to be getting worse as he now has a .161 average over his last 10 games. With only 2 extra base hits to his credit, he can ill afford to not make consistent contact. To make things worse, he absolutely cannot hit LHP, holding a .095 average over 21 ABs thus far in 2011. It looks like the best we can hope or at this point is that he has a steep learning curve very soon and can progress well enough to become a platoon/bench player. I’d like to add that the Jays have continued to play him in the infield despite his making 18 errors this season. Something’s gotta give here. Either move him to 2B or move him to the OF. It’s abundantly clear that SS is not the position for Pierre.

PROSPECT EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS IN LANSING

Jonathan Jones (21)

  • 42 AB / 12 hits / 3 doubles / 4 RBI / 5 BB / 4 SO / 3 SB / 3 CS / and a .286/.375/.357 line.
  • For any OF to get playing time when the other options are Crouse, Knecht, and Marisnick is incredible on its own. But, Jones got the chance when Knecht was injured and has run with it well enough to continue to get playing time once he returned. The 2010 29th rounder only got 200 ABs in 2010 while splitting time between the GCL and SS, so it’ll be interesting to see how long the Lugnuts continue to put him out there and whether a promotion of one of the stellar top 3 OF in Lansing will allow for him to get more ABs for the remainder of 2011. From what he’s done thus far, I don’t see why not!

HIA DUNEDIN BLUE JAYS

HOTTEST DUNEDIN PROSPECTS

5) Justin Jackson (22)

  • 53 ABs / 19 hits / 2 doubles / 1 triple / 1 HR / 9 BB / 11 SO / 1 SB / 1 CS and a .358/.444/.491 line.
  • I honestly never thought that I’d be putting Jackson on the hot prospect list in 2011, but here he is. Not only is he doing very well at the plate, but he is making few errors at 2B in 2011 with only 1 to his credit thus far. If he continues to play this way, there could still be hope for him to help an MLB club in some way. It’s nice to see him turn things around, and hopefully it continues.

4) Asher Wojciechowski (22)

  • 5 GS / 24.2 IP / 24 HA / 10 BB / 16 Ks / 3.28 ERA / 1.38 WHIP
  • Asher just had the worst outing of his career on his last start, allowing 7 ER in 4 innings of work, so the stats don’t exactly tell the true dominance he has pitched with otherwise. We’re chalking it up to a bad start and do expect it to be a blip on the radar.

3) Deck McGuire (21)

  • 4 GS / 24.2 IP / 22 HA / 8 BB / 19 Ks / 3.65 ERA / 1.22 WHIP
  • Like Asher, Deck has 1 start to his credit that puts a small damper on his stats. He bounced back from a 4 ER in 4 IP outing to go 6.1 strong (his longest start yet) while allowing only 3 hits, 3 walks and 3 ER. He obviously still needs to get comfortable as a pro but is clearly doing well enough to make the jays look good for starting him in HiA. Both he and Asher should wind up in AA New Hampshire by the end of July.

2) Chad Jenkins (23)

  • 5 GS / 27.2 IP / 27 HA / 9 BB / 21 Ks / 2.60 ERA / 1.30 WHIP
  • Finally, we’re seeing some dominance from Jenkins after what was a mediocre 2010 season and slow start to 2011. He is fairly old for this level of play, so he needs a good start in order to earn a 2011 promotion to AA and to get back on track as a top pitching prospect for the Jays. His latest start was his best to date in 2011, with only 4 hits allowed and no ER over 6 innings of work. If all goes well in May, he should find himself in New Hampshire by June.

1) A.J. Jimenez (20)

  • 77 ABs / 27 hits / 6 doubles / 2 HRs / 11 RBI / 5 BB / 16 SO / 2 SB / 0 CS and a .351/.390/.506 line.
  • The best catcher prospect that nobody in fantasy circles knows about yet, Jimenez is the anchor of the Dunedin lineup. With more support around him, possibly on its way from the Lansing OF, he could have done even more damage than he has thus far in 2011 and I fully expect that he’ll earn a promotion to AA very shortly. Sal Fasano said in interviews that Jimenez was one of the players that he was most impressed with, and we can all see why. Once all of the other pieces in the Jays catching hierarchy are ready to move up – most likely mid season – he will be reunited with Sal in New Hampshire.

HONOURABLE MENTION:

 Brad Glenn (24)

  • 95 ABs / 24 hits / 4 doubles / 5 HRs / 13 RBI / 5 BB / 27 SO  and a .253/.297/.453 line.
  • He may not be able to hit left handed pitching (.105 avg and 0 HRs in 19 ABs) but he hits RHP to the tune of .289/.333/.539 with 5 HRs in 76 ABs. Talk about night and day! It remains to be seen whether Glenn can do this in AA and above, but if his power holds up and he continues to hit RHP so well, he could very well find himself making an MLB club at some point. Just to put it into numbers people can understand, if he gets 500 ABs against RHP in 2011, Glenn is on pace to hit 32 HR with something around the line listed above. That should be impressive enough to get him a look as an OF or DH in AA at some point in 2011.

