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Down on the Farm – Jays MILB Thoughts – August 25, 2011

August 26, 2011

GCL Blue Jays – Hurricane Irene claims a victim today, with the GCL Jays’ scheduled away game at the GCL Braves’ facility postponed.

Bluefield Blue Jays – Like Stephen McQuail, mentioned yesterday, 1B Art Charles (2-4, RBI, BB, R) had a great start to his season, hitting 5 home runs in his first ten games as part of a .295.354/.795 (1.150 OPS) line. His OPS dropped to .770 in July and has fallen further to .667 this month. As a player still new to full time hitting, it is not surprising that he is slow to make adjustments. One number that gives me hope for his ability to turn things around is his high and stable walk rate. Charles walked in 14% of his plate appearances combined in June and July, and has kept that rate in August, including 8 free passes in his past nine games. The strikeout rate is still high, so, for now, Charles profiles as a three-true-outcomes guy.

Vancouver Canadians – There are so many factors holding the possibilities of a too-bright future for 5-10″, 170 pound RHP Drew Permison (1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 HBP, 1 K) that it would be cruel to list them all here. But that’s what I do. The performance has been great with a 1.52 ERA on the season with Vancouver holding opponents to a measly .190 average. Last year, debuting with Auburn, Permison struck out 59 in 39 innings. He has been effective against both lefties and righties. That’s enough for the good stuff. The first black mark against Permison, I already mentioned; He’s short, and doesn’t compensate through pitching with his left arm. His stuff is only OK, with his fastball reportedly coming in between 91-94 mph. His top secondary pitch is a curve, although he is purported to also throw a slider and a change. His pedigree also works against him, in that as a 42nd round pick from a small college, the scouts who signed him to a contract did not hold high expectations for him and any failure on his part will serve only as confirmation bias, whereas success will have to be sustained and more than incremental to keep him on the radar. To wit, Permison started the season off with Lansing, but after allowing 14 baserunners and 8 runs across 6 innings (4 appearances), he was demoted back to Vancouver. While his performance has been positive with Vancouver, the NWL is roughly equivalent in level to the NY-P in which he pitched last year. Now 22 years old, he should be advanced at that level. He has earned another shot for 2012, but will have to impress enough to burn through both Lansing and Dunedin to continue to keep his status as even a marginal prospect above ground.

Lansing Lugnuts – Last offseason, C Carlos Perez (3-3, 2B, BB, R) was seen as a top 10 Jays’ prospect by both Baseball America, Kevin Goldstein and John Sickels. By all, he was seen as a player with great defensive fundamentals and other intangible qualities that do not stick out so much in the traditional, or new mainstream stats. right away, we see that this is a player for whom we are not expecting huge offensive numbers. But the regression he has experienced this season has been beyond the pale. After an .837 OPS in the DSL in 2008, he produced a .797 OPS in the GCL in 2009 and then an .834 OPS last year in Auburn. Now, in a career high 88 games, his OPS is a career low, at .685. One might argue that his August OPS of .538 is proof if a tired player. Yet that does not explain his June OPS, which was even worse, at .499. Hot months in April and July leave some hope that this is simply a very young player (turning 21 in October) adjusting to more advanced (and more frequent) play.

After the huge new-level debuts yesterday of Noah Syndergaard (Lansing) and Drew Hutchison (New Hampshire), expectations were raised for LHP Justin Nicolino (5 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 4 K) in his Low A debut here. A good game, to be sure, but a 4/1 K/BB ratio is disappointing after striking out 5.8 for every walked batter over 52.1 innings in Vancouver. Only one of the seven hits allowed was for extra bases, a double by a player a full two years Nicolino’s senior.

Dunedin Blue Jays – Is the Toronto fanbase ready for the return of LHP Brian Tallett (1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K)? Because Tallett is ready to return to Toronto. Most likely he gets recalled from his rehabilitation stint as soon as rosters expand next week.

The Blue Jays recently signed a mysterious Cuban in RF Kenen Bailli (1-2, HR (1), RBI, K, R) who has hit well in his pro debut, which so far consists of 4 games in the GCL and now 4 more games in the FSL. One major caveat to these numbers is Bailli’s age – already 26 year old. His wi9ndow to make it is only opened slightly. The lack of press about his signing bonus suggests very strongly that it was not large, despite a sterling reputation from his homeland, where Bailli was among the Cuban Serie Nacional in a slew of offensive categories. In short, all we can really say is that Bailli is worth paying attention to (for now) and not yet worth getting excited over.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats – When the Blue Jays traded 1B Brett Wallace (a second cousin to the Roy Halladay trade) to Houston for CF Anthony Gose (2-4, 2 K, HBP, 3 SB, R) it was clear that they were getting a player with impact potential on the basepaths. His speed recognized, he came under some justifiable criticism for running into so many outs in his attempts at thievery. As written before, 75% is seen as a rough cut-off rate for a stolen base attempt. Last season, between the Houston and Toronto organizations, Gose was caught in 32 of 77 attempts, for a poor 58.4% success rate. In addition to his greatly increased power this year, Gose has also turned around is baserunning, with the three stolen bases in this game raising his seasonal line to 64 steals in 79 attempts, good for an above average 81% success rate. Considering his league leading strike out totals and age (just turned 21), I would not be surprised to see Gose starting 2012 back in AA, selection to the year end All Star team notwithstanding.

Las Vegas 51s – With news filtering through that Travis Snider has tendinitis in his wrist, likely ending his disappointing season, thoughts turn to two Las Vegas OFs currently smoking the ball but neither on the Jays’ 40-man roster: CF Adam Loewen (0-3, RBI (SF), K) and LF Ricardo Nanita (2-4, 2 SB, R). Nanita currently is OPS’ing Loewen .977-.888, looking only at his numbers with the 51s. Both are overaged, although Nanita is 3 years older than Loewen (30-27). Loewen however, is much more impressive as he is significantly younger in baseball terms, having only been a hitter for 3 full seasons after an injury plagued career as a highly touted pitching prospect with the Baltimore Orioles.  Nanita is a nice story, but his combined line drive rate between New Hampshire and Vegas is an unsustainable 23.1%. Line drive rates are notoriously fickle. To compare, AA C Travis d’Arnaud has hit line drives in 19.2% of balls in play while Lansing CF Jake Marisnick has done so 18% of the time. Loewen has laced ropes at a high, but more reasonable pace of 21.8% of balls in play. Loewen should get the call to Toronto by the time the Las Vegas season ends, if not on September 1, if only for the Jays’ braintrust to see if it is worth giving him a shot at a backup role next season. If they are bored, maybe Nanita also gets a cameo…but I doubt it. If that seems unfair, look at Chris Lubanski’s line from Las Vegas last year. Almost as good, and a much higher prospect pedigree in his resume, but no call up.

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