Archive for the ‘Prospecting’ Category

sanchezAFL1

The Arizona Fall League wrapped up over the weekend, with the Surprise Sagueros beating the Mesa Solar Sox for the title, while Cubs prospect Kris Bryant took home the league’s MVP award. For Jays fans, however, the main attraction (with apologies to the ridiculously fun Marcus Stroman) was Aaron Sanchez, and after a somewhat rocky start– notably including some sharp criticism from Keith Law, who continued to stand by his mechanical concerns in his Thursday chat at ESPN.com– the club’s top prospect finished up on a very high note.

No, the box score of his final AFL outing wasn’t his most impressive, but… that actually probably speaks to how impressive he’s been over the course of the last five weeks. He worked five innings on Thursday, bringing his AFL total to over 23, and his full-year total to almost 110. Over those innings he gave up six hits, two walks, and struck out three. His final strikeout and walk totals were 21 and 11, for a K/BB of 1.91, which is exactly in line with the rates he put up in Dunedin this year and Lansing last season. On a positive note, however, four of those walks came in his first five AFL innings, in which he also struck out just two. After that point he put up 19 Ks over 18.1 innings with “just” seven walks– a K/BB of 2.71 in a sample I could generously call “ridiculously tiny,” but that also maybe gives us a little hope.

His success, though, goes beyond stats– which is probably a good thing, given what little value we’d want to place on AFL stats anyway, especially in such small samples, and especially without context. For example, a comment left on our last Sanchez post came from a reader who says that he was in the ballpark for Sanchez’s last Fall League start (everything [sic]‘d):

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aaron-sanchez

As regular readers will surely be able to tell, this post began as a Daily Duce. There was just so much Aaron Sanchez stuff to go around, though, that I figured it would be a waste to combine what was really two posts, and devote a little more attention to the club’s top prospect, who pitched again last night in the Arizona Fall League (with some additional nuggets– like some Jays-related tidbits from last week’s KLawchat– thrown in for good measure). Apologies to those who really wanted to read about Gold Glove nominations, Fielding Bible awards, and an extended agreement with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats…

Aaron Sanchez had another good night in the AFL last night, though he did create a bit of a jam for himself in the fourth inning, which included trouble with high-end prospects Addison Russell and Jorge Soler, who singled and walked respectively. But there’s not a whole lot to dislike in the box score, apart from the three walks in 4.1 innings: just the one hit, no runs, and four strikeouts. Marcus Stroman gave up just a single hit in his one inning of work, as well.

“We’re out here with the best of the best and that’s where I want to be. You have to be on your game or something can go south real quick. It’s fun good to be out here with good competition and that’s where I want to be,” explained Sanchez, according to an MiLB.com recap of the outing, which took his AFL numbers to a sparkling 1.35 ERA and sub-1.00 WHIP with ten strikeouts, and an ugly eight walks, in 13.1 innings.

A tweet from Eno Sarris of FanGraphs sends us towards the latest AFL Trackman, which shows us AFL leaders by various intriguing metrics, and includes the fact that Sanchez’s average fastball velocity is highest among starters in the league (though he hasn’t quite topped out the way some of the other prospects have), and that his slider rotation bodes very well for his ability to miss bats with it at the big league level.

Partly based on that kind of outstanding stuff, Sanchez– as well as Marcus Stroman– will be taking part in the AFL’s Fall Stars Game, which takes place on Saturday and will be streamed live on MLB.com.

The reports aren’t all entirely good, however, so don’t go forgetting about all the consternation of last week quite yet…

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djdavis

D.J. Davis

Lately, if you listen to certain sorts of Jays fans, particularly the negative suckholes, you’ve probably heard a good amount of pissing and moaning about the club’s lack of prospects, with radio call-in muffins and blog comment trolls bleating nonsense like, “They blew it all up! They went all in on failure! We’re doomed forever!”

It’s undeniable that the Jays dealt away several of their most visible prospects last winter– some of the guys who fans had been dreaming on the longest. Jake Marisnick was a Ricciardi draft pick; Travis d’Arnaud came in the Halladay deal; Noah Syndergaard was one of the “Lansing Three”; and Adeiny Hechavarria was a splashy Cuban pickup for the hefty price of $10-million.

