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A couple of ninth-inning heartbreakers last night, as the minor-league heirs to the Blue Jays closer job showed they're just as fallible as the guys in Toronto. And the New Haven Ravens' triple-triple didn't get them a win. But what a pitching line down in the New York-Penn League for Jamie Vermilyea.

Toledo 12, Syracuse 11

Formerly untouchable closer Juan Pena got touched in a big way — a game-winning, ninth-inning home run by Danny Klassen, following two walks. Juan Acevedo can probably breathe a little easier for the moment. Only Pete Walker, on a rehab start, had a decent pitching line for the Skychiefs. On the hitting side, Jayson Werth broke out of a slump with 4 hits and 3 runs scored, while Kevin Cash singled, doubled and scored twice while driving in 1. Simon Pond knocked in two runs with a double and Kurt Keene drove in 2 with a single and sac fly. Two hits and 2 RBIs for Jorge Sequea, too.

Trenton 6, New Haven 5

Another ninth-inning loss, this one courtesy of Trenton catcher Dioner Navarro, who knocked in the winning runs with a two-run single in the bottom of the ninth off Adam Peterson. The hit made a loser of Jordan DeJong, who’d put the runners on base with a single and a walk, and wasted a decent effort by Cam Reimers, who allowed 8 hits and 3 runs in 5 IP, with (remarkably) 0 walks and 0 strikeouts. Alexis Rios tripled twice and scored two runs, while John-Ford Griffin also had a triple among his four hits — maybe it was the outfield play of rehabbing Bernie Williams that made the three-baggers possible. Gabe Gross doubled and drove in 2 runs, while Dominic Rich had two more hits to raise his average to .242 – getting there, slowly but surely.

Dunedin 5, Tampa 2

Vince Perkins had a strong outing, though not a dominant one: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 2 Ks – his ERA is now 1.59. Tyrell Godwin had three hits to boost his average to .269, while Mike Snyder connected for his team-leading 6th homer. Shortstop Raul Tablado, recently promoted from Charleston, cracked his first home run and is hitting .310 in his first 29 Abs.

Charleston 9, Lakewood 4

Young veteran Marcos Sandoval threw 5 innings of 5-hit, 3-run ball, striking out 5 and walking none. Sandoval, who came into the organization as a 17-year-old back in 1998, pitched decently in 40 IP at Auburn last year, but bombed out in his previous trip through the Sally League in 2001. He’d thrown 17 strong innings at Auburn before his promotion. Forgotten prospect Scott Dragicevich had four hits, while equally underperforming Brad Hassey had 3 hits and drove in 3. Also notable, the return of Tracy Thorpe, onetime hot pitching prospect who injured his shoulder last summer. He pitched two-thirds of an inning and gave up 1 hit and 2 walks.

Auburn 4, Hudson Valley 3

This is getting happily ridiculous. Jamie Vermilyea, a 2003 9th-round pick of out the University of New Mexico, threw four hitless innings, walking nobody and striking out 10. This is his line so far: 3-1, 1.80, 6 G, 1 GS, 20 IP, 14 H, 2 BB, 35 K. It seems fair to say that Jamie will soon be in either Charleston or Dunedin. Third baseman Ryan Roberts had three hits to drive his line to .346/.422/.487, while AJ Porfirio singled and doubled to push his line to .337/.398/.506.
Minor-league update | 19 comments | Create New Account
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_John Neary - Tuesday, July 08 2003 @ 01:47 PM EDT (#98243) #
Mentions of Toronto prospects from around the internet:

1. Kevin Goldstein's mentioned Jamie Vermilyea's absurd outing at the top of today's BA Prospect Report email.

2. Baseball America's weekly Prospect Hot Sheet ranks Alexis Rios as the sixth hottest prospect in baseball. Honourable mentions go to Russ Adams, Gabe Gross, and Aaron Hill. Miguel Negron is the Jays' only first rounder since 1999 to not make the list.

3. The first weekly Baseball Prospectus Top 10 Prospects (which, incidentally, gives no credit to BA for the format -- almost identical to the Prospect Hot Sheet) lists Gabe Gross as an honourable mention and Guillermo Quiroz as "rising."
Gerry - Tuesday, July 08 2003 @ 02:53 PM EDT (#98244) #
The Jays have a good number of solid prospects. However their full season teams, with the exception of New Haven, have not had a great start to the year. When publications rank organizations based on the records of their minor league teams the Jays might not fare well. The short season teams will have to pick up the slack.

