Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Look at the Bluefield and GCL Blue Jays

YouTube photo
  With short season play started in the Domincan Summer League two weeks ago, and the Northwest League last week, play in the remaining summer rookie ball loops is set to get underway later this week.

   The Bluefield Blue Jays, a Jays affiliate since 2011, compete in the Appalachian League.  The Appy League is a grouping of clubs in the Virginias, North Carolina, and Tennessee.  Bluefield itself has a long minor league history, inlcuding a lengthy affiliation with the Orioles.  The Blue Jays/Bluefield Player Development Contract comes up for renewal after the season, but indications are that the relationship will continue.

   The Appy League is the first taste of extended "under the lights" play for prospects:  their first time having to deal with the rigors of playing every day, travelling, and playing for crowds larger than the handfuls found at Gulf Coast League games, although  Appy League games rarely draw more than 1000 spectators.

   The centrepiece of this year's edition of the Bluefield Jays figures 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr.  The top international prospect last year, even at 17 and with a position switch from the outfield, the organization feels that he is mature enough both competitively and emotionally to skip the GCL.
   The rest of the Bluefield roster is kind of thin when it comes to prospects.  OF Reggie Pruitt, a 24th round choice last year whose stock fell because of a college committment, is toolsy but raw.  He started well in the GCL last year, but tailed off as the summer progressed.
  P Jose Espada, a 6th round choice out of Puerto Rico last year, impressed in the GCL, and should be a mainstay in the Bluefield rotation.  RP Kelyn Jose, who hits triple digits with his fastball but has had his share of control issues, is an intriguing arm to watch. RHP Yennsy Diaz pitched in the DSL and the GCL last year, and it another prospect worth keeping tabs on.  C Matt Morgan, a highly-regarded 4th rounder two years ago, has progressed defensively, but his bat has held his development back.
   The GCL Jays had a roster with more college players than usual on it, and several of them will be making the move to Bluefield.  This should make the team more competitive than last year's 25-42 club. Nothing will be official for another day or so, but we can place several players on their roster by a process of elimination.
   2nd rounder Florida HS SS Bo Bichette will start the season in the GCL, and will be an interesting follow.  He profiles as a possible impact bat, but is unlikely to stay at short.  He does not get cheated on his swings:

video

   The process for draftees is for them to report to the Blue Jays Dunedin complex after signing, and the club makes an evaluation soon after where they will start the season. Toronto's other 2nd round choice this month, OF J.B. Woodman, has already shipped out to Vancouver. For now, 1st rounder P T.J. Zeuch appears to be in Florida, but his stay there may be brief.  The club tends to hang onto pitchers a little longer, usually for mechanics-related reasons.  Tweaking means a short stay, while an overhaul usually means a longer one.
   Other prospects likely to start with the GCL Jays include SS Kevin Vicuna, P Lupe Sanchez, and OF Norberto Obeso, who put up a line of .351/.469/.429 in the DSL at the age of 19 last summer.


   I hate to cut this post short, but I'm in the midst of making some travel plans for the first week of July.  I leave you with some Bluefield video:

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