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Blue Jays Minor League Review: They’re All Gone!

Couple of housekeeping notes before launching into this momentous (albeit very late) post.  After the mammoth Troy Tulowitzki trade I was sure I’d started a post giving my expert analysis.  About that:  A) the post is gone, lost to the netherworld (WordPress is literally my arch-nemesis and B) who am I kidding, I’m no expert.  The intended post was rendered moot shortly thereafter anyway as Alex ‘No Mas’ Anthoupolas kept dealing.

Prospect after prospect have had to pack their Blue Jays duffel bag and head off to pastures new.  As there has been so many, I’m going to leave the actual trade analysis to those with more time while I focus on the kids that were dealt.  Laying to rest the worries over a recent tweet:

Nine of the 12 Toronto farmhands that were moved made (am very surprised I left out Boyd) my pre-season top 30 prospect list.  So the idea is to go through and give a hypothetical update to where I would have had them in a mid-season rankings (in a vacuum, not taking into account any trades, only graduating players such as Aaron Sanchez, Devon Travis, Roberto Osuna, etc) if I actually bothered to do that.

Ranking in parentheses is what I had them going into the season:

Daniel Norris – 1 (2) – Norris would have taken the top spot by default. I truly believed that he, like Aaron Sanchez, would have graduated from this list.  Unfortunately for Dan — and the Blue Jays — an inability to command his fastball (to be fair, a problem he’s had throughout his pro career) led to some too short outings and eventually a trip to Buffalo.

The dominance expected at that level didn’t exactly materialize with Norris, again, not able to maximize his plus stuff, throwing far too many pitches in too short a timeframe.

Despite the disappointment — for those of us that got ahead of ourselves even with fact the lefty blew through three levels last year, half of which were in high A  — Norris was (and is) still a genuine prospect.

The big question will always be whether he can iron out the mechanics.  If he does and with the addition of a change, he may very well pitch in the show for a long time.

But David Price is is going to win a World Series in Toronto, so there.

Miguel Castro –  6 (5) – Castro is probably the toughest one to rank here as his value will vary greatly dependent on what his future role will be.  By only dropping him three spots (remember, both Roberto Osuna and Sanchez have graduated) I’m probably straddling the fence a bit here.

I believe I charted him three times last year.  While his ability to blow away Northwest League hitters was impressive there were red flags.  Castro didn’t show much as far as hitting spots, using his plus velo to throw it by hitters.  The slider was often flat while Castro’s changeup looked like a slower version of the heater, lacking any real deception.

For a 19 year old coming off of only 17 innings State-side the year before, the raw stuff was impressive.  No way, however, did I expect to see him in Dunedin by the end of 2014 let alone a major league bullpen.  Once there, major league scouting — not too mention the hitters — caught up to his limited repertoire and Castro was back in the minor leagues by early May.  The initial thinking was that he’d be stretched out as a starter in Dunedin but that never came to fruition.  Since the trade, Colorado have been using him as a late inning reliever in AAA.

Doesn’t meant that is their long term plans for him but you have to think he’ll eventually end up as a reliever long term.  A major league one no doubt, but easily someone you’d trade to get five years of the best shortstop in the game.

Jeff Hoffman – 4 (6) – Similar to Dan Norris, losing Hoffman is a tough pill to swallow.  A pill made that much easier by the fact that it was his inclusion which ensured that the best all-round shortstop in baseball, Troy Tulowitzki, is going to be a Toronto Blue Jay for the next five years.

A power arm with a hammer of a curve, the New York native fell to the Jays with the 9th pick after undergoing pre-draft Tommy John surgery.  Making his return this season, Hoffman bucked the usual script by showing pretty decent command, walking just 2.41 per 9 during his time in the Florida State League before going under 2 in double-A.  Some prospectors were worried about the lack of strikeouts with talk that he was dialling back on the curveball, making it a potential 55 pitch rather than 65-70 as per fangraphs Kiley McDaniel.

Whether re-shaping of the curve was an intentional effort to place less stress on the elbow or, as C’s pitching coach Jim Czajkowski told me, to make it easier on umpires, there is no doubting that Hoffman has the stuff to be a front-line starter in the future (interestingly, his strikeout rate has spiked by almost two hitters per 9 since moving to the Rockies double-A affiliate.  Would be interesting if they are cutting him loose a bit).

He’s still at least a year, maybe two away though, during which time, we’ll get to watch TT become a Blue Jays playoff legend.

Jairo Labourt –  14 (11) – Part of what has to be now considered the legendary Blue Jays 2011 international free agent class, Labourt, a 6’4″ Dominican lefty has had an uneven start to his pro career. After a linear progression through his first three seasons, Jairo skipped Vancouver — he did start a playoff game for the C’s after a late call-up from Bluefield in 2013 — to make his full-season debut for Lansing in 2014.  It didn’t go well as Labourt didn’t react well to the cold, walking 12.9 per 9 while also giving up over a hit an inning for an ugly 2.5 WHIP.  A demotion to Vancouver seemingly got him on track but, and I had the opportunity to see him up close on a couple of occasions, in no way did he dominate despite the gaudy 10.4 per 9 strikeout totals.

The Jays, once again, skipped Labourt a level this season, sending him across the way to the D-Jays when minor league spring training closed.  If you look at the raw stats, his walk rate in the FSL is about equal to the improved numbers he put up in Vancouver while his strikeout numbers mirror what he put up in Lansing. Same with the hit totals, which led to a meh 1.581 WHIP.

From what I saw which is backed up by most prospect reports you read, Labourt has two things going for him, a plus fastball and slider.  On the flip side, his changeup is average at best, with noticeable arm-slowing (that a word?) and little movement while his command is probably below average at the moment.

That formula screams bullpen which is where I see Jairo ending up in the future.  For that reason I would normally have dropped him in my rankings but given a lot of the players around him, Lugo, Mitch Nay, etc didn’t really have great seasons, it wasn’t a precipitous one.

I’d hoped to get through al the names traded from my prospect list in one go but given we’re already at 1200+ words, let’s make it a two-parter.  Will give me a chance to look at some of the other guys dealt that didn’t make my pre-season list as well.

Something to look forward to!

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