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Blue Jays Minor League Review – Movers, Makers, Surprisers

After focusing my last minor league review piece on the pitching side of the ledger, specifically four arms, I promised to use this platform to talk hitting.  Something I was quite excited about, since, well, for the first time in awhile there are a few hitters in the Jays system to be excited about.

Before we get to that though, a few bits of housecleaning

I was having a conversation with another Jays minor league aficionado and he was asking me if my Vancouver Canadians lineup was taking shape in my head.  I had to admit, despite the NWL season hurtling ever closer, I haven’t actually sat down to try and predict the lineup.  There are a few players I’ve said all along should head north, Lane Thomas, Clinton Hollon, etc.  Those two seemed to be confirmed by Steve Ewen’s recent article where he got Vancouver manager John Schneider to drop a few names.

And while I’m happy Hollon is on that list, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it doesn’t come to fruition.  Last week, Clinton celebrated the one year anniversary of his surgery, which is generally when the Jays organization looks to assign.  Now, I know the Kentucky native has only 17 odd innings of pro ball and just over five outside of the complex but another 2nd rounder didn’t have much experience and Sean Reid-Foley is doing fine in Lansing.  I’m just saying.

Speaking of player moves.  There’s been a ton of late.  And I haven’t been very good at keeping track of them.  So, in brief, with notes (most moves courtesy of the excellent BlueJaysMoves twitter feed and my own eyes) cherry-picking the interesting (to me) ones:

Michael Kraft – the LHP and 2014 Canadian was assigned from extended to Dunedin, where he struggled in his only two innings, before heading to Lansing and finally, coming full circle back to extended.

Ian Parmley – The two time Northwest League Champion struggled mightily to start the season in Dunedin, slashing .179/.289/.179.  That’s not good.  So, obviously he was promoted to New Hampshire.  Where, of course, he hit the crap out of the ball, going for .339/.350/.458.  I have to admit, I never expected Parmley to reach AA so was thrilled for him.  I guess that means I wasn’t surprised to see him back down in Dunedin on Monday.  Must have been an injury replacement in New Hampshire.  That will require more digging.

Christian Lopes – Like Parmley, Lopes (a 2012 NWL champ) has done the Dunedin/New Hampshire/Dunedin tour.  Christian’s made a bit more sense in that he was playing well in Florida. Justifying his promotion, before struggling with the Fisher Cats.  Making a demotion plausible.

JD Davis – I think I mentioned this in a previous post but after returning from injury in early May, the 2013 15th rounder lit up Lansing in 58 plate appearances before moving up to Dunedin.  Where he had four hits, two of which were doubles, in two games before going back on the shelf with an injury I’m still trying to ascertain.

Two more 2014 C’s, Phil Kish and Boomer Collins were promoted from Lansing to Dunedin in mid-May.  With Parmley back in town though, Collins’ stay may be short-lived.

Carlos Ramirez – We saw him in Vancouver as a light-hitting outfielder with a cannon of an arm.  He’s now using the arm full time as a relief pitcher.  After throwing the ball pretty well in Lansing, 12.27 K/9 and 1.96 FIP, the right-hander is now in Dunedin.  Worth keeping an eye on.

Matt Smoral – One of my predicted risers of 2015 got off to a rough start this year as he didn’t make it out of the complex to start the season before being slowed by a back injury.  He’s only made two appearances so far, both out of the ‘pen.  I’m hoping this isn’t his long term future (and am guessing it’s not).  Another piece of information I’ll endeavour to get over next couple of days.

Right, that’s about enough.  There has been a ton more moves/DL’s/Inactive lists but I did want to talk about a few hitters before readers fall asleep.  Let’s use the last two weeks worth of games to see who’s hitting and who ain’t.

I know I keep going to the well here, but Roemon Fields has probably been the best hitter (I lied, according to wRC+ he’s 4th, undone by his lack of power as shown by the .079 ISO) in Dunedin this season and his last two weeks have seen him put up an .823 OPS with 5 of his 19 hits going for extra bases.

