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Down on the Farm – Jays MILB Thoughts – August 15, 2011

August 16, 2011

After getting my writing practice in with a few different posts over the weekend, Jays MILB Thoughts is back, and not a moment too soon. Today is one of the most important days of the Jays, and every other system. Today is Draft Deadline day. Outside of guys who have completed a full 4 seasons in college, such as Jays’ 39th rounder, Chris Cox from Canisius, today is the final day for MLB teams to come to terms with the young players drafted last June. The Jays got their deadline shopping started early adding a few highly touted prospects to the organization over the weekend. Dating from mid-last week to earlier today, the newest Jays include:

– Jacob Anderson, OF, supplemental 1st round (35th overall), Chino HS (CA)

– Dwight Smight Jr., OF, supplemental 1st round (53rd overall), McIntosh HS (Ga)

– Kevin Comer, RHP, supplemental 1st round (57th), Seneca HS (Tabernacle, NJ)

– Daniel Norris, LHP 2nd round (74th), Science Hill HS (Johnson City, TN)

– Jeremy Gabryszwski,  RHP, 2nd round (78), Crosby HS (TX)

– John Stilson, RHP, 3rd round (108), Texas A&M

– Thomas Robson, RHP, 4th round (139), Delta SS (Ladner, B.C.)

– Anthony DeSclafini, RHP, 6th round (199), U Florida

– Christian Lopes, SS, 7th round (229), Edison HS (Huntington Beach, CA)

– Mark Biggs, RHP, 8th round (259), Warren East HS (Bowling Green, KY)

– Matt Dean, 3B, 13th round (409), The Colony HS (TX)

– Brady Dragmire, RHP, 17th round (529), Bradshaw Christian School (Sacramento, CA)

– Derrick Loveless, OF, 27th round (829), Solon HS (IA)

It’s important to note that draft position does not also denote the quality of the player, but can be more an indication of the risk inherent in the selection, how much the player is said to want and how likely he is to go to school. A much better indicator to compare drafted players is signing bonus. As 1st rounder Tyler Beede elected not to sign, in spite of the buzzing rumours surrounding a pre-draft deal, the Jays have secured an extra selection (22nd overall) in next year’s draft.

Today makes for a soft landing to my return to the daily Jays milb beat, with three teams enjoying scheduled off days. Without further ado, today’s games:

DSL Jays – Every time I look at the DSL team offensive box score, I am mildly depressed. For good reason. The DSL Jays are the league trailers in offense by most every measure. Remember that there are 33 teams in the DSL. The Yankees, Cubs and Mets all have two teams in this league that are hitting better than the Jays’ league members. By a rudimentary measure such as batting average, the DSL Jays are last at an aggregate of .209. Their OBP is 31st at .314. Their .591 OPS is 32nd. The only number where they rank well is in team triples. 19 puts them in a 5-way tie for 11th. Not a single member of the DSL Jays roster has a seasonal OPS above .700. The top 3, and 4 of out of the top 5, are listed as catchers. The best of the bunch has been C Kervin Santiago (0-3, BB, 2 K), an 18-year-old signed out of Venezuela. He hasn’t yet shown much power – although he has hit one of the 10 DSL Jays home runs – but he has shown a mature approach at the plate, with a sparkling 13/16 BB/K rate. The right handed batter has struggled against southpaws, giving him a wicked reverse platoon split of .789/.414 as measured by OPS, but the sample sizes are small enough for that to be fairly inconsequential. His line also makes me wonder if there is something about the DSL team (coaching?) which is prevented the team as a whoel from excelling. Is Santiago the kind of player who could take off when moved to a more fruitful setting?

On the opposite end of the performance spectrum in San Pedro de Macoris is CF Luis Martin (0-2, 2 BB, 2 K, SB, R), who was signed last year for 6-figures, a hometown player (born and raised in SPdM). While his 18 walks are 6th on the team, his whopping 87 strikeouts (in only 171 at bats – 50.8% of all at bats!) are 28 more than the runner up. In fact, no one else in the entire DSL is within 10 K’s of Martin. Of course, Martin is young – only 17 years old. But at some point, either the scouts or the coaches have failed. One must almost hope that its the coaching. At least he’s big (6-4″, 210) and athletic enough to patrol the middle pasture.

GCL Jays – After missing time early in the year with a reported blood disorder, Jays boosters were worried again last week when it was reported that SS Dickie Joe Thon (0-2, HBP, RBI, R) had left the team once more. No sooner did many notice he was gone than he returned. Not the greatest of comebacks, as Thon also avoided making any plays in the field (good or bad) before being replaced by Section 203 fave, Jorge Vega-Rosado. To stifle any concerns before they arise, the hit-by-pitch was not likely a factor as that occurred in his first plate appearance and he grounded out and then struck out before leaving after the 6th. Not yet 20 years old, the missed time may have stunted his development marginally, but he still has plenty of time to make it up.

