This week’s edition of the Jays’ Nest brought together an All Star panel to discuss the minor league system of the Toronto Blue Jays. We were joined by Charley Caskey of Your Van C’s. Charlie is our go to guy for all things to do with the Blue Jays’ (low A) affiliate in the Northwest League, the Vancouver Canadians. We also were joined by Jay Blue of BlueJaysFromAway.com. Jay makes many regular trips covering the Blue Jays minor league teams in Lansing, New Hampshire and Buffalo. And, to top it all off, we were joined by minor league pitcher, Arik Sikula!
Our conversation started off with a look at the loss of Franklin Barreto in the trade that brought Josh Donaldson to Toronto. While he would certainly look like he has the potential to be an impact player, his age and the immediate return made our panel comfortable with giving him up to the Oakland Athletics. He may develop into a good major league player; one the Blue Jays could potentially need given the future of Jose Reyes. But, right now, this would be considered an acceptable loss.
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Speaking of the middle infield, our discussion took us to the development of players like Dawel Lugo and Richard Urena. These are two infielders that have the potential to rise through the Blue Jays system, but at such a young age, have to continue their development. Lugo is coming off a year in Lansing where he struggled with consistency and hit just .259.Urena is coming off a year where he hit .308 on the season, but struggled in Vancouver, hitting .242, albeit in just 9 games. Caskey thinks 2015 will be a big year for him.
Another topic of conversation was the struggles of Anthony Alford and D.J. Davis last season. Now, Alford can be given some sort of free pass given his limited at bats after deciding to leave football behind. When others like Jack Murphy and Christian Lopes were doing well in Australia, Alford had a bit of a hard time there. Davis struggled mightily in Lansing last season where he struck out 167 times in 121 games! However, both players are still young and are in the early stages of development. We expect them to start in Dunedin in 2015 much like Dalton Pompey and Dwight Smith Jr did in 2014. The Blue Jays would love to get as much success from Alford and Davis as they did from Pompey and Smith. Fans should not expect that, though, as nice as it would be.
Of course, our minor league talk would not be complete if we did not discuss Max Pentecost and his second shoulder surgery. While it is difficult to pin point a time frame for him to join a minor league club, our panel wondered if, when he is ready, he’d join Dunedin to be close to the team’s staff and facilities to help his physical development and recovery.
There was so much more to our discussion, but rather than outline it all here, I will skip right to the fun we had with Arik Sikula. That guy is a cool dude. Seriously. He was very personable and had as much fun as we did. He is coming off a season where he struck out 80 batters in 58 innings. And, that is before he even went to the Arizona Fall League and then on to Venezuela. He talked about his time in Venezuela fondly.
He also talked about the mentality required to be a closer, his development, his time in Vancouver (here’s a hint: He loved it!) and where he sees himself starting the 2015 season. He also gave us a scouting report on relatively unknown, Tiego da Silva who signed with the Blue Jays this winter. Sikula offered his opinion on whether Aaron Sanchez should start or close. As well, he chimed on on our debate over the Blue Jays going with a 6-man rotation! PS: Wait until you hear who he compares Daniel Norris to.
We hope you enjoy our minor league episode of Jays Nest! Please feel free to leave comments below to offer our feedback as we grow through this process. As always, this episode (and all others) are available for your listening pleasure at Shout Engine and iTunes!