Checking in on Blue Jays players at the Arizona Fall League
3 months ago
Fall baseball is in full swing now, with Jays’ prospects playing well in the Arizona Fall League, the Dominican Winter League, and the Mexican Pacific Winter League. Let’s take an updated look at each prospect.
With only around two weeks remaining in the AFL season, the seven prospects playing for the Salt River Rafters have performed well.
Just a note before we begin, this will be updated as of October 30th. There is a game ongoing as I write this, and ironically, the player we’ll look at first is up to bat.
When the rosters were announced, there was a certain excitement in the air about the 22-year-old shortstop heading to Arizona. Coming into the October 31st game, Barger slashed .204/.339/.347 with two homers in 59 plate appearances. He also had eight walks and seven strikeouts. Although, this has now risen to eight walks and ten strikeouts.
While he’s not batting for an average, he’s still getting on base a lot, and he has hit the ball hard since the start of the AFL season, as he had an average exit velocity of 86.4 mph, with a hard hit percentage of 44.44%.
His best game in recent memory came on October 29th, where he went 3-5 with a double and a walk, which raised his batting average over the Mendoza line (which dropped after Monday’s game).
The shortstop will likely be added to the 40-man roster by December, as he’s Rule 5 eligible.
The breakout star of the tournament, the 24-year-old is slashing .457/.524/.686 with a homer in 42 plate appearances. Like all Blue Jays position players in the AFL, he has more walks (five) than strikeouts (four).
Sadly, Britton is not a qualified hitter due to the lack of at-bats (he’s just missing out), but out of any player with 30+ at bats, he leads in average, and is second in both on base percentage and slugging, trailing Edouard Julien.
Britton has an average exit velocity of 86.24 mph and a hard-hit percentage of 34.78% (with the available statcast data).
It will be interesting to see how the catcher/corner outfielder performs in 2023.
It took a while for Morris to get going, but the 25-year-old has found his rhythm. This season in the fall league, he‘s slashing .306/.490/.417 with a homer in 49 plate appearances. He also has walked 13 times, compared to only seven strikeouts.
Morris missed significant time in 2022 but has shown to be one of the Jays’ best hitting prospects when healthy. For example, he had as many walks as strikeouts in both Double A and Triple A. He also plays third base, shortstop, second base, with some time in left field in AFL action.
Morris is Rule 5 eligible, but it’s unlikely that he’ll be added to the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster. However, it is possible that we will see him on the big league roster next season depending on injuries.
Selected in the 23rd round of the 2019 draft, the 23-year-old right-hander didn’t make his professional debut until 2022. Although he’s only pitched 12.1 professional innings in affiliated ball, Tolhurst will be Rule 5 eligible in December.
However, that didn’t stop the Jays from including him on the Arizona Fall League roster, where he has pitched quite well. In 10.1 innings, the 23-year-old has a 1.74 ERA with a 19.57 K% and a 15.22 BB%. His ERA ranks as the seventh best out of an AFL pitcher with 10+ innings pitched.
It’s not an unfair assumption to say that Tolhurst’s strikeout rate will eventually increase with more time in the AFL. Between the Florida Complex League and Low A Dunedin, Tolhurst had a 33.9 K% and a 16.95 BB% in 12.1 innings pitched, along with a 3.65 ERA.
Per available statcast data, Tolhurst averages 93.4 mph on his fastball with some movement. He also has a curveball, a cutter, and a slider.
Like with Tolhurst, Gregory missed quite a bit of time in 2022. He last pitched in mid-June, before returning to action in the Arizona Fall League. Thus far, he has a 19.29 ERA in 7 innings pitched, along with an 11.63 K% and a 25.58 BB%.
It’s a minuscule sample size from a pitcher returning from injury, so I don’t put much stock in those numbers.
In his last outing, he pitched two innings, allowing a homer, while walking a batter. He also struck out two and generated six whiffs, by far the most he’s had so far in the Fall League.
The 24-year-old missed most of the 2022 season with injury, but has come back with a vengeance in the Fall League. He’s pitched 5.2 innings and has an ERA of 4.76. Since his first appearance (in which he allowed three earned runs in two-thirds of an inning), he has pitched five scoreless innings. Moreover, he has a 28.57 K% and a 4.76 BB%, meaning runners aren’t getting free passes.
Danner is already on the 40-man roster for the Jays, meaning that it’s possible, maybe even likely, we will see him on the big league team in 2023. He sits in the high 90s with his fastball and sits a tick below 90 mph with his slider, which has more downward movement than sweeping movement. Danner also throws a looping curveball with often has over 50 inches of vertical drop.
After only pitching three innings in 2021, the 25-year-old righty returned mid-way through the 2022 season.
So far in the 2022 Arizona Fall League, he has a 10.45 ERA in 10.1 innings pitched. Watson also has a 16.33 K% and a 10.20 BB% in that time. However, half of his strikeouts came in his last game on October 29th, where he struck out four in two innings pitched.
Watson is a reliever we could see sooner rather than later, as his fastball sits in the mid-90s, but has touched 98.9 mph in a statcast-tracked game. He also has a slider that has an average of 86.3 mph with good spin, as well as a curveball. It may be unlikely, but we could possibly see him on the big league team in 2023, with 2024 being a more likely timeline for the 25-year-old.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D.
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