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Down on the Farm – Jays MILB thoughts – August 28, 2011

August 29, 2011

Bluefield Blue Jays – I guess the Blue Jays’ braintrust was as impressed with RHP Joseph Musgrove (3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K) as I was. One of my two co-pitcher of the year awardees for the GCL squad, Musgrove was promoted to Bluefield for a cameo following the end of the GCL squad’s season. Beyond simply facing a more advanced grade of hitter, this game proved a good test for Musgrove as he faced twice as many left handed batters as right-handed ones. A pitcher’s success against the opposite handed is often a good way of measuring his ability to remain a starting pitcher, as severe splits would, of necessity, relegate him to niche bullpen pitching. Also earning cameos at Bluefield are Jeremy Gabryszwski and Tyler Ybarra.

Vancouver Canadians – After being beaten up in his first start for Vancouver on the 23rd, RHP Aaron Sanchez (5 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 6 K) responded with a stellar start this week, proving that his stuff can work at this level. Consistency was a problem in Bluefield as well, but when Sanchez was on, he was very hard to beat. It’s hard to remember now, but last offseason, many thought Sanchez was the best of the Jays’ multi-pronged class of 2010 high school draftees. He’s still only 19 years old (turned 19 on July 1) so next year’s assignment is still up in the air. At 49,1 innings pitched on the season, mostly with Bluefield, he may not yet be ready for a full season workload.

Lansing Lugnuts – At this stage of the season, we know very well what we can expect from the players, especially those playing in full season leagues. Simply, there is little to learn in late August, that we hadn’t already figured out through April, May, June and July. With that in mind, spare a thought to lanky LHP Egan Smith (6 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 3 K). The 3rd-year pro is having his best season yet, both in terms of durability (pitched 19 more innings than any other season) and performance (his 3.54 K/BB rate is well ahead of his previous high of 3.27 for Auburn in his 2009 debut. And yet, for all that, he has fallen in the organizational depth chart, a victim to what I call the “Alice-in-Wonderland principle”. You need to run as fast as you can just to keep up. Smith has fallen behind the stellar seasons of others and the now 22 year-old’s star is no longer burning as brightly in relation to the others as it had this time last year.

Dunedin Blue Jays – Continuing the momentum of the previous day’s game, 3B Kevin Ahrens (3-4, 2B, RBI, 2 R) attempts to end this season with a bang, with 8 hits in his last 13 at bats. To Ahrens’ credit, the former switch hitter, is still new facing right handed pitchers while batting from the right side of the plate.For all that, his OPS against them is almost the equivalent of that against lefties. Ahrens actually has a bit more pop against righties (ISO of .160 against .134 facing southpaws), although he also strikes out more often against same-sided pitchers (24.4% vs RHP, 20% vs LHP). As much as I think he is a failed prospect in light of the overall lack of development to his game, at 22 years of age, he is still young enough to force a mind change. That said, his performance would need to ratchet up a few more notches for me to buy that re-ascendance.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats – Not so much in the wake of Hurricane Irene as a simple scheduled off-day, the Fisher Cats rest today.

Las Vegas 51s – With roster expansion beginning on Thursday, all eyes are on the potential callups. SS Adeiny Hechavarria (2-4, HR (2), 2 RBI, BB, 2 R, CS (PO)) was at it again, with yet another multi-hit affair. As impressive as his pure hitting has been, his improved walk-rate since his promotion from New Hampshire has been just as impressive. Hechavarria walked in only 5% of his 502 AA plate appearances this season. He has now walked in 8.8% of his 80 plate appearances for Las Vegas. As always, small samples sizes apply.

RF Adam Loewen (2-3, 2B, 2 BB, SB, 2 R) is already 27 years old, but he’s excelling in AAA in only his third season as a hitter in the professional ranks. Most of Loewen’s damage has been done in the haven of Cashman Field in Las Vegas, but is .805 road OPS is nothing to be embarrassed about. In fact, there is more of a discrepancy in his isolated patience between playing in Vegas and on the road than in his slugging numbers – His ISO is .218 at home compared to .179 on the road (82% road). His isolated patience is .081 at home, but .054 on the road (66.7% on the road). His BABIP was also more than 50 points higher at home. In short, not to get too excited, but he has earned a shot.

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