Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Clutchlings Notebook Vol 4 Ed 3

"I was never drafted and I've bounced around and I came out of independent league ball," Allen said. "Every time my name gets called, I know I have to pitch like it's the last time I'm ever going to throw. That's the mentality I need to take. At times, it's been successful and if not, you just have to learn from it."    Brad Allen, as told to Milb.com
L/R:  Mike Reeves, Tim Mayza, Brad Allen, Adonys Cardona
Brad Allen/Instragram

  Welcome to a wrap of activities around the Blue Jays farm system for the past week.....

Dunedin bullpen tosses a no-no
   In last week's notebook, I wrote about how the Dunedin Blue Jays bullpen had been lights out to that point in the season.  And then they threw up a bit of a hairball this week.
   The group rallied over the course of the weekend, the highlight of which was a  no-hitter by Brad Allen, Adonys Cardona, and Tim Mayza who combined to no-hit the Tigers' Florida State League affiliate Lakeland to sweep a double header.  
   Minor league doubleheader games are only seven innings in length, but it was an impressive display nonetheless.
   Allen was part of a no-hitter before in 2013, when he retired 25 in a row en route to a complete game no-no.  The former indy league hurler was let go by the Diamondbacks in 2014, and the Blue Jays signed him to help bolster Lansing's starting rotation a few weeks later.  Moved to the bullpen in High A this year, Allen was pressed into service as a starter when a Friday night rainout forced the Saturday doubleheader.
   Allen threw four scoreless frames before handing things over to righthander Cardona.  The one-time starter and Top 10 prospect has had more than his fair share of injuries, but has been very effective in the D-Jays pen so far.  Cardona surrendered a pair of walks over 1.2 innings before giving way to southpaw Mayza, who shut the door and preserved the win, as well as the no-hitter.
   Allen told Michael Leboff of Milb.com that the no-no was a team effort:
"This no-hitter is a testament to our defense," he said. "One thing [manager] Ken Huckaby has preached since the beginning of the year is that we have an excellent defense, so he wants us to go right after the hitter. I can think of a few plays that our defense made big plays. That's kind of been our MO the whole time -- these guys will make the plays for [the staff]."
  Allen posed with his fellow no-hit hurlers after the game, and included Peterborough, Ontario's own C Mike Reeves, who caught the game.  It was the first no-hitter thrown by a Blue Jays minor league team in almost a quarter century.

Conner Greene Update
   I was as surprised as anyone when Greene did not return to New Hampshire, where he finished 2015, to start this season.  He caught a heavy dose of helium last summer, and pitched at three levels in his first year of full-season ball.
   Obviously, the new administration felt that Greene still had some things to work on, like command of his fastball and the development of his secondary pitches, and his assignment to Dunedin perhaps signalled that the new regime was not as comfortable with aggressive promotions as the last one was.
   Will Haines of Baseball Prospectus took in game one of that Dunedin-Lakeland twin bill, in which the young righthander started the first game.  Haines was impressed, and thought that Greene was barely challenged:
 Greene cruised through this Saturday start, and a promotion back to Double-A couldn’t be more than a week or two away. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound righthander racked up six strikeouts and left Tigers hitters frustrated at the plate.
  Haines had Greene topping 97 with his fastball, and sitting 93-95.  Greene was able to command both sides of the plate, and Haines terms the pitch "MLB-ready"; in fact, once he adds more weight to his frame, he thinks Greene might be able to touch 99 with it.  While velocity in the hierarchy of pitcher effectiveness is no more important than movement and location, so much of a pitcher's success comes from it.  "Fastball command is the perfect building block for the rest of the arsenal," wrote Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus.  "It creates the opportunity for a more effective secondary arsenal before the secondary arsenal is even deployed."
   Greene added 10 mph to his curve last year, which was part of the reason for his ascension to AA.  Haines terms it a work-in-progress, as Greene is still unable to replicate his fastball arm speed with it, allowing hitters to pick it up.  Haines was also impressed with Greene's cutter, which he did not use all that much in this start, but feels that it will grade as a solid-average pitch, as it "kept hitters honest."
   For Greene to reach his projections, Haines says that he will have to continue to refine his secondaries, "but the strength of the fastball alone should allow him to move quickly through the system." Haines suggests that Greene may only be a week or two away from a promotion back to the Eastern League.  The Blue Jays do tend to wait until the mid-way point of the minor league season in June to do that, but perhaps the new management team may feel otherwise.

