Skip to content

Down on the Farm – Jays MILB Thoughts – August 30, 2011

August 31, 2011

There were two significant news-worthy items for the Jays’ system today, even before any of their affiliates began play. One of which, the naming of players being assigned to the Arizona Fall League is a transitory item, prone to many last minute changes (up to 20% of the originally noted players, according to Kevin Goldstein, among others. Here now, sans analysis, are the Jays prospects currently assigned to play for the Phoenix Desert Dogs are LHPs Evan Crawford and Aaron Loup, C Yan Gomes, SS Adeiny Hechavarria and CF Anthony Gose.

Of much greater potential significance to the Blue Jays’ system was the official announcement of signings of 5 new Latin American teenagers. Technically, they announced the signings of 7, but I am still confused as to why Jairo Labourt and Yeyfry Del Rosario were announced, as readers of this column know them well from their work this year with the DSL affiliate. Another of the remaining 5, OF Jesus Gonzalez, was originally leaked in early July. He is refuted to have plus power potential and a strong arm. IF Wilmer Becerra was also leaked earlier, along with Gonzalez. Both prospects are from Venezuela. Similarly, RHP Manuel Cordova was confirmed today, originally reported by Baseball America on July 13. He is all about projectability as his fastball was only reported as fast as the high 80’s this year. Don’t forget – he’s only 16. Not as much is known about Alberto Tirado, a stringbean RHP from the D.R. The top story was the signing of Mexican wunderkind, RHP Roberto Osuna, one of the most highly coveted prospects coming out of Latin America this summer. Osuna has MLB bloodlines, as uncle Antonio pitched in the majors for 11 year, most notably for the first 6 years with the Dodgers. Osuna has been known to pitch as fast as 93-94, although with inconsistent speeds all around. His curveball has also been graded out highly while he was noted for a good change (caveat) for a 16-year-old. He has ample experience in international competition, which is rare for many Latin summer signees, and spent most of this year pitching against adults in the Mexican League. His numbers there did not impress, but just being there and not getting his head handed to him is an achievement of note. One red flag is his size. Osuna already tips the scales at 230 pounds on a 6-2″ frame. Conditioning will have to be stressed going forward. I expect all of the signings barring Osuna to spend 2012 in the DSL, while Osuna should follow Adonys Cardona‘s path and debut next year in the GCL.

Bluefield Blue Jays – This is not meant to slag other Blue Jays’-centric sites, but RHP Tucker Jensen (1.2 IP, 7 H, 10 R (5 ER), 3 BB, 1 K) is the perfect reason why you have to look at more than the simple stat line when judging the performance of a young player in the lower reaches of the system. Of any system, really. Some young players are Prospects, and some are just wearing the uniform and gaining a very cool experience to take with them for the rest of their lives. The first sign that Jensen, as witty and engaging as he might be, is the latter, is the fact that, in spite of playing in college North America where any scout could view him, and pitching more in American Collegiate Summer ball, Jensen went undrafted. Nearing 22 years of age, he was put in the GCL, with players often 3-4 years his junior. Jensen dominated to the tune of a 1.77 ERA over 8 starts. He was surprisingly solid in a spot start for Lansing, but that was a one-off. Facing the slightly more advanced competition of the Appy League, Jensen has been roundly brutal, allowing 27 baserunners in 11.2 innings, earning his 11.12 ERA. Not every undrafted college free agent signee is a complete non-prospect, but let them prove it among kids their own age before forgetting from whence they came.

The regular season is thus ended in the Appalachian League, but, as Bluefield captured the Eastern Division title, their season will have at least a few more days left to run.

Vancouver Canadians – After completing high school in Birmingham, 1b Kevin Patterson (2-3, BB, K) was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 24th round. They may have been hoping that Patterson, having doubtlessly visited their AA-affiliate in his home town, might forego a scholarship to Auburn to join the professional ranks. he didn’t. After three years at Auburn, Patterson was drafted again, this time in the 23rd round, by the Tampa Bay Rays. After a certain point in the draft, the bonuses are not very high, and a player would know that the drafting team does not have high hopes for him. At that point (around the 20th round for college juniors) it may make sense to finish school and complete a degree. An economics major, Patterson went back to Auburn for one last kick at the can. His stats suffered as a senior, but the Blue Jays still took a flier on him in the 30th round this year. Patterson crushed in the GCL over two weeks and slumped terribly upon his introduction to Vancouver, with only 4 hits in his first 31 at bats. Since then, Patterson has adjusted and excelled, batting .352 over 20 games in August and making his case for the starting 1B job in Lansing in 2012. He will be 23 by the start of next season, and he can’t play anywhere other than 1B, so he has to mash at every step to make another one. So far, he’s done everything asked of him.

