The big news on the Blue Jays farm continues to be Bo Bichette, but I’ll get to him in just a moment. Beyond Bo, the story of the last week has been the MLB Rule 4 Draft, of course, along with the debut of the 2017 Vancouver Canadians. I’m sure you’ve seen tons of draft coverage because BPT had it all for you in one place, so I’ll focus my attention on the VanC’s.
The opening day roster in Vancouver is, of course, never a true reflection of the team that will carry through the summer, but the players assigned there give us some idea of who came through extended spring camps having made the best impression. You won’t find al that many listed “top prospects” here yet because, in a relatively rare occurrence, virtually all of the players who showed up on anyone’s Top 30 list made the cut for full season ball, or have been assigned there at some point (see Yensy Diaz for example) before the Canadians’ season opened.
On the pitching staff, there are two guys I’ll be watching closely early on. One is Wilfri Aleton, a bonus baby LHP signed in 2012 (the same year as AA prospects Richard Urena and Francisco Rios) who was brought along really slowly in the DSL but used that time to refine his control and elevate his strikeout, posting a solid 4:1 ratio in the GCL last year. I’m interested to see how his stuff translates against more mature competition.
The other is 2015 5th rounder RHP Jose Espada. Espada was impressive in his debut year then struggled over the first half of his 2016 season. over his first six appearances he had a 7.50 ERA, over his last six outings it was 2.79.
On the other side of the ball watch out for OF Noberto Obeso, SS Kevin Vicuna, OF Reggie Pruitt. Obeso has already drawn 87 career walks against only 37 strikeouts and, according to VanC’s broadcaster Rob Fai on Around the Nest, squares up everything and hits it hard. Vicuna was pressed into duty for Dunedin when Lordues Gurriel Jr went on the DL . 2015 Draftee Reggie Pruitt was hailed as a steal when the Jays drafted him in the 24th round and persuaded him to sign. The swift CF had a rough go of things in 2016, but if he develops better than D.J. Davis did, he might be a sleeper.
Of course, with the 2017 draft being college heavy, this roster will surely be transformed within a couple of weeks. Fans are hoping Logan Warmoth gets a cup of coffee at least before moving on to Lansing, and if history is any indication, RHP Nate Pearson will spend time here too, as will C Riley Adams, SS Kevin Smith, 2B Cullen Large, and 1B Kacey Clemens among others.
Hottest Pitcher: Jordan Romano
There were only two real candidates for this honour over the last two weeks. Those who watch the Jays system closely know who Romano is, but more casual observers might not recognize the name because he seldom shows up above the No. 20 range when top prospects are listed. His results, however, tell a different story.
Romano was a 10th round pick in 2014 and he dominated Appy League hitters over 22 innings that year, then went down with an arm injury requiring Tommy John surgery which cost him all of 2015. Back in 2016 he opened the year with Lansing and announced his presence with authority, making 15 appearances (14 starts) and finishing with a 2.11 ERA and 8.9 K/9 to go with a 1.05 WHIP. Pitching in Dunedin this year has been more of the same. Romano’s current season ERA is 2.28 and over his last 10 outings it’s 1.87. Only once this season have more than two runners scored against him and his K rate is up too. At 24, with consistently excellent results, when the Jays begin promoting deserving SP, he’ll be right at the front of the line.
Hottest Hitter: Bo Bichette
I know I know, Bichette got this distinction last time, but when you have a .400 hitter on your hands, what can you do? We’re talking about a guy who’s OPS is 157 points higher than the next best total in the league. And since I wrote about him two weeks ago? He’s just gone out and hit .465 in the meantime.
Last week I wrote about the potential crowding created by his success and drafting a college SS in the first round only adds another layer to the cake. Right now the Jays have a 21 year old at AA who came into the year as a Top 10 prospect in the system in Richard Urena. Urena certainly isn’t dominating and has neither earned promotion or demotion. At High-A Dunedin, Lordues Gurriel Jr. is said to be close to returning from a hamstring injury. He’s 23 and could probably handle AA, but one gets the sense that possibly Bichette hasn’t been promoted, in part, because the organization really want to play both at shortstop. Now Warmoth is in the system, and while he may spend a few weeks at Vancouver, he’s certainly going to have one foot in the door in Lansing waiting for Bo to move up. Would the Jays jump Gurriel to Buffalo after a week or two of what would basically be a rehab turn for the D-Jays? I’m not sure.
