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Itís a new month, so it must be time for a system-wide update on the Blue Jaysí most noteworthy prospects. Most of these guys were assessed in my end-of-April report -- thereíve been a couple of additions and subtractions since then, but most of the cast remains the same. Stats are current to May 30. Comments and questions, as always, are welcome, though I'm away till June 5 and won't be able to respond till then; criticisms will be forwarded to Ontario Agriculture Minister Helen Johns (no relation to Doug).

Syracuse Skychiefs
International League (AAA)

Jimmy Alvarez, MI, 24
100 AB, 17 R, .260/.330/.410, 2 HR, 11 BB, 22 K, 5 SB, 1 CS

Jimmy still projects as a utility infielder who can get on base pretty regularly and crack the occasional extra-base hit. Thatís useful, if not exciting, unless Tomas Perez gets your heart pumping. Iím waiting for his walk totals to reassert themselves; if they donít, then Alvarez has probably hit his ceiling.

Jason Arnold, RHP, 24
1-1, 4.29, 4 G, 4 GS, 21 IP, 25 H, 10 BB, 20 K, 21% KBF
New Haven
3-1, 1.53, 6 G, 6 GS, 35 IP, 18 H, 11 B, 33 K, 24% KBF

Jason Arnold was dominant at AA before getting promoted to Syracuse a few weeks back. Since then, heís had two sterling starts, one decent one, and one dogís breakfast. For some reason, I have a feeling thatís going to be his major-league pattern as well. Arnold does not overpower: his fastball is very good but not great, and his supporting repertoire is solid but not spectacular. Heís a smart pitcher who relies on location and pitch selection to succeed. Once every four or five outings, thatís going to fail him and heís going to get shelled. Thatís the definition of a #2 starter, which is what heíll be someday. April 2005 at the absolute latest.

Brian Bowles, RHP, 26
0-1, 0.95, 9 saves, 19 IP, 15 H, 12 BB, 16 K

I personally doubt that Brian Bowles will be anything but bullpen filler. He walks too many batters and gives up too many hits for a closer. Heíll be 27 in August and heís not going to convert those walks into outs at this stage. The Jays would be better off using the closerís spot at AAA to evaluate actual short-relief prospects; with any luck, a year from now, they will be.

Kevin Cash, C, 25
125 AB, 11 R, .240/.284/.352, 8 2B, 2 HR, 7 BB, 31 K

Hereís something to think about: Kevin Cashís Major-League Equivalent Average is a robust .196; Guillermo Quirozís, a level below him, is .262. While the Jaysí front office is no doubt chuffed with Guillermoís performance, the same likely cannot be said for Cash. Kevin displayed power and strike-zone discipline superior to this at Double-A, and the decline is more than can be accounted for by the jump to the International League. Iím going to assume this is a slump until proven otherwise. Cash has the defensive tools to hold down a major-league job with a 700 OPS; nobody has the defensive tools to hold down a job in JP Ricciardiís American League with a 600 OPS.

Vinny Chulk, RHP, 24
2-2, 5.28, 6 G, 6 GS, 30 IP, 34 H, 13 BB, 20 K, 14% KBF

Vinny finished 2002 as the Tennessee Smokiesí Pitcher of the Year: 13-5, 2.96, 152 IP, 133 H, 53 BB, 108 K, 17% KBF. Trading him then, assuming anyone had shown any interest, wouldíve been an excellent example of ďdealing high.Ē Donít expect him to bring much in return henceforth, or much to a big-league bullpen near you.

Mike Smith, RHP, 25
4-1, 4.10, 10 G, 8 GS, 52 IP, 47 H, 22 B, 31 K, 14% KBF

Heís improved his performance markedly since the end of April, and I still think he can be a useful contributor to a big league bullpen, but the arguments for and against that position have already been presented succinctly elsewhere.

Corey Thurman, RHP, 24
2-1, 2.93, 7 G, 7 GS, 30 IP, 27 H, 14 BB, 26 K, 19% KBF

In a previous post, I described Jason Arnold as the pitching prospect closest to the big leagues. That was incorrect, of course: Corey Thurman will be in a Toronto uniform before the year is out, and he will likely pitch fairly effectively. Coreyís a #3 starter in the making: heíll give you innings, keep you in most ballgames, throw a gem every so often and rarely get blown out of the water. But it will probably be 2005 before we see that kind of performance; heís a work in progress, but itís nearing completion.

