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Down on the Farm – Jays milb Thoughts – July 15, 2011

July 16, 2011

DSL Jays – RHP Manual Lopez (3.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 K) added 50% to his walk total on the season.Not a guy who has really earned any ink yet in his career, the second year pro has a nifty K:BB of 27:8. It helps mask the low raw strikeout total. But no HR’s allowed this year and only 1 in 72.1 career IP. I think he’ll make it off the island. Jays have been somewhat more aggressive promoting their pitchers than their hitters in recent memory.

GCL Jays – One of the big-money signings from the 2010 draft, SS Dickie Joe Thon (2-4, 2B, 2 RBI, R) is slowly getting his feet wet in pro ball. In his first 18 games, he’s hit a lopsided .264/.361/..302. Way too early to worry though, as Baseball Prospectus’ Jason Parks projects future contact and power, with enough defensive chops to stay on the left side of the infield. He’s split his time between DH and SS, but I expect him to get more time with the glove as the season progresses.

C Santiago Nessy (2-4, 2B, RBI, R, 2 K) is the only person named Nessy in the recorded history of professional baseball. A highly regardede Latin signee of 2009 (setting the stage for the big splashes of the past two years), Nessy was adequate with a .703 OPS in his debut season in the DSL, but has turned things up this year, hitting .313/.353/.479 through his first 13 games in North America. It is a very small sample, but he has not shown any real split between lefties and righties, although his home/road split is at an odd .594/1.021 thus far. It shouldn’t mean anything, but it is interesting.

Bluefield Blue Jays – One of the most projectable arms in the Jays system, RHP Aaron Sanchez (5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K) had his most dominant outing of the year. If we ignore his rough first start with Bluefield, Sanchez has since pitched 16.1 innings (over 4 starts) with a 2.76 ERA, 19:7 K/BB. Last year, after signing, he struck out 37 batters across two levels in 25 innings. I think it’s safe to say that he’s pretty good.

Another 2010 draftee not getting much attention is Georgian RHP Myles Jaye (4 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K). Drafted as a 17th round flyer out of Starrs Mill HS in Fayetteville, Jaye signed late for $250K. since his debut with Bluefield just over three weeks ago, Jaye has struck out 19 in 21.1 innings, allowing only 21 baserunners. He has a projectable frame (6-3″, 170), and in light of the relatively long outings he’s been given, it seems that the Jays’ brass sees him as a potential starter.

Maybe LF Christopher Hawkins (3-4, 2B, 2 R, SB, K) read yesterday’s entry, as he follwoed it up with another good outing, upping his OPS to .866. Now 8 full games since he’s last accepted a free pass to 1B.

Vancouver Canadians – This would be as good a time as any to point out where a player, while performing is probably not someone to pin wild hopes on. A few seasons ago, I held high hopes for a pitcher named Bobby Bell. Drafted in the 18th round, he didn’t walk a single batter in his first 30.2 professional innings. In 2009, his first full season, he had a 112/22 K/BB in high A over 96.1 innings. In 2010, the Jays challenged him at the higher levels. Between injuries and ineffectiveness, and knowing that he was not a high priority prospect, Bell walked away from the game last offseason, teaching me a valuable lesson; A lesson that could be reflected upon RHP Jesse Hernandez (5 IP, 5 H, 3 R (1 ER), 2 BB, 6 K). Signed by the Jays as an undrafted free agent out of Central Michigan University, Hernandez was solid in his debut with Auburn last year, and between his 2nd and 4th starts this year, went 16 innings without allowing an earned run. At 23, he’s not extremely old, but even without knowing what he throws, his pedigree has me wary. I’ll believe in him when it happens in AA.

Another repeat customer (also a LF), Stephen McQuail (1-5, HR (8), 3 RBI, R, 3 K) keeps up his power outburst in short-season ball. He’s clubbed three in his last four games and 5 in his last 8. The 3 strikeouts in his box-score line are indicative of his poor approach, as he’s now struck out in 38.7% of his at bats thus far on the season. Baseball America noted his power before he was drafted, but also a stiff swing and bat wrap that couldbe contributing to his poor contact. Like Hernandez above, McQuail will need to prove things at every level before he can be taken seriously.

