Sunday, March 2, 2014

5 Overlooked Prospects and a Ricky Romero Update

     Ok, everyone.
Just to recap, here are our preseason Top 10 Blue Jays prospects:

1.  Aaron Sanchez
2. Marcus Stroman
3. Daniel Norris
4. Sean Nolin
5. Kevin Pillar
6. Roberto Osuna
7. D.J. Davis
8. Andy Burns
9. Frankie Barreto
10. Alberto Osuna

 We compiled a list of our 11th through 20th ranked prospects, but didn't feel that there was enough sample size to warrant separating and individually ranking them.  In no particular order, they are:

Chase DeJong
Jairo Labourt
Dawel Lugo
Mitch Nay
Rowdy Tellez
Tom Robson
L.B. Dantzler
A.J. Jimenez (he doesn't quite fit the above description, granted)
Kenny Wilson
Dalton Pompey

   Keeping in mind that progress is seldom measured in a straight line, and in the case of people in their late teens/early 20s even more so, here are 5 prospects that have flown under the radar for one reason or another, and it wouldn't surprise us if one or more of them made it onto one of the above lists by the end of the season.

1.  Adonys Cardona rhp
   One of the highest ranked international prospects of the 2010 crop, the Blue Jays signed Cardona for $2.8 million.  They haven't recouped much of that investment to this point.
   Just the same, Cardona is still highly regarded by the scouting community.  Baseball America ranked him as the 16th best prospect in the Appy League last year, despite an unsightly 1.90 WHIP in 25 innings.  The Blue Jays shut him down in August.
   Cardona throws hard (mid 90s on the fastball, when healthy - hit 99 in extended spring training), and throws a hammer 12-6 curve.  2013 marked the second straight year in which he had been shut down due to shoulder/elbow soreness. The Blue Jays have definitely taken their time with Cardona, who turned 20 this past January.  He will be kept behind in Florida for extended spring training, but it may just be a matter of time before he puts it all together - if he can stay healthy.

2.  Jacob Anderson, of
   Opinion was divided on Anderson during his 2011 draft year, but the Blue Jays took the Californian with the 35th pick overall, and gave him a $990K bonus to talk him out of his commitment to Pepperdine.
 Anderson tore up the GCL in his pro debut, but struggled at Bluefield in 2012.  A rib injury, which likely took place during that season, needed surgery to repair, and cost Anderson all of his 2013 season.
  Anderson is reportedly fully recovered from the surgery, and ready to start the season.  With not a lot of high ranking prospects playing ahead of him, Anderson may start the season in Lansing, and his development may accelerate with playing every day in full season ball.

3.  Richard Urena, ss
   With Barreto manning short for the GCL Jays until late in the season, Urena played in the Dominican Summer League.  When Barreto was promoted to Bluefield in late August, Urena took his spot in Florida, and made a huge impression.
   Signed for a $725K bonus in 2012, Urena just turned 18.  Unlike some of the higher profile shortstops in the organization, Urena is projected to actually stick at the position.  Ben Badler of BA tabbed Urena as a "breakout prospect" for 2014:

    Urena doesn't have flashy tools, but he has a high baseball IQ, a patient approach, and a line 
    drive stroke with occasional gap power......he should make a louder impression in the U.S. this
    year.

4.  Matt Smoral, lhp
   Smoral made our pre-season top 10 list a year ago, but took a minor step backwards in 2013, and in hindsight, it shouldn't be that much of a surprise.
   Considered one of the top prep southpaws heading in the spring of 2012, a foot injury and subsequent surgery delayed Smoral's debut until 2013 in the GCL, where he alternated near dominant outings with ones in which he could command neither side of the plate.  Tall lefthanders take time to develop, especially ones who missed a year of development.  There is still plenty to like about Smoral.  He could make a quantum leap this year.

5.  Miguel Castro, rhp
  With the plethora of pitching prospects the Jays have at the lower levels of the system, Castro is sometimes the forgotten man, but possibly not for much longer.
   Castro shot up the ranks of rookie ball last season, striking out 71 DSL batters in 53 innings, which earned him a promotion to the GCL.  Castro even threw three shutout innings in the playoffs for Bluefield.  Castro won't turn 20 until December.  It's interesting to see if the Blue Jays use the cautious approach with him after spring training this year, or challenge him.


                                ******************************************

   Since Lefthander Ricky Romero was removed from the 40 man roster last fall, we kind of have to start thinking of him as a minor leaguer for the time being, if not a prospect.
   As we detailed in an earlier post, Romero lost velocity on all of his pitches in 2012 and 2013, and the data suggests that either his change up had gained added movement, or hitters had learned to lay off of it, and his sub-par fastball caught too much of the plate in what must have been a miserable 2013 for the former ace.
   Romero made his first spring appearance this past Saturday, and while he emerged unscathed from his inning, the results weren't encouraging.  One positive note is that his velocity appeared to be up - the MASN feed had him at 91 on his FB, and there were suggestions on Twitter that the gun was slow.
  Romero walked the first hitter he faced on four pitches, and the next on five.  Most of his misses were low, but well off the strike zone.  Flirting with disaster, Romero induced the dangerous Chris Davis to pop up, and then retired Adam Jones and Nick Markakis on routine flyballs.
  Looking at the glass half full, Romero gave up no runs, showed increased velocity, and got out of a potential jam against three proven major league hitters.
   From a half empty perspective, Romero had trouble with his location, and was walking on a tightrope.  A guy trying to reclaim a spot not only on the big league club but even on the 40 man can't afford many more of those kind of outings.
  We can't blame Romero if he was nervous, so we're willing to give him a mulligan on this outing.  He's not a veteran who is working on things this spring, though.  He's in a very uphill battle to claim a spot on the big league club.

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