Season in Review: Gulf Coast League Blue Jays - Position Players

With the Blue Jays’ potential offseason moves having dominated the site recently, here’s a shift back to our bread and butter: Blue Jays prospects. Though a little later than I had originally desired, here’s the first installment of the season in review features for each one of the Jays’ minor league affiliates.

Each team will be divided into two articles; one for every position player on the roster and one for every pitcher. You’ll find out how each player became a part of the Blue Jays organization, how their 2011 season went, and, when possible, there will be a quote from either the players themselves or someone in the industry about them. The goal of these reviews is to increase knowledge of the Jays’ minor league system and to get you ready for when we eventually kick off our second-annual Top 50 Jays Prospects: Jays Journal Edition later this fall.

Players are listed by position and in order of the most games played there. For players who played multiple positions, they will be slotted under whichever position they played the most games at.

For players that played on multiple teams throughout the season, I’ve decided to use whichever team they finished the year with to determine which affiliate they will be listed under. Since both Eric Arce and Dalton Pompey finished the season with Bluefield, they won’t be in this article despite spending the majority of their seasons in the GCL.

Check back Friday for a rundown of the GCL Jays pitching staff.

C

Santiago Nessy

How he was acquired: Signed out of Venezuela as an international free agent on July 2, 2009 for $750,000.

How he fared in 2011: One year after getting his feet wet and earning mid-season All-Star honors in the Dominican Summer League, Nessy brought his big bat and big frame to the Gulf Coast League and showed some improvement at the plate. We ranked him at No. 48 on our top 50 prospects list before the season, and he went 41-for-134 overall (.306), with seven doubles, three home runs, and 19 RBIs. His improved average helped him finish with a higher on-base percentage than last year and, despite hitting five less doubles, he finished with a .425 slugging percentage, good for 46 points higher than his 2010 figure.

The issue with Nessy is not whether or not he will hit, as he’s projected to hit for power to all fields with a decent average, but rather if his future is behind the plate. Nessy’s defense hasn’t been spectacular so far and, in addition to committing 10 errors in 35 games this season, he only caught 14 of 72 basestealrs, good for a 19% rate. I saw Nessy personally in March at the Jays’ minor league camp, and one noticeable aspect is just how young he is. He’ll turn 19 in December, and was the fourth-youngest position player to play for the GCL Jays, so he’ll hopefully continue to improve as he gets older.

Assistant General Manager, Player Personnel, Tony LaCava on TSN.ca: “He is a young catcher with a lot of power. We have followed him for a few years now and were very impressed with his ability and his character.  He is an impressive young man who loves to play baseball and has a bright future.”

Alexys Rodriguez

How he was acquired: Started playing for the Jays’ Dominican Summer League affiliate in 2008

How he fared in 2011: After not having much success in the Dominican Summer League from 2008-2010, Rodriguez was finally given a chance in the Gulf Coast League this season. He finished with a .233/.300/.333 slash line in 29 games backing up Nessy, and only threw out six of 33 basestealers (18%). In addition to his poor all-around stats, Rodriguez turns 23 in November, so he’s not exactly highly regarded among Jays prospects by any means.

1B

Yudelmis Hernandez

How he was acquired: Selected by the Jays in the 38th round (1150th overall) of the 2009 Amateur Draft, signed on June 14, 2009.

How he fared in 2011: After starting the year with Bluefield and hitting .250 with a .740 OPS in nine games, Hernandez was sent to the GCL Jays where he ran into trouble, to the tune of a .152/.278/.283 slash line in 92 at-bats across 28 games. He’ll turn 25 next May so, much like Alexys Rodriguez, Hernandez is very old for his level and won’t ever be a factor in the Jays’ minor league system. His age and terrible numbers aren’t his only negatives, though, as Hernandez struck out a whopping 62 times in 37 games and 50% of the time.

2B

Christian Frias

How he was acquired: Signed as an international free agent out Puerto Rico’s University of Rio Grande on August 12, 2010.

How he fared in 2011: After appearing in only three games for the GCL Jays last year, Frias was given his first full-year opportunity in 2011. As the godson and personal recommendation of Roberto Alomar, it would at least be interesting to see how the now 22-year-old was going to perform this season. It wasn’t great at all, unfortunately, as Frias limped to a .143/.315/.157 slash line in 33 games, with only one extra-base hit. The 70 at-bat sample size, however, is definitely small and Frias managed to draw 15 walks as well, so the Jays could see improvement from him next year, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Frias’ head coach at University of Rio Grande, Brad Warnimont, in an NAIA article: “This is a great opportunity for Christian, we’re very proud and happy for him and wish him the best of luck. I think it reflects the level of play in our conference.”

Chris Peters

How he was acquired: Signed as a free agent out of the University of Cincinnati on June 8, 2011.

How he fared in 2011: After starting 177 consecutive games for the Cincinnati Bearcats over the last three years and improving offensively each season, Peters was given a chance to play professionally this year for the GCL Jays. The 22-year-old spent time at second base, shortstop, and third base while hitting .246 with a .685 OPS in 138 plate appearances. He’s another member of the GCL Jays that’s old for his level and he won’t make any top prospect lists, but his 14 walks and the fact that one third of his hits were for extra bases are positives to take away from his debut campaign.

