Friday, July 26, 2013

Growing the Arms

    It may have not been the greatest week for the parent club's starting rotation, but Blue Jay minor league starters had a great week.
   On Monday, Aaron Sanchez continued to make up for the month he was shut down with shoulder tightness, going 5 innings, and allowing 5 hits, while walking and striking out a pair.  Florida State League hitters have a .189 average against Sanchez on the year.  As we posted earlier, former Lansing teammates Noah Syndergaard and Justin Nicolino have been promoted to Double A, and may be a little bit ahead on the development curve, but Sanchez is closing quickly.  He touched 100 on the radar gun in his last start, and sat at about 96 with his fastball for most of his outing.
   On Tuesday, Vancouver starter Jeremy Gabryswzski had another dominant outing, giving up just 1 hit and 0 runs in 6 innings.  Gabryswzski only struck a pair, but pitched well to contact.  He leads the Northwest League with a 0.99 ERA.
  Earlier that evening, on the other side of the continent, BC-born starter Tom Robson of Bluefield gave up 4 hits and a walk, along with no runs and six strikeouts.  Robson's 1.38 ERA would have him among the Appalachian League leaders, but he's a couple of innings short of qualifying.
   Marcus Stroman of AA New Hampshire topped off the week of strong minor league pitching for the Blue Jays with 6.2 inning outing on Wednesday.  Stroman struck out 11, while surrendering 5 hits and a pair of walks, allowing just one earned run.
  Thunder Bay, Ont's Eric Brown had another strong start for Vancouver on Thursday, but was the victim of a lack of support.  This has been a bit of a recurring theme for almost all Jays affiliates.  New Hampshire was no-hit on Thursday, as were the GCL Jays in the first game of their Friday doubleheader.  Brown threw 6 innings, giving up 2 runs (1 earned) and 5 hits, walking 2 and striking out 4.  Brown lowered his ERA to 1.37 (in 53 innings) on the season.
   And the GCL Jays Matthew Smoral had a pair of strong outings for the week, including his first pro start on Friday.  Over the two appearances, Smoral pitched 4 innings, allowing 1 run.  Still struggling a bit with his command but showing improvement with every outing , Smoral walked 3 and K'd 3.
  A pair of Bluefield pitchers put together impressive outings in relief, as well.  Adonys Cardona began to show some of his huge upside with a 4 inning stint, giving up just 3 hits and a walk, with 4 K's.  Jairo Labourt lowered his ERA to 1.54 with 4 innings of 1-hit relief work, striking out 6.
   Almost all of this pitching strength, of course, was below AA, meaning that help is on the way - it's just going to take some time.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Checking Up on the Top 10

 It's time to take a look at how our top prospects from our pre-season list of Top 10 Blue Jays Prospects are faring:

1.  Aaron Sanchez, rhp Dunedin 
   The prize pitching prospect the Jays opted to keep over the winter, Sanchez was off to a great start with High A Dunedin, before being shut down in mid-May with shoulder soreness.
  The Jays kept Sanchez out of action for a month before allowing him to return.  Upon his return, his pitch count was strictly monitored at 75 per outing.  After fellow top prospect pitcher Roberto Osuna was shut down for a second time because of elbow soreness (Osuna was diagnosed with a torn UCL in May), there were concerns that Sanchez too had lost velocity after being pummeled in a July 8th start, but he threw four  innings (in relief of a rehabbing J.A. Happ) against Fort Myers, and top prospect Byron Buxton. Sanchez consistently hit 97 during this appearance, striking out 6, and allowing only 2 hits and 1 run.
   Fellow former top prospects Noah Syndergaard and Justin Nicolino have been promoted to AA by their new organizations.  Sanchez' timetable may have been set back by his shoulder issues, but if he turns in a few more performances like the one against Fort Myers, he likely will join them.

2.  Marcus Stroman, rhp, New Hampshire
Stroman's season didn't get underway until May 17th, as he sat out the remainder of last year's positive PED test suspension.  And he's been making up for lost time in a hurry.
  Stroman has compiled a 5-2, 3.23 record with the Fisher Cats, striking out 63 in 55 innings.  Eastern League hitters are batting .222 against him.
  While Stroman had been labelled the most major league ready arm in last year's draft, there are some scouts who are concerned about his size, and his lack of a downward plane and movement on his fastball.  Others have expressed doubts about his major league potential because of his high flyball rate, and the 8 home runs he's allowed.  Over his last 5 starts, though, he's allowed only 2 home runs.  Included in that stretch was a 13 K game. Ask EL hitters about his fastball. Or his change-up, which is coming along as a strong secondary pitch.
If the major league rotation experiences more injuries, Stroman might get the call.  With JA Happ rehabbing, and Ricky Romero showing some life at AAA, the Jays may be content to keep Stroman in the minors for the remainder of the season. Or, if the Jays part with some of their bullpen depth as the trade deadline approaches, Stroman might get the call to the bigs.