Jayson Werth, C/RF, 24
39 AB, 5 R, .231/.279/.359, 0 HR, 3 BB, 11 K

You know, I canít help but think that Jayson Werth has no future in Toronto. He wasnít brought in by the current administration, and while thatís hardly a fatal blow (see Rios, Alexis), it means they have nothing invested in him. His brief sojourn in Toronto earlier this year, when he clearly wasnít ready, had the feel of a showcase about it. More than one team would be keenly interested in a catcher-outfielder with speed and power; with Rios and Griffin in the wings, will Werth be the odd man out? Anyway, heís struggling with the bat, but heís been injured, been rehabbing, and is now on his third squad in two months. Heíll definitely come around, but the poor manís Eli Marrero may flourish somewhere else.

Tony Zuniga, 3B, 28
162 AB, 23 R, .290/.366/.525, 11 2B, 9 HR, 19 BB, 26 K

You might have briefly wondered, when Eric Hinske underwent surgery, why this AAA hitting machine wasnít called up to replace him. Thatís because Tony Zuniga is very good at what he does: heís a 28-year-old Triple-A slugger with a limited repertoire and nothing close to full-time major-league skills. Signed away from the Giants in the off-season as a six-year free agent, Zuniga couldnít offer the positional versatility and skill set of Howie Clark. Heís leading the Skychiefs in RBI and undoubtedly having a good time doing it. There are worse jobs.

New Haven Ravens
Eastern League (AA)

Shawn Fagan, 1B, 25
58 AB, 7 R, .207/.230/.259, 0 HR, 2 BB, 22 K
New Haven
93 AB, 17 R, .333/.404/.484, 2 HR, 19 BB, 23 K

Shawn Fagan has a good shot at being the next Glenn Burnham. After a fine season at AA Knoxville last year (over 100 walks and 36 extra-base hits), he started 2003 at AAA Syracuse while Burnham was DLíed. It didnít work out, and heís been trying to get back on track since his demotion back down to AA. Heís the kind of guy who makes you wish career minor-leaguers could command better salaries, because theyíre the grist of the minor-league mill and they get paid about as well as the waiters at The Keg.

Dave Gassner, LHP, 24
3-2, 3.70, 12 G, 7 GS, 48 IP, 54 H, 15 BB, 35 K, 16% KBF

I know I shouldnít keep bringing up Dave Gassner, but gosh darn it all, I like him. He doesnít even strike out 17% of the batters he faces, and he hasnít been keeping the runners off base terribly well, but I keep thinking heís going to be a useful part of a major-league team someday. Consider him my windmill, and forgive the tilting.

John-Ford Griffin, LF/DH, 23
179 AB, 22 R, .268/.342/.475, 11 2B, 8 HR, 20 BB, 48 K

Griffin was scuffling (sorry, I couldnít resist) at the end of May with a .234 average, but his walks and power even then showed heíd turn that around, and he has. The rising SLG is also pleasantly surprising, as there was residual doubt that Griffin had anything more than doubles power in him. But Iíll tell you what, heís still striking out too often, more than once every four ABs. That has to change if he wants to follow his roommate to Syracuse later this season:

Gabe Gross, RF, 23
174 AB, 29 R, .293/.404/.477, 14 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR, 29 BB, 26 K

Remember when Gabe was hitting .100-something this time last year at Tennessee? Me neither. Thereís nothing missing from Gabe Grossís offensive game right now: average, plate discipline, developing power. Heís not running much, but why bother? The New Haven offence hardly needs the steals, he certainly wonít be stealing in Toronto, and why risk the injury? He could be promoted to AAA at any time. ETA Skydome: June 2005, no later.

Simon Pond, 3B, 26
186 AB, 36 R, .366/.471/.559, 16 2B, 6 HR, 34 BB, 26 K

Yeah, I saw this coming. I also saw SARS, the mad cow scare, and the existence of a show called Canadian Idol. Simon Pond is 26. Last year, a level below at Dunedin, he went .284/.357/.479. Unless the New Haven A&P is stocking up on spinach, I have no explanation for this. I also have no expectation it will continue. Simonís OPS has dropped from 1.138 on April 30 to 1.030 on May; it will drop further. If he finishes 2003 with a 1.000 OPS, I will send an audition tape of myself singing They Might Be Giants tunes to Blogging Idol.

