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Vancouver Canadians – All Quiet on the Western Front

You hear that? Neither do I. After a flurry of activity in Vancouver Canadians land last week, we’ve seen nothing in the way of new, or departing, faces over the last few days. With the 2013 draft signees drying up, that pipeline will now slow to a trickle. And it’s very possible the Jays organization are going to let the short season teams bed in a bit until we hit the all-star breaks in early August.

Whatever the reason, can’t stop writers (mainly me) from speculating on the comings and goings at the Nat. Previously I explored two possible promotions leaving Vancouver and two potential new faces.

With Ladner, B.C. native Tom Robson starting Wednesday night for Bluefield, let’s use this space to take a look at Robson and his piggy-backing partner Jairo Labourt.

Having used the piggy backing system in Lansing last year in an effort to protect their coveted, and soon to be traded, young arms, the Jays have shifted gears a bit and are employing the system with the twenty and under crowd in Virginia.

As mentioned above, the twenty year old Robson is a B.C. native who cut his baseball teeth in the Premier Baseball League with the Delta Blue Jays, Vancouver Cannons, and Langley Blaze. The Jays drafted him in the fourth round of the 2011 draft, signing him for $325,000. He signed late so didn’t make his pro debut until 2012.

Unfortunately an injury cut short his rookie year with Bluefield, limiting him to just eleven innings pitched. Tough to get a read from such a small sample size and probably part of the reason the Jays are being so conservative with him this season. He’s back in Bluefield and injury free, having already thrown 16.1 innings.

Tom Robson with the JNT (image courtesy of jaysjournal.com)

Tom Robson with the JNT (image courtesy of jaysjournal.com)

Oddly, of his four appearances, he’s started three of them, going against the one on one off usual style of piggy-backing. Aside from one blow up where he allowed four earned on six hits over four innings he’s been excellent. In his other 12.1 innings pitched he’s given up zero earned on two hits. His last start was particularly impressive as he struck out a man per inning with a 100% ground ball ratio.

As far as scouting him, question three of this interview gives his own impression. This piece seems to confirm the low 90s fastball with good separation in his changeup. Having just turned twenty, and standing 6’4″ and 200 pounds, you have to think he could add a few ticks to his fastball as he fills out.

That’s the positive aspect of his youth. The negative is that the Jays may not feel it necessary to promote him this season. Given his Vancouver connections, I have to think he’ll be here at some point, but if he pitches well this season, and stays in Bluefield, there is a possibility the Jays test him with a full season assignment next year. Nooooo, they wouldn’t do that would they? He’ll be here in August.

Robson’s pb’ing partner, for the first three appearances at least, has been 6’4″ 205 pounder Jairo Labourt. Part of Blue Jays 2011 international free agent haul, signing out of the Dominican Republic, this year is Labourt’s third season in the Jays organization and second Stateside.

Signed as a sixteen year old, the scouting reports are guesswork at best. What I can see from the various pieces I’ve read is that his fastball sits in the low 90s and the lefthander shows an advanced feel for his breaking ball. Again though, at nineteen, he’s still growing so you would expect a bit of projection to that fastball.

What you can see from his stats is an improvement across the board this season. He has cut down on his hits per nine, halved his walks per nine, his FIP is down to 2.89, and his K/BB ratio has increased to a very healthy 3.75.

If things keep going as they are, you would expect the Jays wanting to test Labourt against better competition. But where? Unless we see some demotions in Vancouver to make room, some of these kids are going to have to spend the season in Bluefield. I have a feeling Jairo may be one of them before being sent to Lansing to begin 2014.

Both the above names are long-ish shots to show up in Vancouver this year. Matt Boyd, however, a 2013 6th rounder who just signed for 75k should definitely make his pro debut in a C’s jersey. I’ll come up with a signing report as soon as.

Notes from the Pressbox:

The Boise Hawks fielded two Canadians Thursday night, along with adopted Canuck Trevor Gretzky.

Starting pitcher Rob Zastryzny, an Edmonton native, went one inning, giving up a hit with a strike-out.

Third basemen Jesse Hodges made his Northwest League debut after getting the call from the Cubs AZL rookie team. As per the linked article, Hodges was a free agent signing after playing well for the Canadian Junior National Team at the world championships. Hard to imagine he was playing in the PBL for Victoria just last summer.

Gretzky, the honorary Canadian, had a good night, save one bad route in left field. He made up for that ‘double’ that went over his head off the bat of Chaz Frank by making a nice running catch on L.B. Dantzler. At the plate he went two for three with a double. Both hits were opposite field jobs, with the double one hopping the wall (and let’s be perfectly clear, Jordan Leyland is not a left-fielder, the ball should probably have been caught). I was impressed with his single through the 5/6 hole. He got fooled on a two strike breaking ball but threw his hands at the ball and hit it hard.

Both C’s pitchers finished with the same line, with one inning difference. Matt Dermody and Scott Silverstein gave up 0 earned runs on 3 hits and 3 strike-outs. They kept the ball down and changed speeds well, keeping the Boise hitters off balance all night.

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