Season in Review: Bluefield Blue Jays Position Players


Previously part of the Baltimore Orioles organization, the Bluefield Blue Jays were very successful in their first season as one of Toronto’s minor league affiliates. They finished atop the Appalachian League’s East division with a 40-28 record, and won their first playoff series against the Elizabethton Twins before falling to the Johnson City Cardinals in the finals.

Playing at 3,000-seat Bowen Field, Bluefield hitters enjoyed playing at the park and found that the ball flew off of their bats. Bluefield finished fifth out of the league’s ten teams with a .262 team batting average, fourth with a .339 team on-base percentage, and fourth with a .411 slugging percentage. They also finished first in triples (26), RBI (362), and walks (252).

Here’s a look at how each one of Bluefield’s position players fared in 2011, with quotes and details of how the players became part of the Jays organization. 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.

C

Aaron Munoz

How he was acquired: Selected by the Jays in the 34th round (1039th overall) of the 2011 Amateur Draft.

How he fared in 2011: Munoz signed quickly after getting drafted and was able to get 45 games under his belt with Bluefield. Known for his defensive skills, Munoz blocks the plate well and is improving his game-calling ability. He was charged with four passed balls in 2011 and, in addition to committing three errors, he threw out 17 of 49 basestealers (35%). His defense will be his selling point if he manages to move up the Jays’ minor league ladder, though, as his .231 average and .560 OPS this past season left much to be desired.

From Northwestern State’s website: “Likely one of the best defensive catchers to ever play at NSU, Munoz set a school record last season with 13 pickoffs. In his two seasons at NSU, he’s played in 100 games with 97 starts and has thrown out nearly 40 percent of basestealers against him. He earned All-SLC and All-Louisiana honors last season and was also named to the 2010 Johnny Bench Award watch list.”

Leo Hernandez

How he was acquired: Signed by the Jays as an international free agent out of Venezuela in 2007 as a 17-year-old.

How he fared in 2011: After making the trek to the United States this season following four years in the Dominican Summer League, Hernandez certainly made the most of his reserve catching role, playing behind Munoz for the majority of the season. Possessing a solid arm in the DOSL, Hernandez continued that trend with Bluefield, throwing out 11 of 29 basestealers for a 38% rate.

Hernandez also displayed his ability as a contact hitter, going 31-for-93 (.333) with four doubles and 12 RBI, similar to his 2009 campaign in the DOSL as a 19-year-old when he hit .292/.394/.392 in 143 plate appearances. That year, however, Hernandez posted a respectable on-base percentage, which is something he didn’t do this past season in Bluefield. On the surface, Hernandez’s .337 mark with Bluefield wasn’t terrible, but it was only that high because of his batting average since he drew just two walks in 98 plate appearances this season. Even though he probably won’t factor into any of the Jays’ future plans, it will interesting to see how much Hernandez catches next season and whether or not he’ll take more pitches.

George Carroll

How he was acquired: Signed by the Jays as an undrafted free agent on June 20, 2011 out of the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT).

How he fared in 2011: There’s not much to really discuss in terms of Carroll’s 2011 numbers, as he appeared in only one game for Bluefield at the end of the season and a mere 16 for the GCL Jays before that, compiling a .098/.178/.146 is a small sample of 41 at-bats. It will be interesting to see Carroll’s production across a larger amount of at-bats next season.

While Carroll was drafted as a catcher, he appeared in only four games there this past season, DHing in four games and playing first base in eight others. Carroll’s athletic ability allows him to play multiple positions, so, given the Jays’ logjam at catcher, he might get the bulk of his playing time as an infielder next season.

“I remember that he had an average throwing arm for a ninth grader. By the time he was a sophomore, it was above average. As he got older, he shut down other teams’ running games,” Carroll’s high school coach Doug Manfredonia in a Bayside Patch interview.

“He was known for his release time, getting rid of the ball to second [base]. Besides being a great catcher, he was popular — leading by example. A lot of people are rooting for him,” Manfredonia said in an interview with the Times Ledger.

Tim Mahler

How he was acquired: Signed by the Jays as an undrafted free agent on January 26, 2011.

How he fared in 2011: Having turned 24 years old in September, Mahler heads into next season with only seven minor league games under his belt. He went 1-for-6 in two games for the GCL Jays at the start of short-season ball before appearing in one game for Dunedin on July 6 and closing out the year with a 2-for-5 showing in four games with Bluefield.

From North Oklahoma College’s website: “Mahler follows in his Dad’s footsteps, who pitched for 12 years in the Majors with the Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds and Montreal Expos.”

1B

Art Charles

How he was acquired: Selected by the Jays in the 20th round (606th overall) of the 2010 Amateur Draft, signed July 6, 2010.

