Friday, August 30, 2013

Hitting the Sweet Spot

MLB Propsect Portal Image

There are days in the life of a prospect blogger where everything comes together in a sweet harmony of events.  Yesterday was one of those days.
   It started and ended in Florida, where 1B/DH/Rising Legend Rowdy Tellez put a cherry on top of of his late-blooming sundae of a  GCL season by hitting a grand slam to the opposite field, and followed that up a few innings later by a laser beam triple.  Tellez drove in 5 runs, and raised his final line to .234/.319/.371 - not overwhelming numbers, but with the adjustments the Jays made to his swing, it took a few weeks for Tellez to get comfortable.  Over his last 10 games, Tellez went .308/.386/.615.  He likely will get an invite to Instructs in a few weeks, and we look forward to him picking up where he left off next season.
 Tellez is the ultimate high-risk, high-reward player that the Jays covet. Baseball America had him as the June draft's 59th-ranked prospect, but he lasted until the 3rd day of the draft, mainly because of bonus issues, and his Southern Cal commitment.  The Blue Jays, utilizing the same strategy of drafting college seniors in the middle rounds for minimal bonuses, used the savings to meet Tellez' price tag after taking him in the 30th round.
MLB had this to say about him prior to the draft:
  “Big, strong, left-handed-hitting first baseman don't come through the Draft all that often these days. Tellez fits that mold, and his ability to do damage with the bat was generating some buzz this spring.”
 Tellez will only play first and/or DH if he makes the majors.  His bat was slow to wake up this summer, but he has huge upside.

  Aaron Sanchez capped the evening off a few miles away, throwing 7 shutout innings as the play-off bound D-Jays defeated Clearwater.  It's been something of an up and down season for Sanchez - periods of dominance were interrupted by shoulder tightness, then a blister problem, and then rain wreaking havoc on the Florida State League schedule.  Sanchez went 9 days before his next-to-last start, and lasted only 2 2/3 innings.  This start, however, was a gem, and put an exclamation mark on a week which saw Sanchez named to the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League roster.  Sanchez had his longest outing of the year, and surrendered no runs, only 4 hits and a walk, while striking out 4.
 We've talked so much about Sanchez in comparison to former teammates Noah Syndergaard and Justin Nicolino that it seems like his season has been a disappointment, but his numbers have been respectable, and he's had those setbacks.  This start likely restores his Top Prospect in the system ranking.
  In between these two Florida tilts, a pair of Jays prospects in the North made news.  Buffalo leftie Sean Nolin carried a no-hitter into the 5th inning, and wound up hitting his pitch count with two outs in the 6th, having given up only one hit.  Nolin, too, is headed to the AFL, and this outing also put a cap on a great season. Nolin was 9-4, 2.77 at two levels, striking out 116 in 110 innings.
   Finally, Lansing CF and Mississauga native Dalton Pompey went 1-3 against Lake County to top off an amazing stretch of sizzling offense.  Pompey appeared overmatched by Low A pitching at times this year, but put hit .389/.532/.722 over the last week and a half, hitting 3 of his 5 home runs of the season in 2 of the last 3 games. During this hot stretch, Pompey at one point scored a run after getting on base 9 consecutive times. Pompey's line for the season of .260/.357/.389, along with 37 stolen bases, does not put him in elite prospect territory, but his finish has most definitely boosted his stock.  Pompey's teammate Daniel Norris, one of our favourite prospects, received word that he was being promoted to the FSL, to help bolster the D-Jays' playoff roster earlier in the day.
   All in all, a very bright day across the Blue Jays system.

