With the rosters for the two remaining short season teams – Bluefield and the Gulf Coast Blue Jays – being finalized this week, we can finally give the rosters some well deserved examination. The two rosters in question are loaded with prospects, which should make both teams very fun to follow.
Both teams will be divided into two articles; one for position players and the other for pitchers. It will be explained how each player became a member of the Blue Jays organization, as well as how they performed last year, whether with Toronto or otherwise. A lot of people are familiar with the Triple-A and Double-A rosters, but less so with the low level, short season teams. The goal behind the preview is to give Blue Jays fans a better idea of who is on the rosters, and who they should be keeping their eyes on. The Bluefield and Gulf Coast rosters are even more loaded than usual, as with the draft signing deadline being moved ahead over a month, a number of top draft picks will be playing when in previous years they’d still be sitting at home negotiating.
I will be examining the hitters for both clubs, while Jared will be writing about the pitching side of things. To get things started, here are the position players for the Rookie Class Gulf Coast League Blue Jays.
Seth Conner (20 years old)
How he was acquired: Selected in the 41st round of the 2010 draft, signed for $100,000
How he fared in 2011: Conner had a successful professional debut with the Gulf Coast Blue Jays, and finds himself back with the club in 2012. The difference, however, is that after playing third base for the club last year, Conner now finds himself behind the plate. It should be an interesting transition to monitor, as while he has smooth defensive actions and a near ideal catcher build at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, his arm very fringe average, and teams could take advantage of him in the running game. Offensively, he had one of the best lines of any player on the roster, showing solid all-around skills, including 30 walks in 50 games.
2011 (GCL): 174 AB, .276/.395/.420 (.815 OPS), 9 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 23 RBI, 4 SB, 30/37 BB/K
George Carroll (24 years old)
How he was acquired: Signed as undrafted free agent in June 2011
How he fared in 2011: Carroll was signed by the Blue Jays just prior to the opening of the short season leagues and served as nothing more than a backup, compiling only 41 at-bats for the club. He didn’t do much with his playing time either, as his .324 OPS with the lowest by anyone on the team with 20 or more at-bats. Carroll is already 24 years old, and with no major league future, he’s likely hoping to parlay his minor league experience into an eventual coaching position.
2011 (GCL): 41 AB, .098/.178/.146 (.324 OPS), 2 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB, 3/15 BB/K
John Silviano (17 years old)
How he was acquired: Selected in the 13th round of the 2012 draft
How he fared in 2011: Silviano was just drafted out of a Florida high school, and as such has no professional data. With his high school team – Summit Christian – Silviano played both catcher and outfield, so his athleticism should provide some versatility to the Gulf Coast team. He also threw a few innings of relief, with a fastball that resides in the mid to high 80’s, which is plenty of arm strength for a position player. Silviano is only 17 years old and has some potential, so I hope he is able to steal some playing time away from the older backup catchers.
Jorge Saez (21 years old)
How he was acquired: Selected in the 32nd round of the 2012 draft
How he fared in 2011: Saez is a Miami native, and after spending some time at Miami Dade College – the same college that produced Nationals 2011 first round pick Brian Goodwin – he transferred to Lee University in Tennessee. The transfer wasn’t due to poor performance, as Saez hit a respectable .277/.372/.380 with the team. It was an interesting choice, as Lee University has produced a total of 1 major league player in its long history, and that player, Lance Zawadzki, has just 20 games to his name.
Mitchell Nay (18 years old)
How he was acquired: Selected in the Supplemental 1st round of the 2012 draft, signed for $1,000,000
How he fared in 2011: Nay had an up and down 2011-2012 high school season, before picking things up in the spring and vaulting himself into day one pick status. He fits the third base profile well, with a number of similarities to 2011 draft pick and Bluefield third baseman, Matt Dean. Nay has a strong arm with plenty of power in his swing, and could be among the team leaders in many offensive categories.
