Saturday, March 25, 2017

Blue Jays International Review

Hugo Cardona

  The Blue Jays have traditionally been aggressive players in the International Free Agent market. In the past, they have inked players such as Roberto Osuna, Richard Urena, and Franklin Barreto on the annual July 2nd signing day. 2016 was a hangover year, as the team was limited by the slot-busting deal they signed Vladimir Guerrero Jr to the year before.

   Toronto was limited to a bonus pool of $2.1 million last year, and could not sign a player to a bonus larger than $300 000. By trading prospects Chase DeJong and Tim Locastro to the Dodgers for some of their pool money after signing Guerrero, they were able to avoid a two-year penalty.

   Players as young as 16 are eligible to sign, but they do not begin play until the following year.  There has been increased talk of an International Draft one day, and MLB owners pushed for one in the last round of collective bargaining last fall with the MLBPA, but dropped their insistence on one in order to forge a new deal with the players. After signing, prospects are invited to stay at the Blue Jays complex at Boca Chica, near Santo Domingo. They play in the "Tricky" League against other recently-signed prospects in July and August, then head back to their homes. They return for the Dominican Instructional League in late October for six weeks, then return once more in the New Year. The Blue Jays close their complex in March, then re-open in mid-April for extended spring training.  After that, some play in the Dominican Summer League, which runs from mid-June to mid-August; the more advanced head to the Gulf Coast League in Florida, which begins play in later June, and ends in late August.

   Two players were given the $300K bonus in this crop:  3B Joseph Reyes, a left-handed hitting Dominican by way of New York, and SS Hugo Cardona from Venezuela. Blue Jays Assistant General Manager Andrew Tinnish, who oversees the scouting and development of  International Free Agents along with Director of Latin America Operations Sandy Rosario, says that Reyes has an approach that the team really likes,  is selective at the plate, and makes a lot of hard contact.  His size may eventually force a move to the oufield.  Reyes uses a toe tap as a timing mechanism, and while his swing is a little long, he gets the barrel of the bat into the strike zone quickly, with a slight uppercut to provide loft:

   Reyes has flown under the radar the last few seasons and went unsigned.  This is not unusual, as some International prospects have game skills and baseball IQ that does not always show up in pre-juy 2nd workouts, and as Tinnish observed, not all prospects develop at the same rate and at the same time. Because of his age (19), his advanced skills (he was invited to Instructs last fall), and the fact that he's fluent in English means that he will start in the Gulf Coast League this year.

Cadrona has the fast-twitch athleticism that will likely allow him to stay at short. His swing is more of the line-drive type at the moment. Tinnish calls his arm "plus'" and his speed "plus-plus," and if his bat develops, he could profile as a top of the order hitter.  Cardona, who is 17, will begin in the Dominican Summer League, and is likely to spend the season there.

   Dominican RHP Roither Hernandez went unsigned on deadline day the previous two seasons, was signed for $150K, and has what Tinnish calls a "heavy fastball," with good downward movement as it approaches the plate.  Tinnish terms Hernandez a "large, athletic power pitcher," with a fastball that sits anywhere from 90 to 97.  His secondaries are developing, with a slider that is coming along between 84-89 as he works at finding the right arm slot and release point. Hernandez also throws a change up in the upper 80s that's a great complement to his fastball. Tinnish lauds his make up, and says that he's a hard worker.  He struck out the side in his first inning of spring training work earlier this week. Given his age (18), his advanced feel for pitching, and the fact that like Reyes he was at Instructs last fall, he should begin the year in the GCL. SS Kenny Mauricio was another player who joined the organization on July 2nd, signing for a $110K bonus.

