|DJ Davis - Clutchlings Photo|
Thanks to the talented John Lott, late of the cost-cutting National Post, and now with several online publications, we have rosters for the Blue Jays full-season minor league teams.
One thing is quickly apparent: the new management team may not have been comfortable with the aggressive promotions the previous regime favoured over the past two seasons. While I'm not one to try to predict minor league rosters because there are sometimes just too many variables, I was surprised by some of the assignments. That is not to say, of course, that some of these players below won't wind up where we thought they'd be very quickly, but it's s surprise just the same.
We can really only guess at when a player is ready for the next rung on the ladder - we can watch their performance on the field, but only the organization knows if a player is ready maturity-wise.
Here's a look at the rosters, with some comments about players to watch if you're interested in journeying to watch them:
SP: Drew Hutchison, Scott Copeland, Scott Diamond, Wade LeBlanc
RP: Ben Rowen, David Aardsma, Chad Girodo, Pat McCoy, Dustin Antolin, Chad Jenkins, Pat Venditte, Ryan Tepera
C: Tony Sanchez, Humberto Quintero
INF: Casey Kotchman, Andy Burns, Jio Mier, Matt Dominguez, David Adams, Alexi Casilla
OF: Darrell Ceciliani, Dalton Pompey, Domonic Brown, Junior Lake
DH: Jesus Montero
DL: Blake McFarland, Bobby Korecky
Comments/Players to Watch
To the surprise of no one, this is a roster laden with MLB experience. Just about anyone on this roster could step in and fill a 25-man spot in an emergency. Girodo, Burns, and Pompey all impressed at spring training. This is a pretty deep club, and as long as its roster stays relatively intact should be an International League playoff contender. Beyond the above trio, there isn't a lot to see prospect-wise.
NEW HAMPSHIRE (AA)
SP: John Anderson, Jeremy Gabryszwski, Jason Berken, Casey Lawrence, Shane Dawson
RP: Wil Browning, Danny Barnes, Brady Dragmire, John Stilson, Chris Smith, Murphy Smith, Daniel Schlereth, Colt Hynes
C: Wilkin Castillo, Jorge Saez
INF: Rowdy Tellez, Jon Berti, Jorge Flores, Matt Dean, K.C. Hobson, Shane Opitz
OF: Dwight Smith Jr., Roemon Fields, Melky Mesa, Ian Parmley
DL: Derrick Chung, Taylor Cole, Martin Medina
Comments/Players to Watch
What's a little surprising about this roster is not who's on it, but who's not. Conner Greene and Anthony Alford are the top two prospects in the system, and Greene finished up with New Hampshire last year, while Alford was impressive in a half season with Dunedin. Given the organization's penchant in the past two seasons for challenging their top young players with rapid movement to the next level, it was reasonable to assume both would begin in AA - although there's every chance they'll end there.
Tellez, like Alford, finished in High A last year, but you have to wonder if his better approach at the plate, like this pitch he took the other way in Montreal, earned him a trip to New England:
Dean's inclusion on the roster is a bit surprising, but there were good reports on him in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, where he tied for the league in Home Runs. After playing primarily 1st/DH the last couple of seasons, he's been moved back to 3rd, where I watched him playing with the Dunedin guys a few weeks ago.
Stilson is one of the most interesting names on the roster. A fixture with Buffalo the last few seasons, he was on his way to being a bullpen power arm at the major league level, but his last two seasons have been severely curtailed (34 IP in 2014, 1 last year) by shoulder issues. Reports from Florida suggest that his velo is back, but obviously the team is taking things slowly with him.
Fields would likely be with Buffalo if not for the talent ahead of him. Smith battled injuries in his first go at AA last year, but hit well over the final month.
Dawson pitched well at Lansing and Dunedin last year. The soft-tossing Albertan gets hitters out with a combination of location and pitch sequencing. It will be very interesting to see how he fares at this level, and after only a half season at High A, it's a bit of a surprise to see him here at first glance.
