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Down on the Farm – Jays MILB Thoughts – August 24, 2011

August 25, 2011

GCL Blue Jays – The hottest hitter in the GCL, RF Jacob Anderson (3-5, SB) now has 10 hits in his last 16 at bats. He may be the most talented position player in the Jays’ short season affiliates.

Finally, CF Derrick Loveless (1-3, RBI, BB) picks up his first base hit as a professional, along with his second walk. I mentioned Loveless yesterday, as a great sleeper play by the Jays, who drafted him in the 27th round out of tiny Solon, Iowa, a town of under 1,200 people around 1 hour’s drive west from the Illinois border. According to Perfect Game, Loveless was the best prospect in the state this year, and he bypassed a scholarship from the University of Iowa to sign with the Jays. His scouting report hints at five-tool potential. Of course, the competition in Iowa is not the same as Florida or California, so he would be rawer than most. That said, you always bet on the tools and Loveless’ assignment in 2012 should be followed.

Bluefield Blue Jays – Quick hits today. As the new record holder for GCL home runs and a three tater lead on the seasonal runner-up, DH/1B Eric Arce (1-2, K) has conclusively conquered the level. GM Alex Anthopoulos has gone on record a few times recently in stating that he believes in the efficacy of giving a player who is earmarked for a higher level in the following season a taste of that level to finish the present one. The biggest difference between the GCL and the Appy League? Attendance. Essentially, GCL attendance is by invitation only (scouts, journalists). In this game, Arce played in front of a paying audience, for what I hazard to guess was the first time in his life.

Vancouver Canadians – No matter how his season plays out from this point, LF Stephen McQuail (2-4, HR (11), RBI, R, K) must view his season as a disappointment. And due only to his failure to make adjustments. McQuail started off well, with three home runs and an .821 OPS over is first 12 games in June. A 17/2 K/BB ratio portended the tenuousness of those numbers. In July, he kept hitting home runs, and he began to see more pitches, upping his isolated patience from .029 to .095, but he continued to strike out in abundance (39 in 98 at bats – 40%) and his batting average and OPS cratered to .184 and .698 respectively. Now as August, and the season, near a close, McQuail’s power, until this game’s deep fly ball pulled over the fence in LF, has also failed him. This was his first home run in 15 games (only one other extra base hit in that span) and still striking out far too much (42.9% over 15 games this month), his OPS has bottomed out .564 and it is a daily struggle to keep his batting average above the Mendoza line, peeking out to .205. Up a level at Lansing, another bat first player, 1B Lance Durham, has had a similar last two  months, but without the early hot run to cushion his numbers. Yesterday, Durham was released by the organization. McQuail may get another chance to impress, but he also may not.

Lansing Lugnuts – For some, playing with the bigger boys feels no different from playing with the kids. RHP Noah Syndergaard (5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 6 K) is one such player. In his first start with a full-season affiliate, Syndergaard doesn’t miss a beat, not allowing an extra base hit. He has not allowed much in the way of hard hit balls against all season, with a combined line drive rate of 11.2%. Compare that to the more advanced Drew Hutchison who has given up 14% line drives.

A very highly touted prospect coming into the 2008 draft, RHP Daniel Webb (2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K) fell in the draft due to perceived bonus demands. He did not sign but could not qualify academically at the University of Kentucky, forcing him to attend community college instead. Like Hutchison, word is that Webb only signed as an 18th round pick of the Blue Jays in 2009 as the organization had to spend some of the money they had earmarked for Paxton, Barrett and Eliopoulos. While Hutchison has exceeded all expectations, Webb has not come close to his. He struggled to a 4.74 ERA last year (mostly at Auburn) with a 43/32 K/BB across 68.1 innings. Spending this season at Lansing (rehab notwithstanding), Weeb has pitched better, as his 5.86 ERA is not reflective of his work, with a much improved 48/24 K/BB over 60.1 innings, mostly as a starter. when drafted, his fastball was clocked in the mid-90s, with a solid changeup and an erratic curveball. I have not heard any more recent stuff reports, but with two pitches including the aforementioned plus heater, he seems to be a good candidate to move forward out of the bullpen.

Dunedin Blue Jays – The heavens opened up and the rain poured forth. And the Dunedin Blue Jays did not play baseball on that day.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats – As the Fisher Cats scored 16 runs on 17 hits, 8 of the team’s 9 starters had at least two hits. and 3B Mark Sobolewski went 0-5. Of course, that is not what makes this game interesting. In fact, none of the 16 runs did. Starting for New Hampshire was RHP Drew Hutchison (5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K, 1 HBP). As most minor league watcher agree, only once a player reaches AA can he be said to be facing truly advanced competition. Like Syndergaard at Lansing, Hutchison has dominant, even though both hits allowed were doubles. As impressive as his combined ERA of 2.68 (prior to the promotion) was, ERA among minor league pitchers – especially lower level minor league pitchers – can be deceiving. His FIP, stripping away the contribution of the fielders behind him, is actually even more awing, at 2.22. His two level K/BB was a crazy 4.55. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it now – Hutchison is one of the top 3 prospects in the Blue Jay system and the best pitcher among them.

Las Vegas 51s – Some final quick hits for the uppermost level in the system:

* C/DH Luis Hurtado (0-1) continued his organization tour with his 4th stop of the season, adding Las Vegas to postcards from Vancouver, Lansing and Dunedin. He has combined for 30 at bats among the four uniforms. and here I thought the Jays’ would go for a sleeper to back up Budde in Jack Murphy. Hurtado is the definition of comatose, as far as prospect status is concerned.

* You can’t keep a good man down. After only 1 hit in his last 3 games, SS Adeiny Hechevarria (2-5, K) returns to his previous multi-hit AAA ways. There are now conflicting reports on the possibility of an MLB call up after the close of the AAA season. I think he should get one, if only because he is already on the 40-man roster, and can only gain from the exposure – even if he just sits on the bench.

* Even in his better games, RHP Kyle Drabek (6.2 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 3 B, 2 K) is not that good as can be attested by 11 base runners in under 7 innings with only two strikeouts to show for it. The highly charged offensive environment of Slat Lake can account for some of the base hits (7 singles, 1 triple), but not the lack of whiffs. His 37/37 K/BB over 13 Las Vegas starts is the most troublesome aspect of his game, an aspect that was just as notable in getting thrashed while wearing a Blue Jays’ uniform.

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