Conceivably though, the Jays could have four shortstops in their mid-season Top 10 prospect lists, one for each full season team. One other possibility is a trade; Urena becomes the most obvious trade chip in the system if the Blue Jays decide to add to the big league club in July.
5 Other Stat Lines
- Roemon Fields: .33/.395/.458/.853 in 32 gp at AAA
Speedy Fields has one of the better backstories in all the minors. He was out of baseball working as a postal worker and was spotted by a scout at a weekend tournament he wasn’t enthused to be playing in at all. He’s very fast, which is a trait that plays up in the field. He’s never hit before like he has after his April promotion to Buffalo, fueled by a furious 29/61 16 game stretch. In the 10 games since, the regression monster has caught up with him and we’ll have to see how things play out from here.
- Conner Greene: 3.47 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 6.4 K/9, 4.5 BB/9
Last time when I featured Ryan Borucki as the hottest pitcher, some questioned “Why not Greene?” Well, from my point of view, he hadn’t earned it, and still hasn’t. As of that writing he’d given up four earned runs in two of his previous three starts. Since then he’s walked another eight in 11 innings pitched. He has dramatically increased his GB/FB ratio this year and naturally reduced his home run rate, but his BB/9 is second highest in the league and his swinging strike rate is .1% away from being the lowest in the league. Ground balls only get you so far.
- Tim Mayza: 4.81 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 12.2 K/9, 3.5 BB/9
Remember this guy? He was all the rage in ST and mentioned often as a guy who’d probably come fast. He’s still the same guy, witness the K rates above, but now has an unimpressive ERA. Over five appearances in the span of 11 days, he got tagged for two runs each in four of those appearances. Eight earned runs in 5.1 IP plus another four earned runs from Opening Day totals up to 12 of the 15 he’s been touched for this season. Compare his line from that 11 day period (top line) to the one for everything else this year:
5.1 IP, 7 H, 8 ER, 2 HR, 7 BB, 9 K
22.1 IP, 16 H, 7 ER, 3 HR, 4 BB, 29 K
Remember, six of those hits and four earned runs came in only 1/3 of an inning on opening day. In the period since that ugly run, he’s thrown 9 IP over eight appearances, surrendering three hits, two earned runs, walking one and striking out 15.
- Angel Perdomo: 3.12 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 7.1 K/9, 4.6 BB/9
Perdomo’s bugaboo is the free pass. Last season, he walked three or more in almost a third of his outings. This year he’s done so in six of 13 outings. His history is that it’s difficult to spot a trend line (not unlike Sean Reid-Foley) as you might see four or five good outings (in terms of controlling the walk) in a row, then he’ll and walk four. Still, he’s sixth best in the league at leaving those guys on base so you have to recognize that. It’s been remarked that his future probably lies in the bullpen, and I’m not sure if it’s related, but by my count – with one aberration laid aside – there’s a pattern of his base-on-balls rising in the third and fourth inning and when he gets that far, in the sixth.
- Edward Olivares: .275 / .313 / .506 / .819
Why? Arbitrary end point powers, activate! Seriously, it’s not that arbitrary. When I do this I’m simply looking for a consistant pattern from the players low (or high) point. For someone who fluctuates noticeably up and down, this is less informative. But when you see a player seem to have turned things around (look at Troy Tulowitski from May 10 on last year for example) then I’d argue there’s some value in that. Olivares’ low point was April 14. Eight games into the season he was hitting .111 (4 for 36) and hadn’t walked a time. Since then he’s slashed .302/.336/.544/.880 which would put him in the top 10 in the league. While he’s bee overshadowed by the Vlad & Bo Show, Lugnut watchers are quite impressed with him.
The Bisons are 34-33 and have slipped to 9.5 back and 4th place. Statistically they are in the middle of the pack in ERA, and in the lower third in OPS.
The string of quality play continues, but they are just too far behind for it to matter. They are 10 games under 15 and 16 back of a playoff spot. Weird for a team that landed more of the organizations top prospects than anyone for Opening Day. The Eastern League doesn’t have first and second half qualifiers, so they are looking at a long slog if they want a post-season berth.
Dunedin Blue Jays
Dunedin finished the first half at .500 and didn’t lock down a first half playoff qualifier spot. However, they just missed and with an infusion of offensive talent on the horizon things look bright for the second half.
Lansing was recently eliminated from first half playoff qualification, their prolific offensive performers outweighed by some truly awful starting pitching from Mike Ellenbest, Andy Ravel and Denis Diaz.