With MLB‘s 2014 season off to a rambunctious beginning, it’s easy to let the action on the farm fall by the wayside.
Let’s not forget the impact that an organization’s minor league system has; all emerging stars, injury fill-ins, the progress of a once promising prospect attempting a comeback (or continuing to fall apart at the seams), provide vital intel to the current and future business a front office conducts.
Besides, every casual or hardcore fan should have their scout-hat within arms reach at all times, ready to kibosh their know-it-all buddy’s false analysis. So, without further ado, let’s check in and take look at the Toronto Blue Jays‘ farm system.
Triple-A Affiliate: Buffalo Bisons
Highlight: 1B Juan Francisco: 28 AB / 8 RBI / .484 OBP / .750 SLG percent
Lowlight: SP Kyle Drabek: 10 IP / 13 H / 6ER / 5.40 ERA / 1.60 WHIP
Top Prospect: SP Marcus Stroman: 10 IP / 10 K / 1.80 ERA / 1 CG
Notable: SP Ricky Romero: 4 IP / 2.00 WHIP
The recent under-the-radar signing of Francisco is starting to earn dividends, as the power hitter, who is also versatile in the field, is off to a roaring start in Buffalo. Now, Francisco employs a notorious past — one that is filled with strikeout-demons (an alarming 259 walks-of-shame in just 709 career at-bats at the major league level) — but his recent performance is starting to turn heads. An off-the-bench weapon that has amassed 32 long balls over that same span could arrive in Toronto’s pecking-order in the near future.
Drabek’s downward trend is now becoming a major concern, as the once considered “crown jewel” prospect has officially fallen on hard times. The pedigree remains, but it is unraveling before our eyes. A change in scenery could benefit both parties involved. On a brighter note, Stroman is looking primed and ready to contribute when the phone rings. As for Romero, well, I know a men’s league squad that’s looking for a lefty reliever; have your people call my people.
Double-A Affiliate: New Hampshire Fisher Cats
Highlight: 3B Ryan Schimpf: 24 AB / .333 BA / 1.137 OPS / 17 TB
Lowlight: C A.J. Jimenez: 8 AB / Plagued by injuries so far
Top Prospect: SP Aaron Sanchez: 10 IP / 8 K / 1.80 ERA / 1.00 WHIP
Notable: 3B Andy Burns: 32 AB / .156 BA / .182 OBP / 11 SO
With Brett Lawrie occupying the hot corner for years to come, the long-term plan is seemingly set for the up and coming Burns to eventually make the switch to second base in an attempt to once and for all supplant the answer at that position. However, don’t look now, but the hot-hitting Schimpf is staking a claim in his own right.
The real star of the New Hampshire show is the ace-in-waiting Sanchez. With concerns about his past walk-rate the only thing blocking his mission to stardom (or take the Blue Jays’ “concern about his age” explanation), one has to be pleased with the immense improvement in correcting his flaws so far.
Single-A / Class A Affiliates: Dunedin Blue Jays / Lansing Lugnuts
Highlight: OF Dwight Smith Jr.: 36 AB / .667 SLG percent / 8 RBI / 24 TB
Lowlight: OF D.J. Davis: 28 AB / 3 BB / 2 SB
Top Prospect: SP Daniel Norris: 5 IP / 0 BB / 5 K / 1.80 ERA
Notable: SP Kendall Graveman: 12 IP / 11 K / 0.75 ERA / O.83 WHIP
Davis’ upside has always been the keys to his big-league cadillac; he could very well be the fastest runner on the minor league planet. The problem is, poor plate-discipline has left the speed demon unable to capitalize on such a skill-set. It might be time for the organization to roll out the “Willie Mays Hayes” punishment — “Every time I see you hit one in the air, you owe me 20 pushups.”
Norris is everything the Jays are looking for — a southpaw with a dynamic arsenal. The second-round pick in the 2011 Amateur draft may be toeing the Dunedin rubber for now, but if Saturday night is any indication, a giant leap awaits. Norris showcased impressive poise working his way out of pressure-packed situations, finishing up with a six-inning shutout performance.
The Blue Jays’ system has undoubtedly taken a step back since the removal of some of its biggest names in recent blockbuster deals, but hope is on the horizon. An encouraging fold is under construction once again.
Until next time, keep one eye on the bigs, and one on the farm. The minor league bus tour continues.