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Blue Jays Minor League Review – Young Stars on Rise

As many of you are aware, mainly because I keep banging on about it, three weeks of sampling basically as much English beer (i.e. San Miguel and Stella) as possible meant my ability to write about baseball was curtailed.  Doesn’t mean I wasn’t doing my research though.  In fact, during a forced shopping trip with my wife while desperately searching for any sort of resting place in a particular shop, I actually let out a yelp when I saw Richard Urena in a Dunedin boxscore.

I know I shouldn’t be comparing Urena to the dearly departed Franklin Barreto as they are different players but consider this:

They were born a day apart in 1996 (jesus I’m getting old), were both signed as IFAs in 2012 with Urena getting exactly half of Barreto’s $1.45 million and, with Urena’s promotion are both in high-A.

The Jays shortstop of the future has struggled a bit during his first 15 Florida State League games slashing .242/.275/.303 with a 0.25 BB/K ratio.  It’s not like Barreto lit up the hitter friendly Cali League to start though putting up a .164/.207/.255 line with a .20 BB/K ratio over his first 15 games.  Of course, Franky has put up a .893 OPS with 11 home runs over his 73 games since.  I don’t think Urena will match that OPS given his allergy to walks — he’s never put up a BB rate over 10% since his days in the Dominican complex — but once he settles the power numbers should improve.  Something Jeff Moore of Baseball Prospectus seemingly agrees with:

most evident of the tools is his natural bat speed. Driven by strong wrists and quick hands, his bat speed gives him above-average pop despite not having great size. Despite his hitting tools, however, the in-game application still leaves something to be desired. He’s extremely raw. 

That last bit is important and was noticeable when they were both in Vancouver at the end of last year.  Barreto looked like a man while Urena definitely has a lot of filling out to do.  Remember, he played the bulk of 2014 in Bluefield so fact he is now in Dunedin is aggressive.

On the defensive side, Moore has this to say:

Urena’s best asset is a plus arm that will keep him on the left side of the infield. His actions are smooth at shortstop and while his hands aren’t the most natural, they will work in the infield. The only question is where. Urena’s range is only average, especially to his left. It will be enough if he’s able to maintain it but any loss in range could precipitate a move to third base.

That’s probably not quite as positive as hoped.  The book on the two shortstops was always that Urena would stick at the position while Barreto would eventually need to move.  Fact a scout is questioning that makes his bat that much more important.  His development over the next year or two will be fun to watch.

In a similarly aggressive move, heading to Dunedin with Urena was 2014 2nd rounder Sean Reid-Foley.  I was very surprised by this move.  Which, considering I was surprised by his Lansing assignment to start the season, is unsurprising.

The 19 year old had shown an exciting ability to miss bats in the Midwest League, striking out 13.09 hitters per nine innings. Unfortunately that was coupled with a not-so-exciting ability to miss the zone, putting up a 6.63 BB/9.

That pattern has continued in the Florida State League, bearing in mind the small sample size, putting up 10.03 and 6.17 figures respectively.  Reid-Foley is well ahead of schedule, in my eyes at least, which, along with Jeff Hoffman‘s promotion to AA kinda makes up for the disappointing news regarding fellow 2014 draftee Max Pentecost.

Even with Hoffman off to New Hampshire, Dunedin is easily the most exciting team, prospect wise, in the Jays system.

In his 23 games in Florida, Anthony Alford has put up an .899 OPS while also posting his lowest pro strikeout percentage at 17.4%.  If Alford were to continue anywhere close to this level over the rest of the season it will be tough to keep the center fielder out of the number one prospect slot this off-season.

Despite cooling off somewhat over his last 12 games (slashing .234/.255/.340 over that time) Rowdy Tellez is slugging .511 with a below average .288 BABIP during his time in the FSL.

And since those two were promoted on the 25th of June both Matt Dean and Mitch Nay have gotten hot-ish with Dean slashing .298/.340/.426 and Nay going even better at .365/.415/.482.  Won’t stop both of them falling in many prospectors eyes but hey, it’s a start.

Moving away from Dunedin, although not by much as he was only promoted to New Hampshire on the 26th of June, Roemon Fields has been impressing in double-A.  Field’s story is incredible, and well told, so will spare the details, but after being lured away from his postie job, Fields showed off his incredible speed, plus defensive instincts and reasonable ability to get on base during his season in Vancouver.

Given he put up a basically league average 101 wRC+ during his 66 games with Dunedin prior to his promotion (bear in mind they also needed to make room for Alford) I don’t believe the Jays see him as a game breaking bat.  He does have the potential to be a late game defensive specialist as well as someone who can steal you a base though.

I have to admit, aside from Fields and Hoffman — and of course, my favourite Jorge Flores — in New Hampshire and Dalton Pompey and disappointing Dan Norris in Buffalo, those two teams don’t hold a lot of interest for me.  Lansing has been gutted by promotions and I just don’t know enough about the Bluefield and GCL rosters yet.  Something that needs to be rectified.  Which leaves us with Vancouver.

So let’s end on a note from the C’s.  I’ve only been to two games post vacation but came away very impressed by Tom Robson……..

Too easy.

Actually, I’m already a fan of this year’s 32nd rounder Andrew Guillotte:

Age AgeDif Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
22 1.1 Vancouver 10 50 43 9 15 2 0 1 4 4 0 6 4 .349 .440 .465 .905
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/21/2015.

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Defensively he takes excellent routes while running hard on every at bat.

Easy to like a guy like that.

**All stats are as of games ending Monday the 20th

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