Postscript:   Tellez and Pompey were included "in the team photo" of Baseball America's weekly   
                  Prospect Hot Sheet today.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

7 Jays' Farmhands Off to Arizona

   The Arizona Fall League announced its rosters yesterday.  A total of 7 Jays prospects will be travelling to the Southwest at the end of September to suit up for the Salt River Rafters.
   The AFL calls itself  "grad school" for MLB prospects.  In truth, it serves as both a challenge to prospects who haven't made the majors yet, and an opportunity for their MLB clubs to see exactly what they have in their players, and how they stack up against tough competition. Most of the players who attend played at AA or AAA that season. Teams hold a draft in August to determine how many players can be placed on an AFL roster.  Play begins in early October, and ends in mid-November.
   In the past, clubs would send these top prospects off to various Caribbean winter leagues for further seasoning.  It became increasingly difficult to monitor the progress of their players however, and MLB decided to start the AFL in 1992.  Clubs play in the spring training sites used by the Giants, Mariners, Padres, Cubs, A's, Royals, Rangers, Diamondbacks, and Rockies, meaning that the players are housed in top-notch facilities.  Most of the sites are within a short distance of each other in the Phoenix area.
   This year, the Jays will be sending pitchers Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, Sean Nolin, and Tyler Ybarra, along with catcher A.J. Jimenez, infielder Andy Burns, and outfielder Kenny Wilson.  Here's a brief snapshot of the rationale for sending each:

Aaron Sanchez
   It hasn't been bad, but things haven't gone for the righthander, the Jays' 1st pick in 2010, the way he or the club would've liked this season in High A.  Former fellow prospects Noah Syndergaard and Justin Nicolino were promoted to AA and seem to have passed Sanchez, who had to struggle through a combination of missed time due to shoulder tightness, a blister issue, and multiple rainouts over the course of the Florida State League season.  Still, he was able to post a 3-5, 3.63 ERA in 79 innings, striking out 71, and allowing opposing batters to hit only .202 against him.  Playing in the AFL will both give Sanchez a chance to work a few more innings this season, as well as play against top-notch competition.

Marcus Stroman
   The calls have been many for the promotion of Stroman from AA, where he has had a mostly dominant season.  Stroman's season didn't get underway until late May as he sat out the remainder of his PED suspension from 2012.
  There has been quite a bit of debate about Stroman's merits, and his eventual role on a big league staff.  Some point to his lack of a downward plane on his pitches and the number of home runs he's given up that his future lies more as a late-inning power arm out of the bullpen.  Others point out that his 118  K's in 103 innings as evidence that he can get big league hitters out in a starting role. On the season for AA New Hampshire, he is 8-5, with a 3.47 ERA.
   That Stroman didn't get a late-August call up may be more due to concerns about his innings, and to keep him off the 40-man roster in case they need to use options on him.  The fact that he was hit fairly hard in 2 of his last 4 outings might be evidence of a tired arm.  If  such was the case, the Jays are more than justified in shutting him down for a month, then sending him to the AFL for a challenge. Regardless, Stroman has missed a lot of bats this year, and seeing him with the Jays is just a matter of time.
Sean Nolin
   Nolin was summoned for a start in the bigs by the end of May - and was shelled, lasting just an inning and a third.
  Nolin has pretty much demonstrated that he had nothing left to prove at AA, where he posted an 8-3, 3.01 ERA, 1.23 WHIP record, and was promoted to AAA Buffalo late in August to help with their push for a playoff birth.
  With the major league starting rotation a toss up behind R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle, competition for a starting spot will be wide open.  The Jays want to see what they have with Nolin, and sending him to the AFL is probably a smart way to do it.  

Tyler Ybarra
   Ybarra is a bit of a surprise, but he's a lefthanded power arm that the Jays are very high on.
Since missing all of 2010 due to some family issues, Ybarra has been dominant in 3 stops since then on the development ladder.  This year at High A Dunedin, Ybarra is 2-3 with a 1.86 ERA.  FSL hitters are hitting just .148 against him - he's given up only 27 hits in 53 innings, while striking out 63.  Clearly, High A hitters are having trouble squaring Ybarra up.  At 23, he's almost too old for this level, and could likely use the challenge of the AFL..