But does that mean that the Jays have no prospects left? Pffffft.

In fact, as one might completely expect, this season a new group of talent began to emerge from the lower levels of the club’s minor league system. They’re not as visible, yet, but they’re about to be get a little more notable, as bunch have been highlighted– in some cases spectacularly so– as Baseball America has started rolling out its league-by-league Top 20 lists, bringing chats and a podcast along with them.

Even if you don’t have a B.A. subscription, you can see the names on each list on their index page.

This morning it will be the New York-Penn League list that is revealed, which doesn’t impact us, as the Jays don’t have an affiliate in that league. Friday it was Midwest league, and while the Jays do have the Lansing Lugnuts that played there, none of their prospects were able to crack the top 20– fuel for the negative suckholes, one might believe. But don’t worry, it gets better.

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barreto

Franklin Barreto… I’m pretty sure.

In an official release yesterday afternoon the Jays announced the winners of the 2013 R. Howard Webster Awards, which they hand out to the MVPs of each affiliate in their minor league system. This, then, would probably be a half decent time to do a little prospecting, eh?

Enh.

Though the Webster Awards, much like MLB’s Rookie Of The Year awards, don’t take a player’s future potential into account, there are still some notable prospects who picked up hardware. The full list is as follows: Ryan Goins (Buffalo), Brad Glenn (New Hampshire), Jon Berti (Dunedin), Dwight Smith Jr. (Lansing), L.B. Dantzler (Vancouver), Matt Dean (Bluefield), Franklin Barreto (GCL Jays), Miguel Castro (DSL Jays). You can see some basic stats for each of the guys in the notes from the press release, but here are some comments of my own:

- The Ryan Goins story we’re all pretty familiar with, but his taking home the award speaks, I think, more to the struggles of Anthony Gose– who is two-and-a-half years younger– and Moises Sierra at the level this year, and the fact that Kevin Pillar was only there for half a season. Goins, for all his flaws with the bat– and they are giant, gaping, wind-flapping… uh… flaws– got on base better than Sierra and hit for more power (Note: ?!!?) than Gose.

- Glenn’s selection also speaks to the fact that Pillar moved quickly through the organization, I think. In his 71 games for the Fisher Cats, Pillar had better numbers than Glenn, but I guess he wasn’t at the level for long enough to get the nod. Glenn had a nice year, with a .793 OPS, but it was his age-26 season and at Double-A, so… y’know.

- Berti is another player who is a bit old for the level he was at– shit, he’s four days older than Brett Lawrie! Older than A.J. Jimenez, too. And his numbers weren’t great, especially from a power perspective– his line was .250/.338/.323– though it should be noted that, with a league average SLG of .370, the FSL isn’t exactly a power hitter’s haven. Still though, Berti mostly benefits from playing the full year with the D-Jays. He led the team with 128 games played.

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syndergaard-crop

I don’t want to steal too much of the excellent paywall’d content from Baseball Prospectus, and I know that I already wrote about the latest in slobbering all over Noah Syndergaard this week, but I think I would be remiss if I didn’t continue to give Jays fans– and, presumably, the front office (hi!)– palpitations by passing along a tiny bit of the glowingest of glowing reviews of the now-traded Jays draftee from the man whose twitterings were at the centre of things.

But actually, I’m not going to do that! Zach Mortimer’s report on Syndergaard in today’s Eyewitness Accounts piece certainly is favourable– and I’d encourage you all to put away the sharp objects and subscribe, so you can see the whole thing– but I’m actually more intrigued by the key knock on the potential ace, as it… it hasn’t really changed from everything else we’ve heard and made us feel not quite so bad about considering him the second-best of the former Lansing Three. [Italics mine]

Weakness: Will leave changeup elevated; sequence can be predictable; curveball still has to take a step forward to be a high level weapon.

Well well well. Seems like ol’ Syndie still isn’t quite a finished product. I mean, so what if Mortimer says that his “near elite arsenal” is “complete with no major weaknesses, and secondary offerings still have room for projection moving forward”? Or that he puts an overall future potential on him of 70, and a number one starter, with a medium risk factor. Right? Right????