Guillermo Quiroz, C, 21
141 AB, 29 R, .312/.386/.582, 11 2B, 9 HR, 13 BB, 35 K

Well, the power surge has ended, but considering he had a .712 slugging percentage a month ago, thatís not a huge shock. The bigger surprise, to me at least, is that GQ is still getting on base: his OBP has barely budged from a month ago, though his average has dropped somewhat. I keep expecting Ivan Rodriguez to pull off his Guillermo mask and reveal himself, but it hasnít happened yet. Oh yeah, hereís a stat courtesy of Jabonso: Q has thrown out 42% of baserunners so far. Remember years ago, when the Padres had Sandy Alomar Jr. and Benito Santiago in their farm system at the same time? Keep that in mind.

Cameron Reimers, RHP, 24
3-2, 2.73, 10 G, 9 GS, 56 IP, 47 H, 16 BB, 36 K, 15% KBF

Ladies and gentlemen, this yearís Vinny Chulk. Except Reimers is the same age as Vinny and a year behind him. Considering Chulkís in no danger of cracking the major-league rotation anytime soon, Cam should probably think about that correspondence course in real estate sales.

Dominic Rich, 2B, 23
110 AB, 14 R, .209/.331/.264, 0 HR, 11 B, 14 K

Oof. Well, every party needs a pooper, and at the Great New Haven Ravens Bat-Around Slam-Fest of 2003, Dominic Rich is the guy who keeps turning the stereo down. Yes, thatís a .264 slugging percentage you see there. Rich was slowed by a groin injury in April, but since heís come off the DL, he just hasnít hit like he did last summer at Tennessee; considering Rich is repeating AA, one would hope this is just a slump. I certainly think it is, and that weíll see better production out of him this time next month.

Alexis Rios, CF, 22
164 AB, 31 R, .378/.444/.555, 13 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, 17 BB, 30 K, 3 SB, 1 CS

What else is there to say? Several sharp-eyed observers (your humble correspondent not among them) said Rios was primed for a breakout, but even the most optimistic Lexie-booster couldnít have foreseen this. Heís dropping from the Asgardian heights he achieved in April (.449/.481/.653), but not as fast as I had anticipated. Rios is now being openly discussed as a factor in the mid-decade Blue Jays outfield mix, but I still want to see where he bottoms out, and then where he rebounds to. I imagine heíll spend the year in AA while the Jays front office figures out exactly what it is they have on their hands here.

Rich Thompson, LF/RF, 24
164 AB, 36 R, .311/.370/.348, 0 HR, 8 BB, 22 K, 15 SB, 3 CS

I like Rich Thompson, and not just because he presents as a really good guy. I like him because heís the kind of bright, shiny object that gets thrown into deals that bring actual major-league talent to Toronto. Rich hits .300 and steals a lot of bases, and thereís a chance he might even get to do that in the bigs someday. Iíd be more than happy to trade away the next Marvell Wynne to a GM who doesnít fully appreciate that a 718 OPS in the Eastern League is not a harbinger of greatness to come. But I do hope Rich sees the majors.

Dunedin Blue Jays
Florida State League (High-A)

Russ Adams, SS, 22
208 AB, 43 R, .288/.389/.404, 32 BB, 23 K, 2 HR, 8 SB, 2 CS

The Great Middle Infield Hope is doing just fine in Dunedin: solid average, good OBP, not bad stolen base numbers. If youíre detecting an absence of superlatives in this description, youíre right: Adams is among the league leaders only in runs scored: though heís performing more than respectably, heís not tearing up the circuit. His power has finally cracked the .400 SLG barrier, which is a nice start if nothing else. Adams is still very new to professional life, and heís doing nothing wrong, but neither is he banging down the door to New Haven. Gotta love those walks, though. Be patient and enjoy his development.

David Bush, RHP, 23
5-3, 3.38, 56 IP, 48 H, 8 BB, 47 K, 20% KBF

Letís put David Bushís 2003 in perspective. Before this season, his entire professional experience consisted of 40 innings, all in relief, more than half of them in the short-season NY-Penn League. So far in í03, heís been the best starter in a powerful High-A Dunedin rotation. Heís brought his ERA down from 4.61 at the end of April and has maintained superb control of the strike zone while whiffing one of every five batters to face him. Bush is rising with a bullet: he should be the first of this talented group (Perkins, McGowan, Pleiness, Harper, Bush) to graduate to AA. Heíll be in Toronto sooner than you think.

