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.

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