Blue Jays prospects as a whole didn’t have a very good week to say the least. The matters were compounded by the Triple-A and Double-A All Star breaks, which limited players from both Las Vegas and New Hampshire to four games at-best. The result was a number of players making their hot sheet debut, as the performance required to rank was significantly lower than weeks past. It’s a sharp contrast to last week, when we had nearly a dozen adequate candidates. For games spanning July 9th through 15th, here are the system’s six hottest prospects.
1. RHP Asher Wojciechowski (DUN): 1-0, 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
I called out Wojcechowski on the hot sheet over a month ago, going as far as to suggest he needs to be converted to relief sooner rather than later. While I obviously had no impact, he’s coincidentally responded with the best stretch of his young career. Over his last six starts he’s allowed 1, 2, 0, 0, 2, and 0 earned runs respectively, good for a 1.23 ERA. The current period of success has been accentuated by the gem he pitched on July 11th, as 16 of his 21 outs came by way of strikeout or groundout. There’s been a lot of talk around the Blue Jays fan base that some of the Lansing pitchers, namely Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard, need to be challenged at the next level. If the team determines that to be true, Wojciechowski could be one of the guys moving up to make room in the rotation. As a 23 year old former college arm, the team needs to see what he’s capable of.
2. CF Anthony Gose (LAS): 14 AB, .357/.500/.714 (1.214 OPS), 0 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB, 4/4 BB/K
After wowing the world with his a jawdropping catch in the Futures Game over All-Star weekend, Gose picked up where he left off with the 51s. The break limited him to only four games, so while the 1.214 OPS is mighty impressive, the counting stats were simply too lacking to take the crown as this week’s hottest player. The home run numbers have surprisingly dropped off, but with 10 triples on the season, he’s already surpassed his 2011 total. The doubles aren’t far behind, as he’s two back of his 2011 number with nearly two months left to play. The most surprising decline in performance has been on the base paths, as after stealing 70 bases last year (reaching the 70+ plateau for the second time in three years), Gose has stolen just 29 this year, only on pace for a total in the low 40’s. Not listed above are his three caught stealing this week – again, in only four games – which makes five consecutive caught stealing since he last found success on June 25th. Opportunity hasn’t been the issue, as his on base percentage is 27 points higher than last season. Very puzzling.
3. CF Dwight Smith Jr. (BLU): 17 AB, .353/.389/.647 (1.036 OPS), 2 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 0 SB, 1/1 BB/K
Making his first appearance on a hot sheet this season is Dwight Smith Jr., a supplemental first round pick from the 2011 draft. He was literally my final cut when I wrote my top 30 prospects last winter, and it was really no fault of his. Smith’s professional contract wasn’t finalized until August 15th, too late for him to play in any affiliated games last season. When I’m trying to squeeze two or three players into the back end of the rankings, I tend to favor prospects with some professional experience, so in this case, Moises Sierra got the nod. Smith missed the first few games of Bluefield’s season with an injury, but has played really well since getting on the field. His hot streak goes beyond the four games within this timeframe, as over his past 10 he’s hitting .293/.383/.463, which is exceptional for short season ball.
4. RHP Jeremy Gabryszwski (BLU): 0-0, 5 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K
The very talented Bluefield staff is working through some issues right now, as in addition to poor weather reaping havoc on their pitching schedule, they haven’t been nearly as sharp in the early going. Despite being listed as active, neither Joe Musgrove nor Tom Robson have pitched in a couple of weeks. Picking up the slack has been Gabryszwski, as he’s produced three consecutive quality outings for the team. His July 14th start was both his longest and his best, as he went five innings without allowing any runs to score. Gabryszwski is one of the less heralded arms from the bountiful 2011 draft, but has a nice fastball/slider/changeup repertoire. His biggest issues have been inconsistency with his stuff and an elbow problem, but a healthy, productive 2012 season could quell some of those concerns. With a 1.89 ERA through 19 innings, he’s off to a good start.
5. LHP Justin Nicolino (LAN): 1-0, 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K
It’s been a while since Nicolino made the hot sheet, as while Noah Syndergaard and Aaron Sanchez have made huge strides since being fully stretched out, he has stalled. As hitters are seeing him for a second and third time, they’re picking up on his stuff, resulting in 26 hits allowed in 20 post-All Star break innings. The stuff has still been there, with 23 strikesouts, as has his exceptional command, with only 3 walks allowed. This may be exactly what Nicolino needed to further his development, as he’s going to need to improve his physicality in order to succeed against more advanced and disciplined hitters in the upper minors. This taste of adversity should serve as a resounding message to Nicolino that he will need to hit the gym hard this offseason and add a solid 10-20 pounds of muscle to frame. There’s no doubting his changeup and the curveball is coming along nicely, but the added strength could boost his fastball up by a grade and better keep hitters honest.
6. RHP Deck McGuire (NH): 0-0, 6.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 7 K
No, you don’t need to check your vision. Deck McGuire has made a hot sheet. In actuality, McGuire hasn’t been that bad as of late, as he hasn’t allowed more than 3 earned runs in a start since June 7th. The problem is, most of those starts have been 5 or 6 innings allowing 2 or 3 earned runs, so the ERA isn’t dropped quite as quickly as I’m sure he’d like. The command has been solid and the strikeout rate has been okay, his biggest issue – like it was last year – has been the home run. With two more given up in this week’s start, he’s up to 16 in just 97.2 innings. That’s tied for the most in the Eastern League. As I mentioned, there have been some positives, as over his past two starts (dating back to last week), he has 17 strikeouts against one walk in just over 12 innings.