The minor league season is drawing to a close which, unfortunately, does not mean any rest for the wicked. There’s always something to write about. But for now, let’s focus on which of the Toronto affiliates will make the playoffs. As of right now the Buffalo Bisons were eliminated this weekend, New Hampshire are done, Dunedin are in by virtue of their first half flag, Lansing could not be further away, Vancouver (sort of) control their destiny yet are playing like a sack of rubbish, Bluefield are in, and the GCL Jays fell short. Take a breath.
Too be honest, I’d totally forgotten that Dunedin had won the first half North division in the Florida State League. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just that Dunedin’s roster is so boring. The only excitement this year was the announcement that the Jays may move their spring training facility from Dunedin to Palm Beach, which sparked this hilarious tweet:
@Minor_Leaguer so, instead of calling the FSL team the D-Jays, we’ll be calling them the PB&Jays?
— Charlie Caskey (@CharlieCaskey) July 12, 2013
As far as prospects are concerned, there’s only been two that I’ve focused on. Unfortunately, the Jays undisputed number one
farmhand has had a frustrating season. Touted as the only ‘untouchable’ in the Lansing Big Three, Aaron Sanchez hasn’t quite lived up to the moniker in his first (and hopefully only) season in the FSL. Injuries and some uneven performances/stats have made for a frustrating season, especially when you consider the other two members of the LBT are in double-A. A Sanchez season review is worth a post alone, so let’s end this diatribe with two positives. As per this ‘Layin’ Down the Law’ piece over at Drunk Jays Fans, Keith Law is still high on the right-hander, saying he’d take him over Noah Syndergaard, and it was the experimentation with a sinker (apparently at the Jays insistence) that made for some short outings in early July.
Over at Fangraphs.com, resident Blue Jay prospecter Marc Hulet says, in one of his prospect chats (see the question at 1:19), that ‘He can still be a No. 3 guy with less than ideal command/control. His stuff is that good. But he might be painfully inconsistent.’
A member of the Kevin Pillar Sleeper Prospect List, Andy Burns was the other name I would keep any eye on in Dunedin. Of course, after an electric start, putting up a .907 OPS through sixty-four games he was rightfully promoted and that was that.
The rest of the roster consists of failed prospects, elderly organizational filler, and the occasional rehabbing big leaguer. With playoffs just around the corner though, the Jays have begun the process of moving prospects up, not only to beef up the playoff roster, but get these kids to experience playoff atmosphere.
It started with Matt Boyd, a left handed pitcher drafted in the sixth round of this year’s draft. Boyd bucked the Jays trend of drafting no leverage college seniors in rounds four through ten by signing for 75k. The Oregon State graduate was described as a ‘legit’ sixth rounder and pitched well in limited appearances for Lansing, putting up a .571 WHIP and 12.00 K/BB ratio over fourteen innings.
Right-hander Taylor Cole followed. After dominating the Northwest League in 2011, Cole struggled a bit this year in Lansing, putting up a 1.515 WHIP which probably moved him off the prospect fringes. At twenty-four you’d be more inclined to tag him as Org Filler, but, as he took two years off of baseball for a church mission, the Jays are trying to get a feel for what he can do.
I like the move. There was no need for him to be in Lansing next year so he’s going to have to either sink or swim in Dunedin. The rest of the season is just a taster.
After a decent first start versus the Daytona Cubs (who have won ten in a row, including a no hitter over the Jays) the league transactions page has Cole hitting the 7-day DL, which may have thrown a spanner in the Jays plans. Will try to investigate further.
Next was free agent pick up Brian Compton. All I know about this guy is that he played in the Twins organization last year. Let’s just leave him alone.
The last couple of days, however, have seen some interesting names make the move south. Emilio Guerrero has been one of the younger position players to keep an eye on in Lansing this year. As an aside, despite their disastrous record, the Lugnuts still possess (outside of maybe Bluefield) the most young prospects in the Jays organization.