The debate over the relative importance of a minor league winning record is interesting. Some claim that playing on a winning team, or in the playoffs, is valuable experience that benefits a player as he rises in the organization. Some organizations stress winning at all levels. The Jays are not there yet.

The Jays, if they subscribe to the experience factor, might leave New Haven and Auburn as strong as they can this year to give those players a chance to play those big games.

Again with the exception of New Haven and Auburn, the Jays teams struggle to score runs. Dunedin and Charleston routinely have 6-8 hits per night. If you use 80% of your draft picks on pitchers, then where do the hitters come from? Undrafted kids mostly. That makers it hard to have a strong hitting team.
_DS - Tuesday, July 08 2003 @ 03:05 PM EDT (#98245) #
At this point, Gerry, they need the pitching a heck of a lot more than the hitters. They have the rights to Wells, Hinkse, Phelps, Johnson and Hudson for the next five years, not to mention enough prospects to fill the remaining gaps. Other than Halladay, how many of their young pitchers have done anything at the ML level? Escobar is soon to be gone. Lopez is in the back of the bullpen. Most of the rest of the guys are scrubs. The need for pitching is so strong in this organization, I think it was necessary to focus on drafting pitching the past two years. I wouldn't be surprised if they did the same thing next year as well.
_John Neary - Tuesday, July 08 2003 @ 03:11 PM EDT (#98246) #

I can think of three good reasons for the preponderance of pitchers in JP's drafts:

1. The Jays have excellent hitting and poor pitching at the major league level right now.

2. JP has demonstrated a real knack for acquiring good hitters through trades (Hinske) and free-agent signings (Catalanotto, Myers). By contrast, his record acquiring pitchers through these routes is mixed: Prokopec, Ricketts, Tam, Sturtze, and Creek have been a net drag on the team. Politte is the single exception I can think of, and his arm might be shot. JP has had better success in the Rule V draft and to some extent with minor-league free agents and waiver claims, but to find a Pete Walker and a Trever Miller you have to sift through a whole heap of Tim Youngs and Evan Thomases and Doug Lintons and Josh Towerses and Juan Acevedos and Scott Services and Jason Kershners and Doug Davises ... well, you get the point. You lose as much sorting through the chaff as you gain from the wheat.

3. While it's awfully early, JP's had excellent preliminary results with the pitchers he's drafted in the last two years. On the other hand, his hitters have largely flopped, especially at the lower levels. Russ Adams and Aaron Hill are good prospects. Jason Perry was an OK prospect. He dominated rookie ball when he was way too old for it, and he hit for a high average without much power in high-A when he was old for that league too. He wasn't anything special. None of the other hitters from the 2002 draft is setting the world on fire.

_John Neary - Tuesday, July 08 2003 @ 03:15 PM EDT (#98247) #
Just one postscript: I don't mean my last comment as a criticism of JP. Most draft picks fail. The relative success of the Jays' minor-league pitchers is much more noteworthy than the relative failure of their recently drafted hitters.
Pistol - Tuesday, July 08 2003 @ 03:24 PM EDT (#98248) #
I’d like to see the Jays be stronger in the minors with position players, but as DS points out it’s not a great need right now.

Hinske, Hudson, Wells, and Phelps will be around for 4-5 years pretty much locking 4 spots up. That leaves 2 OF spots, a middle infield spot, catcher and DH/1B open.

Between Werth, Gross, JFG, and Rios they should be ok in the OF. Adams and Hill will eventually work their way to the middle infield. Quiroz and/or Cash will be set to catch.

Even if they hit 50% on these prospects they'll be ok. And this doesn’t even account for any free agents the Jays choose to sign like they did with F-Cat this season.

With a 12 man pitching staff there’s a lot more holes to plug. Plus, my perception is that it’s easier to get more in trades when you offer pitching as opposed to hitting. So emphasizing pitching in the draft makes sense given the teams’ current makeup.

Adams and Bush were players of the week in the Eastern League this past week.

After having only one player earn weekly honors from the Eastern League previously, the New Haven Ravens had two win for the same week on Monday. The league selected shortstop Russ Adams as Chevrolet Player of the Week and righthander David Bush as Chevrolet Pitcher of the Week for the week ending July 6. Adams went 15-for-30 with a double, triple and a homer while scoring eight runs. Bush went 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA, allowing only six hits and three walks while striking out 15 in 13 innings. The only other Raven to have been honored this season was righthander Jason Arnold (week ending April 27).
Gerry - Tuesday, July 08 2003 @ 03:39 PM EDT (#98249) #
In posting my comment I was not suggesting there was a better way. There were two points I wanted to make.

