The second week of the season wasn’t quite as welcoming as the first, as this edition of the Jays Journal prospect hot sheet had far fewer solid choices for the top five. The affiliates themselves – particularly in the A-classes – had decent weeks as far as wins and losses go, but the top prospects who fill the pitching staffs and lineups didn’t experience quite the same success. This is more of an issue early in the year, before the short season leagues begin and the talent pool expands. Here are the top 5 Blue Jays prospects over the past week, April 16-22:
1. C/1B/3B Yan Gomes (LAS): 27 AB, .407/.407/.556 (.963 OPS), 4 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB, 0/0 BB/K
To say Yan Gomes is on a hot streak would be a bit of an understatement. After setting a career high in 2011 with 13 home runs – in only 290 at-bats, mind you – Gomes was assigned to the Arizona Fall League where he continued to rake, hitting .302/.380/.413 in 19 games. That performance resulted in an invitation to the major league camp at this year’s spring training, where he turned heads hitting .333/.333/.590 in 20 games. Many fans were clamoring for him to steal the backup catching job from Jeff Mathis, but that was more than a bit ridiculous in every sense of the word. Now back in Triple-A, Gomes has found playing time all over the diamond, with starts at catcher, first base and third base just in the past week. The lack of a defined defensive role hasn’t slowed his bat, however, as he has displayed his usual extra base power and aggressive plate approach. He’s currently riding a six-game hit streak, including five multi-hit efforts.
2. RHP/LHP Jaron Nanchez (LAN): 1-0, 6 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K
While the three inning, piggyback appearances are good for controlling innings, they’re awful for gauging performance. For this week, Justin Nicolino and Aaron Sanchez have combined to create the super pitcher whose awful nickname rivals only Mike Wilner’s strange creations: Jaron Nanchez. The two pitchers worked the first six innings of Lansing’s April 19th game against Burlington, and were instrumental in the victory. Their outstanding start paved the way for a 2-0 victory, and the Lugnuts are now a perfect 3-0 in games in which this duo has appeared. Things will get very exciting in the summer, as the organization loosens the reins and allows Lansing to unleash these two on the opposition in back-to-back games.
3. RF Moises Sierra (LAS): 26 AB, .385/.407/.500 (.907 OPS), 0 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 0 SB, 1/6 BB/K
Sierra’s three home runs last week made him one of the last cuts, but his all-around solid offensive performance – coupled with the struggles of most other top prospects – earned him the number three spot on the list this week. When healthy, Sierra has always shown legitimate power potential, and in my top prospect rankings at Hypocritical Sports Fan, I glibly suggested Sierra could hit .320 with 5 home runs in April and get people talking. In hindsight, I might have undersold him. The Pacific Coast League – especially Las Vegas – is a hitter’s paradise, so this could be the first of many appearances for Sierra on the Blue Jays prospect hot sheet this season.
4. LHP David Rollins (LAN): 0-0, 9.1 IP, 7 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 11 K
While Rollins lacks the star potential of many of his rotation mates in Lansing, the 2011 draft pick has gotten off to a hot start while providing his team with valuable innings. With good command of a well-rounded three pitch arsenal, he has been able to generate impressive strikeout-to-walk numbers throughout his career. Rollins made two starts this week, but failed to factor into the decision in either of them. It was no fault of his, however, as evidenced by his 0 runs allowed across the two games. Jays Journal editor Jared Macdonald was able to watch his career-best start on April 17 (4.1 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K) in person, and had a glowing review of the young left hander.
5. RHP Javier Avendano (LAN): 0-1, 3.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 9 K
Few Blue Jays fans are familiar with Javier Avendano, as the right hander was selected in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft last winter. He was drafted out of the St. Louis Cardinals organization, and has been acting as the Carlos Villanueva-like long-man for the Class-A Lansing club, working more than one inning in each of his four games this season. Avendano made two relief appearances this week, and while the 1.80 WHIP is less than attractive, he incredibly recorded 9 of his 10 outs by way of the strikeout – good for an insane 24.30 K/9. Hopefully the system’s prospects will perform well enough in the weeks ahead that a relief pitcher doesn’t take one of the top five spots, but Avendano’s performance certainly deserved recognition.
Travis Snider Watch: 30 AB, .433/.514/.733 (1.247 OPS), 6 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 1 SB, 5/3 BB/K
Another week of domination at Triple-A, and another week of me wondering why I am forced to watch Eric Thames do his best Juan Pierre impression up in Toronto. Not only has Thames struggled at the plate – the one thing he should be good at – but he’s been a butcher in left field; the easiest defensive position in baseball. His awful base running error last week only further emphasized the mistake Toronto made when they chose to bring Thames north and leave Travis Snider behind.
Thames is more than capable of having a decent major league career, but for an organization who has high aspirations – and more importantly, a better all-around player waiting in the wings – there is absolutely no reason for him to be the starting left fielder. Snider’s monster week boosted his season line to .431/.500/.769 (1.269), which is far too loud for the “Vegas effect” to be a viable disclaimer. Fact: Snider’s current slugging percentage (.769) is higher than Thames’ career OPS in the majors (.753).