The third edition of the Jays Journal Blue Jays prospect hot sheet is very hitter heavy as, thankfully, the elite positional prospects in the system have finally found their offensive game. Four of the top five performers are of the offensive variety, as was the final cut. The starting catcher for three of the Blue Jays four active affiliates was in contention for the top five, which speaks to the depth of that position in the minor leagues. With no further ado, here are the hottest prospects for the week spanning April 23-29.
1. C A.J. Jimenez (NH): 20 AB, .400/.429/.850 (1.279 OPS), 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 0 SB, 1/2 BB/K
Jimenez played in only five games this week, which is the reason for his low at-bat total of 20. Regardless, when he found the field, he played like the top prospect he is, racking up three multi-hit efforts, and swinging with authority. Jimenez is hardly known for his power, but his .850 slugging percentage this week was the highest in the system. Astoundingly, his two home runs in these five games are exactly half of what he managed to hit over the entire 2011 season (102 games). Jimenez had only 10 hits in his previous 12 games this year, so hopefully this hot streak has him back on track moving forward. This week raised his batting average an impressive 56 points, from .213 to .269.
2. CF Jake Marisnick (DUN): 26 AB, .423/.444/.846 (1.290 OPS), 2 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 1 SB, 1/0 BB/K
Despite his team’s overwhelming success –- the D-Jays are 18-5 entering Monday -– Marisnick hadn’t really found his stroke until this past week. It’s been a bit of a trend for the offense down in Florida, as fellow top prospects Marcus Knecht (.589 OPS) and Michael Crouse (.561 OPS) are also struggling to make regular contact. Marisnick broke out in a big way, however, with hits in five of six games, including a ridiculous 10-for-17 stretch from Wednesday through Saturday. They weren’t just slap singles either, as he had five extra base hits this week, including the three home runs. The huge week raised his season line to .286/.377/.518 (.894 OPS), which is much more like the Jake Marisnick we’ve grown to know and love.
3. LHP/RHP Jaron Nanchez (LAN): 1-0, 12 IP, 9 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 16 K
Jaron Nanchez is back for a second consecutive week, despite the fact that the Aaron Sanchez / Justin Nicolino duo each appeared in two games, totaling six innings a piece. Scouts and prospectors have been buzzing on Sanchez in the early going, and it’s no surprise why: he’s made five three-inning appearances this season, and in each he’s allowed one hit, no runs, and struck out at least three. Sanchez could have ranked on the list by himself, but the contributions from Nicolino (6 IP, 7 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K) should not be overlooked. It was noted by the Lansing Lugnuts radio broadcasters that, after their appearances, both pitchers are continuing to throw in the bullpen. We could be very close to seeing four inning outings from the young Lansing staff.
4. 1B David Cooper (LAS): 23 AB, .391/.481/.783 (1.264 OPS), 6 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 0 SB, 4/1 BB/K
David Cooper got off to a slow start this year, particularly in the power department. After hitting 51 doubles in 120 games for Las Vegas last season, he had only two through his first 13 games this year. It’s been a different story over the last ten, particularly in the six games he played this week. What’s especially crazy about Cooper’s performance is that it included two 0-fers, so in reality, those seven extra base hits came in only four games. With four walks against only one strikeout this week, Cooper has boosted his season totals to 10 walks and 11 strikeouts, showing the sharp eye we’ve come to expect from him. He would have a ton of value if he had some defensive flexibility, but I’m not sure he has enough to make it as a major league first baseman, despite the numbers he constantly produces in Triple-A.
5. C Travis d’Arnaud (LAS): 21 AB, .381/.381/.619 (1.000 OPS), 2 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 0 SB, 0/4 BB/K
Finally, the system’s top prospect makes an appearance on a hot sheet. d’Arnaud narrowly edged out Lansing catcher Carlos Perez for the final spot, which as I mentioned earlier, speaks volumes about the depth Toronto has at the catcher position. d’Arnaud is currently riding a nine game his streak going back to last week, which could be a sign the backstop has finally found his stroke. Despite a rather underwhelming (given the friendly confines of Las Vegas) season slash line of .263/.341/.413 (.753 OPS), there have been some positives. His current 9.2% walk rate would be a career best, and his 17.2% strikeout rate would be his lowest since A-ball in 2009. Perhaps I’m overly sensitive about d’Arnaud after writers at Baseball Prospectus passed along the opinion of some scouts who feel he may be closer to a league average hitter than an All Star, but another big, healthy year from d’Arnaud would be big for this franchise, and would greatly ease my nerves.
Honorable mention: Carlos Perez (LAN), Sean Nolin (DUN)