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Decent summary here (from the Jays' official site) of the now-completed Arizona Fall League season and Toronto prospects in the winter leagues of Venezuela, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

Lefty reliever Scott Wiggins might have piched his way back onto the 40-man roster, and Gabe Gross partially salvaged a frustrating 2002, but the news about the young catchers isn't as good, as both Kevin Cash and Guillermo Quiroz are not hitting -- yet.

In BB #38, we discussed Kevin Goldstein's assessment of Toronto farmhands in The Prospect Report -- this link is to an ongoing summary of all MLB teams' Top Ten, and his AL analysis is complete.

Blue Jay Prospects in Winter Ball | 9 comments | Create New Account
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_Jordan - Saturday, November 30 2002 @ 05:03 PM EST (#20131) #
Thanks for the link, Kent. A few thoughts on the Desert Jays:

- Scott Wiggins had an interesting line, huh? Normally, I get a little nervous when a closer has more wins than saves, since usually it means the guy is coughing up leads and vulturing wins. But the AFL is an odd duck, and the usage patterns are probably different enough that these W's didn't come from blown saves (the AFL stats don't include those, so I can't say for sure). I doubt Scott let many leads slip away, however, because his line in Arizona was quite nice: 21 IP, 20 H, 6 BB, 17 K, indicating solid command of the strike zone. Moreover, as a closer, he wasn't being used in lefty-only situations, which also is a good sign.

Most encouragingly, Wiggins' AFL line mirrored very closely his performance during the regular season. After his arrival from the Yankees, He went 0-1, 0.93 in 16 IP at Knoxville, with 18 hits and an almost identical 5/19 BB/K ratio. He held his own at Syracuse too, posting a 2-0, 2.57 record in 14 IP with 11 hits and a nice 7/14 ratio. Put these three lines together and you're looking at 51 IP, 52 H, 18 BB and 50 Ks. That's pretty darn good for a guy thrown in to make the Mondesi salary dump look less dumplike.

Wiggins may very well make the team out of spring training, though I think it depends on Jason Kershner's performance in March too. If the late-season waiver acquisition from San Diego throws well, they may let him join Doug Creek in the bullpen as the lefties and let Wiggins get more experience in Syracuse. Now that Buck Martinez again wears a microphone for a living, I don't think the Blue Jays will need three lefties in their pen.

Gabe Gross seemed to maintain in Arizona the production level he attained in Tennessee following his nightmarish 7-for-71 debut. He posted a respectable .281/.354/.462 line and a 12/24 BB/K for the Canyon Rafters, not bad for a struggling phenom reaching the end of a long, injury-plagued season. It's pretty clear to me at least that Gabriel will not be at Skydome before a September 2003 callup, but that's just fine. He showed fortitude in rebounding from his bad start and continued to show excellent plate discipline (though I still have nagging worries about that many walks and that many strikeouts with that few home runs. I'm not losing sleep over it yet, though). He's a former Auburn quarterback, so I'm not expecting any issues with attitude or work ethic. Let's see how his 2003 season starts in New Haven and take it from there.

Has anyone actually white-water rafted the Grand Canyon? That would be pretty cool, I would think. Not that I'm anxious to try it myself. I white-watered the Kicking Horse River in Alberta once and that satisfied my urge in that direction for the next decade or so.

I'm also not worried about Kevin Cash. He put up a very fine .277/.381/.469 line at Knoxville, with an excellent 36/44 BB/K ratio in 213 AB. He did struggle upon promotion to Syracuse, going .220/.299/.424 in 236 AB and a 25/72 ratio, and that seemed to carry over into the AFL. But the hitting ability is there, as is the power (18 HRs at two levels) and the ability take a walk. His most recent performance may well be simply a case of late-season fatigue, a common Arizona phenomenon. Now, Kevin's defence gets raves, and I believe all the great things said about his arm and his all-around defensive presence. But we're still not sure about his pitch-calling ability: if the pitchers are as comfortable throwing to him as the major-leaguers are throwing to Ken Huckaby -- who Kent points out is a master at stealing strikes -- then indeed the Blue Jays have the complete defensive package behind the plate. The more I look at Cash, the more I think we're seeing another Buck Martinez -- the playing version -- with better strike-zone command.

