A Fortnight on the Farm, Vol. 8

Tammy Rainey
10 months ago
And, as they say, down the stretch they come.
The complex teams, as well as the two A-ball clubs, are down to four weeks or less left to play. The Dominican squad seldom produces eye-popping stats that can mark a player as someone to keep an eye on, more often you have to rely on what we were told about them when they signed and see if they seem to be living up to the hype. For example, catcher Luis Meza got a little buzz heading into 2022 but has produced results consistent with that praise, at least not yet. Still, I’m a completist so let me see what I can find down there.

Short Season

Among Dominican League pitchers the guy at the top of the list is RHSP Sam Colmenares. The 18-year-old Venezuelan has a 3.35 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP and an OBA of .192 in 48.1 IP over 10 starts. Among the hitters, one rule of thumb is to look for good on-base skills. In that regard, I’d tip the hat to top prospect Emmanuel Bonilla, 1B Daniel Perez, and RF David Guzman who are recognizable names but also unheralded 2B Jarold Montealto and SS Adrian Meza, all with an OBP of .391 or higher.
In the Florida complex Fernando Perez remains the standout SP and will likely begin to show up on top prospect lists next spring. He’s got a 2.53 ERA, 49 strikeouts and a modest nine walks in 42.2 IP. No other pitcher here is even close to that level of production. On the hitting side, obsessive prospect watchers would recognize several names of players regarded as having the physical tools to potentially turn into something but most of them are having, at best, pretty ordinary seasons and some have been just flat-out bad at the plate. There are a couple of draft prospects here still, but they’ve only played in 4 games. A few more passed through and are now in Dunedin. But I’m not going to waste words on samples so small.

Low-A Dunedin

Here, as in the FCL, there’s an increasing level of pitchers at some stage of injury rehab, some of them just now getting on the field after missing the entire season, and some working through repeated setbacks, notably CJ Van Eck.  After two appearances in May he was shut down for almost a month, and then after just one outing he lost another seven weeks. But this time maybe it sticks. Coming off two appearances in the complex, he joined the D-Jays last week where he struck out five over 2.1 IP. He’ll probably get one, maybe two more appearances here and then finally get back to Vancouver after two years away.
As for those who’ve been here all along, I continue to bang the drum for Lazaro Estrada. He’s had his own injury journey, seeing his season end in June of 2021 and coming back 13 months later. This year he’s gone back literally to right where he left off. His ERA matches what he had in 2021 (2.66) and in three times as many IP, he’s been as good or better at every measure. And since moving back into the rotation the results are even better. In six starts he’s got a 1.25 ERA and just 11 hits in 21.2 IP. It’s true he’s 24 and pitching in Low-A but this is a profile of a guy who could play his way all the way up to Buffalo next year if healthy.
After a series of (sometimes overdue) promotions, the bat still here that deserves praise is catcher Edward Duran. It’s just a 13-game sample for the D-Jays so far, but the 19-year-old Venezuelan left the Complex across town with a .919 OPS, a .340 BA and more walks than strikeouts. One to watch. Otherwise, the roster is a mix of ranked prospects having their struggles and newly arrived draftees. I don’t guess it makes sense to rehash the lack of advancement.

High-A Vancouver

The top prospect remaining here, among active pitchers, is Adam Macko. His rankings have taken a noticeable hit after an inconsistent season but a recent run of three successful outings may be a sign of a strong finish to come. Over this period he’s given up one earned run in 14 IP. A couple of the names I seldom have occasion to mention are worth a bit of notice. SP Kevin Miranda has been remarkably good at stranding baserunners and keeping his ERA impressive (2.65 over 42.1 IP) but literally nothing else in his stat line suggests he should be anything like that good. Then there’s RP Ryan Boyer, who’s allowed a single ER in 16 appearances here. But he’s 26 and still in A ball after most of two years so that’s not the mark of a guy that the organization thinks has a lot going on.
The Canadians have basically been a juggernaut this season. Everything you’ve been wanting the major league Jays to do, this team has been doing and more.  They won the first-half championship and then proceeded to win about two-thirds of their second-half games so far. Much of this is because of a powerful offence.
Now four important offensive players got promoted, and one cooled off a lot in the second half, but a few other well-regarded guys finally found their groove and a couple of promotions have filled in some gaps. For example, 1B Payton Wiliams was originally promoted on the last day of May and after 34 pedestrian at-bats, he landed on the IL. But since getting back here on July 21 he’s gone 15/43 and hit .349/.429/.558/.987 which is even better than any of those promoted.
One of the players from whom much was expected was Cade Doughty, who had been hitting under .200 into the last week of May. But he hit picked it up a lot in June, and since July 1 he’s hit .311/.360/.573/.933 which is more like what was expected of him. Another such player was his draft mate Josh Kasevich who, while not expected to be Doughty’s peer with the bat, they’d surely hoped he’d get his OPS over .700 before mid-July. He’s been better since but he’s got a long way to go on offense.
Then there’s Alex De Jesus, the SS/3B that came in the Mitch White Deal (so did the aforementioned Edward Duran by the way) who had hit very well in the Dodgers system but not so much after the trade. In late May he was hitting .190 with a .639 OPS. Since then he’s hitting .279/.374/.517/.891 (with the caveat that he spent a week or so on the IL at the end of July and he’s been somewhat cooler since he came off). Conversely, the Summer of Spain ended early with a 1 for 26 swoon at the end of July. Meanwhile, after a rough May and June Devonte Brown wants us to know he hasn’t gone away yet. He has a .990 OPS since July 1.