3. Roberto Osuna, rhp, Lansing
   The right-handed whiz kid's season has been a semi-tragedy in three acts.
Osuna, who isn't even draft eligible until next year, dominated Midwestern League hitters over the course of 3 of his first 4 starts, striking out 26 in 18 innings.
  During an April 30th start, he was removed after 4 innings because of elbow soreness.  An MRI revealed a torn UCL, and Osuna was shut down and sent to Florida for rest and rehab.  Surprisingly, the regimen seemed to work, as he didn't allow an earn run in his first two starts in June after his return.
  Act Three came about during a July start, when he was lit up for 10 hits and 7 runs in an inning and a third.  The Jays immediately shut him down again, and sent him back to Florida.
  There is no word as to his future medical plans. Surgery seems the most likely option, meaning that Osuna won't be back for a full calendar year minimum.  Given that he only turned 18 in February, there's plenty of time for Osuna to come back and continue his development.

4.  Daniel Norris, lhp, Lansing
  You can forgive the Lansing Lugnuts for wondering what their season might have been like with a heallthy Osuna and Daniel Norris in their rotation for a full season.
   The Lugnuts currently sit in the basement of the MWL's Eastern Division 2nd half standings.
   Norris was roughed up in his first start of the season, and after the control and location issues of his first pro season, many were asking how someone with such great stuff could get hit so hard and so often.
  Norris then was lights out over his next 5 starts:  a 1.27 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and 30 K's in 21 innings.
During his June 9th start, however, Norris too complained of some elbow soreness, and was sent to Florida.  Tests revealed no damage, so after the requisite month of rest, Norris returned to Lansing.  While his innings have been minimized as he rebuilds arm strength, Norris hasn't given up an earned run in his 3 starts since his reactivation.
  Norris sports a deceptive 0-5, 4.80 record.  It's deceptive because he hasn't had a lot of run support (Lansing has been no-hit three times this season), and because without that disastrous first start, his ERA is a microscopic 1.20.
   Norris has become the prospect the Jays thought they were getting when they drafted him in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft.

5. Sean Nolin, lhp, New Hampshire
   Few Jays prospects in recent memory have caught as much helium as Nolin did last year, going 10-0 at two levels.
  His season debut was held back until May because of a leg injury, but Nolin has taken up where he left off. Nolin is 7-2, 2.45 with the Fisher Cats, striking out 73 in 69 innings.
  Nolin did have a (brief) MLB debut with the Jays in late May, lasting all of an inning and a third against the Orioles.  Clearly battling his nerves, Nolin caught too much of the plate with his pitches, and was hit often and hard by the O's.
  Nolin may get a chance to redeem himself with the big league club by the end of the season, or he may get a chance to get AAA hitters out with Buffalo.  It's just a matter of time.

6. DJ Davis, of, Bluefield
   The Jays first round choice in last year's draft, Davis is repeating at Bluefield.  A brief stint at short season Vancouver at the end of last season showed he was still on the raw side.
  We had thought that Davis might start his season at a higher level, but the Jays are wisely taking their time with the speedster, who doesn't turn 19 until late July.
   And that patience appears to be paying off.  After a slow start, Davis is hitting .301/.390/.544 with the Appy League club.  3 homeruns in just over 100 AB shows a bit of pop, too. The 28 strikeouts are a bit of a concern, but there's a lot to be pleased about.
  It's hard to say if Davis will remain in Bluefield for the season, or get another shot at Vancouver. Regardless, the Kenny Lofton comparisons are looking more accurate every day.

