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.



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