Dan Norris: still awesome.

As I mentioned yesterday, there’s all kinds of prospect-y goodness I’ve been sitting on, and with everybody getting excited-ish about the Jays’ youngsters again, I think it’s high time I unleashed it. So, with as little rhyme or reason as possible, here’s some prospect stuff, which I’ll bookend with items out of Keith Law’s chat with readers yesterday at ESPN.com:

Jake (Toronto)
Seeing the struggles of Daniel Norris, would he be better off in the bullpen? Maybe shutdown closer?
Little early to give up on him, but that’s a fair long-term outlook. Poor command guy who has always struggled to repeat the arm action.

Shawn (Toronto)
Might as well get this one over with.Can Kevin Pillar have an impact in the majors?
I think he’s an extra outfielder. Not to say he won’t do much in the next six weeks, but over the course of a full year I think he’d be below-average for a corner outfielder.

The Klawchat excerpts that I’ll save for the end of the post focus on guys who are no longer– or never were– in the Jays system, while the ones on Norris and Pillar seem as good a place to start as any, as there are other items those two– both of which offer maybe a little more hope than Keith’s cold realism (though, to be fair, putting the shutdown closer tag on Norris ain’t nothing).

Dan Norris

In the preamble to an interview piece with Norris, David Laurila of FanGraphs actually suggests something a little similar, comparing the up-and-down young lefty to Boston’s Drake Britton, who is having success in the Red Sox’ bullpen right now, despite having similarly started their pro careers slowly. Norris appears to be turning the corner– since May 13th (with a month off for a forearm injury in the middle of the sample) he’s posted a 2.40 ERA at Lansing over 48.2 innings, with a still-worrying 27 walks, but an impressive 67 strikeouts– after putting up some fugly numbers at Bluefield and Vancouver last year, with an 8.44 ERA combined across the two levels.

“I’d never experienced that kind of failure,” he tells Laurila. “I’m actually thankful for last year, and the beginning of this year, because I’ve learned how to deal with adversity. Now, the next day, I’m ready to go back out there and get better. It’s been a blessing in disguise for me to have some bad games.”

As for the concerns that Law has about the repeatable arm action, Norris says it’s been a struggle, especially since completely revamping his delivery last year. “My delivery has been a lot more consistent, and I’m able to get on top of the ball more. Hard work pays off, getting that muscle memory into your mechanics.”

There is a whole lot more good stuff in Laurila’s piece, including a discussion of repertoire and velocity that I’ll leave you to head over to FanGraphs and read all about.

Kevin Pillar

With his big league debut coming yesterday, there has been much written about Kevin Pillar already, so there isn’t a whole lot more that I can offer, but I’ll try. For one, as I’ve passed along twice before, there was the impressive conclusion to a much larger scouting report at Baseball Prospectus last month:

Hit utility is very impressive; knack for getting the barrel to the ball; doesn’t have a ton of power but hits it hard enough to pick up some doubles and avoid the slap hitter tag; offensive profile will be batting-average driven but has natural feel for the craft to make it work; defensive ability is a little surprising with potential to handle center field in a pinch; ability to play center field helps the overall profile; arm and speed are average; speed can play up at times thanks to instincts; heady player; plays the game hard; manager’s dream in terms of effort; fourth outfield floor and could carve out a career as a solid second-division guy.

“I think we felt that way too,” Alex Anthopoulos said last night on Prime Time Sports (in an interview you can see in a clip above Michael Grange’s Pillar piece at Sportsnet) when asked about the suggestions that Pillar’s ceiling is merely as a fourth outfielder. “We’ve been wrong already as an industry on what we labelled him as, he’s one of those guys that, I think, his character and his work ethic and his makeup– he’s been able to play above his tools. Some people say he’s a fourth outfielder, some people say he’s an everyday player, some people think he has a chance to be more than that.”

