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Baseball America started rolling out their league top 20's yesterday, the first Blue Jay relevant list comes out today with the GCL.

One important fact to remember when considering which Blue Jays made, or missed, a league list is the number of teams in each league.  A prospect in the Northwest League, with its 8 teams, has an easier time making the list than a prospect in the Midwest League or the GCL where there are 16 teams. 

The dates for leagues with a Blue Jay affiliate are as follows with the number of teams in the league shown in parentheses:

Sep 24 - Gulf Coast League (16)

Sep 26 - Appalachian League (10)

Sep 27 - Northwest League (8)

Oct 1 - Midwest League (16)

Oct 7 - Florida State League (12)

Oct 8 - Eastern League (12)

Oct 11 - International League (14)

 

We will add Blue Jay top prospects here as they are announced.

 

One Blue Jay made the top 20 list from the GCL, and he is Franklin Barreto.  Ba notes "Barreto’s hands are quick to the ball with a compact swing. He’s an aggressive hitter within the strike zone with a knack for the barrel and surprising power for his size. He can drive the ball with authority to all fields with the pop to hit 15-20 homers per year. He didn’t walk a lot, but he recognizes pitches well for his age. He has a short, thick build, but he’s also an above-average runner."

The Appy league has 7 Blue Jays:

#2 - DJ Davis - Carl Crawford type but still raw

#4 - Mitch Nay - good bat, 70 power, should be able to stay at third

#5 - Dawel Lugo - natural, pure hitter with excellent hand/eye coordination.  Swings at everything, may have to move to third depending on his lateral quickness

#6 - Chase DeJong - comment in BA just says he does everything well

#8 - Alberto Tirado - dynamite arm, just has to get more consistent with his delivery

#12 - Jairo Labourt - has improved a lot, but still unsure if he is a starter or a reliever

#16 - Adonys Cardona - the sky is the limit if everything clicks but he could be out of the game in three years.  High potential, high risk.

 

The Northwest League list has two Blue Jays:

#13 - Tom Robson - good fastball with downhill plane, good change-up

#19 - LB Dantzler - undersized first baseman with pop

 

The Midwest League top20 list contained no Blue Jays.

 

The Florida State League had one Blue Jay, Aaron Sanchez at #10 - plus, plus fastball, good power breaking ball, OK change, improved control

 

Kevin Pillar, #19 in the International League list.

 

Marcus Stroman, #10 in the Eastern League. High-Octane fastball, dynamic slider, solid change-up.

 

Arizona Fall League

The AFL is two weeks away, opening day is October 8.  There have been some changes to the original list of Blue Jay attendees.  AJ Jimenez hurt his elbow at the end of the season and is off the AFL roster with Derrick Chung replacing him.  Sean Nolin has been pulled as the Jays prefer for him to pitch in winter ball.  Drew Hutchison will take Nolin's spot.  Tyler Ybarra has also been removed from the roster and John Stilson has taken his place.

Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, Andy Burns and Kenny Wilson remain on the team.

 

Minor League Top 20's Plus AFL | 38 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Mike Green - Tuesday, September 24 2013 @ 09:50 AM EDT (#279300) #
That is too bad about Jimenez.  I am glad that Hutchison is getting a shot in the AFL; he is worth watching closely to see if he makes progress in regaining his control.
Gerry - Tuesday, September 24 2013 @ 03:01 PM EDT (#279315) #

The Blue Jays have announced their Webster Award winners.  Generally they players are introduced before and during Saturdays home game, followed by a dinner on Saturday night.

AAA - Ryan Goins

AA - Brad Glenn

High A - Jon Berti

A - Dwight Smith Jr.

SS A - LB Dantzler

Rookie + - Matt Dean

Rookie - Franklin Barreto

DSL - Miguel Castro

 

Two second basemen, two outfielders, two first basemen, a shortstop and just one pitcher.

Gerry - Tuesday, September 24 2013 @ 04:30 PM EDT (#279320) #
In today's chat Ben Badler mentioned that Rowdy Tellez was a late cut from the GCL top 20 list but cautioned that the bar for first basemen is high.  He thought Barreto could be in full season ball next season which sets up a decision for the Jays with Dawel Lugo headed to Lansing also. 
TJ Caino - Wednesday, September 25 2013 @ 12:34 PM EDT (#279341) #
The Pirates' Austin Meadows was rated top in the GCL. Barreto was ranked 5th. The Yankees has 6 prospects listed, with the highest being 10th.

