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Down on the Farm – Jays MILB Thoughts – August 27, 2011

August 28, 2011

GCL Blue Jays – After today’s report, the daily thoughts will be more concise, if only for the mere reasons that the Jays’ GCL team has completed their schedule and did not make the GCL playoffs. finding his way into the report on the season’s last day is RHP Randal Thompson (4 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K), with four perfect innings to give the organization some incentive to keep the undrafted free agent signee out of Florida Tech. Thompson actually had an impressive season, with all of the caveats that apply to undrafted free agents. He struck out nearly one batter per inning with close to four strikeouts per walk mostly pitching out of the bullpen. He was more effective against left-handed batters, but decent against righties as well.

GCL Player of the Year – It can only be OF Eric Arce, who tattooed the ball at a clip of .268/.437/.621 for a league leading OPS of 1.058. His 14 home runs set a new GCL record. This is a league that has been going in this rookie-ball classification since 1966. Arce has since been called up to the more advanced rookie ball affiliate in Bluefield to get a taste of what awaits him next year. An oddball draftee in that he did not attend school last year, Arce is not yet 20. A true three true-outcomes player, Arce either homered, walked or struck out in 47.2% of his plate appearances for the GCL squad. As a point of reference, longtime Oakland Athletics’ DH Jack Cust, a noted three true-outcomes hero either walked, struck out or homered in 48.9% of his plate appearance last year.

GCL Pitcher of the Year – This one is a little tougher. I will right away eliminate the aforementioned Thompson as well as RHP Tucker Jensen from the running, as they do not really quality as prospects, both being undrafted free agents signees. LHP Griffin Murphy was alright, getting a good number of missed swings and not allowing many walks, but he was a little too homer prone for my tastes, allowing 6 in 41 innings (1.32/9). In the end, I will cop out and split the award between RHP Adonys Cardona and RHP Joseph Musgrove. Cardona drew rave reviews from Friends of Section 203 Dave Gershman and Blill Christie, looking for all the world like a future top-of-the-rotation starter, while putting up impressive numbers for a 17 year-old, his 4.55 ERA belied by a far more steady 3.14 FIP while striking out nearly 10 batters per 9 innings pitched. I was also impressed by his low ISO against of .083. Musgrove had a slow start, allowing 11 runs (10 earned) in his first 9.2 innings after singing for a well below slot signing bonus. Since then, he has allowed only a single run in 12 innings, while limiting the oppositio to such an extent that his seasonal WHIP has dropped below zero, to 0.97. Oddly, Musgrove has hit more batters than he has walked this year (6/4), suggesting a pitcher who is not afraid to pitch inside. Further recommending his confidence was his statement to the effect that he was not worried about maxing out his signing bonus as the real money would come later, when he is established as an MLB pitcher.

GCL Disappointment of the Year – I’m not too comfortable with this assessment, but SS Dickie Joe Thon, dealing with a blood disorder that set him back early, and another malady (rumoured to be a recurrence) that set him back late (he went 2-26 in his last 10 appreances), had a rough debut that ended with a .691 OPS. His .369 OBP was solid, but the .322 SLG (ISO of .099) spoke to weak contact throughout. Thon struck out in 36.4% of his at bats and displayed severe LHP/RHP splits, with an OPS of .519 against southpaws compared to .730 against righties. I am wont to give a mulligan to any struggling first year pro with good scouting reports, but even more so when said prospect struggled with issues (health) beyond his control. Regardless of his season line, Thon will begin next season at a higher level, but probably not yet full-season baseball.

Other GCL Notes – While impressive, RHP Jeremy Gabryszwski and RF Jacob Anderson debuted too late to draw any true conclusions from their performance. That said, I am very, very impressed with Anderson in particular and am impatient to see how he does against more advanced pitching and in a larger sample size. A couple of guys who have played well all year and have featured in this space more than one are 3B/1B Seth Conner and SS/2B Jorge Vega-Rosado. Both players, still in their teens were very impressive in their professional debuts, and while their draft positions do not portray the love of scouts, they both exceeded expectations, and I have it from a reliable source that at least Conner was invited to Fall instructs, meaning he will continue to receive baseball education into the offseason. The Puerto Rican J V-R is a small man at 5-8″, 175, which, in many circles, is exciting in and of itself. Beyond his natural attributes, he has shown a mature game, capable at SS, if more at home at 2B while displaying solid in-game power with a .153 ISO and several no-doubt home runs.

Bluefield Blue Jays – After summarizing an entire season, everything must be anti-climactic. At least it feels that way looking at today’s boxscore for Bluefield. The only performance of note came from a frequent visitor to these pages in LF Christopher Hawkins (2-4, R, K). After his early struggles in drawing a free pass to 1B (while having no real difficulty in finding his way there by swinging the lumber), Hawkins, this day’s game notwithstanding, has steadily improved that aspect of his game with his OBP up to .377, for an isolated patience mark of .052. This includes 6 walks in his last ten appearances and 12 in his last 25 games, after only 7 walks in his first 40 games. This is indicative of a player making the necessary adjustments.