Lansing Lugnuts – For a while, I’ve been pressing for the Jays to promote CF Jake Marisnick (2-4, HR (9), RBI, R, picked off, K) to Dunedin. Home runs in back-to-back games in nice, but not exactly a sign. So I got to thinking about how the Jays have handled other recent phenom position players. Current LF Travis Snider, like Marisnick, after a first, partial season, spent an entire year in Low A Lansing, and his OPS then (.902) is not that much better than Marisnick’s current .886, not counting the difference in expected production from a RF versus that of a CF – and Marisnick is a far superior base-runner, as Snider was successful in only 3 of 13 stolen base attempts while Marisnick is 22-7, not counting pickoffs. Likewise, Adam Lind spent a first full year at one level (Dunedin in his case, as a college draftee). New phenom, Eric Thames spent his first full year (only last year) all in AA. While he may be ready, it would not be a big surprise for the Jays to just let Marisnick do his thing in Lansing all season, without pressure and then ramp things up next year.

Rehabbing RHP Andrew Liebel (6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K) has been bumped up to a level more appropriate (if not fully so) for a 25-year old than the GCL. His 2010 was severely truncated (only 63 total innings, all for Dunedin) and he probably belongs in New Hampshire, where, at his age, it’s boom or bust. He was never expected to be a star, but with 3rd-round draft pedigree, he was expected to push to contribute.

Dunedin Blue Jays – Continuing this night for rehab, RHP Dustin McGowan (2.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K) takes another strong step in his comeback attempt. The Jays have approximately two more weeks to decide whether to call him back up, put him back on the DL or pass him through waivers. As odd as this would have sounded in the pre-season, his continued progress will likely play a role in the Jays’ trade deadline decisions, coincidentally occurring around the same time.

3B Brett Lawrie (0-3) plays again, this time lifted in the 8th inning for former phenom Kevin Ahrens. Although there is no real urgency to Lawrie’s timetable, he still may reach Toronto before McGowan.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats – SS Adeiny Hechavarria (3-4, R)  has recently been been discussed as being “about as good a shortstop as you’ll ever see, probably in your lifetime…He could go to the big leagues tomorrow. I mean, he’s that good defensively,” by his manager in New Hampshire, long-time major leaguer, Sal Fasano, in an interview with 1bluejaysways. A glove as special as Fasano, as well as Jays’ GM Alex Anthopoulos claim, does not need to hit too well to be a major leaguer. Just look at the lengthy career of John McDonald for proof of that. Was he worth a $10 million signing bonus? Well, for that many sheckels, the Jays probably hoped to see an OPS closer to .700 at AA than his current .603.  The decent 15.5% K-rate portends to potential improvement, as he is making contact.

Ranked 39th in ESPN’s Keith Law’s mid-season top 50, RHP Henderson Alvarez (7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 2 HR) had another game typical of his season. It has been widely reported that Alvarez’s fastball has touched 101mph this year, sitting 96-100, and that he has a great changeup to boot*. While not worrisome, a guy with that stuff giving up 7 home runs in 62.1 innings in AA raises some flags. The lack of strikeouts (only 44 – he’s never racked up the K’s at a big clip) raises another one.

*Think about it. Although Roy Halladay, with his impeccable control and deep arsenal represented the face of the franchise (especially the arms) for years, it seems that the Jays model now falls more into the Shaun Marcum camp; Throw changeups and throw strikes.

Las Vegas 51s – Still hanging on to a spot on the Jays’ 40-man roster, CF Darin Mastroianni (2-4, SB, 2 R, K) has had a real up-and-down season. Originally an unheralded 16th round pick out of small Southern Indiana University in 2007, he has slowly made his way up the through the ranks and the organizational depth chart, stealing 166 bases with only 36 times caught (82.3% success rate, where roughly 75% is considered the break-even point. He has also shown a consistent ability to get on base with healthy contact and walk rates that allow him to utilize his speed. After putting up a .390 OBP in New Hampshire last year, the Jays chose to protect him with a 40-man roster spot instead of risk losing him in the Rule V draft. Mastroianni struggled early this year in his first taste of AAA (although a hitter’s haven, Vegas is not geared for a slappy hitter like him and his OPS on the road far surpasses his home mark (.889-.442). The struggles earned him another stint in New Hampshire. He has shown signs of life upon his return though, with 9 walks in his last 6 games. All that said, he may be a prime candidate to lose his 40-man roster spot when it comes time to promote Brett Lawrie, or if Dustin McGowan proves ready to return.

RHP Jesse Litsch (6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 7 K) completes the evening’s quartet of rehabbers, with his first impressive outing in Vegas. While Alex Anthopoulos has gone on record as saying that Litsch cannot be guaranteed of getting a spot in the rotation one healthy again, I can’t see that Jo-Jo Reyes should be deemed immovable. Between Reyes, Litsch, Kyle Drabek, Brad Mills and Zach Stewart, Litsch might just be the best bet for the remainder of this year.


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