I was much more excited for these lists last year (and the last 8 years probably). Although the Jays could have decent rankings up through the FSL.
John Northey - Wednesday, September 25 2013 @ 01:05 PM EDT (#279342) #
I'm curious about Nolin and Stroman and how they'll rank in the high minors. A.J. Jimenez is a good one too. I'd be surprised to see Deck McGuire on any lists. Could John Stilson sneak onto one - I doubt it as relievers rarely do unless their K/9 is crazy high and his is good but not 'wow' at 9.6.
Gerry - Thursday, September 26 2013 @ 09:07 AM EDT (#279351) #
Seven Blue Jays made the Appy league top 20 prospects, but Matt Dean was not one of them.  I have put the list above in the main story.
Mike Green - Thursday, September 26 2013 @ 09:22 AM EDT (#279352) #
I'll take a wild guess here.  When the BB team takes its turn in rating the Bluefield position prospects, Davis will be behind Nay and Lugo because of the contact concerns.  He struck out an awful lot, and it actually got worse as the season ended (Ks in 18 of his last 42 PAs).  He's only 19 years old and can improve, but you'd still hope for much better in this department.
Mike Green - Thursday, September 26 2013 @ 09:27 AM EDT (#279353) #
Since my comment, Gerry has posted BA's comment- "Carl Crawford type but still raw" for D.J. Davis.  Crawford never struck out anywhere near as often as Davis.  It's a huge, huge difference between them. 
Ryan Day - Thursday, September 26 2013 @ 10:45 AM EDT (#279355) #
Crawford was also a much better base stealer. Davis is clearly fast, but somehow got caught 8 times in 21 attempts. When Crawford was 18, he got caught 9 times - in 64 attempts.

Most of these player comparisons aren't meant to be taken too seriously. "Carl Crawford type" just means "fast but with a bit of pop." You could probably consider Anthony Gose to be a "Carl Crawford type", but we've seen how much that counts for from a developmental standpoint.
Gerry - Thursday, September 26 2013 @ 11:25 AM EDT (#279357) #

Baseball America loves tools and draft position.  Davis was a first round pick, and he has all 5 tools, and will stay high on BA's list until he fails badly (if that happens, not saying it will).

It is encouraging that the Jays had so many players on the top 20.  As BA notes in the story, there were few #1 picks sent to the Appy league this year so perhaps the prospect competition was not as high as in other years.  But there is recognition that the Jays have some solid prospects.  Unfortunately they are 3-4 years away from the major leagues.

Chuck - Thursday, September 26 2013 @ 12:18 PM EDT (#279361) #
and he has all 5 tools

At what point will strike zone judgement be considered an important tool? The presumption seems to be that physical tools are gifts that can't be taught, and thus serve as the fundamental basis of a player's skill set. While some players do improve their strike zone judgement, I wonder if there isn't more than a little bit of "raw tools" at the root of being able to discern a ball from a strike, that it's not entirely a learned behaviour.

Mike Green - Thursday, September 26 2013 @ 01:59 PM EDT (#279363) #
I am pretty sure that the Rays and As already have it for their scouts, and I'll bet that the Cardinals do too.  Part of strike zone control is pitch recognition and simple quality of the batter's vision.  Vision is surely a tool.  Another part of strike zone control is hand-eye co-ordination which is also surely a tool. 

The traditional view that you cannot teach power or speed but that you can teach strike zone control is frankly strange.  You can improve on a prospect's raw ability to hit the ball a long way through weight training, swing adjustments and so on, but there are limits on the amount of improvement possible for any prospect, given native strength and explosiveness in the wrists. Similarly, you can improve on speed through specific weight training and more importantly you can develop the effective use of it in a baseball context.  Obviously there are limits to it.  A similar thing applies to strike zone control.  Has there ever been a player with poor strike zone control at age 20 who had very good strike zone control at age 27?  Maybe, but I can't think of any off-hand. 