A.J. Jimenez
   With the offensive and defensive struggles of J.P. Arencibia with the big club this season, there have been calls for Jimenez' promotion as well.
  Jimenez' season didn't start until May, as he was recovering from Tommy John surgery.  The Jays started him off in Dunedin, then promoted him in June to AA, and was recently promoted again to AAA Buffalo.
Jimenez cooled off with the bat after a hot start, but still put up respectable numbers (.287/.332/.406).  His defense, throwing arm, and game-calling skills are not in question, but his bat definitely is.  Keith Law projects him as no more than a big league backup.
   The AFL will give the Jays an opportunity to see how Jimenez fares against the tougher pitching.

Andy Burns
   Outside of Kevin Pillar (who benefited greatly from his AFL experience last year), few position players made as much progress as Burns did this season.
  After a relatively pedestrian season with the bat at Low A Lansing a year ago, Burns burst out of the gate with Dunedin this year, and was hitting .327/.383.524 before a promotion to AA in June.  With New Hampshire, Burns struggled with the stronger pitching at first, but has bumped his line up to .244/.300/.473 (.274/.324/.475 in August).  
 Burns played 55 games at shortstop with Lansing last year, but has spent the majority of his time at third base in his two stops last year.  He has drawn raves for his defence.
  Burns transferred from Kentucky to Arizona his senior year, and had to sit out as a result.  One can't help but wonder if that missed year stalled his development somewhat, and might explain his struggles at Lansing.
The Jays are looking to accelerate that progress by sending him to the AFL.  He may struggle at first.
  I asked Keith Law for his opinion about Burns earlier in the season:

Kenny Wilson
  Through the first four years of his pro career, the Jays' second round pick in 2008 hadn't progressed past A ball, and hadn't hit above .211.
  Wilson turned things around in 2012, however, and appeared to have made huge strides with his bat.  Wilson's speed has been his biggest asset - 177 stolen bases in 5 minor league seasons prior to this one.  Wilson spent the off-season playing in Australia, where he continued to hit, and picked up where he left off in spring training this year, where he opened a lot of eyes. He missed almost three months with a leg injury suffered in June, however, and only returned to the Fisher Cats a few weeks ago.  
  The Jays think that Wilson could benefit from the added playing time in the AFL.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

3 Bluefield Jays Named to Appy League Team

   The Bluefield Blue Jays, who sport an Appalachian League (Rookie Level) best 40-21 record, placed 3 players on the League's All-Star Team.
   Lefthanded pitcher Jairo Labourt was joined by 3rd Baseman Mitch Nay, and 1B/DH Matt Dean on the squad.
   Labourt has been something of a revelation this year.  After two modestly successful seasons in the DSL and GCL, he has been lights out on the mound this year, helping Bluefield pitching post the 2nd best ERA in the loop.  Labourt is 2-2, with a 1.72 ERA.  In 47 innings, he's struck out 49, and has a 0.96 WIP.  Appy batters are hitting .188 against him.
   Nay, a sandwich round pick in last year's draft, didn't make his pro debut until this year, after sitting out last summer with wrist and back ailments.  He has made up for lost time this year, with a line of .313/.376/.452.  His 13 errors at the hot corner are a bit of a concern. Nay has responded well to the challenge of playing every day, and is tied for the league lead in games played, and is in the top 10 in batting average and OPS.  Not a bad way to start your pro career.
   Dean was named the league's All-Star DH, but as Jays broadcaster Trey Wilson pointed out on this week's edition of "Around the Nest," he is second in the league in fielding percentage at 1st base.  Dean struggled at 3rd base and with the bat last year, but has shown a mastery of Appalachian League pitching in his second season in the league.  Currently second in the league in hitting, Dean is in the top 10 in OBA, Slugging, and OPS as well, hitting his way to a .326/..412/.495 line.  Over his last 10 games, Dean is hitting .412.
   The Jays have already clinched a playoff spot, and will face the Mariners in the semi-finals, which begin next Saturday.

