Alex Anthopolous made a quick two day scouting trip to Vancouver last weekend. As the Canadians employed the 2012 buzzword ‘piggy backing’ system for the one (and hopefully) only time this season, I can only presume his main focus was on those four starters.
Aside from Dan Norris getting roughed up, I think, overall, he would have come away impressed. However, since I have absolutely no idea what AA is thinking, let’s take a quick look at what actually happened.
As mentioned above, Norris struggled badly Saturday. He started, going three and a third, giving up eight earned on nine hits. He walked more than he struck out, which isn’t great, and, in general, was a bit rubbish. I’m going to give him a mulligan on this one. It was his first start since last week’s call up from Bluefield. I can’t profess to be an expert on the gap, or lack thereof, in talent levels between the Appy and Northwest League. But the Northwest is predominantly a college age league where hitters have a bit more experience then the lower levels. Listening to the radio broadcast, the Boise hitters were sitting fastball, as both the change and curve were ineffective.
So, new town, new league, and, according to Vancouver C’s play by play man Rob Fai, facing the best hitting team in the league. I’m going to give him a pass. Whether AA did is another matter.
Taylor Cole relieved Norris and pitched the remainder of the game, giving up a mere two baserunners on a walk and a hit. Not bad. Taylor is an interesting case, having taken two years off of baseball to undertake a mission for his church (ironically in Toronto). The C’s website did a write up here which is interesting, not just for the detail, but mentions Taylor’s struggles with his fastball velocity. According to various reports, he consistently hit the low to mid 90s with his fastball in high school. I watched Taylor last week and had him sitting at 88 mph with his fastball. He touched 90 occasionally but rarely for a strike. Obviously this hasn’t affected him so much this season as he leads the Northwest League in both era and whip. His advanced metrics also are excellent with a FIP of 2.64. His secondary pitches work. However, for him to advance, and at his age, he really should be, you have to think he’ll need to add a few ticks to the heater. This season is Taylor’s first in pro ball, I’ll be curious to see whether his success this season earns him a promotion to Lansing/Dunedin next year or if the Jays will keep in Vancouver to find the missing velocity.
On Sunday, Roberto Osuna made his first start since August 12th. He was activated on Saturday after taking some time off to be with his ill mother in Mexico. Looking at his five starts for the C’s I’m going to guess he’s on a pretty strict ceiling of how many innings or pitches he can throw per start, whichever comes first. That’s my explanation for fact he threw only 3 innings on Sunday, despite giving up a single run on 3 hits. Osuna created a lot of hype, not only in Vancouver, but across the internet when he struck out thirteen Everett hitters in five innings in his C’s debut. That was never going to be the norm. His numbers since then have been good, not great. He’s walking a few too many, but let’s remember, he’s only 17. I’m sure Vancouver fans have their fingers crossed he returns for the start of next season. I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Javier Avendano came in after Osuna and threw five innings, giving up four hits and striking out seven. This has been pretty standard for Avendano lately. He’s striking out over ten batters per nine innings pitched with a 3.95 k/bb ratio. Quite simply, as I wrote in my first piece for Jays Journal, he’s too good for the Northwest League. I said he should be in Lansing. My colleague Kyle Matte, in his latest prospect hot sheet, makes the point that if he had any say, Avendano would be in Dunedin right now. Whether Lansing or Dunedin, there is no reason for Avendano to be in Vancouver. Yes, the C’s are in the thick of a playoff race, but both Lansing and Dunedin are off to the playoffs themselves, so he’d get the experience regardless.
So, 3 out of 4 ain’t bad. And the two starts that were not dominant have built in excuses. One was his first start after a call up and the other was a first start in over two weeks due to a family illness. The other two performances were excellent and probably just confirmed what AA had being hearing about these two guys.
Unfortunately, the piggy backing over the weekend has thrown a wrench in the C’s rotation plans as they finish up the season. They close with a five game set in Yakima holding a half game lead over the Eugene Emeralds who finish up with four at home to Spokane. Without the weekend’s showcase, Vancouver leads off the series with two of the four pitchers discussed above. Instead they are forced to run out Ben White in the opener, with predictable results (if you’re unsure what Ben White’s ‘predictable result’ would be…..he got lit up, the C’s got hammered).
The Jays have always expressed their desire to see the minor league staff get playoff experience so I am a bit surprised by the timing of AA’s visit in relation to the C’s playoff push. But with Norris only getting promoted and Osuna having been away for a spell, this was probably the only available opportunity. Canadians fans can only hope those that pitched over the weekend still have a chance to carry the load later on this week.
(note: this piece got held up a bit due to publishing issues. The Canadians ended up winning the last four of the five game set with Yakima, ensuring they won the second half flag by a game. Vancouver got fantastic pitching performances from Taylor Cole and Javier Avendano. Dan Norris also threw well on the final day of the regular season. So, with Roberto Osuna lined up to take the bump in game one of the Western Division final, with Cole and Avendano to follow, you have to like the Canadians chances to make the Northwest League final.)