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Vancouver Canadians: A Full Season of Prospects

The weather in Vancouver may not agree with me but with Blue Jay minor leaguers about to start playing exhibition games we are one step closer to opening day at the Nat. This off-season, I have been doing a lot of predicting. If I could ensure one prediction is correct it would be that I’ll look like a fool when the season opens up and all the players landing spots are nowhere near where I forecasted. Still, it’s a fun exercise and gets C’s fans primed for what they can look forward to in 2014.

Recently I took at a stab at what a stacked Lansing Lugnut rotation would look like. I’ll take a lot of interest in the Lugs lineup this year but, as an eternal optimist, I doubt very seriously they’ll play any part in the Canadians upcoming season. My hope, and belief, is that they will all make the jump to the Midwest League look like a skip and their strong play will make a promotion to Dunedin more likely than a demotion to Vancouver.

I often moan about how the C’s get shafted on the prospect front but genuinely believe that we saw two future Blue Jays (or at least major leaguers) last season. It may have only been for a short while but we saw them nonetheless.

So what does 2014 hold on the prospect front in Vancouver?

The easiest call is shortstop Franklin Barreto since Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos essentially told me that we would see him. Part of the international free agent class of 2012, Barreto was advanced enough to skip the Dominican Summer League in 2013, tearing up the GCL before getting in 15 games with Bluefield when Dawel Lugo was promoted to Vancouver. Given the low game total and fact he struggled in the Appalachian League, I’d assumed that Franklin would begin 2014 in Bluefield.

That may not be the case though as the excellent Ben Badler over at Baseball America made an interesting point during his review of the Jays 2013 international signings. The Jays top signing was, like Barreto, a Venezualen shortstop who is considered advanced for his age and has had plenty of international tournament experience. In fact, Badler says that Yeltsin Gudino is “advanced enough that he’s expected to debut in the GCL, with the organization possibly pushing Urena up a level or two to give them both everyday reps at shortstop.” Given fact the Jays want all their young shortstops to see everyday reps then, if that situation were to play out, Barreto lands in Vancouver right from the get go. I’ll take that.

The next possible prospect we see on Opening Day is another big ticket ($2.8 million) international signee from Venezuela. Unfortunately, the progression for right-handed pitcher Adonys Cardona has not been as smooth as countryman Barreto. After skipping the DSL and starting in the GCL, Cardona put up reasonable numbers in his first season of pro ball, striking out 9.95 per nine while pitching to a 3.14 FIP. Taken on their own, you could also point to his 2011 BABIP of .326 and 66.4 LOB% and say that he may have been a bit unlucky that year, contributing to a not so great 1.358 WHIP.

Arm issues have limited Cardona’s innings the past two years, with the 6’1″ 170 pounder logging 15.2 while repeating the GCL in 2012 and 25.1 in Bluefield last season. That means we still don’t have a very large sample size but if you look at the numbers, the BABIP has risen both years to .342 and (an extremely high) .430 respectively while the LOB% dropped to 61 and 60.1%.

Even with the small sample size, you may be able to reasonably conclude that hitters aren’t getting fooled by Cardona, consistently making solid contact off of the Venezualen. The low LOB% could also indicate some struggles out of the stretch.

Add in some an ugly 2013 BB/9 of 4.6 and you get a 1.895 WHIP. Adonys still misses bats, putting up a 9.6 K/9 but it’s not hard to see why his prospect shine has lost some of its luster. Respected analyst Keith Law is still high on him though, ranking him 5th in the Jays system so he is definitely a player worth watching and one that needs to be pushed up a level to see what he can do. If Cardona were to start 2014 at the Nat, C’s fans will be treated to the best fastball since Roberto Osuna made his cameo in 2012.

Barreto and Cardona are the only two genuine prospects I see starting the year in Vancouver. That doesn’t mean we won’t get our fair share of futures though. As per usual, mid to late season call ups will have us dreaming.

There’s not much on the position side. Depending on how the season goes, the Jays may find a spot for Richard Urena at some point. Pitching is where we will be spoiled. I fully expect to see 2013 2nd rounder Clinton Hollon, 6’8″ 220 pound lefty Matt Smoral, hard throwing Jake Brentz, and projectable righty Miguel Castro.

You add those four names into the mix with those that should be in Lansing as well as Tom Robson, Daniel Norris, and Aaron Sanchez and next year we may have to start a Blue Jays top 10 pitching prospects alongside the usual top 10.

Should be a very interesting season at the Nat.

Matt Smoral is flat out huge (image courtesy of MLB Prospect Portal)

Matt Smoral is flat out huge (image courtesy of MLB Prospect Portal)

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