Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday Notebook

   Seems like we got to see a lot of baseball this weekend.

 We admit to being caught by surprise when Daniel Norris was promoted to Buffalo last week.  In 8 starts at AA, he had pitched reasonably well, but his numbers did not match those he put up in High A earlier in the year.  Struggling a bit with his command, Norris posted a 4.54 ERA in 35.2 AA innings, striking out 49.  We were not surprised with his difficulties, as the leap between A+ and AA can be the biggest jump in the minors.  In his last AA start on August 3rd, however, Norris must have shown to the organization he was ready, giving up one run in 6.2 innings, walking none and striking out eight.
   Norris made his AAA debut on Sunday, and facing a Durham lineup that included a rehabbing Wil Myers, Norris was lights out.  In 6 scoreless innings, he gave up just two hits and a walk, while striking out 10.  He commanded the strike zone with his fastball, which touched 96, and his change up, which the Durham hitters were pretty much defenseless.
   Does this set the wheels in motion for a promotion to the big club?  Probably not just yet, but with another start like that it may just be a matter of time, especially given Mark Buerhle's struggles.
   Mitch Nay has pretty much flown under the radar for us this year.  Nay didn't make our top 10 Blue Jays prospects heading into the season, but he did make several others', and he did merit serious consideration. Some have gone as far as to label him the top position player prospect in the system.  The NWL playoff MVP has been solid, if not spectacular, in his first year of full season ball.  He struggled in May, but has surged since June, so much so that Baseball America noticed, and listed him as the 6th hottest prospect in Milb after a 12-28 week.  Here's BA's synopsis of his season:

    Nay’s home run this week was his first since May 12, which is a pretty lengthy gap for a hitter who came out of high school with above-average raw power. But Nay is an example of a young hitter for which home run totals don’t tell the whole story. The 20-year-old is second in the Midwest League with 30 doubles, and while two-baggers don’t always turn into home runs as a hitter matures, they often do. That’s the best-case for scenario Nay, who has just three home runs this year at a power-oriented position.

   We've been a bit concerned that Nay's power has been largely absent this year, but we know that's often the last tool in the kit to develop, and Cooley Law School Stadium in a tough home run park.  There were concerns about his defence entering the season, but he was recently named Best Defensive 3rd Baseman in BA's Best of Tools for the Midwest League.  All in all, Nay is right on track.

   Nay was joined on the Hot Sheet by Bluefield first baseman Rowdy Tellez, who was #11 on the list after a 11-20 week.  Tellez had a slow start once again in his second pro season, but has been on fire the last month, and has a line of .288/354/.406 for the season.  BA observed:
    He ranked among the best lefthanded power bats available in 2013. He’s a big guy (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) who will have to focus on conditioning, but he has above-average bat speed and can drive the ball to the opposite field. That’s good because Tellez’s bat must carry him.

   And that pretty much sums up our opinion of Tellez.  This guy could be an impact bat one day, and we're thinking that the folks in Vancouver may get to see him in time for a playoff push in a couple of weeks.  

   Andy Burns joined Nay and Tellez "in the team photo" section of the list, after a 13-31 week.  We think Burns might have an outside chance to be promoted to the big club when MLB rosters expand on September 1st.  He can play a multitude of positions, can steal a base, and hits from the right side with a bit of pop.  

Two of Nay's teammates also caught our attention last week.  Pitchers Starlyn Suriel and Miguel Castro turned in impressive performances.  Suriel, a little old for an international signing when he signed with Toronto in 2013, was dominant in his last start for Lansing, pitching a scoreless six innings, and allowing only one hit, walking none and striking out four.  Castro pitched better than his line would indicate in his Midwest League debut, and pitched well again in his second start, giving up a run in 4.2 innings, striking out four.  It's been a long season for the Lugnuts, and their prized prospect rotation really didn't materialize, but the pair have been a bright spot as the season winds down.

   We heard today, via Charlie Caskey, who blogs about the Vancouver Canadians, that catcher and first-round pick Max Pentecost has been sent back to the organization's base in Florida to have "a couple of nicks," in the words of C's manager John Schneider. looked at.
   Pentecost has been out of the lineup for three games, and has mostly DH'd over the past two weeks.
We wonder if he's run down after a season which basically began in February.  Pentecost led Kennesaw State to the NCAA Super Regionals.  He did have about a month off after being drafted by the Jays before starting his pro career in Vancouver, but obviously there was a nagging injury of some sort that worsened shortly after he arrived.  
   The Jays, as is their policy, are tight-lipped about the situation, and truth be told, we're not sure there's a lot to be concerned about.  Caskey suggested that if Pentecost does play again this season, it might be for Dunedin in the playoffs.  For fans of the C's, who are a in a battle to claim a playoff bid and a chance to play for their fourth straight NWL title, the loss of Pentecost and Castro no doubt hurts.  Such is the life of a minor league fan, however.  
   New Hampshire outfielder Dalton Pompey may also be done for the year, after the return of a quad injury that he originally suffered at the end of July.  Pompey made the most progress of any Jays prospect this year, leaping into many top 100 lists.  After a slow start following his promotion to AA, Pompey was on fire at the plate, hitting .459 over his last 10 games before being sidelined.  The Jays will likely want to be careful with Pompey, so we may not see him again until the Arizona Fall Leauge.

   We also learned, via Bluefield broadcaster Kevin Fitzgerald on the "Around the Nest" podcast, that outfielder Jake Anderson is injured again, and has returned to Florida.  The sandwich-round pick in 2011 missed all of 2013 after undergoing surgery to correct a rib problem, and had all of 10 at bats this year before being sidelined in late June.  
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