Regular readers have likely noticed that we’ve been recapping the month that was for each of the Toronto Blue Jays minor league affiliates.
Ryan and Brandon have been doing a terrific job putting together some lengthy updates that comprehensively covered the Buffalo Bisons, New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Dunedin Blue Jays, Lansing Lugnuts and Vancouver Canadians.
We debated whether or not to do the same full breakdown for Bluefield but I simply didn’t have the time to cover each and every player one-by-one. However I felt like we’ve been neglecting the boys in West Virginia this season so needed to include some sort of update about the Blue Jays’ Appalachian League representatives.
For those who don’t know, Bluefield is the advanced rookie affiliate of the Blue Jays and has been the breeding ground for many top prospects as they continue their ascent up the minor league ranks. Bluefield became affiliated with the Blue Jays in 2011 and thus far has graduated Kevin Pillar and Aaron Sanchez to the big league ranks.
Many more will undoubtedly follow and from this year’s squad there are a few players in particular worth keeping an eye on. Instead of breaking down the entire squad with brief updates, I’m going to focus on three position players today and three pitchers (hopefully) tomorrow with a few paragraphs about each.
So without further ado, here are three players from the Bluefield Blue Jays who are definitely worth watching. An honourable mention goes out to 2014 draft pick Lane Thomas, who was just promoted to Bluefield and hit a homer run in his first plate appearance.
Richard Urena – SS
Urena, 18, is producing a breakout season for Bluefield and leads the team in batting average and extra base hits. He’s a good athlete with fluid actions and above average arm strength and almost everyone expects him to stay at the position long-term.
The rest of his game, like his body, is still growing. His swing still has some holes as he’s striking out in more than 20% of his plate appearances but he’s also hitting for more power this year, which has more than made up for the slight increase in K’s.
When I put together my list of the Blue Jays midseason top 15 prospects, the one player I regret not including the most was Urena. He’s put together a strong case to be considered a top ten prospect and by our next update this offseason that’s where I expect him to end up.
Here’s video of Urena from spring training earlier this year courtesy of Prospect D2J of MLBProspectPortal.com.
Rowdy Tellez – 1B
Tellez had a bit of a tough start to professional baseball but has started hit his stride this year with Bluefield. The 19-year-old first baseman has the fourth most RBIs in the Appalachian League and is putting more balls in play while striking out less compared to his stint in the GCL last season.
As a first baseman with nowhere else to move on the diamond (except DH), there will always be the concern with Rowdy whether his bat will carry enough thunder to justify him as a legitimate prospect. Urena, for example, is a year younger, provides above average defense from a premium position, and has hit for more isolated power (.131) than Tellez (.120).
Mind you, Tellez did have a slow start to the year and has absolutely raked over his past ten games with a 1.132 OPS and more walks than strikeouts. He was thought to have the most left-handed pull power in the 2013 draft so there’s still lots to be excited about once Tellez grows into more game power.
Dan Jansen – C
Jansen, 19, has been a bit of a surprise for prospect watchers of the Blue Jays this season. The 16th round draft pick posted a rather pedestrian .645 OPS in 140 plate appearances last season after he was drafted but so far this season leads Bluefield with an .874 OPS and five home runs.
He exhibits an excellent approach at the plate with close to a 1:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Prep Baseball Report wrote this about him prior to the 2013 draft:
“[...] a 6-foot-2, 215-pound catcher who has a pro style body already. Jansen is the No. 6 prospect in the state. The strong framed Jansen shows a strong arm and excellent pop times to second. His advanced physical presence and prowess behind the plate makes him a very intriguing prospect.”
Sounds like it to me. Admittedly, the report is a little dated but this season he’s starting to show some of the tools that helped him get drafted. He’s also drawing positive reviews from the coaching staff for his work ethic. He sounds like a potential sleeper prospect to me so I’d recommend keeping a close eye on Jansen’s progress over the next couple of seasons.