Minor League Update: What’s Next Edition

As of this writing, the complex league teams are already done, Bluefield has but one more (regular season) game, and the rest of the affiliates have at most a week’s worth of regular season play. The good news is that three teams are postseason bound and another is in serious contention. Likewise, beginning Saturday major league rosters can and will expand. That means this is the time of year when players start moving about.
Some will go to the major league roster, some will be ticketed for the Arizona Fall League (which begins play in early October), and almost all the lower level guys (and those who remain injured) will be assigned to the fall instructional “league” at Dunedin. There might also be some roster adjusting to bolster playoff teams, though this last bit can be highly unpredictable from outside the organization.
The first question everyone asks and one that is already the subject of considerable speculation is “Who comes up in September?” In contention years an organization will focus on what can actually help the playoff push. Such teams typically do not want to overcrowd the clubhouse with players who won’t get a lot of appearances and they hold themselves to six or seven players, typically a catcher, someone fast, and a few relievers. But we’re not speaking of a contender here, are we? The first thing we look for is players on the 40-man roster, particularly those who have already been up this season – and in this case with a bias towards players who might be part of the future. That list would then include Sean Reid-Foley, the recently demoted Justin Schafer (and veteran Jake Petricka), infielder Richard Urena, and outfielders Dwight Smith, Jr., Anthony Alford, and Dalton Pompey.

Those first five names are virtual certainties. The others less so. Alford has had an uncharacteristic and inconsistent season of mostly failure. There’s no way to spin it as a good part of a season, but in addition to injury and a brief trip to the majors, the first two months were horrendous and the time since has just been disappointing. You could make a case they will call him up for the ability to work closely with him at the highest level, or that they will give him a breather and send him out west. I’ve given up on sorting out what they plan to do with Pompey but since he’s out of options next spring I really hope they call him up. Add to those the possibility of catcher Reese McGuire (no sure thing since they already have three) and there’s one non-roster guy you might see, last week’s main man Travis Bergen who’s still untouchable in double-A New Hampshire and is due to need protection this winter anyway. But you won’t see him until the ‘Cats are done for the year.

Vladdy? Ha,ha,ha…no. If that were going to happen he’d have been up already. As for Arizona, the ever diligent Cubs Reporter offers the rundown on  the eligibility rules for assignment to the AFL. Follow the link to read about the key provisions as we attempt a prediction. While originally the restrictions were pretty limiting, in recent years they have broadened to the point that teams can send virtually anyone they really want to go with the right manipulations. Each team assigns a minimum seven players, at least four of whom must be pitchers (preferably only one of which expected to play as a starter) and at least three position players. Additional players can be assigned to the “taxi squad” which is restricted to two appearances per week.

In general, organizations like to send players who need more reps, either because of injury orother absence, or to work on some aspect of their game, or those that they want to have a look at playing against the best available competition.

Besides the possibility that Alford will go to continue to try to finish strong, Vlad Guerrero, Jr missed a big chunk of the season so there’s no reason he can’t keep playing (and MLB will surely want him there for the publicity), Thomas Pannone will finish out the year in Toronto but having only been active since mid-season because of his PED suspension, he has plenty of innings still in the tank and will almost certainly head west. If David Paulino gets healthy he’d need someplace to get reps, McGuire might go, since having split time with Danny Jansen he probably is fresher than most of his peers at the position. Rowdy Tellez, a dark horse to show up in Toronto next month just because of position crowding, has been hot in recent months and would be a candidate, though a less likely one, to go out and try to continue that momentum. New Hampshire’s Zach Jackson is still working on his (lack of) control and would seem logical, Max Pentecost, who went last year, is on fire (see below) and the longer look they get the better since he too would be subject to the the Rule 5 draft if not protected. From the Dunedin roster, Logan Warmoth lost a lot of time to injury and has never gotten untracked with the bat, and Nate Pearson needs someplace to get some innings. Beyond that if there are others (a good possibility given roster requirements) they would more likely be roster filler.
There’s some speculation around about Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio. While you shouldn’t be terribly surprised to see either of them in place of the names I mentioned above, they played almost every day, will set career highs in games played and don’t really have the same need for repetitions that the others do. Force me into a prediction and I’ll say the minimum four pitchers would be Pannone (the starter), Jackson, Pearson (in controlled relief outings given he isn’t stretched out) and Paulino if he can pitch, or some filler player (for example, Connor Fisk) if not. The hitters would be VGJ, Warmoth and Alford or Pentecost. On the taxi you might find almost anyone.
Speaking of Vladito, before he goes west he might have another stop to make; I have a hunch he’s going down before he goes anywhere else. Buffalo didn’t make the post-season and their home schedule is done. Meanwhile the Fisher Cats are already in and finish the year with three games at home. I’m betting Vladdy will be back for those and the playoffs. You could also see some interesting pitching added to that team from the eliminated D-Jays and, just maybe, Riley Adams. Lansing will also probably gain a few players if the Canadians fall short of qualifying.

