Sunday, August 3, 2014

Monday Notebook

   It's early, because we're going to be away from reliable wi-fi for a few days, so here's a look at what happened in the Blue Jays minor league system over the past week.

   It actually promised to be a quiet week.  Pitcher Ryan Borucki was promoted from Bluefield to Vancouver on Tuesday, and then all hell broke loose on Friday.  First, a check of our Twitter timeline revealed that Roberto Osuna was going to make a rehab start that night for the Dunedin Blue Jays. Moments later, we saw that Miguel Castro was elevated from Vancouver to Lansing, and then Kendall Graveman was promoted from New Hampshire to Buffalo, with Taylor Cole called up from Dunedin to take Graveman's place in the Fisher Cats' rotation.  Finally, Lansing sent righthander  Jeremy Gabryszwski to fill Cole's spot in the D-Jays rotation.  It seemed like this all took place within a matter of minutes.  After being very conservative with their young pitchers the past few years, the message seems to be different this year:  pitch well, and you will advance quickly.

   With a rehabbing Brett Lawrie in the lineup, Osuna took to the mound in Florida for the first time since pitching an inning in a GCL almost a month ago.  Osuna had a 1-2-3 first inning, sandwiching a ground out around a pair of swinging K's.  He gave up a single and a triple on his first two pitches in the second, then struck out two of the next three hitters.  Osuna lasted until he had reached his pitch limit with one out in the fourth.  He allowed 3 runs (all earned), on 4 hits, giving up a walk and striking out 6.  His 8.10 ERA for the game may seem unsightly, but Osuna showed a great deal in this outing, including a fastball which sat between 93-95, a curve at 81, and a changeup that constantly kept hitters off balance.  We look forward to his next start.  At 19, he's the youngest player in the FSL, and is the third youngest at High A.

   Graveman's promotion to Buffalo came as a surprise.  He has made a rapid rise through the system this year, starting at Lansing in April, and progressing up each level.  Most of his year has been spent at High A with Dunedin, where he has broken a lot of bats en route to an 8-4, 2.23 record.  Promoted to New Hampshire a little over a week ago, he made one start in AA before being sent to Buffalo.  In his first AAA start on Saturday, he pitched well, giving up 8 hits (only one for extra bases), but only a pair of runs in 6 innings.  Not a strikeout per inning guy, Graveman walks few (only 18 in 96 FSL innings), and pounds the zone down low, as evidenced by his 10:1 ground out to fly ball ratio.

   Cole, Graveman's former rotation mate in Dunedin, did not fare as well in his AA debut.  The minors strikeout leader, Cole gave up 8 hits in 5.1 innings, giving up 8 runs (7 earned), walking and striking out four.  That Cole struggled and Graveman didn't can be explained by the huge gap between A and AA.  AA is the level where hitters start to have a plan, and pitchers can't rely on simply blowing fastballs by them.  The gap is not as big between AA and AAA.
   Borucki pitched very well in his Northwest League debut, throwing 5 scoreless innings last night, striking out 7, and only giving up 2 hits and a walk.  The 2012 draft pick, who missed all of last year due to TJ surgery, is quickly making up for lost time.

    There is no word when Castro will make his Low A debut with Lansing, or whether he will make it in a starting or relief capacity.  He was one of the youngest players in the Northwest League, and now is one of the youngest in the Midwest League.  Castro was simply dominant at Vancouver, with a 6-2, 2.15 record in 10 starts for the C's, including 53 strikeouts in 50 innings.  His promotion was something of a surprise given his age, and that he's only been pitching stateside for about a year.

   Our prospect hitter of the month is Dunedin OF Dwight Smith, Jr.  Overshadowed by teammate Dalton Pompey in Florida earlier this year, Smith quietly put together one of the best lines in all of the system in July, leading all prospects in batting average, on-base percentage, and OPS.  His line for the month was .356/.429/.586, and his totals for the season are:


   Our prospect pitcher of the month comes down to Castro or Graveman.  And it's a tough choice.  Because he's pitched at four levels this year, we'll take Graveman, but you could easily make a case for Castro.
   Graveman was 3-1 for the month, with a 0.93 ERA.  In 38.2 IP, he gave up 37 hits, walked only 6 batters.  Castro was 4-1, 1.13, striking out 32 batters in as many innings.  The line for both this year:


   All of the Blue Jays affiliates had a winning record for the month, except for Dunedin, which is the only club that's clinched a playoff spot to this point.

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