Friday, August 23, 2013

John Farrell's Rear View Mirror

 Red Sox manager John Farrell's comments about the differences he perceives between his current club and his former club's scouting philosophies got a fair amount of attention in the Greater Toronto media.
   Farrell, speaking at a fundraiser for the Jimmy Fund (a hugely popular Boston-area charity) entitled Sabermetrics, Scouting, and the Science of Baseball, was a huge hit when he spoke at the event's wrap-up.  His popularity may have had more than a little to do with the Red Sox' surprising place in the standings, as much as it did for his replacement of reviled former skipper Bobby Valentine, who last year downplayed the importance of sabermetrics.  The ever-shrewed Farrell, of course, embraced them, according the website

 "Leading into a game on a given night, some of the pieces of information that you all provide or that is in this sabermetric world or the stats world, probably is rehearsed a little bit in advance of the start of the game," Farrell said. "The reason why it is — think about being in the dugout. You've got probably anywhere from 5-10 seconds to make a certain decision, or, I've got to give some lead time to a pinch-hitter an inning or two ahead of time. I can't be sitting there thumbing through a three-ring binder to come up with that."

   I guess that's a compliment.  "Hey, we use your stuff, but in digestible doses."
Farrell then went on to discuss the differences in scouting approaches between the Sox and the Jays:

   "We can have a seminar on this question -- not just because it's Toronto and Boston," Farrell said. "There are very distinct differences and it starts, I think it starts, at the top. And the reason I say that: I found Toronto to be a scouting-based organization, which to me is on one plane, one-dimensional. You're looking at tools. Here, it's a player-development-based system. It's the paths of the individuals that are running the organization. And that's not to be critical."

  If it's not to be critical, what is it?  Clearly, Farrell suggests that the Jays scout tools, while the Sox scout tools and make-up.
   Farrell, of course, has a strong player development background, so he likely knows of what he speaks.  At the same time, it's interesting that he could pick up on these differences in a relatively short (2 years in Toronto, with his heart, apparently, still in Boston) time span.  Yes, he's a wise baseball man, who has been in the game as a player, front office guy, and manager for 30 years.  It's hard to believe that he would have had a chance to thoroughly know inside and out the players GM Alex Anthopolous and the Jays' scouting department drafted in 2010 and 2011, many of whom are still in the lower levels of the minors, and be able to make meaningful comps with Sox prospects.
   Still, his claims are a little hard to quantify.  Granted, the Sox were ranked as having the 6th best farm system in the majors at the beginning of the year by Baseball America.  And scouting/prospect guru Keith Law has identified their system as one on the rise, with high-profile prospects such as the recently-recalled Xander Bogaerts, Anthony Ranaudo, and Garin Cecchini.  The Blue Jays, by comparison, were ranked 21st by BA - after emptying their farm system of top prospects Noah Syndergaard, Justin Nicolino, and Jake Marisnick.  Given the performance of the first two, the Jays likely would be ranked above the Sox if they were still Toronto property, and Farrell's comments might take on a different perspective.
   If one looks at the 40-man rosters of both teams, the Sox have 19 players that they have drafted and developed, while the Jays have 17 (with the note that several were acquired in trades, but have spent considerable time in the Toronto system).  If you look at homegrown everyday players the Sox have in their lineup, you see the likes of Clay Buchholz,  Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia, Bogaerts, and Jacoby Ellsbury.  The Jays feature JP Arencibia, Adam Lind, Brett Cecil, and Casey Janssen.  Certainly, the Sox have the Jays in terms of the quality, but not necessarily the quantity, of players they have developed.
  The difference in the won-lost records between the two may be more a product of Boston's ability to buy or take on contracts in trades to fill the missing pieces of their roster.  Certainly, a Pedroia and an Ellsbury help, but the Sox don't have as massive an edge in the homegrown player race over the Jays that Farrell's comments would suggest.
   Certainly, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington has time on his side over Jays GM Anthopolous.  Cherington has been in the Boston front office since 1999, and took over from Theo Epstein in 2011.  AA has been in the GM chair since the fall of 2009, and has had only 4 drafts to be evaluated on.  In fairness, he needs a couple more (if he gets them) before a fair comparison can be made.
  So on the surface, Farrell's comments, while a little hard to take given his history, are probably not that far from accurate, but with a lot of mitigating factors.  Maybe its a little bit of gloating, because it's hard to think Farrell would've made the same comments if the Jays and Red Sox spots in the standings were reversed.  Farrell is still basking in the glow of the post-Bobby Valentine honeymoon.
   And, if nothing else, it was bad form, even if he was in effect saying, "nothing personal," to speak critically of his former employer.  Apparently, even while he was wearing a Blue Jays uniform, Farrell still kept close tabs and ties with his former organization.
   It all just makes this bitter pill of a Jays season that much harder to swallow.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My Favourite Minor Leaguer