Jordan DeJong, RHP, 24
2-2, 2.19, 16 saves, 24 IP, 18 H, 15 BB, 26 K, 24% KBF

Sentimental favourite (in my world, anyway) Jordan DeJong is still doing very well, but heís been in a bit of a slump lately: some blown saves, more hits allowed, and an increasingly problematic issue with bases on balls. Itís the circle of life, Simba: you mow down the batters, so they adjust to you, and so you in turn must adjust to them. DeJong will adjust (at his age, heíd better), and the circle of life will go on. Whereís Tim Rice when you need him?

Tyrell Godwin, CF, 23
178 AB, 29 R, .298/.362/.348, 15 BB, 16 K, 0 HR, 8 SB, 3 CS

Tyrell is trying to answer two big questions: can he master the strike zone, and can he stay healthy? His 15/16 BB/K ratio in 178 ABs shows heís just missing the organizational target of a 10% walk rate, but heís certainly making contact. The power hasnít emerged at all, but this is his first season at High-A after stints at Auburn and Charleston, and it might yet arrive. The wheels arenít doing badly either, and most importantly, heís played in all but one of his teamís games this season. Tyrellís coming along nicely, but heíll be 24 in July: that clock is ticking.

Jesse Harper, RHP, 22
6-0, 3.00, 12 G, 19 GS, 57 IP, 51 H, 16 BB, 37 K, 15% KBF

A new name on this list, Jesse Harper was a 21st-round pick out of Galveston Junior College in 2000, and is a strapping 6í4Ē, 205-lb native of Clute, Texas (pop. 9,577). Last season in Charleston, Harper produced this line: 6-5, 2.16, 21 G, 14 GS, 113 IP, 98 H, 25 BB, 97 K, 21% KBF. He didn't really dominate hitters with the strikeout at Low-A, which made me doubt he could succeed at higher levels. Well, so far at High-A, heís proving me wrong: despite a severely declining K/IP ratio (.86 last year, .65 so far in Ď03), Harper keeps succeeding. He still has several more baserunners than innings, though, and his KBF isn't great, so I think the league is going to jump up and bite him eventually. But he deserves some attention at the moment.

Kurt Keene, SS, 24
New Haven
75 AB, 8 R, .320/.341/.400, 4 BB, 5 K, 1 HR, 0 SB
93 AB, 14 R, .366/.400/.516, 4 BB, 11 K, 2 HR, 1 SB

Kurt Keene deserves a quick mention. He hit .261/.330/.319 in 379 AB for Dunedin last season, posting a nicely symmetrical 39/39 BB/K ratio. He played middle infield, with 75% of his games at shortstop, making 21 errors. In 2003, he actually started in New Haven and held his own there, but was sent down to Dunedin a month ago. Here, heís been ripping up the league pretty good in limited action Ė you may remember him hitting for the cycle a few weeks back Ė and playing every infield position and in the outfield. So why doesnít he deserve more of a mention? Heíll be 25 in August. Behold the life of the organization man.

Justin Maureau, LHP, 22
0-2, 4.12 ERA, 9 G, 3 GS, 19 IP, 22 H, 9 BB, 15 K, 18% KBF

The Lone Lefty, Justin Maureau really wants to prove he can be more than a LOOGY with his terrific curveball. So far, heís not making a killer case for that. He was on the DL briefly and that cut his innings down, so thereís not enough data yet to draw any conclusions. Weíll check again in July.

Dustin McGowan, RHP, 21
4-5, 3.56, 11 G, 11 GS, 55 IP, 47 H, 20 BB, 51 K, 22% KBF

One brilliant outing from McGowan will likely as not be followed up with a sandblasting, and that can be a little maddening for a long-touted prospect. Still, letís keep our perspective: his 1.36 WHIP last year in Charleston has improved to a 1.22 WHIP a level higher in í03. Although heís no longer striking out more than a hitter an inning, he still has a very good KBF. This is a young front-line starter slowly coming into his own.

Vince Perkins, RHP, 21
2-0, 0.82, 2 G, 2 GS, 11 IP, 6 H, 6 BB, 8 K
3-1, 1.83, 8 G, 8 GS, 44 IP, 19 H, 22 BB, 60 K, 35% KBF

Hello. After incinerating the South Atlantic League and pouring Kokanee all over the ashes, B.C.ís own Vince Perkins isnít finding the Florida State League too much more of a challenge. Two starts donít tell you hardly anything, of course, and Vince has some twists ahead of him in the learning curve, but he has unquestionably thrust himself into the upper echelon of A-Ball pitching prospects (which, keep in mind, some folks believe arenít prospects at all). Heís still walking a batter every two innings, and that has to stop.

