The Jays committed to the weighted ball program last year but the Jays always described 2013 as an evaluation year. They did not have the program working prior to the season and so they did not have a full formal plan. It seems like the evaluation went well, I was told that 30 of the Jays minor league pitchers are on an off-season program with the weighted balls. The coaches are very interested to see the results this spring. Obviously health is one benefit but added velocity will be a benefit for some pitchers.
Matt Wright and Joe Spano have retired.
It looks like we will have tandem starters again in Lansing. The Jays went with tandem starters in 2012 with Sanchez, Syndergaard and Nicolino but did not go that way in 2013. I thought I had seen AA say that the Jays would not use tandem starters again, but I was assured that if there are enough starting pitcher candidates the Jays will go back to tandem starters at least for the first half of the year. Potential candidates for the Lansing rotation include Chase DeJong, Tom Robson, Jairo Labourt, Alberto Tirado, Jeremy Gabrzyzwski, Shane Dawson, Zak Wasilewski as well as some of the college pitchers. Barring injury I would expect most of these pitchers to be in a tandem role in Lansing. Given that Robson and Gabrzyzwski have pitched in Vancouver and given that Vancouver is supposed to be of a similar standard to Lansing I asked if any of these guys could jump to Dunedin and skip Lansing. I was told that is unlikely, the team feels that every level has its own challenges and that players need to progress through each level before the next one.
Ryan Tepera is now a full time reliever. Tepera was invited to the Jays winter camp for players who might be called up this season. Now that Tepera is a reliever he is throwing harder and has a chance to be a major league quality reliever.
Marcus Walden will probably remain a starter and, with the expected logjam of starters in AAA, Walden will likely return to AA. Walden probably will eventually become a reliever due to his arsenal, sinker, slider stuff, and his size, he is under six feet tall. If Buffalo did need another reliever Walden would have a chance to take that slot.
I know of no position changes but one thing the organization wants to do this year is to develop more positional flexibility with their prospects. I was given the example of Ryan Goins who played almost exclusively shortstop until he was called up the majors. Prospects who get called up might have to fill in for an injury at a position they are not familiar with. This year look for more players to move around the diamond. A guy like Andy Burns will see time at second base and shortstop as well as third, and he won't be the only one.
Jacob Anderson had rib surgery in 2013. He was not ready for the instructional league but he did return for the Jays minor league strength and conditioning camp held last week. By all accounts he looked very good and fully recovered.
Dickie Thon will have to fight for an infield job in Lansing. There was some talk of Thon getting some reps in the outfield but that was never really a formal decision.
On the TJ front, Ryan Borucki was recovered enough to participate in the instructional league. Patrick Murphy, the Jays second round pick last season, was not. He will be brought along in the spring.
It seems unlikely that Franklin Barreto will get to be on the Lansing opening day roster. Although his bat could handle it the Jays will be cautious due to his youth.
Tyler Gonzalez was a bust in 2013. Gonzalez was the 60th overall selection in the 2012 draft but couldn't command his fastball last season plus he received a suspension late in the season. He was back for the instructional league and reportedly looked a lot better. Gonzalez was selected ahead of De Jong, Borucki, Dawson and Wasilewski. It would be big for the Jays if he could find his form.
I was puzzled when Keith Law included Adonys Cardona on his top ten prospect list. Cardona does have an electric arm but he was never healthy enough to show it off for long. I wondered if Cardona had done something exceptional during instructs but no, he was injured. Law's inclusion of Cardona seems like a long shot particularly when Law has downplayed the Jays surplus of talent lower in the minors noting correctly that it has low value.
I always find it interesting to see which minor leaguers receive invitations to major league camp. Most of the AAA players are invited. Players expected to start the season below AAA and invited include, at catcher, AJ Jimenez, Jack Murphy and Derrick Chung were invited. With so many pitchers in camp there is always a need for catchers. Andy Burns and Kevin Nolan were invited for the infield and Kenny Wilson for the outfield. Marcus Walden was also invited.
Finally, Clayton McCullough will work primarily with the teams from Dunedin down and be another source of instruction and support for the coaches. Clayton was recently appointed as coordinator of instruction. He will work with those lower teams to make sure the right instruction is getting to the right players.