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Blue Jays Minor League Review – The Rock

I told this story on the most recent edition of the YourVancCs podcast but for those that missed it, here it is again, in brief.  After meeting the current edition of the C’s this past Monday I was jumping into my car when I noticed a very recognizable ex-Expo, carrying a far too large Blue Jay bag for a coach, sauntering towards the Nat.

Never one to miss a chance to speak to one of my childhood heroes, I leapt back out of my car, as fast as a physically decrepit 40 odd year old can, and approached Tim Raines to chat Jays prospects.

As I didn’t bother to get my phone out and record the conversation, it’s going into post rather than pod form.  And I don’t think it’ll take a rocket scientist to figure out which players we talked about.

On Anthony Alford, I lobbed the biggest melon of a question.  Asking what his ceiling is.  The sky is the limit was the response.  What struck me though is how excited Mr Raines got when talking about how much fun he has working with Alford.  “The kid just loves to work.”

“What you have to take into consideration is how few reps he’s had.  He’s only had like 100 ABs over the past three years, so for him to be doing what he’s doing is pretty amazing.”

The argumentative amongst us would add in ABs in extended spring training and the like, but the point Tim makes is accurate.  Coming out of Mississippi, not really known as a baseball hotbed, Alford was already a project.  Mix in the lack of reps and I think we need to overlook, somewhat, the red flags, including the 25% K rate, low ISO and high BABIP.

With the Lugnuts winning the first half flag any potential moves could happen shortly, something Anthony’s high school believes is already done:

If he is promoted and there’s no reason to believe it won’t happen at some point if not already done, then how he reacts to high-A will tell us a lot about Alford as a hitter.

On fellow Mississippi product, and 2012 draftee, D.J. Davis, I asked if his recent strong play could be attributed to adjustments or fact he is repeating the level.

He thought about it for a minute, eventually saying he believes Davis has made some necessary adjustments.  Most importantly, he’s seemingly enjoying himself again.  Comfortable in what it takes to be a pro ballplayer, being away from home, putting the work in, etc.

“Some kids, you give them a bunch of money and they just react differently.  It may take some awhile longer to get used to the day in day out grind that minor league ball can be.  I think D.J. is getting there now.”

At only 20 (he turns 21 in July) Davis is probably about par age-wise for the Midwest League.  Without a doubt, there’s still flaws there, but he’s cut his K rate by about 10% this season while upping his on-base percentage by 80 odd points.

Unlike Alford and JD Davis before him, I don’t see D.J. getting the call to Dunedin.  Let him continue getting things sorted in Lansing before testing him in the Florida State League in 2016.

The last player I wanted to discuss is a bit polarizing in the prospect world.  You’re not going find Tim Locastro on many lists, even Kiley McDaniel over at fangraphs, who threw out about 50 names didn’t include the 2013 13th rounder.

He puts up numbers though.  Locastro currently leads the MWL in stolen bases with 28, second in OBP with a .421 mark, and lies 5th in wRC+ at 155.  Being the Jays minor league base-running instructor I asked Tim if Locastro’s stolen base totals were down to how well he reads pitchers, as I didn’t remember him being much of a burner when he was in Vancouver.

Raines disagreed with me somewhat saying he is faster than you think.  We were just so focused on Roemon Fields breaking the C’s stolen base mark to pay much attention to fact Locastro stole 32 bags in his 67 NWL games.

He also agreed that Locastro isn’t someone that will get scouts, etc talking.  “When you see him, he doesn’t really look like a ball player.  He doesn’t have rhythm.  He won’t wow you.  But then you look at his numbers and he’s making a case to go to Dunedin.”

I asked if he could play anywhere but second, say a passable SS to help his case as a potential utility player.  Raines response was that he’d like to get his hands on him in the outfield.  Not that his play at second is poor, but it’s not particularly good either.

“If a guy can hit, you’ll find a place for him.  If you don’t think he’s going to stick at his current position long term then why leave him there.”

Looking at the lineup in Dunedin, Locastro’s path is seemingly blocked by Christian Lopes.  At 22, Dunedin seems the logical step but with the younger Lopes entrenched, Tim will need to make an unassailable case with his play.

I fly to England on Thursday, missing Jays 1st rounder, Jon Harris’ first start for the Vancouver Canadians.  Not sure how much writing will get done whilst I’m away but hopefully can knock out the odd review over the next few weeks.

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