7.  Matt Smoral, lhp, GCL Jays
   No prospect from the Jays' 2012 Kenny Rogers of a draft was perhaps a bigger roll of the dice than the 6'8" Ohio high schooler.
   Taken in the sandwich round, 50th overall, Smoral did not throw a pitch at any level in 2012 because of a foot ijnury.
   Kept at extended spring training, Smoral was assigned to the GCL Jays in mid-June, not having pitched in over a calendar year.  And the results have been predictable.
  Smoral struggled with his location mightily in his first four outings, giving up 7 hits and 9 walks in 6 innings.  His last appearance showed much more promise:

   Smoral likely will be fine.  He's shown that he's a long-term project, which shouldn't come as a shock for a high school lefty who missed a year of development.

8. Adonys Cardona, rhp, Bluefield
   Admittedly a bit of a reach for us before the season, Cardona has shown little at Bluefield thus far to merit inclusion in our top 10.
   Truth be told, he would likely still be in the GCL if he hadn't used up his eligibility.  It's a small sample size, but Appy League hitters have pounded Cardona thus far.  He's surrendered 25 hits in 14 innings.  He has sandwiched a pair of scoreless outings with two shellings, so there is still some promise.
   In our minds, Cardona is in danger of being passed by teammates Alberto Tirado and Jairo Labourt on the top prospects list.

9, John Stilson, rhp, Buffalo
   Stilson, whose season debut was also held back because of injury, has been all but unhittable at two levels this season, sporting a 2-1, 1.86 record.  International League hitters are hitting just .167 against him.
   Pitching exclusively out of the bullpen, Stilson appears to be another power arm who is almost ready for big league duty.  The only thing standing between Stilson and promotion to the Jays would appear to be the presence of Dustin McGowan, Neil Wagner (just demoted to make room for Melky Cabrera's return), Steve Delabar, and Casey Janssen.  Barring a trade involving some of this bullpen depth before the deadline, Stilson should be in competition for a major league job next spring.

10.  Santiago Nessy, c, Lansing
   Lauded for his game-calling skills, Nessy's season has been a mild disappointment so far.
Limited to only 33 games for the Lugnuts because of a concussion and a hamstring injury Nessy's bat is just starting to show some signs of waking up.  Nessy has hit .227/.308/.378 to this point. 
 Nessy was the subject of national attention earlier this month - for the wrong reason.  Standing on first with a Lugnuts runner ahead of him at second with two outs in the bottom of the 9th in a tie game against Great Lakes , Nessy joined the celebration when Chris Hawkins hit what appeared to be a walk-off single - Nessy neglected to touch 2nd, and the Loons threw to the bag to get the force.


  While Nessy has no doubt learned from the experience, it underscores the struggles both he and the Lugnuts have undergone this season, especially in the second half.  A.J. Jimenez, his recovery from Tommy John surgery apparently complete, has moved well ahead of Nessy on the Blue Jays catching depth chart.  The good news is that Nessy doesn't turn 21 until December, so there is plenty of time.  This season is more of a dip in the developmental roller coaster that most prospects experience.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Gulf Roast League - Baseball's Basement

   If a home run is hit in the Gulf Coast League, does anyone hear it ?
   The Arizona and Gulf Coast leagues are on the lowest rung of baseball's minor leagues.
Also known as the complex leagues, these loops house the youngest and newest prospects in most team's organizations.
   Originally called the Sarasota Rookie League, the GCL was founded in 1964 as an extension of teams' instructional camps, where their most raw recruits would receive the first lessons of their pro baseball education.  The league expanded across Florida to become the Gulf Coast League, but it's not always necessarily for rookies.  Some players repeat the level, and the occasional rehabbing major leaguer stops by for a few innings of work before they begin their climb back to the majors.  There are some limits, though: you can't play more than 3 years in the league if you are under 20 years old, and if you're over 20, you can't play for more than 2.
   Gulf Coast teams are populated mostly by high school and low college players taken in the annual Major League player draft, which takes place about 2 weeks before the GCL season starts.  Latin players who need some time to adjust to the language, food, and customs of the U.S. dominate many GCL rosters.
The Gulf Coast League is something of a paradox.  It's been called both baseball's toughest and least competitive league.
   Playing in the GCL is a grind.  Players report to the team complex at about 10 am, where they work on fundamentals and receive instruction, then play a game around noon.  In the full Florida sun.  In June, July, and August. All of the reports and blogs about the GCL I've read mention the intense heat.  Many players call it the Gulf Roast League as a result.
   In order not to compete and draw fans away from Florida State League teams, the GCL doesn't charge admission.  As a result, the few bodies in attendance tend to be scouts, girlfriends, and some parents from time to time. The players report really enjoying having parents showing up, even if the parents aren't their own.  It's just nice to have someone in the stands cheering for you.
   The players in the GCL are there to learn the game, and not to entertain or draw fans.  Even though there is a 60 game schedule and a brief playoff to determine a league champion, there is little pressure on managers in the league to win.  Development is the name of this game.
   The GCL plays day games mostly because they are played on the back fields of the teams' complexes, which usually don't have lights.  Players who have been promoted to higher leagues breathe a huge sigh of relief when they get to play night games in front of actual fans.
   There are a couple of blogs written by GCL players that give great insight into the day-to-day grind these young men go through as they chase their major league dreams (less than 10% of any GCL player will play even 1 MLB game). Brian Gump played college ball at UC Santa Barbara, and was drafted by the Phillies in 2009, and was released by them in 2011 without advancing past High A ball.
   His post about life in the GCL can be found here.  Todd Van Steesel is an Australian who pitched in the Twins and Phillies system before returning to pitch in his homeland.  His account of his time in the GCL was a great read.
    The Jays have had an entry in the GCL, based at their Dunedin complex, off and on since 1981. Players such as Alex Gonzalez, Kelvim Escobar, and Henderson Alvarez started their careers in the GCL.
  This year, the Jays' top prospects in the GCL include shortstop Franklin Barreto, and pitchers Tyler Gonzales, and Matt Smoral.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Tale of Three Prospects

Toronto Sun image
    Last year, the Jays had a well-known and highly regarded trio of young prized pitching prospects at Low Class A Lansing.  Righthanders Aaron Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard, and leftie Justin Nicolino "piggybacked" each other for the first half of the season, taking turns pitching in the same game.
   Last off-season, of course, the Jays opted to keep Sanchez, and dealt the other two in huge deals with New York and Miami, respectively,  in an attempt to bolster the big league club.
  On Sunday, both Sanchez and Syndergaard were in action, but on completely different stages.  Sanchez came into the 2nd inning of the Dunedin Jays' game at St Lucie in Florida State League play, while Syndergaard, recently promoted by the Mets to AA, started the Futures Game at Citi Field in New York as part of MLB's All-Star festivities.  Both threw an inning - Sanchez, in relief of the rehabbing Sergio Santos, gave up a home run before the rains came at the end of the inning, and forced a suspension of it til the next day.  Facing the top of the World team lineup, Synergaard threw an impressive scoreless inning, touching 96 mph with his fastball.
  The following day, Nicolino joined Syndergaard at Double A.  Nicolino was 5-2 with a 2.23 ERA for Jupiter of the FSL, while Syndergaard was 3-3 with a 3.11 ERA for St Lucie, and has won both of his AA starts with Binghamton. Sanchez, of course, is lagging behind the other two with his numbers so far, going 3-4 with a 3.34 ERA.  Sanchez missed almost a month when he was shut down in May because of shoulder tightness, and has pitched well in all but one of his starts since his return on June 21.
   While Syndergaard has progressed the most this season, there are still doubts about his secondary pitches.  His fastball, obviously, was too much for FSL hitters.  Nicolino has been lauded for his feel for pitching, but there are questions about projectability.
   So, if not for the shoulder issues, the Jays might likely have promoted Sanchez to AA as well. He has been on a strict pitch count since his return from the disabled list, but it's likely that that limit will be bumped up.
  Interestingly, from a pitcher abuse point perspective, Sanchez will not likely top his IP of 90 last year, while Syndergaard, who threw 102 innings last year has already thrown 83, and should reach at least 120.  Nicolino, meanwhile, threw 124 innings last season, and is up to 96 so far, meaning that he will likely top out at around 135 of so.
  Where do the 3 rank in terms of development, then ?  Obviously, to this point, you could make the case that it's Syndergaard, Nicolino, then Sanchez.  Truth be told, their respective numbers from last season would suggest the same.
  Taking the longer view, the Jays feel that Sanchez is still the premium prospect.  The other two may be ahead of his schedule, however.

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Night at the Nat

 A recent west coast road trip found us at Vancouver's venerable Nat Bailey stadium, to watch the hometown defending Northwest League champs take on last year's runner-up Boise Silverhawks on a beautiful early July evening.
   The Blue Jays and Vancouver first reached a player development agreement in 2011, and the results have been nothing short of spectacular.  The Canadians also won the NWL title that first year, and with a mix of recent college draftees and players from extended spring training on this year's roster, are competitive again this year, just two games out of first at game time.
   Vancouver has a lengthy minor league history, dating back almost a hundred years.  The city hosted a Triple A team in the Pacific Coast league for most of the last half of the previous century.  When the franchise relocated to Sacramento after the 2000 season, the NWL relocated its Southern Oregon team to the lower mainland.  The Canadians were affiliated with the A's from 2001 to 2010.  Locally owned since 2007, the Canadians have drawn significantly better as a Jays affiliate, attracting over 162 000 games in their first season.  After 14 home dates this season, they're averaging just over 4 600 fans per game, trailing only Spokane. The C's are very popular in Vancouver - many people we encountered during our stay were thrilled to hear we were taking in a game, and most indicated that they had either recently attended a game, or were about to in the near future. With a PDC in effect until the end of the 2016 season, it's hard to see the Jays giving up on this market, where their farmhands can play in an enthusiastic environment.  It helps to further grow the brand, too.
   The Canadians make their home at Nat Bailey, nestled up against green space in a central Vancouver neighbourhood.  The Nat was originally named Capilano Stadium, and was built in 1951.  It was renamed in 1978 to honour a local restaurateur who had been pivotal in bringing minor league ball back to the city.
The new ownership invested heavily in renovations upon taking over the club.  The stadium now hosts the Canadians and the UBC Thunderbirds, and seats over 5 000, with a kids play area down the left field line, and other family-friendly amenities that are in vogue in milb parks today.  There are a few obstructed views because of several pillars which support the grandstand - we were behind one with our grandstand seats.  We didn't know the seats were obstructed when we purchased them online, and while we were able to shift down a bit after the 2nd inning in order to get a clearer view of home plate, the club should indicate the view for purchasers, or discount the seats.  The Nathan's famous hot dogs and selection of local craft beer helped make up for having to peer around the pillar.
   The evening's game featured a pair of celebrities.  One was former Expo and Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Tim Raines.  Raines, who was known as the Rock, is more like a boulder now.  He was in town in his role as a roving Jays minor league baserunning and outfielder coach, working with the young Canadians on the finer points of the game.  Raines patiently sat under the grandstand, signing memorabilia from mostly middle-aged men until the 7th inning.
   Another famous name was that of Gretzky.  Not Wayne, in this case, although he was in town for a game a few days later, but rather his son Trevor, who was chosen by the Cubs in the 7th round of the 2011 draft.
The younger Gretzky reminded spectators that this was Class A (short season) ball by taking a bad route on Chaz Frank's leadoff double in the home half of the first, then robbing LB Dantzler of another double by making a sliding grab along the left field line two batters later.  Frank repaid Gretzky the favour by getting caught stealing at third, breaking a baseball cardinal rule of not making the third out at third base (taking the bat out of NWL player of the week Jordan Leyland's hands).
   Starting for Boise was Edmonton native Rob Zastryzny, the Cubs' 2nd round pick last month.  Zastryzny, who grew up in Texas, was making his pro debut, and was limited to only that first inning of work.  His successor, James Pugliese, was touched up for four runs by the Canadians in the third, not helping his own cause by booting a routine double play ball.  Frank again showed his aggressiveness on the base paths, scoring from third on a ball in the dirt that Boise catcher Cael Brockmeyer couldn't control.  The ball bounced only a few feet from home, but Pugliese couldn't handle the toss from Brockmeyer, and Frank slid across with the third run of the inning.
   Starting on the mound for the Canadians was Matt Dermody, a 6'5" beanpole with the build that the Jays are so fond of.  Dermody was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 28th round of the June draft out of the University of Iowa.  The lefthander had been drafted previously by the Pirates, Rockies, and Diamondbacks. Dermody was making his first start as a pro, after a pair of long relief outings for the Canadians.  Dermody was clocked around 89-90 with his fastball, reaching 92 in the 3rd.  His offspeed stuff was coming in around 76-77, and he was successful in keeping the Silverhawks' hitters off balance as a result.  Dermody was really only in trouble during 3rd inning, when he gave up a one-out single to Brockmeyer, followed by a double to the left field wall by Gretzky.  Brockmeyer showed again his inexperience at the pro level when he attempted to score from third on a groundball to 3rd base by leadoff hitter David Bote.  Canadians 3rd baseman Andy Fermin easily threw Brockmeyer out at home. Second baseman David Harris made a nice play to end the inning, quickly stepping in front of Bote to field a slow roller and throw out the batter at first.
   Dermody pitched 5 scoreless innings, giving up only those two hits.  The Silverhawks' Pugliese was followed by a pair of relievers, who kept the Canadians off the scoreboard for the rest of the game.  Lefthander Scott Silverstein relieved Dermody in the 6th, and may have been the most impressive pitcher of the night.  Silverstein was the Jays' 25th round pick last month out of Virginia.  Silverstein had previously made one start with Bluefield of the Appy League prior to his promotion to Vancouver. With his fastball mostly around 92, Silverstein pounded the strike zone down low, and retired the first six hitters he faced.  In the 8th, he got into a bit of a jam, allowing a pair of singles around a strikeout. Bote hit a one-hopper right back to Silverstein, who promptly wheeled and threw to shortstop Dickie Thon Jr who was covering 2nd.  Thon's relay to first wasn't in time to nail Bote, but for some reason, Boise shortstop Danny Lockhart, who was on 2nd when the ball was hit, didn't move on the play, even though he was forced.  By the time he realized his error and bolted for 3rd, Canadians first baseman Dantzler had thrown to Fermin to nip him for the thrid out.  Silverstein blanked Boise in the 9th to preserve the shutout and the win.
    The Canadians in-game entertainment staff do a great job.  On the video scoreboard, there's a good balance between information and entertainment.  The grounds crew has quite a YouTube following - they put together a nice little choreographed routine to Michael Jackson's Beat It when they had completed their 3rd inning raking of the infield.  Here's a sample of their work:

All in all, it was a good night at the ball park.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Time for Stroman?

 New Hampshire Fisher Cats righthander Marcus Stroman had filthy stuff in his Eastern League start against New Britain last night, but was the recipient of a lack of support, taking the loss as the Fisher Cats dropped a 3-1 decision.
  Pitching into the 7th, Stroman reached his pitch count with two outs in the frame.  Stroman struck out a career-high 13 batters, giving up 6 hits, 3 runs, and 1 walk. He struck out the last 5 hitters he faced.  Over his last 6 starts, Stroman has a 1.91 ERA, and has K'd 37 in 32.2 innings.  EL batters are hitting .182 against him over that span.
  With Chen Ming Wang DFA'd after his latest outing,  the Jays reached into the minors to recall pitcher Todd Redmond from Buffalo.  This could create an opening at AAA for Stroman.  Given Sean Nolin's struggles in his major league debut, the Jays may be hesitant to call Stroman up just yet.
If Redmond falters, however, it could be time for Stroman.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Bashing in Bluefield

 It's still very early, but the Bluefield Blue Jays have been mashing Appalachian League pitching so far.
The Jays improved their East Division lead with a 6-3 win over Danville last night.
Bluefield leads the Appy :League in batting with a .282 average. They're tied for the league in doubles, and lead in triples, home runs, and runs. They also lead in slugging and on base percentage.  Bluefield has an .839 OPS in this young rookie level season.
   Individually, Mitch Nay and DJ Davis have been on fire in leading the Bluefield attack.  Nay, a sandwich pick in last year's draft, had his pro debut delayed until this year because of injury, and the former Arizona Gatorade HS player of the year is quickly making up for lost time.  Hitting cleanup in the Jays' lineup, Nay is off to a .351/.442/.486 start, and is tied for the club lead with Davis for RBI with 9.  Davis, the Jays' first choice in the 2012 draft, is hitting .302/.362/.512, with 4 triples.  Davis, of course, is repeating at Bluefield this year, but if he keeps up this kind of production, he won't be there for long.
   Catcher John Silviano has played in only 4 games thus far, but has hit a pair of home runs, including one that landed in the front yard of a house across from the Pulaski ball park.
   The pitching, for its part, has not kept pace with the team's hitting. A pair of Canadians have fared well on the Bluefield staff thus far, though.  Tom Robson, of Ladner, BC, has surrendered no runs and only 1 hit in 8 IP, while Shane Dawson of Drayton Valley, AB, has struck out 13 Appy hitters in 12 innings, and has a 0.58 WHIP.  With pitchers like Chase DeJong, Alberto Tirado, Adonys Cardona, and Zac Wasilewski on staff, it's only a matter of time before the team ERA begins to drop.
   For an organization that has been known more for drafting and developing power arms in the past few years, it's nice to see some raking going on.