   All told, the Blue Jays signed 13 players on July 2nd, and twice that number after the deadline.  There are always some "sleeper" prospects included in that number, and Tinnish mentioned four in particular:

-Mexican RHP Felix Castaneda, who Tinnish lauds for his pitchability, already has an above average change up;
-Venezuelan RHP Elixon Caballaero, who Tinnish says is a "smaller guy (5'9"/160) with a smooth, athletic delivery."  Caballero topped 90 with his FB last July, but caught the eyes of the Blue Jays when he was hitting 94-95 4 months later.  He's currently at the Blue Jays minor league facility in Dunedin for spring training.  Think about Marcus Stroman as a high school junior, and you have a picture of Caballero.
-LHP Naswell Paulino, a converted outfielder who has shown feel and polish quite quickly despite being very new to pitching.  He has a solid FB that he can command both sides of the plate with.
-RHP Eliezer Medrano, a tall, lean power righty, who liked Caballero experienced a spike in velo, jumping up from 89 after signing to 95-96 this fall.  Also like Caballero, he's at spring training in Florida.

 The Blue Jays signed 13 players altogether on July 2nd.  What is the chance that we see any of these players reach even AA or AAA?   Admittedly slim.  While the other teams were shopping at Nordstrom's, the Blue Jays and several other teams on sanction were buying at Giant Tiger.  Given the lengthy gestation period of most IFAs, most names fade out of our consciousness long after they have signed, and when they do pop up again, it's often at another position, or with another team. After going all in to sign Vladdy Jr, regarded as the top International prospect in 2015, the Blue Jays were content to look for diamonds in the rough the following year.
  With $4.75 million and no restrictions this year, Tinnish was understandably reluctant to discuss the Blue Jays strategy this year.  Given their history of being players for the top names in the past, the Blue Jays will no doubt be looking to sign some higher profile prospects this year.

   One thing that has impressed me in the conversations I have had with Blue Jays front office executives over the past few weeks is how they insist on giving credit to their colleagues.  Tinnish was no exception, deferring to the Dominican-based Rosario.  "He does a great job," says Tinnish.  "We work extremely well together, he calls me up to tell me to get down to the DR to see players.  He's a very, very good scout."

Thursday, March 23, 2017

First Look at the MLB Draft

Jake Burger/West News Magazine photo

   The college baseball season has been underway for almost a month, and many high school leagues have started play as spring slowly spreads northward, which means that for all MLB teams, scouting season is well underway.
    Few of the players are unknowns; most Area Scouts have been following the top prospects since they were high school sophomores (if not earlier), watching them play for their schools and in various travel ball showcases.  As February turns into March, they begin the process of paring down their lists, and Crosschecking Scouts fly in to corroborate their views.
   The Blue Jays have two picks in the top 30 this year - their own at 22, and the 28th pick as compensation for the loss of free agent Edwin Encarnacion.  At those slots, potential franchise players like California two-way high schooler Hunter Greene will be long gone, but they do stand an excellent chance of adding at least one solid future major leaguer with one of those picks.  Of course, many like to point out how Mike Trout lasted until the 25th pick of the 2009 draft, but players like that are the exception, and not the rule.

   Under former GM Alex Anthopoulos and former Scouting Director Blake Parker, the Blue Jays were often very creative on draft day, but they showed a clear preference for picks whose risk was as high as their upside.  That strategy has resulted in picks like Aaron Sanchez, Anthony Alford, Rowdy Tellez, and Marcus Stroman.  But there have been several whiffs, such as 2011 supplemental 1st rounder Jake Anderson, who was released last week after not having risen about a few weeks at Low A in six injury-plagued seasons in the system, and 2012 1st rounder DJ Davis, who was has struck out in almost 30% of his At Bats in five seasons.
   While it's still incredibly early, and the draft board of today will likely look much different than it will in early June, it's still a fun exercise to see who is slotted in at those positions.  It was reported that the Blue Jays had been scouting Pittsburgh RHP T.J. Zeuch heavily last spring, and they would up taking him with the 21st pick.
    Baseball America has just released their Top 100 draft prospects, and they have Missouri State 3B Jake Burger, who is seen as a power threat in a draft short on college hitters, ranked as the 22nd draft prospect. Burger's actions around 3rd are not what you would call smooth, but he's an adequate defender with a plus arm.  At the plate, he puts the ball in play, and his power is his best tool, although an arm bar with his right arm concerns some scouts.  Burger does present some future concerns with his stocky build, but one look no further than the Blue Jays' incumbent 3rd Baseman for evidence of how proper training and nutrition can re-shape a player, and with the Blue Jays having dedicated a whole department to the development of their players, he would be a good turn around candidate.