SP: Conner Greene, Tom Robson, Ryan Borucki, Justin Shafer, Luis Santos
RP: Adonys Cardona, Chris Rowley, Tim Mayza, Jose Fernandez, Matt Dermody, Carlos Ramirez, Alonzo Gonzalez, Brad Allen
C: Dan Jansen, Mike Reeves
INF: Ryan McBroom, Christian Lopes, Richard Urena, Jason Leblebijian, Dickie Thon
OF: D.J. Davis, Anthony Alford, Jonathan Davis, Derrick Loveless, David Harris
DL: Mitch Nay, Emilio Guerrero, L.B. Dantzler
Easily the largest assemblage of talent in the system. The starting rotation alone, if left untouched for a season, would be enough to get this team to the FSL post-season.
Robson came back from Tommy John surgery last season, and had the usual command issues. The Britsh Columbian hit 97 this spring, and has much of that command back. I have pegged him as a potential fast riser this spring, although that Buffalo rotation will be tough for anyone to crack.
Borucki has had his problems with shoulder issues, and keeping him in Dunedin will allow the team's re-vamped minor league complex training staff to monitor him.
Cardona has an electric arm, but missed all of last year and most of 2014 with a broken bone in his elbow. Here's an encouraging report:
Like Borucki, the former Venezuelan bonus baby is being kept in Florida to be watched by the training staff.Adonys Cardona pumping easy 95-97. One of the heaviest FB's you'll see. Staying healthy has been his biggest issue #BlueJays— Chris King (@StatsKing) March 26, 2016
Rowley is a feel-good story who I wrote about a few weeks ago. Released from his military commitment, the 2013 undrafted free agent last pitched in the GCL that year. After that, he served as a grad assistant coach at West Point, then was stationed at Ft Still, OK, then Fort Stewart, GA, before being deployed in Eastern Europe. Last October, he learned that his request for an exemption from the mandatory five-year hitch had been approved. He may not be a top prospect, but it's hard not to be pulling for this guy.
Urena sandwiched a stint at Dunedin with a pair at Lansing last year, and is one of the organization's top prospects. Florida in the summer would not be at the top of most places I would like to visit, but there would be a lot of talent on display in Dunedin to make the trek worthwhile.
SP: Sean Reid-Foley, Jon Harris, Tayler Saucedo, Francisco Rios, Ryan Cook, Conor Fisk, Angel Perdomo
RP: Travis Bergen, Dusty Isaacs, Josh DeGraaf, Dan Lietz, Colton Tyrner, Starlyn Suriel
C: Justin Atkinson, Ryan Hissey
INF: Juan Kelly, Gunnar Heidt, J.C. Cardenas, Carl Wise, Connor Panas, Aaron Attaway
OF: Jacob Anderson, Lane Thomas, Josh Almonte, Andrew Guillotte
DL: Max Pentecost, Jon Wandling, Austin Davis
Many have asked me already today what's up with Pentecost, the team's 2nd 1st rounder in 2014. Pentecost has undergone three shoulder procedures since then, and was not expected to be ready to begin the season - he was just starting soft tossing as spring training began.
The highlight of this club has to be its starting rotation, with 2014 2nd rounder Reid-Foley, and 2015 1st rounder Harris at the front of it. Reid-Foley was shut down early last August, but looked dominant when I saw him in Florida last month, and reports have confirmed that. His delivery looks more compact, and he was pounding the lower part of the strike zone with mid-90s heat.
Harris had his struggles with Vancouver after a long college season last year, but by all reports is fully recovered, and should be a different pitcher this year. This rotation is so good at the moment that one of its mainstays last year, Suriel, couldn't crack it.
Bergen is a lefty who may move quickly, and I've long since had my eye on Perdomo, a tall southpaw who can reach the upper 90s.
Anderson has had one of the lengthiest injury histories in the minors since being selected in the compensation round (34th overall) in 2011. The tools are there, but his development has taken a serious hit - 73 PAs in the last two years at Bluefield. Thomas, once a fast riser, saw his development stall last year, and has been moved back to the outfield. There are some legit bats in this lineup with the likes of Kelly, Wise, and GTA product Panas.
One name I thought we would see would be that of LHP Matt Smoral. The 2012 comp pick struggled through back issues last year, and had his season ended in August by a line drive off his temple. From all reports, Smoral is healthy, so he may just be being kept back in Extended Spring Training until the weather up north warms up.
This looks like another first half championship team in the making under the Midwest League's split season format, although like last year, it may not stay together for a full season.
My next post will look at some scouting reports from secondary sources. With the minor league season opening later this week, I will have ample video to assess in the coming weeks.