Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tuesday Notebook

   A number of observations from a weekend of Blue Jays minor league play:

Daniel Norris threw yet another gem for High A Dunedin on Friday night.  Matched up against Tyler Glasnow, the Pirates 5th-ranked prospect, Norris matched Glasnow pitch for pitch.  Norris didn't give up his first hit until the 5th inning, when according to Chris King of Baseball Prospectus, he began getting his pitches up in the zone.  Norris was stretched out in this start, pitching into the 7th inning for the first time this year, hitting 93 with his fastball on his last pitch to record a strikeout for the second out of the inning.  For his 6 2/3 innings, Norris gave up a run on 4 hits, striking out 6 and walking one.  Norris' ERA for 40 innings on the year is .090, and Florida State League hitters are managing only a .204 average against him.  He threw 88 pitches on the night, 25 more than his previous season high.  With the bump in pitches, it's looking more and more like the Blue Jays are prepping Norris for a mid-season promotion to AA.

Aaron Sanchez again dazzled with his plus fastball for New Hampshire on Sunday, but had more command issues, walking 4 batters for the third time in his last four starts.  He only surrendered 1 run in 5 innings, giving up 2 hits while striking out 6.  We're not going to obsess  over every one of his starts, but Sanchez is having trouble going deeper into games because of his elevated pitch counts.
   Chris Mellen of BP had the chance to watch Sanchez earlier this month, and filed this report:

Three-quarters arm slot; loose, efficient delivery; doesn’t strain to create velocity; fast arm; soft landing; tends to stay high during finish of delivery; inconsistent throwing downhill; quick out of the stretch; short stride–not much lower body; 1.32-1.43 out of stretch; kept focus with men on base; held velocity deep into outing; doesn’t wear himself out
   In that outing, Mellen noted Sanchez had average fastball command, with considerable arm-side run, plus command on his curve, and below average command of his change.  He noted, as have many others, that Sanchez' fastball seems to explode out of his hand, and can be next to impossible to square up when he keeps it low in the strike zone.
   Jeff Moore of BP watched his most recent start, and observed, " With most pitching prospects, we’d be drooling over Sanchez’s ability to miss bats, but because the overall package is so enticing, we’re disappointed in his inability to go out and dominate, thanks to below-average fastball command."
   Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopolous apparently hinted in a radio interview that Sanchez might be called up this year; unless he can start to demonstrate control more consistently, we can't see it.
   Keeping things in perspective, Sanchez has a 2.98 ERA despite all those baserunners. There's still plenty of upside.

Draft Update:
    John Sickels of Minor League Ball suggests that the Jays might take Florida HS RHP Touki Toussaint with the 9th pick in the first round, then injured ECU RHP Jeff Hoffman with the 11th pick.
    And this doesn't sound all that far fetched.
   Toussaint is one of those high risk/high reward prospects the Jays covet.  His FB sits between 92 and 95, but there are concerns about his delivery, both from a command and injury perspective.  The Haitian has only been playing baseball for four or five years, so there is time for a club to alter his mechanics.  We've seen Toussaint listed anywhere from about 8th to the start of the 2nd round.
   Hoffman was starting to gather some helium until he was diagnosed with a torn UCL in early May.  He was almost unanimously a top five pick prior to the injury, and with the Jays willing to take the risk (see below), this pick would make sense, as it might lead to some bonus savings that the club could use in later rounds.

Clinton Hollon
   The Kentucky righthander, drafted by the Jays in the 2nd round of last year's draft, announced on Twitter that he was going to have to undergo Tommy John surgery for a torn UCL, making him about the 27 000th young hurler this season to have the procedure.
   Even though he pitched well in rookie ball last year, this news doesn't come as a surprise.  Hollon's stock slipped throughout his senior year of High School due to concerns about his delivery and a possible sore elbow.  The Blue Jays, who love a good roll of the dice as much as anyone, may well have known about this, but took him at a reduced price anyway, likely using the savings to entice lower picks to sign.  That the club took Arizona prep pitcher Patrick Murphy even though he missed his senior year with TJ surgery right after Hollon would seem to lend some credence to that possibility.
   See you next June, Clinton.

   And our report would not be complete without a Marcus Stroman update.  The righthander was sent back to Buffalo, likely for a variety of reasons.  The major league starting rotation seems to have righted itself, and with some off-days interspersed throughout the next few weeks of the schedule, the need for a 5th starter became less immediate.  Dustin McGowan was moved back to the pen, causing someone to be bumped, and Stroman, with his 12.79 ERA, was the guy. Stroman caught too much of the strike zone in his bullpen outings, and missed few bats.  As we wrote this, he was moving along fairly well in his first start back in Buffalo, until he started leaving the ball up, and gave up a three run homer in the 4th.  It may have been a very bumpy MLB debut, but Stroman will be back.  
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