Blue Jays Prospects Ready for the Arizona Fall League


The Blue Jays may be ending another season without a playoff run, but at least there is something to look forward to in October with the opening of the Arizona Fall League. This coming Tuesday the Mesa Solar Sox will play their first game against the Glendale Desert Dogs, and a host of Blue Jays prospects will be on the Solar Sox roster.

The position players were announced earlier on. However, since that time Sean Ochinko has been added to the contingent of Jon Berti, Dwight Smith Jr., and Dalton Pompey that will represent the Jays on the field.

Pompey is a rising star in the organization and undoubtedly the most recognizable name on this list. After a solid season in 2013, he continued to fly under the radar until breaking out this year with a .317/.392/.469 triple slash line across A+/AA/AAA. As a switch-hitting centerfielder with an above-average speed tool, Pompey is the most likely of the foursome to make a big major league impact in the future, but the other three representatives have a chance to really prove themselves as well.

Smith was drafted in the supplemental first round of the 2011 draft, when his quote, unquote ‘baseball instincts’, earned him $800,000 out of high school. His prospect status has diminished somewhat since then, but he did post a .816 OPS as an outfielder in the notoriously difficult Advanced A+ Florida State League. A solid showing in the AFL against some of the top prospects in the league would go a long way towards getting him an invite to major league camp this upcoming spring, as the team may be looking to fill the void left by Melky Cabrera. Berti and Ochinko, an infielder and catcher respectively, are much fringier prospects, but with the current lack of organizational depth in those positions each could find themselves on the major league depth chart following an exceptional AFL campaign.

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Aside from the four positions players to there will be four pitchers to represent the Blue Jays as well. Arik Sikula, Blake McFarland, Sean Nolin, and Roberto Osuna will all be on the mound for the Solar Sox in different roles.

Last year the Jays sent two top starting pitching prospects to the AFL, but only one of them actually started while the other was a reliever. It seems likely that the same will be true for this year’s additions of Nolin and Osuna, who are both notable starters looking to pick up more innings after recovering from injury. Osuna was on the fast track to the majors until undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2013. He returned to the mound this year to post a pedestrian 6.55 ERA, but he also proved that he still has electric stuff by striking out 30 batters over only 23 innings of work. Nolin would have probably factored into the major league roster at some point this season had he not been sidelined with injuries. He started off the season spectacularly with a 1.96 ERA for the Buffalo Bisons in April, but he was placed on the DL on May 15th with a groin injury and managed to throw only 97 innings after reaching a 110 last season. His 3.43 ERA overall was still solid though and if he maintains his health he should be on the depth chart next season.

The two pure relievers on the staff are McFarland and Sikula. McFarland had a 2.04 ERA over 35 innings in New Hampshire and struck out over nine batters per nine. However, both him and Sikula were older than the average age of the competition they were facing. The 25-year-old Sikula absolutely dominated the Florida State League with a 1.66 ERA and 60 strikeouts over 43.1 innings. Sikula was moved up to Double A mid-season, but after average results he was moved back down to A+ Dunedin. In the case of these two right-handed relievers, the Jays are likely hoping that they will respond to the challenge of AFL competition positively, so that they may factor into a depleted major league bullpen next season. Although neither of them are highly regarded prospects, they may still be able to be effective as relievers à la Aaron Loup.

Blue Jays fans should be watching Solar Sox games closely. Many of the player representatives have a chance to rise up the organizational ladder with good results there, and the Jays front office will undoubtedly be keeping a close eye on the reports. Alex Anthopolous has been known to place a lot of faith in minor league replacements, and the performances of these players may make some his decisions this off-season much easier.