Results tagged ‘ Toronto Blue Jays ’
By Sam Dykstra
We’ll be the first to admit it. We entered the year with some expectations for certain players based on their histories and other things you can read in a scouting report. But now that we’re about a month into the season, it’s fun to look through the stat sheets and see who is off to a better start than most of us could have imagined. So with the caveat that there is plenty of season left and that we’re only looking at these players through the lens of the first 30-plus games, here’s who we think has been the most surprising with the bats at this early juncture.
International League: Josh Thole, catcher, Buffalo – The 27-year-old didn’t do much damage with the Mets last season (.234/.294/.290, one homer, 21 RBIs in 104 games). After being sent to the Blue Jays organization in the R.A. Dickey deal and losing out on his new team’s backup catcher job this spring, he’s found a bit of a resurgence with the bat in the early going with Buffalo. His .420 OBP ranks third in the IL while his .940 OPS is ninth. His four homers in 27 games already represent his highest total since 2008 when he went deep five times for Class A Advanced St. Lucie. Even with the demotion, no one expected Thole to thrive quite like this with the bat.
Pacific Coast League: Dean Anna, second baseman, Tucson – A lot of 26th-round picks don’t even make it as far as Triple-A, but the Tucson second baseman is thriving in his debut at the Minors highest level. His 14 doubles in 37 games almost match his 129-game total of 16 from last season at Double-A San Antonio while his five home runs are half the 10 he blasted last year over a much smaller span. If he were to continue at his current rate, Anna’s .321 average and .537 slugging percentage would be 41 and 97 points higher respectively than his career highs entering the season. (more…)
Antonio Osuna spent 11 seasons pitching in the Majors, and yet his baseball-reference.com bio says only this:
Antonio Osuna is the uncle of Roberto Osuna, who was considered one of the top international prospects in the summer of 2011, signing for $1.5 million.
…is the nephew of former major leaguer Antonio Osuna. Roberto made his minor league debut at age 15 with the 2011 Mexico City Red Devils. Used on a limited basis, he was 0-1 with a 5.49 ERA, 25 hits, 11 walks and 12 strikeouts in 19 2/3 IP over 13 games for the Red Devils through July 27. Timed in the mid-90s, he was rated as the fourth-best international prospect by Baseball America in the summer of 2011. In late July, Osuna said that he would be signing with the Toronto Blue Jays, who had missed out on 2010′s top Mexican amateur prospect, Luis Heredia. A deal was not finalized until late September, when Toronto and Osuna agreed on a contract worth $1.5 million; only Heredia had gotten a bigger deal as a Mexican amateur. He only got $375,000 of his signing bonus, as the Red Devils got the remainder.
That should put into perspective how much potential the younger Osuna has, and take care of much of the background you need for the following Q&A. Here are a two more facts:
- Osuna excelled as a 17-year-old at Rookie-level Bluefield and Class A Short-Season Vancouver in 2012 (stats here)
- Osuna will be 18 years old for the entirety of the 2013 season
Onto the interview: I caught up with the Spanish-speaking Osuna this morning. Thanks to Bluefield pitching coach Antonio Caceres for interpreting on the call.
Osuna on how Spring Training is going: “Everything is going well, just working hard to get ready for the season.”
On what he’s working on right now: “The first thing is getting in good shape and working on all the things I need to work on to become a better pitcher. I am 218 pounds now. I used to be 230-something. I feel much better. I think I’m in better shape than I was last year.
On his interactions with Major Leaguers like Jose Reyes and coaches: “It’s great to see those guys work out and throw here. I’m just focusing on myself so that I’m ready for the opportunity to go to the big leagues one day. Dane Johnson and Antonio [Caceres] have helped me make the transition to pro baseball last year and the kind of the success I had last year.”
On what he is working on now with Johnson and Caceres: “I’m just sharpening my pitches. I’m trying to make sure my I’m repeating my mechanics because I’ll be pitching at a higher level this year.”