How he fared in 2011: A big 6’6″ left-handed power hitter, Charles improved upon his debut pro campaign in the Gulf Coast League last year with a strong showing as Bluefield’s everyday first baseman in 2011. He stormed out of the gate, smacking five doubles and five home runs in his first 10 games, good for a 1.150 OPS over that span. In fact, 11 of his first 13 hits on the year were for extra bases.

Charles cooled off more as the season went on, but still hit 13 doubles and six more home runs in his final 58 games while drawing 36 walks as well. Overall, Charles finished 2011 with an .819 OPS and a team-high 11 home runs.  The California native really enjoys hitting for power, but will have to work on his plate discipline since he averaged more than one strikeout per game for the second consecutive season. Hewas in Dunedin recently at instructs making some mechanical changes to his swing, though, in an effort to make more consistent contact on the ball next season, likely at a full-season affiliate like Lansing.

“Every round, we were looking and waiting. Every time Toronto would come up, we’d get excited again. Then they gave me a call and said they were going to take me in the 20th round. I was excited, my parents were excited, my whole family was excited. I’m just glad to be here,” Charles said to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph about the draft process.

2B

Daniel Arcila

How he was acquired: Signed by the Jays as an international free agent out of Venezuela in 2007 as a 16-year-old.

How he fared in 2011: Having played as a shortstop during his three years with the Jays’ Dominican Summer League affiliate, Arcila switched to second base last year with the GCL Jays. The 2010 season was full of adjustments for him, as not only was he learning to play a new position and playing a lot less, but he was adjusting to everyday life in the United States and an English-speaking environment.

This past season, however, while Arcila is far from having mastered second base, he was much more comfortable at the position. As Bluefield’s everyday second baseman, Arcila committed just three errors in 241 chances while working on replacing double play habits from his time as a shortstop with new ones as a second baseman.

Offensively, Arcila had the best showing of his short minor league career in 2011. He went 51-for-210 (.243) at the plate with a .329 on-base percentage, and while those numbers aren’t outstanding, he managed to finish the year with a .481 slugging percentage. The 6’1″, 170-pound Venezuelan showcased some unexpected power this past season with 10 doubles, five triples, and 10 home runs, finishing second on the team in round-trippers only to Charles. 

“I want to go to a full season either in Lansing or Dunedin. I’m ready for the challenge. I’ve played the short season, I felt good about it and I’m ready to tackle that opportunity to play the long season,” Arcila said through a translator to scout.com.

Cody Bartlett

How he was acquired: Selected by the Jays in the 41st round (1249th overall) of the 2011 Amateur Draft.

How he fared in 2011: Bartlett started to make a name for himself last year at Washington State where, after failing to post an OPS above .640 in his first two years there, he went on to hit .323 with a .915 OPS in 57 games that year. While his power numbers dipped this year, Bartlett still hit .283 with a .354 on-base percentage for the Cougars in 2011 and it was enough for the Blue Jays to select him in the 41st round of this year’s Draft.

Bartlett appeared in just 27 games for the B-Jays this season and compiled an unimpressive .198/.284/.308 slash line, but that will likely serve as motivation for the 23-year-old. The Washington native split time evenly at second base and shortstop this past season, and it will be interesting to see what infield position Bartlett is responsible for next season.

“I am a big Griffey fan, but I was always a Joey Cora fan, a second baseman back in ’95. He was that little guy that I had to look up to,” said the 5’8” Bartlett, a Mariners fan growing up, to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. “I have always been the smallest guy. It fuels my fire when people doubt me and then I prove them wrong. You are going to get doubted and they are always going to look at the bigger guys, but [Cora] just shows you what hard work can do.”

SS

Gustavo Pierre

How he was acquired: Signed by the Jays as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2009 as a 17-year-old.

How he fared in 2011: Looking at Pierre’s 2011 campaign, it was really divided into two parts. After appearing in 66 games for Auburn last year, he embarked on his first full-year campaign by opening the year with Lansing as a 19-year-old. Pierre struggled with the Lugnuts, posting a .187/.244/.262 slash line in 56 games along with a staggering 36 errors at shortstop. While some of his struggles could be explained by facing a higher level of competition, Pierre attributed most of his problems to the lower temperatures in Michigan, saying that it was hard to hold the bat sometimes and get a good grip on the ball while fielding. There have been other Latin players that have had trouble adjusting to a cooler climate while rising up the minor league ladder and the Jays decided to have Pierre finish the year with Bluefield rather than let him beat himself up for much longer.

There, Pierre was able to focus more on his hitting and fielding separately, finishing with a .252/.324/.396 line in 63 games at the plate and eight errors in 22 games playing the field. Pierre also finished the year on an encouraging note, hitting .265 with a .350 on-base percentage in his final 10 games.

