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Let’s Get Going!

With Thursday representing opening day for the Jays full-season minor league franchises, the rosters were set early this week.  Without going into too much detail, or looking back at all my predictions (an exercise that would only serve to confirm how little I know), a quick glance at the Lansing and Dunedin teams is in order.

As I have only been writing about the Canadians for a season, most of last year’s roster will either have been promoted one, possibly two levels, repeating with the Canadians, or released.  With the information we currently have, we should be able to get a rough sketch of the C’s opening day roster, as well as pick out a few interesting prospects that will make their way to Vancouver at some point in 2013.

To the teams, and I’m using this article for the lists.  I’ve confirmed the names with various team pages but is easier to read them all off the one page battersbox provides.

Knecht looks in (image courtesy of mlbprospectportal.com)

Knecht looks in (image courtesy of mlbprospectportal.com)

There were no real surprises in Dunedin (unless, of course, you want to discuss Ricky Romero‘s demotion, but that is a story unto its own).  From last year’s C’s team, I only predicted three baby Blue Jays.  Two of the three picks came good.  Outfielders Matt Newman and Nick Baligod will look to prove themselves in what is a tough hitting environment.  Just ask Michael Crouse and Marcus Knecht, both one time high end prospects who struggled in the Florida sun in 2012.  You would expect they will take up two of the three spots, making it hard on the ex C’s to find playing time.

My third 2012 C heading to Dunedin was Ian Kadish.  Admittedly, I’m a bit surprised by his Lansing assignment.  I really thought he’d done enough to warrant a promotion.  Will keep a close eye on him at the start of the season.

Lansing’s roster is far more interesting, and for the second year in a row, the Lugnuts fans should be excited.  Not only did they get prized pitching prospects Roberto Osuna and Daniel Norris, but there was some surprising, aggressive pushes for some of the younger players.

Let’s split the Lugs roster into three categories:

1) The No Brainers – guys I predicted to end up in the Midwest League, but it really wasn’t rocket science.  That includes Osuna and Norris.  Add in 2012 C’s stalwarts Javier Avendano and Taylor Cole and you have the makings of a very good rotation.  In the bullpen I’m happy to see Matt Johnson take the next step in his re-birth as a pitcher.  Andrew Sikula was an easy call as well.

In the field, despite his short stint in Vancouver, you got the feeling the Jays were looking to push Christian LopesDalton Pompey is looking to rebound after an injury ravaged season, I’m curious to see if he’s Lansing’s starting center fielder come opening day.  This being Balbino Fuenmayor‘s fourth kick at the can in full season ball, if he fails this year, surely it will be the end of his Blue Jays career.  Jorge Flores is making the leap as well, however I think he’ll struggle for reps with some of the other middle infielders on the roster.

2) Aggressive Surprises – These guys provide mixed emotions.  I really wanted to see them at the Nat, but overall success is more important.  So, for the good of the organization, I’m going to be magnanimous, and wish all of these fellas the best of luck.

I had both of Lansing’s current catchers in Vancouver this season.  I couldn’t figure out then who of Santiago Nessy or Seth Conner would get more starts.  Now that they are both in Lansing, I’m still not sure, just more games to go around I suppose.

Nessy ups and fires

Nessy ups and fires

With the Big Bopper Balbino the only other recognized first basemen, there is a very good chance that Conner sees some time at first.  With Conner’s prospect status still in the ascendancy, there is no way Fuenmayor should take at bats away from Seth.  I was also a bit surprised (pleasantly mind) with Alonzo Gonzales skipping the Nat for Lansing.  As he was drafted out of junior college, the Jays brass may feel he is physically ready to make the jump.

3) The Head-Scratchers – Leo Hernandez, Ron Melendez, and Carlos Ramirez are all interesting additions, given their lack of playing time last year, and poor results when they did play.  I can’t foresee them getting much playing time in Lansing so not sure how well served they will be in Michigan.  There’s a good chance they end up somewhere else when the shorter seasons begin.

I had broken my ‘no-release’ prediction rule on both Ben White and Tucker Donahue.  I’m happy to see that my crystal ball was a bit cloudy, and both have landed on their feet in the midwest.  Getting there is one thing, staying will be another. Fooling A ball hitters with their mediocre stuff will prove a challenge.

What we have to bear in mind is fact that with the C’s not starting their season until mid June, Lansing and Dunedin have sixty odd games prior to the beginning of the short seasons.  For a lot of the players above, the Jays would have decided they would be better served in live games rather than in extended.  It is still an audition though.  Like Kellen Sweeney last season, players that struggle early, will find themselves back in extended before being assigned to a rookie ball team.  I’d love for it not to happen, but in real life, these kids will struggle.

As I mentioned previously, with the names in Lansing, we should be able to get a rough idea of Vancouver’s opening day roster by process of elimination.  Instead of starting that exercise now, let’s split it out into a separate post, allowing for more detailed coverage.  As a teaser though, there is one center fielder who I had fully expected to be in Lansing.  Vancouver fans should count themselves very fortunate that they are going to get to see him play for at least the first couple months of 2013.

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