Josh Donaldson Before....

....and after
 Burger could rise quickly through the system of any team that selects him, and he could be a good successor to Josh Donaldson if Vladimir Guerrero Jr is eventually moved off the position.
Burger in action....

   At the 28th slot, BA has UCLA RHP Griffin Canning, an over-the-top thrower who was drafted by the Rockies in the 38th round in 2014.  A bit undersized at 6'/170, Canning pounds the strike zone with a solid four pitch mix.  He sits 90-92 with his fastball, with his change up ranked as his second-best pitch.  Pitchability is the term that's consistent through most reports on him.

Canning video.....

  At, they have Texas RHP Corbin Martin ranked at #22.  A power arm who has dominated summer leagues, Martin has had trouble continuing that success through the collegiate season. Martin sits at 95, and has touched 98, and complements his fastball with a power curve.  He also throws a change which shows promise.  Martin has the potential to be a starter, but has pitched out of Texas' bullpen, which suggests a back of the bullpen arm in the making.  North Carolina prep southpaw MacKenzie Gore is ranked 28th.  High leg-kick Gore is a fastball/change pitcher who has topped out at 94, but sits 90-92. There is a lot of projection remaining with him, so he could be a good long-term pick for an organization that is prepared to bring him along slowly.  It would not be out of the realm of possibility to see the Blue Jays go with a proven college player like Burger with the first of their two picks, and a project like Gore with the second.



   The above comes with the warning that it's incredibly early to be ranking prospects, because many will have their stock rise and/or fall throughout the weeks heading up to the draft.  Unlike the previous administration, the Blue Jays under scouting director Steve Sanders are more interested than taking the best available athlete when their turns come up in the draft.  Certainly, they took a different approach last year, selecting college players with 4 of their first 5 picks, but that may have been more of an attempt to shore up a system which had dealt much of its prospect depth.   We will keep tabs on these players, and look at who the Blue Jays might be looking at with their 2nd and 3rd round choices in the next posts.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Cherington Adds to Blue Jays Front Office Wealth

  In the midst of a pennant race last fall, the Blue Jays made an acquisition that may have escaped the attention of most fans, but served as another piece in the puzzle that President Mark Shapiro has been putting together to shape the long-term foundation of the team by hiring former Red Sox GM Ben Cherington to become their VP of Baseball Operations.

   Cherington had taken the Red Sox from worst-to-first in 2013, leading a team that had finished last in the AL East the year before to a World Series title.  Along the way, he oversaw the addition of elite prospects like Mookie Betts, Xander Boegaerts, and Jackie Bradley Jr, as well as the since-traded Yoan Moncada. After signing free agents such as Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez and Cuban Rusney Castillo, the Red Sox found themselves back in the cellar in 2014 and 2015, and after Dave Dombrowski was brought in to oversee the organization, Cherington chose to resign rather than continue with the Red Sox.

   Cherington spent a year away from the game, teaching sports management at Columbia University in New York (he has a Masters from Mass-Amherst in Sports Admin).  During that time, he spent considerable time contemplating his future in the game, and came to the conclusion that it did not necessarily have to be in the GM's chair.  He told the Boston Globe:
 There probably was a time in my career where I was aspiring to a title because at a certain point in your career, and if you have aspirations to be a GM, which I did, there are steps you have to do to get there,” he said. “There are titles that are of importance to some degree as you’re sort of building yourself to be prepared to be a GM and then be a GM. I was aspiring to that. I don’t feel that anymore.