   Sometimes, your life can change in an instant - if you can recognize the signs.
In the case of Gord Dyment, it was a sign that someone else saw, but it changed his life just the same.

   Dyment was born in Toronto in 1931.  He grew up playing in the sandlots of the city, and gained a reputation as a hard-throwing righthander. A number of major league teams showed some interest in Dyment, and he signed with the Phillies, and headed off to Bradford, PA, to play in the PONY (now New York-Penn League - the O was for Ontario) in the late spring of 1950.
   Dyment pitched reasonably well in the then-Class D league, posting a 2-5 4.84 record, but the Phils let him go at the end of the season.
   The minors were at their absolute peak in terms of teams and leagues in those heady post-war years. Philadelphia had 12 affiliates, spread across 5 levels. And while Dyment's numbers were respectable, there was so much competition for roster spots at even the lowest levels of the minors, mediocre didn't cut it. There was someone else to take your job if you didn't measure up.  Minor leagues were less about development, and more about culling in those days.
   So Dyment prepared himself to start a life out of baseball, and took a job with Canadian Pacific as a railway policeman in the spring of 1951.
   At the same time, Jack Beauchamp was on vacation with his family in Florida.  The 19 year old lefthander from Midland, Ontario, was travelling in the family car in the Sunshine State when he noticed a sign advertising a New York Giants open tryout camp.  Beauchamp's father Herb, who played ball as youngster growing up in Michigan, had coached a number of hockey and baseball teams in the Midland area, and was on the executive of the Midland Indians, an entry in the Ontario Baseball Association Intermediate ranks since the 1920s. Jack begged his dad to take the next interchange in order to try out for the Giants.  The defending World Series champs, as it turned out, had their quota of recruits for the day.  Undeterred, Beauchamp Sr talked the Giants into giving his son a look.  Not only did they relent and let Jack show his stuff, they offered him a contract, and sent him off to their Class D team at Hickory, NC.  On top of that, not wanting to miss out on any sources of talent, the Giants made Herb a bird dog scout for all of Southern Ontario.

Jack Beauchamp

   So, while the younger Beauchamp was heading to North Carolina as spring training broke that year, Dyment was heading to his first assignment at Port McNicoll, a village just outside of Midland.  Dyment didn't even know that Midland had a ball team as he set out for the Southern Georgian Bay area, but Indians officials knew all about Dyment.
   Herb Beauchamp convinced Dyment to play for the Indians.  There was a lot of competition for his services, however.  In the Sudbury region, there was a highly competitive league sponsored by the mining companies, and the Copper Cliff team had offered the "amateur" Dyment considerable "expense" money to come north and pitch for them. The clincher for Midland was Beauchamp's New York connections.  As part of his offer to lure Dyment's services, he had a pair of Giants scouts come to Midland, and Dyment threw for them at the Town Park in 1954.  They offered him a contract on the spot, and Dyment was off to Olean of the PONY league for another shot at pro ball.  His job with the railway would be waiting for him when he came home, and so would a spot with the Indians.
  Dyment came under the tutelage of the legendary Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell during his stint with the Giants. Dyment rose as far as the Class B Carolina League before deciding to give up his major league dream in 1956.  He returned to Ontario, and pitched for Copper Cliff  for several seasons, before returning to Midland in 1958.
   He may have fallen short of the major leagues, but Dyment got a rare second shot at pro ball - all because Jack Beauchamp saw that sign on that fateful Florida day.
   Dyment's return to Midland helped to bring about a dynasty in Ontario Intermediate A Ball play for the Indians.  In the next 12 years, the Indians appeared in the provincial final 10 times, bringing home the title on six of those occasions.
   In the final game of the 1958 OBA championship against Simcoe, Dyment tossed a 10-inning, two-hit shutout, fanning 17. It was the first title for Midland in three decades.  The jubilant players piled into convertibles, and held an impromptu victory parade down the town's main street.