Dawel Lugo (17 years old)
How he was acquired: Signed out of the Dominican Republic as an international free agent in July 2011 for $1,300,000
How he fared in 2011: Lugo received the Blue Jays second highest bonus during the 2011 international free agent signing period, with his 1.3 million being bested only by Roberto Osuna’s 1.5 million. Lugo is a shortstop now, but will have to put a lot of effort into his defensive work to prevent a move to the hot corner. He has excellent contact skills which can get him in trouble at times, as he’ll swing at pitches well outside of the strikezone because he knows he can put them in play. That approach will need to be reeled back by coaches, as smart pitchers will take advantage of him. Lugo has the potential for power, but that will likely develop later once he matures and builds upon his 6-foot-1, 175 pound frame. As a potential big bodied offensive shortstop, he’s drawn comparisons to Detroit’s Jhonny Peralta.
Gabriel Cenas (18 years old)
How he was acquired: Signed out of Venezuela as an international free agent in July 2010 for $700,000
How he fared in 2011: Cenas was a part of the Blue Jays impressive haul of international free agents in the summer of 2010, alongside elite pitching prospect Adonys Cardona. He made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League last year, with mixed results. His plate discipline was very impressive, but he struggled to make consistent and strong contact. It’s possible he was being physically overmatched, as despite standing 6-foot-1, Cenas is a very lean 155 pounds.
2011 (DSL): 53 AB, .208/.368/.226 (.594 OPS), 1 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 1 SB, 9/11 BB/K
Emilio Guerrero (19 years old)
How he was acquired: Signed out of Dominican Republic as an international free agent
How he fared in 2011: Guerrero played in the Dominican Summer League last season and got an extended look, playing in 53 games. The results were mediocre, but for an 18 year old making his professional debut, there were plenty of positives. The power manifested itself in doubles instead of home runs, but as Guerrero fills out his 6-foot-4, 170 pound frame, he should start clearing fences. Despite the 47 strikeouts, the 11 walks were a pleasant surprise as well. Hopefully he will continue to make strides as me makes his stateside debut in the Gulf Coast.
2011 (DSL): 180 AB, .239/.297/.311 (.608 OPS), 11 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 22 RBI, 4 SB, 11/47 BB/K
Justin Atkinson (18 years old)
How he was acquired: Selected in the 26th round of the 2011 draft, signed for $100,000
How he fared in 2011: The Canadian infielder got into only limited action with the Gulf Coast Blue Jays last season, and finds himself back there despite his wishes to open the year in his native Vancouver. Atkinson had a solid average at .279, but with only 4 extra base hits and 2 walks, his OPS wasn’t particularly eye catching. His defensive position is a bit of a mystery at this point, as he lacks the speed and agility for shortstop – his usual position – and lacks the power ceiling for third base.
2011 (GCL): 43 AB, .279/.298/.395 (.693 OPS), 3 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 0 SB, 2/3 BB/K
Shaun Valeriote (22 years old)
How he was acquired: Selected in the 39th round of the 2012 draft
How he fared in 2011: By being selected by the Blue Jays, Valeriote became the first player from the Canadian collegiate ranks to ever be drafted into professional baseball. In 2010, he broke Andrew Tinnish’s – yes, the same Andrew Tinnish who was just named Assistant GM – school record for batting, with a .519 average. He followed that up last season by winning the OUA Triple Crown, hitting .460 with five home runs and 20 RBI. The OUA seasons are very short – less than two months – so despite his age, Valeriote is as raw as many US high school players.
Cody Bartlett (23 years old)
How he was acquired: Selected in the 41st round of the 2011 draft
How he fared in 2011: Barlett began drawing draft attention in 2011, when he hit .323 with seven home runs and 34 RBI, earning second-team All-Pac-10 honors. That success didn’t carry through to his professional debut, as he struggled mightily with Bluefield. Contact was the biggest issue, as both his walk rate and ISO were acceptable for a middle infielder. He’ll look to make improvements in that department in 2012, after being demoted to the Gulf Coast where he’ll likely serve primarily in a backup infielder role.
