Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Mailbag, Volume 1
Behind the scenes here at Jays Journal, we’ve got a great group of writers who are busy as bees writing away but we always want to know what’s on your minds. Last week, we opened up the floor to our readers and followers on Twitter to ask our minor league specialists some questions. If these questions have sparked your interest, feel free to ask some more! Write to us in the comments (and if we don’t answer right away, we might use your question in the next Minor League Mailbag), post on our Facebook page or send us another Tweet (@JaysJournal).
Jay Blue: First of all, the way the Rule 5 draft works is that any player who isn’t on a team’s 40-man roster can be selected by another team. Players who have seen four Rule 5 Drafts since signing their pro contract (five for players who were 18 when they signed) are eligible to be drafted. So, technically, McGuire isn’t “put” in the Rule 5 Draft; he’s left unprotected and, thus, available for other teams.
Deck McGuire warms up before a game in Manchester, New Hampshire on June 29, 2013. Mandatory Credit: Jay Blue
It wouldn’t surprise me if Deck is left available; the Blue Jays have a very crowded 40-man roster, particularly with several players coming back earlier in the year from long-term injuries that really crowd the pitching picture (Hutchison, Perez, Drabek) and I don’t see that many players being moved to the 60-day DL or being DFA’ed at the end of the season to make room. I could see someone taking McGuire, especially a fairly bad team that can use another arm. I saw McGuire pitch in late June and I can say that he has 3 major league calibre pitches but his biggest weakness is his tendency to leave pitches up in the zone. He had a big increase to his strikeout rate this year which shows that he can get good hitters out and his issues are with focus and making quality pitches, not stuff.
For more info on the Blue Jays’ Rule 5 Draft eligible players, see this thread from Bluebird Banter.
Charlie Caskey: I spoke to Anthony’s extended spring training roommate quite a bit during the C’s season and he confirmed that Alford’s number one love is football. He plays baseball simply because he is pretty good at it, and someone was willing to give him 750k to sign.
Anthony’s plan is to play football for three years and if he doesn’t see a pro career in his future will revert to baseball full time. His agent is from a big time firm that represents both baseball and football players so hopefully will be able to give him decent advice when a decision has to be made. Of course, the fact that he has been forced to redshirt this season pushes everything back a year.
He only just turned 19 which means he’d be just twenty-one if and when he decides to make baseball his full time job. Plenty of players come into the minor leagues at that age, but they’ve had three years of college seasoning, whereas Alford will have had 180-250 plate appearances (depending on his assignment next year). Without a doubt, he’ll be behind the curve.
That being said, to a man, all of those I’ve spoken to about him call him an absolute beast, and someone who’d be in the bigs within 3 years if concentrating on baseball full time. I take that with a grain of salt, but he is an exciting prospect.
JB: After Ryan Goins, there’s not a lot of talent that is likely to make the major leagues any time soon. The real cluster of prospects is a trio of international free agent shortstops who are all 18 and under: Dawel Lugo (finished in Vancouver), Franklin Barreto (finished in Bluefield) and Richard Urena (finished in the GCL). All three have their upside and downside. I saw Lugo over five games in Bluefield and he’s a solid fielder at short but not spectacular. He’s got a good bat with plenty of natural power but doesn’t walk much. Barreto, by all reports, has an outstanding bat and played well above his age level as a 17 year old. He dominated in the GCL but struggled a bit in Bluefield. I’ve been told on a couple of occasions that he needs a LOT of work with the glove. No one I’ve talked to thinks that he’s going to end up as a shortstop: some say he might wind up at second base but others think he’ll be best suited in center field. I’ve been told Urena, also 17, has the best glove of the three. He had solid numbers but I don’t think he has the power that either Barreto or Lugo have.
Going up the ladder, there are a bunch of guys who have upside but how much is uncertain. Rocky (@ThaGreatOne99) mentioned Christian Lopes. Lopes started out the season really well but fell off as the year progressed. He’s probably going to repeat the level in Lansing but he’s only 20 so it’s not like he’s too old for the level. Emilio Guerrero is a name that you might be hearing a lot soon. I saw Guerrero in Lansing where he really started to hit towards the end of the year (he had a 6-hit game in August that included a grand slam). The biggest flaw in his game is also his glove and he may end up at 3rd. Jon Berti had a great year at 2B in Dunedin, leading the league (by a mile) in stolen bases but it’s hard to see him in making the majors just yet. I’m going to wait and see how Berti does against better pitching before I make up my mind about him. Shane Opitz showed a solid bat in Dunedin but without much power, it’s also hard to project him.
The last two guys I’ll mention are Kevin Nolan and Andy Burns. Nolan was the everyday shortstop in New Hampshire and had a solid year with the bat. Burns has been playing 3B but was a shortstop up until this year. I’ve seen him play and he has the explosiveness and the athleticism of Brett Lawrie at 3rd, making jaw-dropping plays regularly (I saw two in three games) and could easily go back to short. Of all the players I’ve mentioned, Burns has the best bat of the bunch. He’s got power, speed, the ability to take a walk. He tore up Dunedin and took a while to adjust in New Hampshire but really made some strides toward the end of the year. He’ll be in the Arizona Fall League to get some more at bats before the off-season.
CC: I haven’t got much to add to JB’s notes, but will say this. If you’re looking for depth up the middle that is ‘close’ to major league ready then you’ll be looking a long time. Andy Burns is definitely an interesting prospect and will be very keen to see how he does in the AFL but he’ll need a full season in Buffalo and was moved to 3rd base last year. I’m also assuming he’ll be pushed to AAA next year, no sure bet.
As far as the younger guys are concerned, there are a few to get excited about. I saw quite a bit of Lugo this year. In the field, he has a strong arm and decent footwork. At 6’0” and 190 ish pounds at only eighteen, it’s his potential size which may move him off short. It’s not a sure bet though, and I think he’ll be given a full season in Lansing next year to see where he’s at. His bat is a plus, with tons of power potential. The playoffs did expose some weaknesses though, as Boise fed him a steady diet of breaking balls that he just didn’t recognise. Will be very interesting to see how this plays out in the Midwest League.
Speaking to one of the GCL hitting instructors, he’s highest on Barreto, who is ‘built like a man’ despite being only 17. He even went as far as to say that he may skip Vancouver next year and start the season in Lansing, despite having only 58 plate appearances in the Appalachian League. I can’t see that happening, but hey, strangers things….
Richard Urena’s 2014 assignment will be something to look forward to. By all accounts, of the 3, he is most likely to stick at short. From talking to the same coach, he struggled to adapt to the rigours of pro ball, but at only 17, did flash some serious potential. If the Jays were to be aggressive with all three, he’ll be in Bluefield next season.
As I said above, it is worth getting excited about these three, but as far as potential eta? I think you’re looking at 2017 at the very earliest for these young kids to be mlb ready. Unfortunately, catcher and middle infield are not positions of strength in the Jays system right now.
If you like what you’ve seen by Jay Blue, read his work and listen to his podcast on Blue Jays from Away and follow him on Twitter: @Jaysfromaway.
If you like what you’ve seen by Charlie Caskey, read his work at Your Van C’s and follow him on Twitter: @CharlieCaskey.