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Down on the Farm – Jays MILB Thoughts – September 8, 2011

September 9, 2011

Vancouver Canadians – The Canadians have the night off as they prepare to take on the Tri-City Dust Devils on the road tomorrow in the first game of the best-of-3 Northwest League Finals.  RHP Ben White, who the Jays signed this year as an undrafted free agent out of Temple University, is tentatively scheduled to get the start for Vancouver. In college, White was the staff workhorse for Temple as a senior, keeping walks down and with a decent K-rate. On the downside, he was very hittable, albeit a trait shared by his fellow starting pitchers. However, White kept that trait with the Canadians in his professional debut, allowing 36 hits in 27 innings with a K/BB rate of exactly 1, with 10 of each. A word also to OF Kevin Pillar and LHP Tyler Ybarra, both of whom will have the unique distinction of playing in two minor league finals’ series, having both featured prominently in the Bluefield run to the Finals of the Appalachian League.

Lansing Lugnuts – Although leading 2-0 by the middle of the 4th inning, the Lugnuts could not hold on in the first game of their playoff series against the Dayton Dragons, eventually losing 7-3. Starting well for Lansing, LHP Sean Nolin (4.2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 6 K) lost the plot in the 5th, allowing 3 runs when 5 consecutive batters reached base, on a walk, double two singles and an error. It might have been worse had one of those baserunners not been thrown out by CF Jake Marisnick trying to go 1st to 3rd on a single up the middle. Outside of Marisnick, 3B Oliver Dominguez (2-3, RBI, K, 2 SB, 2 R) had a strong game for the Lugnuts, wreaking some havoc on the basepaths. Ironically, the Dragons’ leadoff hitter, SS Billy Hamilton, who was featured in this space recently as he stole his 100th base of the season against the Lugnuts, was unable to bag another one in this game, despite reaching base 3 times in 4 plate appearances. In the one time he did attempt to steal a base, he was gunned down by Lugnuts C Carlos Perez (1-3, BB, K), who eliminated each of the 3 runners who attempted to swindle him out of a free base in the game. A very good sign for Perez, as the catcher previously highly lauded for his defensive game, had a down season in terms of CS rates, dropping from 49% in the GCL in 2009, to 36% last year in Auburn to 29% this year for Lansing. Mitigating that number is the fact that Perez played more than double the games behind the plate this year than he ever had in a single season before.

Dunedin Blue Jays – Another affiliate bites the dust, as the D-Jays could not take advantage of a great start by RHP Asher Wojciechowski (5 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K), allowing 4 runs in the bottom of the 8th to lose the rubber match of their 3-game set against the Daytona Cubs. Stymied by D-Cubs RHP Matt Loosen (6 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 7 K) for 6 innings, the D-Jays scored two more in the top of the 8th on a 2-run homer by RF Brad Glenn, his 27th home run this year. It did not survive the D-Cubs’ rally in the 8th as they bated around on their way to upending the score and taking the series. Wojciechowski had an up-and-down season that had many ready to consign him to a future in the bullpen after he followed up a stellar 4 starts in April with a 7.81 ERA across 53 innings in May and June. He then turned a sharp corner, pitching to a 2.92 ERA over 61.2 innings across the rest of the regular season and playoffs. The difference can be traced to command and control. Control in the sense that he walked 2.9/9 in May and June but only 1.2/9 the rest of the way. He went from very good at pitching strikes to excellent. Command in the sense that his first half strikes tended to the meatball variety, as Wojciechowski surrendered 14 home runs in his first 73.2 innings pitched (1.7 HR/9), and cut that back drastically to a single home run allowed over 61.2 innings in the 2nd half of his season. The improvement is not to say that his future will not be in the bullpen, but that, still in High A, it is too early to make a determination.

A full review of the Dunedin Blue Jays season will be posted this weekend, if not by tomorrow.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats – RHP Chad Jenkins (7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 K) continued his hot run to end the Eastern League Regular season with likely the strongest start of his still young professional career, pitching 7 strong shutout innings, allowing the 2 lonely runs put on the board by his offense to hold up and give the Fisher Cats the win in the opening game of the best-of-5 EL Semi-Finals. The Fisher Cats first run was manufactured, beginning with an Anthony Gose infield single with 1 out in the bottom of the first. He moved to 2B when Moises Sierra was hit by a pitch and then scored on a ground ball single up the middle by Travis d’Arnaud. Jenkins threw another 6 innings of shutout ball against the Reading Phillies, which was matched, well….almost matched by Reading starter, RHP Tyler Cloyd, who kept the Fisher Cats from adding to their total from the 1st until there was 1 down in the bottom of the 7th. At that point, 3B Mark Sobolewski (1-2, HR, RBI, BB, R) made it his mission to safeguard the lead and clubbed a Cloyd offering deep into the night and over the wall in LF. The extra cushion allowed Fisher Cats manager Sal Fasano to put the game into the hands of the bullpen, where he got 1 clean inning each from RHPs Clint Everts and Bobby Korecky. Game 2 goes tomorrow night with RHP Nestor Molina hoping to give his team a 2-0 lead in the series.

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