Minor League Update: Spring Training Edition

At this point in the spring, the majority of the prospects who were invited to major league camp have been sent out to join their fellow young players at the opening of minor league spring training. That makes this a nice time to take a look at just how well the prospects did in their time playing with the big boys. It’s worth keeping in mind that spring training stats tend to be some of the most misleading statistics you will ever see. Not only are they an impossibly small sample size, but they also come against wildly different competition levels.

While this segment will only feature prospects during the season, for Spring Training I am also including some more veteran players who are competing for a spot on the back end of the 25-man, opening day roster.

AJ Jimenez – C –

6 Games, 13 AB – .455/.538/.727 – 1 HR, 0 SB, 2 BB, 1 K

In the two years since Jimenez returned from his Tommy John surgery, his prospect stock has plummeted to the point where I was surprised that he remained on the 40 man roster over the winter. However, Jimenez picked the exact right time to see a return of the promising bat that scouts once saw in him. With Dioner Navarro leaving this offseason via free agency, and Josh Thole slotted into the backup catcher role, the time is now for Jimenez to make a push for a major league role. The home run is easily the most exciting aspect of Jimenez performance thus far in spring training. Yes, it may have come against Orioles minor leaguer Parker Bridwell, but when you are a player who has only hit nine home runs in the last four years combined, beggars can’t be choosers.

With his defensive reputation, including a very strong throwing arm, Jimenez won’t need to post gaudy offensive numbers to be a contributor at the major league level. Couple that with the likes of Thole ahead of him on the depth chart, there is certainly a chance that if Jimenez continues to produce once the minor league season gets started that we could get a chance to see him at some point in 2016. He’s out of options, but it’s hard to see him not clearing waivers given his lack of playing time the last few years.

Darrell Ceciliani – CF –

10 Games, 18 AB – .444/.565/.778 – 1 HR, 3 2B, 0 SB, 4 BB, 4 K

Coming into the spring, it was assumed that Dalton Pompey would be sent back to Triple A for a little bit more seasoning, so the Jays had an open slot for their fourth outfielder role. The competition was supposed to feature the likes of Ezequiel Carrera, Junior Lake, or Domonic Brown, however, the overlooked man in this competition could wind up being Darrell Ceciliani, whom the Jays acquired via trade from the Mets (for cash) in early February.

In the first two weeks of spring training, Ceciliani has been the Jays best hitter, and certainly requires a longer look as the team progresses closer to opening day. It’s honestly quite puzzling why the Mets were willing to dump Ceciliani for just cash. While he was unproductive in his first 39 games in the big leagues, Ceciliani destroyed the PCL last season to the tune of a .345/.398/.581 slash line. While those numbers are certainly inflated by playing his home games in Las Vegas, they still pop off the page. When you couple that stat line, with a player entering his prime at the age of 26, and most importantly still having minor league options remaining, he seems like a player most teams would like to keep.

I try as little as possible to draw conclusions from spring training stats, but given my lack of faith in many of the players with whom Ceciliani is competing, I think there is least a non-zero chance that he could break camp with the big league team.

Andy Burns – UT –

13 Games, 18 AB – .333/.455/.722 – 1 HR, 1 3B, 1 2B, 4 BB, 3 K

Along with Ceciliani, Andy Burns has been one of the Jays hottest hitters throughout the early part of spring training. Burns has seen time at 2nd base, 3rd base, and left field, and the Blue Jays seem fully committed to him developing into a utility man. What’s been one of the more impressive aspects of Burns success thus far in the spring is that he’s done most of his damage against right-handed pitching. Throughout Burns minor league career, he has been most known for punishing lefties. With Ryan Goins as the team’s starting 2nd baseman, I believe there could be a role for Burns on the major league roster. If Darwin Barney flops to start the season, and Devon Travis’ return is delayed, I could see the club turning to Burns.