Gerry - Thursday, September 26 2013 @ 03:03 PM EDT (#279364) #

From the BA Appy League chat:

Matt Dean just missed the top 20 list.  There were concerns around his high 2013 BABIP and his relatively high K rate.  However his improved approach and dedication were noted as positives heading into 2014.

Mike Green - Thursday, September 26 2013 @ 03:23 PM EDT (#279365) #
Dean is 20 (and will be 21 in December).  For short-season ball, that's not exactly young. 
Gerry - Friday, September 27 2013 @ 09:06 AM EDT (#279376) #
Tom Robson at #13 and LB Dantzler at #19 are on the BA top 20 list for the Northwest League.
Gerry - Friday, September 27 2013 @ 09:13 AM EDT (#279377) #

John Sickels has a preliminary top 75 prospect list out.  Marcus Stroman is #49, Aaron Sanchez #64.

Noah Syndergaard is #11 and Travis d'Arnaud #24.  Jake Marisnick gets an honourable mention.

Beyonder - Friday, September 27 2013 @ 11:57 AM EDT (#279380) #
Chuck. I finished reading "The Sports Gene" by David Epstein, a couple of weeks ago. I recommend it highly, although only a couple of chapters discuss baseball specifically. I know some of you guys are already very sophisticated when it comes to this stuff so my apologies if any of this is old news to you.

One of the myths the book tries to debunk is the idea that professional baseball players are better at hitting baseballs because they have faster reflexes than the rest of us. As it turns out, there is very little difference among human beings when it comes to what the literature calls simple reaction time (i.e. whack-a-mole type reflexes). Given this similarity, any decision about whether swing at a major league fastball needs to be made by the time the ball is about a foot out of the pitcher's hand.

The skill that separates professional baseball hitters from the rest of us (and good professional hitters from bad ones), is the ability to predict where a pitch will end up. These predictions must be made at about the time the ball leaves the pitcher's hand, and are based on sets of tiny cues (arm and wrist angle, shoulder and torso rotation, etc.). When shown a long series of photographs taken from the perspective of a batter showing a pitcher delivering a fastball at the release point, major league players were orders of magnitude better than the general population at predicting where the ball eventually ended up. More important, good major league hitters were better (in a statistically significant way) at these predictions than average hitters, and average hitters were better than poor hitters.

So hitting a major league fastball is a very specifric skill -- so specific in fact, that major league players are routinely frustrated when they play games like softball. The book cites the example of Jenny Finch in the early 2000s embarassing some of the best hitters in baseball, including Barry Bonds and Mike Piazza. The book reasons that just because you are good at predicting where a baseball will end up when a pitcher throws it overhand from 60 feet away, does not mean you will be any good at all at hitting a softball thrown underhand from 40 feet.

The one physical trait that the book did discuss was the importance of eyesight. You see a much higher incidence of 20/12 vision in major league hitters than in the general population. The book reasons that better than normal vision enables a hitter to pick up on very subtle cues that would escape someone with normal vision.
Mike Green - Friday, September 27 2013 @ 12:18 PM EDT (#279382) #
Beyonder, there are (at least) two parts to plate control, knowing which pitches to swing at  and hitting the ones you do swing at.  Better eyesight helps with knowing which ones to swing at and hand-eye co-ordination (a separate thing from reflexes obviously) helps with the second.  Vladimir Guerrero and Yogi Berra are testaments to the importance of the second aspect. 

So, in the case of D.J. Davis, we have a player who walks a fair bit and strikes out an awful lot.  Why?   Does he swing at many more pitches outside the zone than Dawel Lugo or Mitch Nay, or does he make less contact on pitches inside the zone which he swings at, or does he take a lot of pitches inside the zone or some combination of the three?  We don't have Pitch Fx for the Appalachian League, so it is impossible to know for sure.  His walk rate does suggest that he has some knowledge of the strike zone and that part of the problem is making contact on pitches inside the zone.

Anyways, the idea that better command of the zone can just be taught, rather than incremental improvements being made, has not to the best of my knowledge ever been demonstrated to be so.  Those clubs and assessors who don't take the ability of a prospect in this area are missing something important. 

