The Blue Jays now have 41 players remaining in camp after five players were returned to minor league camp. Pitchers Deck McGuire and Jerry Gil, first baseman Mike McDade and catchers Travis d’Arnaud and A.J. Jimenez were the five latest cuts.
McGuire, 22, looked good in his first major league spring training, giving up only a pair of earned runs (including a home run) in seven innings spread across three outings. I was able to see his first spring outing in person back on March 7, and he looked great, keeping the ball down while throwing strikes. Out of New Hampshire’s starting rotation last season, McGuire could be the first of the group to receive a call-up to the big leagues.
Gil, 29, signed a minor league deal with the Jays back in November and has had a decent spring with the club this year, allowing three earned runs on four hits in 6 2/3 innings and six appearances. Here’s what I wrote after seeing him in his first outing of the spring against Pittsburgh, when he did not allow a hit in his inning of work: “His off-speed stuff looked great in warm-ups and even more so against the first batter he faced, getting two swinging strikes on breaking balls to get the punchout. He then switched to his heat against Robbie Grossman, who was always behind and couldn’t catch up to it.”
In his third big league spring with Jays, not much can be said of McDade’s two singles in 14 at-bats across 12 games. After making some changes with New Hampshire last year, the Las Vegas, Nevada native has used the spring to continue working with the Jays’ coaching staff on his approach at the plate. His strong defensive skills at first base are easy to spot, and he should improve his overall game even further when repeating Double-A this year. McDade was recently ranked No. 33 on our pre-2012 top 50 prospects list.
Coming in ranked almost unanimously as the Jays No. 1 prospect, d’Arnaud, 22, used this year’s edition of spring training to work even more with Jays pitchers and on his defense, something that Jays skipper John Farrell had mentioned recently. The reigning Eastern League MVP is headed to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League this season and will likely be, at worst, a September call-up. After that, however, the Jays’ catching situation will get quite interesting.
Jimenez, one of my personal favorites and the best defensive catcher in the Jays’ minor league system, broke out offensively with High-A Dunedin last season and continued that trend this spring, going 4-for-9 with a double in an unbelievably small sample size. Like d’Arnaud, Jimenez got himself more acclimated with the Jays’ coaching staff and will move up a level this season, to Double-A New Hampshire, giving the Jays an impressive catcher at the three highest levels of their organization.