Speaking of the D-Jays, the leader in wRC+ is Derrick Loveless with 115.  Comparing that to the rest of the league, he doesn’t even make the first page of fangraphs leaderboard.  So ya, despite having a plethora of, what we thought, were some pretty decent hitting prospects, the bats in Dunedin aren’t all that hot.

I’d actually hoped to say something positive about Mitch Nay this post as thought I’d seen his average creeping up.  Turns out it was a mirage.  He’s slashed .241/.276/.333 over the last two weeks.  Not far off his season line.  Man, considering he was in major league camp two months ago, what a disappointment.

I’m going to be brief about New Hampshire as, prospect-wise, it is as uninteresting as a FIFA presidency vote….oh wait! Either way, I’m going to make a full post out of Jorge Flores so will leave the Single Digit Assassin for now.  Only thing else I got is that future power utility player Emilio Guerrero — who’d been getting the bulk of his reps at 3B with the Fisher Cats since his call-up — left a game on the 12th of May and is now a resident of the 7 day DL.

Down in Lansing, the prospect that may very well end up number one on most off-season lists (although a certain Jeff Hoffman may have something to say about it) ended his 34 game on-base streak on Sunday.  Still, Anthony Alford‘s .446 OBP leads the Midwest League, and despite striking out at a 24.4% clip, it is somewhat mitigated by fact his BB/K rate is a decent 0.80.

I’d been joking in recent posts about his three outcome approach but he took it to extreme measures over the past couple of weeks.  On the 25th of May in 5 PAs he had 4 walks and a K while on the 29th he went 1 for 4 with 3 Ks and a walk.

If he didn’t have so few pro plate appearances I suppose I’d be worried about the lack of pop Alford has displayed so far.  But, if you look at his swing, you have to believe that will come with time.  Of course, I said that about Mitch Nay as well and Alford’s current .389 slugging % is exactly what Nay put him in 2014 with Lansing.  So ya, I hope that’s not a predictor of what’s to come.

Staying in Lansing.  In a recent post I’d talked about shortstop Richard Urena‘s frustrating inability to take the next step.  He was getting a hit a game, but it was only one.  He leads the team in home runs with seven but those seven long balls are more than the rest of his extra-base hits combined (four doubles, one triple).  His BB/K ratio is an anemic 0.11, good for third last on the team.

I can qualify all of the above by talking about how young Urena is.  The trade of Franklin Barreto probably means Richard is playing a level above where the Jays hoped this season but if he is a true prospect he’ll swim.  And over the last two weeks, that seems to be happening as the 19 year old Dominican has slashed .333/.361/.491 with 7 multi-hit games in 13, more doubles than home runs (3 to 2) and a still not ideal, but better, 0.23 BB/K ratio.

With Jose Reyes struggling defensively of late I’ve heard online chatter that it’s going to be Urena (and not Ryan Goins) that eventually supplants Jose at short.  That’s still a LONG way away but seeing him progress in Lansing has been a nice sign.

Quick hits:

Catcher Mike Reeves played for the Lugs last night.  Surely a disappointment for the Canadian but necessary as I’ve heard that Dan Jansen — who’d been coming on of late, OPS’ing .877 in his last 11 games — will be out for six or so weeks with an injury.

Tim Locastro doesn’t get much love in the prospect arena but the New York native gets it done on the field. He leads the Midwest league in stolen bases with 26, HBP’s with a ridiculous 16, which helps his 5th in the league .415 OBP.  His 147 wRC+ mark is second on the Lugnuts (minimum 90 PAs).

A full season of the above may not get him into anyone’s top tens but I think he’ll quietly make his way through the system over the next couple of years.

Next week, the pitchers.  A couple of whom are awesome.

Authors Note: The below tweet came across my desk 40 mins after I hit publish, so there you go:

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