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Vancouver Canadians 2012 1st Basemen

As I mentioned in an earlier piece, as news for the Canadians will be light during the off-season, I’m going to run a series of posts looking at each position, who manned it in 2012 for the C’s, and where those players may end up in 2013.  I was having a think and decided I would not include the ‘released’ option in my 2013 predictions.  Just seems a bit cruel for me to flippantly say someone will be out of a job next year, and hey, the Jays have 7 minor league teams to man next season, so they’ll need lots of players to fill those positions.  Hence the term Organizational Filler, which we’ll be using instead.

This edition (as you can tell by the title) covers the C’s 1st basemen.  With only three men covering the position this past season Vancouver had a mix of continuity and some exciting new blood.  First base is a bit of a black hole in the Jays organization with no genuine prospects in the levels above rookie ball.  With that in mind, one of these players may be able to grab the bull by the horns and progress a bit quicker than his play may dictate.

Before I get into the three that covered the cold corner, a minor piece of accounting.  One of my first ever posts for yourvancs mentioned Roan Salas as one of the prospects to keep an eye on when the season opened.  Unfortunately things didn’t play out that way as Salas remained on the sixty day DL for the duration of the campaign.  He did have 148 plate appearances for Vancouver in 2011, putting up numbers that would have had me predicting a repeat season in the Northwest League.  As he’s now sat out a season, I can only see him back next year.  Will be interesting as he’ll be turning twenty three before the season starts.

Leyland looks in. I still love those jerseys

Another twenty three year old that has a good chance to start the year in Vancouver is Jordan Leyland.  Jordan began 2012 with the C’s before being demoted to Bluefield on the 25th of July.  2012 was his draft and first year of pro ball so a late season demotion isn’t the end of the world.  His numbers weren’t all that bad actually, but when Art Charles was promoted it became a question of space.  First basemen tend not to play anywhere else (aside from DH of course).  What concerns me about Jordan are threefold.  1) After putting up a healthy walk rate of 13.7% in Vancouver it plummeted to 1.9% in Bluefield.  His strike out rate also went up which turned a pretty healthy BB/K ratio into an awful one.  2) His Slugging percentage and subsequently his ISO are both very poor for a first basemen and 3) I really don’t remember him at all, meaning I either didn’t see him live or he just doesn’t stand out.

Someone who did stand out was Art Charles.  Before we delve into the numbers, let’s just start by saying this guy has big league power.  I was in the stands for two home runs which were absolute shots.  Something you don’t often see at the Nat.

As mentioned above, Art was promoted to the C’s midway through the season after being an on base machine in Bluefield.  It was

This guy is flat out huge

his repeat year in Bluefield so good to see him force the Jays hand.  Unfortunately, his walk rate didn’t carry through to the Northwest League.  In the Appalachian his BB rate was an absurd 26.8% which was a big contributor to his .463 OBP.  In Vancouver his strike out numbers did tick up, albeit nominally, but his walk rate fell to 9.2%.  Meaning his OBP dropped to a below average .310.  From what I saw of him, he is susceptible to off-speed stuff away, which the Northwest League, being a college age league, had an abundance of.  He has a very solid base, and keeps his hands through the zone well, just didn’t trust them enough, and got out ahead of the breaking ball.

But, the power.  His ISO in Bluefield was .341 and in Vancouver it was .260.  That’s good.  Sure, you’d like to see him make more

contact, but when he does catch it, it goes.  In fact, his seven home runs with the C’s left him second on the team despite having fewer than half the plate appearances of those around him.  I think it’s this tool, above all others, that gets him a promotion next season.  I’d like to be aggressive and say it’s Dunedin, but I think that would be a stretch too far.  I predict Art is Lansing’s starting first basemen out of spring training.

Looks late

Last on our list, and the player that pipped Art for the C’s home run lead was none other than Balbino Fuenmayor.  I’ve written a ton on the Big Bopper, and not a lot of it was complimentary to be fair.  Honestly, I just don’t understand this guys’ career.  This past season was his sixth in the Jays organization.  To be in your sixth year and still in rookie ball is not great.  But what I don’t understand is that, after three seasons (the third being a part of) in Lansing, the Jays organization is still giving him chances by having him first demoted to Vancouver, then repeat the level.

He has issues.  He walks not a lot, and strikes out a ton.  His power numbers have never been great, although this year’s .170 ISO is not bad.  He’s always had a high BABIP which means he hits it hard when he does make contact.  But therein lies the problem.  This year’s strike out rate was 29%.  For a guy in his sixth year, that is poor.  He has the same problem Art has in that he has no plate coverage away.  He is basically a middle in fastball hitter.  He gets fooled far too often by breaking balls and this will only be exploited further as he moves up the ladder.

I know I promised never to give a prediction of released but this is a tough one.  Lansing has had the same everyday first basemen for the past two years in Kristopher Hobson.  Last year he improved pretty much across the board, so will be due a promotion himself.  I can see a situation where both Art Charles and the Big Bopper end up in Lansing.  I think Art will hog most of the starts at first, but with the DH there should be a decent amount of at bats for both of them.  But then that will be it for Balbino.  If he doesn’t swim in 2013 he will find himself out of the Jays organization.

As a C’s fan, I would love to be proven wrong about Art Charles and see him at the start of next season.  I don’t think it will happen though, as he needs to test himself with a full-season assignment.  So, with my half-hearted prediction of Fuenmayor in Lansing as well, that leaves Vancouver with Jordan Leyland and, hopefully, Seth Conner in Vancouver next season.  Conner is a twenty year old out of Missouri that put up an .844 OPS with Bluefield last season.  That being said, the Jays are attempting to convert him into a catcher, so he may very well be on that list next year.

Who knows how the draft will work, but you get the impression that first basemen aren’t drafted.  They fail at third, corner outfield, wherever and find themselves putting on the bigger mitt.  Still, with the Jays found wanting, let’s hope one of these guys goes on a tear next year and forces himself up the ladder.

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