In the last edition of this feature, we featured a slick-fielding, light-hitting Cuban shortstop and the three Minor League clubs he has played for. We don’t mean to typecast, but that’s just what Blue Jay-turned Marlin Adeiny Hechavarria is. Traded in that humongous November deal, Hechavarria is also similar to the Red Sox’s Jose Iglesias in these ways: He is a Top 100 prospect (No. 82) that is stuck in the in-between world that covers the distance between the Majors and Triple-A. If Hechavarria is in fact Miami-bound, here is a gallery of him, in every uni he’s donned to date.
Click on any picture to begin the slideshow. For all past editions of Prospect Uniformed, head here.
Prospect Q&A: Marlins LHP Justin Nicolino on Being Traded, Turning Down WBC Team Italy, Hitting off Noah Syndergaard
Justin Nicolino completed his first bullpen session this morning. Excellent news, right Marlins fans?
Ready for even better news? Nicolino’s month-old throwing program is to get ready for the 2013 Minor League season, not the World Baseball Classic. More on that later. First, some background: Nicolino (@J_Nicolino22) was the best prospect in that 10-player, mid-November trade that sent All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes from Miami to Toronto. (I wrote here why I thought the Jays won the deal, despite Nicolino’s inclusion.) Now the Marlins’ No. 4 prospect (and baseball’s No. 86 overall), the 21-year-old left-hander will likely begin April at Class A Advanced Jupiter.
I caught up with Nicolino, who started throwing Dec. 16 and is working out with Cardinals farmhand Joe Cuda, this afternoon from his home in Palm Harbor. (He moved from Orlando to the Clearwater-Dunedin area when he was still in Toronto’s system but has relocated again.). Enjoy our chat.
Me: Let’s start with the newsiest item. You were asked to pitch for Team Italy in the WBC but declined?
Nicolino: Yeah, I got that phone call this past Sunday. I got a call from the pitching coach and he asked me if I would want to pitch for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic. They asked me if I wanted come out and do that. For me, it was an honor. To get called and be given an opportunity to pitch, I think for anyone, it’s an honor. When I talked to ‘em, I just said that with the trade and everything that’s happened this offseason, I wanted to get down [to Florida] and get used to the way the Marlins did everything. That way, I can go into Spring Training knowing [how the Marlins do things]. I didn’t want to go play for Team Italy and not know anything about the Marlins, or the Marlins not knowing anything about me firsthand. I told [Team Italy], ‘Maybe down the road, call back and it might be different.’
Me: Obviously, you’re an American-born Floridian, so would it have been weird to pitch for bella Italia and against Team USA?
Nicolino: Yeah, definitely. Being an American and having Team USA — that was the funny thing that came up in my conversation with my agent. A couple years down the road, whenever I get that phone call back, ‘What would you want to do: Team USA or Team Italy?’ At that point, four years down the road who’s to say what I’d do and who’d I pitch for.
Me: Just out of curiosity, where does your Italian heritage come from?
Prospect Q&A: Blue Jays-turned-Astros RHP Kevin Comer On His Turbulent — Yet Encouraging — First Pro Year
A year and a half since the Blue Jays made him the 57th overall pick in the 2011 Draft, New Jersey high school product Kevin Comer (@KevComer) — now the Astros’ No. 9 prospect – has exactly a dozen pro appearances under his belt. Not a wealth of experience, no.
But to gauge Comer’s development by that number — or by any of his stats here – would be a mistake. Look instead at the 20-year-old right-hander’s handling of his first pro experience, his first pro trade and, perhaps, his first period of exhaustion. I spoke with the man himself this afternoon, and we hit on all three topics.
Me: What have you been up to this offseason?
Comer: So far, it’s been good. I took some down time in Houston [where my sister lives] right after the season and then I came up here to [New Jersey] to do my workouts, a place I’ve been going to a while in Voorhees. I’ve been lifting and I just started throwing again two or three weeks ago, right at the end of January. My lifting has been tough. I have been trying to get stronger in every aspect.
Me: Do you have specific workout goals?