1958 Midland Indians' Impromptu Victory Parade

  Dyment continued to be a dominant pitcher for more than a decade.  In 1969, in his late 30s, he struck out 12 in the deciding OBA Finals game against Thorold, and knocked in both Midland runs in a 2-1 Indians victory.
   My memories of Dyment started at about this time. My family had moved to Midland in 1967, when my dad was hired by RCA to work in the accounting department of their new picture tube manufacturing facility on the eastern edge of town.
   In the late 60s, there was only one televised major league game per week.  When the Montreal Expos were born in 1969, there was an added Wednesday night game.  And that was it.  No sports networks, and little in the way of televised highlights.  The Indians home games on Thursday nights were a huge event in town.  Showing some great foresight, the town fathers of Midland had set aside a huge area of parkland in the centre of town.  The jewel of the park was Little Lake, which became a mecca for campers, boaters, and fishermen from the 20s to the 60s.  Little Lake Park was also home of the Midland Arena, Curling Club, and ball park, in the east end of the park, just off the main street.  Towering mature oaks and maples ringed the sports facilities, giving the ball park in particular a stadium-like feel.  There was a small, octagaonal-shaped concession stand behind home plate, and John Deakos, who ran a successful hamburger stand down near Little Lake, would lug his pails of home-cut fries to fry up during the games.  The aroma of the fries cooking was irresistible.  John charged 5 cents for packages of ketchup, so those of us who only had a quarter for a medium-sized box of fries would go without.  And the crisp, salty fries were good enough to stand on their own.
   As game time approached, a steady crowd of seniors set up their lawn chairs behind the home plate screen.  Younger fans filled the first base bleachers behind the Indians bench, while the third base stands were sparsely populated mostly by a handful of fans of the visiting team.  Some fans parked their cars just beyond the centrefield fence to watch. Tom Shields of CKMP, the low-wattage radio station in town, would set up his broadcasting equipment on a swing-up shelf attached to the screen directly behind home plate.
   So, by the time I started attending Indians games, Dyment was in his late 30s.  He had a sizable belly, but was still the Indians' ace.  A big (6'3") man, he cut an imposing figure on the mound, with long, frizzy sideburns poking out from under his cap.  By the third or fourth inning, he would be drenched in sweat.  When he threw his curveball, he was able to put so much spin on the ball that you could hear it all over the park. In those rare games when he got into some trouble, neither his catcher nor his manager would come out to visit him.  There wasn't much point - he knew what he was doing.
  We all knew that he had spent time in the Giants organization.  We didn't know many details about his minor league career, but it lent him an almost mythic status. Gord spent a fair amount of time helping out at the practices of the Midland minor baseball teams, including mine, and he mentored most of the young pitchers in the organization, like my older brother. When he told you how to grip the ball or swing the bat, you listened.
   By the 1970s, most of the core of the Indians dynasty from the 60s had retired, but Gord kept on pitching.  He was even loaned to cross-county rival Orillia Majors for the national championships in 1972, where Dyment threw a no-hitter at the age of 40. Gord hung on with the Indians as younger players (including my brother) filled the roster, but while they were competitive, the Indians were no longer a powerhouse.  He retired from the game in 1975, the year his son Bob, a hard-throwing righthander like his Dad, was signed by the Mets.  A fire at the Arena, which was directly behind the left field fence, spelled the end of the Indians in 1976.  The subsequent demolition of the old building and construction of the new one meant the field was unplayable, and truth be told, the team was having trouble attracting players.  Sadly, I was only about a year or two away from being old enough to patrol the outfield for the Indians, but never got the chance.  The field was reconfigured for fastball, which was gaining in popularity in the area, the following year, and renamed Herb Beuachamp Field, in honour of the man behind the Indians glory years.

