To me this season doesn't feel like a great season for the Jays minor league system. I have been trying to think about it, to make sense of this feeling of mine. Dunedin and Lansing won their first half titles. Las Vegas are challenging for the title of their league, something a Jays AAA team hasn't done for a long time. The system has promoted several players to the major leagues this year. 2011 prospects and near-prospects such as Drew Hutchison, Anthony Gose, Moises Sierra, Yan Gomes, Aaron Loup and Sam Dyson have been called up. These players have obviously improved enough to be promoted. So is it a good year or a bad year for the minor leagues?
I think I know the answer.
This year there has not been a prospect who has popped, someone who has "helium" as they say. In many ways this has been a boring year on the farm, most prospects have performed as you would expect. Last year Travis d'Arnaud, Jake Marisnick, Drew Hutchison, and Nestor Molina were popping up on prospect lists. This year, not so much.
The minor league system, like the parent club, has also been hit with some key injuries, in particular to Travis d'Arnaud and AJ Jimenez.
Let's consider the prospect status of the full season players first. Which of the full season players have really jumped up in my opinion this year?
Aaron Sanchez has. There was some debate over his ability to throw strikes last year and he has improved on that this year although he still has some improvement left. More recently his starts have been getting mixed results, so although he has improved, the excitement is muted somewhat.
I think that's it... and that is the problem. Am I a hard marker, are my expectations too high? You tell me. Here is what i think has happened.
There are many prospects whose status has remain unchanged from last year.
Travis d'Arnaud was a premier prospect before the season started and after a slow April he was on fire in May and June. But a knee injury ended his season and while his AAA numbers validated his status, the injury, added to previous injuries, knocked it down.
AJ Jimenez's story is the same as d'Arnaud's. A very good start followed by a season ending injury
David Cooper still seems to be the same David Cooper, is he a AAAA player?
Adeiny Hechavarria has performed as exppected in AAA, he still looks like a great field, average bat player.
Jake Marisnick played well in Dunedin but is off to a slow start in AA. He is still a top prospect but he hasn't advanced his status from last season.
Moises Sierra has played OK
Chris Hawkins has had an up and down season, big start, fade in the middle, somewhat better towards the end.
Noah Syndergaard has pitched well but the lack of a consistent breaking ball has tempered enthusiasm.
Justin Nicolino rocketed through the lower levels last season and he too has had a good season this year but it is what you would expect from a top ten prospect.
Sean Nolin has pitched well but a couple of stints on the DL hasn't helped.
Anthony DeSclafani wasn't ranked last season and his performance this year has been reasonable, but for a colleg pitcher his K rate in Lansing is just OK.
Looking at the list you may think I am hard on Syndergaard and Nicolino. but they were top ten prospects coming into the season, you expect a top ten prospect to pitch well in Lansing.
There are a few prospects who have slipped back:
Mike McDade didn't improve in his second round through in AA. What can he do in Las Vegas for the rest of the season?
Marcus Knecht and Michael Crouse haven't hit well enough.
Deck McGuire and Chad Jenkins have had well publicised struggles in AA
Joel Carreno has also had a down year
Even though these players are down most of them were lower ranked prospects, with Deck McGuire being the highest ranked based on his strong 2011.
There has been some pop-up guys in the upper minors:
Ryan Goins has hit well this season in AA.
Sam Dyson and John Stilson hadn't pitched before this year. Dyson has established himself as a bullpen pitcher, and Stilson could be headed that way. Stilson was perhaps promoted to AA before the Jays intended due to injuries and while he has held his own his K rate is not where it should be.
Kevin Pillar has hit well and moved up to high A but he might only barely make a top 30 prospect list this off-season.
Marcus Walden has also pitched well but looks like a bullpen arm too.
The system lost Nestor Molina, Asher Wojciechowski, Joe Musgrove and Carlos Perez.
In the lower minors it can be hard to judge kids who are just getting established as professionals but is there a 300 hitter here? The best seem to be around 250 which is not necessarily a problem because it is still too early to judge but, if I am to get excited, which was my original point, I would like to see a 300 hitter. There are some pitchers, such as Daniel Norris and Roberto Osuna who are missing bats but there are several guys who are not.
I don't see anyone "popping" among the short season teams other than perhaps Roberto Osuna. Here is how I see the short season players:
Up - Roberto Osuna
Flat - Jacob Anderson, Dwight Smith, Daniel Norris, Kevin Comer, Jeremy Gabryszwski, Matt Dean, Christian Lopes, Adonys Cardona, Eric Arce, Santiago Nessy, Wuilmer Becerra, Dawel Lugo, Gabriel Cenas
Down - Kellen Sweeney, Dickie Thon
One way to look at this is to say most of the top tier prospects have been promoted or have maintained their ranking. All of the new guys, DJ Davis, Stroman, Smoral, Gonzalez, Nay, DeJong, etc. have added depth to the system.
To answer my own question I think it has been a good, but quiet, year for the minor league system. Most of the top tier prospects have performed as expected. I would be more excited if some had "popped" and are now looking like potential superstars. But they haven't dropped either so there is hope.
What do you think?