Lots of things going on in the Blue Jays system right now.
On the heels of several promotions/demotions last week, both short season Vancouver, and rookie level Bluefield and the GCL Blue Jays have opened their schedules.
It may be a small sample size, but there's a lot to like about Vancouver's Franklin Barreto. The 18 year old has been exactly as advertised for the C's, going 4-4 with a walk in the season opener, and is hitting .415/.467/.537 through their first 10 games. We've all heard that his eventual position will be somewhere other than short, but intrepid NWL blogger Charlie Caskey reports first hand that Barreto has shown plenty of range and arm strength. With Dawel Lugo ahead of him at Lansing, and Emilio Guerrero ahead of Lugo at Dunedin, there's a possibility that Barreto spends the whole summer in the Pacific Northwest (unless a position change was in the works, which we don't see happening). Having just turned 18 at the end of February, there's no need to rush him, but he may turn into a special one. He promises to be an impact bat wherever he winds up.
19 year-old Dominican Miguel Castro has also lived up to the hype in the early going of the Canadians' season. According to Caskey, who charted his recent home start, Castro hit 98 on the stadium gun, and sat mostly at 95. He threw 69 pitches in the start, 48 of them for strikes. Castro generated some buzz last year, but because he hasn't pitched a great deal stateside, scouts were a little hesitant to rave about him. If he keeps that up, that will change. Quickly.
Frankie Viola takes to the mound again tonight for Lansing. The knuckleballer was scored upon for the first time in his last start. In his previous start, he picked up his first milb win since 2005. There's a great background story from MLB.com that you can read here. If he's successful in his next start or two, we can't see the organization keeping him in Low A. Judging from his stats, he doesn't appear to be missing a huge amount of bats, but that's being judged by his strikeout totals alone. The hitter spray chart below suggests some weak contact:
Viola's rotation-mate Chase DeJong, like much of the young Lansing staff, has had his struggles. DeJong appears on the verge of turning things around. The 2012 2nd rounder went a season-high six innings, striking out eight, allowing no walks, and only one run on 4 hits in a Saturday start. Lansing broadcaster Jesse Goldberg-Strassler tweeted that a scout told him that DeJong is poised for a second-half breakout.
Last Wednesday marked the AA debut of lefthander Daniel Norris, who gave up a pair of home runs (at least one of which was possibly wind-aided), and struck out 9 before leaving with two out in the sixth. Norris' performance was overshadowed by a bench-clearing brawl in the 7th. Norris had thrown at Altoona's Stetson Allie, who had homered off of Norris eariler in the game. Altoona responded by hitting the Fisher Cats' Andy Burns, and then Jarek Cunningham of the Curve charged the mound after New Hampshire's Arik Sikula threw at him in the 7th. Fisher Cats Manager Bobby Meacham and 8 of his players were ejected after the altercation.
It wasn't the greatest opening weekend for the Bluefield Blue Jays, who dropped 3 of their first 4 games, and are hitting .163/.218/.171. Anthony Alford and Rowdy Tellez have been about the only bright lights on the offensive side of the ledger. Matt Smoral makes his Appy League debut tonight. The tall lefthander has impressed in extended spring training, and we're interested to see what this season brings.
The GCL Blue Jays also began play on the back fields of the Jays Dunedin complex. There are some interesting names on the roster, including 17 year old short stop Yeltsin Gudino, fourth round pick catcher Matt Morgan, and 2nd round pick Sean Reid-Foley.
It's all quiet on the top draft pick signing front, with both first rounders Jeff Hoffman and Max Pentecost still not having come to terms with the club. Hoffman and White Sox pick Carlos Rodon are now the only unsigned members of the top 10. Before we get into panic mode, there are still almost three weeks left before the signing deadline. Jim Callis of MLB.com tweeted that he thinks both will sign, but it will take some time. The slot value for Hoffman is $3.08 million, and $2.89 million for Pentecost.