Beyonder - Friday, September 27 2013 @ 01:00 PM EDT (#279383) #
The book doesn't discuss hand-eye co-ordination specifically Mike, but I would expect that if, for example, the baseball was static (as in tee ball), no major league player would have any trouble hitting the ball. So the key skill is not getting the bat to the location your brain wants it to go to -- it is selecting the right location to direct the bat to (i.e. knowing where the pitch is going and at what time).

The book takes no position on whether command of the strike zone can be taught (although it does argue that repeated exposure to pitching is a necessary condition for developing the skill of hitting), and if you wanted to take a single thesis from the book it might be that any debate over nature vs. nurture is always a false dilemna.

"So, in the case of D.J. Davis, we have a player who walks a fair bit and strikes out an awful lot. Why?"

I think the only thing you can infor from the data is that he likely takes more pitches than normal. You only strike out or walk when you get deep into counts. I don't think we can make any predictions based on raw walk and strikeout numbers about the reason for Davis's Ks.

Mike Green - Friday, September 27 2013 @ 02:07 PM EDT (#279385) #
I think the only thing you can infor from the data is that he likely takes more pitches than normal. You only strike out or walk when you get deep into counts. I don't think we can make any predictions based on raw walk and strikeout numbers about the reason for Davis's Ks.

That is probably right. 

What gets me is that scouts will say about a minor league prospect or potential draftee like Dustin Pedroia or Aaron Hill that he has limited upside because he won't hit for power (i.e. that we can't teach him to do some things differently that will result in increased power) but we can teach someone like D.J. Davis to control the strike zone better.  The combination of nature and nurture is, it seems clear to me, applicable in both cases.  
Ryan Day - Friday, September 27 2013 @ 02:28 PM EDT (#279386) #
The other ingredient in plate discipline is experience, strategy, and research. If you have an understanding of what a pitcher likes to throw in different counts, you can improve your chances by trying to identify one pitch, or one area of the plate.

Adam Lind would be a good example of this - he's talked this year about having a plan at the plate, and his excellent 2009 season was largely underwritten by Cito's hands-on tutorials.

Lind only swung at 24.7% of pitches outsize the zone in 2009. That jumped sharply the next two years, hitting 37.1% in 2011. This year, he's down to 29% outside the zone, and a 41.6% swing percentage overall - a career low.

Of course, his back would be an x factor in there, too - if his swing slowed down, you'd expect him to guess and cheat more, resulting in more swings at bad pitches.
Mike Green - Friday, September 27 2013 @ 02:39 PM EDT (#279387) #
No question, Ryan.  Players can (and often do) improve their plate discipline in this way and others.  Don't forget, though, that Lind started out in the Jay minor league system as a player with pretty good plate control and medium range pop (in Dunedin at age 21, he walked 49 times and struck out 77 times with 42 doubles and 12 homers in 495 at-bats).  He added pop first at age 22 (with a sacrifice to the plate control) and didn't put it all together until 2009 at age 26. 
Mike Green - Friday, September 27 2013 @ 03:11 PM EDT (#279388) #
That description of Tom Robson is encouraging.  "Good fastball with downhill plane and good change-up" is a solid basis for a starting pitcher.  His control so far seems to be pretty good.
Chuck - Friday, September 27 2013 @ 04:39 PM EDT (#279390) #

Everything discussed is very interesting. And I don't think I am hearing anything to contradict my broad feelings about "tools". At the risk of over-generalizing, it seems that the traditional Olympian virtues of strength and speed, as they apply to baseball, remain too often the only "tools" of choice when assessing young men's potential (with, perhaps, the peppering in of other Olympian virtues like pureness of spirit and nobleness of heart, and the like). 

It would seem that we really need to move on from the simplistic model of "5 tools" and add in a few more sophisticated ones to the soup. Visual acuity and the skills of prediction that Epstein writes about (per Beyonder's earlier post in this thread) would be such examples. Brain tools, if you wish, not be mistaken for intelligence, or even "baseball intelligence". Attributes that fall in the nature camp, rather than nurture, but require more analysis to discern than wind sprints and bench presses.

