Reviewing the Arizona Fall League: Blue Jays Position Players
One year after the Jays sent Adeiny Hechavarria, Adam Loewen, Mike McDade, Eric Thames, and John Tolisano to the Arizona Fall League as their position players, Hechavarria returned in 2011 accompanied by 2007 16th overall pick Kevin Ahrens, highly-regarded outfielder Anthony Gose, and promising catcher Yan Gomes.
Almost all of them started off slow and heated up as the short Fall League season progressed, so here’s a look at how the Jays’ four position players fared in this year’s edition of AFL.
Kevin Ahrens | 2011 club: Hi-A Dunedin
Drafted ahead of J.P. Arencibia and Brett Cecil as the Jays’ top pick in the 2007 Draft, Ahrens has struggled mightily in his minor league career so far, spending his third season with Hi-A Dunedin in 2011. Nevertheless, perhaps given his 24 doubles and career-high 13 home runs this past season, the Jays opted to give Ahrens some extra action in the AFL this year, where he finished with a .269/.330/.387 line in 25 games.
After starting off in Arizona hitting just .194 (6-for-31) in his first nine games with four doubles, Ahrens managed to go 19-for-62 (.306) in his final 16 games, though 14 of those hits were singles. While half of his extra-base hits came with runners in scoring position and helped him post good numbers in a very small sample size, Ahrens’ AFL stint wasn’t jaw-dropping by any means and he struck out 26 percent of the time. A right-handed hitter, Ahrens hit .277 with a .356 on-base percentage in 65 at-bats against right-handers, but went 7-for-28 (.250) with a .588 OPS in 28 at-bats against southpaws.
Yan Gomes | 2011 club: Double-A New Hampshire
After finishing the regular season with New Hampshire hot at the plate and eventually finishing the campaign on a high note with an Eastern League Championship, Gomes was somewhat rewarded with an AFL selection. Given the Jays’ significant catching depth, it was a nice touch to get Gomes some extra reps, which he took full advantage of.
Like Ahrens, Gomes started off slow in selective action, going 2-for-14 (.143) with a pair of singles in his first five games. In 14 games after that, though, he went 17-for-49 (.347) with four doubles and a home run, including a .966 OPS in his final 10 games. The only knock against Gomes would he his strikeout totals that were right on par with his career numbers, but it will be interesting to see what he can do in 2012 regardless.
Anthony Gose | 2011 club: Double-A New Hampshire
A free-swinging Gose stormed out of the gate in the AFL, hitting just .244 with 14 strikeouts in 11 games, but seven of his 11 hits over that span were for extra bases – two doubles, two triples, and three home runs. He started taking more pitches as the Fall League went on, though, drawing 12 walks the rest of the way, including nine in his final 10 games. He also went just 9-for-40 at the plate in those final 10 games as well, with one extra-base hit and 17 strikeouts.
Overall, Gose’s.250/.348/.433 slash line in 29 AFL games was nearly a carbon copy of the one he managed with New Hampshire this past season. His walk rate was similar to what he managed during the regular season, but he also continued his trend of averaging more than one strikeout per game with 41 in 29 AFL games.
Gose hit .267 with an .804 OPS against right-handed pitchers, but went just 7-for-34 (.206) against southpaws with 15 strikeouts. He was, however, particularly effective with runners on base and in scoring position, hitting right around .300 with an OPS over .810.
Adeiny Hechavarria | 2011 club: Double-A New Hampshire & Triple-A Las Vegas
Getting much more action this year than in 2010, Hechavarria went 2-for-24 (.083) in his first seven games before breaking out with a 4-for-4, three triple performance on October 17. After that game, Hechavarria 12-for-44 (.272) at the plate with three doubles, another triple, and a home run.
While he displayed the juice in his swing at times, it will really be fun to watch Hechavarria at Triple-A next season when he’s reunited with hitting coach Chad Mottola and to see how he hits over a full season there.
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