But there is no joy in Vancouver, for the mighty Canadians have struck out.
After making the playoffs for the past five years, including three straight Northwest League championships, the Vancouver Canadians, for the first time since they have been affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays, will be on the outside looking in come playoff time.
A three game sweep at the hands of the Tri-City Dust Devils this week put paid to the C’s already slim hopes.
Let’s be honest, the run of excellence the Canadians have put together over the past five years is an anomaly in minor league baseball. As fans, and media, we’ve been lucky. Doesn’t mean this hasn’t been a disappointing year though, both personally as far as getting to the Nat, and for the product on the field.
It’d be easy to just blame the talent this year but I think that would be short sighted. As Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos loves to say, day three of the MLB draft is generally regarded as ‘Vancouver Canadians Day’. And this year was no different. The 2015 roster was populated with grinders or as us prospect writers like to say, organizational filler.
Like years past, the diamond has been littered with these types of players. Guys that aren’t going to be mlb players but who are essential to winning baseball games at this level. They’re the drink, not the straws.
I think where this season has diverged from years past pertains to the performance of those players I would call prospects (the straws).
If you’d spoken to those that pay attention to Vancouver’s prospect capital at the start of this season I think most would have lamented the lack of genuine upper tier talent on the roster (I’m including 2015 draftees that were assigned to Vancouver under this umbrella). I think that’s unfair. We’re a bit blinded by what was an incredible crop of blue-chippers in 2014. Of my top 30, four started the season at the Nat — Franklin Barreto #6, Alberto Tirado #11, Miguel Castro #18 and Jairo Labourt #23. While three more — Matt Smoral #12 , Richard Urena #17, and 2014 11th overall pick Max Pentecost — joined in-season.
An incredible year. Not only did the C’s have a ton of potential, but those players performed as well. Barreto was the team (and more than likely the league – if they had given one out) MVP by a mile. Castro became a star before dominating at two more levels and Labourt was the C’s best, most consistent starter.
I’d stack this year’s team, prospect-wise, with any pre-2014 though. Again, going back to my list. This year saw #16 Clinton Hollon and #17 Lane Thomas start here while #’s 23 and 25 Tom Robson and Ryan Borucki spent some time. Add #27 Angel Perdomo who was promoted from Bluefield in early August and mix in 2015 first rounder Jon Harris and 4th rounder Carl Wise (based on scouting reports like this) and that’s a good a crop as any.
2012 saw Dalton Pompey get off to a flying start before a broken hand curtailed his season. Roberto Osuna and Marcus Stroman both made impressive cameos while D.J. Davis and Daniel Norris weren’t quite as good.
In 2011, only Justin Nicolino spent significant time at the Nat and was fantastic, while his future ‘Lansing 3’ mates Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard had cups of coffee. And, of course, the first Vancouver Canadian to play in Toronto, Kevin Pillar, hit almost .400 in the playoffs.
The point I’m trying to make, in a rather convoluted fashion, is that none of the playoff teams, outside of 2014, were stacked with prospects. They all had some. The big difference being that the ones they did have, performed. Generally speaking, they were the best players on the team, as their talent suggested they should be.
This year that hasn’t been the case.
Clinton Hollon was easily the best of the bunch putting up a very reasonable 3.31 FIP. His last two starts were excellent and if he had of stayed and maintained that level, it definitely would have helped the C’s down the stretch. That being said, I think Hollon will be the first to describe his season as inconsistent, so predicting anything is dicey.
Perdomo has been good but not had the sort of impact that some other August B-Jay call-ups have had while both Borucki and Robson weren’t here long enough to be considered.
The rest? Well, they weren’t that good at all. Lane Thomas, an athletic second basemen who, we were told, could hit and hit with some power, got off to a terrible start, slashing .183/.216/.366 over his first 20 games and could never really recover.
His .244 BABIP might suggest a touch of bad luck but seeing him live he just didn’t consistently put the barrel on the ball. More often than not he made weak contact. It wasn’t impressive.
Having just turned 20, time is on Thomas’ side. Carl Wise, on the other hand, was meant to be the finished product. He’s anything but. Getting beat regularly by average velocity on the inner half, Wise now cheats in his load which leaves him susceptible to soft stuff away. A formula that has undone many a minor-leaguer.
I really don’t know what to make of Jon Harris. This year’s first rounder does flash some decent stuff, as I broke down when I charted him. His line isn’t a mirage though. He’s been hit far harder than you would have thought given his pedigree.
Clayton McCullough, and every C’s coach since, always told me not to read too much into what college kids look like in their draft year. Harris did throw a lot of innings for Missouri State so he has to be tired. But is a winter off and a full spring training with pro coaches (same can be said for Wise) really going to make that much of a difference?
I suppose time will tell. I can say two things for certainty. One, the play of these guys isn’t the only reason the C’s missed the playoff this season, but they didn’t put the team on their backs like some other prospects have. And two; only one of the ‘prospects’ I saw in 2015 will be making headway on my board this off-season. In fact, there may be a few precipitous drops.