Jason Perry, OF/DH, 22
103 AB, 11 R, .291/.353/.437, 9 BB, 29 K, 10 2B, 1 HR

Perry struggled terribly in April, ending the month with a 640 OPS, but really turned it on in May (must have been following the Blue Jays). His power returned and he raised his batting average 78 points. But his walks have fallen well behind his strikeouts, which are still coming at the rate of more than 1 every 4 AB. He still has work to do, but a nice recovery is in progress for the organizationís sleeper positional prospect.

Chad Pleiness, RHP, 23
4-2, 2.12, 11 G, 11 GS, 59 IP, 45 H, 24 BB, 49 K, 19% KBF

Big Bad Chad is just a step behind his brethren in the Dunedin rotation. Heís reduced his hits allowed throughout a very successful May, but his strike-zone command is still a little wonky. Turn ten of those walks into strikeouts and youíve got David Bush. Of course, turn several of my personality quirks into feral attack characteristics and youíve got yourself a trial lawyer.

Charleston Alley-Cats
South Atlantic League (Low-A)

DJ Hanson, RHP, 22
2-5, 3.91, 9 G, 9 GS, 46 IP, 41 H, 21 BB, 42 K, 21% KBF

Still catching up from a raft of injuries earlier in his career, DJ has been pretty inconsistent, mixing fine performances with ugly spectacles. As usual, itís the walks that do him in. His .21 KBF is promising, at least. Still young, still worth tracking.

Brandon League, RHP, 20
2-3, 2.08, 60 IP, 49 H, 18 BB, 52 K, 21% KBF

The youngest player in Charleston is acquitting himself extremely well against older competition. Heís allowing fewer hits and striking out more hitters as the season progresses. He will not be rushed, especially since his mid-90s fastball will need good breaking complements at the next level. Brandon could end up as something special.

Miguel Negron, OF, 20
101 AB, 11 R, .317/.340/.446, 1 BB, 15 K, 1 HR, 4 SB, 2 CS

Yíall remember Miguel, right? Now that Alexis Rios has suddenly blossomed from suspect to prospect, Negron is trailing Kevin Witt comfortably in the Worst Jays First-Round Draft Pick Ever contest (admittedly, the competition is tough). Farm Director Dick Scott said of Negron that theyíve had to break down his entire approach at the plate and start from scratch. So far, not bad: heís hitting for average and power in one of the toughest pitchersí leagues around. What heís not doing, of course, is walking: one base on balls in 101 ABs. But as has been pointed out elsewhere, patience at the plate is a learnable skill. Negron is very young and has the very raw talent, so letís see what happens next. His 786 OPS leads the Alley-Cats in offence, which is why heís the only Charleston hitter listed here.

Sandy Nin, RHP, 22
3-2, 2.08, 56 IP, 50 H, 8 BB, 47 K, 21% KBF

Few pitchers in the Sally can match Ninís command of the strike zone, as heís walked just 3% of the batters heís faced (DJ Hanson has walked 11%, by contrast). Heís allowing one baserunner an inning and striking out almost a batter an inning; you canít ask for much more than that. He could be in Dunedin later this season. Gonna get crowded down there.

Adam Peterson, RHP, 24
2-4, 2.19, 24 IP, 15 H, 13 BB, 19 K, 19% KBF

Not terribly impressive, right? Well, cast your mind back to April 30, when Peterson had these numbers: 5.19 ERA, 8 IP, 9 H, 10 BB, 2 K. Between then and now, last yearís fourth-round draft pick has posted this line: 16 IP, 6 H, 3 BB, 17 K, .26 KBF. Thatís a little more like it. Peterson turned 24 last month which, combined with his performance, is why heís just been promoted to Dunedin. Heíll probably continue to work out of the pen there.

Ismael Ramirez, RHP, 22
3-1, 1.99, 45 IP, 29 H, 12 BB, 27 K, 15% KBF

Heís interesting. Ramirez isnít making a lot of guys swing and miss Ė his KBF is well below the league average Ė but neither are they getting on base a heckuva lot. Ramirez has three pitches he can and does throw for strikes; nothing overpowering, but all of it effective. It would be silly to overlook these numbers, but I have a feeling heíll see a full year in Charleston before going any higher.
Farm Report: May | 13 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
_Wildrose - Monday, June 02 2003 @ 10:44 AM EDT (#100981) #
I really enjoy these monthly summaries.

Read somewhere that Arnold's off-speed pitch is a palm ball,mix that with a sinking low 90's fastball and you have quite a contrast.(The next Bryn Smith?)
_Ken - Monday, June 02 2003 @ 11:17 AM EDT (#100982) #
great update, love reading them to

i've read somewhere that arnold has 2 palm balls, one that dives and the other with a lot of movement.....i think that with experience he will become far more consistent in AAA. Hopefully he'll be up in september (to help the playoff push!???!)and will show us what he can do.
_Jabonoso - Monday, June 02 2003 @ 01:19 PM EDT (#100983) #
Thanks for the good work Gideon.
The AAA rotation is getting there: Thurman,Smith,Arnold,Towers either Evan or Doug and you have something cooking. When you said ready for 2005, you meant 2004, rigth? ( about Corey and Arnold ).
No pitching in AA, thats scary, I can see Cam and Bauer auditing as closers in Syr. ( M. Ford we miss ya! )
De Jong and Pleiness or Bush should go to Haven.
While being teached how to approach batting, Negron wrote down: minimun 1% bbs per at bats. And he is rigth on track...
Besides Adams,Perry, Goodwin and Negron ( note the strectch ) no hitting Positional Players in A ball!
Since we have at least 10 pitchers waiting for short season ( C. Leonard most notably ) and the A ball staffs are loaded, we can expect a few hitters taken in the first ten rounds. Hope that among them Stonard.
_Jabonoso - Monday, June 02 2003 @ 01:21 PM EDT (#100984) #
And bring Simon Pond to the marshes of Syracuse.
Pistol - Monday, June 02 2003 @ 01:38 PM EDT (#100985) #
Excellent summary. One small request - could you add HRs allowed to the pitching line in the future?

I didn't realize Quiroz was only 21. Given his AA stats so far, his position, and age and he's arguably the best Blue Jay prospect right now.

Based off of this season I'd rank the Jay's top 5 prospects right now as:
1. Quiroz
2. Rios
3. Arnold
4. Gross
5. Perkins
_R Billie - Monday, June 02 2003 @ 01:51 PM EDT (#100986) #
I think Arnold as a starter will be similar to Joel Piniero in terms of performance. He's not going to overpower but he has just enough stuff and enough smarts to be successful more often than not.

One reason I don't like grooming relievers in a one inning closer role is that they simply do not face enough batters to develop and iron out their mechanics. Bowles is not going to improve his control problems pitching one inning at a time. He would have him go 3 inning stretches with two days off. The goal in the minors should be pitcher development, not following major league conventions which may not make sense to use anyway.

I'd like to see minor league teams go to four man rotations. Most teams will not have more than four "real" starting prospects anyway. Then pair the four starters up with four long-relievers who pick up as many innings after the starter as they can. Then have a couple of mop-up guys at the back of the pen who finish off games where necessary. Of course you take better care of the starters' pitch counts...instead of 100 you do 85-90. Enough to get them through 5-6 innings on most days and despite one less day of rest, 90 pitch limits won't have them throwing much under fatigue unless they're having a bad day with mechanics. In which case they'd be pulled early anyway.

Net result is that your real prospects get more innings, face more batters, without that much more stress (if any at all), and your relief prospects get to do the same. They'll work more often, pitch more innings, face more batters. I think one inning and one batter relievers are impossible to develop...that's something you turn someone into once they've mastered all the fundamentals.
Mike D - Monday, June 02 2003 @ 02:36 PM EDT (#100987) #
Terrific stuff, Jordan -- comprehensive as always!
_Jabonoso - Monday, June 02 2003 @ 03:07 PM EDT (#100988) #
Pistol: I like your list.
R Billie: Your comment makes a lot of sense. I do not like usage patterns for young arms in our minor teams ( e.g. Castellanos a very young side-armed used as closer for just one inning ).
_John N. - Monday, June 02 2003 @ 08:58 PM EDT (#100989) #

Great post as always.

1. I think you're right on the money when it comes to Jayson Werth.

2. Let me go out on a limb and unequivocally state what many of us have probably been thinking for weeks: Kevin Cash will never be Toronto's #1 catcher. I don't think .229/.293/.399 over ~400 plate appearances in AAA (2002-2003) counts as a slump. I think it shows that Cash can't handle AAA pitching, at least with his current approach at the plate. In Cash's favour, he has cut his strikeout rate from 31% to 25% this year, but 25% is still a very high strikeout rate. At 25 years of age, Cash is simply running out of time.

3. I remember checking the box scores on BA last summer and thinking "boy, who is this Simon Pond guy who's near the top of the FSL leaderboards? He must be some kind of prospect." Then I found out he was 25 years old, and I thought "oh." Still, .284/.357/.479 is nothing to sneeze at in the FSL, and the ridiculous 34/26 BB/K ratio this year is a sign that his recent performance is not a total fluke. Do I think Simon Pond is a great prospect? No. But I think he might have a useful career as a bat off the bench; hell, I'd rather have him than Huckaby in St. Louis this week.

Incidentally, there's a body of water named "Simon Pond" near Syracuse. OK, so it's not that close to Syracuse, but that's beside the point.

4. I'm not sold on Russ Adams. Now, I'm not saying he's not a prospect; I just finished arguing that Simon Pond is a prospect. But I do think we've given Adams the benefit of the doubt a bit too much just because he's JP's first draft pick.

Adams is in his age-23 year (according to Let's see how some other recent Blue Jays middle infield prospects did in their age-23 years:

Felipe Lopez (2003): .219/.316/.311 (Cincinnati)
Dominic Rich (2002): .345/.437/.472 (A Dunedin), .273/.364/.341 (AA Tennessee)
Cesar Izturis (2002): .232/.253/.303 (Los Angeles)
Orlando Hudson (2001): .307/.385/.471 (AA Tennessee), .304/.378/.469 (AAA Syracuse)
Mike Young (2000): .275/.340/.426 (AA Tennessee), .319/.368/.457 (AA Tulsa)
Brent Abernathy (2000): .290/.345/.392 (AAA Syracuse/Durham)
Ryan Freel (1999): was hurt for most of his age-23 year, but between his age-22 and age-23 years he hit .274/.370/.406 in AA and AAA
Chris Woodward (1999): .292/.378/.385 (AAA Syracuse)

This is not a hand-picked "let's find guys who compare favourably to Adams" list -- rather, it's a list of every middling-or-better recent Blue Jays middle infield prospect I could recall.

What can we discern from this list? Well, every player except Rich spent his age-23 year primarily in AA ball or above. Most of these guys had numbers that were similar to Adams' or better despite being in higher leagues. Adams' best comp on this list is probably Rich (who struggled in AA last year), and he's clearly not in the same league as, say, Orlando Hudson.

I think that unless Adams experiences a sharp spike in power rather soon, he projects as the sort of guy who you might accept as your shortstop for three years because his $300k salary makes his .350 SLG palatable. I don't think he projects as an above-average major league player at this point, and I certainly don't think he'll be making Orlando Hudson sweat any time soon.

Alert readers may ask: I gave Pond some extra credit because his 2002 numbers were compiled in a pitcher's league and his BB/K ratio is absurd; why will I not do the same for Adams? In fact, I think those points count the same for Adams as for Pond, but they don't turn a soon-to-be-23-year-old slugging .404 in high-A ball into a top prospect.

One more caveat: yes, comparing "age-23 seasons" is unfair to guys who are born in August, like, oh, Russ Adams. So here are the age-22 seasons for the guys I listed above:

Felipe Lopez (2002): .318/.419/.457 (AAA Syracuse), .227/.287/.387 (Toronto)
Dominic Rich (2001): also born in August, so I won't list his age-22 stats.
Cesar Izturis (2001): .292/.310/.374 (AAA Syracuse), .269/.279/.388 (Toronto)
Orlando Hudson (2000): .285/.354/.399 (A Dunedin), .239/.320/.358 (AA Tennessee)
Mike Young (1999): .313/.389/.428 (A Dunedin)
Brent Abernathy (1999): .291/.355/.435 (AA Knoxville)
Ryan Freel (1999): his combined age 22-23 numbers are given above
Chris Woodward (1998): .245/.318/.325 (AA Knoxville)

I don't think Adams is superior to the field, even comparing his "age-23" season with everyone else's "age-22" seasons. His numbers compare unfavourably with those of baseball luminaries Rich, Izturis, Abernathy, and Freel.

