There’s a persistent narrative afield that when the Jays sell off in July they need to get back top level starting pitching in return. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for adding quality arms at every opportunity, but I want to push back a bit on the perception that the Jays’ minor league pitching is some barren wasteland being trudged by Nate Pearson alone. Let’s review what next April might look like on the various staffs, assuming health. I’ll start by assuming Stroman and Giles were traded, but the Jays were not satisfied with low (understandably) offers for Sanchez and choose to keep him another year. I make no assumptions here about who might come back or even what level they would be playing at. This is strictly in-house options.
Blue Jays rotation candidates-
Matt Shoemaker, Aaron Sanchez, Ryan Borucki, Trent Thornton, Thomas Pannone, Sean Reid-Foley, Julian Merryweather
This isn’t necessary anyone’s vision of a playoff rotation but they are mostly young (Merryweather’s weird career track notwithstanding) and can be reasonably expected to be at least average as a group. Oh sure, Aaron Sanchez is a mess right now, but the whole point here is about near-term depth. There’s seven names here so your first wave of injury (or inefficncy) replacements are as MLB ready as they are liable to get.
Buffalo rotation candidates (beyond the overflow from the previous group)-
Nate Pearson, Patrick Murphy, Hector Perez, Yennsy Diaz, Zach Logue, TJ Zuech, Jacob Waguspack
Admittedly the latter is a fringe desperation option everyone else here has legitimate potential to contribute something in the majors. Pearson and Murphy have obvious top of the rotation potential (though Pearson would likely need the full season in the minors), Perez and Diaz are often speculated about being very good relievers if the starting thing doesn’t pan out. Logue is probably in the model of Pannone, at best, but that’s something of value. Again, seven names for five turns.
New Hampshire rotation candidates-
Maximo Castillo, Josh Winckowski, Joey Murray, Nick Allgeyer, Justin Maese, Graham Spraker
Laying aside Maese’s injury questions, the other five here are pitching at an impressive level in Dunedin (or in Winckowski’s case, mostly in Lansing) this year. It’s true that not every Hi-A stud translates that success to AA, but having guys who are preforming at a high level of quality is much better than not. Odds are pretty good that some of the return that Toronto gets out of this summer’s deals will not have been as impressive to this point as these guys have. Spraker’s like not a future MLB starter, but there are other ways to contribute.
Alek Manoah will probably jump to Dunedin next year as Nate Pearson did to start his first full season. Quite possibly Elvis Luciano, Eric Pardinho and Adam Kloffenstien (all only 19 next year) will make this team.There’s a drop off after that until you get to guys much lower in the system.
All told, there are as many as 15 pitchers 26 and under between those three rotations who project to contribute in the majors. If the 2021 rotation were Pearson, Murphy, Borucki, Thornton, and one from the group of Pannone, Merryweather, and Perez that’s not a wasteland.
Now, let’s check out the team notes for the week.
Bo Bichette returned to Buffalo from the IL on June 7, since June 6 the Bisons are 18-6. Coincidence? You decide. His OPS since coming back is .932 and the only nitpick you could find is that he’s averaging a strikeout per game. Socrates Brito has been a consistent offensive contributor (6 homers in June) but he also has 34 strikeouts this month. In fact, if you look at pretty much any offensive contributor during this hot streak, there’s an inordinate K total. It’s a free swinging crew.
On the mound the top story is Thomas Pannone. In three starts since his demotion to get stretched out, he;s given up 2 runs over 15 innings in three starts, while walking four and striking out 22. If he can bring something along those lines back to pitching starved Toronto he’ll soon be a folk hero. Small sample size cautions apply of course. How about a Jordan Romano update? In his last 10 appearances, accumulating 12.1 IP, he’s given up ONE earned run, while walking 2 and striking out 18.