Again, this move is probably just an opportunity to give the twenty-one year old Dominican a taste of where he’ll be next season. A late signee at eighteen, this is Guerrero’s third season of pro ball. As per this piece by Marc Hulet, his future may not be at short, but with the triumvirate of Dawel Lugo, Franklin Barreto, and Richard Urena hot on his heels, this is no bad thing.
Showing a decent idea of the plate with a 0.67 K/BB ratio and some pop, reflected in his .125 ISO, next season will be a big one for the 6’4″ 180 pounder. I’m guessing he’s going to get to play short for one more season before the three names I mentioned above catch him. They’re not all projected to stick in the six hole either, so could get very competitive for playing time as they all progress to the upper minor leagues.
Of course, the most interesting call up has to be Daniel Norris. I’ve written about Norris quite a bit, most recently this past week when I got to speak to Jays roving instructor Paul Quantrill about him.
When I was chatting to ‘Big’ Jim Czajkowski on Thursday, I mentioned the promotion. He was mildly surprised and didn’t mince words, saying that the left-hander was crap last year when he had in Vancouver and crap the first half of this season in Lansing. ‘Norris was fine on the side and in the bullpen, but as soon as he got to the mound he just disintegrated mechanically.’
Through the first seven appearances of the season, not only was Norris ‘crap’ but many, including Baseball America (sorry, I’m not a premium subscriber to pull out the specific link), were already willing to label the Tennessee native a disappointment. As per the ‘Layin Down the Law piece I linked above, Keith Law has ‘Consensus still seems to be a reliever future due to lack of command and trouble repeating the delivery.’
If you look at the numbers beyond those first seven appearances though, there is a definite improvement, which makes it difficult to believe Law hasn’t heard of anyone ‘referring to a turnaround.’ I’ve done my own math for his Lugs numbers, beginning with his four shutout innings against the Loons on the 13th of May.
In fifteen starts over 63.2 IPs he gave up 15 earned runs for a 2.14 ERA, the WHIP comes down to a more manageable 1.266, while his K/9 is an excellent 11.82. He was still walking far too many at 4.272 per nine. If you want to get even more creative in your accounting, you can throw out the two starts at the end of the July (the only two where he allowed more than one unearned run) and you get some pretty sensational numbers with a 0.963 ERA and 1.159 WHIP.
Based on those numbers, you have to believe that Norris has been having more success repeating his delivery, and having only turned twenty in April, it’s far too early to pencil him in as a reliever already.
Friday saw Norris make his FSL debut, and things went rather well, with zero runs on one hit over five innings. More encouragingly, if you follow the excellent @StatsKing, who live tweeted the outing, he showed a feel for all three of his pitches throughout:
Norris mixed in his CB in the 3rd; 72-75; nice bite; plus potential
— Chris King (@StatsKing) August 30, 2013
Norris working off of his off speed stuff in the 4th. Shows a good feel for his CH and willing to throw early in counts; 80-83
— Chris King (@StatsKing) August 30, 2013
Norris gives up his 1st hit in the 5th on bloop single; FB still 91-93; held velo in the stretch
— Chris King (@StatsKing) August 30, 2013
After starting out the year looking like a total bust, Jays prospectors have to be encouraged by what Norris has been able to accomplish over the last three months, and look forward to a full season of High A next year, with the possibility of a late promotion to AA based on results and how next year’s playoff teams break down.
The recent additions to the Dunedin squad will definitely make the upcoming best of three division series far more interesting. If I have my math right, it should set up that Aaron Sanchez gets the start in game one Tuesdays, while Norris goes Wednesday, and Matt Boyd will get the call if a game three is necessary.
That being said, I do believe the Jays org missed the boat on a few players. A Dunedin outfield of Matt Newman, Michael Crouse, Marcus Knecht, or Nick Baligod doesn’t really excite. Dalton Pompey, the twenty year old from Mississauga, should be given an audition after tearing apart the Midwest League over the last week or so.
I’ve done these previews out of order, as Bluefield were unceremoniously dumped from the Appalachian League playoffs Sunday. Still, there’s a few things to discuss, so will hopefully have something out regarding the lower minor leagues later this week.