  Enter Shapiro, who hired Cherington as an Advance Scout in 1998, before he left for Boston.  Shapiro knew about Cherington's revised aspirations, and jumped at the chance to bring one of the most respected player development minds in the game (prior to becoming the Sox' GM, Cherington held various positions in the Boston front office, including Coordinator of International Scouting, and Director of Player Development) to Toronto.  For Cherington's part, he said in an email that he was looking for the right situation to make his return to the game:
 When I started looking for a job last summer I was focused on finding an opportunity with the right group of people, in a place where I could make a contribution, and in a place where I could learn.  The Blue Jays opportunity checked all of those boxes and I was fortunate that they felt I could be of some help.  Since I’ve been here I’ve gotten to know the group even better and feel really fortunate to work with such a strong group of smart, humble people who are focused on getting better every day. 

     As VP of Baseball Ops, Cherington is responsible for all aspects of the Blue Jays player development program, including the newest department in the organization:
 I’m trying to collaborate with the baseball ops leadership group to help in any area that I can.  Hopefully I can do that.  I am spending more time with our player development and high performance staff and that’s an exciting area to be involved with the Blue Jays right now.  We’ve got outstanding leadership in Gil Kim, Angus Mugford, Eric Wedge, and many more.  Our staff worked tirelessly all winter to prepare for spring training and trying to figure out the best way to help players get better.  It’s been exciting to see that unfold this spring.  I’ve learned a lot already in 6 months.  
 Under former GM Alex Anthopoulos, the primary purpose of the farm system was to provide currency to upgrade the major league roster.  From November 2015 to the end of July the following year, he dealt 18 prospects in order to acquire proven MLB talent like Troy Tulowitzki, David Price, and Josh Donaldson.  In the late fall, he dealt away a passel of prospects including Noah Syndergaard for R.A Dickey, and another to the Marlins for a return which included Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle.
  While Anthopoulos' wheeling and dealing did bring post-season baseball back to Toronto, it also left the major league roster on the old side, and a farm system that had been emptied of much of its depth. Cherington would not come right out and say that such a development would not happen under his watch, but his player development roots are obvious:
Player development's job is to help players get better.  Period.  If we do that successfully then we are impacting player's lives on the field and off.  If we do that successfully we are also helping the Blue Jays by preparing players to be part of a winning Blue Jays Major League team.  Along the way there may be times when trading a minor league player makes sense.  So our job is to help players get better which in turn supports the Blue Jays mission to bring a World Series back to Canada.  
  And while the Blue Jays system did take a hit, there still is top-level talent in the system, and a decent draft last year helped rebuild it quickly.  Under Anthopoulos and departed Amateur Scouting director Blake Parker, the emphasis was on finding high-risk/high-reward athletes, including players from non-traditional markets, high schoolers with college commitments, and others whose draft stock had tumbled for a variety of reasons.  While not tipping his hand in terms of his drafting philosophy, Cherington did indicate that when it comes time to pick in the June draft, the Blue Jays will always go with the best player:
 Our amateur staff, under the leadership of Tony LaCava and Steve Sanders, works tirelessly to identify the best players available in the draft and there is a process to line those players up on the draft board in June.  Ultimately when its our time to pick we’ll take the best player.  If those players come more from a certain demographic in a given year I think that’s a function of how that particular draft unfolded, not a bias toward one demographic or another. 

   As for the international market, seen as one of Cherington's biggest success (despite the Red Sox getting dinged heavily for signing violations during his tenure) , he's confident that the combined efforts of Assistant GM Andrew Tinnish and Director of Latin American Operations Sandy Rosario will allow the Blue Jays to continue to be major players in that market.  As far as the prospects of a potential International Draft, Cherington isn't losing sleep over it:
It’s really not something we think about on a day to day basis and if there are ever further changes to the International signing rules, I know we have the people to make the right adjustments. 

   When asked where he thinks where the Blue Jays farm system ranks, Cherington prefers to be concerned about his own system, and not how it might compare to others:
I’ve been really impressed with our players and staff commitment to getting better.  And I’ve seen that happen between instructional league and spring training.  It’s exciting to see the progress.  And we have a lot of talent that is maturing.  Some of those guys have had a chance to make an impression in big league camp.  Some are doing that in minor league camp.  I’m excited to see what they do during the season.  We’re so focused on what we need to do every day to get better I haven’t spent any time thinking about other systems.  

