Tuesday, my colleague Travis Batemen wrote a piece attempting to predict Munenori Kawasaki‘s future with the Jays considering the impending return (albeit not in the near future) of incumbent Jose Reyes. Travis argues that despite the love Kawasaki has rightly received from Toronto fans, it is more for his antics, and not his play. As some of the commenters have pointed out though, despite all of Maicer Izturis and Emilio Bonifacio‘s versatility, if you look at the cold hard numbers Kawasaki has been a better player. In fact, if you look at the Blue Jays page over at fangraphs, Boni and Maicer bring up the rear (with my favourite whipping boy, Henry Blanco) in every advanced statistical category. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, I may not be a talent evaluator, but I can read a spreadsheet. If one guy provides positive value, while his two competitors actually hurt the team, according to the numbers, why would he be the one sent down?
Of course, this weekly article is not about the big team though, we’re here to look at the affiliates. So, with Munenori in mind, let’s use this week’s platform to look at the shortstops in the system. Because, let’s be honest. Despite Jose Reyes’ contract, there are numerous scenarios which would see him not being Toronto’s shortstop of the future. Are there any potential replacements down on the farm?
Buffalo: Despite his call-up when Reyes went down, Kawasaki-san hadn’t been the Bison’s everyday shortstop. Ryan Goins has been getting the bulk of reps at short for Buffalo. Goins came to my attention when a few readers commented on him after I wrote the Kevin Pillar Sleeper Prospect List. I was a bit dubious but added him to the sheet based on reader recommendations, and the fact I had no triple-A players to speak of.
The best description I could find of Goins was actually done a couple of years ago by Jays Journal. As Mat said at the time, it would be above average OBP, and his defensive versatility, which gets Ryan past AA. Not necessarily the power he flashed in college. Per Baseball Reference, the median Eastern League OBP in 2012 was .330. Ryan put up a .342 mark, so above average, sure, but not my much. So far this year, he is getting on base at a .329 clip which is below the International League average. So, he was promoted to triple-A but isn’t really making his mark.
This is Goins’ fifth pro season. Enough of a sample size for us to make sweeping predictions. He is not an everyday mlb shortstop. A bench player maybe, but that’s the best we could hope for I expect.
New Hampshire: Kevin Nolan is exactly two months older than Goins, so, at twenty-five, not exactly a ‘prospect’. According to BR, both Goins (4th round) and Nolan (20th round) were drafted in 2009. Both made their pro debuts that same season. Looking at their careers, they have crossed paths a couple of times, and unless I’m reading the stats wrong, Nolan has seemingly put up better numbers (OPS wise) at every stop. So, of course, I’m curious as to why Goins is in AAA and Nolan is currently plying his trade in his home state of New Hampshire. Curious, I’ll endeavour to dig a bit more. Nolan is a big body, and has moved around the diamond a bit, but, for the most part has plied his trade at short. He’s having a decent season in his first go around at AA. A nice 0.76 BB/K ratio, .161 ISO and .348 wOBA. All with a somewhat under par .275 BABIP.
Unfortunately, for Kevin, the road may end here. Theoretically, with Reyes at short in Toronto, things start to clog up a bit in the upper minor leagues. Where does Goins go? If he doesn’t get moved, where does Nolan end up? Either way, I don’t think Kevin makes his mark in the bigs.
Dunedin: I have to admit, I have a bit of an affinity for Peter Mooney. At 5’6″ 155 pounds, he really doesn’t look like a ball player.
Sort of a Stubby Clapp body type. Making his pro debut in 2011, Mooney put up a .894 OPS over three levels, ending up with a cup of coffee in Lansing. After sitting out all of the 2012 season with an injury that is eluding me at the moment, I managed to see Mooney get a few at bats in a televised spring training game. He is what he is. A plus defender (according to a few reports I’ve read) who can hit, just not with a ton of power.
Mooney will more than likely advance in the system. I’d be very surprised if he got all the way to the top though. If he did, it’d be in a utility role, so no, he’s not any sort of long term answer at short.
Lansing: The Lugnuts have been splitting time up in the middle so will give a brief synopsis of both players.
Jorge Flores is similar to Mooney in that he is quite small, has a bit of gap power, and plays hard. He doesn’t excel at any one thing though, and despite some better at bats as of late, he’s still a bit overwhelmed in the Midwest League. I’d say it’s 50/50, depending on what sort of college players the Jays draft, that Flores gets sent back to Vancouver once the short seasons kick off. He’ll top out at AA if the Jays give him a few years.
I can’t find any scouting reports on Emilio Guerrero so can only look at what he has done thus far. He’s a big kid, who, at 6’4″ 190 probably has some more growing to do. What this means for his final position is tough to say, as I have no idea how good he is at short. Despite being only twenty, this is Emilio’s third pro season, signing as a seventeen year old out of the Dominican Republic. 2012 only saw him get into fourty games split between the Gulf Coast and Appalachian Leagues. His numbers were nothing to shout at either, so his Lansing assignment had to be a surprise to everyone. He has definitely not disappointed. Improving his numbers across the board. What I’m most impressed with is the sharp reduction in strike outs, going from a career average in the 24% range to 14.3% this season. He’s also improved his walk rate, leading to a career best 0.88 BB/K rate. The walks also help his OBP as he’s putting up a career best .378. He hasn’t shown a ton of power but with his frame, and age, this could definitely come in time. He is also flashing a bit of speed, with nine stolen bases in eleven attempts.
I have to admit, I hadn’t paid a ton of attention to Guerrero, but after having looked at his numbers, and had a twitter conversation (see below) with Lugs play by play man Jesse Goldberg-Strassler, I will be monitoring him more closely going forward.
@charliecaskey Working hard and getting better and better. Made several outstanding plays yesterday. Range – deceptively good. Arm – strong.
— Jesse G-S (@jgoldstrass) June 7, 2013
I had meant to get into some of the kids still in extended, but at over 1200 words, this piece is way too long. Will save that for a later date.
So, in conclusion. Nothing to look forward to at short in the near future, but an intriguing name in Low-A.