Blue Jays continue big changes, reshaping player development
With the minor league season winding to a close — the Blue Jays affiliates wrap their regular schedules by September 5th — the organization continues to make significant personnel changes in the player development area.
On Monday evening, Shi Davidi reported that the Blue Jays had fired minor league pitching co-ordinator Sal Fasano. The former catcher has occupied that role for two seasons now, and was named the Eastern League’s manager of the year in 2011 with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Some consider Fasano to have further managing potential in his future, too.
The 45-year-old Fasano played in 11 MLB seasons, including a brief stint of 16 games with the Blue Jays in 2007 under then-manager John Gibbons.
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Minor league field co-ordinator Doug Davis was also fired last week, along with amateur scouting director Brian Parker and national crosschecker Blake Davis just prior. This represents a sweeping change to the Blue Jays player development department, and one that may not yet be finished.
Replacements have not been named at any of the positions, though last week Davidi noted that “Michael Holmes, the assistant scouting director for the Oakland Athletics” was a name “circulating among industry sources” for Parker’s role.
When Mark Shapiro arrived in Toronto amid the tumultuous departure of Alex Anthopoulos, his eventual hires of general manager Ross Atkins and player development advisor Eric Wedge represented ex-Cleveland additions that were big on buzz, but low on quantity. Perhaps that changes now, but regardless, this is the organizational level at which changes make more sense for a front office led by Shapiro and Atkins.
Atkins comes from a development background, and as a former player himself he eventually rose to hold the title of director of player development under Shapiro in Cleveland.
With budget restrictions in Cleveland during their tenure together, Shapiro and Atkins relied heavily on drafting and developing players to create maximum value. They also added young talent via trade and the international free agent market, and while all of these avenues were hit-and-miss (they always are), many of these moves led to the current Cleveland squad that took two of three from the Blue Jays this past weekend and sit atop the American League Central.
This is all to say: the new regime has an idea of how drafting, scouting, and player development should work. Moves such as this signal a shift towards that idea, and with this timing over two months past the 2016 MLB Draft, the Blue Jays have time to add new personnel for a full offseason to come together and establish the farm system’s new direction.
Don’t expect a bizarre or overly jolting turn of course, with pitchers playing third base and players being held in single-A until age 24, but a slightly altered and measured approach should be forthcoming.
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At the beginning of the season this was evident as several top Blue Jays prospects were assigned to a level lower than some expected.
After the Anthopoulos regime skyrocketed prospects like Dalton Pompey and Daniel Norris in recent seasons, a more development-minded approach could be in the cards.