The upper level All-Star games were last week. The A-ball All-Star games were weeks ago. Even though such breaks are considered the ceremonial divide between first and second “halves” of the season, just like in the majors, the event doesn’t actually fall at the halfway mark of the season. Three of four full season teams have already played 90 games out of their 140-game season, with the exception of the rain-plagued Buffalo, who have played 87.
But, given the occasion of the MLB All-Star Game this week, how can your humble writer miss the opportunity to put together an All-Star team among the top performers in the Blue Jays organization? So here is my take on that theme. I’ve chosen not to include short season players for consideration, as it would be an unfair comparison given the considerably smaller samples.
Catcher: Danny Jansen (Buffalo) – Yes, many of the selections will be really obvious.
First Base: Ryan Noda (Lansing) – While listed as an outfielder, he’s actually played at first base more than any of the outfield positions.
Second Base: Cavan Biggio (New Hampshire) – Again, completely obvious.
Shortstop: Kevin Smith (Dunedin/Lansing) – This is pretty easy so far!
Third Base: Vlad Guerrero, Jr (New Hampshire) – Even with the long injury, who else?
Outfield: Jon Davis (Buffalo/NH) – Fresh off the Double A All-Star game, he was promoted to Triple A.
Outfield: Chavez Young (Lansing) – Moving out of “sleeper” into “legit prospect” status.
Outfield: Brock Lundquist (Dunedin/Lansing) – Maybe the one guy you were not expecting here, but after a slow start he’s built a solid year. He also rocks the best mustache in the system, if that’s something you’re interested in.
Starting Pitcher: Ryan Borucki (Buffalo) – No shock here.
Starting Pitcher: Sean Reid-Foley (Buffalo/NH) – He’s erased a lot of last year’s doubts.
Starting Pitcher: Patrick Murphy (Dunedin) – The biggest forward stride among the starting pitchers.
Starting Pitcher: Yennsy Diaz (Dunedin/Lansing) – Quietly having an excellent year.
Relief Pitcher: Travis Bergen (NH/Dunedin) – Remember this name. Relievers are seldom “prospects,” but this lefty surely is.
Relief Pitcher: Jake Fishman (Dunedin) – Another lefty crushing the opposition.
Relief Pitcher: Jackson McClelland (Dunedin) – Future closer?
Some honorable mentions for starting pitchers: TJ Zeuch, Angel Perdomo, Jordan Romano, and Zach Logue.
Hottest Pitcher: Eric Pardinho
No one in the system really outshone the other contenders in the first half of July. I could have made a good case for Yennsy Diaz, for example, who has the best line for July alone. But Pardinho is both highly-regarded and a great story, and it’s worth remarking on his overall results. He’s 17 years old and pitching in Bluefield, which is something that basically never happens. In five starts he has a 2.82 ERA, a 0.90 WHIP, and over five times as many strikeouts as walks, while limiting opponents to a .173 average. There’s a reason he’s commonly ranked among our top 10 prospects.
Hottest Hitter: Harold Ramirez
Full disclosure: I really wanted this to be Griffin Conine. He’s having a great month (.346/.393/.635), he’s a recent acquisition, and a legit top-20 prospect. In contrast, I haven’t had a scrap of enthusiasm for Harold Ramirez since he came over from Pittsburgh. He was basically the definition of a tweener: Good hitter, nice OBP, no over-the-fence power to speak of, quick but not an obviously skilled baserunner, and lacking the arm to play anywhere but left-field regularly. On top of that, his first full season in the Jays system was his worst in every regard. But in July, for whatever reason, he’s on fire. He’s gotten better month-over-month all year, but this last few weeks have been crazy good. A line of .426/.472/.681 — that’s a 1.153 OPS — forces even doubters like me to tip my cap.
5 Other Stat Lines
- Griffin Conine: After an inconsistent first week, he caught a second wind and has put up an OPS over 1.000 in the 16 games since, while collecting a ton of praise for his defense. Look for him to get at least a couple of weeks in Lansing towards the end of the season, if things continue going well, and land in Dunedin next spring.
- Tanner Kirwer: A much lower profile guy, taken in the 20th round in 2017, Kirwer also started slow. After his first four games, though, he kicked into gear, and has a .900 OPS since then. The Albertan center fielder also has good speed, swiping 13 bags in 15 tries.
- Jordan Groshans – Went 0-for-12 over three games a week ago, but other than that he’s owned the league. His .362/.432/.551 line screams “promote me already!”
- Jon Harris – Over his last seven starts, two of those coming on a brief trip to Buffalo, he has a 1.51 ERA and 37 strikeouts against only 7 walks in 41.2 IP.
- Yennsy Diaz – Over 18 games at two levels, he has a 2.61 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP. He’s still working on the control but hitters aren’t putting the bat on the ball much so far.
The Bisons continue to fluctuate around the .500 mark, never seeming to get on a real hot streak. That’s mostly an offense problem. Other than the newly arrived Gio Urshela over the last 10 days or so, Jansen doesn’t get a whole lot of help at the plate.
The Cats have had a middling July to this point, but remain in first place in the standings, 1.5 games up on Trenton.
Through Monday night, the D-Jays have won 13 of their last 14. They were only one game out of last place in the first half, but the currently sit in first by three games (with a .720 winning percentage) in the second half.
The first-half champs have floundered in July, going 5-10. But they remain just above .500. Losing most of their best SP to promotion or injury will do that.
The C’s are 12-8 in their last 20 games, but remain a game under .500 thanks to a horrible start.
They finished play on the Fourth of July at an impressive 13-2, but have shown a more human side since. Still, they are currently 19-8, which is good enough to hang onto first place.
Lead Photo © Steve Mitchell – USA Today Sports