A Fortnight on the Farm, Vol. 10
By Tammy Rainey2 months ago
As you read this, Dunedin has joined the short-season teams in having ended their season. So has Vancouver although they are in the playoffs this week. New Hampshire has a week to go and is certainly not going to the post-season. Buffalo has two weeks to go yet, and are post-season contenders. While the AAA situation is complex (for reasons I don’t need to explain) they are one game out of second place and have a legit shot.
So I might run a bit heavier here on discussing the seasons of those whose teams are done or all but done and less so the teams who’ll continue a bit longer.
Given that the season is over, it’s a good time to mention players here who’ve been ranked even if they’ve not been active lately.
Last year’s first-round pick Brandon Barriera put up perfectly fine results when he was on the field, but he only pitched 18.1 innings on the season and that’s likely to have a big impact on his clock as the buildup that would normally have happened this year still needs to be done.
Kendry Rojas has done nothing but improve his stock (he was ranked sixth in Baseball America’s midseason update). He struggled some through June and July but has been better lately. He doesn’t hit 21 until late November. Irv Carter was on the Pipeline list in the spring at #27 despite an uneven debut season, but the struggles were a lot worse this season walking 31 and striking out 30 in 37.2 IP with an 8.60 ERA. He’d been on the IL since August 1 but got an inning in the last game on Sunday.
Lazaro Estrada can’t seem to get much respect (he was #40 on Fangraphs’ Spring list) which I can only assume has to do with being old for the level (for reasons out of his control) and missing most of ’21 and ’22 recovering from Tommy John surgery. But the stats say he’s a name to remember: In 76.1 IP he allowed a tidy 55 hits and 26 walks while striking out 103 for a 2.83 ERA. If I were guessing I’d expect most of next season would happen in AA. There are five 2023 draftees on this staff but the samples are just too small.
The most highly regarded hitting prospects from the spring lists who are still here are Tucker Toman, Manuel Beltre, and Adrian Pinto. Toman started the year in some Top 5 lists, but he never really found much of a groove at the plate with an OPS of .633 at the season’s end. Beltre was 2021’s big international Free Agent signing but he’s yet to establish offensive promise. His stat line reads a lot like Toman’s (.675 OPS) but he’s actually about eight months younger than Toman and both have a lot of time. Pinto, just 14 months older than Toman himself, whom you may recall came over in the Grichuk/Tapia trade, has had more success than they but has had some trouble staying on the field. He’s shown almost no pop, but he has good speed and has a .427 OBP in his career.
Speaking of getting ranked, we can be certain that this year’s sixth-round choice will be on all the lists this winter. Jace Bohrofen has already turned up at 21 on Pipeline’s mid-season update. The sample of 96 PA obviously carries a caveat, but seven homers in that sample, especially in the FSL, and a 1.079 OPS generate buzz. One other name that deserves notice, is catcher Edward Duran. He was the PTBNL in the deal that sent Jordan Groshans to Miami. After putting up a .919 OPS in the complex league he came across town and hit .299 with a .398 OPS for the D-Jays. Worth keeping an eye on.
I’ll be speaking in “end-of-season” terms here of course but technically there are still 3-5 playoff games left this week which I’ll mention next time if there are any remarkable performances.
The highest-ranked prospect on this staff is Dahain Santos, but he’s been sidelined since July 1 so I’ll move along to the other highly regarded starter here – Adam Macko. Macko’s flaw, other than lack of innings, was poor control and that was the task before him. After a promising start, he seemed to go backwards in June and July, walking 14 in 22 IP over the course of six starts – and 16 earned runs over the same period. But over seven starts since he has a 2.51 ERA and has struck out 50 in 32.1 IP while allowing 15 walks and 18 hits. He certainly seems to have found something, even if the walks are still a touch high. Plus 86 innings without a turn on the IL.
There are good things to say about even the unranked guys in this rotation though, Deveraux Harrison had been a reliever in college (as a two-way player) and so began his pro career, and he was pretty good at it but he moved into the rotation and got better (he has a 2.88 ERA in 81.1 IP across 16 starts). The strikeout rate is maybe a tic lower than what normally catches the eye, you could quibble a little with the walk rate, but at this stage of the conversion you have to like the results.
2022 11th-rounder Pat Gallager didn’t get assigned to a team last year but he showed well in this season. He struck out 75 and walked a mere 18 in 63.1 IP between Dunedin and Vancouver and was pitching even better after the promotion but only got three starts before landing on the IL on August 26. Rafael Sanchez was roughed up in his first two starts for the C’s after having been impressive in Dunedin, but he seemed to find something of a groove in June, had a rough July, but he has a 3.20 ERA over his last five outings striking out 31 and walking just five over 25.1 IP.
Six players on the offensive side of this roster have turned up on the top 30 prospect rankings. Three from the ’22 draft, two from 2019 (one draft, one international signing) and one via trade. I’ll start with Cade Doughty who’s not always the highest ranked of these but I have less regard for one of them. Daughtry was hot in April but went cold so badly that by late May he was hitting under .200 with a .659 OPS which wasn’t the production expected of an offence-first player. Since May 27, though, he’s been fine. Sometimes very hot, sometimes just good, but an .838 OPS overall isn’t a disappointment.
His draft-mate, Josh Kasevich was the opposite profile, a great defender who would hopefully hit enough to justify his presence in the line-up. Not the sort of profile I’m a fan of but he was sometimes ranked higher than Doughty. Ultimately this comes down to how you define “enough” but it’s fair to be disappointed in a .728 OPS. And without the boost from an excellent July, it would have been worse.
