A Fortnight on the Farm – Vol. 4
By Tammy Rainey5 months ago
If you’re a completist (like me) you’ll be interested to know that there are roughly 70 more players taking the field in Toronto’s system (in games that count) now than there were a week ago.
Both short-season teams began play this week, and it goes without saying that sample sizes will be too small to matter for weeks to come. But I’ll take a brief moment to mention some names that you might hear more of in years to come.
The star prospect, of course, is big-ticket J2 signing Emannuel Bonilla patrolling CF for the DSL team. Another OF from the previous January group is OF Railin Tejada is off to the hottest start on the Dominican team and David Guzman got a mention when Scott Mitchell published his Top 50 back in the spring. The FCL Jays have a few folks that have been noted by scouting sources before. SS Luis Garcia, 2B Martin Gimenez, catchers Victor Mesia and Luis Meza, outfielders Yhoangel Aponte and Jean Joseph, and SP Nolan Perry and Greg Stanifer who are the last two 2022 draftees who hadn’t been assigned to a team.
Low-A Dunedin Blue Jays
On May 7 2020 2nd rounder CJ Van Eck made his first rehab start for the D-Jays, and again on the 13th. This week, almost a month later, he made his second one. Whatever caused the delay isn’t apparent in his results. In the total of the three starts, he’s accumulated 10 innings with three hits, one earned run and two walks while striking out 13.
I assume that by the next time I publish he’ll be back with Vancouver. If you don’t count the rehabbing Van Eck, and the injured Brandon Barriera, the other high-profile prospect in this rotation is Kendry Rojas. The 20-year-old lefty had his first setback in what had been a very nice season Friday night, but he’s on the verge of surpassing the total innings he got last season and he has a better ERA, a better walk rate, a basically identical K rate and a slightly improved OBA. Regarding Barriera you’ll learn from the latest Around the Nest pod that his stat line is misleading somewhat. But I’ll just say hit the link for that story. Still, it seems like the event described may have had something to do with the soreness that sent him to the IL. Many of the best relievers have been promoted, mostly college guys from the last draft. Lazaro Estrada has earned that chance but so far he’s still here. But at 24 it’s bound to be soon.
The offence here has, as a unit, struggled the entire season and no one on the roster has an eye-catching line right now. Massive 1B Payton Williams had provided an outsized portion of the offensive output but he’s in Vancouver now. As late as May 9, Manuel Beltre was hitting .350 with a .872 OPS but since then he’s cooled a lot. Reportedly he was hit in the face with a pitch that broke his nose, in mid-April and after he come back from that the flaming hot start he’d been on was lost. Setting aside Williams, the best OPS in the lineup right now belongs to 3B Ryan McCarty. The undersized undrafted free agent signing has a .798 OPS and the most doubles and homers of anyone still on the team.
High-A Vancouver Canadians
There’s been a fair amount of promotional movement lately, with the Canadians’ two most successful starting pitchers off to New Hampshire along with three of their best relievers. Coming into the clubhouse from Dunedin we’ve seen Rafael Sanchez (who has struggled so far with a 7.27 ERA in four starts) and, just this weekend, Ryan Jennings who had a rough stretch in early May, seemingly a control issue, but he got it back together over his last two outings for Dunedin, walking just one over 12 IP. In his first start here, he allowed one run in four innings.
In addition, last year’s 9th-round choice, Devereux Harrison moved into the rotation and has put up impressive results, including six no-hit innings Saturday with eight strikeouts. The premium prospects in this rotation are, as you likely know, Diahan Santos and Adam Macko. The former is still walking too many but his other stats are holding up well. Macko on the other hand is giving up too much contact and not looking like a top 15 prospect at all right now.
The offence could have been expected to take a significant blow when corner infielder Riley Tirotta got the promotion to AA with his .950 OPS in tow (more on him in a moment) but another previously lightly regarded prospect is suddenly even hotter than Tirotta was. Lefty-hitting Garret Spain, a 15th-round selection in 2021, hit .216 last year with a .664 OPS. He did show some pop, with 22 XBH in 291 AB. But this year he’s taken off. He has by far the best offensive line here and he’s hitting .395 in May and June. He has a 1.163 OPS over that span. Second baseman Michael Turconi and OF Alan Roden continue to hit well (OPS of .900 and .894 respectively) both driven by a high OBP but Roden also leads the team with 18 doubles, half-again more than his nearest teammate. Basically every other guy still here who can be found on a top prospect list has been middling or worse so far this year.
Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats
The leader of this rotation remains Adam Kloffenstein who’s rebuilt a lot of his prospect capital by largely avoiding last year’s issue which was losing the zone in the middle of a game and ruining what had been a good outing. His velo is reportedly a few tics higher, and he still walks more than you’d like but it’s fair to speculate he’s in the discussion when the organization considers when it’s time to promote a player.
Speaking of promotions, “non-prospect” Paxton Schultz continues to get good results (3.3o ERA, 54K and 19BB in 46.1 IP this year in AA) and earned a promotion this week. He gave the Bisons 5 innings of one-run ball. Recently promoted Chad Dallas, who’ll very likely turn up on mid-season top 30 lists, has continued to be highly effective in AA, one rough start notwithstanding. Overall he has a 2.20 ERA between the two levels.
Top 10 prospect Sem Robberse continues to have inconsistent results. Of course, we can’t really tell from the outside if that’s a “working on stuff” outcome or something more concerning. Those three recently promoted relievers I mentioned a minute ago are turning heads. TJ Brock got rocked in his first AA outing but has certainly put that behind him with three shutout appearances since. Hard-throwing Connor Cooke, who has an almost 18/9 K-rate overall this season, also took a moment to adjust to AA but has allowed just one run in his last 5 appearances. Mason Fluharty has been less lauded than the other two but he keeps on having success. The lefty has shut out the opposition in 13 of his 19 outings and has never given up more than a run in any of them this year.
For the second consecutive column, I’m able to write something about Orelvis Martinez that doesn’t amount to “look away.” His overall season line has now surpassed the slash-line stats he had in last year’s disappointing season, but that doesn’t do it justice, nor does citing monthly stats. The turning point, for whatever reason, was May 10. He got up that morning with a .089 batting average, a .435 OPS, and 4 homers in only 7 hits on the year. Since then? 100 AB, 32 hits, 7 doubles, 12 homers, 17 walks, 22 strikeouts (still too high of course), .320/.419/.750/1.169. I’ll suggest that 100 AB is a sufficient sample size to be taken seriously. Of course, it would be unwise to assume that he keeps hitting quite THIS well, and there remains the question of a defensive home (it won’t be SS) but still, it’s a helluva run and shows that he CAN restrain from flailing at any sort of pitch.
In the same sense that persistent failure can lead to a mental spiral of doubt, so too can a sustained run of success build confidence that a player has “found something” and thereby be better able to sustain it. Other offensive mainstays on this team include corner infielder Damiano Palmegiani who has a .862 OPS and has been fairly steady this season but particularly hot over his last 13 games (.352/.397/.611) and true shortstop Leo Jimenez who’s rebounded from a pedestrian April (and 2022) to slash .326/.380/.489 since. Recently arrived Riley Tirotta and Rainer Nunez don’t have enough of a sample yet at this level to comment upon.
Triple-A Buffalo Bisons
With Bowden Francis back in AAA, I feel like he’s done enough (and been reported on enough) that I can return to treating him like a legit prospect. What he did Saturday is consistent with his work in AAA this season which features a 3.45 ERA and a 23/4 K/BB ratio in 15.2 IP. Yosver Zulueta SEEMS to be moving in the right direction after being drug down by serious struggles to throw strikes. In 6 IP in June he’s only walked two batters and allowed two runs. That’s obviously an incredibly small sample. Hayden Juenger continues to show uncharacteristic inconsistency, but over his last six appearances, totalling 8.1 IP, he’s allowed 3 earned runs, while striking out 13 and walking just 2 batters. I’m sure the Jays would like him to find a grove because the buzz was they were trying to develop a 2-3 inning bulk reliever here and he hasn’t completed 2 but three times since the first of May. Hagen Danner is here now, and apart from one rough outing still looks like a guy you may well see in a Blue Jays uniform this season. But sample size considerations apply.
Offensively it’s Davis “No Relation” Schnieder that continues to demand your attention. He ended play on April 27 hitting .170 with a .592 OPS (to be fair, the cold in April was rough on a lot of hitters on this team, and may well have had an effect on early production). Since then his line is .315/.437/.592 and though he’s an RH batter and we don’t know much about his defence, people are naturally asking how Caven Biggio is blocking his path. Rafael Lantigua has cooled some in the early days of June after a crazy good month of May, and Spencer Horwitz is slumping a bit. Otto Lopez is hitting .318 in his last 16 games but he’s still working to recover his ability to do more than hit singles as he’s shown in the past.
Finally, I should note that Addison Barger has started a rehab assignment at the Complex, and Ricky Tiedemann is said to be throwing and almost ready to get back on a mound.
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