    Mark Shapiro has wasted little time in assembling what is shaping up to be a top-flight organization.  There were not wholesale changes at first, but slowly he's been placing strong personnel in key positions throughout the organization, and has created the high performance division to help give the Blue Jays a potential competitive advantage when it comes to the development of their players.  The addition of Cherington solidifies the idea that Shapiro is endeavouring to build a system that is a model of player development.  He has brought in the likes of Cherington, Sanders,  Director of Operations Mike Murov, and Director of Player Development Gil Kim to add to a solid stable of holdovers from the Anthopoulos era like LaCava, Tinnish, Dana Brown, and Perry Minasian.  Often hampered by small-market constraints in Cleveland, Shapiro now has the resources to build an organization that could be poised to be competitive on an annual basis.  For someone who has been following the Blue Jays minor league system closely for five years, and has been a fan of the team since that snowy April day 40 years ago, this is a very welcome and exciting development. With all due respect to the management team that served under former GM Pat Gillick, there has never been such a wealth of front office talent in this organization.  And when you speak with members of that front office, you get a sense that this is a very cohesive, on-the-same-page group.  Add in the high performance division, and couple that with the anticipated changes to the minor league training complex, and the high degree of collaboration between the various facets of the player development side (minor league ops, scouting, and high performance) and the future for the Blue Jays looks very bright indeed.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Shapiro, Jays Take Grilling Over Spring Training Funding

  Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro was front-and-center at a meeting today of the board which determines who gets funding (and how much) from the Pinellas County hotel tax fund.  The Blue Jays have applied to the fund to help pay for upgrades to the Blue Jays minor league complex, and improvements to aged Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, where the team plays its spring training games.
   Shapiro told the board, "We don't want just want a spring training facility....we want a 365 day home," referring to the team's high performance division, which is headquartered at the Mattick Complex.  He faced a sceptical audience, however, and when he cited the oft-quoted figure of $70 million economic impact that the Blue Jays have during their six-week stay in Dunedin, a few eyeballs rolled:

    Things began to become a bit testy when team officials were raked over the coals because apparently they had not prepared the proper financial statements:

  In response, the Blue Jays reminded the board that Dunedin has been the only spring training home the team has ever known:

  In defending the Blue Jays, Dunedin Mayor Julie Ward Buljaski noted that the team will assume maintenance costs for the facilities, which is something most teams don't do.  Still, the exchange between the team and the board became testy, with one member asking what the team will do if they don't get the necessary funding:

   Now, it is true that the economic impact of pro sports teams building new facilities may be very overestimated.  Stanford Professor Roger Noll published a landmark study which suggests that compared to, say, a shopping mall, stadiums do not create employment, local economic growth, or the incremental tax growth incurred to finance the stadium in order to overcome its cost.  Just the same, it's hard to see the team going anywhere anytime soon.  A source very close to the situation suggested that this hearing today was a very normal part of the process, and because there are only a few other much smaller proposals in front of the board for consideration, the Blue Jays' application will likely be approved.  The source also suggested that there may have been some bias against the team from several media sources present, who reported mostly the negative aspects of the hearing today.

   The Blue Jays and Pinellas County will resume talks next Wednesday, and while the team will still likely face some scrutiny from the board, Blue Jays fans should not necessarily be looking at Arizona real estate and airline prices just yet.  There is a lengthy history between the Blue Jays and Dunedin, and while there was some acrimony today, the deal is still expected to go through.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

What To Expect From Tim Mayza

Clutchlings Photo

  An aging roster plus a longer than usual Spring Training has given the Blue Jays a chance to take a longer look at some of their minor league prospects.  One who has benefited greatly from that opportunity is LHP Tim Mayza.

   Mayza, a 12th round pick out of Millersville University of Pennsylvania in 2013, has fanned 4 in 3 innings this spring, topping out at 98, and sitting at about 95 with his fastball.  The Toronto media has begun to take notice.