Comer: This winter, I have been trying to gain weight. Last year, I didn’t have the weight I could have in terms of muscle. I have bulked up pretty good — I feel like I’ve gotten bigger in a good this offseason, and I’m pretty happy with where I am out.
Me: How is your throwing going?
Comer: The first couple times, my arm, I felt like I hadn’t thrown in a while, and now that I am getting back into it and coming around, everything is feeling good.
Me: Do you have a throwing partner?
Comer: Right now, just throwing at targets. Not too many people around right now. Where I go there are some young kids, but I can’t fire it into them. It wouldn’t go over well, I don’t think.
CiPitcher: Noah Syndergaard (from Blue Jays to Mets)
Headline: Mets added d’Arnaud, Syndergaard (12/17)
Team in 2013: Class A Advanced St. Lucie (FSL)
Repertoire: Four pitches
- Four-seam fastball — 94-98 mph — A plus pitch, but is it too straight?
- Two-seam fastball — 94-95 mph — Work-in-progress
- Curveball — 74-79 mph — Improved, but still average
- Circle-changeup — 84-88 mph — Work-in-progress
Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (from Royals to Rays)
Headline: Royals send top prospects to Rays (12/10)
Team in 2013: Triple-A Durham (IL) / Tampa Bay
Repertoire: Four pitches
- Four-seam fastball — 90-96 mph — Not always plus, control is key
- Changeup — 80-83 mph — Work-in-progress
- Curveball — 75 mph — Average at this point
- Slider — 82-85 mph — Average at this point
Pitcher: Alex Meyer (from Nationals to Twins)
Headline: Top prospect Meyer shipped to Twins (11/29)
Team in 2013: Double-A New Britain
Repertoire: Three pitches
- No-seam fastball — 93-98 mph — Plus moving fastball, he plans to add straighter variety
- Knuckle-curveball — 83-86 mph — Not always plus, control is key
- Circle-changeup –87-90 mph — Work-in-progress, this offering’s development could decide his future role
Pitcher: Trevor Bauer (from D-backs to Indians)
Headline: Bauer sent to Tribe in three-team deal (12/11/12)
Team in 2013: Triple-A Columbus (IL) / Cleveland
Repertoire: Eight pitches
- Four-seam fastball — 92-plus mph — Can be a plus pitch, location is key (he likes to pitch up in the zone)
- Changeups 1 — 80-84 mph — Can be a plus pitch, it cuts
- Changeup 2 — 76-81 mph — Can be a plus pitch, it runs
- Curveball — 76-81 mph — Can be a plus pitch when break is right, tight
- Dot slider — 84-86 mph — Can be a plus pitch, big breaker
- Circle slider — 84 mph — A solid pitch, more of a cutter
- Reverse slider — 88-91 mph — His invention, average offering
- Splitter — 86-88 mph — Work-in-progress
During my most recent workday here at MiLB.com on Saturday, I wrote about some top prospects that could be traded as we near next month’s Winter Meetings in Nashville. I mentioned about 10 names and … none of them were Blue Jays.
Well, the joke is on me.
If you haven’t already heard, this was our first major offseason trade involving talented Minor Leaguers, which was first broken by Fox Sports’ Morosi/Rosenthal team on Twitter last (Tuesday) night.
Blue Jays get: Veterans Jose Reyes (shortstop), Josh Johnson (righty starter), Mark Buehrle (lefty starter), Emilio Bonifacio (utility man) and John Buck (catcher).
Marlins get: Veteran Yunel Escobar (shortstop), rookie Henderson Alvarez (righty starter) and prospects Jake Marisnick (center fielder), Justin Nicolino (lefty starter), Anthony DeSclafani (righty starter) and Adeiny Hechavarria (shortstop).
Simply put (and not giving much consideration to the Major League veterans exchanged and committed money that changed hands, both of which are beyond my scope): The Blue Jays made out well.
