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A Fortnight On The Farm: Volume Nine

The farm teams are winding down now, though not in the uniform fashion to which we’ve been accustomed.

The full season leagues have two more weeks to go in the regular season, with all but AAA following the season with a five-game playoff series (all of the Jays affiliates on those levels are mathematically out already) and AAA having both a regular-season champion declared based on the best overall regular-season record in the AAA East and AAA West – and the Bisons are 3.5 back of the Durham Bulls for that crown in the East (and are on track to finish first in their division). After the regular season, there’s an odd little 10-game sprint to be named the overall AAA champion.

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The complex teams won’t have any sort of post-season, with the Florida squad ending play the same weekend the higher level teams do, and the Dominican team playing through to the last weekend of the MLB season. On to the recaps.

Complex

As I’ve noted before, far and away the most high-profile player on the Dominican squad is bonus baby Manuel Beltre (typically found listed among the Jays’ top 15 prospects). The 17-year-old shortstop took a little time getting in a groove, going just 6 for 46 in July, But he turned it on immediately when the calendar turned, he’s hit .317 in August but much more eye-catching, he’s walked once in every four plate appearances (20 walks against 8 strikeouts) in the month for a .518 OBP to go with a .467 slugging.

Baseball America included more international signees in their mid-season update than most anyone else. Another player here that is on their list (at #14) is infielder Luis Garcia who took the opposite course, running wild in July but hitting only .200 in August. Just ahead of him at #13, they listed CF Yoangel Aponte, He’s been good but enough for a first pass worth noting that while he has 18 walks which is pretty good, he’s also struck out 31 times which leads the team. That’s almost twice as many as either Beltre or Garcia. It’s even harder to really evaluate pitching lines at this level but props are in order for Sergio Caruci and his 40/9 K/BB ratio in 31 IP.

In the Florida Complex, the highest regarded prospect on the team is SS Estevan Machado who… has all of ONE at-bat. The other name you’ve surely seen on the lists is Rikelbin De Castro (that’s how his MiLB page has it, not “Rikelvin”). His story closely mirrors Beltre’s – nothing doing in July, on fire in August. In 40 AB over 13 games in the month, he slashed .400/.529/.625 (sample size obviously but still). Catcher Victor Mesia is #12 on the BA list and he hit well enough to get a September 2 promotion across town to the D-Jays.

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He’s been a consistent hitter all season, moving on with a slash line of .288/.371/.475 over 21 games. It’s a good hitting team and the names I’ve mentioned before still deserve props (there are seven players with at least 10 games with a better OPS than Mesia’s .846) but let me also mention the newcomer. Damiano Palmegiani, a 21-year-old 3B taken in the 14th round of this year’s draft is off to a hot start, recording an .888 OPS so far. The best pitcher here (not counting Eric Pardinho who’s apparently suffered a setback and hasn’t pitched in a while) departed as one of the PTBNL for Soria, Probably the one other guy to really watch is Dahian Santos. His ERA is skewed bu one disaster in his third outing (charged with 4 runs in 0.2 innings) but he has 53 strikeouts and only 12 walks in 35.1 IP and that’s worth keeping an eye on.

Dunedin

This year’s 12th rounder, 3B Riley Tirotta, continues to rake with a .977 OPS in 57 at-bats so far. At 23, he might have handled an assignment to Vancouver, and may still get a cup of coffee there if they want to bother with that much travel at the end of the year. Catcher Zach Britton rebounded from a horrible July to put up .292/.414/.500 in August. As noted on Around the Nest this week, Britton has hit just .181 (144 AB) when catching, but .287 when DHing or in the outfield (87 at-bats – Andrew said “games” but he clearly misspoke. And it might be a bit out of date as those do not add up to his current AB total). One of the established top 20 prospects on this team is Leo Jimenez whom we haven’t spoken of in a while because he lost over six weeks to injury. Since he’s been back, though, he’s none the worse for wear. In ten games he’s only hitting .440, going 11 for 25 with 12 walks in the process – and his first career homer.

With the previously noted promotion of Sem Roberrse the ace here continues to be last year’s 3rd round choice Trent Palmer, since August 1 he’s got a 2.33 ERA with 34 strikeouts over 27 IP and a much better walk rate than previously in the year (ten in 27 IP as compared to 28 in 24 IP). Naswell Paulino, too, has had better luck staying in the zone lately with similar ratios (but a considerably higher ERA than Palmer). One wonders if the robot umps got a mid-season tune-up. Keep your eye on Michael Dominguez too. He’s had one bad turn since being promoted from the complex team, and he was quite good in a brief sample in 2019 after being taken in the 15th round.

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Vancouver

It has been long enough now that I find it’s worthwhile to talk about 2B/OF Zac Cook. As an undrafted free agent signing last year, it’s hard to assess how he’d have gone in a normal draft. He ran hot and cold at Dunedin but ended up with good enough work to earn a promotion to High A packing with him an .820 OPS at the lower level. in mid-July. Since the promotion, in a similar number of he has twice the homers at the higher level. After a slow adjustment over the balance of July, he caught fire in August and hasn’t slowed. He has a .660 SLG since August 1 (while hitting .308).