    Mayza was brought along slowly by the Blue Jays, spending his first two years in short season ball, and making his full season debut with Lansing in late May of 2015.  Initially a stater, the Blue Jays had moved him to the bullpen by the time he reached Lansing.  The 6'3" Mayza is a classic tall-and-fall pitcher, and his leg kick provides some deception to left handed hitters.  He throws a four seam and a two seam fastball, along with a slider, the occasional curve, and a show-me change.  The four seamer is his bread and butter pitch, and when he's on with it like he has been this spring, it makes his secondaries that much more effective.

  Mayza started 2016 in Dunedin, and after dominating Florida State League hitters for over two months, found himself in New Hampshire in mid-June.  AA proved to be a different story.  Mayza struggled with his command, falling behind often in counts, and after surrendering 15 walks in as many innings, he was back in Dunedin by the end of July.  He did not fare well against right handed hitters during his time in New Hampshire, who managed a .333 average against him.  Facing more advanced hitters at AA, he tended to get hit when he caught too much of the strike zone after falling behind.  Against even more elite competition in the Arizona Fall League, Mayza allowed 23 base runners in 15 innings, en route to a 6.14 ERA.

  While Mayza has had some success this spring, it's worth noting that early spring training stats can be very misleading.  For the most part, the pitchers are ahead of the hitters, many of whom don't start to get their timing down until the middle of the month.  As well, Mayza has yet to really prove himself against top-level competition.  If we think we've seen this story before, it's only because we have.  Two years ago, a pair of pitchers who had never faced a hitter above High A broke camp with the club.  One, Roberto Osuna, eventually became the club's closer.  The other, Miguel Castro, was lights out in the first half of March, but as hitters began to get their timing down, was hit hard for the rest of the month, and was back in the minors by the end of April.  Time will tell which path Mayza will follow.

  If/when he sticks with the big club, it will likely be in a lefty specialist-type role.  He will have to prove he can get righties out on a consistent basis before his role would be expanded.  If he continues to have fastball command, he could be very effective in that somewhat limited role.

  Just the same, he bears watching this spring.  With the departure of free agent Brett Cecil and the inconsistency of Aaron Loup last year, the competition for jobs amongst left-handed relievers is wide open. Mayza may not beat out Loup or J.P. Howell for a spot with the club on Opening Day, but he may have nosed ahead of Chad Girodo at this point for next-southpaw-up honours at the moment.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Blue Jays Prospect Ryan Goes McBoom for Walk-Off Win

Clutchlings photo

   Blue Jays 1B prospect Ryan McBroom went deep yesterday in the bottom of the 9th against the Yankees, giving the team a walk-off spring training win:

    Although he has long been considered a fringe prospect, all McBroom has done since he joined the organization as a 15th round choice from West Virginia in 2014 is hit.  He posted an .841 OPS at Vancouver in his first pro season, .869 in his second at Lansing (where he was the Midwest League MVP), and he led the Florida State League in RBI and smacked 21 Homers in a very pitcher-friendly loop last year.
   The knock against the 6'3"/230 McBroom has been that he's a bat-first player.  The Blue Jays have experimented with him in the outfield, but his position for the present and future is 1st Base.  He does not have the speed or arm to play anywhere else.  He did steal 10 bases at Dunedin last year, but that speaks more to his baseball IQ than it does his wheels.
   At the plate, McBroom makes loud contact, but reports from last year suggest that he didn't work the count as well as he could have in 2016.  There is a swing-and-miss element to his game, but he likely didn't help himself by getting into too many pitchers' counts last year.  
      Baseball Prospectus' Steve Givarz watched McBroom in Dunedin last June, and gives his bat mixed reviews (evaluations on the 20-80 scale; 50 is considered MLB average):
Hit 40 Slightly closed stance, wide base; below-average bat speed, strength over bat speed swing, uphill swing path, makes hard loud contact when he connects; long swing, slow trigger, decent balance; fair pitch recognition, struggles on inner half; looks to extend on pitches away
Power 50 Plus raw power; loud contact with strength to take the ball out to pull side and straight away; has loft on hit balls; plays down due to long swing and below-average hit utility
   Bobby DeMuro of Today's Knuckleball is more bullish on McBroom's hit tool:
     With a swing that stays all the way through the zone, and a finish at the plate which gives some natural lift and backspin to his line drives, McBroom has the mechanics down to keep putting up big home run and double totals and hitting the ball in the air with authority, and there’s no reason he couldn’t continue to be a middle-of-the-lineup force.

