The full season farm teams just passed the 1/3 mark on their season and the sample sizes are now big enough for both team evaluators and internet observers to take seriously. Traditionally organizations wait until June arrives before beginning earned promotions (as opposed to those which happen out of necessity such as Anthony Alford and Dwight Smith, Jr making appearances in Toronto) and sure enough, the first wave of moves hit just yesterday.
Previously, catcher Danny Jansen had gotten promoted when the oblique injury to Reese McGuire opened a spot in New Hampshire, but other early promotions where just the routine shuffling of organizational filler. The most notable promotion on Saturday was power-hitting one-time sleeper Bradly Jones who was sitting third in the Midwest League in OPS. He’ll take his collection of infield gloves south to Dunedin. Joining him are Lansing closer Jackson McClelland and 2016 third round choice Zach Jackson who’s held the opposition scoreless in 11 of his last 12 appearances. Also, The Walking Man OF Jake Thomas (who has collected 40 free passes in 37 Midwest League games) got shipped off to AA New Hampshire.
The theme of the farm system early was hot hitting (particularly from the Lansing Three of Jones, Vlad Guerrero, Jr, and Bo Bichette) and inconsistent pitching. Four of the five most highly regarded SP prospects produced mixed results in April and May but most have taken a turn for the better as the season has gone on.
Hottest Pitcher: Ryan Borucki
In four April starts Borucki, 23, got too much of the zone and opponents hit .303 off him. His 6.52 ERA was not quite as bad as his disastrous six-game run for Dunedin to open 2016 (14.40) but certainly not the start the organization had hoped for. But this time he turned it around big time.
Since May 1 his ERA in seven starts is 2.23, and he’s sporting an 11.4 K/9 to go nicely with a 1.7 BB/9. While other SP in the organization have regained their footing and some have succeeded in areas not so readily apparent in the box score, none of them approach Borucki’s seven game stretch of high quality work.
Hottest Hitter: Bo Bichette
When you’re a shortstop playing alongside an 18 year old phenom 3B who seems to be on a rapid countdown to being the top prospect in baseball, you might get overshadowed. Not Bo. The 19 year old Bichette seems to be the embodiment of the cliche “can’t stop, won’t stop.” He leads the Midwest League in batting average, slugging, OPS and is .003 behind (former) teammate Jake Thomas for the lead in OBP.
The Jays have a minor conundrum with Bichette. At some point they are going to have to challenge him with a promotion, but Dunedin is still waiting for Lourdes Gurriel to get healthy and get some game time in and being close to the facilities in Dunedin is where he needs to be. It’s uncertain how willing they will be to split time between the two for an extended period (albeit, Bo has been getting occasional turns at 2B too).
5 Other Stat Lines
- Chris Rowley: 1.67 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 8.8 K/9, 1.3 BB/9
Rowley’s story is deserving of a feature piece. He’s 26 in AA and just got shifted into the rotation, but he has a military service background and only has just under 200 professional innings. He’s really opening eyes.
- Jordan Romano: 2.38 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 9.5 K/9, 3.7 BB/9
Others get ranked and remarked upon, but the 24 year old righty from Markham just keeps doing impressive things for the D-Jays. Over his last eight starts he has a 1.60 ERA and only once has he allowed more than 2 runs in an outing.
- Vladimir Guerrero, Jr: .326 / .414 / .488 / .902
For all his impressive abilities, perhaps the most impressive thing about VGJ this season has been his consistency. His average hasn’t been under .300 in six weeks, nor his OBP under .410 and for a player his age in a full season league, the lack of fluctuation is a pretty remarkable thing. On the other hand, he hasn’t hit a home run in a month which is puzzling.
- Danny Jansen: .357 / .407 / .520 / .928
Before the AFL last fall, Jansen got some glasses. Clearly they were magical or something because now he can see, and hit, almost everything. Before he went hitless in three consecutive games this week, he’d actually put up an even better slash line in AA than he had in Dunedin. For a guy who spent two years in the injury-plagued wilderness, all this offense is a surprise to even his biggest backers. He’s building his case for being the heir to Russ Martin.
- Jason Leblebijian: .308 / .380 / .529 / .909
I could have put Alford here, but I like to use one of these slots to point out a guy who didn’t start the year on everyone’s radar. The previously pedestrian Leblebijian made some key adjustments that turned his career around two years ago but as a 24 year old in Lansing, few thought much of it. So far in Buffalo, he’s demanding to be noticed.
A 21-9 record at home has fueled the Bisons 30-23 record, good for third place and 5.5 out in their division. The collective ERA is 4th in the league but only 0.10 behind the league leading Durham staff.
From Mid-April to Mid-May the ‘Cats were channeling the early season Blue Jays, running off a 7-23 stretch that buried them in last place. Lately they have been better (9-4 since May 18 making them 21-32 as of this writing). The team ERA remains second-to-last in the league and the team OPS is in the bottom third as well.
Dunedin Blue Jays
The D-Jays are 28-25, 2.5 games out of first in their division. Both pitching and offense sit, collectively, more or less middle of the pack in the FSL but with some of their better preforming hitters having moved on, the addition of Jones and Thomas to the lineup will be most welcome.
The Lugnuts sit 29-23, 7 games out of first place. Their league-best offense has been undermined by inconsistent and often just plain bad pitching from the back of the rotation.
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