Spencer Horwitz, 1B, has earned another look as well. He started off fine enough but was unproductive all through June and July. I kind of lost interest. Since then he’s slashed .387/.479/.479/.681/1.159 with the previously lacking power showing a noticeable improvement. I’m running long so I won’t get too in depth on 2B Tanner Morris but he has a .858 OPS since the first of July.

Sebastian Espino deserves a mention, having his best month in August, even better than his excellent June. But I also have to talk about catcher Phil Clarke. Coming into the season he was one of my favorite sleeper choices, but he didn’t even break .200 until mid-July and I thought maybe I was wrong. Since then he’s slashing .288/.327/.475/.801 which isn’t eye-popping but surely enough to put him back on the radar. I can’t move on without an O(relevis Martinez) report. Initially, he took some time to get adjusted to the new level but since August 25 he’s 12 for 36 with seven walks and five homers, so, yeah.

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There’s not that much to report on the pitching side for the VanC’s but it’s worth giving props to the 2021 6th rounder Hayden Juenger who’s been pitching in relief who’s got 26 strikeouts and three walks in 14 IP.

New Hampshire

I’ve noted more than once before that Jordan Groshans has had a remarkably consistent level of production since coming out of his short period of adjustment in early May. Nothing has much changed about that, the power level is still more doubles than homers, but that’s basically the last gap left in his offensive development. Turn five of his doubles into homers and his OPS goes up 36 points. just on that. The other news is that he hasn’t played since Thursday, which might be nothing bu probably means at least there’s some aching going on. He was six for his last 15 AB though, so not some lingering thing.  I mentioned Chavez Young last time, I note with interest that since he peaked he’s gone 2 for 26 in his last eight games. Ross Atkins suggested in a recent interview that they think they’ll activate Gabriel Moreno before the end of the year but the clock is ticking. Possibly he gets a brief spell here and then moves up to participate in the 10-game “post-season season” that AAA is going to stage.

Elvis is back in the building for NH after his brief procedural trip through free agency, but like last time, the sample is useless at this point. Luis Quinones who’d been wowing everyone since promotion got absolutely crushed in his last August start and was only marginally better his next time out. A total of 13 runs in 8.1 IP. We’ll see if it’s a blip or a trend. Let me take the opportunity to mention two relievers.

Graham Spraker was a good-but-not greater starter and sometimes swing/long reliever in his previous career, but he was shifted to relief full time in 2021 and his strikeout rate jumped noticeably. He got a late start, debuting on May 18, and through the end of June he was preventing runs, but he walked 15 (and struck out 21) in 17 IP. But narrow the focus a bit. Beginning with the game on June 18, until now,  he’s walked only eight while striking out 47 in 32.1 IP with a 2.78 ERA which is worth noticing. At 26 he’s old for the level (mostly due to overcrowding in front of him) so a caveat is in order.

The other is Brandon Eisert, a 23-year-old LHP drafted in 2019. he started the season at Dunedin and like previously discussed Adrian Hernandez has earned two promotions. Over the three stops he’s accumulated 62 IP, walked 19, and struck out 80 and some observers think he’s one to keep an eye on.

Buffalo

Here’s a name I’ve hardly mentioned this year for the Bisons (because until lately he’d been having a rough go): 3B Cullen Large.  After 2018-2019 I was a marginal fan. Guy got hurt entirely too much but he had bursts of obvious offensive talent. He was, development-wise, seemingly ready for AAA, and at age 25 it was a fit. But three full months in he has been a significant disappointment at the plate, sporting a .226/.304/.329/.633 slash. But again, instead of just taking it month by month I’ll shift the focus slightly. Large hit his low point on July 18. Since then he’s slashing .317/.390/.528/.918 in 39 games. That’s a not-insignificant sample, but if it’s a true reflection of something he’s got straightened out, it certainly changes his complexion as a prospect. Probably the other hitter you’re wondering about here is Otto Lopez, whose line since the cup of coffee in Toronto is .291/.291/.364/.655 so not quite found his form again.

Despite the Bisons being on an eight-game winning streak and five games out in front in their division, there’s not a ton of prospect stories as there are a lot of veteran journeyman types carrying this team. Basically, Hatch is still fine, Kay (who hasn’t been, hasn’t pitched since August 4, and there’s good old Jacob Waguespack (who has one appearance since he got back from a three-week – injury? – absence. None of whom are considered actual prospects anymore but are of interest. Beside them are three young guys who retain prospect status, Zach Logue, Bowden Francis, and Nick Allgeyer. Logue was great last week, spinning five shutout innings and dominating, which is a good bounce-back from a misstep in his previous start. He has a 2.88 ERA over his last seven including that awful game, take it out and it drops to 1.53 so, the Blue Jays are gonna need to find a spot for him on the 40 man this winter. Francis had a kinda wobbly August and might be a somewhat more marginal call for the 40 man, it depends on what their internals on him look like. I’ll bet you don’t slide him through the Rule 5 draft though. Allgeyer hasn’t been on his game AT ALL since coming back from his last brief appearance for the Blue Jays. He has a 6.03 ERA over 31.1 IP during that span. I’ve seen or heard no accounting for what might be behind the slide.

We’ll do this at least once more. I’m not sure yet how to handle the AAA post-season-season yet. But I doubt it justifies a post all it’s own unless something marvelous happens.