Time for another edition of our Monday Notebook.
It's hard to keep track of the number of words we've written about Aaron Sanchez, but suffice to say that if we were paid for them, we likely would be able to watch him from the comfort of our own private box at the dome.
The young righthander made his major league debut in a high leverage situation against the Orioles, and after a shaky first inning out of the bullpen (three up, three down, just the same), he settled in for his second inning, striking out a pair on called third strikes. Manager John Gibbons showed his trust in Sanchez when he brought him in in the 7th inning of another pressure cooker of a game against the Yankees. Staked to a one run lead in his second inning of work, Sanchez gave up a two-out base hit to Carlos Beltran, allowing Brett Gardner to score from second. Dioner Navarro brought in Jose Bautista for the game-winning run in the top of the 9th, and Casey Janssen came on to preserve Sanchez' first MLB win.
We've been hearing some concerns about how Sanchez hasn't missed many bats in his 4 innings of major league work. According to Brooks Baseball, he has generated only one swing and miss in the 52 pitches he has thrown as a big leaguer, but he has generated plenty of weak contact, and has given up no fly balls off of his four-seam fastball, which has topped 97 on the gun. We're more than satisfied with that. The beleaguered likely is, too.
We see that Sanchez has been supplanted as the Blue Jays top prospect on MLBPipeline.com by Daniel Norris on their recent ranking of each organization's prospects. Actually, it's an interesting list (and looks a lot different from the pre-season one), with two pitchers coming off Tommy John surgery (Roberto Osuna and Jeff Hoffman), and Hoffman's draft-mate Max Pentecost making the Top 10.
We can argue the merits of Norris and Sanchez all day long, but we'll stick with the latter as our top prospect for the time being. Norris has certainly come into his own over the past 14 months, but without the scrutiny Sanchez has, and without the organization constantly tinkering with his mechanics and release point. And Norris has shown that now that he's facing hitters with a plan at AA, he needs to make adjustments to his own plan as well, because he's given up some hard contact, and has struggled a bit with his command. Don't get us wrong -we see these two at the top of the Blue Jays rotation by about 2016 (along with Marcus Stroman), but he still see Sanchez as having the higher upside.
That Dalton Pompey has emerged as the #3 prospect behind these two is no surprise. The toolsy outfielder had a rough introduction to AA, but he has figured things out, hitting .450/.488/.600 over his last 10 games with New Hampshire. Hoffman comes in at #4, followed by Osuna and Pentecost. Following at #7/#8/#9 are Mitch Nay, Franklin Barreto, and DJ Davis. We're mildly surprised by Davis' inclusion in the top 10, as he has struggled for much of the year at Low A ball. Rounding out the top 10 is another 2014 draftee, RHP Sean Reid-Foley. That 3 June draftees rank in the top 10 speaks both to the struggles some of the experienced prospects (Jairo Labourt, Alberto Tirado, and Chase De Jong) have had, and to the excellent draft the Blue Jays had, coming away with three top 20 pre-draft talents.
As August rolls around, we start to think of who might merit a promotion to the next level. The Blue Jays have been less conservative with their top prospects this year. With that in mind, we think the playoff-bound Dunedin Blue Jays could benefit from the bats of one or more of Nay, Dawel Lugo, or Matt Dean. The first two were promoted from Bluefield to Vancouver last last August to help the C's with their playoff run, while Dean, the Appy League's batting champ last year, has been Lansing's most consistent hitter this year, posting a line of .296/.344/.466. We could see Pentecost skip a level to join Dunedin, as well, possibly with Barreto, although we can also see one or both staying with Vancouver if they are in a playoff hunt. If such has the case, we could also predict that one or more of Bluefield's pitching staff could move up, including Joey Aquino, Evan Smith, or Ryan Borucki. If Barreto was promoted, Richard Urena of the Bluefield Jays would be in line to take his place. Andy Burns has not had the season many had hoped he would have, but has hit .290/.342/.500 since the 1st of June, and may be ready for AAA. We don't think Norris is line for a promotion at this point, and his innings need to be closely watched - he's a likely candidate for the Arizona Fall League. Kyle Drabek, who has been used in relief by Buffalo for about a month, may see a September call-up to help the big club.
One last Roberto Osuna update: his one and only appearance this year on July 8th in the GCL, where he pitched a scoreless 1-2-3 inning, less than a year after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Many Jays fans on Twitter have been expressing some concern over his absence from games since that time. According to Gregor Chisholm, who covers the Jays for MLB.com, he is pitching in simulated games at the Jays Florida complex for now, and that the GCL outing was a one-time thing. He is not expected to pitch again in game action until next spring. So, we shouldn't expect to see him make an appearance at Lansing or the AFL, presumably.