Here is why: Yes, they yielded three of their top seven prospects, but none are what we would call blue-chip or elite-level prospects and Toronto’s system sports the depth to simply replace them. Let’s take these guys one at a time:
Player 1: Marisnick, who hasn’t produced consistent results above low-A, has yet to prove he can be an above-average hitter. The 2009 third-round draftee has quieted some concerns with his .837 OPS through 19 Arizona Fall League games, but he remains very much a work-in-progress in the batter’s box. His defensive and base-running skills were more impressive in 2012.
Player 2: Nicolino, a third of that Lansing trio, was pretty flawless in ’12, posting a 2.46 ERA in 28 games (22 starts) while sporting a 119-21 K-BB ratio. But if we’re looking for flaws, here is one: Unlike former rotation mates Noah Syndergaard and Aaron Sanchez, Nicolino doesn’t have blow-by, dominating stuff, as evidenced by his opponents’ .246 batting average. Nicolino does have very good stuff (fastball, curveball and plus changeup), he strikes me as the kind of guy who will be more limited (than Syndergaard and Sanchez) when he competes against Class A Advanced, Double-A, Triple-A and Major League hitters. Remember, he hasn’t faced any of them yet.
Replacements: In addition to Syndergaard and Sanchez, the Jays have Sean Nolin, Deck McGuire and John Stilson coming along as well as younger hurler-in-training Roberto Osuna. That still leaves ’11- and ’12-drafted lefty starters Daniel Norris and Matthew Smoral, both of whom have a chance to be as good as or better than Nicolino in the future.
Player 3: Hechavarria is among the best fielding shortstops in baseball (and no slouch as a base-stealer), but the Jays weren’t sold enough on his hit tool to install him as the long-term response to Escobar’s inevitable exit.
Replacements: In addition to the former Met Reyes, who may not finish his current contract in Toronto (the guess here is that he won’t), the Jays front office is very high on unranked farmhand Ryan Goins. Despite the fact that Goins has not played above Double-A — he posted a .289/.342/.403 line 136 games there last year — he is now seen as the heir apparent at the position.
I would also add this: The Toronto organization All-Stars piece I filed recently (and which will run the middle of next month) did not include any of the four Jays-turned-Marlins. It just so happens that Gose (outfield, over Marisnick), Nolin (lefty starter, over Nicolino), Goins (shortstop, over Hechavarria) and Syndergaard (right starter, over DeSclafani) all made the list.
That softens the blow of my last, short-sighted blog post. A little bit anyway.
Editor’s note: Lost and Found is an offseason series in which one underrated prospect from each of the 30 MLB clubs will be discussed in a short, snappy post.
Lost: Sean Nolin had this unenviable scenario unfold in 2010: He was drafted after that Noah Syndergaard-Aaron Sanchez-Justin Nicolino trio in 2010 and, unlike each of those top pitching prospects, did not begin his career as smoothly.
2010-2011: 32 G — 28 GS — 4-6 W-L — 3.82 ERA — .262 .AVG — 149-41 K-BB – 129 2/3 IP at Rookie-level Bluefield, Auburn and Class A Lansing
Found: The sixth-round choice turned improved dramatically in his third pro season, doing many what many elite prospects do: upping their game against higher-level competition. His opponents’ batting average has decreased at each new level, including the .170 mark he held Eastern League (AA) hitters to this year, his restorative year.
2012: 20 G — 18 S — 10-0 — 2.04 ERA — .218 .AVG — 108-27 K-BB — 101 1/3 IP at Class A Advanced Dunedin, Double-A New Hampshire
So Nolin was lost, now he is found. Now, about the Blue Jays’ returns: Soon to turn 23 and now Toronto’s No. 19 prospect, Nolin deserves to be in that Syndergaard-Sanchez-Nicolino group. His low-to-mid-90-mph fastball is a touch below Syndergaard’s and Sanchez’s, and his changeup is almost or about as good as Nicolino’s, which is saying something. The less-lauded lefty also has immense confidence in his curveball, while his slider has perhaps the greatest potential to improve. He should begin ’13 at Double-A, which puts him a full year ahead of his fellow farmhands in development. So he may actually be the first of the four to get to the Majors, and that’s where he’s headed.
