Thanks Alex Anthopolous. After writing a piece speculating on where the Lansing Big Three would start 2013 (and where I would start them), AA was kind enough to join Buck and Pat on-air to answer that very question, amongst many others. I can only hope he is as expeditious in answering all of my questions going forward.
I didn’t actually see the interview so have relied heavily on the reliable coverage provided over at djf. It sounds like it was quite an interesting chat, and it saw AA open up a bit more that he has done in the past, which is refreshing.
He did touch on the Lansing Big Three specifically, making the following points:
1) They’ll start the season in Dunedin, with nothing stopping them from being promoted to New Hampshire if they pitch well
2) It wasn’t necessarily an innings ceiling they were subjected to this season
3) He mentioned studies the Jays have done, and they feel it is prudent to be over-protective of their teenage prospects as they are still developing physically. Aaron Sanchez was mentioned, saying that, despite his ability to hit 99 on the gun, he is still quite skinny and his frame needs to develop before his workload increases.
(as an aside, and this is purely my own hypothesis, I am guessing Justin Nicolino was held back for similar reasons, despite fact he was no longer a teenager entering the 2012 season)
Now, I don’t want to question the studies that the Jays have conducted as I have no idea what went in to them, sample size, what the results were, etc. But I really hope that if an anomaly comes along, Jays management are flexible enough to deviate from the standard course and give the prospect more rope than they normally would.
Funnily enough, I believe they have such a prospect.
Most Jays fans know of Roberto Osuna by now. He was signed as an international free agent in 2011, making his North American pro debut this season. He finished the year in Vancouver, where his first start went viral after he struck out thirteen in just five innings. His last start was potentially even more impressive though. In game two of the Northwest League finals Osuna, again, dominated the Boise Hawks (generally regarded as the best hitting team in the league) going five innings, giving up two hits and striking out nine.
Marc Hulet, who does prospect rankings for Fangraphs and writes for various other Blue Jays sources, was at the game. As per his year end power rankings for the Toronto Sun he was impressed. Considering Osuna was nowhere to be found on most pre-season rankings, it is quite telling that Hulet now has him ranked third, behind only Travis D’Arnaud and Aaron Sanchez.
In his brief blurb about Osuna, Hulet says ‘He worked quickly, showed good command, and is mature beyond his years.’ That last bit is something you often read when looking at Osuna’s scouting reports.
In fact, the two things that stand out about Osuna are his stuff and his maturity. He was pitching against grown men in the Mexican League as a sixteen year old! So, two pieces of the puzzle are in place. Osuna has the weapons to move up the system and is mature beyond his years. What about physically? Like Sanchez, does he need to be coddled as he his body matures?
The short answer is no. He’s listed at 6’2″ 230 pounds. Hulet compares him to a young Bartolo Colon. And I have read from a few sources, that if anything, the Jays will have to monitor his weight (not the good weight) going forward. I don’t see that. I saw Osuna pitch three times this season, and even managed to corner him for a few questions after another game. There is no doubt he is a big kid. But most of his bulk is in the trunk. His legs are massive, which is where he develops the power in his delivery. Will his frame continue to grow in the next couple of years? Maybe. And the Jays studies probably have included teenagers on other end of the spectrum to the slight ones you normally associate with younger prospects.
However, I truly believe the Jays have something here. And if there is anything in the studies allowing teenagers that meet certain criteria to progress a bit quicker then the Jays management need to be flexible in their approach.
If Roberto Osuna should meet this criteria, then there is no need for him spend a full season being too good for the Midwest League. Why not start him in the Florida State League? Instead of the Dunedin Big Three, it can be the Dunedin Big Four (two of which are quite literally very big). Hell, I’m sure we could come up with an even better nickname for them.
I’m looking forward to AA’s response.