Herb Beauchamp

   Jack Beauchamp played for the Indians himself after a couple of years in the Giants minor league system, then retired to focus on the family's TV and Radio business.  The Beauchamp family was a musical one, and Jack played in many jazz bands for almost a half a century.  A scholarship in his name and memory now helps to further the education of promising young musicians in the Midland area.
  When passenger rail service to Midland ended in the early 70s, Gord found employment with Ogilvie Flour Mills, which received prairie grain via lake freighter.  He retired in 1992, and continued to play in a seniors slow-pitch leagues.  Gord passed away from cancer in 2003.  With Herb Beauchamp field closed by the expansion of the Arena in 2004, the town redeveloped the baseball field on the east side of town, overlooking Georgian Bay, and renamed it Gord Dyment Field.

 Midland Sports Hall of Fame Images

Monday, August 19, 2013

Bringing Up Barreto

   The Blue Jays today promoted SS Frankilin Barreto from the Gulf Coast League to Bluefield of the Appalachian League. He has rocketed up the list of Blue Jays Top Prospects.
   Barreto was signed out of Venezuela for $2 million on July 2 of last year.  He was considered by many to be the top international player available last year, and had an impressive international resume before turing pro.  Baseball America's Ben Badler observed:

There are few amateurs who have ever had Barreto's extensive track record of dominance representing Venezuela during international competitions. Barreto has played in international tournaments since he was 10 in 2006. He was the MVP at the Pan American 12-and-under tournament in September 2008, then later that month led Venezuela to another title by winning the Criollitos de America title en route to being named the 2008 athlete of the year by the Corporacion Criolltos of Venezuela. He won another MVP in July 2010 at the 14-and-under Pan American championship, then last August starred at the 16-and-under World Championship, where he he .515/.568/.978 in 33 at-bats, tied for the tournament lead with three homers (including two against Team USA) and led the tournament with eight steals in eight tries.
    Just 17, Barreto began his pro career with the GCL Blue Jays this spring. In 194 at bats over 44 games, he hit .299/.368./.529.   There have been considerable concerns about his arm and footwork at Short Stop, and many feel that his future lies in centrefield.  His 19 errors in the GCL seem to back this concern up.  I asked Baseball Prospectus' Chris King, who has seen a lot of Barreto this summer, if he was ready for the promotion.


   It's easy to picture the dimunitive (5'9") Venezuelan traipsing behind the 6'1" Kentuckian throughout the airport.  And it appears that Barreto, who did spend some time in Florida for Instructs last fall, hasn't had time to pick up much of the language yet.
    According to Tim Brown of Yahoo, Barreto hails from Petare, a city near Caracas, which is among the poorest areas of the nation.  Barreto grew up in those conditions.  When Brown asked if his father played ball, Barreto responded:

  His father, Barreto said, had played baseball as a young man. He shrugged, implying his father had to stop there, for whatever reason, and that they’d both wished otherwise.

