Skip to content

Down on the Farm – Jays milb Thoughts – July 18, 2011

July 19, 2011

DSL Jays – 17-year-old RHP Yeyfry Del Rosario (5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 HR) allowed the first home run of his career (it must be said that it was to a player 2.5 years his senior, in his 3rd go-round in the DSL). He’s walked only 7 in his first 31.1 innings, with 18 strikeouts. Before anyone moans about the low strikeouts, I advise they check out his unreal 2.72 GO/AO ratio.

It can be frustrating to follow the DSL as so little is mentioned about the roster, outside of a simple list. For example, although RHP Aderly De La Cruz and LHP Luillyn Guillen had both been on the Restricted List for a few days, it only emerged last Thursday that they had been suspended by the Commissioner’s Office for 50-games apiece for testing positive for anabolic steroids. Most of the new big Latin signings are not yet even on the (or any) roster, but two that are – RHP Osman Gutierrez and SS Dawel Lugo – have yet to appear in a game and there have been no reports (in English, at least) indicating when their debuts might take place. Finally, one of last year’s big signings, 3B Gabriel Cenas, made his debut and played in 14 games, but none since June 14. He is not on the Restricted List, nor is he (or anyone else on the team, for that matter) on the disabled list. While other DSL teams use the Disabled List, I can’t remember the last time I saw it in play for the Jays’ DSL. In any case, Cenas’ absence is a mystery.

GCL Jays – This blog is not a personal fan page for 2B/SS Jorge Vega-Rosado (2-4, 2B, R, K, SB; 2-3, RBI, 2 SB), but he keeps forcing the issue. Bill Christie, writing for the Dunedin Patch was effusive in his praise of J V-R after watching today’s double-header. He tweeted, “@GC Jays game today – hands down best player middle-inf Vega-Rosado – smll but hts wth pwr and avrg good D and spd. So basically, the complete, is small package. I had also noted a few days ago, that outside of an odd home-road split, J V-R has been contributing in all situations. With today’s double-header being at home, those numbers have begun to converge.

Not a prospect, but RHP Tucker Jensen (6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K) was signed by the Jays as an undrafted free agent out of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, so he might actually be a rocket scientist. No matter, he has exhibited great thus far in his nascent professional career, as his 25 Ks over 26 innings are opposed by a solitary base-on-balls. File this one under the “fun stats” category.

CF Dalton Pompey (1-3, BB, 2 SB; 1-3, BB, RBI, R) has been hitting out of the leadoff spot most of this year in the GCL. A rare Ontario-based draftee, Pompey was taken in the 16th round last year after impressing observers by catching up to a rehabbing Mike MacDougal in a a series of exhibition games against GCL teams while travelling with the Canadian National Squad while still in high school. MacDougal hits triple digits with his heater, by the way. Pompey got off to a rough start this year with only 8 hits in his first 49 at bats. Since then, he’s gone 13-40 with his fist home run on the year and a perfect 7/0 in steal attempts. Called a tweener by Baseball America, any decrease in speed will need to be commensurate with an increase in his power. In the meantime, his mature batting eye (19:15 K:BB ratio) and dangerous baserunning should make him a fun follow.

Bluefield Blue Jays – Drafted as a 3B, and having spent the vast majority of his games there after debuting last year, it looks like the Blue Jays have permanently moved Christopher Hawkins (2-3, BB, RBI, R, SB) to left field, where he has made each of his 26 starts this year for Bluefield. His bat (read: contact ability) has definitely adjusted to pro ball, but his approach still lags behind. This walk was only his 4th on the year (and his first in at least 10 games), to go along with 21 Ks. On the positive side, the lefty-swinging Hawkins is hitting well against southpaws, which suggests that his line will improve once his numbers against opposite-handed pitchers rises.

Continuing a Section 203 tradition of applauding novice pitchers on hot starts to the professional game, we turn our hope-filled eyes towards recent undrafted free agent signee RHP Ian Kadish (1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K). A 4th year senior out of Marshall University in West Virginia, Kadish must have caught the eyes of Jays scouts as they watched his teammates, right-handed starting pitchers Andrew Sikula (36th round) and Shane Farrell (46th round).  Farrell has signed and went directly onto the 60-day disabled list. Sikula also pitches in Bluefield, but, while he hasn’t been bad, he has allowed 18 baserunners in 14.2 innings, striking out 12 batters. On the other hand, Kadish, reprising his Marshall role of closer, has pitched 13.1 innings, allowing only 13 baserunners while striking out 18. In baseball, the past predicts the present. The way a player entered the game will play a direct role on his ability to rise in the profession. But as Heath Bell reminds us, if you play well, chances may eventually find you.

Vancouver Canadians – A short blurb for a long game (13 innings), Section 203 fave, LF Stephen McQuail (1-6, HR (10), RBI, 2 R) did it again, with his 10th home run of the season coming in grand, walk-off style. McQuail now has hit 4 home runs in his last 5 games and has an OPS of 1.123 in his last 10. His 10 home runs lead the Northwest League. In fact, the current runner-up has 6. McQuail is also 3rd in the league in SLG, at .606 and 4th in OPS with .951. As I strive to provide a balanced view, McQuail’s not been all exemplary. He has a severe LHP/RHP split, measured through OPS as .623/1.060, small sample caveats in place. He has a below-average 3.8 K:BB ratio as he has struck out in 36.5% of his at bats

Lansing Lugnuts – One of the great/sad things about the minor leagues is that the salaries are so low that some guys can stick around seemingly forever without doing much or showing any real progress. Nearly 6 years ago, the Blue Jays gave a nominal signing bonus to a 17-year-old out of Maracay, Venezuela, C Luis Hurtado (2-4, 2 RBI, K, PB). The next year, 2006, Hurtado had 130 plate appearances in the Venezuelan Summer League. The Jays sent him to the equivalent league in the Dominican in 2007 and he had another 149 PAs. He held his own at each stop, but failed to make a name for himself in either league with a combined line of .230/.275/.285 for an OPS of .560. Since then, Hurtado has been limited to 84 plate appearances across five leagues and now in his 4th season. As I mentioned in a long ago post about Joe Bowen, backup catchers are always in need. Hurtado is still only 22 years old. He may yet double his career plate appearances.

CF Michael Crouse (2-5, HR (11), RBI, 2 R, OF assist) is still swinging large. Prior to this season, he had hit 8 home runs in 446 PAs. With this game’s 7th inning swat, he now has 11 in 338 this year. The power is developing, although his contact rate is still poor. I find and to be tremendous resources, but in cases like Crouse’s I find the available splits to be lacking. It is easy to compare how a player does against RHP/LHP, or day/night, or bases-empty/runners-on/RISP, or home/away, etc., but there is no available resource that would allow the interested public (such as myself) to compare how a minor league player does against starting pitchers and relief pitchers. Why is this relevant, you ask? Simply put, the overwhelming majority of capital-P pitching “Prospects” are starters in the low minors before being converted to the bullpen somewhere along the path to glory. Today’s home run was hit off of a 24-year-old, former 20th round pick. Yesterday’s bomb was hit off of a 23-year-old former 6th round pick who has nearly a 1:1 K:BB ratio as a pro. Last week, he cranked one off of a long reliever who entered baseball in the 14th round. Crouse also hit a bomb in the game I attended in May. That, too was hit off a bullpen member, an undrafted 23-year-old. I still don’t know what it means, but it’s worth bearing in mind, especially while still in the lower levels.

Dunedin Blue Jays – Only three short years ago, the Blue Jays farm system was a dark, uncomfortable place. In 2008, Baseball America ranked it 25th in the league. It rose to 19th in 2009 and then dropped back to 28th in the 2009-10 offseason, shortly after Alex Anthopoulos took over. In the most recent handbook, Toronto ranked 4th in baseball. In more current informal polls, many pundits place Toronto anywhere from 2nd to 4th, in a group including Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Texas. In 2008, the top prospect in the system was Travis Snider, then considered a top-20 prospect in the game. 2nd was Brett Cecil, who produced excellent results in his pro debut, while going through the conversion from releiver at the University of Maryland to a starter at Auburn. 3rd was 3B Kevin Ahrens (1-4, HR (9), 3 RBI, BB, R), who, although his pro debut was less than impressive, was just selected with the 16th pick in the 2007 draft out of a Houston area high school. He was two years into switch hitting and projected to be able to hit for both average and power. His full season debut ended with an OPS just under .700 n Lansing, dropping Ahrens to 6th in the Jays’ top 30. It was noted that his lefty-swing was then better than his natural right-handed counterpart. In 2009, despite his struggles in Lansing, the Jays pushed Ahrens up to Dunedin, where the bottom dropped out. He cut his strikeout rate nearly in half and lost all ability to drive the ball, with his slugging percentage barely above .300. Still, he was only a few years removed from 16th overall and Baseball America slotted him 12th in a very weak system. Now the system is strong and a 2nd year in Dunedin was even worse than the first, leading to a return engagement at Lansing. Ahrens was no long in the top 30 and dropped his switch-hitting routine. Back in Dunedin, he is doing better, but an OPS around .700 from an offensive position like 3B, most view him as a lost cause. His ability to make hard contact failed to develop. And without development, he stagnated. Still only 22, he has youth on his side for 1, maybe 2 more seasons. I don’t like to be pessimistic, but I hope he was wise with his signing bonus.

When the Jays drafted RHP Drew Hutchison (6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 8 K, 1 HR) in the 15th round of the 2009 draft, few people looked twice. A high schooler in the age of Ricciardi was an afterthought. As negotiations bombed with one after another high round pick, they offered Hutchison $400,000 to forego college. As Keith Law placed Hutchison in his mid-season top 50 prospect list, it could easily be argued that the 6-2″ righty has more talent than Paxton, Eliopoulos or Barrett – the three that got away. Hutchison throws a well-regarded change-up, to go along with a fastball that has been reported at 95 mph, but more regularly in the lower 90s and a slider. After busting out this year with Lansing with over a strikeout per inning and a 4.4 K/BB ratio, this was easily Hutchison’s most dominant start since being promoted. On the downside, the groundball pitcher did surrender the 4th home run of his professional career, a span of 168 innings.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats – As all of the major pundits put out their updated top-50 lists over the last week and change, one of the Jays farmhands who received mixed reviews was CF Anthony Gose (2-4, R, 2 SB, K, E, OF Assist). Most agree that his speed, defense and arm strength are top of the line. The area of concern resides in his Hit tool. Going into this game batting .251/.346/.398 (OPS of .745), Gose is having his longest run of success as a pro, and in his first taste of the upper levels. His 9 home runs are also a career high. Also impressing is his selectivity on the bases. Last year, splitting time between the Florida State League affiliated of Philadelphia and Toronto, Gose was nabbed in 32 of 77 stolen base attempts, for an abysmal 58.4% success rate, where 75% is considered the threshold. With the two steals in this game, he has matched last years’ successes, but with 20 fewer failures, for a success rate now up to 78.9%. He may never hit for a high average, but the rest of his game very well may compensate.

Long hanging around the periphery of the Jays top prospect lists, short (6-0″) RHP Joel Carreno (6 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 8 K) last made a Baseball America top 30 list in 2008, sneaking in at #28. He was coming off his first season pitching in the US. Carreno has since rose the ladder steadily, first a season at Auburn, then a truncated season spent mostly with Lansing. Finally healthy, he spent all of last season with Dunedin, striking out a whopping 173 in 137.2 innings (11.3 K/9). The Jays added Carreno to their 40-man roster in the offseason, but the pundits still haven’t bitten. Now with 123 Ks in 103.2 innings in AA  (10.7 K/9 – still well above average), the 24-year-old should start to receive some praise. And now to curb your enthusiasm, Carreno does not have the control you want in a front-line starter, having walked 51 in that same period, for a below-par (4.4 BB/9). He has also seen his flyball rate skyrocket this year, leading to an inflated home run rate. Negatives aside, most age appropriate pitchers with strikeouts this dominant get opportunities. It’s hot now, but September is coming.

Las Vegas 51s – In his short stint with the Jays earlier in the year 1B David Cooper (3-4, 2 RBI, R) struggled interspersing a few big hits with a large number of harmless pop ups. His 0.25 groundball:flyball ratio rendered him essentially useless in majors. A former 1st-round pick, taken one year and one slot after Kevin Ahrens, Cooper created excitement in his debut season, blasting his way through three levels (Auburn, Lansing and Dunedin) showing great contact, patience and enough power. He spent his first full season in AA New Hampshire and struggled to an OPS of .729. Repeating the level last year, after a slow start, he found his power stroke in the second half of the season and while his batting average barely budged from the previous season, his OPS rose to .769. Not sufficient for an MLB 1B, but progress is progress. While it is certainly true that the PCL is a great hitter’s league and that Las Vegas in particular is an absolute paradise, what Cooper has accomplished this year is nothing short of remarkable. His .371 batting average now leads the circuit. His .442 OBP ranks second. His SLG and OPS are both in the top 10. All marks are better at home, but his road line of .347/.426/.513/.939OPS is nothing to sneeze at. My favourite Cooper stat is his K:BB ratio, now sitting at 0.67 (26K:39BB). That’s a major league approach. Now it is up to him to get back to The Show and prove that he is not a AAAA player.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: