I’m all for kids starting off their careers at a level low enough for them to succeed, but Justin Nicolino, for one, is proving that he may very well belong at a level of play 2 levels highers than the SS North Western League. He, along with many others, is proving that the Jays landed quite a few gems in the 2010 draft.
Here are the current hottest Jays Prospects:
3. That’s the number of ER Justin has allowed over his 24 innings of work thus far. He has a Whip below 1 after allowing only 12 hits (1 for every 2 innings pitched) and 8 walks over that same span. Meanwhile, he’s striking out well over 1 batter per inning with 32 Ks thus far, and he’s doing all of this as the youngest – by far – pitcher on the Vancouver Canadians staff. No other VC pitcher was born in the 90s, and Justin was born in November of 1991!! Talk about landing a gem of a pitcher and talk about making a case for a promotion! Only SS Shane Opitz is younger on the squad, in case you were wondering, as he is 2 months younger than Justin (born in Jan ’92). He now leads the NWL in ERA, Ks, Wins, and is second in Whip (0.82). He should wind up in Lansing or Dunedin in no time at all and will make a giant leap up most Jays prospect rankings as they are updated.
He really doesn’t have much left to prove in AAA at this point. Over his last 10, he has a .359/.468/.641 line with double the walks to strike outs (8 to 4), 5 doubles, and 2 HRs. This despite losing a ton of help when Travis Snider and Eric Thames were promoted and Brett Lawrie went on the DL. That’s what makes this stretch so impressive. Could he be packaged with a reliever to another place, like Arizona for instance? If the return is right (Tyler Skaggs – #19 on BA’s mid-season top 50 – comes to mind as part of it), you never know!
What is there left to say about Joel Carreno at this point? He has 74 strike outs over his last 10 outings (58 IP) and holds a meager 1.56 ERA and .155 average against over that span. I, for one, can see him getting a shot in the Jays rotation at some point in 2011. When you know that RHB are hitting .160 against him all season long in AA, you know he should be able to handle himself well in The Show. He still needs to cut his walks down, but when you’re allowing only 35 hits in 58 IP and have such a high K rate, you can handle the extra walk given here or there. Some people like Joel as a potential closer for the Jays, while I argue that since he has the goods to start, let’s see how that goes first (my favorite to close for the Jays in the future is fellow AA pitcher Zach Stewart who isn’t on this list after a .316 average against and 5.24 ERA over his last 10 AA outings. He has 2 pitches….let him try relief on for size folks!!).
He has a “godly” line over his last 10 games of .421/.463/.816 ( good for a crazy 1.279 OPS), and was able to knock out 6 doubles and 3 HRs at the same time. IF the Jays do wind up dealing Jose Molina before the trade deadline, I expect they’ll call on d’Arnaud in order to get his feet wet before having him split time with J. P. Arencibia in 2012. He now has 33 extra base hits in only 241 ABs and looks to be about as healthy as can be after dealin with back issues in 2010.
One Blue Jays prospect who has put himself into many conversations after having so many doubters in the past is McDade. With a much better lineup than he had to work with in Dunedin last season, McDade is putting up exactly the kinds of number that I predicted. His last 10 are no different, as he has a .400/.429/.675 line (good for a 1.104 OPS), with 2 HR and 5 doubles. He and d’Arnaud are major reasons the New Hampshire team is so strong this season, and if Adam Lind isn’t enough of a reason to view David Cooper as trade bait for the Jays, Michael McDade should be more than enough to convince you. At only 21 years old in AA, the Las Vegas native is making it look easy as he has knocked out an impressive 44 extra base hits in 330 ABs, all the while holding a very nice .312/.358/.520 line. He could stand to cut the strike outs down some, but there’s no doubting that McDade has starting 1B and/or DH potential.
He has only allowed 4 ER over his last 24.1 IP and now holds a 2.68 ERA over his last 10 while holding hitters to a .229 average. During that span, he also struck out exactly 1 batter per inning (57) but did allow a not as impressive 24 walks over that span. If it wasn’t for allowing only 48 hits over those 57 innings, Deck could have gotten himself into trouble more often.
I am completely against him return to the Jays as a starter, but I digress. I can’t avoid putting him on this list after he successfully returned to action after 1 poor start to pitch 2 shutout innings, walking 2 and striking out 2 in the outing. If he can make a successful comeback all of the way to the majors, I will be very impressed. I expect the pen to be where he makes his debut, as he could very well come into play as a potential setup man or closer for the Jays in 2012.
He has been one of the hottest Lansing hitters of late, hitting .310/.341/.500 over his last 10 with 5 doubles, a HR, and 2 stolen bases. He still has a ways to go to be considered a true 5-tool prospect, but he is certainly doing very well in LoA thus far in 2011.
If there’s one 2011 draft pick that has been on fire to kick off his pro career it’s Rollins. He has a 1.25 ERA and .158 average against to show for his first 4 starts (21.2 IP) and 18 Ks to go with 2 BB. The southpaw has been dominant in the Appy League, and we could very well see him in Vancouver or Lansing in the near future.
I know it’s only a few encouraging starts, but Asher hit rock bottom when he allowed 4 ER without making it out of the 1st inning 3 starts ago, so his last 2 outings put him on this list despite an ugly 5.25 season ERA. He threw 5 innings and allowed only 2 ER 2 outings ago, but it was his last outing – where he threw 7 shutout innings of 4-hit ball, without allowing a walk while striking out 6 – that really put him on this list. It’s the kind of outing that indicates his ability to be extremely dominant at times, and it’s the reason he’ll remain a starter in the minors for as long as possible. Hopefully we’ll see many more of these kinds of outings from Asher as the starts keep on coming.
When I saw his name listed as having earned the save in Bluefield, I thought “Noooooo, not already!!!”. But, then I saw that it was a 4 inning save and all was well again. Not only was it a nice outing by the youngster because he actually threw 4 innings of shutout ball, but he also did it in dominant fashion, allowing only 1 hit and 2 walks while striking out 7. It was his best outing of the season by far and is great to see after some scary outings to begin the year.
He’s doing extremely well since coming over to the U.S. this season. He has 3 walks and 3 SOs over his last 10 games, has already managed a close to .300 average (.293), and has an impressive .836 OPS, good enough for 4th on the team. He’s the second youngest hitter on the team, by days only behind Dalton Pompey, and is also having to deal with a new culture, food, language, ect.. so his performance in 2011 is particularly impressive so far.
As a reliever, Chad has been much improved. His ERA went from 3.59 as a starter to 2.45 as a reliever, and hitters went from hitting 2.52 against him to 1.54. Since he allowed only 6 hits and 4 walks over his 11 innings as a reliever, his whip is just under 1. If he keeps doing well in the pen, he could earn a promotion to AAA at some point this season and could put himself into position to get a “Luis Perez like shot” at the pen in 2012. It is definitely the best option for the big 26 year old who now faces very steep competition for a rotation spot, making it impossible to see him earn a shot in the Jays rotation at any point in the future.
I know it’s only 3 innings of work, but any time a 17-year old does so well in the GCL, I get blown away. He allowed no runs, 2 hits, and 1 walk over 3 innings of work while striking out 3. That he is doing so well early on is nice to see. To put it in perspective, he is the youngest on the team by a 2-year minimum.
That’s the list for today! Enjoy the last game of the set versus the Indians!
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