Max Pentecost Sighting
  Like the Yeti, Loch Ness Monster, or Ogopogo, appearances by the 2014 first round pick have been few and far between, but intrepid reporter Eddie Michels of rocketsports.com snapped photos of the rehabbing backstop in extended spring training.
Eddie Michels photo
 Pentecost, whose injury history has been well-documented, DH'd in a pair of games this past weekend.  He came to training camp in early March mostly to continue to rehab his shoulder after his most recent surgery, but his appearance may have led some to believe that he was close to game-ready.  Similarly, because the club had talked about getting Pentecost at-bats at another position until he was ready for the rigours of receiving, there were some who thought a position switch may be in the offing. The truth is that the club wants to take things slowly with the 2014 Johnny Bench Award winner as the nation's top college Catcher.  Moving him to another position for now at least allows him some reps at the plate.  With Russell Martin under contract for three more seasons after this, the club can afford to take their time with Pentecost, and will likely give him every opportunity to return to his Catching duties when he's ready.

The long and winding road of Jake Anderson
   Taken in the compensation round, 34th overall out of Chino (CA) HS in 2011, Anderson gained plenty attention when he won the Under Armour All-America Home Run Derby at Wrigley Field in 2010.  Baseball America gave this assessment of him heading into the draft:
Tall and projectable at 6-foot-4, 195 pounds, he is a long strider with solid-average speed under way, and he profiles either in center or right, where he should have adequate arm strength. Anderson is a physical specimen with plenty of leverage and solid-average to plus raw power potential in his slightly uphill swing. 
    Anderson's road to full season ball has been significantly derailed by injuries.  After his second year of pro ball at short-season Bluefield, he headed to Florida for Instructional League play.  When diving in the outfield for a fly ball one day, Anderson landed awkwardly, Afterwards, he had chest pain, and tingling and numbness in his right arm left him unable to throw.  After an attempt at rest and rehab, the young prospect was discovered to have thoracic outlet syndrome, where the blood vessels and nerves in the space between the first rib (the thoracic outlet) become compressed. Surgery to remove the first rib to alleviate the symptoms was eventually performed, costing Anderson all of 2013.  A knee injury limited him to 10 at bats in 2014, and he did not return to full-time duty until last summer, returning again to Bluefield.
   Healthy for the first time in several years, Anderson was assigned to full season ball at Lansing this year.  In his first game with the Lugnuts, he went 1-4 with a double.  On Friday night at home against Lake County, he did something he hasn't done since August 12, 2012:

Anthony Alford Injury Update....
   In this space last week, I wrote about one of the frustrations of minor league ball being the lack of information about injuries to prospects.  Teams don't tend to get pressed for details by the mainstream media, so there is an air of secrecy about it.  I said that given the club's past history, rest and rehab is the club's preferred route when a player suffers something less than a full, surgery-requiring tear of a ligament. Given this photo of Toronto's' top-ranked prospects I came across from Eddie Michels as I was closing tabs prior to publishing this post, I think the knee brace Alford is wearing provides ample evidence of that:
Anthony Alford Takes BP with No Problems (EDDIE MICHELS PHOTO)
"Anthony Alford Takes BP with No
Eddie Michels photo

Saying Goodbye To.....
RHP Scott Copeland, who was sold to LG Twins of the Korean League.  A long-time Blue Jays farmhand, Copeland made his MLB debut last year, and pitched well in one start, and not so well in another, along with a couple of relief appearances.
C Humberto Quintero, signed as a free agent in the off season. An injury to Detroit C James McCann had the Tigers scrambling for some minor league depth, and they scooped up Quintero late last week.

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