With the Blue Jays in the cyclone of trade deadline madness, I’m going to deviate a bit from my usual formula and comment on a big league concern. The one real big league concern at the moment: Marcus Stroman. To go on record, I wanted to keep him. The single most frustrating thing about following a sports team, for me, is when a team chooses to let go of a player you love. I literally quit the NFL when they came up with a free agency system that provoked teams to ditch players they had under contract for cap reasons. I became a Jays fan right after the ’85 run and fell in love with certain mainstays, particularly Tony Fernandez and Jimmy Key. I swallowed hard at the deal that sent Fernandez away but I was also fascinated by Robbie from the jump so I dealt – but when Key became a free agent, AND went to the Yankees, AND was replaced by a free agent pitcher I despised…. *heavy sigh*. I also didn’t want to lose David Cone even though he was new to the team. The cycle has repeated so many times, Green for Mondesi, Clemens for Wells, Delgado leaving. You get callouses on your heart but yet you dread the next one all the same. I’m not going to be deeply invested in sorrow with Stro leaving (only compounded by lack of giddy excitement about the return) because those callouses are there. I knew it was all but certain all along. But I wish it were not. Anyway, moving along to the deal.
You will no doubt have read much analysis of the deal by now. The Jays received 24 year old lefty Anthony Kay and 18 year old RHP Simon Woods Richardson from the Mets for Stroman, disappointing many Blue Jays’ fans but while the Mets’ system was and is shoddy, there are intriguing aspects of the two. They were ranked #4 and #6 respectively on the Mets list by MLB Pipeline, and the same on Baseball America’s midseason update, while the Board at Fangraphs has SWR at #8 and Kay at #9. Hot take reaction on Twitter argued pretty heavily that Woods Richardson was the more valuable prize. So what do the stats say?
Kay was the Mets’ supplemental first round selection (#31) in 2016 but injuries kept him off the field until the 2018 season when he was regaining his footing after Tommy John surgery. This year he opened the season at AA after only 23 previous professional starts and dominated. Moreso than any then member of the (very good) New Hampshire rotation had. He had a 1.49 ERA and has given up a very tidy 38 hits in his 66.1 IP and opponents were hitting just .165 off of him. He’s had seven starts since being promoted to the juiced-ball AAA team and those haven’t gone so well. He’d given up only two homers in AA, he’s given up an incredible seven in 31 innings at the higher level. One suspects that if he can figure out what he needs to do to put a stop to that, he’ll be fine. Likely the Jays will see how he plays out the year, consider sending him to Arizona in the fall, then asses where he stands in terms of candidacy for the 2020 team.
Simon Woods Richardson is getting a lot more buzz in the last 24 hours. They had just promoted him to the Florida State League and today would have been his debut for the St. Lucie Mets. What makes this noticeable is that he’s only about three months older than Eric Pardinho. He had 24 starts at the Lo-A level (the equivalent to Lansing in the Midwest League) and struggled through April and May. But in nine starts since the beginning of June his ERA is a crisp 2.09 with a WHIP of 0.98 and a K:BB ratio of 5.3:1 – thus the promotion, Likely the Jays plug him into Dunedin, start him as soon as he reports, possibly even tonight (or tomorrow) and expect big things. Even in their stronger system he is going to fall in the 5-10 range while Kay will be something more like 10-12. Speaking of prospect rankings…
Another bit of news this week is that the updated mid-season prospect lists for Baseball America, MLB Pipeline, and Fangraphs are now live and updated with 2019 draftees. Here’s a consensus raking of the 24 players which appear on all three lists (before Sunday’s trades):
1. Bo Bichette – SS – Toronto
2. Nate Pearson – RHP – New Hampshire
3. Jordan Groshans – SS – Lansing
4. Alek Manoah – RHP – Vancouver
5. Eric Pardinho – RHP – Lansing
6. Gabriel Moreno – C – Lansing
7. Adam Kloffenstien – RHP – Vancouver
8. Alejandro Kirk – C – Dunedin
9. Orelvis Martinez – SS – Gulf Coast Jays
10. Miguel Hiraldo – SS – Bluefield
11. Griffin Conine – RF – Lansing
12. Kendall Williams – RHP – Gulf Coast Jays
13. Leo Jimenez – SS/2B – Bluefield
14. Kevin Smith – SS – New Hampshire
15. TJ Zuech – RHP – Buffalo
16. Patrick Murphy – RHP – New Hampshire
17. Anthony Alford – CF – Buffalo
18. Will Robertson – RF – Vancouver
19. Dasan Brown – CF – Gulf Coast Jays
20. Hector Perez – RHP – New Hampshire
21. Yensy Diaz – RHP – New Hampshire
22. Reese McGuire – C – Toronto
23. Chavez Young – CF – Dunedin
24. Cal Stevenson – CF – Dunedin
I remain higher than the consensus on Patrick Murphy but I’m no scout, I’m also puzzled at the prominent ranking for Leonardo Jimenez who seems to me to be fine but nothing remarkable. I also have Alford higher but I can admit I have a very strong bias where he’s concerned. If i were reordering this I’d move Murphy to #10, Jimenez to the bottom of the list and Alford at least ahead of Zuech. On to the team notes.
With the trade of Eric Sogard yesterday, the Bo Watch level immediately jumped to “Extreme!” and indeed, he got the call – but there’s a trivial subtext to that: Bo’s slumping. Going into Sunday’s play he was 5 for 39 in his last nine games. Still, the Jays have recalled players who were slumping in Buffalo at least twice before. One of those was Lourdes so it can work! After three games to adjust, Rowdy found a groove. In his last he’s hitting .342 with five homers. We never here much about him anymore but in 24 July games, Socrates Brito is slashing .323/.377/.591/.969
Sean Reid-Foley started yesterday’s game but pitched only the first inning. The Jays got him on the same flight as Bo and it’s they are saving him for Tuesday since Stroman won’t make that start (which would make this one inning appearance the equivalent of a “throw day”). Yesterday would have been Anthony Kay’s regular turn as well, so best guess as i write this Sunday evening is that, assuming travel/reporting isn’t an issue which it shouldn’t be (although players have, IIRC, three days to report) then he might start for the Bisons as early as today.
Joshua Palacios has been one of those farm hands, not unlike teammate Forrest Wall, that i kinda like but who strikes me as maybe having a Dwight Smith, Jr type of ceiling. Still, let’s tip our collective caps to the young man. So far in July he’s hitting .349 and racked up a .442 OPS. He very much lacks for power though. But the big story in New Hampshire is the long awaited breakout of Kevin Smith. It’s been long enough now that we can have some confidence that this is more than a bubble. He’s hitting .405 over the last 10 games, and since his low point (on June 21 he ended the day hitting .168) in 25 games and 90 at bats he’s slashed .333/.368/.667/1.135 which, that’s good – better of course than he actually is (he hit 7 of his 15 HR on the season over this stretch) – but super-reassuring after he struggled so much for so-long.
You can’t speak of the Fisher Cats’ rotation without checking in first with soon-to-be #1 prospect Nate Pearson. He popped up as the #14 overall player in the mid-season Pipeline Top 100 – and #2 among RHP. On the field last week he had his best AA outing yet, throwing 5.2 no hit innings with 8 strikeouts last Wednesday. Also his longest outing of the season as the kid gloves begin to come off.
know I mention Cal Stevenson at least every other week here but he just keeps getting hotter. There’s an increasing possibility that he might get out of the Florida August heat for fields to the North. He’s hit an insane .515 in his last 10 games, .395 in 23 July games (with a 973 OPS), and .407 (1.007) in 33 since the FSL All Star Game. His BA is .333 since May 1 with a .423 OBP – honestly, I don’t know what else he has to prove at this level. All the prospect evaluators seem a lot higher on 2B Samad Taylor than you’d gather from looking at the stats, I’ve been more skeptical. But he’s on a very nice roll in July, hitting .304 with 4 of his season total of 5 homers in this month. He has a streaky history but if he could maintain some consistency he might live up to the commentary.
You might remember that last week I noted that ace pitcher Joey Murray went up to New Hampshire for a brief slightly odd turn and then was sent back to Dunedin? Welp, they turned around this week and sent him right back where he turned in five fine innings. After that odd rain-interrupted debut, he’s pitched 9 IP at AA giving up 3 runs on 7 hits and 3 walks while striking out 14. Can’t see why he’d need to be back in Florida anytime soon. Meanwhile, it might be fair to call Maximo Castillo the D-Jays new defacto ace. Over his last five starts, totaling 27.1 IP he’s surrendered but four earned runs (a 1.32 ERA!) and 33 strikeouts (a higher rate than has been seen previously in his career. Our large adult (pitching) son seems to have taken a step forward, at least in terms of results.
If Stevenson is promoted soon, the logical choice to fill his slot is still Griffin Conine, but he’s slumping lately. Over his last 14 games he’s hitting a paltry .140 in 57 at bats. and struck out 29 times (including six games with at least 3). That seems unlikely to earn you the promotion. No one else currently on the team has really stepped up to help replace that offensive load either. I mean yes, top catching prospect Gabriel Moreno continues to provide steady high-level production but he was doing that all along. Pretty much everyone else is performing at a mediocre level, or worse, lately.
As with Pearson above, to speak of the Lansing pitching staff is to speak first of Eric Pardinho. He’s yet to have a bad outing, he gets 5 IP every turn (now) on five days rest and four turns in a row he surrendered one earned run or less. He pitched 50 innings at Bluefield last year and on that pace would only, almost, reach 60 this year so I suspect he won’t stay so limited the rest of the season. The next best pitcher still on this roster is closer Cre Finfrock who’s running almost 13.5 K/9 to go with his 2.63 ERA.
The Vancouver Canadians are 12-6 lately and the reason is a suddenly potent offense. In June only catcher Yorman Rodriguez was hitting at all, while all the recent draftees on the team struggled to find their footing. In July, several of them have. After the draft, the hitter I was most excited about was 4th round RF Will Robertson. In June he taught me some patience but since the 4th of July, he’s found his groove. Over the 17 games since, he’s slashing .343/.436/.567/1.003 which… pleases me. Another 2019 who’s stepped it up include 13th rd SS Trevor Schwecke who’s hitting .315 in July (after .232 in June). On the mound, we haven’t seen Grant Townsend, for reasons unexplained, for almost three weeks, but in his absence top prospect Adam Kloffenstein continues to ramp up his game. In 15.1 IP over his last three outings, he’s allowed a single earned run. In other new, Alek Manoah finally got his expected assignment to the C’s and pitched an inning to open Saturday night’s game. They’ll no doubt have to build his endurance back up over the remaining weeks.
The highest ranked offensive prospect in Bluefield is SS/2B Miguel Hiraldo. After a somewhat slow June, he’s hitting .344 in the last 23 games. with a .924 OPS and he’s still just 18. Leo Jimenez is also here but having a much more ordinary season so far. RHP Alejandro Melean is the most highly praised among the pitchers here by prospect watchers (Fangraphs mentions him at #37 on The Board) but his stats are just okay, and he left Saturday’s game after just two outs with some sort of injury.
2019 third round selection Dasan Brown has joined the GCL squad after some delay, but only two games so far. Top prospect Orelvis Martinez is the star of this team but he’s slumping, hitting just .222 in July. Second rounder Kendall Williams also just arrived, and like Manoah opened a game with a scoreless inning but that’s all the sample we have so far. The two innings leaders on this team have both done solid work. Santos Moreno, a Stro-sized Mexican RH has a 1.33 ERA with good secondary stats, and Venezuelan LH Rafael Monsion is at 2.75 with only 2 BB in 19.2 IP (good control in young Latin signings is a good sign). Two 2019 draftees are doing well early also – 15th rounder Michael Dominguez (who’s 18 years old) has 20 strikeouts in 13 IP, and Blake Sanderson, 23, drafted in the 31st round, has one walk and 15 strikeouts in 10 IP and my hunch is, as an older college draftee, he’ll be bumped up to older and tougher competition soon.
As of now, all but three of the 30 players drafted this year have been assigned including all of the top 17. But for several it will be weeks before you can really comment on the results. Stay tuned.