Jio Mier – SS –

12 Games, 20 AB – .350/.350/.600 – 1 HR, 2 2B, 0 SB, 0 BB, 4 K

Mier, the former Astros first round pick, was acquired by the Jays via minor league free agency over the winter. Given pedigree, which albeit has faded, Mier is more intriguing than most minor league free agents.  That makes seeing these types of early positive signs something worth noticing at least. Given that Mier is already behind Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Goins, and Darwin Barney on the depth chart, and will soon to be pushed even further down by a returning Devon Travis, it’s tough to see the path to playing time for Mr. Mier. That being said, it’s worth remembering that Jonathan Diaz saw time on the major league roster in each of the past two seasons.

Dalton Pompey – CF –

10 Games, 21 AB – .190/.261/.524 – 2 HR, 1 2B, 0 SB, 2 BB, 7 K

Dalton Pompey is a perfect example of why Spring Training numbers just can’t be taken at face value. The only thing that is preventing Pompey’s 21 spring training plate appearances from being a complete black hole are the pair of home runs that he has slugged so far. However, it just so happens that those dingers happen to have been hit off the Athletics’ Andrew Triggs, and the Orioles’ Chris Lee. You can be excused if you’ve never heard of either of those pitchers, because neither of them has ever pitched above Double-A.

I had come into the spring with the hope that if things broke right for Pompey he would could win the fourth outfielder role, or even had an outside shot at even winning the starting left field job. With a slow start you’d have to imagine that scenario is out the window now, so look for Pompey to head to Buffalo once the minor league season gets started. Hopefully he will be ready to produce when called upon.

Domonic Brown – OF –

8 Games, 22 AB – .182/.280/.364 – 2 3B, 0 SB, 3 BB, 3 K

Junior Lake – OF –

8 Games, 22 AB – .227/.292/.364 – 0 HR, 3 2B, 1 SB, 1 BB, 4 K

Ezequiel Carrera – OF

8 Games, 15 AB – .067/.222/.067 – 0 HR, 1 SB, 3 BB, 5 K

Carrera, Brown, and Lake are all competing for the fourth outfielder spot with Ceciliani & Pompey, and none of them have done much of anything thus far into the spring. With Lake and Carrera both out of options, I had assumed that either of them would get the first opportunity, but unless they start to put up at least respectable numbers the rest of the way they are in danger of being passed over.

In Brown’s case, since he could be sent down to Buffalo freely, he was always facing an uphill battle to make the opening day roster. Since he provides negative defensive value, even in a corner outfield spot, he needs to show the club that they can’t afford to leave his bat down in the minors. That certainly hasn’t happened yet.

Rowdy Tellez – 1B –

9 Games, 11 AB – .182/.250/.182 – 0 SB, 1 BB, 3 K

Anthony Alford – CF –

11 Games, 10 AB – .100/.308/.100 – 0 SB, 3 BB, 4 K

Richard Urena – SS –

8 Games, 14 AB – .214/.214/.286 – 0 HR, 1 2B, 1 SB, 0 BB, 1 K

Taken together, Alford, Urena, and Tellez are the Jays top 3 position player prospects. While each of them has struggled thus far, we should pay zero attention to any of these stats. None of these players is older than 21 years old, and they are facing better competition than they’ve ever seen. The main reason for inviting prospects like this to major league training camp is not to have them produce on the field, but rather to have them interact with established major league veterans, and learn from their habits. All three of these players have since been reassigned to minor league camp, and I look forward to each producing once the minor league season gets under way.

Conner Greene – Starting Pitcher

2 Games, 2 IP – 0.00 ERA, 1 Hit, 3 Ks, 2 BB

The Jays top pitching prospect was only in major league camp for a cup of coffee, but acquitted himself quite well in the two games he in which he appeared. His first inning of work came against the Phillies, and despite walking JP Arencibia (lol), he struck out the side. While he didn’t face a major leaguer, one of his victims was Phillies top prospect Nick Williams. Greene came back a few days later, and in his lone inning against the Rays, he managed to retire major leaguers Brad Miller, Steven Souza & Logan Forsythe. Soon after that game, Green was reassigned to Minor League camp, so we won’t be getting another chance to look at him until the New Hampshire Fisher Cats season gets underway in the first week of April. While this is the smallest of possible samples, there were nothing but positives to take away from Greene this spring.

Lead Photo: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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