Speaking of disappointing, outfielder Gabriel Martinez was flirting with the top 10 coming off of a strong 2022. He won’t be this winter. He never gathered any momentum and finished with a .674 OPS and he regressed by every offensive measure. Similarly, Dasan Brown‘s revived status last season seems now like a mirage as he reverted completely back to his previous hapless production this year (.624 OPS).
The third ’22 player is big 1B Payton Williams. Overall the line seems pretty ordinary, but if you focus in on his return after six weeks on the IL he had an .856 OPS in August. We’ll have to see who shows up in 2024. That leaves 3b/SS Alex De Jesus. He got into only two games after August 11 and finished the year on the IL, but since breaking out of an early season freeze in mid-May, he had a .914 OPS until he got hurt. That, as they say, will play. Doughty and De Jesus will, if healthy, surely break camp with the AA team next year.
Double-A New Hampshire
Obviously, you start this segment at the top with Ricky Tiedemann. He’s now had six starts since he got back to New Hampshire, the first three covered in rust (apparently) but in the three most recent, he’s allowed one earned run in 11.1 innings and struck out 22. He’ll get one more turn here, and given the need to get him some innings my guess is they will let him go up to Buffalo for one more – and if they make the post-season maybe another there. Then he’ll likely be off to the AFL.
Another guy who’s mentioned as a potential AFL assignment is CJ Van Eck. And for the same reason, he needs innings. He has 28.1 all in all this season after a couple of false starts coming back from TJ, and he’ll likely start tonight which may be his last AA turn this season. Other than the brevity, though, it’s been a fairly good performance on the comeback. He just needs more work.
Chad Dallas has had a really strong year by many measures (K rate up from last year – 8.8 to 10.36) and the walks down (5.22 to 3.40) and apart from one outlier on 8/26 he’s finishing strong so far as well. He’s got a 3.10 ERA since August 1 and has struck out 48 against 7 walks over that span. We don’t need to forget about Michael Dominguez. Since my last column, he had his best game of the season, striking out 10 in 5 innings at the end of August, allowing 2 hits and 2 runs.
After a few key promotions, there was/is less of a crush of offensive players to take notice of as in the past. Leaving OF Alan Roden is the key offensive player on this roster to close the season. He took a couple of weeks to acclimate after he was promoted at the all-star break, but he’s been a beast since. On the season and on his career he has more walks than strikeouts, he’s been a successful baserunner, and improving power. He’s got a .952 OPS for August and September. He has been aided, though, by a monster second half from OF Will Robertson. Since July 1 his line is .317/.369/.611/.980 including 6 homers in his last 40 at bats. If he can carry this over it will be a big boost to the Jays because he was looking like an org player 3 months ago.
On the other hand, with this team, it’s the pitching staff where prospect news, at least the positive sort, is in short supply. AAA teams tend to rely on a lot of journeymen veterans to fill out the roster and provide leadership. The Bisons are now an exception with eight pitchers on the staff (who aren’t on the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster) who are 28 or more.
There’s only a couple of guys here who were listed prospects this year and both were pitching in relief all year. There’s Yosver Zulueta, who recently returned from three weeks in the complex pitching lab (he was assigned to the team there but never pitched for them). Since returning he’s gotten into three games without issuing a walk, which was his major issue most of the season. Some reports speculate he may have been refining a specific pitch to make it more effective in the zone. Bigger picture, in his last 12 appearances stretching back to 7/21, he’s put up nine in which he didn’t issue a walk, and only one in which he had as many as two. He put up a 3.29 ERA over the span, walking 4 and striking out 13 in 13.2 IP. It would be big if he figured something out for good, and even bigger if he got another shot at starting next spring (that’s my own speculation, I know nothing of the sort).
The other was Hayden Juenger who’s had a pretty lost season given the spring expectations. From May through July, he was a mess, then in August, he seemed to have sorted himself out (a 1.65 ERA across 10 appearances and 16.1 IP). He got touched up in his first September outing but the sample is too small to say if he’s regressed again. It would be big if he finished the last two weeks strong.
I should also mention up-and-coming Conno Cooke who’s generated a lot of buzz, climbing from Vancouver to AAA and striking out 80 in 43.1 IP across all three levels. The sample is tiny in Buffalo but it’s a name you might need to know. In one important bit of non-prospect news, Mitch White has seemingly finally found his LA groove. Over his last six outings, he has a 2.25 ERA in 24 IP, striking out 24 and reportedly touching 97 with the fastball. Don’t be overly shocked if he’s added back to the 40-man roster this fall.
On the other hand, the playoff push has the offensive roster turned up to 11. Orelvis Martinez has an .832 OPS at this level, but the strikeouts remain something to work on. Addison Barger has cooled some after a scorching August. The improbable Tanner Morris has now run his on-base streak to 44 games and counting. During the streak, his line is .347/.476/.480/.956 stretching back to June 30 (a day which he entered with a .677 OPS). Rafael Lantigua is still rolling along on his out-of-almost-nowhere season (he’s hitting .382 in September) with a .952 OPS since July 1. And then there’s the newly arrived Damiano Palmegiani has a 1.278 OPS in his first 27 AB.
So this went longer than I anticipated, but I feel safe in supposing that the next one will have to be shorter.
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