The final weeks leading up to Spring Training are some of the most exciting of the year. Sort of like the lead-up to the holidays, the anticipation builds with every passing day, a beacon to the summer days ahead when baseball once again fills our days and nights. For a select few Toronto Blue Jays prospects, the anticipation is also at hand.
On Wednesday, the Blue Jays announced that they had extended spring training invitations to the a number of players, including Gregory Infante, Jack Murphy, Derrick Chung, Dwight Smith, Roberto Osuna, Anthony Alford, Miguel Castro, Sean Ochinko, and Mitch Nay.
So what do we know about each of these Blue Jays prospects that will get a look this spring? Let’s start with the pitchers.
The pitchers receiving the invite to Spring Training all have a fairly common trait; they throw the ball really hard.
Of course, many of us are familiar with Roberto Osuna. The 19-year-old Mexican right-hander is one of the Blue Jays top prospects and was a popular name in trade talks this winter. He throws his fastball in the low to mid-90’s and compliments that with a plus slider, and a change-up that projects to be a plus-pitch as well. Additionally, Osuna has shown solid control (3.2 BB/9) and an ability to get swings and misses (10.1 K/9), both of which are encouraging for an arm that will turn only 20 in February.
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The only caveat with Osuna is his arm. He was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery during the 2013 season and missed all but 10 starts of that year and saw only 8 appearances in 2014 (23.0 innings). With him still on the mend, the Blue Jays are likely bringing him in to get his first taste of big league camp while also getting a chance to evaluate his offseason progress and determine where he’ll start the season, which is likely Single-A Dunedin.
Another 20-year-old, Miguel Castro opened up quite a few eyes in the Blue Jays world in 2014, while going 8-3 across three levels and pitching to a 2.64 ERA, a 8.7 K/9 ratio, and a 3.4 BB/9 mark. He works off of a plus-plus fastball in the mid to upper-90’s and compliments that with a solid change-up. However, Castro lacks a Major League ready third pitch, but his slider is coming along.
The lack of three solid pitches makes many feel that Castro’s long-term future is in the bullpen. That seems to jive with Alex Anthopoulos, who told Bob McCown that Castro will get a long look in camp to gauge his readiness for a bullpen role with the big league club in 2015.
Like Castro, Gregory Infante will also get a look in camp this spring and will compete for a possible role in the bullpen. The 27-year-old has some Major League experience, appearing in 5 games with the Chicago White Sox in 2010, but was plagued by 4 walks in his 4.2 innings of work. Infante spent 2014 in the closer role with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats before a late-season call-up to Buffalo. With the Cats, the right-hander appeared to put the control issues behind him, walking a much more manageable 3.5 per nine innings of work. He finished the season with a 1.94 ERA, 22 saves, and a 8.5 K/9 mark.
Infante works in the upper 90’s with his fastball and compliments it with a change-up and a curveball. With the heat, he could figure to be a player in the bullpen competition this spring, but his control issues will be under intense scrutiny.
Those invites are in addition to the minor league contract invites given out to Andrew Albers, Wilton Lopez, Greg Burke, Scott Copeland, and Jeff Francis.