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Hot Takes From The Farm: Week Nine

You might not have noticed but for 10 days or so now the Blue Jays farm system has had five teams, rather than four, in play most nights. The Dominican Summer League began play June 1, and we’re not that far away from the three other short-seasons teams getting started. On Friday night the Vancouver Canadaians, quite possibly featuring Alek Mamoah and Will Robertson among others from the fresh draft class. The following Monday is Day One for the GCL complex team, and the day after sees Opening Night in Bluefield. Here’s a brief largely speculative look at the potential (or in the case of the DSL, already existing) roster construction.

Vancouver
Typically, newly drafted college players get consideration for this team. Mamoah is a near lock to spend his season here, but one or two turns to gear up in the GCL are not impossible. Robertson, too, opening day or not will likely get the bulk of his time here. Catcher Phillipe Clarke is also a near lock. Among players already in the system, there’s no bigger question than where Pardino pitches when he’s healthy. Originally on the Lansing IL, he’s yet to pitch in a game that counts and now the team has the option to send him Northwest. They are reportedly undecided but I lean towards the idea he’ll get at least 3-4 turns here. Another SP to watch is Nathaniel Perez who was dominant in the DSL in 2017, and inconsistent for Bluefield last year. On offense, carryover players include 1B (and, last year, a good RP as well but reports are he intends to focus on offense this year) >>CORRECTION: this claim is backwards, my memory failed me and I should have checked it. McGuire will focus on pitching this season.<< Andy McGuire, and Dom Abadassa who struggled for Lansing earlier in the season but was quite good in Bluefield last year.

Bluefield
The ace here is last year’s third round steal Adam Kloffenstein. This year’s second round choice Kendall Williams might make it to this team over in August but won’t open here, nor any HS pitcher from the recent draft. There are some interesting Latin pitchers likely to round out this rotation. LH Dominican Juan Diaz, 20, pitched well in the complex league last summer, and the ’18 DSL team featured a trio of starters who, while not physically imposing, posted impressive stats: Mexicans Santos Moreno and Adrian Hernandez (RH and LH respectively, both 19) and Lazaro Estrada, a 20 year old RH Cuban. Combined, the three had an ERA of 2.20 and a K:9 of 10.1 while nothing a K:BB rate of 4.5:1 In the field, 2017 Latin signees of note are likely to start in the middle of the infield. SS Miguel Hiraldo and SS/2B Leo Jiminez are both highly regarded by the organization and most scouts. the other name I’ll be watching is speedy CF Jhon Solarte who preformed well for the DSL team last year. newly drafted Dasan Brown will surely spend most of the year here but like others, wetting the feet in the GCL comes first.

GCL
It’s near impossible to predict how long the players new to the org will spend here before any potential promotion, but all the newly selected HS players will begin here and most of the college players will at least get a week or two. The team will also have a few holdovers from last year (all these teams will, but a LOT of guys will be released in the next couple of weeks too) RHP Alejandro Mealan was rated the 32nd best international signing prospect in ’17. He pitched here last year and might go to Bluefield but he wasn’t dominant. Another top 40 signing was RF Alberto Rodriguez will also likely be here. The big name however is the top signing from the 2018 class, who was paid almost as much as Vladdy had been to sign – SS Orelvis Martinez. Since the DSL squad started without him, one assumes he’ll play stateside.

DSL
Judging the ’18 class by signing bonuses, after Martinez the next best players were catcher Javier D’Orazio and OF Amell Brazoban. Both of these, along with a team-full of others, are playing already in the DSL. The former off to a blistering start and the latter struggling early. No one has layed more than 5 games yet though so let’s give these kids some time.

Now, on to the full season teams.

Lansing

For the Lugnuts, Otto Lopez continues his hit hitting ways, hitting .390 over his last 10, but hardly anyone is noticing because Griffin Conine has been insane. You may remember that I went against the crowd and predicted Conine would be assigned to Dunedin because he was a college hitter who was maybe too advanced for the MWL. Well i was wrong, because he was assigned to Lansing, but I was right because he’s annihilating pitching in this league. He’s played 7 games so far, and the ‘Nuts have 8 more before the ASB. I do not expect Conine to play a 16th game with Lansing. Right now his slugging – not OPS, JUST SLG percentage, is 1.192 so draw your own conclusions. Also, young catcher Gabriel Moreno, whom Lugnuts fans will get to enjoy all year barring injury what with the jays featuring a catching prospect of note at every level above him, continues to rake as well.

I could basically just rerun my notes from the previous week on this staff most every time.  For the most part we know who these guys are by now. Josh Winckowski is still the ace, Josh Hiatt is closing ground with a 2.84 ERA in his last 10 appearances, and the bullpen is powered by unheralded dudes getting it done. One change of note, dominant reliever Jackson Rees got his overdue promotion to Dunedin so possibly Cre Finfrock steps more into the spotlight in the weeks ahead.