SS

Jorge Vega-Rosado

How he was acquired: Selected by the Jays in the 28th round (859th overall) of the 2011 Amateur Draft.

How he fared in 2011: As one of the youngest players on his team, Vega-Rosado won the organization’s R. Howard Webster Award for the MVP of the Gulf Coast League level, and with good reason. The Puerto Rican led the team with 51 games played, and went 58-for-183 (.319) at the plate with a team-high 12 doubles. His total of 18 extra-base hits helped him finish the year with an .850 OPS, and he also led the team with 22 stolen bases in 26 attempts, good for a 85 percent success rate. Although he spent more time at shortstop this past season, he played 27 games at second base with more success defensively, so it will be interesting to see what position he plays more next season.

From an interview with the Daytona Beach News-Journal: “Anybody who knows me, knows me as Chino (Vega). Only my college professors and people like that called me Jorge Vega-Rosado.”

Dickie Thon

How he was acquired: Selected by the Jays in the 5th round (156th overall) of the 2010 Amateur Draft, signed on August 16, 2010.

How he fared in 2011: Last year, Thon made headlines on draft day because he was considered to be a hard sign due to his commitment to Rice University, but the Jays selected him anyway regardless. There was then an apparent rift between Thon’s father and the Blue Jays regarding the way the team was handling negotiations, but Thon wound up signing for a $1.5 million bonus which was a cool $1,338,900 over the recommended slot amount. Thon didn’t end up playing last season except in instructional league action, and eventually set things straight about the misunderstanding surrounding his draft experience in an interview with us last winter.

On the field this year, things were also a bit cloudy as it was revealed that Thon had an apparent blood disorder, which later turned out to be a rare kidney disease. The disease didn’t prevent him from appearing in 45 games for the GCL Jays this season, where he hit .223 with a .369 on-base percentage thanks to 23 walks, which ranked third on the team. He’ll look to regroup over the offseason and continue to hone his craft, with a possible placement at either Bluefield or Vancouver to open the 2012 campaign.

From Thon’s Jays Journal interview: “[Playing in two different countries] was a good experience. I got to play baseball in two different cultures and I consider myself a fusion of both styles of play,” Thon said in his interview with us.

Matt Abraham

How he was acquired: Selected by the Jays in the 49th round (1476th overall) of the 2010 Amateur Draft, signed on June 15, 2010.

How he fared in 2011: After appearing in 33 games for the GCL Jays last year, Abraham started off this season in Bluefield. He hit a single and drew three walks in his first game, but after only two games with the B-Jays he was assigned back to the GCL on July 12. He only appeared in 14 games for the GCL Jays this season, going 4-for-33 (.103) at the plate with no extra-base hits, seven walks, four RBIs, and eight strikeouts. If his draft position wasn’t enough of a sign as to his rank among Jays prospects, he’ll turn 25 in January.

From an interview on JaysProspects.com: “The game is a lot faster at the professional level and only gets faster as you advance higher up in the system. Every day you have to go to the field looking for something to improve on, whether defensively or offensively.”

3B

Seth Conner

How he was acquired: Selected by the Jays in the 41st round (1236th overall) of the 2010 Amateur Draft.

How he fared in 2011: Yet another 19-year-old on the GCL Jays roster, Conner did not see any professional action in his draft year. He appeared in 50 games for the GCL Jays this season, and could slowly turn himself into a late-round surprise if he continues to play like he did in 2011. He went 48-for-174 (.276) at the plate with 15 extra-base hits and finished tied for third on the team with four home runs. The Missouri native showed excellent patience at the plate, drawing the second-most walks on the team (30), and he finished the year third among the team’s everyday players in on-base percentage (.395) and fourth in OPS (.815). Like all young corner infielders, Conner is going to continue to work on his defense at the hot corner, and his durable 6″2″, 205 lb. frame should help him as he continues to develop all parts of his game.

From Perfect Game USA: Seth Conner is a 2010 3B/SS with a 6’1”, 185 lb. frame from Rogersville, MO who attends Logan-Rogersville HS. Lean athletic build, some present strength. Smooth defensive actions, quick first step, plays on his toes, clean sure hands, good flow, on line accurate throws, showed he could play SS as well as 3B. Good balance hitting, ball comes off barrell hard, showed pull power, bat speed, recognizes breaking stuff well. Also pitched, cross body low 3/4’s release, upper 70’s fastball. Nice all around player, hustles and plays the right way. Very good student.

Justin Atkinson

How he was acquired: Selected by the Jays in the 26th round (799th overall) of the 2011 Amateur Draft.

How he fared in 2011: One of the youngest players on the team, Atkinson appeared in only 12 games this season shortly after signing, but held his own at the plate, going 12-for-43 (.279). Four of those 12 hits were for extra bases (three doubles and a triple), and he only struck out three times in 43 at-bats. The sample size is small and given Atkinson’s age, he’s still a raw talent, but the Surrey, British Columbia native must be ecstatic that he’s playing professional baseball in the Blue Jays organization.