Lansing Lugnuts – It looks like the Jays are capping the innings of LHP Justin Nicolino (2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K), hopefully to keep him fresh enough to get some experience pitching in the upcoming MWL playoffs. Nicolino signed too late to pitch after being drafted by the Jays in the 2nd round of last year’s draft, so the 59.1 innings he has thrown are the only innings on his professional resume. A long playoff run could get him past 70 innings on the season, putting him on pace to safely break 100 next year, a year that should begin a lot earlier than this one has. The Fort Wayne lineup he was facing today has two very good prospects near the top of the lineup. Although chosen more on the basis of his signability than his ability, lefty swinging 2B Cory Spangenberg is nonetheless a very good prospect. He hit an infield single off of Nicolino and then stole second. Following him was right-handed bat, RF Rymer Liriano, recently named as the top prospect in the MWL. Nicolino coaxed an infield fly out of Liriano. A short outing, but it’s good to see Nicolino perform well against other highly touted prospects.

Dunedin Blue Jays – An interesting juxtaposition to the previously mentioned Jensen is RHP Casey Lawrence (6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 HR) who went the distance in the first game of today’s double header. That’s not to say that Lawrence can be expected to show on top 30 lists this winter, much less top 10s, but that he is worth paying attention to. The undrafted free agent signing out of Albright in Pennsylvania, shares draft pedigree, handedness and home state with Jensen, but is much further along in his craft. Friend of Section 203, Bill Christie, reports that Lawrence throws a fastball around 90mph, with a slider and an excellent changeup (the pitch du Jays). With his velocity, extreme groundball tendencies (1.91 ground-outs/air-outs combined this year) and and slight frame (6-2″, 170), he will likely see himself moved to the bullpen should he continue to rise in the organization, with the idea that his fastball might play up enough to succeed against more advanced hitters. These kind words aside, the rule of thumb for performance trumping scouting reports is “not until he does it in AA.” Lawrence has passed the initial full-season test of Low A, but will likely need more than 25 innings in Dunedin to make the move to New Hampshire. Besides which, the New Hampshire rotation looks to be stacked next season (we’ll get to that in a future post) and his next rung may be his first out of the bullpen. Don’t get excited, but don’t forget about him.

After hitting a total of 16 home runs in his first 224 games across 4 seasons, former C-turned-1B Jon Talley (0-3, 2 K; 2-3, 2 HR (19), 4 RBI, 2 R) has now more than doubled that total in 97 games this season for Dunedin, i a notorious pitcher’s league. Even at this level, the left-handed hitting Talley is a platoon player, with 16 of his 19 home runs coming against right-handed pitchers. Still only 22 years old, he is age-appropriate. Unfortunately, as it looks like his catching days are all in the rear-view mirror, as a 1B, his value lies solely in his bat, and his bat is not enough to project much higher up the ladder. He strikes out more than 25% of the time, and nearly 3 times as often as he draws a walk.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats – Some may be surprised at the exclusion of RHP Drew Hutchison (5 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 6 K, 1 HBP) from the Arizona League rosters announced today and mentioned up top. Those surprised onlookers should pause and think on the context of that League. With the thin air of Arizona, the AF is a crazy hitter’s league, that has hurt the confidence of pitchers significantly more schooled than the 21-year-old 2nd year pro. Furthermore, as a 2nd year pro, Hutchison has not had to pitch this much ever before. He pitched only 68.2 innings in his debut last year (Auburn and some Lansing) and is up to 144.1 innings already this year, an absolutely massive increase. I would not actually be surprised to see him shut down even if the AA playoffs were still going on. I still believe Hutchison could make his MLB debut in September 2012 so he needs to have bullets remaining in his magical right arm then. The biggest question I have now is whether or not Hutchison pitched enough at any one level to garner consideration for Pitcher of the Year status for that affiliate. Don’t worry – I won’t be forgetting him come ranking time in the off-season.