1. Although the Jays have good prospects they do not have a strong system, top to bottom.

2. If you draft pitchers you don't draft hitters. That can make your minor league teams weak in hitting, and can make it tough for those teams to win. Some organizations value winning in the minors. The Jays approach, in the short term, and maybe out of neccessity, is emphasising developing pitchers ahead of a balanced team.

My comments are observations and not criticisms of the approach.
Pepper Moffatt - Tuesday, July 08 2003 @ 03:43 PM EDT (#98250) #
Hinske, Hudson, Wells, and Phelps will be around for 4-5 years pretty much locking 4 spots up. That leaves 2 OF spots, a middle infield spot, catcher and DH/1B open.

Corner outfielders are really easy to find, so I don't think this will be a problem. I think the Jays could construct a couple of platoons for RF/LF and get star quality performance for really cheap. If this year has taught us *anything*, it's that a quality platoon such as Wilson/Myers is worth its weight in gold.

_DS - Tuesday, July 08 2003 @ 05:16 PM EDT (#98251) #
Baseball America has posted info on New Haven's park effects as part of their Ask BA column. It's the second question for anyone who's interested.
_John Neary - Tuesday, July 08 2003 @ 05:17 PM EDT (#98252) #

Rereading your first post, I can see that I overinterpreted it. You did bring up an interesting subject for discussion, though. Personally, I'd be happy if JP kept focusing on pitching in the draft even once things balance out at the major league level.

I'm not sold on the idea that players need to taste success in the minors -- they probably will have done so already in college. And if you do want some championship minor league teams, you can fill them out with the Tony Zunigas and Pedro Swanns and Simon Ponds of the world, at least at the upper levels. As for the lower levels, Auburn should continue its success as long as JP stacks its roster with early-round college kids every year.

Minor-league records so far:

Syracuse 37-49
New Haven 45-41
Dunedin 46-39
Charleston 36-45
Auburn 16-5
Pulaski 9-9

Total 189-188

In addition to New Haven and Auburn, which you mention, Dunedin is doing pretty well, and Pulaski has been OK, although it's awfully early. Only Syracuse and Charleston have been bad. The former can be chalked up to the poor pitching left over from the Ash era. Considering that most of the good prospects are in Auburn, Dunedin, and New Haven -- the only really good prospect that I can think of in Charleston right now is Sandy Nin -- I don't think there's much cause for concern. Still, it's a good subject for debate.

Coach - Tuesday, July 08 2003 @ 05:42 PM EDT (#98253) #
Minor-league W-L records don't matter much to the Jays, whose entire emphasis is on teaching, from Toronto to Pulaski. Winning a pennant or two would be fine, but it's an afterthought. Nevertheless, one more draft like the last two will result in a glut of pitching talent at every level, which is great for competition among the prospects, and certainly gives their teams a chance to win. Also, as Pistol points out, if you have an extra young arm or two to deal, that's a fantastic bargaining chip.

I agree with John Neary that J.P. and company seem to be able to identify and acquire hitting talent in a number of other ways. In addition to college pitchers, they should continue to draft and develop the scarcest commodities (catchers and middle infielders) as insurance against the unlikely event that Adams, Hill, Cash and Quiroz all fail to reach expectations.
Craig B - Tuesday, July 08 2003 @ 06:05 PM EDT (#98254) #
If this year has taught us *anything*, it's that a quality platoon such as Wilson/Myers is worth its weight in gold.

Well, I sort of took the lesson as, a good platoon is always a good deal... for two reasons. First, because "platoon players" are always a good bargain relative to regulars; and second, because two platoon players gets you a starter and a bench player all at the same time.

The problem with relying on platoons, instead of bridging gaps with them, is also twofold: first, that most players want to be regulars, and will seek opportunities to become regular players; and second, that you don't win pennants on the back of platoon players, you do it on the back of stars. Occasionally, you'll get a platoon like Myers/Wilson that propels you toward a pennant, but it's exceedingly rare and usually the product of two guys having career years.

