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Down on the Farm – Jays MILB Thoughts – August 31, 2011

September 1, 2011

Bluefield Blue Jays – Throughout this series of posts, I have stead-fastly ignored the winners and losers of the day-to-day battles waged by the various Blue Jays affiliates. I will now commence making some exceptions, for those affiliates that clawed their way into their respective playoffs. Bluefield comes first. With a 40-28 regular season record, Bluefield won the Appy League’s West Division, and today began their best of 3 semi-final series against the Elizabethton Twins, a perennial Appy League powerhouse featuring a couple of top-shelf prospects in CF Eddie Rosario and 3B Miguel Sano. The Blue Jays won the first game in a trounce, 11-3, behind strong performances up and down the lineup and steady pitching. Among the varied high-lights, I want to focus on a player who featured brightly when this series was in its infancy, in 1B Art Charles (3-5, HR, 2 RBI, 3 R). After smashing five home runs in his first 10 games, Charles then struggled to hit 6 more over his final 58 games. Quite the comedown. I still believe in him, as his tools are more advanced than his polish, a combo that often leads to underwhelming numbers in the early goings of a career. I don’t think he is a star in waiting, but Charles is still only scratching the surface of his potential.

Vancouver Canadians – I have already lauded SS Shane Opitz (1-3, BB) several times this year for being one of the lone position players on the Vancouver Canadians’ squad worth a raised eyebrow. The interest was almost solely due to his youth (at 19.5 years old he is nearly 18 months younger than any other position player on the roster) and his status as a shortstop. His contact skills were mediocre at best and his secondary skills (patience, power and baserunning) were almost non-existent. The power has yet to be found, and as the season winds down, his ISO of  .025 is exceptionally meagre. His baserunning has not been a big part of his game, with 6 steals in 8 attempt on the season. His patience, on the other hand, has shown some improvement in the last month. Through the end of July, Opitz had a .310 OBP, and a .034 isolated patience. In August, he has walked 11 times in 107 plate appearances, for a vastly improved isolated patience of .068. He still has a ways to go to reach Mike McCoy terrotory, but this is a start.

Lansing Lugnuts – Sometimes it feels like I’ve written at least one full paragraph about every player in the Blue Jays’ system. It seems that way, but it isn’t exactly the case. There are still a few players in each affiliate who were simply passed over. Some have struggled, and others were always overshadowed by better performances when they did their jobs well. At lot of the passed over players were relievers, who by their very natures, are not prospects (especially in the lower reaches) and are not given much leash to shine when they get in the game. So let’s rectify one of the overlooked today. RHP Dayton Marze (3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K) is a second generation professional, as his father, Dickie, played in the Braves system in 1989 and 1990, first as a shortstop and then as an outfielder. Dayton was drafted by the Jays in the 14th round of the 2010 draft out of Louisiana Lafayette as a sophomore eligible player.A reliever in college as well, his collegiate numbers were largely unimpressive, barely striking out 6 per nine innings even then. As a professional, the younger Marze has been much better, often pitching multiple innings at a stretch for Lansing, averaging just under 2 per appearance. His 3.77 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) mark is much better than his ERA of 4.20. That mark is helped by his striking out 7.3 batters per nine innings pitched, against only 3.3 walks. Marze is a ground-ball heavy pitcher, especially successful in that regard against same sided hitters. Those splits also show up in his slugging against. Left handed batters have hit him relatively hard, with an ISO against of .139, compared to .065 against right handed swingers. He has limitations to his utility, but he has earned a few more chances and a spot in the Dunedin bullpen in 2012.

Dunedin Blue Jays – Continuing on today’s theme to profile hitherto un-touted players, a kind word goes to CF Brad McElroy (3-5, 2B, RBI, K, CS (PO), R), who provides 3 safeties for the second game in a row. Over is last ten games, McElroy has 15 hits in 40 at bats, giving him a line of .375/.419/.575 in that time. Selected by the Jays with a 25th round flier in 2008, McElroy, a Toronto-bred player, is not quite as old as teammate Brian Van Kirk, but at 25 years of age, he is too old for the FSL. He will be eligible for the Rule V draft this offseason, but would not be a likely candidate to be selected, having never played above High A ball. The lefty-swinging McElroy has struggled against left-handed pitchers with an OPS split of .809/.689 in favour of right-handers on the season. An ISO of .112 also shows a player with a poor power tool. The key element of McElroy’s baseball package is his speed, with 30 steals against only 5 times caught, for a stellar 85.7% success rate, this game’s miscue included. He’s “just a guy” but he can play in CF, and so he will lilely get a few more chances to play, probably up in AA in 2012.

