The Gulf Coast League Blue Jays had a ton of promising pitching prospects suit up for them in 2011, and a fair amount of them were called up to other teams after making only a few starts. Guys like Tucker Jensen, Deivy Estrada, Andrew Liebel, and Nicholas Purdy won’t be featured here because of this, but there are still many exciting names to take a look at.
So much so, that I decided to divide the pitchers into separate posts for starters and relievers for this affiliate. Outside of Colby Broussard, there will likely never be any buzz in the future surrounding the majority of the relievers that the GCL Jays used this season because of their ages relative to the level or their transition from the Dominican Summer League. The starters, however, are quite different, since there are some recognizable names in that group, so here’s a look at them on their own.
Griffin Murphy | LHP
How he was acquired: Selected by the Jays in the 2nd round (61st overall) of the 2010 Amateur Draft, signed August 16, 2010.
**Check out our scouting report on Murphy, who was No. 19 on our pre-2011 top 50!**
How he fared in 2011: Murphy wasn’t able to see any professional action in his draft year, so 2011 marked his first stint with a minor league affiliate. His durable pitcher’s frame allows him to hurl a fastball that routinely touches low 90s, but he has the ability to sink it and paint both parts of the plate with it as well. His sweeping 75 mph curveball is still a work in progress as it tends to stay up in the zone a bit too much, but it has excellent movement so it’s a promising weapon.
Outside of the 48 hits that Murphy allowed in 41 innings with the GCL Jays this season, he came exactly as advertised. He managed to rack up 39 strikeouts in those 41 innings as well (8.5 K/9) and finished with a 2-2 record and 4.39 ERA (4.59 FIP). He tossed a team-high 11 starts facing primarily right-handed hitters, and finished with a 0.60 ERA in his final four starts (15 innings).
Redlands Valley head coach James Corde in an ESPN article: “He’s a pretty special kid; does everything the right way and makes my job a lot easier. One of the things that make him special is his maturity on the field. As the stakes go up, his demeanor calms down and he’s able to control his emotions. He’s our guy.”
Adonys Cardona | RHP
How he was acquired: Signed by the Jays as an international free agent in July 2010 for $2.8 million.
**Check out our scouting report on Cardona, who was No. 20 on our pre-2011 top 50!**
How he fared in 2011: Cardona has been on my radar ever since the Jays signed him, and he’ll continue to be one of my favorites for years to come. Just 17 years old, Cardona finally got his first taste of professional action as the youngest member of the GCL Jays roster, and he did not disappoint, pitching better than his numbers would indicate. He went 1-3 overall with a 4.55 ERA (3.14 FIP) in 31.2 innings while allowing 31 hits and 12 walks, but he also struck out 35 in that span as well. Check back for more information on him when our top 50 prospects list gets underway, as there’s a lot to be excited about with him.
From Blue Jays assistant vice-president Tony LaCava in the same article: “What stood out was his athleticism. He has long arms, big hands and a big back, he has projectable body. Lately he’s been topping out at 94 — for a kid that doesn’t turn 18 until January.”
Randal Thompson | RHP
How he was acquired: Signed by the Jays as an undrafted free agent out of Florida Tech on June 13, 2011.
How he fared in 2011: Though Thompson might not get penciled in on any top prospect lists, he certainly had a great debut campaign for the GCL Jays in his first season as a pro. The right-hander tossed a team-high 47 innings in 18 games (six starts) and finished with a 2.87 ERA/3.05 FIP. His 44 strikeouts were also the most on his team and he issued 12 walks; less than a few of his teammates in double the innings pitched. Thompson averaged eight hits per nine frames and will likely enjoy better defense should he move up the minor league ladder, since he allowed 11 unearned runs, which were also a team high. He’ll be 23 years old just after Opening Day next year, so he’ll have to accelerate quickly up the ladder to have relevance in the Jays’ system.
From a Florida Tech article: “This spring, Thompson jumped out to a 5-0 start and pitched his way to a 3.22 ERA, while throwing a Florida Tech single-season record nine complete games. Of his nine complete games, he recorded two shutouts.”
Jose Vargas | LHP
How he was acquired: Signed by the Jays as an undrafted free agent in 2010.
How he fared in 2011: After completing his first season in the Dominican Summer League when he was 16 years old, Vargas waited patiently for two more seasons there until he finally managed to crack the GCL roster as a 19-year-old in 2010. Even though he gave up 56 hits in 47.1 innings that year, he did also manage a 4.18 ERA in his 10 starts, so the Jays opted to have him start out the 2011 campaign with their new affiliate in Bluefield.
Things didn’t go well there at all for the 21-year-old, as he was shelled for 14 earned runs on 16 hits in just 12.1 innings of work with Bluefield (10.22 ERA), and issued 11 walks as well to bring his WHIP to a cool 2.189. Vargas made the trip back to Florida and the GCL to finish the season but struggled there as well. In 11 games (19 innings), the left-hander was touched for 20 earned runs on 35 hits — in other words a 9.47 ERA and 16.6 hits per nine innings. The plus side of his second GCL tour is that he walked only four batters, but it’s safe to say that you won’t see Vargas out of the GCL for quite some time.
Zak Adams | LHP
How he was acquired: Selected by the Jays in the 15th round (456th overall) of the 2010 Amateur Draft, signed August 16, 2010.
How he fared in 2011: Projected to go as high as the eighth round, the Jays managed to snipe Adams in the 15th round last year and since he took until the middle of August to sign, he was going to have to wait until 2011 to make his professional debut. Well the GCL Jays’ 2011 season and Adams’ pro debut, have come and gone, and he definitely showed promise.
His stats are somewhat of a wash overall because, like most prospects in the GCL, they’re the first of a player’s minor league career and a small sample size. The 19-year-old appeared in only seven games and allowed 21 earned runs in 21 innings, but looking more into the numbers, though, it’s likely that Adams must despise coming out of the bullpen. As a reliever, Adams allowed 16 earned runs and issued 12 walks in 8.1 innings, while opposing hitters hit .294 off of him. In his three starts, however, the Texas native surrendered just five earned runs (3.55 ERA) and struck out 18 in 12.2. innings, with hitters mustering a .188 average in that span.
It will be interesting to see how he improves on commanding the strike zone and the way he approaches right-handed hitters as he gets more innings under his belt, but one thing is for sure: keep an eye on him, he’s going to be fun to watch.
From MLB Bonus Baby prior to the 2010 draft: Adams pitches in the Dallas Metroplex, and more scouts have started flocking his way, as he’s upped his fastball to be able to reach the low-90s. He normally pitches in the upper-80s, sitting 88-90, touching 92, adding in a potentially above-average curveball in the low- to mid-70s. With those two pitches, Adams looks like a potential number three starter with a tall, lanky frame, and there has been some comparison to current Texas Rangers prospect Derek Holland. However, Adams still has a lot of refinement and strengthening to do, and he’s probably better off following through on his Tulane commitment, as he’s an excellent student
Adaric Kelly | RHP
How he was acquired: Selected by the Jays in the 28th round (846th overall) of the 2010 Amateur Draft.
How he fared in 2011: Having excelled both as a hitter and a pitcher in high school, Kelly is a gifted all-around athlete that just loves the game of baseball. He has a confidence and swagger on the mound that implies he could become a successful reliever, but given his tender age of just 18 years old, the Jays could try him as a starter first since he has time to work on his off-speed pitching.
Kelly’s first taste of professional action might not have gone as he planned, as he compiled a 7.12 ERA in 15 games, but it will be interesting to see how he fares next season with more innings. This past season, he surrendered 37 hits in 24 innings and issued 14 walks, so he’ll make finding the strike zone a priority in 2012.
Kelly to the Palm Beach Post after signing in 2010: “I’m excited, very excited, I think I’m mentally ready for it. I made the right decision. [The Jays] wanted me to come play for them. I was still thinking about college, but they wanted me to become a part of their system.”
Brady Dragmire | RHP
How he was acquired: Selected by the Jays in the 17th round (529th overall) of the 2011 Amateur Draft.
How he fared in 2011: There’s nothing stat-wise to look at about Dragmire in 2011, as he tossed just one inning for the GCL Jays and allowed three runs off a homer. The exciting part about Dragmire is just how much of an athlete he is and how he should develop into a solid professional baseball player. In addition to hitting .532 as a hitter and being able to throw his fastball in the low 90s as a pitcher, Dragmire ran for 2,019 yards and 33 touchdowns as a member of his high school football team and averaged 10.7 points per game when playing for the school’s basketball team.
He should pick up some velocity as he fills out his 6’1″ frame, and he reminded his coaches at Bradshaw Christian of a young Chris Bosio, who had a career 3.96 ERA in 11 Major League seasons and threw a no-hitter against the Red Sox in 1993. There’s a lot of work for Dragmire to do before getting to that point, but it will be interesting to keep tabs on him and see how he does in his first season as a professional in 2012.
School assistant coach and 14-year Major League veteran Greg Vaughan on Dragmire: “He’s mean out there on the mound and has a will not to lose. He’s power with movement. I see a great opportunity for him to get to the highest level. All he has to do is make adjustments, stay humble, work hard and persevere.”
To check out the relief pitchers on the GCL Jays, click here, and check back next week for the first installment of the Bluefield Blue Jays review on position players.