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syndergaardfutures

Back in December, as the Jays were about to “pry” R.A. Dickey away from the Mets, I wrote this, in an attempt to allay the fears of those fans who had swallowed so wholly on the Jays’ prospect-hoarding philosophy that had been officially placed in the dustbin a few weeks earlier when Alex Anthopoulos orchestrated his roster-reshaping deal with the Miami Marlins:

Cy Young-calibre talent becomes available to this franchise so incredibly rarely, and it can be such a difference-maker right now, given the career arcs of the Jays’ core players, that as much as it hurts to see them seemingly about to  part with d’Arnaud– as much as we’d much prefer it if JP Arencibia could be “the cost of doing business” instead (again: he can’t, which is precisely why we’re here)– and as much as Dickey maybe isn’t quite a “Cy Young pitcher” in the Justin Verlander sense, this would be a tremendous, tremendous pick-up for the Jays, especially outside of the sometimes-too-cute vacuum of cost control, prospect fawning, and dollars-per-WAR.

Something about flags? Something about how they fly forever?

Ugh.

And, of course, the deal didn’t just include d’Arnaud– who I focused on in the piece– but Noah Syndergaard as well.

Though I suspect our feelings might be different about it if the fireballing Texan who started this year’s Futures Game at Citi Field had been included in the Marlins trade, with Justin Nicolino or Henderson Alvarez going instead to the Mets, the fact is, Syndergaard really feels like the one who got away. And in an utterly fucking futile pursuit of a forever-flying flag, no less.

Ugh again.

All of that, I suspect, is what got so many– granted, mostly mouth-breathing– Jays fans’ underthings in some sort of a knot when last week Zach Mortimer of Baseball Prospectus made this bold statement on Twitter:

Bundy, is, of course the Orioles’ über prospect who was one of the biggest name September call-ups a year ago, though he has been slightly out of the public mind since mid-summer, when he underwent Tommy John surgery.

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Marcus Stroman: 80-grade genetics

Blue Jays minor league field coordinator Doug Davis traverses the treacherous terrain of the Virginia mountainside en route to Saturday’s Appalachian League contest between the Bluefield Blue Jays and the Princeton Rays.  It’s a journey fraught with lousy cell phone reception, a reality that assumes heightened levels of annoyance when there’s an overzealous Jays fan — unconvincingly posing as a journalist —  on the phone.

Then again, any man who endures 790 career minor-league games for 14 plate appearances in the majors is, presumably, far more adept at handling adversity than the average person.  And so, when I propose a fairly comprehensive prospect round-up, Davis is more than happy to oblige.

Jonah Birenbaum: Marcus Stroman was obviously very polished coming out of Duke, and he’s been dominant in Double-A this year, with a 3.22 ERA with 103 Ks in just over 89 innings.  But scouts are sort of torn on him, with his build and the lack of downward plane that he generates with his fastball, is home run susceptibility going to prevent him from making it as a starter in the big leagues?

Doug Davis: I think that’s a question everybody has.  I think if you just ask a number of people, half of them are going to say he can start and half of them will say he can’t.  And I don’t know whether we’re going to find out until we actually give him the opportunity.  I feel like he can start.  I think he’s got enough pitches.  I think he’ll learn how to pitch with his fastball, even though his stature — you know, he’s not a tall guy — and he doesn’t create a lot of plane.  I think there’s other ways to get around that and I think he’ll learn how to do it.  He’s a very smart kid, and the pitches themselves — you know, he’s got the potential to have, really, all plus pitches — and because of that, with velocity, I still think he’s going to be able to start and utilize four different pitches.  That’s kind of where I’m at.  You know, he’s done great in Double-A; I think everybody’s seen the positives, and I think the negatives have surfaced, too, a little bit, but again, the guy hasn’t been pitching very long professionally, and I think we’ve got to give him time, got to give him the opportunity to gain more experience against better hitters.  Again, I think because of his makeup and his intelligence, he’s going to learn how to make adjustments and become a better pitcher.

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