Hottest Pitcher: Zach Logue

I really wanted to highlight Logue in the last edition, but his singular bad outing in the previous six weeks had fallen during the time period that edition covered. Fortunately for my plans it was not repeated. Ever since Jimmy Key was one of my first favorite Blue Jays (as readers of my old blog remember) I have been a sucker for successful lefty starters in the Jays minor league system. Do you remember Clayton Andrews? Because I do. Usually they don’t pan out by the time they hit the majors, if they ever do. Usually they go the way of Justin Nicolino, with Ryan Borucki being – so far – the notable exception. I can’t guess which track Logue will take but he’s looking great lately.

After being drafted in the 9th round last year, he was assigned to Vancouver and, pitching in the gigantic shadow of Nate Pearson, posted dominant numbers. He began this year with nine excellent starts for Lansing before being promoted to Dunedin at the end of May. In his first seven starts he was only “pretty good” posting a 3.98 ERA, but with a distinct lack of strikeout success at 6 per 9 IP (some pitchers make that work of course, but it’s something that people notice in minor league stat lines) and a less than 3:1 ratio in strikeouts to walks.

But somewhere around Independence Day he found the next gear. In his last 10 starts, Logue’s ERA is 3.15 and his K rate is up to almost one per inning pitched. His strikeout to walk rate is also up to 5:1 and that’s including that one disaster start I mentioned. I’m not sure what was going on with him that day, possibly he was under the weather or something when he gave up nine earned runs in two innings. but if you take out that one start, since July 4 his ERA is 1.71. So, yeah, he’s firmly on my radar.

Hottest Hitter: Max Pentecost

It’s no secret to anyone who reads my prospect writing that I have a bit of an irrational emotional investment in the success of Pentecost. I can’t really explain it and, to be sure, the explosion of Danny Jansen has pretty radically changed the dynamic. But I still enjoy it when he plays well, and playing well is a considerable understatement right now. This feels like a cheat since I highlighted him in the “Other Stats” section just last time but he continues to crush it, having hit .366 with 4 HR since last time. Here’s his slash lines since July 26: .400/.400/.656 (22 games).

5 Other Stat Lines

  • Josh Winckowski – Vancouver’s busiest pitcher. The 6’3″ RHP won’t appear on any top prospect lists published so far, but he’s having a fine year. He has a 2.43 ERA and an strikeout per inning pitched (and 4.2 per walk). He’s still just 20 and has taken a significant step forward (in terms of results) over his 2017 line.
  • Joshua Palacios – In his last 25 games the Dunedin CF is hitting .369 with a .992 OPS with as many XBH as in his two months previous.
  • Chris Bec – No one was much impressed with the Jays’ pick in the fifth round this year, the catcher was seen as a cheap signability guy. Maybe that’s all he is but since busting out of a 7/53 slide in mid-July he’s trying to change some minds. He began to gather momentum in the final third of July but he’s really been hot in August with a .956 OPS. That’s driven by 18 walks in the month though.
  • Eric Pardinho – It can’t be overstated how remarkable it is for a 17 year old Brazilian kid to be crushing the Appy League the way he is. Pardinho has a 2.88 ERA in 11 starts with 64 K (16BB) in 50 IP. It’s not quite the pitching equivalent of Vlad but he’s getting up there.
  • Adams Cuevas – The numbers are almost as good for the Dominican righty but he’s also 22. Still, take a note about a guy who who has 61 K and only 8 walks in 53 IP

Buffalo Bisons

– If the Bisons win out, they’ll still finish under .500. So it’s another year of playing out the string, potentially shorthanded for the last series.

Fisher Cats

– The Fisher Cats remain one game up on the Trenton Thunder as they hope to hang on to the home-field advantage for the first round of the post-season. In their favor, their remaining series are against the two teams with the worst records in their division.


– The D-Jays got knocked around last night and were thereby knocked out of post-season contention. They were in good shape until a 1-11 run earlier in the month put them in a hole they couldn’t escape.


– Having qualified in the first half, being four games out of first in the second half is less important than it might otherwise seem. But they are 9-9 in the last few weeks and would certainly like to go into the playoffs with more momentum than that.


– The Van C’s remain one game up on Spokane with six games to play. The last three…at Spokane.


– With only one game to play, the Baby Jays will finish in second place at season’s end but that’s good enough for a post-season slot. On Friday they host arch-rival Princeton in the first game of a three game set, potentially with their ace Eric Pardinho on the hill. The winner immediately moves on to the five game championship series.

Lead Photo © Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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