Doubling up on the unheralded in Dunedin, LHP Aaron Loup (1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K) received some recognition yesterday, as it was announced that he had been assigned to the AFL. A surprise assignment as Loup has not had the strongest season, with a 4.88 ERA only slightly worse than his FIP of 4.33 (the FIP is a few days out of date compared to the ERA). While Bill Christie has been impressed by Loup’s recent performances, citing a big curve and nice changeup, but his 7.8 K/9 from a short reliever is not an impressive tally. He has been far more impressive against same sided hitters, suggesting a possible future as a LOOGY. His OPS split heavily favoured left-handed batters, checking in at .857 vs. RHB and .638 vs. LHB. The former 9th round pick from Tulane, moved to a higher level, can be tested in a role more fitting to his likely ceiling.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats – Two stolen bases for CF Anthony Gose is no longer news worthy. That’s simply what he does. More intriguing is a player who will be joining Gose and the aforementioned Loup in the AFL in LHP Evan Crawford (1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K), who has been very impressive in his first season in the high minors. In 48,2 total innings, Crawford has struck out 10.8/9, while walking 3.8/9. So his control could still use some work. That has been the trend throughout Crawford’s career, since the Jays drafted him out of Auburn in the 8th round of the 2008 draft. That said, this year’s 2.86 K/BB represents a career high, far surpassing his previous level/year best of 2.36 in a partial season last year with Dunedin. Unlike Loup, Crawford has actually been far more impressive this year pitching against right-handed batters, with an OPS against split of .685 vs RHB and .851 vs. LHB. Now completing his 5th season as a pro, the AFL will also serve as a great stage for Crawford to make his case for the Jays to protect him on the 40-man roster, as well as to other clubs searching for a bullpen lefty in the offseason Rule V draft.

Las Vegas 51s – Many who have commented on this blog are quicker to point out their enjoyment of my coverage of the lower levels than that of the upper crust. I agree wholeheartedly. On many days, I find covering the 51s to be almost boring. The players trials and travails through the system have already been covered extensively and the only questions remaining revolve around when these guys can be called up and show themselves in Blue Jays’ uniforms. One potential call-up, much discussed recently is SS Adeiny Hechavarria (2-4, R), who contributed yet another multi-hit game today. Hechavarria had 20 base hits in his first 20 games with the 51s, and another 13 in his last ten, which included 5 multi-hit efforts. He is on the 40-man roster, and regardless of whether the organization thinks he can contribute at the Major League level now, they have nothing to lose by bringing him up for a few weeks of experience.

Another batter getting plenty of buzz is RF Adam Loewen (2-4, 2B, RBI, R) and part of that buzz has come from this space. With LHP Brian Tallett DFA’s after his farewell tour in a Toronto uniform last night, another spot is open on the Jays’ 40-man roster. Loewen has struck out in around 25% of his at bats, but has also walked over 10% of the time, an impressive figure that suggests his strikeouts are as much a product of his selectivity as any holes in his swing. With no need to option him back down and the 51s already eliminated from PCL playoff contention, the Jays have nothing to lose in giving Loewen one of the 3 available 40-man roster spots. It can happen as soon as tonight.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Ernest permalink
    September 1, 2011 4:02 am

    I just wanted to make sure someone gave you a pat on the back for doing this nightly. I really look forward to each nights content. I am an old Jays fan from the past that is now getting super excited watching this team being built from the ground up.

    Keep up the great reports and if you can dig up some stuff on their newly signed IFA’s

    Thanks Again

    • September 1, 2011 4:08 am

      Thank you for the kind words. It has been enjoyable putting all of this together. I wrote a bit about them yesterday, and Labourt and Del Rosario actually played on the DSL team all year – quite well, I might add. I’ll see what I can do after the affiliates are all wrapped up for the year – will give me more time for researching. Again – thank you for reading.

  2. September 1, 2011 7:01 pm

    Free Loewen.

    • September 1, 2011 7:05 pm

      Sung in the voice of an aged Mike Tyson, “I can feel it, coming in the air tonight…..oh, Lo-ord, oh Lo-oo-ord.”
      Big drum solo.

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