(If anyone's masochistic enough to check all of those ages, please let me know if I got any of them wrong, but I'm pretty sure I didn't.)
_R Billie - Tuesday, June 03 2003 @ 03:15 AM EDT (#100990) #
Most of those prospect also played a few years of pro ball before age 23. Adams was drafted at age 22. The difference between the current Adams and Orlando Hudson may just be an off-season of weight training. You'll notice from Hudson's history he had an unexpected spike in performance, probably due to gaining a lot of strength in one year. With work, Adams could develop Frank Catalanatto type line drive strength. No-one here thought Brandon Lyon would be throwing 94 mph in 2003.

Those other prospects were also a part of the Jays at a time when Dave Stewart used the "advance prospects as quickly as possible to keep them challenged" philosophy. Almost the antithesis of Ricciardi's ultra-conservative approach with getting prospects lots of playing time at every level.
_John N. - Tuesday, June 03 2003 @ 10:23 AM EDT (#100991) #
R Billie,

Most of those prospect also played a few years of pro ball before age 23. Adams was drafted at age 22.

True, but is there any evidence that college players advance more quickly once drafted? Seems to me that a really good prospect drafted at age 22 would have either started higher in the system or dominated the lower levels. (And yes, I know that Adams was awesome in Auburn, but he hasn't been so far in Dunedin.)

(Adams was actually 21 when drafted; he turned 22 later that summer.)

The difference between the current Adams and Orlando Hudson may just be an off-season of weight training. You'll notice from Hudson's history he had an unexpected spike in performance, probably due to gaining a lot of strength in one year. With work, Adams could develop Frank Catalanatto type line drive strength. No-one here thought Brandon Lyon would be throwing 94 mph in 2003.

True again. I think it is entirely possible that Adams will have a Hudson-like spike. However, I don't think it's probable. Hudson was a nondescript minor leaguer in 2000; after 2001, he started appearing on top prospect lists. That's not normal development -- it's a breakout year. Now, there's nothing to stop Adams from doing the same, but I don't think one can count on it.

Those other prospects were also a part of the Jays at a time when Dave Stewart used the "advance prospects as quickly as possible to keep them challenged" philosophy. Almost the antithesis of Ricciardi's ultra-conservative approach with getting prospects lots of playing time at every level.

My point was not simply that these guys were in higher leagues at the same age. Rather, many of them were in higher leagues and posting numbers similar to Adams' or, in some cases, superior. Take Ryan Freel for example -- no one ever considered him a top prospect, yet his age 22/23 numbers are very similar to Adams' but in AA/AAA ball, not short season/high A. I'm not arguing in favour of Dave Stewart's philosophy of player development. It may very well be best for Russ Adams to take his time, but if he's going to do so he's going to need to turn things up rather quickly in order to be merit consideration as a top prospect.

I don't think Russ Adams is a non-prospect. I think he's a guy who projects as a utility infielder or marginal major league shortstop unless he pulls an Orlando Hudson on us -- and I think his chance of doing that is real but modest, just as Hudson's was in 2001.

_John N. - Tuesday, June 03 2003 @ 06:31 PM EDT (#100992) #
One more addendum, then I'll shut up, because it seems like this thread is dead:

In 1996, Frank Catalanotto hit .298/.398/.493 for AA Jacksonville at age 22. The next year, he hit .300/.368/.472 for AAA Toledo.

I would be remiss to omit his .226/.306/.334 line in Jacksonville in 1995. I wonder, however, whether he was playing hurt that year; in each of the previous two years, he hit over .300 with decent power and patience in the lower levels.

In either case, Frank Catalanotto had Frank Catalanotto type line drive strength when he was younger than Adams is now. That's not to say that Adams won't develop it, but...

BTW, I'm not trying to start a Russ Adams Hate Club or anything. I liked him in spring training, and I'm always happy when I go to BA and see "R. Adams SS 4 2 3 1" or something like that. I hope he has his power spike and becomes an everyday major-league player. I'm just trying to be sanguine about his chances of doing so. And I hope I don't sound like I'm setting up straw men just to enjoy tearing them down.
_Jabonoso - Thursday, June 05 2003 @ 11:50 AM EDT (#100993) #
Good series of posts John N, it is much better to talk about facts and not be too optimistic just for the sake of it.
Rigth now our minors system is very thin in positional players ( with the obvious exception of four OF and two C ) and in pitching close to the majors.
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