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Notes From Extended Spring Training: Part One

If you follow me on twitter (and if you don’t, you really should) you’ll have picked up on fact I have cultivated a ‘source’ down at the Blue Jays extended spring training camp. Getting insight into what goes on at extended has long been a goal of mine, especially in regards to the Vancouver Canadians, as the bulk of the C’s opening day roster will be culled from what is going on in Florida right now.

Actually getting information from extended has always proved rather difficult though. It’s like the Bermuda Triangle, you know it’s there, but it’s rather mysterious as to what goes on. I’m not going to lie, there are still many facets of EST that I’d like to know about but some of the tidbits I have been getting have opened, what were previously sealed shut, the doors somewhat.

Quickly, for those that are extended virgins. There are two types of player currently in Florida. Those that were invited to main camp and were deemed not ready, or not good enough for one of the four full season teams. Then you have players (usually the younger ones) that are only invited to extended, arriving in Dunedin after all the others have left, with the Jays knowing off the hop that they are destined for one of the short season teams.

Although I hope to learn the details soon, let’s just assume for now that the daily schedule for these players is pretty similar to full minor league spring training. With a combination of drills, intra-squad games, and exhibition games against other teams in the area.

So what have I picked up thus far?

I was very surprised when I found out both lefties Shane Dawson and Matt Dermody were held back in extended. The Jays had their reasons though, with Dawson needing a few more innings after the shoulder injury which cut short his 2013 season, and Dermody being stretched out as a starter.

Both have been getting rave reviews, with Dawson throwing three dominant innings against the Yankees using just a fastball and changeup. Shane has been working on a slider this spring, but according to him, it still needs a bit of work, while he’s just been using his curve (which was a very good pitch last year) as a show me pitch this spring.

The Jays top international signing of 2013 (image courtesy of MLB Prospect Portal)

The Jays top international signing of 2013 (image courtesy of MLB Prospect Portal)

Dermody has impressed thus far. At 6’5″ he has been generating good downward plane on his fastball and both the two and four seamers have been described to me as ‘very heavy’. Both his secondary offerings, he throws a sweeping slider and change, are also looking ‘nasty’ according to my source.

Based on his four starts last year, Dawson doesn’t really need to prove anything else at the Northwest League level. He is caught in the numbers game though and if nothing changes in Lansing then the Drayton Valley native will find himself opening the season in Vancouver.

Dermody will open in Vancouver while the Jays continue to stretch him out. He’ll turn 24 in July so is a bit old for the level. If things go well for him in the first half of the season I can see the organization getting aggressive and promoting him quickly.

If that were to happen, a name that could replace Dermody is Jesus Tinoco. An 18 year old Venezualen, Tinoco has spent the last two seasons in the complex leagues. His numbers aren’t great as he tends to give up a lot of hits averaging 9.4 per 9 inning over his career so far. He does miss bats though with an even 8 K/9 rate. From what I’ve been told his sinker/2-seam fastball is absolutely nasty, and provided he can learn to spot it, he could be particularly effective.

At 6’4″ and 190 pounds, the right-hander is growing into his body and probably still learning how to harness both his mechanics and velocity. He’ll start in Bluefield but there’s a decent chance we see him at the Nat at some point.

Positionally I haven’t heard a great deal. Uber shortstop prospect Franklin Barreto did have one monster intra-squad game, going 4 for 4 with a home run, two triples, and a double. Despite his youth (he turned 18 in February) I don’t think there’s any doubt Barreto plays against the older Northwest League this season. He’s an advanced bat.

Speaking of advanced bats, the reports on first basemen Rowdy Tellez are equally positive. He has a mature approach with unbelievable bat speed for a big guy. His defense still needs works (which we knew) but he hit an absolute monster shot against the Yankees last week. Raw power from the left side is a valuable commodity. Something that needs to be nurtured.

I hope to get more details this week, but the reports about some of the younger kids have been generally positive. You see ‘flashes’ of the talent that both the shortstops behind Barreto, Richard Urena and Yeltsin Gudino, possess, it’s now just a matter of getting experience and making the necessary improvements.

The same was said about some of the younger pitchers, including 6’8″ lefty project Matt Smorel and 2013 2nd rounder Clinton Hollon. If things go well to start the season, both could make their way to Vancouver at some point in 2014.

I hope to get some more extended dirt this week and will look to make this a regular piece until the Canadians roster is announced prior to the season opener on the 13th of June.

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