Las Vegas 51s – Another multi-hit game for AFL-bound SS Adeiny Hechavarria (2-4, K). That’s all I have today, sorry. Mishaps with the alarm clock…

4 Comments leave one →
  1. jon smith permalink
    September 7, 2011 11:06 am

    Just wanna touch on the Jon Talley subject.
    I believe he has more of a chance To advance in the future than Mcdade does. He’s a bigger athletic first basemen who did only make around 3-5 errors all season. Also, 2011 was his first season with over 300 at bats. Also, he is nearly 6’5″ 240lbs, not the 6’3″ 220 his profile says.Another point, is that Jon seems to stay consistent, if not improve in the second half, whereas Mcdade seems to fade in the second half of the season due to fatigue. I’m not trying to down play Mcdade’s ability, the boy can hit, I’m simply stating facts, and Mcdade’s track record. In 2010 Mcdade struck out 141 times and had 480 at bats with 21 homeruns. Jon struck out 99 times with 378 at bats and 20 homeruns. All this is just stating facts, and I know it means nothing to most, I’ve seen both players play, and if Jon stays with the Bluejays, he will advance higher than Mcdade in this system if given a chance. This offseason will be an interesting one for sure for these guys. Given that Talley has showed his true potential this season, and packed on 20 lbs of Muscle for the 2011 season. If he can put on 15-20 more lbs of power for 2012, I think he will turn some heads at first base no matter where he ends up in 2012!! I know they wanted him to drop weight and stay 220 or less while catching for the agility, moving him to first base was the best thing they could do for that boy. If he moves up to NH next season, he will have close to 30 homeruns if he plays everyday.

    • September 7, 2011 11:51 am

      Thanks for the comment, Jon. That’s an interesting angle that I hadn’t given much thought to.
      Working against both men is an organizational logjam. Not only is Adam Lind signed long-term, but David Cooper has had a phenomenal season in Vegas this year, saving his own prospect status in the process. I wouldn’t be surprised if both McDade and Talley open 2012 in New Hampshire. I have also seen good reports on McDade’s D, errors notwithstanding. Also, both players, 2007 draftees will be exposed to the Rule V draft this year, unless they are protected on the 40-man roster, which, in all honesty, I can’t see happening. That said, I don’t think either will be selected, as they don’t fit the profile of the type of player who gets popped. This year aside, after next season, if they are still not protected, they will become minor league free agents. Talley (or McDade) would need to put up a monster season next year to avoid that fate. And if Toronto makes a run at a Prince Fielder type this offseason, as some have suggested, well, in that case, all bets are off.

  2. September 25, 2011 12:35 am

    Not to take anything from Mcdade, who is a darn good player who can hit and plays decent defense. Most reports I read on him confirms this but they always mention bad body. What does this mean anyway? Talley had a pretty decent year defensively his first full year at the position. His offense wasn’t to bad average wise but his ISO was incredible. As for body I’ve actually seen him in person and he is a big man probably closer to 6’5″ 240 than his bio of 6’3″ 220 says. Large frame could easily carry 250-260 and look natural. I like both players. As for higher ceiling, well I guess that depends on which basket the organization has put it’s eggs in and for now it’s Mcdade.

    • September 25, 2011 2:50 am

      Thank you for writing. Generally, by bad body, they mean he is unathletic looking. If you’ve read Moneyball, think back on Billy Beane’s arguments with the scouts about Jeremy Brown. McDade is not that bad, but his listed size of 6-1″, 255 is closer to Prince Fielder than to Adam Lind – just as a source of reference. That said, I have often heard McDade referred to as the best defensive first baseman in the organization. While not the most accurate stat, both Talley and McDade had similar OPS lines this year and both are the same age. The simple fact that McDade did his work in AA while Talley toiled in High A tells us that the Jays are more keen on McDade than Talley. Both will be exposed to the Rule V draft if not placed on the Jays’ 40-man roster before the GM meetings. I would be more interested in Talley if he still played behind the plate (more than once this year). As is, the Jays have David Cooper above both of these two and the odds are against either making a great impact at the MLB level – though I will enjoy following them as they try.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: