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Down on the Farm – Jays milb Thoughts – July 26, 2011

July 27, 2011

As I am beginning a 10-day vacation as of tomorrow morning, and so the blog will be going on hiatus until August 8. During my trip I will be taking in games at U.S. Cellular in Chicago and at Fenway Park and will try to post some thoughts/pictures from that, but otherwise, prospects will play and games will be won and lost, the Jays may sign a few more draft picks (like 3B/SS Justin Atkinson, who made his professional debut today for the GCL squad). See you in August.

DSL Jays – Just a couple of quick hits from the DSL today:

3B Gabriel Cenas (1-3, K) is back to wearing a glove. Listed at 6-1″, 155, its probably safe to say that the 17-year-old is still physically under-developed. More beef should beget more power down the line. He has only 1 extra-base hit (a double) in 46 at-bats for a meagre ISO of .022. His 6-figure signing bonus pedigree should ensure that the Jays push him as far as they can.

RHP Eyerys Guerrero (3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, (o ER), 0 BB, 2 K) has a deceptively high ERA of 5.55 masking a solid K/BB of 21/6. He is a fly-ball pitcher (0.79 GO/AO), although the generally poor hitting on display in the DSL has helped limit his home runs allowed to one solitary tater.

GCL Jays – It would feel wrong for me if I were to go away without another kind word for SS Jorge Vega-Rosado (3-5, 2B, 2 RBI, 3 R, SB, K) who forces my hand with another great game. His contact rate is improving with 8 Ks in his last 42 at bats dropping his season K% to 22.5%, not spectacular, but solid for such a raw professional with solid in-game power.  J V-R is 9th in the GCL in batting average and OPS. His OPS is made in equal parts OBP and SLG, meaning the secondary skills are there to complement his batting average. Denizen of Section 203, Bill Christie has reported that the power is real, with some of his home runs being absolutely smoked. I think some regression is inevitable in his numbers, but there may well be enough there to ensure that those numbers still look pretty even after the regression comes.

Another player of whom Bill Christie is a fan, is 1B/3B Seth Conner (2-4, 2B, HR (3), 3 RBI, R, BB, K), who was featured in this spot just yesterday. With another big game today, his OPS in his last ten games is a jaw-dropping 1.179! With 4 walks drawn in his last 2 games, he is displaying an admirable approach to hitting. More and more, his horrendous start is being swept aside and his seasonal numbers have approached respectability and he now ranks 7th in the GCL in walks with 17.

With a game featuring both good and bad, RHP Arodys Cardona (3.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 4 K) showed that he can sometimes struggle to hit the strike zone, but also that hitters can often struggle to hit his pitches. In general, he has not struggled with his command much, and 10 walks in 20.2 innings is not great, but not a sign for worry in a 17 year-old pitcher facing mostly hitters 19-21 years old. 21 Ks in that same time frame speaks to his natural raw abilities. The Jays are (and should be) taking it slow with Cardona as this game’s 3.2 innings pitched matched his seasonal high.

Bluefield Blue Jays – Similar to my feelings for J V-R, I couldn’t take a break without another mention of 3B Christopher Hawkins (3-4, 2B, 3B, HR (5), 5 RBI, 2 R/0-2, K, SB, CS). And it’s not because I think he has great potential (which he does). But because that line from the first game of today’s double header was one for the ages. A single short of the cycle and 5 ribbies makes for happiness. My bold Hawkins future prediction is that, while he might get a Vancouver cameo before the end of the season, he will spend all of 2012 in Lansing. Not all is golden with Hawkins, though. His success is predicated on contact. He has a sustainable K% of 19.5%. On the other hand, Hawkins has walked only 5 times this year. It may not be inherent though. Last year, in 30 extra at bats, Hawkins walked 15 times, so he’s heard “Take your base!” before, but he could stand to listen for it more now.

The picture of projectability, RHP Aaron Sanchez (5 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 4 K) rebounded from an absolute disaster of a start last week with today’s gem in the 1st game. He’s a shade under 9 K/9, but has less than 2 Ks per BB. He’s allowed more than his share of base hits, but has mostly kept the ball in the yard, barring two dingers. Much of his struggle can be attributed to difficulties against left-handed batters, of which he has walked 6 in 46 plate appearances. (13%). Against same-handed batters, Sanchez has walked 8 of 76 (10.5%). Section 203 will miss the next 1-2 appearances by Sanchez. I can only assume that ERA will no longer be 6.66 when I get back into the swing of things.

Vancouver Canadians – Back in 2007, after a great run at Brophy College Prep in Phoenix, including stints with the USA National Junior team and All American recognition, the hometown Arizona Diamondbacks made RF/CF Matt Newman (3-4, HR (1), RBI, 2 R, BB) a 49th round draft pick. Possibly recognizing the marketing ploy that such a late pick on a local player means, Newman eschewed the professional ranks at that time for a scholarship at in-state collegiate powerhouse, Arizona State, hoping that the higher level exposure would lead to a higher slot selection in 3 years’ time. It was not to happen. Batting average is not the greatest barometer with which to measure a player, but trends of the sort experienced by Newman are telling. After hitting .322 as a freshman, his average dropped to .305 as a sophomore (albeit with some more power). It wouldn’t get any better. As a Junior, Newman lost both average and contact, hitting a mere .265 with 2 home runs. He wasn’t drafted. Newman regained some of his stuff as a senior last year, hitting .280 with 6 homers, but still no one drafted him again. So should Newman have signed out of high school in 2007? In all truth, probably not. Being picked that late indicates that, if he was even offered a contract, a big signing bonus would not have been included. He very well may already have been out of the pro ranks after 4 years. Now he is a college graduate, and, while his .671 OPS mostly accrued in Vancouver  is not very impressive, he’ll always be able to tell his grandkids about today’s game.

