2005 Pulaski Blue Jays Preview

Tuesday, June 21 2005 @ 02:30 PM EDT

Contributed by: Jonny German

The Pulaski Blue Jays begin their 60th season of Appalachian League baseball Tuesday night with a match against the Danville Braves.

Pulaski is located in southwestern Virginia, due south of Toronto. This is the third year the city has hosted Blue Jay prospects, after several years featuring Texas Ranger farm hands. They play in Calfee Park, with a seating capacity of 2,700. The park measures 338 feet down the left field line, 405 to straightaway centre, and 301 to the right field corner.

Last year the P-Jays went 40-27 under rookie manager Gary Cathcart, finishing just a game and a half behind the division winner Danville. They’ll begin 2005 with another rookie manager. Dave Pano has accepted the position after serving as hitting coach in Auburn the past three seasons.

The roster limit in the Appalachian League is a generous 35 players, and as of Friday 34 spots were spoken for. It’s a long way from Pulaski to Toronto, both literally and figuratively, and it’s a level of baseball where statistics are a very crude tool for quantifying players. That said, let’s have a look through the roster, focusing on getting familiar with the names and how they came to be Blue Jays, taking the stats as clues rather than as hard evidence.

The Draftees

The First-Year Player Draft is of course the biggest source of new players for every Major League farm system, and ten of the players drafted by the Blue Jays this June will begin their professional baseball careers in Pulaski. More may be added as they are signed. Joining high school shortstop Wesley Stone on the opening day roster will be 9 collegiate players, listed here with their NCAA stats from the season just completed. Strength of schedule information is courtesy of Boyd’s World.
Player            Age  Pos   AB  BB   K  HR  SB-CS   AVG   OBP   SLG  SoS
Jacob Butler     22.4  OF   171  42  28  11   4-0   .333  .457  .632   37
Anthony Hatch    21.8  3B   107  10   9   6   1-1   .393  .438  .664   87
Chris Looze      23.5  1B   215  29  37  14   3-0   .307  .391  .563  206
Chris Martinez   22.8  C    168  26  42   7   2-1   .327  .437  .554    -
Albert Quintana  22.6  C    215   9  32   0   1-1   .349  .391  .428   17
Player              Age  T     IP    H   BB   K  HR   ERA    RA  SoS
Dennis Bigley      21.9  R  109.3   72   31  84   2  1.81  2.31  144
Scott Byrnes       22.4  R   84.0   91   24  58   3  3.96  5.57   67
Hector Delgadillo  22.5  R  103.3  124   21  70   9  5.40  6.01    -
Alex McRobbie      22.4  R   39.3   32    7  48   5  2.75  3.89    6

The Familiar Faces

Technically, they’re not familiar faces to most Toronto Blue Jay fans, but six players who donned the Pulaski uniform in 2004 will do so again this season. Courtesy of Ashley Graham, we can quickly become familiar with five of the six. Ashley has been employed as a photographer for The Southwest Times in seasons past, and this year hopes to periodically provide Bauxites with pictures of the team.

Left to right: Graig Badger, Cory Hahn, Joshua Lex, Raymon Sanchez, Derek Tate

Not pictured above is portsider Ben Harrison. Here’s how the sextet fared in their first go-round in the Appalachian League. All ages are as of June 21, 2005.

Player         Age  Pos  AB  BB   K  HR  SB-CS   AVG   OBP   SLG
Graig Badger  24.4  INF  75  24  20   0   2-1   .240  .422  .267
Josh Lex      23.7  C    87  14  19   2   1-0   .287  .411  .471
Player           Age  T    IP   H  BB   K  HR   ERA    RA
Cory Hahn       23.7  R   3.3   5   0   3   1  5.40  5.40
Ben Harrison    21.2  L   3.3   4   4   9   0  0.00  0.00
Raymon Sanchez  21.5  L  33.7  39  17  32   4  4.54  5.35
Derek Tate      23.5  L  32.7  22   4  41   1  1.10  1.65

Tate also pitched for Auburn of the New York-Penn League in 2004, compiling a 2.20 ERA in 16 innings.

