Lansing right hander Anthony DeSclafani pitching for the University of Florida during the 2011 season (Rob Foldy, GaterCountry.com)

Blue Jays Prospect Hot Sheet: Week Sixteen-ish

After a multi-week hiatus the Blue Jays prospect hot sheet is back, and will be covering games from August 1st through 12th. The upper levels of the minor leagues have been decimated by call-ups, injuries, and trades, forcing the prospects in the lower levels to step up. They performed admirably, but the elite, high-end performances were definitely lacking, as the list is dominated by lines that would mostly be classified simply as strong. With such a long break between posts I’ve bumped it up to the hottest eight prospects, but we’ll revert back to the usual five or six next week.

1. RHP Anthony DeSclafani (LAN): 1-0, 17 IP, 15 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 14 K

Since being separated from Noah Syndergaard, Anthony DeSclafani has flown under the prospect radar down in Lansing. Over the past two weeks, however, he’s been the most dominant arm on the staff. DeSclafani made three starts, and despite being fantastically dominant, the Lugnuts offense could only give him one win. He maintained his season long exceptional command, walking only two in his 17 innings, but displayed strikeout prowess we haven’t seen since he pitched in relief earlier this year. In July, DeSclafani struck out only 9 batters in 27 innings, a number he’s already bested in just three starts. He struck out seven on August 12th, which was the second highest total of his season (8, on May 17th). I still feel his ultimate future lies in the bullpen where his fastball/slider combination should allow him to flourish, but the fact the Blue Jays have kept him in the rotation to receive extra innings for development is a huge plus for the long term.

2. CF D.J. Davis (GCL): 25 AB, .240/.424/.440 (.864 OPS), 3 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 5 SB, 5/11 BB/K

Toronto’s top pick in the 2012 draft has started his career off very smoothly. Davis’ athleticism was without question, but there was plenty to debate about his offensive game. He’s quelled some of those concerns early on, as he’s managed 11 extra base hits in 39 games as well as an acceptable .248 batting average. The speed has been as advertised, as with 18 stolen bases, he’s leading the Gulf Coast League. Complex league statistics are basically meaningless and should be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s good to see Davis having some success.

3. LF Marcus Knecht (DUN): 30 AB, .300/.417/.467 (.883 OPS), 5 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 2 SB, 3/9 BB/K

Knecht was the one of the three 2011 Lansing outfielders to make the jump to Dunedin this year, and was the median player in terms of production. Now in August, he’s the only of the three still with the team. Marisnick received his promotion to Double-A last month, while Crouse was demoted back to Single-A. The season has been a continuum of mediocrity for Knecht, as outside of a dominant May, he’s struggled to keep his OPS in the .700’s. His secondary stats (9.8 BB% and 182 ISO) have remained strong, but contact has been a serious issue, with his strikeout rate soaring to 28.9%. Knecht’s August has started with a bang; we’ll have to see if he can maintain it through to the end of the year.

4. 3B Kellen Sweeney (VAN): 41 AB, .268/.362/.488 (.850 OPS), 4 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 1 SB, 5/4 BB/K

Sweeney has been one of the system’s biggest disappointments this year, as many – myself included – were looking for him to take a big step forward. The Blue Jays were clearly onboard as well, as they assigned him to full season Lansing with only 25 career games under his belt. He was awful for the Lugnuts, and after a demotion he was even worse through his first few weeks in Vancouver. Sweeney has begun to turn things around, as with an .850 OPS to start August his overall Vancouver line is up to .212/.320/.364 (.684 OPS). His power has been far better than expected, particularly given the large dimensions of the park the Canadians play in, and the walks, as expected, are plentiful. There’s still a long way to go, but it’s good to see him finishing the year on a positive note.

5. RHP Javier Avendano (VAN): 2-0, 16 IP, 10 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 19 K

I still don’t really know what to make of Javier Avendano. He had four strong years in the Cardinals organization, and despite being just 21, they allowed him to be taken in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft. With Toronto, Avendano opened the year in relief with Single-A Lansing, and performed very well. As a reward, the team decided to demote him to Vancouver, where he’s shifted to the rotation. The numbers improved, as evident by his dominance in August listed above, raising his season totals to a 1.53 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 10.60 K/9 through a career high 88.1 innings. His performance earned him the Northwest League pitcher of the week award. What the Blue Jays ultimately plan on doing with Avendano is a mystery, but he’s handled everything the team has thrown at him so far.

6. 2B Christian Lopes (BLU): 33 AB, .364/.364/.515 (.879 OPS), 5 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 1 SB, 0/3 BB/K

Lopes has been one of Bluefield most consistently productive hitters this season, which is significant given the insane prospect depth on the roster. His .813 OPS this year is better than that of Santiago Nessy (.730), Matt Dean (.657), Dickie Thon (.646), Dwight Smith Jr (.629), and Jacob Anderson (.603). A lot of that has been driven by his extra base power, as he’s first on the team in triples, and his doubles total (16) is twice the total of the team’s second highest player (Nessy, 8). Lopes was mostly overlooked when offseason prospect rankings were written, but should find himself in the top 30 this winter.

7. 1B Mike McDade (LAS): 45 AB, .356/.375/.511 (.886 OPS), 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 0 SB, 2/5 BB/K

After being the lone offensive prospect in New Hampshire for much of the year, McDade finally received a promotion to Las Vegas. The problem is, d’Arnaud is injured, Snider and Thames were traded, and Gose, Sierra, Hechavarria, Cooper, and Gomes are in Toronto. Long story short, he’s once again in a very thin lineup. Big Mac has gotten off to a very hot start with the 51s, with five multi-hit games already in August. Unfortunately, McDade was placed on the minor league disabled list this week, so both his season – and the Las Vegas offense – take yet another blow.

8. RF Michael Crouse (LAN): 28 AB, .250/.364/.571 (.935 OPS), 0 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 0 SB, 5/8 BB/K

To say Crouse’s 2012 season has been a disappointment would be a colossal understatement. After producing an .827 OPS in the Midwest League last year – arguably the hardest of the minor leagues in which to hit – Crouse joined Knecht and Jake Marisnick in Dunedin, where he did next to nothing. In parts of three months, he maintained a batting average around the .200 mark with an on-base percentage below .300. Both his power and speed, which were superb last season, vanished. Even a demotion back to Lansing wasn’t enough to rekindle the spark – at least until this week. Crouse smashed three home runs, which is the greatest total of anyone on the hot sheet.

Honorable mention:
Jorge Vega-Rosado (BLU), Jesus Gonzalez (GCL), Justin Nicolino (LAN)

Tags: Anthony DeSclafani Christian Lopes D.J. Davis Javier Avendano Kellen Sweeney Marcus Knecht Michael Crouse Mike McDade

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