Clinton Hollon

Ewan Ross of Blue Jays Plus notes that the Jays’ second round pick this year, right-hander Clinton Hollon, who many worried about after he was signed well under slot following an injury-riddled spring, has been promoted to Bluefield, along with intriguing shortstop prospect Franklin Barreto.

“I’ll be very interested to see what the corresponding moves in Bluefield might be,” Ross writes, “because Barreto will be displacing Dawel Lugo at shortstop, meaning Lugo will either be moving to his eventual home of 3rd, and Mitch Nay would go to Vancouver.  Or perhaps Lugo will be the one getting promoted.”

Hollon, too, is intriguing, and he’s pitched well a pro so far:

Yes, he retweeted that himself– and who the hell wouldn’t be proud of that line?

Last week Baseball Prospectus provided a scouting report on him in an “Eyewitness Accounts” piece, giving future grades of 65, 60, and 60 on his fastball, slider and knuckle-curve (!), labeling him potentially a solid closer or a third starter (with a high amount of risk), and concluding the report on him thusly:

Hollon doesn’t have the idealsize you look for in a starter, but he has the pitches to do it. There were some pre-draft elbow issues that seem to be behind him now. He possesses a decent four pitch arsenal that will only get better with more seasoning and growth. His style and mound presence will allow him some role flexibility down the road. He has a plan of attack that looks to be pretty advanced for his age and he executes that plan well. Developing the changeup into a legitimate offering will be key to his future role with the organization.

I can handle that.


Zach Mortimer’s Minor League Update today at BP checks in on Deck McGuire, among others, and… it’s Deck McGuire-y. “I’ve seen McGuire multiple times in person, and I’ve actually never been impressed,” he writes. “His entire arsenal is, for lack of a better word, ‘soft.’ ”

Better things from BP come by way of today’s What Scouts Are Saying, where this gem from a scout on Marcus Stroman is delivered our way: “One of the most inspiring minor league pitching performances I’ve seen this year. He’s very athletic on the mound and attacks hitters, shows three plus pitches and plus command. The concerns over the durability are legitimate…go back the last 25 years and you won’t find a right-hander his size that’s been a starter in the league for longer than three years. That said, he seems to feed off those questions and I love guys with a chip on their shoulder. He could compete in the big leagues right now.” [Note: nice!]

At Sportsnet, Ben Nicholson-Smith runs down a list of seven call-up candidates for the Jays, as we all start looking towards September and the expanding of rosters. One of his picks, Kevin Pillar, was called up at pretty much exactly the same time he posted the piece.

Blue Jays Blackboard pivots off a Twitter debate between me and Mike Wilner last night– which I think maybe comes off more contentious than I intended, presumably because I was wickedly Chevy Chased*– and tries to make sense of Anthony Gose and his nearly 3,000 plate appearances as a pro of not really hitting so much.

Jared Macdonald of Jays Prospects– who, unlike a lot of stat line scouts out there (or copy-and-paste scouts *COUGH*), goes out and sees all kinds of prospects in the Jays system and knows what the hell he’s talking about– gives us the low down on Alberto Tirado, among others, in a lengthy report from Bluefield. Great stuff.


Here are the other Jays-related items from the Keith Law chat I promised I’d bookend this one with back at the top of the post.

Chris (Kingston)
Keith, thoughts on the promotion and outlook of Nicolino? Doesn’t really seem to have swing and miss stuff
Changeup is an out pitch. Great command and feel. Might end up a league-average starter.

Mark (Chicago)
Snydergaard ceiling? Ace potential?
I see more of a mid-rotation guy with the lack of an average or better breaking ball.

Colin (Chicago)
Where would Tyler Beede have gone in this year’s draft had he been eligible?
Maybe back of the first round again.

So… that’s not really all so bad, is it?


* I’ve never heard it either, but who am I to mistrust the BBC?