Dunedin

The offense took a blow this week as 3B Cullen Large landed on the IL with a separated shoulder. Luckily for the first place (and soon to be first half champs) D-Jays, SS Logan Warmoth has well and truly remembered who he is. As I noted before, he’d just got hot a week before he found himself injured for a month. He wasted no time continuing that hot streak after he got back. Combined, over 21 games bookending that IL stint, he’s slashed .378/.469/.549 which is largely carrying the team right now. He’s not THIS good but if this is a sign of what he can do, and lot of skeptical reviews will need some revision. The other big offensive force continues to be catcher Alejandro Kirk who’s prove the FSL is no ore a challenge for him than the MSL was. Bo Bichette is here on rehab. He’s played 2 games so far, he might stay for the 4 which remain before their break before he moves back up to Buffalo, certainly no longer than that.

Among the starters, Graham Spraker got an emergency spot start in AAA this week and acquitted well (5.1 IP. 1 ER, 5 K) and Maximo Castillo seems set to get one in the coming days as the Bisons struggle to fill out the rotation (a major factor in why you have to put up with Jackson and Richard in Toronto). Fifth starter Justin Dillon’s impressive 19 IP scoreless streak over three appearances ended with a rough outing yesterday.

New Hampshire

Stop me if you’ve heard this one – CF Forrest Wall continues to rake. he’s hitting .357 over his last 10 and on the season he’s slashing .304/.400/.464 which at some point you have to think he’s figured something out. It’s good to see on of those guys acquired in the sell-off last summer exceed expectations. Catcher Riley Adams is on an 0-for-18 skid, which hopefully ends soon. OF Joshua Palcios is back from six weeks on the DL and has two hits in three of his last five games so maybe he’ll get on a roll. UT Santiago Espinal is rebounding from a 14 game skid in May during which he went 8 for 56. Since that ended he’s hit .351 over his last 10 games.

Hector Perez and Patrick Murphy both had stumbles this week, that’s twice in three outing for Murphy which will likely cool speculation that the Jays will get desperate enough to add him to the big league rotation in place of Edwin Jackson. Nate Pearson had a couple of shutout outings after being touched up for the first time during the previous week. While none of these are likely to ski to the Majors soon, Buffalo is hurting and you have to think Murphy goes on to AAA soon.

Buffalo

It’s interesting to write about the Buffalo team right now if your focus is prospects (and by “interesting” I mean damned difficult) unless you want to spend a lot of time on Anthony Alford, which as it happens I do. In his ongoing renaissance he’s now 33 games away from his low point. In that period he’s slashed .294/.360/.444 which is more interesting since Ross Atkins was quoted this week as saying that Alford is definitely on their radar when he showed some consistency. He had a stretch of 13 crappy games followed by 33 promising games so…hopefully they call his number soon. Until Bo gets back, the only other offensive player still eligible to be considered a prospect that anyone has talked up is Reese McGuire who, while he’s still likely the second coming of Luke Maile,  he’s rebounded some from a start that saw him bottom out at .194 after his first game in may. Since then he’s slashed .300/.378/.444 which would be encouraging if anyone could believe it would last. Still, tip of the cap and all that.

On the subject of the ongoing dumpster fire that is Edwin Jackson and what to do about him (to say nothing of the growing problem of Clayton Richard which hopefully Borucki will solve in a few weeks) the pendulum swings away from AA and back in the direction of the only semi-viable option in Buffalo: Sean Reid-Foley. SRF still loses the plate far to often (possibly overthrowing as on at least one occasion when his velocity ticked down he had better command) but he has a 3.26 ERA over his last five starts, with only 14 hits given up in 30.1 IP. Still, if the jays were serious they would start Stroman on his normal rest Wednesday and Jackson on Thursday (currently it’s the other way around) in order to line Jackson’s pitch day up with Reid-Foley’s. Watch to see how they play it. Everything else here is pretty much a disaster. Reliever Conor Fisk has been pressed into duty as a starter four time. AA lefty Zach Logue came up for a spot start, so did Dunedin starter Graham Spraker (as mentioned earlier) and fellow D-Jay Maximo Castillo was promoted over the weekend and that can only mean one thing. Shawn Morimando was added to the expansive IL (which now has an incredible eight pitchers on it) and while Jon Harris (who basically sucks) got a rehab start yesterday – he got pounded in Dunedin – there’s no predicting if he’s going to be of any help. In short, basically they have three actual SP on this team who are healthy. Fun times for Bisons fans!

By this time next week the D-Jays will be coming out of their break, the Lugnuts going into theirs, and we’ll know the full rosters of the other short season teams (notwithstanding since I write this on Sunday nights, I’ll probably have to edit in the Bluefield roster which will likely be held back to announce next Monday) so… see you then?