Looking only at his numbers, it’s easy to not get excited about Pierre at all, but he turns just 20 years old in December and already has a full season of minor league ball under his belt. He’ll look to better adjust to the climate next season while also laying off bad off-speed pitches.

“I’ve played in the Gulf Coast League, and the difference here [in Lansing] is it’s too cold!” Pierre said in his interview with Lugnuts announcer Jesse Goldberg-Strassler.

Matt Johnson

How he was acquired: Signed by the Jays as an undrafted free agent on June 15, 2010.

How he fared in 2011: Only the second College of Wooster graduate to ever ink a professional baseball contract, Johnson managed a .459 average batting leadoff in his final season for the D-III Fighting Scots before getting signed by the Jays. He was signed as a utility player and knew that drafted players would be getting the majority of the playing time.

He opened the year with Vancouver in June and appeared in 13 games, going 10-for-43 with a .649 OPS. He was then sent down to Bluefield, where he hit .203 with a .523 OPS in 20 games while playing four positions. He also made his minor league pitching debut with Bluefield oddly enough, allowing one hit in a scoreless inning of relief. Still in rookie ball and turning 24 years old next May, Johnson probably won’t move much higher in the system, but he’s excited for having the opportunity to play out a childhood dream.

“Through talking with Nick Manno, who is the Blue Jays’ area scout, I realized they were interested. We had been in contact for a couple weeks, but then I didn’t hear anything for awhile, especially during the draft. I was surprised I got the call at 9:30 a.m. and he asked me how quick I could get on a plane,” Johnson said shortly after signing in an interview with the Wooster Weekly News.

3B

Andy Fermin

How he was acquired: Selected by the Jays in the 32nd round (966th overall) of the 2010 Amateur Draft, signed June 15, 2010.

How he fared in 2011: Fermin’s father was a Major League infielder for parts of 10 seasons but, despite his big-league bloodlines, was projected to backup Daniel Arcila at second base for the majority of the season. When everyday third baseman Kellen Sweeney suffered an arm injury, though, he slid right in at the hot corner and received a lot of unexpected playing time.

Fermin held his own in Sweeney’s absence, going 57-for-218 (.261) in 59 games with 15 doubles, five home runs, and 35 walks, and will look to carry that experience into next season, possibly in Vancouver.

“I’m glad to have a father who played in the big leagues. Sometimes when I need to talk to somebody, I call him. He helps me out. It’s good,” Fermin told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.

Kellen Sweeney

How he was acquired: Selected by the Jays in the 2nd round (69th overall) of the 2010 Amateur Draft, signed July 26, 2010.

How he fared in 2011: Brother of Oakland A’s outfielder Ryan Sweeney, Kellen was selected as the Jays’ top position player in last year’s draft. After he got only 16 Gulf Coast League games in last year, Sweeney was set to play a lot more this season. The Jays opted to have Sweeney stay in extended spring training this year, and the Iowa native was disappointed that he wasn’t shipped to Lansing, a full-season affiliate.

He reported to Bluefield in June after extended spring training, but the 20-year-old was able to appear in just nine games. He fractured a bone at the base of his left thumb near his wrist in game action, and it wound up knocking him out for the entire season. As such, there’s not much to really report on his 2011 season, other than the fact he was only 19 years old and was able to afford a season lost to injury at least. He’ll likely be 100% healthy come spring training, and then we’ll finally be able to see what Sweeney can do in 2012.

“It’s frustrating at times, just because I’m not able to play. I know it’s a wrist injury and I can’t try to get back too quick, because I don’t want to mess it up for next year because the wrists are a big part of baseball,” Sweeney told the Metro Sports Report in August.

LF

Chris Hawkins

How he was acquired: Selected by the Jays in the 3rd round (93rd overall) of the 2010 Amateur Draft, signed June 15, 2010.

How he fared in 2011: Drafted as a well-regarded infielder, Hawkins made a full-time positional switch to left field this season with Bluefield.  It was impossible to ignore the unbelievable season he had at the plate in 2011, as he finished the year with a .318 average and .866 OPS in 68 games, along with 15 doubles, six triples, five home runs, and 52 RBI. He improved more as the season went on, a true testament to his work ethic, and actually hit better with runners on base and in scoring position than with the bases empty. Defensively, he took to left field quite well, but will continue to work on his routes and arm strength going forward next season.

There’s a lot to talk about with Hawkins so, like a few others on this list, his section on this list has been cut short since he’ll be making a more in-depth appearance on our top 50 list.

“I believe that my best skill is my bat.  I have worked long days on my swing and I firmly believe I have made many improvements.  With that being said, I do know there is still a lot at the plate I can improve on,” Hawkins said in a quick interview with JaysProspects.

Eric Arce

How he was acquired: Selected by the Jays in the 25th round (769th overall) of the 2011 Amateur Draft.