Finally, Gustavo Chachin had himself a good stint in Venezuela, but I would take performances there with substantially more grains of salt than even the AFL or spring training. Chacin is young, left-handed and full of promise, but the fact remains he went 6-5, 4.46 at Knoxville, with 131 H in 120 IP and a painful 59/68 BB/K ratio. At his age, and with that line, I'd be quite surprised to see him open 2003 anywhere but New Haven. Now, Guillermo Quiroz's line is sufficiently ugly to constitute an exception to the Venezuela rule. When you go 0-for-everything and whiff ten times as often as you walk, that's not encouraging. Considering that Quiroz produced a 751 OPS with a 35/91 BB/K ratio at Dunedin, well, it's fair to say that he has a little work yet to do.

These thoughts draw somewhat from some work I'm doing on the Jays' minor-leaguers, and I may repeat some or all of this information when I post the series, starting with those players who finished the year at Syracuse and moving down through the system. If you're particularly curious about anyone in the system, drop me a line and I'll make sure I mention them in my review.
_Kent - Saturday, November 30 2002 @ 05:26 PM EST (#20132) #
Jordan, I don't want to get too negative on Cash's bat, and your point about AFL fatigue syndrome is valid. He also seems to start really bad at each new level and gradually adjust. Also -- even before the famous broken leg, Buck's game didn't include anything resembling Kevin's remarkably quick feet. I hope you're right.

I'm passing on a request -- I'm in a fantasy league with several Carolina boys, who know young Brian Grant very well. He's a 6'4" RHP who was the Jays' 7th-round pick. I know he was only 1-6, 4.59 in Medicine Hat, but the kid didn't turn 18 until August, and came right out of high school, where he was a SS who closed. Can you put that performance (and potential) in perspective for my friends in your farm system review?

Hey, did you notice the hit counter? I arbitrarily set it at 1000 (we've been up for a month) and it's ticking away in the "footer". Slowly but surely, I conquer HTML.
_Jordan - Saturday, November 30 2002 @ 05:37 PM EST (#20133) #
Nice work on the counter, Kent! When was its start date? I'm looking forward to watching it continue to click upwards! And I'll add Brian Grant to my list, no problem.
_Kent - Saturday, November 30 2002 @ 05:58 PM EST (#20134) #
It was at zero -- well, 1000 -- this afternoon about 2:30. It doesn't increment when you move back and forth between the Home page and the Archives, and I don't think it changes even when you leave the site and return, as long as your browser remains open, so it's counting unique visits. Of course, you can hit F5 to refresh whatever page you're on and see if anyone else has arrived since you did.
_Jordan - Saturday, November 30 2002 @ 06:15 PM EST (#20135) #
Tres cool.
_Geoff North - Sunday, December 01 2002 @ 01:56 AM EST (#20136) #
I've been lurking here since discovering the link at a few weeks ago. Big Blue Jay fan - got hooked in 91 when I started watching baseball on TV. In Halifax, the Jays were on TV every night it seemed. I still remember watching my first game with my grandparents - well, all I remember about that game was the ninth inning was my grandfather telling me "And now they bring in the guy they call the Terminator. This spectacled looking accountant runs in from the bullpen and fires these wicked looking lasers across the plate... ahh, the glory days of Tom Henke. There's nothing like a few great playoffs, world series championships and constant Blue Jays baseball on TV to hook a youngish baseball fan for life.