Comments (59)

  1. Looks like Daniel Norris could make use of the Yelp map showing hipster references.

  2. The success of 17 year-old SS Franklin Barreto is pretty fucking exciting.

  3. Pedro Martinez had a pretty long career starting. He’s about the same size as Stroman.

  4. Jaysus, I could handle seeing Mitch Nay in Vancouver. Justin Atkinson’s bat doesn’t really play there. Matt Dean has been hot as late as well.

  5. To give credit where it’s due, Chris King (@statsking), a member of the BP Prospect Staff who covers the GCL, was the first to report the Hollon promotion, and I believe the Barreto promotion, too. He was at the game and is a must-follow for Blue Jays fans who are interested in the minor leagues.

  6. shocking deck mcguire turned out to be exactly as the pre draft reports said he was. but he was much safer than chris sale. those skinny guys with nasty stuff break down easy you know?

    • Sale is waiting for his arm to explode

      • Id take ‘waiting for his arm to explode’ over, ‘cant get AA batters out’ every fucking day. And you should too.

    • he’s actually no where close to pre draft reports. so not sure what you’re talking about.

      you’re an idiot if you think the jays knew they were drafting what he’s been.

    • Well not exactly since the majority of draft reports said he was a likely #3 starter. If his draft report said, “soft-tossing shitballer who couldn’t get AA batters out” he probably wouldn’t have been drafted in the first round.

    • John Sickels on April 4, 2010: “He (McGuire) shouldn’t need a lot of minor league time, and represents one of the safest investments in the draft ”

      Jim Callis on May 28, 2010 in his mock draft which project McGuire going #6 to the D-Backs: “The Diamonbacks would be interested in Pomeranz or Sale if they last this long, with Georgia Tech righthander Deck McGuire the next-best option. This is the highest landing spot for revitalized North Carolina righthander Matt Harvey.”

      Sounds like someone that was expected to be unable to graduate from AA, repeating it twice with terrible results each time.

      • Its sad to read those names being mentioned around with McGuire’s :(

      • thanks for looking that up. very depressing to hear it though.

      • there were lots of mock drafts that had sale higher than mcguire. mcguire was always referred to as a 3 starter. whatever happened to drafting high upside players?

        sale has nasty stuff. how can any scout not see that?

        • you’re not good at making sense.

          if he was a #3 starter and a safe bet, the jays would be fucking rejoicing right now.

    • everybody is a genius 3+ years after the draft

  7. Kevin Pillar’s scouting report reads about the exact same as frank catalanto’s would have.

    • Agreed. A lot of people have been comparing him to Reed Johnson, but I see him more as Catalanato. Either way, he looks like he could be part of a hell of a platoon.

      • cat came up as a 2B… and he hit from the left side.

        both guys have a good hit tool and not a lot of power… but they really aren’t similar otherwise.

        • I think Cat had soft hands, too….while Reed was a gamer, who wasn’t afraid to get dirty.

        • I dont think when you’re comparing people the handedness should matter all that much, unless you’re a pitcher. Point being would be there’s nothing exception about him except his ability to make contact, which if you play smart, you can still be a useful major league player

          • I know nothing about Pillar except what I saw last night. First impression: when the Red Sox played him as an opposite field hitter, it was pretty clear that they did not regard him as much of a power threat. I sort of thought of him as “David Cooper lite.”
            I might be all wrong on this, but I doubt that he’s around for the long haul.

  8. lots of guys don’t project to be power hitter but develop into them

    this 17th rounder 180lb OF hit 32 hr last year

    who is it?

  9. I find the Bisons very interesting, possibly because they’re closer to me than the 51s. But they have this mix of career minor leaguers who aren’t really plausible big league players with kids who may actually be useful as depth or more.

    Perhaps sometime in the nearish future, if there’s a need in the IF, Goins can plug the hole. That’s the floor for Gose. Now Hutchison and Drabek are there to be real pitching depth in near future. And there are a few bullpen arms there or soon to be there that will be able to fill in for injuries.

