On August 25th, 2011, I wrote an article entitled “Introducing John Stilson, Pick #108 in the 2011 Draft“. I still don’t believe you’ll find one article out there that will tell you any more than that about the man that seems to be getting very close to being “next in line” for a Jays promotion. In fact, if you simply type “John Stilson” into Google, you don’t see his Texas A&M page, his draft page from MLB.com, or a Baseball America article about him. You get the article linked above! Therefore, I encourage you to read through it and check out all linked articles within that piece if you’re interested in getting to know this great Jays prospect as much as possible.
I came away very impressed with what the Jays got with that pick and was ecstatic that they’d take that big a risk to get an upside arm (due to the injury risk). Late in that article, I stated the following:
"“Between him and Sam Dyson, the Jays will have some fast-moving pen prospects moving through the system, even if both carry health questions with them.”"
Boy, did that ever hit the mark. Sam Dyson has made the jump from HiA all of the way into the Jays pen the very year he returned from TJ surgery, and Stilson seems poised to be right behind him with impressive performances in both HiA and AA. He’s averaging about a hit per inning pitched, is working well enough to pitch himself out of jams caused by walking just a few too many batters, and has been particularly sharp against LHB. Just 21 years old and full of confidence, you would think that there is nothing but positives for the Texas product, but not all is rosy.
Stilson has had to deal with questions about his shoulder ever since the problem arose pre-draft. In fact, Jim Callis of Baseball America even reported that Stilson was likely going to have the surgery on his Labrum:
"“Texas A&M righthander John Stilson, who likely would have been a first-round pick in the 2011 draft, will miss the rest of the season and faces surgery after being diagnosed with a SLAP (superior labrum from anterior to posterior) tear in his throwing shoulder.”"
Ouch, that didn’t sound so good at the time. It’s just over a year, 18 games, and 76 innings of work later, and we’re supposed to believe that now there’s nothing wrong with his shoulder and all will be well? I have one name for you: Dustin McGowan. Now, do I believe he can avoid serious surgery if he and the Jays are careful and “listen” to how his shoulder reacts over time? Sure, of course they can. However, that brings me to the remainder of the 2012 season. Should the Jays and Stilson continue to allow him to go out on the mound and accumulate a full season of work on what was a wobbly and problematic shoulder? Hmmmm…..
It’s a precarious position to be in. Here you have a team just crying for more pitching, hoping that someone will come around to help them over the hump (being the .500 to 2 games over .500 mark). And, here you also have John Stilson, a young gun from Texas full of piss and vinegar, just itching for a chance to prove himself in The Show. What do you do? The options? Let him get to a certain innings limit, then shut him down altogether. Shut him down now. Let him finish the season in AA as a starter. Or, move him to the pen, whether it’s with New Hampshire or with the Jays (or Vegas).
There’s no way to tell what the Jays will do, but I can tell you that if they become “buyers” in the marketplace, they may very well use John Stilson and his success as a trade chip. After all, Alex Anthopoulos does abide by the sell high, buy low mantra in most cases.
I’m not really sure that Anthopoulos would be ready to part with such a talent for a short term fix. But, I can tell you that it “feels” like Jose Bautista wants to win now and is trying to light a fire under his GM to make such a move, or two. Could that pressure and the fact that Stilson’s shoulder could be problematic in the future push the Jays GM towards making him available in a deal? Possibly.
Back to Stilson’s future with the Jays, however, you have to believe that they’ll be careful with his shoulder. Having seen the majority of their rotation go down to injury after they were all healthy as could be, and abiding by the “start them off slow” mantra in Lansing while using the piggy-backing strategy, the Jays have to be considering such a move as well for John Stilson. I’d love to see how he could help the Jays in August or September, but I’d also like to see a healthy John Stilson help the Jays for years to come instead of one on the D.L. for the majority of his pro career.
As we watch him continue to make his push up the ranks and work his way toward joining another injury returnee, Sam Dyson, with the Jays, we wonder how quickly or when this could happen. Do you believe it should be in 2012? Or, should the Jays employ a safe strategy with the fire baller for the remainder of 2012 and push him just a little harder in 2013?