Taking the hill for the GCL team today was the young phenom, RHP Adonys Cardona (3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 2 K). While those who have seen him have drooled over their keyboards writing about his top-of-the-rotation potential, he still has a ways to go, not yet having pitched more than 4 innings in any game and only 31.2 innings in total as a professional. While the aforementioned Thon is young, Cardona is still a child, not yet legal to drink even in Quebec. The fact that a 17-year-old has struck out over a batter per inning in North American professional baseball is quite remarkable. With the GCL season winding down, Carmona likely has 2 more starts (6-8 more innings) before instructional league. As long as you’re patient about it, feel free to get excited.

Bluefield Blue Jays – No games today in the Appalachian League.

Vancouver Canadians – I had written about LF/DH Stephen McQuail (1-6, RBI, 2 K) on a few occasions in the past. He had a great early start to the season, crushing 10 home runs in his first 30-plus games of the season. I had also pointed out that his approach, or lack thereof, will hurt his game, if not in the NWL, then further up the ladder. Well, it had caught up with him. Looking at just his last 10 games, dating back to July 30, McQuail has just two singles and nothing else in 32 at bats, having struck out in fully half of them. His K% on the season now stands at 40%, with 4 Ks for every walk. For an all or nothing hitter like that, sometimes when the nothing piles up quite so high, it can be awful hard to get back to the all.

One of this year’s draft picks who did not sign immediately, but early enough to create a first impression, 3B Andrew Burns (3-6, 2B, 3 RBI) was drafted as a SS out of Arizona in the 11th round. His career began with a bang, hitting safely in 10 of 16 at bats in the GCL before getting bumped up to Vancouver. Across his first 7 games at the more advanced level, this game’s double was his first extra base hit. It is way too early to come to even provisional conclusions about what Burns is, but it’s always fun to see a player’s batting average to nearly double in a single game. Burns should be worth keeping an eye on next year, as the Vancouver experience may give him a leg up on a spot in a full season league in 2012.

Lansing Lugnuts – Watching Eric Thames homer off of Dan Haren yesterday and crush one off of Michael Pineda today, we (the royal we) are reminded how, in as much as today’s signed players are hyped, one never knows which drafted players will make it to The Show. Thames was a 7th rounder who fell due to a quadricep injury and very quietly found himself on the doorstep in a time of need a few months ago. Looking at Lansing’s boxscore, I see two pitchers drafted last year with no real fanfare, yet proving their mettle in full season ball while many of their draft class peers have spent the year in the short season leagues. I have written about LHP Sean Nolin (5 IP, 5 H, 3 R (0 ER), 2 BB, 8 K) before and not much has changed since. He is just shy of 9K/9 in his full season debut. He has an impressive 3.1 K/BB ratio. Although he has allowed a higher average against righties, the 201 6th rounder has allowed runs at a much higher rate against lefties. He is built like an innings eater and I expect him to eat many more than the 4 innings per appearance he has averaged with Lansing this year when he spends 2012 with Dunedin.

An afterthought’s afterthought, RHP Danny Barnes (2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K) was not selected by the Blue Jays until 35th round last year. Like teammate Jack Murphy (a 31st round pick from 2009), Barnes went to Princeton, making the duo front-runners in the competition for smartest battery in the Midwest League. In spite of a whopping 88 strikeouts in 59 innings (13.4K/9), against only 14 walks ( 2.1 BB/9) gives him a stellar 6.3 K/BB. He is fly-ball prone but not susceptible to home runs, having allowed only 2 on the season. Only 21 years old, he is age appropriate for the level, but still not considered a prospect. That said, the Jays have nothing to lose by seeing how Barnes can perform against the better competition in Dunedin, and nothing more to learn by keeping him in Lansing. There are 3 weeks to go in the season.

Dunedin Blue Jays – No games tonight in the Florida State League.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats – No games tonight in the Eastern League.

Las Vegas 51s – It’s kind of fun to think of SS Adeiny Hechevarria (3-5, 2B, 2 RBI) going nuts on AAA after struggling along to a .622 OPS in 464 at bats this year in AA. Then again, last year, he put up a .509 OPS in 41 games in Dunedin before being promoted to New Hampshire where he improved his line to a .665 OPS in 61 games. I’ve said it before and I’ll write it here. Hechevarria is a shortstop, and by all accounts, a very, very good one,. Maybe the best defensive shortstop in the minor leagues. That good. I don’t think his progress is as much tied into his offensive exploits as they are his defensive growth. At some point, the glove is ready for a premium position (the premium position on the diamond. His bat may not improve much, but it might still be forgiven plenty.

Playing across the 2B bag from Hechevarria, 2B Manny Mayorson (2-5, 2B, RBI, 2R, SB) is having a fine season with a .766 OPS in 80 games (not including this game) playing in the middle infield. The odds of him making a name for himself in the Majors are long, but not so long that he’ll earn a cup of coffee or two. It may  not be this year, though. Even though the Jays reportedly have 2 open spots in the 40-man roster, the role Mayorson can occupy is already held by both John McDonald and Mike McCoy. I think it takes an injury for Mayorson to make his MLB debut with the Blue Jays this year. Mayorson has made contact on nearly 82% of his plate appearances this year, indicating that his production (as moderate as it is) may be sustainable.

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