  10. Hey Stoeten, I read the Blackboard and MacDonald links – both excellent – thanks for linking!

    This line in Blackboard got a chuckle out of me “Here are the highlights from the heavyweights”

    • I’m behind the Blackboard one, so I’m really glad you enjoyed it. I assure you, that line refers only to their status within the sphere of Toronto Blue Jays coverage :)

      Appreciate the linkage Stoeten. Not sure my little ol’ blog can handle that kind of traffic!

      • Your writing was really excellent.

        And, of course, I was just pointing out that there is someone out there who thinks Stoeten is an expert on the level of the great Mike Wilner!

  11. The reason there are so few starters his size with a history of starting success is because they aren’t given a legit chance

    • It’s a factor, for sure. Not so sure it’s “the reason” though.

    • A lot of smaller guys have started out throwing gas then they start feeling the wear and tear. Look at Lincecum as a great example. His fastball was insane when he came around, and it was that way for a while but then he had to rework his whole style and basically relearn how to pitch with less velocity but even then he’s found himself in and out of the SF pen the past couple years. Do we wanna see that happen to Stroman? I dont, so I think he should be converted to a reliever sooner than later. Just my thoughts.

      • If he can win a couple of cy young awards, and world series’……. Then yes i wouldn’t mind that.

      • Ya if your argument is “little guys shouldn’t start because they might become Tim Lincecum” I think you’re going to have a bit of trouble convincing people.

        Even if Lincecum is never as good as he was at his peak, he was so good in his peak that even if he now spends the rest of his career diminished or in the pen, it was worth it.

  12. Now I know Stroman has people’s boners showing and sure, why wouldnt he but my question is, should AA convert him to a closer now rather than waiting until after he has inevitable health issues? I mean, there’s a need for a closer right now and in a closer setting with three plus pitches and great command with one of those pitches being a fastball that has touched triple digits…. so uh, yah why not call him up in Sept and toss him in the closer spot and see what shakes up. Seems like he could be a lights out and cheap closer option rather than dicking around with other guys that arent equipped to do the job.

    Sure, he might be the one exception in the last 25 years, but what are the chances of that? Wouldnt they rather use him as a closer now instead of doing it after injuries have taken away from his career and his skill?

    • “I mean, there’s a need for a closer right now ”
      Um, what?

      • What didnt you understand about that? The Jays need a closer, Janssen is not a closer and it’s beginning to show more all the time. Wouldnt you rather have a guy out there locking it down instead of nibbling and hoping for the best? Or wait… are you talking about Santos? because that would be an even bigger laughfest. The guy throws 25 pitches and hits the DL and his stuff is declining more all the time.

        Cmon, Stroman is an obvious candidate for the pen and in the pen he would grab the closing role quickly in my opinion.

        • Janssen is pretty clearly a closer.

        • The Jays don’t need a closer right now. What’s the point of naming a capital C closer (that isn’t Janssen) in the last 6 weeks of a losing season? The marginal wins a shutdown closer provides are meaningless this year. Who cares?

          Saying that they should move him to the pen before he proves he can’t start is where you really lose the plot though. You’re just way overvaluing the role of a closer. They don’t pitch enough innings to provide the value of even an average starter. Until Stroman proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that he can’t start (whether due to injury or ineffectiveness) you have to try to get the maximum value from him, which you get with him starting.

          The only way he gets moved to the pen while still having success as a starter is if the Jays are in a situation where the marginal wins a closer provides do matter, and that won’t be until next year at the earliest.

          He may very well get called up in September. I think it should be to start but could also be for the pen. Whatever happens in September though, with the way he’s pitched this year he’s a starter until proven otherwise. I’m sure the organization agrees.

  13. Another question for Stoeten or whoever.

    With the rangers knowing they need to drop salary in order to retain Garza and Andrus clearing waivers, should AA make a phone call on Andrus? Sure his numbers are down and he has a fairly large contract but at 2B his defense would be insane, his base running is also insane and his contract wouldnt seem so hefty in a few years when the market rises. Anyone else feel like that would be a solid option at 2B (unless Reyes moved over of course but let’s be honest, that wouldnt happen) but the Jays would have the best double play combo in baseball. I am sure his offensive numbers would come back.