The only guys who are worth their weight in gold are the Delgados, Wellses, Hinskes and Halladays - and as those guys go, so goes your team. Pennants are won with great regulars and lost with lousy regulars... a platoon is just a great way of hedging your bet.

Minor-league W-L records don't matter much to the Jays, whose entire emphasis is on teaching, from Toronto to Pulaski.

A good W-L record in the minors isn't an end in itself, but it's an epiphenomenon of successful teaching - an unintended consequence, but still a measure of success. However, as pointed out by Gerry, If you draft pitchers you don't draft hitters. That can make your minor league teams weak in hitting, and can make it tough for those teams to win. Lacking balance makes it tougher to keep your head above water, and the Jays' success on that score is gratifying.
_John Neary - Tuesday, July 08 2003 @ 06:33 PM EDT (#98255) #
One more thing:

I don't think that winning minor-league pennants is very important for player development, but I do think it should be a secondary goal anyway. Organizations like Baltimore that neglect their farm teams eventually find that the farm teams don't want to be affiliated with them anymore. It would be expensive and inconvenient for the Jays if, for example, they lost the Syracuse affiliation and had to put a farm team in the PCL.

Aside from which, it's just not fair to baseball fans in minor-league cities to make no effort to win pennants. I don't think this concern should have much (if any) impact on drafting, but due attention needs to be given to signing MLFAs and acquiring organizational soldiers as throw-ins in deals.

Coach, if the "entire emphasis" is still on teaching in Toronto two years from now, I'll be some disappointed.

(By the way, I've come out -- it occurred to me that there was no anonymity in posting as "John N." when my last name is in my email address anyway. I want both my names counted in the next BBA)

Pepper Moffatt - Tuesday, July 08 2003 @ 07:40 PM EDT (#98256) #
you don't win pennants on the back of platoon player

Obviously you need star players as well. I'm not saying platoon at 8 positions. You're not going to turn Detroit into a playoff contender with a couple of platoons, but a good LF or RF platoon can be worth over 4 or 5 more wins than a replacement level player and not cost any more.

At the same time, though, teams that platoon a significant amount have had great success. Just look at the record of Earl Weaver, or what Frank Robinson was able to do with the 1982 Giants, a team with a #1 starter of Bill Laskey and a #2 starter of Rich Gale.

_Gary - Wednesday, July 09 2003 @ 12:23 PM EDT (#98257) #
Hands down the Jays are an exciting young team to watch. As their hitting goes so do they. I've noticed that the Jays basically have to score at least six runs a game to win. So their pitching leaves something to be desired. But thats OK, because theirs no way their going to go anywhere this year even if they do make the playoffs. Right now, this year, all I care for the Jays is that they compete, game in game out. They have. I have faith that JP has drafted the right players to make a run for it in a couple of years. The pitching is the key. Halladay signing is another. A solid closer would help with strong left and right set-up guys....One other brave projection I believe in ten years we'll all look back and say that Vernon Wells is the greatest Blue Jay hitter to ever wear the uniform....24 years old and 80RBI's before the All-Star break.
Coach - Wednesday, July 09 2003 @ 02:34 PM EDT (#98258) #
Thanks to Gerry for pointing out this feature by Bruce Arthur in the National Post about the New Haven outfield, described as "a Floridian RBI machine in left, a Puerto Rican prospect in centre and a good ol' boy from Alabama in right."
_Jurgen - Wednesday, July 09 2003 @ 02:59 PM EDT (#98259) #
I made some (semi-) joking comments about Vernon shifting to RF in 2005 or 2006, when that Puerto Rican prospect is ready to play full-time at the MLB level... but has anyone seen his defence in CF?
Pistol - Wednesday, July 09 2003 @ 03:14 PM EDT (#98260) #
I saw a Raven's game earlier this year, but didn't notice that Rios was either good or bad in CF (Arnold was pitching and there weren't many attempts out there). Rios is pretty thin so he has the appearance that he can cover ground in the OF.

I plan to head down to a game this weekend (or the Friday doubleheader) and I'm going to the AA All Star game next week so perhaps I'll get a better feel for Rios defense (not that I'm any type of scout).
_Spicol - Wednesday, July 09 2003 @ 03:28 PM EDT (#98261) #
Thanks to Gerry for pointing out this feature by Bruce Arthur in the National Post about the New Haven outfield,

Now THAT is what I'm talking about. THAT is a great baseball article. Thanks Gerry. And thank you Bruce!
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