Beyonder - Friday, September 27 2013 @ 04:57 PM EDT (#279391) #
"wind sprints and bench presses"

It is funny that you use these two examples, because Epstein singles out the NFL combine's focus on bench press and the 40 yard dash as being completely antiquated. Focussing on bench press favours athletes with short arms, which is not advantageous to anyone who actually plays football. The 40 yard dash may be a relevant metric for receivers and cornerbacks, but not so much for linebackers. Manti Te'o was criticized for running a slow forty yard dash, but what got lost was that he ran an incredibly fast 10 yard dash -- which is a much more important metric when your job is to rush the quarterback.

If anyone is insterested, Russ Roberts of Econtalk did an excellent interview with Epstein a week ago.

http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2013/09/david_epstein_o.html
Gerry - Monday, September 30 2013 @ 09:39 AM EDT (#279480) #

In what I think is a surprise, Daniel Norris did not make the Midwest League top 20 list.

And in non-surprising news, no other Lugnut made the list either.

TJ Caino - Monday, September 30 2013 @ 03:26 PM EDT (#279510) #
Did they mention D-No at all in the chat?

Surely he had the tools and draft hype that BA tends to covet.
Mike Green - Monday, September 30 2013 @ 03:36 PM EDT (#279511) #
Weird.  Norris is a better prospect than D.J. Davis.  Maybe the Midwest League is rich with prospects all the way down to #20. 
Mike Green - Monday, September 30 2013 @ 03:48 PM EDT (#279512) #
I had a quick look at the Midwest League prospect list, and yes, it is heavy, beginning with Buxton and Correa at the top.  The last ranked pitcher is #18- Taylor Guerrieri, a 20 year old 1st round Tampa pick who put up a 2.04 ERA while striking out almost 7 per 9IP and walking less than 1.  He was the top prospect in the NYPL last year.
Gerry - Monday, September 30 2013 @ 04:01 PM EDT (#279513) #
They said Norris' command might never be average and that what stopped him from making the top 20.  They did say he had a chance to have 3 above average pitches.
Gerry - Monday, October 07 2013 @ 11:35 AM EDT (#279628) #

I added Aaron Sanchez to the list above, he is prospect #10 in a loaded FSL list.

Noah Syndergaard was the top pitcher at #6.  Justin Nicolino came in at #16 and Anthony DeSclafani at #18.

Gerry - Monday, October 07 2013 @ 03:51 PM EDT (#279631) #

From the BA chat:

Mike (Buffalo): were there any other Dunedin Blue Jays considered for the list?


John Manuel: I like Andy Burns as a player but couldn't get any scouts to bite. The consensus seemed to be not enough power at 3B but not good enough defense for 2B. I've been following Burns' career since Fort Collins, Colo., days, and that seems to be the same story ever since then. He's proved some people wrong so far so we'll see. Tyler Ybarra is a nice sleeper, big time power LH arm, and he's headed to the AFL.

Mike Green - Thursday, October 10 2013 @ 04:56 PM EDT (#279733) #
Aaron Sanchez gets his first start in the AFL tonight.
Gerry - Thursday, October 10 2013 @ 10:46 PM EDT (#279736) #
Kevin Pillar, #19 in a loaded IL list.
Gerry - Thursday, October 10 2013 @ 10:50 PM EDT (#279737) #
Aaron Sanchez pitched three shutout innings. He lost his control for a while in the second inning and walked two. The AFL is generally a AA league. Sanchez hasn't played at that level, yet.
Gerry - Friday, October 11 2013 @ 08:14 PM EDT (#279757) #
The Jays released: RHP Casey Beck, RHP Tim Brechbuehler, RHP Justin D’Alessandro, RHP Brandon Dorsett, RHP Shawn Griffith, RHP Matt Johnson, 1B Shaun Valeriote, RF Nico Taylor
Hodgie - Friday, October 11 2013 @ 08:50 PM EDT (#279760) #
"I am pretty sure that the Rays and As already have it for their scouts, and I'll bet that the Cardinals do too."

That could very well be the case but it certainly hasn't served the Rays or As well at the draft table. Perhaps they are better at identifying those traits once prospects are in professional ball, seeing as the Rays have two regulars they drafted and the As have zero.

Gerry - Monday, October 14 2013 @ 12:10 PM EDT (#279790) #
Marcus Stroman is the only Jay on the Eastern League top ten, he is number 10.
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