WARNING: THIS IS NOT VLAD CONTENT
Before the Internet and social media, there really wasn’t a heck of a lot of content on baseball’s best prospects, never mind everyday highlights. You’d have to go to a magazine shop and seek out some baseball reading material. Any kid who grew up a baseball fan in the eighties and nineties can remember spending their ‘paper route’ money on a Beckett Baseball or Topps magazine – or pestering their parents for a subscription to Sports Illustrated (thanks mom).
I grew up in St. Catharines – as many readers already know – and I had the opportunity to watch the Toronto Blue Jays’ affiliate ‘Baby Jays’ (later renamed the Stompers), who played in the New York-Penn League, in the eighties and nineties. I was lucky enough to see future MLB stars like Carlos Delgado, who joined the team as a skinny 17-year-old kid in the summer of ’89.
I also remember watching Jeff Kent, Woodie Williams, Derek Bell, and Vernon Wells play at the old yard in Merritton. Back in the good ol’ days before the Internet: if you didn’t have a farm team playing in your city and a local newspaper writing about them, it was near impossible to get everyday reports on prospects in the pipeline.
Now, with MiLB TV, the Internet, and Twitter, a steady flow of information is there for all of us, as we keep baseball tabs on what’s happening in the farm. It’s much easier today to get instant highlights of the best prospects in baseball. All you have to do is follow your favourite MiLB teams on Twitter and you will get all the highlights, interviews, and updates you need injected into your baseball veins – what a time to be alive!
The Lansing Lugnuts have the best record in the Midwest League, rich with a roster of young talent that would be generating more buzz if it weren’t for a certain baseball crushing kid in New Hampshire. And it makes sense that the Lugnuts are having as much success as they are since many of the players on this year’s roster played for the 2017 Northwest League champion Vancouver Canadians.
I thought it’d be cool to find out what players Jays fans should keep an eye on in Lansing, so I reached out to my good friend, Jesse Goldberg-Strassler, to talk all things Lugnuts.
Where should we start, Jesse?
Let’s start with Kacy Clemens. He felt like Cavan Biggio coming into this year – a bloodline player for the Jays, true, but not a guy to keep our eye on compared to his teammates. You know what I saw from him? He drew walks (a LOT of them); he led the Midwest League in home runs, with power to all fields; he played a stylish, skillful first base; and he was a tremendous teammate. He might have been the best all-around first baseman I’ve ever seen in Lansing, though he was only with us for a little over a month.
The best all-around first baseman you’ve ever seen? That’s a bold comment man and I’m totally down. What about Kevin Smith who is starting to make a lil’ noise?
Kevin Smith is playing third base and shortstop, playing them well, and dominating at the plate. I put together a chart today to see how he measured up with Bo Bichette’s ridiculous pace from last year — and I learned that he’s exceeding it. (Granted he’s two years older, but still. Bo’s 2017 in Lansing was absurd. I’d take those numbers from anyone, particularly a fourth-round supposedly glove-first infielder in his first full season.)
And he was just named the Midwest League Player of the Week – not bad at all. He might not be ‘Chasing Amy’, but he sure is chasing his MLB dream. Anywho… Speaking of the Blue Jays’ awesome prospect infield depth, what about Samad Taylor?
Samad Taylor is 19, plays second base, came over in the Joe Smith trade, has pop, steals bases, and draws walks. I see why the Jays wanted him from Cleveland.
And how about shortstop Kevin Vicuña?
What I like most about Kevin Vicuña is his athleticism and his ability to put his bat on the ball. You throw it, he hits it. He hits .300+ in his sleep. Also, this past weekend, he hit his first career MiLB home run. (It only took 989 games.)
So, Ryan ‘walkin’ Noda, eh!
Ryan Noda’s walk numbers don’t look real. He walked three more times on Saturday, giving him 38 for the year. You know how many people in baseball have more walks? Bryce Harper, the end. More importantly, he hit a laser of a single to right-center. If his bat comes around to match his discipline, as it did last year when he won Appy League MVP, the Lugnuts’ league-leading offense goes up another notch.
Chavez Young has some pretty impressive numbers this season, what can you tell us about him?
Chavez Young switch-hits, gets on base, has a rocket arm, flashes great speed, and has the biggest personality on the team. He’s magnetic as a person and electric as a player all at once.
Alright, Jesse, Yennsy Diaz is 3 – 1, is leading the pitching staff in Ks, has a WHIP under 1, and a 2.27 ERA. What can you tell us about the ‘Nuts’ best pitcher?
Yennsy Diaz is 21 years old with mid-90s gas and his change-up has been excellent in working off the fastball. The numbers for him largely speak for themselves: aside from one poor outing against an excellent Quad Cities (Houston) offense, only one earned run allowed in 32 2/3 innings this year.
The Lansing Lugnuts are a damn good baseball team that every Blue Jays fan should keep an eye on this spring and summer. Through all the ‘Cats hype, let’s not forget about the Lugnuts. There are a lot of future Blue Jays to get excited about in Michigan’s capital and it should be fun times watching them play their way to a Midwest League championship.
I want to thank Jesse for his time. You can follow him on Twitter @jgoldstrass and the Lugnuts @LansingLugnuts to get all the prospect-y goodness that you crave. And remember if you’re going down to Lansing to watch some of these future stars, go to Dagwoods, Blondie’s Barn, Good Truckin’ Diner, or the Golden Harvest to get your early morning bacon fix.