Who Are These Guys? A Brief on the Return for Kevin Pillar

So the long anticipated, albeit with some skepticism, trade of Kevin Pillar dropped this morning and while the various reactions – from Pillar, the team, and the local press, is flowing in – prospect hounds are obviously wondering if there’s cause for excitement about the return.  The answer is… kinda? The Jays received in the deal three players, only one of which is really going to peak the interests of farm watchers. Let’s do them in descending order by age.

First up is RHRP Derek Law. He’s entering his age 28 season and was recently outrighted by the Giants meaning he’s not going to need a 40 man roster spot.  He was a rookie for the Giants at age 25 and was a stud giving them 55 IP with 50 k against 9 BB which led to a 2.53 FIP.  Most of his minor league numbers are more or less consistent with that and, at a minimum, he’d be a quality potential closer for the Buffalo Bisons. But his major league work in the two years since has been less encouraging. His H/9 jumped from 7.2 as a rookie to 10.8 in each of the last two seasons, and his BB/9 went from 1.5 to 3.4 to 5.4 (the latter in only 13.1 IP). The Jays will see if they can get him back to his rookie performance and if so, it will be a nice bonus.

Next we have Alen Hanson. He’s a 26 year old switch-hitting Dominican who’s currently designated for assignment but is out of options and Ross Atkins says will report to the Blue Jays. He’s played short, second, and third and all across the outfield, and given the current thin crop of outfielders in Buffalo (especially given Anthony Alford being promoted) I would have supposed he’d end up covering the increasingly empty outfield there. In the majors he’s hit like a very marginal backup over 243 games, who exists on the fringes due to good speed and defensive versatility. In the minors he showed some statistical success, mildly reminiscent of current Jays prospect Santiago Espinal, until he got to AAA where, apart from a mild boost from a few games in the PCL, he posted a OPS just slightly over .700 which means that there’s likely no upside that he’s anything more than what he has seemed. This would imply either Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. or Richard Urena is headed to Buffalo.

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The centerpiece here is Juan De Paula. He’s a 21 year old right handed Dominican who pitched (save for one appearance) in the short-season NY-Penn League and who’s been traded twice previously. In his first two years (in the Mariners organization) he showed good stats across the board but in the last two, both for the short-season Stanton Island team (a Yankees affiliate) his BB/9, previously 1.98 with the Mariners, more than doubled to 4.2 in the Yankees’ system. After he was included in the Andrew McCutchen deal at the August 31 deadline last year, he pitched in one game for the low-A Giants affiliate in Augusta where, for what it’s worth, he threw 5 IP, giving up 2 hits and a walk while striking out NINE. He’s been reported to sit in the 91-94 range during a look this spring (per Kieth Law) and described elsewhere as pitching in the mid-90’s, with two secondaries with potential to be average (change and curve, per Marc Hulet) and displayed some issues which good coaching should clear up (presuming he’s coachable on those points). He was listed as the Giants #19 prospect in a thin system, he wouldn’t fall that high for the Jays. Ballpark guess I’d expect him to land in the 30-40 range but it’s a very deep system. He’ll surely join the Lansing Lugnuts which, if he does well, would be impressive as 21 is on the young-ish side for that league.

As I was writing this word comes that the Blue Jays have also acquired Socrates Brito from San Diego for AA outfielder Rodrigo Orozco. First let me dispense with the price here, Orozco is an org player. On my personal list of prospects he’s at #117 if that tells you anything.  Brito is a LH hitting outfielder, who was currently on DFA status (which derives from him being out of options) which presumably means this is a waiver claim deal. Brito had a nice debut of 18 games back in 2015 for the D’Backs but has floundered in two subsequent attempts to get a major league career going. That said, he was a BEAST in Reno last year (PCL caveats apply) hitting .318 with a .923 OPS. He showed good power, Atkins describes him as one of the fastest players in baseball, and has reportedly good defense and he’ll be, according to the team, added to the 25 man roster which strikes me as odd given the report that Alford was recalled. Five major league outfielders implies more roster moves to come. When I submit this post it may already be outdated but if so, come back and look for updates.