COLDEST DUNEDIN PROSPECTS

5) Kevin Ahrens (22)

  • 77 ABs / 17 hits / 5 doubles / 1 HR / 6 RBI / 7 BB / 17 SO / and a .221/.302/.325 line.
  • The Jays continue to give Ahrens ABs andcouldbe seeing the first turnaround of his career as he is currently on a .263/.317/.342 line over his last 10 games. The problem? It comes with 11 SO in only 38 ABs, so the enthusiasm has to be temperred. The 2007 1st rounder has a ton of work to do and needs to make a big leap before the likes of Kellen Sweeney, Christopher Hawkins, and others make headway and overpass him on the minors depth chart.

4) Ryan Tepera (23)

  • 3 GS / 17.2 IP / 22 HA / 7 BB / 13 Ks / 6.11 ERA / 1.64 WHIP
  • Ryan is having a slow start to the season but has been able to show glimpses of a turn around over his last 2 starts which have combined for 10.2 IP with 11 HA,  5 walks, 7 strike outs and only 4 ER. If he can continue to build on that, he should be able to bounce back nicely in the month of May.

3) Ryan Goins (23)

  • 78 ABs / 16 hits / 6 doubles / 2 triples / 10 RBI / 4 BB / 21 SO  and a .205/.244/.333 line.
  • Ryan came into the 2011 season with a good amount of HiA experience in his pocket (166 ABs) but unfortunately has stayed at the same level of play through 2011 with almost identical stats. He is striking out way too often and may be trying to hit the ball too hard instead of concentrating on making contact.  

2) Kenny Wilson (21)

  • 67 ABs / 13 hits / 3 doubles / 2 triples / 4 RBI / 6 BB / 19 SO / 6 SB / 1 CS and a .194/.280/.299 line.
  • Now “hitting” .086 over his last 10 games, Kenny is getting extremely close to being demoted to LoA Lansing in order to allow Marisnick and others to make the jump to Dunedin. If that doesn’t happen before June comes around, I will be shocked. Aside from a little speed, he hasn’t shown the Jays anything that gives tells them he can handle HiA ball at this point.

1) Sean Ochinko (23)

  • 73 ABs / 11 hits / 5 doubles / 1 HR / 9 RBI / 6 BB / 10 SO and a .151/.215/.260 line.
  • If there’s one prospect in the Jays system that needs to forget all about April it’s Ochinco. In fact, he hit his 1st HR of the season May 2nd, so it could be that he’s thinking exactly that – forget and move on. With 45 extra base hits in 412 ABs in 2010, he showed us that he does have power in his bat while in Lansing and he should be able to improve a ton from here on out if he can remain focused.

PROSPECT EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS IN DUNEDIN

Nestor Molina (22)

  • 3 GS / 19.2 IP / 17 HA / 3 BB / 19 Ks / 2.29 ERA / 1.017 WHIP
  • Nestor has now made more starts in 2011 than he had in any other season since he began pitching in pro ball. To say that he has taken to the role would be a massive understatement. After making headway as a very reliable reliever in LoA and HiA in 2010, he is now putting his name into the top 15 Jays pitching prospects and is actually out pitching Asher, Deck, and Chad – no small feat and one that HAS to be getting noticed throughout Jays brass. All I know for certain is that if you’re one of the starters in AA New Hampshire at this point, you have to be looking over your shoulder wondering just when you will be replaced in the rotation and which of the Fab 4 will be taking your spot.

As we look back at Lansing and Dunedin’s April, 3 things strike me as most obvious, and they are as follows:

  • 1) Lansing leads the 2 affiliates BY FAR in terms of hitting and the hitters that should be moving up soon will definitely help out what has been an anemic Dunedin offensive club;
  • 2) Dunedin, in turn, has much more dominant pitching that could be getting even better as soon as Drew Hutchison gets promoted to the club;
  • 3) The catchers – Carlos Perez and A.J. Jimenez – are just as advertised and may actually exceed expectations in 2011 in terms of just how dominant they are at the plate. We all knew they would be good, but I’d have to believe that most believed there would be at least some growing pains. So far, that doesn’t seem to be the case and both are pushing very hard to be moved along very quickly. With Travis d’Arnaud having health issues in AA, it’ll be extremely interesting to see how the Jays deal with these two and how they are promoted in turn.

There’s a lot to look forward to from the depth of the minors, and still a lot of work to be done for many prospects. I should have the AA-AAA edition up by the end of the day, along with an overall summary, so check back in later.

- MG

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