   There are some developments that the Blue Jays minor league staff have been watching.  Despite his uptick in long-ball production last year, McBroom struck out at the highest rate (22%), and was on base at the lowest rate (.323 OBP) of his career so far.  That may have been because the organization wanted him to focus on driving the ball more, or it may have been a product of finding himself behind in the count a lot last year.
     McBroom had a brief audition at AA last year, filling in for a week and a half while regular New Hampshire First Baseman Rowdy Tellez was down with an injury.  It was a small sample size, but McBroom struggled against the higher level pitching.  With Tellez likely moving up to Buffalo this year, McBroom will return to the Eastern League.  Another knock against McBroom is that he always been old for the level he was at (he'll turn 25 in April).   As I have written numerous times before, AA is where the prospects truly become separated from the non-prospects.  Hitters at this level need to have a plan, and pitch recognition is a large part of that.  Pitchers at AA rely not solely on their fastball - they use a combination of fastballs and secondary pitches, wrapped up in a neat bow called command to get hitters out.

     Truth be told, I have never considered McBroom to be a Top 10 (or even Top 20) prospect - playing behind Tellez may be part of that, but bat-first prospects like McBroom are simply working with a smaller margin of error than more-rounded players. At the same time, the numbers he has posted can't be ignored.
Tellez may be the future of the franchise at 1st, but a strong performance by McBroom at AA in the first half of the season could help bolster the club's depth if they're in contention at the trade deadline.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Blue Jays/Dunedin Spring Training Deal One Step Closer


The Toronto Blue Jays and the City of Dunedin are about to become one step closer to realizing a plan to keep the team in the only spring training home they’ve ever known.

  After two years of negotiations, the two sides reached a deal last fall that would bring about significant upgrades to the Blue Jays minor league complex, and Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, home of Toronto’s spring training games, and the Dunedin Blue Jays of the Class A Advanced Florida State League.

 In a perfect world, the Blue Jays would prefer to have the stadium and minor league complex, which are separated by about a ten-minute drive, under one roof.  Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro told the Tampa Bay Times  in September that while a one-stop facility would be ideal, the team’s greatest need is for a year-round, state-of-the-art facility, which this deal ensures.  “You never make deals and achieve an ideal state,” he told the Times, “but once we had time to thoroughly assess Dunedin as a partner, the benefits far outweighed everything else.”

  The cost of the upgrades will come in at around $81 million.  Pinellas County will contribute $46 million of that total, much of which will come from a 6% local hotel bed tax.  The team will kick in $15.6 million, and the City has applied for funding for its share ($5.6 million).  Dunedin is eligible for matching funds from the State of Florida for up to $20 million.  Dunedin applied to the County for funding, and sources close to the situation indicated that things look good for their application to be approved shortly.  Only a handful of other applications were received, and for amounts significantly less than Dunedin is seeking.

  The upgrades will occur at the minor league complex, which will be significantly renovated to provide medical, training, and locker facilities for up to 250 players.  It is hoped that bids to renovate FAES will be out before summer.  Construction would start there once the Florida State League season ends in September, with renovations to be complete by 2019.  The D-Jays will have to relocate to another stadium for the 2018 season, likely to one of the other spring training stadiums in the area.

  The economic impact of spring training to Dunedin has been pegged at $70 million.  There is a 40-year history between the city and the Blue Jays, and many Canadians have purchased real estate in the area.  The Blue Jays had entered talks with the Astros about combining on a new facility in Palm Beach Gardens, but opted out of those discussions to focus on renewing their deal with Dunedin, which was set to expire this spring.  The new deal will keep the team on the Gulf Coast for another 25 years.