I really enjoy the commentary here! I'm looking forward to discussing the ins and outs of Blue Jays baseball here!
_Kent - Sunday, December 01 2002 @ 11:09 AM EST (#20137) #
Thanks, Geoff. This project, which began during the playoffs as my lone voice howling in the World Wide Wilderness, has virtually eliminated my annual "baseball withdrawal." Actually postponed it, as we are going to an Internet-free cottage for a few days. It will be great fun; my partner's a lot like Annie Savoy, and our dog is insane. But I'll need an injection of Batter's Box straight into the vein when we return.

The hit counter, a belated response to a Gideon Clarke suggestion, seems to indicate (after less than 24 hours) that we have a much higher ratio of lurkers to posters than I imagined; my guess was about 3:1 and I figured maybe 25-30 visitors a day. The actual numbers are surprising and encouraging. I invite others to cross the line and participate.

I didn't have that "eureka" moment with baseball or the Jays. At 7, I was already a player and avid card-collecting fan -- especially of Mantle -- when Mazeroski hit his HR, teaching me the valuable lesson that in baseball, mere men could beat gods. (I had already learned long division calculating batting averages, and physics in my endless solo games with a tennis ball, the garage wall and concrete steps.)

The first time I saw Musial on the black-and-white Game of the Week, the announcers sufficiently deified the Man, who ripped doubles inside both foul lines. Since Stan looked (and ran) like my grandfather, I was impressed. Willie and the Giants stole my heart in '62, then the Cardinals regained it once and for all in '64, though Mays remains my favourite player. I was strictly an NL boy (before the DH rule made it obvious which league was better) and as a result, may still give the Weaver O's and Williams A's short shrift.

Toronto had the AAA Maple Leafs in those days, and when our '65 and '66 International league champs (managed by the same Dick Williams) moved up to the parent Red Sox and sparked an improbable pennant the next year, I finally had "my" AL team. But I was fickle. The late-70's Whitey Herzog K.C. Royals were irresistible, until a few games at the Mistake by the Lake in 1983 convinced me the next great AL team was the former laughingstock in my own back yard. By the time Sundberg hit that @$^&*$! pop fly, I had been converted. Those Royals beat "my" Blue Jays and "my" Cards (Howser over Herzog? Impossible!) to win it all that year, so I never forgave them. Allard Baird is their penance.

I regret missing the parades and the excitement of being in the Dome, but it was very interesting being a Jays fan in South Florida for the two World Series wins. Many nights, I sat at my table in the Pompano Park dining room with a Canadian or two, and though we were outnumbered about 200-to-1 by chanting Braves fans in '92, that didn't prevent us from trying to out-yell them, and I "participated" in the 1:30 a.m. horn-honking from afar, to the dismay of my neighbours.

The current Jays are on the verge of great things. It's the best time for Toronto baseball since Geoff (and many others) got hooked, with vision in the front office and exciting talent on the field. O-Dog is capable of creating a generation of fans all by himself.
_Jordan - Sunday, December 01 2002 @ 12:28 PM EST (#20138) #
Geoff, thanks for coming by! To follow up on the subject of the AFL, today's Sun has a brief Mike Rutsey chat with JP regarding a couple of the players there. Ricciardi confirms that Cash was worn out after a long season and is still poised to join the big club late next summer -- good news! Wiggins, however, turns out not to be on the 40-man; assuming he's eligible, as Rutsey does, he could therefore be snapped up by some bright team in the coming Rule V Draft (it would be divine justice if that team were the Royals, bad irony if it were the Yankees). That would be unfortunate, though if he's unprotected, it's certainly not through oversight. Is there a deadline for adding players to your 40-man? If not, with four spots available, I would think Wiggins would be worth it. We shall see.
Craig B - Monday, December 02 2002 @ 01:41 PM EST (#20139) #
Wiggins is an obvious Rule 5 draftee, in that he is old enough and has enough stuff to be (at least) the last man in a big-league bullpen and do just fine. I would expect him to be picked up by somebody.
Blue Jay Prospects in Winter Ball | 9 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.