Pitching reigns supreme in the sixth edition of the Blue Jays prospect hot sheet, as four of the top five (and five of the top six) spots went to pitchers. Injuries have taken their toll on the positional players, as AJ Jimenez and Michael Crouse are the latest to go down. The system took another hit with the promotion of Yan Gomes to Toronto, as the Brazilian super-utility player had become a bit of a mainstay on the hot sheet. We’re inching closer to both the draft and Opening Day for the short season leagues, which will provide a huge influx of talent to fill the spots on the hot sheet. For the games spanning May 14th to May 20th, here are Toronto’s hottest prospects.
1. C Travis d’Arnaud (LAS): 20 AB, .500/.524/1.200 (1.724 OPS), 2 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 6 RBI, 0 SB, 1/2 BB/K
When a prospect puts together an OPS over 1.000 for the week, he’s rolling. The Las Vegas hitters have even provided a few 1.200+ OPS weeks already this season, and unsurprisingly, they ranked extremely high on their respective hot sheets. Travis d’Arnaud must be laughing, because if those are hot weeks, he’s an inferno right now. The numbers he compiled over his five games this week are not simply bordering on insanity, they are insanity. Even though it’s only May, I’m confident in saying no other player in the Blue Jays system will have a better week than what d’Arnaud produced here. He had 10 hits in 20 at-bats, which would be impressive enough on its own, but 60% of those hits went for extra base hits – resulting in an absurd 1.200 slugging percentage. d’Arnaud had a solid April with a .778 OPS, but most people were expecting more from the systems premiere prospect in such a hitter friendly environment. Well, he’s delivered in May, as these numbers boosted his monthly total to .317/.368/.635 (1.003 OPS). With both JP Arencibia and Travis d’Arnaud cruising on offense in their respective leagues, the Blue Jays are in a very enviable position.
2. LHP Sean Nolin (DUN): 0-0, 12 IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 16 K
Nolin made the first prospect hot sheet of the season, but hasn’t appeared since. It hasn’t been because he’s pitched poorly, as he’s allowed more than three runs in only one of his nine starts this season. He simply hasn’t produced any dominant outings since his 11 strikeout performance on April 12th. Things were different this week, as Nolin made two starts and struck out eight in each of them, while walking a grand total of zero batters. Not only did he own the strikezone, but balls put in play were swallowed up by his defense, resulting in an impressive 2.25 ERA and 0.75 WHIP for the week. The 22 year old Nolin has completely overmatched the Florida State League thus far, and a promotion to New Hampshire may be on the horizon.
3. RHP Aaron Sanchez (LAN): 1-0, 8 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 10 K
I recently wrote an article here at Jays Journal that detailed how far Sanchez has come since being selected in the Supplemental 1st round of the 2010 draft, and he continued his successful season with two more dominant appearances this week. The two games saw Sanchez throw a total of eight innings, in which he allowed only five base runners while striking out 10. Strikeouts have always been his calling card, but his ability to induce weak contact this season has been perhaps his most impressive feat. His groundout to flyout ratio has soared to 3.08 for the season, and is a testament to just how good the movement on his fastball is.
Unlike Sanchez and Nicolino, this duo has had its fair share of ups and downs. From late April through mid May, Syndergaard allowed nine runs (six earned) in 15.2 innings, while DeSclafani gave up another nine runs (seven earned). On May 17th, however, the two pitched the best they have since early April, combining to allow only one earned run in eight total innings, while striking out 11 batters for good measure. One interesting trend with this pairing is their starter/reliever splits:
Syndergaard (as starter): 16 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 21 K
Syndergaard (as reliever): 12.2 IP, 15 H, 5 ER, 8 BB, 17 K
DeSclafani (as starter): 14 IP, 25 H, 8 ER, 5 BB, 9 K
DeSclafani (as reliever): 17 IP, 10 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 21 K
Throughout his entire (albeit brief) minor league career, Syndergaard has pitched almost exclusively as a starter, while the recently drafted DeSclafani served as the closer for the University of Florida. While the sample size is still small, it’s noteworthy how drastically different they have each performed in the roles. Even when the reliever knows in advance he’ll be pitching in the ballgame, the warmup is vastly different, and it’s possible a pitcher like Syndergaard needs the full pregame routine to loosen up his arm. For DeSclafani, a former reliever, he may be having a difficult time adjusting to slowly preparing himself, as opposed to simply relying upon adrenaline and quickly getting ready for an in-progress game. It will definitely be something to watch, at least as long as Lansing utilizes the piggyback approach.
5. LHP Justin Nicolino (LAN): 1-0, 8 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K
Nicolino didn’t pitch at his best this week, which speaks volumes about how good he’s been not only this year (1.16 ERA, 0.97 WHIP), but his entire career (1.27 ERA, 0.89 WHIP). It’s actually amazing how little attention he’s drawn this season. The tandem of Nicolino and Aaron Sanchez threw three innings a piece a total of five times before making the jump to four inning appearances. Their May 20th game was their fourth appearance at that length, which, if the Blue Jays keep their development linear, would indicate the two will make only one more game together before their separation. With five inning starts for the rest of the season, the pitchers would be on pace for season totals of 120-125 innings, which is roughly where General Manager Alex Anthopolous indicated he’d like to see them finish.
Honorable mention: Casey Lawrence (NH)