2011 (BLU): 91 AB, .198/.284/.308 (.592 OPS), 7 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 17 RBI, 2 SB, 11/22 BB/K
D.J. Davis (17 years old)
How he was acquired: Selected in the 1st round of the 2012 draft, signed for $1,750,000
How he fared in 2011: Davis was Toronto’s top pick in the 2012 draft, and his rise up the pre draft rankings was due in large part to a 2011-2012 season in which he finally made strides with the bat. In 26 games during his senior year, Davis hit .373/.558/.836 with 7 home runs. On the base paths, he was a near perfect 24-for-25 in steal attempts. The speed has been compared to Reds star prospect Billy Hamilton, the question with Davis – not unlike Hamilton – is whether or not he can hit. He joins a crowded center field depth chart, behind Colby Rasmus, Anthony Gose, Jake Marisnick, and Dwight Smith, so he has plenty of time to figure out professional pitching.
Anthony Alford (18 years old)
How he was acquired: Selected in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft, signed for $750,000
How he fared in 2011: Alford is a rare two sport talent, as in addition to being drafted and signed by the Blue Jays, he was also heavily recruited by Southern Miss., and will play football there this fall. His baseball skills are unquestionable, as his .483/.569/.793 slash line in his senior year can attest. Alford fills up stat sheets, as in only 30 games, he accumulated 11 doubles, 2 triples, 4 home runs, 31 RBI, 39 runs scored, and went 14-for-14 in stolen bases. If he eventually settles on baseball, he could be an elite talent in the outfield.
Wuilmer Becerra (17 years old)
How he was acquired: Signed out of Venezuela as an international free agent in July 2011 for $1,300,000
How he fared in 2011: Becerra was one of Toronto’s big international signings last summer, but didn’t play any games as a 16 year old. He played shortstop in his early baseball days, but now standing 6-foot-4 at age 17, it’s obvious why that experiment wasn’t going to last. Becerra has a nice combination of speed and power, with his legs currently being his best tool. It takes him a few strides to get to full speed, which gives him great range in the outfield but “only” plus times from home to first. His arm might limit him to left field, but his bat should be more than play at that position.
Jesus Gonzalez (17 years old)
How he was acquired: Signed out of Venezuela as an international free agent in July 2011 for $700,000
How he fared in 2011: Like Becerra, Gonzalez was also signed out of Venezuela, but has a much different toolset than. He has a strong frame at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, and has above average power potential. Like almost every young Latin American prospect, reviews are mixed on his hit tool. His bat speed is unquestionable, but some fear his swing can get too long and creating consistent contact could be a problem. Other scouts, however, thought his swing path was just fine.He doesn’t have the speed to play center field, but his plus arm makes him a good fit for right field.
Derrick Loveless (19 years old)
How he was acquired: Selected in the 27th round of the 2011 draft, signed for $125,000
How he fared in 2011: Loveless has a history of offensive success, as in his draft year, he hit .554 with 14 doubles, 6 triples, 11 home runs, and 28 stolen bases. That didn’t translate into playing time with the Gulf Coast Blue Jays in 2011, as he appeared in only five games with poor results, though his late signing surely didn’t help matters. He could struggled to find playing time again, as the team is loaded with high ceiling outfielders.
2011 (GCL): 17 AB, .059/.200/.059 (.259 OPS), 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0 SB, 3/7 BB/K
D.J. (Dennis) Jones (19 years old)
How he was acquired: Selected in the 20th round of the 2012 draft
How he fared in 2011: Jones is yet another athletic outfielder on the Gulf Coast roster. During the 2011 season – his final season at Jeff Davis High School – he hit .559 with 35 steals and 49 runs scored. He was drafted by the Brewers in the 22nd round, but declined to sign, instead choosing to attend Hillsborough Community College in Tampa. He attempted to become a switch hitter, but the results didn’t follow, as Jones hit only .205 in 32 games. He also worked off the mound, compiling a 2.13 ERA in 25.1 innings.