I was right after all about Nash Knight. He had the five-week hot streak of his life, but it ended June 7. Since then he’s hit .173 in 52 at bats. Forrest Wall, whom i had started to buy in on a bit, had a similarly crappy June. He finished the month hitting .208 with an OPS of .592 for the month. Similarly, Brock Lundquist followed an impressive May with a forgettable June. On the other hand, small sample comfort can be found with SS Kevin Smith. Over his last 7 games he’s 8 for 25. The organization – and Smith – would very much like to see this be a long term turn-around and not just a hot blip.
Nate Pearson will be busy soon. He’s on the roster for Sunday’s Futures Game, and also set to appear in the EL All-Star game two days later. Patrick Murphy is back from the IL, but they are easing him back into his workload. Stay tuned. In worse news, Zach Logue had his worst game of the year this week, losing the zone and posting a wildly uncharacteristic five free passes.
Impressive young catcher Alejandro Kirk finally cooled off a bit, hitting like a catcher in June. 3B Cullen large is back from the IL for five games now but he’s just beginning (maybe) to get his timing back. The unexpected news here is that Demi Orimoloye might actually have figured something out. After hovering around .190 for most of the first half, the work he’d been putting in to adjust his swing with hitting coach (hear more about it on Around the Nest)) seems to have begun to pay off over the last three weeks. in 14 games he’s slashing .385/.448/.808/1.256 which . . . seems good.
You gotta highlight Joey Murray here. Wednesday night he threw 6 innings of 2-hit ball and struck out 12! He’s only been here for nine starts but the Florida State league has no idea, so far, what to do with this guy. Nick Allgeyer came back from a couple of weeks of inactivity following a one inning, four run, start on June 6. In two appearances this week, totaling 11 IP he allowed only 2 ER. Maximo got absolutely pounded yesterday in his worst outing of the year by far. Seven earned runs on eight hits over just five IP.
Utilityman Otto Lopez continues to roll, with at least one hit in every game since coming off the IL (.379). The other main driver of offense is catcher Gabriel Moreno (as usual). He shook off an 0 for 16 streak a couple of weeks ago and he’s 13 for 36 in nine games since.
One of the more frustrating pitchers her has been Sean Wymer. The 2018 4th rounder was mentioned by some evaluators as worthy of the back end of your top 30 list back in the spring, but after a strong first outing he’s struggled more often than not since. By May 22 his ERA had risen to 8.79. Over seven games since his ERA is 4.46 which is still not top prospect production but working in the right direction nonetheless. Yesterday he struck out seven, with no walks, over 5.2 IP and he’s only had one of those awful games like had been pilling up early in this season during this 7 game sample so . . . encouraging?
Seventeen games into the season and this is virtually a omen man offense. Yorman Rodriguez, a 21 year old C/1B who played most of 2018 with the VanC’s to mediocre results has opened this season hitting .415 which, cool, but he’s not this good even if he has modified his approach. If I foced myself to find something else to brag on among the hitters, it could only be that SS Tanner Morris has 12 walks (more than his 10 strikeouts) in the early going. But he’s also hitting .213.
On the other hand, between Adam Kloffenstein, Grant Townsend, and Juan Diaz they seem to have the core of a pretty reliable rotation.
Bluefield, GCL, and DSL
In Bluefield, a trio of 2019 draftees – OF Eric Rivera, 3B Angel Camacho, and 1B Spencer Horwitz – are off to hot starts, the best pitcher early on has to be 20 year old Cuban RH Lazaro Estrada who, in two starts, has thrown 9 shutout innings with 9 strikeouts and only one walk . . . in the Complex, top prospect Orelvis Martinez is on fire (through only five games of course) and the best stories on the mound were pretty much all the rehabbing starters passing through town including Ryan Borucki, Julian Merryweather, and Eric Pardinho . . . after the promotion of catcher Javier D’Orazio there’s not that much to take note of offensively on the DSL team so far. The best remaining hitter by the numbers is 17 year old Panamanian 2B Adrian Montero who has 11 walks against only four strikeouts which is a good sign on the island. Among pitchers, 17 year old Venezuelan Edgar Castro remains the lone standout (22IP, 12 H, 5 BB, 22K). Honestly, it’s going to be a second before these teams accumulate enough games played to begin to speculate about them.