Double-A New Hampshire

There’s been significant churn on this pitching staff lately. The two best and most prolific starters are now in the Cardinals organization, A third starter with over 80 innings here has moved on to AAA and the sixth guy on the list by IP has been moved up for weeks. The current rotation includes the return, at long last, of #1 prospect Ricky Tiedemann (more on that in a sec), two guys newly arrived from Vancouver, the return of Luis Quinones from the bullpen, and Chad Dallas.
Dallas arrived in mid-May and in five of his first seven starts here looked quite good, and in the other two, as well as the entire month of July, he looked really lost. But he’s bounced back in August and struck out 10 in five innings of one-run ball last Wednesday. Quinones is a known commodity, his skills and weaknesses play better out of the ‘pen and most of his starts this year bear that out. For the others, the samples are too small, really, but it’s worth noticing Tiedemann’s progression. On the rehab trail, he pitched 8 innings of 1-hit, 1-walk shutout ball while striking out 18. When he got back to the Fisher Cats expectations… went unmet. He only recorded two outs while getting lit up for three runs on four hits and a walk. I wouldn’t worry about it. With Connor Cooke promoted, the one remaining reliever turning heads here is Mason Fluharty. The lefty has 38 K in 26 IP.
The best prospect on the offensives side remains Leo Jimenez. After a poor April, he’s put up an .854 OPS since to go with his highly-regarded glove. Damiano Palmegiani has been a steady rock in the heart of the order, without the peaks and valleys one usually expects from prospects. Relative newcomer Alan Roden (shockingly, at least to me, way up at #7 on the latest Pipeline update) is holding his own, and a couple of guys I’ve not mentioned this year are doing their part. One is catcher Phil Clarke who, after his typically frigid start heated up with the weather in June and July with an .898 OPS over those two months. The other is outfielder Steward Berroa who’s got mostly a fine but not really remarkable stat line except for those 41 stolen bases (in 50 tries). I hesitate to consider either a genuine prospect but speed off the bench is something a lot of teams value.

Triple-A Buffalo

Unlike the other teams here, I don’t have much to say about the starting rotation. There’s really nothing interesting there to discuss. In the bullpen, Yosver Zulueta is still working on his craft and seems to maybe be making some progress. On July 19 he walked three while getting two outs. Without that one outing, since the beginning of July, he’s made 12 other outings, accumulating 12.2 IP allowing seven hits and three earned runs while striking out 12 but most notably, walking only five. In the rest of this season he’d walk 36 in 39.2 IP so… progress? Hopefully.
We got the briefest of looks at Hagen Danner vs. the Cubs, but for those who hadn’t noticed, he earned that promotion with production that included 35 strikeouts and a modest seven walks in 28.1 AAA innings. The Jays already control nine guys with more major league experience for their 2024 bullpen, all of them good enough to be pencilled in for that team. But Danner is, if healthy, probably at the very front of the line for the first spot that opens up.
Starting with the highest-ranked prospect, that would be the esteemed Orelvis Martinez. His career history has always involved him taking some period of time to adjust to the new level after promotion and then, most of the time, getting a groove and blowing up the stat sheets. This pattern seems to be holding in AAA. In his first 10 games, 40 at-bats, with the Bisons he hit .225/.319/.425 to finish out the month of July. So far, in 42 August at-bats, he’s hitting .286/.354/.524/.878 which is, frankly, encouraging as the adjustment periods are usually longer than 10 (actually 11, counting 0 for 4 on Aug. 1) games. His first two homers came just this weekend.
The other Top 10 guy here is Addison Barger. Early season struggles are far in the past, in the wake of an .802 OPS in July and a sizzling 1.028 so far in August. The other listed prospect here is, of course, Spencer Horwitz. After his brief promotion to Toronto, he took a bit to get his footing again when he got back. In 11 games over 42 at-bats, he hit with a .706 OPS. But there’s more. In 25 starts since July 14, he’s just hitting .418/.500/.827 and, while yes, he’s hitting out of his mind and it’s unsustainable, six homers in 98 at bats is worth watching for a guy known for lack of home run power. Don’t lose Rafael Lantigua in all this. As the season goes on his horrible June looks more like an outlier. In all other games, he has an OPS of .966. I really don’t get how all these guys, along with Davis Schneider, fit into the 2024 Blue Jays but you have to think all of them will wear a major league uniform next year at some point.


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