    • Andrus would be a great addition at about 1/10th the price. As it is, $120 million over 8 years is far too much to play for a player whose primary value is defence, particularly if you’re planning on moving him off the position he’s great defensively at.

    • Maybe in theory, but two issues I see right away, first how high do the Jays want to go with their payroll next year, as has been reported their already 120-ish, and second who would the Rangers want back that the Jays would be willing to offer? I don’t think the Jays have too many people to move in trade right now for a starting position player who would command a big return. Furthermore, the Rangers are playoff bound and would not move their starting SS unless they can get someone back who would have an immediate impact.

      • except if the rangers were looking to get out from under the contract (doubtful since they only signed it this year) the prospects going the other way would be marginal at best. 120$ off the books and a roster spot for profar would be the goal of an andrus trade from the rangers perspective.

        • Even with the 120 off the books, I would still be surprised if it took a lot more than a couple B-C prospects. However, regardless of that the timing still makes no sense. Why trade your starting SS in the middle of a pennant race? If they really want to rid themselves of the contract (highly doubtful) and need that money for Garza, why not wait till the offseason when they can create a bidding war and get a better return?

      • I’d rather he tried to get kinsler in the offseason.

  14. Any recent news on Anthony Alford, or is that a lost cause?

  15. I’m gonna repost some shit that I posted in the game threat last night at 2 am.
    Apologies if you already read it but doubtful that you did as most people don’t click the threat 6 hours after a game finishes:

    I’d love if AA targeted St. Louis this winter, easily the deepest team in baseball.

    On the mound they have Wainwright, Shelby Miller, Leake, Lynn, Westbrook, super prospect Jaime Garcia, great young bull pen arm who should be starting Trevor Rosenthal, same goes for Michael Wacha, PP Carlos Martinez.

    That’s 9 guys that all could be pitching in MLB. Not to mention they have a rehabbing Chris Carpenter.

    They also have Kolten Wong who’s ready to play second at the ML level but is blocked by a great hitter.

    The one wrench is that since they are so deep and will be in contention for the next several years they obviously won’t want prospects. If we were to match up with them to get an arm and/or Wong we’d have to give them one of our better position players.

    • Agreed. Wong is #1 on my wish list too. However, I don’t even want to begin to consider how much it would take to acquire him

  16. And there were a few things that happened in the game that in my humble opinion that were worth further note:

    For you guys saying (and Buck included) that Rodgers kept shaking off Arencibia
    and stubbornly threw the breaking ball, you’re wrong. If you watch it again, Arencibia is shaking his head “no” while making numerous signs. It’s a catchers way of telling the pitcher to shake off his calls to confuse the batter. JP put down 3 different signs while shaking his head “no” and then the 4th was just the sign for the curveball. Rogers threw the pitch and it got stroked.

    The thinking is if a pitcher shakes off a bunch of pitches it’s usually the junk. JP tried to confuse Ortiz and wrongly called for another hook. It got pounded. That’s on JP.
    Not that I want to shit on JP anymore, especially after he played a pretty decent game, but Buck/Tabby made Rogers sound like a stubborn kid not listening to his catcher, when in reality he did just that.

    Also, this one is a little more vague, but for any of you have the game recorded or the walkoff clip, it looks like just before the final pitch Encarnacion (on second base) raises his left arm out and away towards second base in what looked like a fake stretch. I think he was trying to signal to Lawrie that the pitch was going away/outside. It came in outside and Brett hit it hard. After rounding first he pointed both fingers at EE, hugged him and then whispered something. I’m pretty sure he gave him the location, Brett hammered it, we win, and I love the game within a game.

    My opinions, feel free to carve me a new asshole.

  17. G-rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreat throw by Pillar ! He’s won over the doubters already.

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