  Barreto has an open batting stance.  He has a foot in the bucket, not to the same extent as former Jay Tony Batista.  A stance like Barreto's would make him susceptible to being jammed with inside fastballs, but he appears to have quick enough hands to keep from getting tied up.
  In his brief time with Bluefield, he's hitting .357, and hit a walk-off single in a come-from-behind win.  
   We were a little surprised by Barreto's call-up.  He is the 2nd youngest player in the Appy League  (he wouldn't be eligible for the MLB draft until next June), and many organizations prefer to give their Latin prospects a full season in the GCL, in order to get acclimated to life in America.
  On the other hand, the Jays have shown that they like to elevate prospects at the lower levels late in the season, particularly if the team they're headed to is in a playoff position (Bluefield clinched yesterday).  King suggests that he's ready to handle the higher calibre of pitching, and maybe despite his youth, the Jays feel that he's ready for the challenge of playing and living in West Virginia for a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Blazing Hollon

  Kentucky HS righthander Clinton Hollon, the Blue Jays 2nd round choice (47th overall) has been lights out in the Gulf Coast League so far.
  Hollon pitched four scoreless innings yesterday, giving up only 1 hit, while striking out 3 and walking a pair.  In 12 innings over 4 appearances since he made his GCL debut on July 26th, Hollon has yet to give up a run, and has surrendered only a pair of hits.
  Hollon was something of a surprise pick at 47, although most pre-draft rankings had him solidly in the top 100.  Hollon signed for about 40% less that slot value.  Suggestions are that he has UCL issues.  Some scouts felt Hollon is a bit undersized (if you can call a 6'1" kid that) as well.
   Just the same, Hollon has been dominant in his brief time in the GCL, touching 95 with his fastball, and showing nasty bite on his slider.
  It's early in his career, but Hollon has been dominant thus far, and is quickly getting some attention.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

BA's Best Tools ! Oh, Well...

 Good news and bad news, Blue Jays prospects followers.
   Several Blue Jays draftees made the Best Tools list that Baseball America released today for all of the full-season minor league levels.  Problem is that only one of them is still a Blue Jay.
Righhander Noah Syndergaard, the prize prospect the Jays dealt in the R.A. Dickey deal, was named Best Pitching Prospect in the AA Eastern League and High A Florida State League.  Lefthander Justin Nicolino, who was part of the Jays trade with Miami, was tabbed as the prospect with the Best Control and Best Changeup in the FSL (Nicolino was recently promoted to AA).
   The sole Jays prospect on the list (outside of Buffalo OF Moises Sierra, who was ranked with the Best Outfield Arm in the AAA International League), was righthander Aaron Sanchez, who was ranked as owning the Best Breaking Pitch in the FSL.
   In fairness to Sanchez, he would have likely been competing with Syndergaard for Best Pitching Prospect honours, but shoulder issues in May, and a blister problem in July have derailed his season somewhat.
   What does this mean to the Blue Jays ?  Not much more than we already know - that Nicolino and Syndergaard were top prospects before they were dealt.  Their rapid development shouldn't come as a surprise.  It just smarts a little, considering the disappointing seasons the established major leaguers they were dealt for are having.
  We fully expect a better showing by Jays prospects when the short-season Best Tools lists are released in the fall.

Two Different Approaches to Twitter

  Rangers righthander Matt Garza, and Blue Jays minor league leftie Daniel Norris both demonstrate their social media awaremess through their Twitter accounts. While Garza perhaps let his emotions get the best of him in a recent exchange, Norris shows a philosophical and reflective side that's rare among athletes.

   Garza recently got into a sparring match with Eric Sogard's wife Kayce, after the A's 1st baseman laid down a safety squeeze against Garza. The Rangers pitcher had some words for Sogard, whereupon Mrs Sogard had a tweet in repsonse for Garza:

    Contrast this with some  typical Norris entries:

  To his credit, Garza did apologize for his outburst next day.  At the same time, Norris shows more maturity and restraint.
   As we've seen with the unfortunate JP Arencibia Twitter episode this summer, sometimes social media makes athletes and celebrities a little bit too accessible for some fans. And again, in fairness to Garza, he may be more of a target than a prospect playing low-A ball.  One would think a major leaguer would have thicker skin than that.
   Interesting, just the same.