Vancouver Canadians – Is it possible that LF Stephen McQuail (2-4, HR (12), RBI, K 2 R) is finally making the adjustments he will need to remain in the professional ranks? Between July 1, and August 23, McQuail was hitting .175 with an OPS in the neighbourhood of .670, bunbers that would embarrass a gold glove potential SS, and drive a mediocre corner outfielder into the insurance business. Outside of 7 homeruns hit in July, McQuail simply did not produce at all. With 2 home runs among his five hits in his last four games, McQuail has shown some much needed spark to the brass that will be deciding how to fill their 2012 rosters. Better late than never, but whether it came too late for him is yet to be determined.

Lansing Lugnuts – If I mentioned that CF Jake Marisnick put up the following numbers: 2-4, 2B, R, would anyone be surprised? Impressed in any special way? I didn’t think so. That is the type of player that Marisnick is. A game like this, a nice game by any measurement, is a blase game for him. My only regret is that I happened to visit Lansing on one of the 9 games (out of 110) that Marisnick did not play in the field, so I cannot provide a first hand account of the man defensively. Although not everyone is convinced that he stays in CF, the tools are all there (all there) to suggest a future regardless of positioning.

Dunedin Blue Jays – First thing’s first. I do not think that 3B Kevin Ahrens (3-3, 2B, BB, R) has done anywhere near enough to earn a spot on the 40-man roster this off-season and thereby be protected from the Rule V draft. That out of the way, the matter I want to examine is whether or not he has shown any real progress. the first place I usually look for signs of adjustments is walk rate. The answer there is yes. In his first full season in Lansing in 2008, Ahrens walked in 8.8% of his plate appearances. He never exceed that mark over the next two seasons between Lansing and Dunedin, neither in a full year, or in a given stop in a given year. Now, having spent the entire year in Dunedin, Ahrens walk rate has improved all the way to 11.4% of his plate appearances. Still only 22 year s of age, Ahrens is not yet old for his age, with only two players younger than him on the Dunedin roster (C A.J. Jimenez the injured and disappointing CF Kenny Wilson). If the season were to end today, Ahrens’ OPS would be a full-season career high of .729 with improved power numbers accompanying the improved walk rate. His 13 home runs this season are a career high, surpassing last year’s 9, his previous high water mark. I think that Ahrens may finally be ready for an opportunity at AA. He should not, and will not receive multiple opportunities there as he has at the lower levels, but maybe (just maybe), Ahrens can still maintain a career as a professional baseball player.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats – I’m getting to the point where I’m no longer sure whether or not to be concerned over 1B Mike McDade (1-4). Lauded in the early going for his great play through April and May, McDade struggled in June before absolutely cratering in July and August. With the help of minorleaguecentral.com, I can now see that his early success was largely BABIP-fueled, with rates .410 in April in .381 in May. In June, McDade’s BABIP dropped to .275 and sat at .310 in July before returning to his June rates through games of August 20th. His seasonal OPS is still higher than it was last year for Dunedin (.785/.763, respectively). Friend of Section 203, Dave Gershman has reported on his good bat and defense at 1B, although noting that he lacks the power desired from the position and that his body is less than flattering in a professional athlete. His walk rate, always low, has stagnated at previous levels, with an isolated patience that has hovered in the .46-.59 over the past 3 years.

On a more positive note, RHP Chad Jenkins (6.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 6 K, 1 HR) has provided quality starts (6 innings or more, 3 runs allowed or less) in 5 of his last 6 for New Hampshire, with at least 6 Ks in 3 of his last 4.  His K/9 rate for New Hampshire is now up to an improved, yet still modest 6.3 while his BB/9 has dropped to 2.5. One mitigating circumstance in his numbers is that in each of his last 2 (first 2) seasons, he has been moved in mid-season. I would like to see how Jenkins performs if given a full season to consolidate his numbers against a stable level of competition. Next year should be that year and with a healthy GB/FB ratio (hovering around 1.6 for his career) that could be in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas 51s – I’m sorry, but I have nothing. A bunch of guys did OK, but no one went above and beyond the line of duty (more than twice on base) that would spark me to find something new to say about him. Also, SS Adeiny Hechevarria (0-5, 3 K) has his worst offensive game for Vegas. It will happen.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Roger permalink
    August 30, 2011 12:54 pm

    Eric Arce did attend school last year. He attended Florida State University and took on a full class load in the Summer and Fall. Arce left FSU in March of this year and has since finished the rest of his freshman required classes at State College of Florida Manatee. Arce signed a 100% scholarship to play at SCF and had interested from several D1 schools for his Junior season but elected to sign with Toronto after they re-drafted him this past June. Thanks

    • August 30, 2011 5:25 pm

      Roger – thanks for reading and for the information. I will admit that my information comes from his draft slot being listed as “No School.” Also, I believe it was Keith Law who suggested that he left FSU so that he could join the professional ranks this year instead of waiting another two years.

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