The Man From Down Under

The Jays ventured into the Australian baseball market last November, signing pitcher Shane Benson. The New South Wales Baseball League ran a profile of the 18-year-old on its website shortly after he signed with the Jays, including the remarkable story of Benson pitching on consecutive days in a national tournament – one day left-handed, the next day right-handed! By all accounts, Shane will be exclusively a right-hander in Pulaski.

The Big Signee

In April Toronto made its biggest splash in the Latin market since the beginning of the J.P. Ricciardi era, signing Leance Soto to the equivalent of 2nd-round draft money. The right-hand hitting 20-year-old was compared by Ricciardi to one-time Blue Jay Candy Maldonado. He’ll be the starting 3rd baseman for Pulaski.

The Draft & Follows

Lefty Joe Wice and righty Jesse Litsch were both taken as draft-and-follow picks by Toronto in 2004, and after successful junior college campaigns they were signed by the Jays before this year’s draft. The 19 year old Wice attended Dixie State College in Utah, while the 20 year old Litsch was a South Florida Community College Panther.

The Military Man

Not inclined to stick to conventional drafting dogma, the Blue Jay brain trust really mixed things up in the 13th round of the 2003 draft, tabbing left-hander Matt Foster of the U.S. Naval Academy. He’s finally completed his commitment to Uncle Sam, and is ready to start firing baseballs for a living. Now 23 years old, if Foster is on his way to Toronto he’ll be coming quick.

The Islanders

Pulaski is in fact not as far away as one can get from Toronto, literally and figuratively, while still being Blue Jay property. Pringamosa of the Dominican Summer League also boasts Blue Jay hopefuls, and this year 10 players have been promoted from the sunny isle to begin the 2005 season with Pulaski. Here are their 2004 stats in the Dominican competition. All ages are as of June 21, 2005. Not included is catcher Javier Nieves.
Player             Age  Pos   AB  BB   K  HR  SB-CS  AVG   OBP   SLG
Heliezer Aguilar  21.3  OF   218  18  20   3   9-4  .303  .370  .417
Octavio Cordero   21.7  OF   179  42  46   0  31-9  .268  .406  .302
Jesus Gonzalez    21.0  INF  231  18  33   7   0-3  .338  .396  .532
Jonathan Jaspe    20.2  C    234  27  37   4   3-1  .269  .346  .423
Jorge Sandes      20.4  OF    90  13  30   1   3-3  .222  .340  .322
Player              Age  T    IP   H  BB   K   HR   ERA    RA
Wilfreddy Aguirre  18.6  L  55.7  46  10   62   1  3.23  4.04
Francisco Mateo    21.1  L  98.0  59  26  122   3  2.11  2.39
Rafael Perez       22.5  L  50.3  33  17   54   0  1.61  1.79
Ezemir Reinoso     20.4  R  47.3  36  10   44   1  2.09  2.47

The Mystery Man

Ray Gonzalez is a 19-year-old right-handed pitcher, 5’11”, 190 pounds. For now, that’s the whole story on him. How did he come to be a Blue Jay? Where has he played previously? What town does he call home? Inquiring minds need to know!

Beyond Round 50

The 50 rounds of the First-Year Player Draft apparently weren’t enough for the Jays, as they announced on June 13th that besides signing 23 of the players they drafted, they had also inked 2 players who had become free agents when they went undrafted. 3B Paul Franko and SS Chris Gutierrez will both suit up for Pulaski.

The third time was the charm for the Jays with Franko, as they had previously drafted him out of high school in 2003 (45th round) and out of Scottsdale Community College in 2004 (31st round). Gutierrez attended Oklahoma State University, batting .343/.408/.526 in 213 AB this past season and earning high praise for his defensive prowess.