CF

Melvin Garcia

How he was acquired: Selected by the Jays in the 33rd round (996th overall) of the 2010 Amateur Draft, signed on June 30, 2010.

How he fared in 2011: Garcia’s first stint with the GCL Jays came last year as an 18-year-old, where he appeared in 19 games with average results; usually expected for a prospect’s first taste of professional action. The Jays opted to have him start the year with Bluefield, where he went just 13-for-78 (.167) at the plate with a pair of doubles, seven walks, and a .434 OPS. That earned him a trip back to the GCL to close out the 2011 season, where he marginally improved and managed to hit the first home runs of his career in his 11-game second stint. Defensively, Garcia can play all three outfield positions, and his only error in 78 defensive chances this season came in left field, his least familiar position.

Blue Jays area scout Michael Pesce in an interview with the NY Post: “[Him going so low in the Draft] wasn’t because of his talent by any means. [Garcia] has potential. I like his arm, I like his defensive ability. I think he’s going to do just fine at the next level.”

Derrick Loveless

How he was acquired: Selected by the Jays in the 27th round (829th overall) of the 2011 Amateur Draft.

How he fared in 2011: There’s not much to report on Loveless, as the 18-year-old appeared in just five games this season and went 1-for-17 at the plate with three walks. The Iowa native will likely start the 2012 season with the GCL Jays again to play more games under his belt.

From his interview with Iowa Prep Sports: “They were the ones who have shown the most interest in me the past year,” said Loveless. “Getting taken in any round I would have been happy with. It’s just an honor to be recognized among all the college and high school players in the country.”

RF

Nico Taylor

How he was acquired: Selected by the Jays in the 38th round (1159th overall) of the 2011 Amateur Draft.

How he fared in 2011: Another late-round draft choice that started his profession career off with a bang, Taylor had a very successful 30-game stint with the GCL Jays this past season. He went 29-for-91 (.319) at the plate with eight doubles, three home runs, 15 walks, and a .926 OPS. His .421 on-base percentage ranked second among the club’s everyday players, and the 21-year-old played just six games at Texas State University in 2010 before being drafted this year.

Angel Gomez

How he was acquired: Selected by the Jays in the 23rd round (696th overall) of the 2010 Amateur Draft, signed on June 15, 2010.

How he fared in 2011: After managing a .074/.167/.074 slash line in a mere 27 at-bats for the GCL Jays last season, Gomez returned for the 2011 campaign and logged more than four times the amount of at-bats. Overall, he appeared in 36 games and went 26-for-114 (.228) at the plate, with three doubles, a triple, and seven walks. Gomez hails from Puerto Rico, so he’s still getting adjusted to not only playing baseball in the United States, but being surrounded by primarily English-speaking people as well. His 36 games in the outfield were second on the team only to Dalton Pompey, and he did not commit an error in 64 defensive chances.

Sony Javier

How he was acquired: N/A

How he fared in 2011: Javier first jumped out to the Jays in early-2009 in his native country of the Dominican Republic, and he logged 336 at-bats for the Jays’ Dominican Summer League affiliate from 2008-2009. He made the transition to the United States and the Gulf Coast League this past season after turning 20 years old, and went 16-for-79 (.203) at the plate with a double, a home run, and a .485 OPS.

Jacob Anderson

How he was acquired: Selected by the Jays in the 1st round (35th overall) of the 2011 Amateur Draft, signed on August 3, 2011 for $990,000. This was the higher pick that the Jays received for losing Scott Downs.

How he fared in 2011: Anderson could have failed to register a hit in his brief, nine-game professional debut this season and no one would have cared, since the California native has a lot of talent inside his athletic 6’4″ frame. Instead, the 18-year-old went 15-for-37 (.405) with two doubles and two home runs, and finished with a 1.098 OPS in those nine contests. Having been signed by the Jays right out of high school, Anderson played mostly first base there, but the Jays listened to their scouts and slotted him in as a corner outfielder where he was projected to end up. The Jays’ offer was enough for him to abandon his commitment to Pepperdine, and his power is widely considered his best tool, as evidenced in his Under-Armour All-America Game Home Run Derby victory in 2010.

From Perfect Game USA in 2010: Jacob Anderson is a 2011 1B/OF with a 6-4 185 lb. frame from Chino, CA who attends Chino HS. Tall lean athletic build, projects strength. Good speed for size, 6.73 60, showed range in the outfield, very smooth and athletic at first base, soft hands, quick feet. Right handed hitter, simple effective load, stays tall and maintains leverage, line drive plane with gap power, good bat speed, more to come with added strength, ball carries well off the barrel, can improve his hand usage at contact. Quality all around player and athlete, should keep improving.

Check back on Friday for a rundown of the GCL Jays’ entire pitching staff, before I make the transition to recapping the Bluefield Blue Jays!

-JM

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Tags: Chris Peters Dickie Thon GCL Jays Jacob Anderson Jorge Vega-Rosado Melvin Garcia Santiago Nessy Seth Conner

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