Do you want the good news first, or the bad?
The good news: Travis d’Arnaud hit for .333 in 2012.
The bad news: Travis d’Arnaud threw for .300 in 2012.
Let me explain.
The Toronto Blue Jays office is in a frenzy this week. The instructional league is ending, and logistical stuff is getting done. It’s busy. But one baseball ops staffer took some time with me over the phone this afternoon, and I came away with a couple conclusions about d’Arnaud, the organization’s top-ranked prospect and presumptive catcher of the future.
The first conclusion: d’Arnaud, whom the Jays acquired from the Phils way back in 2009, is one heck of an offensive threat. Even more of a threat at age 23 and in his first Triple-A season than Toronto’s brass could hope for. The righty swinger not only recorded a hit once every three ABs — he also racked up 16 homers and 21 doubles before his season ended prematurely because of a torn posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. (The injury was supposed to cost him eight weeks of action, but he missed the entire second half of the season. I’m told that he is now 100 percent healthy, so don’t read too much into his absence from the Arizona Fall League).
The second conclusion: d’Arnaud, while adept at the plate, is far from a finished product behind it. The front office member I spoke with said d’Arnaud needed to and would, with experience, improve his 1) game-calling, 2) leadership (“taking charge” of a rotation), and 3) throwing consistency.
1) and 2) are hard for me to quantify because I’m not a scout with inside access to the clubhouse in Triple-A Las Vegas, where d’Arnaud spent last season (or the newly-affiliated Triple-A Buffalo, where he will, barring an injury or trade involving incumbent J.P. Arencibia, begin next season.)
3), however, I can at least scratch the surface on. Past scouting reports indicate the backtop’s strength and athleticism. And stats can point to whether he is turning his natural gifts (tools) into measured production (skills). Here are some of those numbers from ’12:
55 games at catcher
.991 fielding percentage
6 passed balls
40 stolen-base attempts against him
28 successful stolen-base attempts
12 failed stolen-base attempts
.300 caught-stealing percentage
There’s that .300 number again. They say that baseball is a game in which you can fail seven times out of 10 and still be considered successful. This refers to hitting, however, not limiting the oppositions running game. So let’s put it this way:
.700 success rate for opposing would-be base stealers
That’s high. For a comparison: High Desert’s John Hicks registered the lowest such rate (.462) among full-season-affiliated catchers who were tested by 40 or more attempts. And three others, Northwest Arkansas’ Manny Pina and Quad Cities’ Casey Rasmus as well as Winston-Salem’s Miguel Gonzalez, recorded sub.-500 rates.
But those guys are the cream of the crop. Allow PROSPECTive to add greater PERspective: Of only Pacific Coast Leaguer catch-and-throwers, a group that includes d’Arnaud, 10 finished this past season with more success nabbing thiefs.
- Anthony Recker — Sacramento — 44 ATT — .523
- Carlos Corporan — Oklahoma City — 63 ATT — .556
- Ryan Budde — Reno — 40 ATT — .575
- Tim Federowicz — Albuquerque — 84 ATT — .607
- Landon Powell — Oklahoma City — 74 ATT — .608
- Cody Clark — Omaha — 54 ATT — .611
- Eli Whiteside — Fresno — 69 ATT — .638
- Dusty Brown — Round Rock — 53 ATT — .642
- Martin Maldonado — Nashville — 40 ATT — .675
- Derek Norris — Sacramento — 57 ATT — .684
- Travis d’Arnaud — Las Vegas — 40 ATT — .700
So what does all this tell us? d’Arnaud was the 11th-hardest catcher to steal from in a 16-team league because of one, or more likely, a combination of factors: His arm is strong but inaccurate, his instincts are off, his pitchers were slow to home plate, he wasn’t “handling” his pitchers.
So the take-away here is not earth-shattering: Like most young catchers (and it should be pointed out that most of the above 10 are not young), d’Arnaud’s bat is well ahead of his glove. Will it catch up? I can only tell you that it likely will. The stats — and intercountry phone conversations — only tell us so much.