How he fared in 2011: Just narrowly making this Bluefield list because he closed out the year with the B-Jays, Arce spent almost all of his 2011 campaign with the GCL Jays, where he just flat-out raked. In 49 games there, he went 41-for-153 (.268) with six doubles, three triples, and 38 walks. Though he stands in at 5’9″ and 205 pounds, Arce has solid power potential in his bat and can spray the ball hard to all fields. He displayed that power in 2011, by clobbering a new Gulf Coast League-record 14 home runs.

Arce held his own in his six games with Bluefield, going 5-for-19 (.263) at the plate, and it will be interesting to see if he opens the 2012 season there or if he gets moved up to Vancouver.

“I was curious to see him in a game, he was facing guys throwing 88-to-93 m.p.h. He was hitting balls hard, but he was also content to take a walk,” Blue Jays scouting director Andrew Tinnish said to the Toronto Sun.

CF

Kevin Pillar

How he was acquired: Selected by the Jays in the 32nd round (979th overall) of the 2011 Amateur Draft.

How he fared in 2011: Another nice late-round pick by the Jays in this year’s draft, Pillar came into his pro career after setting a NCAA Division II record with a 54-game hitting streak in 2010. He carried that experience into his professional career as well, leading Bluefield in batting average (.347), on-base percentage (.377), and slugging percentage (.534) while adding 17 doubles and seven home runs. Not bad for your first minor league campaign! Look for Pillar to continue hitting next year and open the season with Vancouver, but there’s a good chance that he could make his way to Lansing come April instead.

“I knew that I was capable of producing this type of season but it definitely did not start out that way. I was very lucky to have met such terrific coaches, Dennis Holmberg and Kenny Graham. Together we fixed some flaws not only in my mechanics but my approach at the plate,” Pillar said in his JaysProspects interview.

Dalton Pompey

How he was acquired: Selected by the Jays in the 16th round (486th overall) of the 2010 Amateur Draft, signed June 17, 2010.

How he fared in 2011: After appearing in just 11 games for the GCL Jays in his draft year, Pompey opened the 2011 season there again. He showed a lot of potential, hitting .259 with a .363 on-base percentage in 42 games. He added seven doubles, two triples, and four home runs, while going a perfect 19-for-19 in stolen base attempts. The Jays moved Pompey to Bluefield in August and while it was certainly an adjustment for the young Canadian outfielder, he made progress there, even if his numbers might not show it.

There’s a lot to like about the 18-year-old Pompey, which is why I’ll have a two-part interview with him coming soon on the site.

“Well speed is one of, if not the biggest asset to my game. I worked with a track coach in Toronto by the name of Val Grose since I was 8 years old and he could take the credit for making me a good runner and enabling me to have explosive movements on the baseball field. I love to show off my running ability,” Pompey said in his upcoming interview with us.

Ronald Melendez

How he was acquired: Selected by the Jays in the 24th round (726th overall) of the 2010 Amateur Draft, signed June 15, 2010.

How he fared in 2011: Opening the year with the GCL Jays, Melendez appeared in just 10 games there and went 9-for-34 (.265) with two double, three walks, and five RBI. He was sent to Bluefield for the final two weeks of the season in August, appearing in six games and going 3-for-10 at the plate with a pair of doubles. Melendez will likely open the year at Bluefield again next season, but how much playing time he’ll get remains to be seen. He has the ability to play all three outfield positions, and it will be interesting to see if he continues his reserve role in 2012.

RF

Carlos Ramirez

How he was acquired: Signed by the Jays as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2008 as an 18-year-old.

How he fared in 2011: Another product of the Jays’ development program in the Dominican Republic, Ramirez received the role of Bluefield’s everyday right fielder despite having never hit better than .229 or finished with a higher OPS than .625 in his short minor league career. The 20-year-old finished his second season on American soil with a .232 average and .301 on-base percentage, while logging 55 outfield chances without an error. He’s still relatively young, but it seems he’ll be easily passed on the depth chart if another RF option presents itself.

Javan Williams

How he was acquired: Drafted 1351st overall by the Diamondbacks in 2010, signed by the Jays in April 2011.

How he fared in 2011: Initially a 45th round draft pick by the Diamondbacks in 2010, the Jays signed Williams as a minor league free agent in the spring. Though he only appeared in 26 games with Bluefield, he made the most of his opportunity with a .304 average and .360 on-base percentage. He’s currently listed as a minor league free agent according to Baseball America, so it remains to be seen if the 22-year-old will be returning to the Jays organization in 2012.

***

Check back for a rundown of Bluefield’s exciting pitching staff soon!

-JM

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Tags: Aaron Munoz Andy Fermin Art Charles Bluefield Blue Jays Chris Hawkins Dalton Pompey Daniel Arcila Eric Arce Gustavo Pierre Kellen Sweeney Toronto Blue Jays