Around late July, many teams began the process of limiting the innings pitched for some of their younger, high-end pitching prospects. One of the most dominant pitcher in the Blue Jays’ system, at least performance wise, has been LHP Justin Nicolino (3 IP, 3 H, 1 R (0 ER), 0 BB, 4 K), whose appearance today out of the bullpen may have been a form of saving his bullets for higher up the ladder. Nicolino now hs 51 Ks in 37 innings, an awesome 12.4 K/9. Keith Law has lauded his pitchability, with can be seen in his low walk rate 2.4 BB/9, giving him 5.1 K/BB. It would not be too surprising to see Nicolino get a cameo in Lansing before the season is out.

Lansing Lugnuts – Not wishing to give me any more food for thought before I go on vacation (maybe I have written too much about Michael Crouse), the Midwest League is dormant today.

Dunedin Blue Jays – If you look hard enough, you can sometimes see some very funny things in minor league stat lines. One such example belongs to Jupiter Hammerheads LHP Chad James (6 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 5 K, W), a former 1st round draft pick of the Florida Marlins. You may have noticed that I mentioned that James picked up the win in this match against Dunedin. Not that I care about pitcher wins. Yesterday, I noted that it is cool to see an undefeated pitcher without losses. Almost as cool is the reverse. Just 2 weeks ago, James’ record, in spite of pitching rather well was a phenomenal 0-13. He’s now given up only 2 runs in his last 18 innings (3 starts), and has improved his ledger to 3-13 with a 3.38 ERA.

In all honesty, in this game there was no one on Dunedin whose play stood out. RHP Nestor Molina is sometimes worth a mention, but giving up 8 hits in 5 innings, including 2 doubles and 1 home run, suggests a lack of command on the game. Maybe I’ve just become a bit jaded.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats – Talk about peaking young! At the age of 14, LF John Tolisano (2-4, 2B, HR (8), 2 RBI, R, K) was named the top player in his age class by Baseball America. He was still pretty good through the rest of his high school playing days, and teh Jays drafted him as a 2B in the 2nd round of the 2007 draft. He struggled with contact in his pro debut but displayed solid power, with 10 GCL home runs in 49 games. BA ranked him as the #7 prospect in the Jays’ organization. Moved to full-season Lansing in the next season, Tolisano struggled mightily, batting a mere .229 with only 6 home runs in well in nearly 2.5 times as many at bats. Tolisano spent 2 years in Dunedin, with his OPS topping out at .741 in his 2nd attempt at the level. By that time, Tolisano had been moved off of 2B into more of a utility role. After this season, the Jays have to protect Tolisano on teh 40-man roster or risk losing him in the Rule V draft. According to Denizen of Section 203, Dave Gershman, Tolisano is adjusting to AA, looking comfortable at the plate and showing real power, with this game’s home run being a big one. Dave’s assessment aside, Tolisano has struck out in 31.7% of his at bats this year, with a 0.45 BB/K rate. Tolisano, a switch-hitter, has made better contact against southpaws while getting most of his power against right-handers.

Las Vegas 51s – Just over 12 years ago, in the Latin Signee period, the Blue Jays inked a 16-year-old from the Dominican Republic who could play in the middle infield named Manny Mayorson (2-5, 2B, 2 RBI, R, E). Mayorson worked his way up the ladder beginning with Medicine Hat (the Vancouver squad is not the first affiliate Toronto has had in Canada) and peaking in Hew Hampshire in 2006 and 2007. In that 2007 season, his OPS was .682, a career high. By that point, however, Mayorson was playing more at 2B and even 3B than SS, and the Blue Jays decided against protecting Mayorson on the 40-man roster and Mayorson decided to test new waters, signing as a minor league free agent with the Florida Marlins organization. Mayorson established a new career with a .786 OPS in AA Carolina and earned his first taste of AAA life. Given more time in AAA in the Marlins’ system in 2007, his offense rolled back to the tune of nearly a 200 point loss in OPS. The Marlins released him, and Mayorson re-joined the Blue Jays system. In the l1.5 years since the return of this prodigal son, Mayorson’s OPS has bouyed above .750, and, as odd as it may seem to think, he may now finally be in a position to take advantage of an untimely injury to earn a cameo in The Show. He plays a solid 2B and can still hack it at SS in a pinch. Now 28 years old, his best day may be today. He has a great contact approach at the plate, with his walks (22) outnumbering his strikeouts (18). He has a large LHP/RHP split (.941/.723) and has not hit nearly as well on the road (.696) as he has at home (.857), but it wouldn’t take much to see Mayorson get his reward for a 12 year slog through the minor leagues.

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