Hello, I must be going: a busy month in New Hampshire saw about a dozen players move on and off the roster, including top pitching prospects like Dustin McGowan, David Purcey, Zach Jackson and Shaun Marcum. The Fisher Cats didnít really benefit from all this player movement, losing ten straight games at one point and falling to third place, 6 Ĺ games out of the division lead. A little more personnel consistency and some revived hitting (the F-Cats are dead-last in EL batting with a .245/.303/.372 mark) might help spark a turnaround for the defending champions.
Once again, thanks to Jonny German, who did the detective work and pulled together monthly split stats for all pitchers and hitters in the Jaysí system.
Chip Cannon, 1B, 11/30/81
168 AB, 22 R, .268/.351/.542, 9 2B, 2 3B, 11 HR, 36 RBI, 20 BB, 47 K
112 AB, 28 R, .384/.465/.830, 4 2B, 2 3B, 14 HR, 39 RBI, 16 BB, 32 K
63 AB, 5 R, .222/.269/.460, 6 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 3 BB, 22 K
Theyíll be talking about Rhame Cannon in Dunedin for a long time. After putting up possibly the greatest power display ever seen in that Florida town (by comparison, Carlos Delgado posted a .324/.400/.570 line in a full-season 1992 when he was 20), Cannon arrived in Double-A and cooled off pretty considerably. However, two points are worth noting. First, this is Cannonís third team this season (and fourth pro team overall), and all that moving around will catch up with you eventually; he has to be physically and mentally tired at this point. And second, Double-A is always a big jump for any hitter, especially when he arrives in the pitcher-friendly Fisher Cats Stadium. Cannon is not a mirage. He slugged .615 and .681 in his last two season at The Citadel, and in his very first look at professional pitching, he slugged .495 for Auburn last year. Heís never going to hit .384 again, and his .268 batting average at Lansing is probably a better predictor of his future production levels. But this young man has power to burn and a decent batting eye, and once he gets his second wind, this season or next Ė well, itís arguable that Cannon is already Torontoís best hitting prospect, period.
Rob Cosby, 3B, 4/2/81
300 AB, 42 R, .310/.350/.520, 27 2B, 12 HR, 44 RBI, 17 BB, 50 K
Shall we call them the Killer Cís? Cannon and Cosby have been ripping up opposing pitchers this year. After a slow start to 2005, Cosby got hot and stayed that way; he batted an astonishing .404/.443/.789 in 57 July at-bats for New Hampshire. His defence settled down as well, as he made just 2 errors last month after 11 to start the season. Sure, he could stand to walk a little more often, but Cosbyís calling card will be power, not OBP. Heís just 24, and with Corey Koskie embedded at third base for the next two seasons in Toronto, Cosby might be intriguing trade bait this off-season.
Ron Davenport, LF, 10/16/81
221 AB, 15 R, .258/.298/.371, 13 2B, 4 HR, 20 RBI, 12 BB, 38 K
With the hot weather came the production from Davenport the Jays had been waiting for. A solid .309/.369/.457 raised his season totals to somewhat more respectable levels, following a truly terrible June that raised questions about Davenportís adaptability to Double-A. The question remains: can he keep it up? New Hampshire needs his offence badly to compete in the Eastern League, and Davenport himself needs to show that he can string together at least a good half-season at this level.
Clint Johnston, 1B, 7/2/77
158 AB, 29 R, .310/.399/.449, 10 2B. 4 HR, 21 RBI, 22 BB, 39 K
189 AB, 21 R, .275/.353/.402, 9 2B, 5 HR, 23 RBI, 22 BB, 56 K
The wild ride finally slowed down, as Johnstonís terrific offensive run through the system struck a .202/.308/.236 roadblock last month. His plate discipline remained constant, which was a good sign, but Johnstonís power evaporated (just 3 doubles all month) and his average plummeted. As mentioned before, Fisher Cats ballpark is where offence goes to die, but this kind of drop suggests a slump, perhaps from fatigue. I think Johnston will pick up the pace again and finish the season stronger than this.
Maikel Jova, RF, 3/5/81
379 AB, 39 R, .261/.281/.348, 20 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 32 RBI, 10 BB, 68 K
He apparently wrenched his ankle pretty badly in Tuesdayís game, and itís possible he might not be available for a while. While that might interfere with his pursuit of one of the uglier BB/K ratios in the system, Jovaís absence might in some way benefit the lineup. While heís been a clutch hitter in the past, Jova is failing to deliver in either the on-base or slugging departments this season, and for a corner outfielder on a contending team, thatís just not enough. Can Adam Lind be far from Double-A?
Miguel Negron, CF, 8/22/82
343 AB, 50 R, .248/.298/.356, 13 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 25 RBI, 22 BB, 70 K, 19 SB, 8 CS
As predicted last month, Negronís hot streak ended soon after the calendar flipped from June to July. After posting a .223/.259/.340 line with a 5/33 BB/K rate in July, it seems pretty clear that 2005 wonít be Negronís breakout season. It bears repeating that Negron is one of the teamís youngest players and that he still has time to develop, but time is also running out on his organizational clock. Will the Jays keep him around for 2006? His August performance might well provide part of the answer.
Ryan Roberts, 2B, 9/19/80
84 AB, 16 R, .298/.394/.560, 4 2B, 6 HR, 20 RBI, 13 BB, 15 K
223 AB, 35 R, .260/.366/.493, 12 2B, 2 3B, 12 HR, 34 RBI, 37 BB, 60 K
His power surge suffered a bit of a blip last month, but Roberts continued to pile on the walks and to display very promising pop for a middle infielder. That batting average could be higher, and my quick-and-dirty comparison to Mark Bellhorn a couple of months back is looking more apt by the day. But otherwise, Roberts is doing everything he needs to do to audition for a utility spot, and maybe more, in a future Toronto infield.
Raul Tablado, SS, 3/2/82
301 AB, 30 R, .209/.264/.302, 11 2B, 1 3B, 5 HR, 32 RBI, 20 BB, 108 K
Itís not a good sign when a .254/.321/.282 month represents a breakthrough, but considering that he entered July below the Mendoza Line, Tabladoís last month was a comparative MVP campaign. The utter loss of his power is the most telling signal here, and does not bode well for his future with the organization. Maybe heís just warming up after a season-long slump, but for my money, right now heís fighting for his organizational life.
Curtis Thigpen, C, 4/19/83
293 AB, 41 R, .287/.397/.413, 18 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 35 RBI, 54 BB, 34 K
38 AB, 6 R, .211/.268/.342, 2 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 8K
Weíve said it here before, but JP Ricciardi loves to challenge his prospects, especially this year ó if a player is doing well at lower levels, he will invariably be asked to do it against stiffer competition. Few players have been challenged more than Thigpen, who was doing fine in Low-A Ball with a terrific batting eye but not much pop, and was rewarded with a double-jump all the way to the Eastern League. His initial numbers arenít great and we shouldnít expect them to be great for the balance of the year ó heís the youngest player on the team and one of the youngest in the league. Iím not entirely sure why the two-level promotion ó possibly the Jays want him to improve his defence behind the plate (which is rocky) working with the Fisher Cats staff, possibly they donít want to move Robinzon Diaz up from Dunedin, and possibly theyíre giving the former second-round pick a bit of a shove to see if they can accelerate his learning curve. In all events, Thigpen figures to need at least a full season in Double-A to fully acclimatize.
Josh Banks, RHP, 7/18/82
7-10, 4.24, 21 GS, 119 IP, 122 H, 8 BB, 106 K, 16 HR, 22.1% KBF
Banks went 0-4 last month, but he did right himself somewhat after a very rocky June. His ERA was a respectable 3.98, and he walked nobody ó nobody ó all month against 25 strikeouts in 31 innings. Is the glass half-full or half-empty? On the positive side, Banks is assembling one of the most amazing BB/K seasons Iíve ever seen ó not even Shaun Marcum v. 2004 can top an 8/106 ratio. On the more pessimistic side, Banks is still giving up a hit an inning, and more problematically, is giving up long balls at an extreme rate for this ballpark and this circuit. Possibly this is because Banks is just a strike-throwing machine ó heís always around the plate, all the time. Iíd be interested to know whether the bulk of his strikeouts are called or swinging ó I would guess swinging, because everything Banks sends up to the plate apparently looks good to the hitters. Is it possible to have too fine command? Would Banks benefit from wasting a few more pitches now and again? I donít know, but thereís a reason heís still in AA while Marcum has leapfrogged him to the International League. Banks remains one of the Jaysí most polished pitching prospects, and while he doesnít have the upside of a David Purcey or a Ricky Romero, he will be a very effective big-leaguer. He just has to find another way to keep hitters honest.
Jesse Carlson, LHP, 12/31/80
1-1, 4.82, 22 G, 0 GS, 0 Sv, 18 IP, 26 H, 7 BB, 17 K, 4 HR
1-0, 0.00, 21 G, 0 GS, 1 Sv, 23 IP, 9 H, 3 BB, 31 K, 38.2% KBF
He started off the season in Syracuse, struggled, and was sent down to New Hampshire in early June, where heís been posting terrific numbers ever since. Triple-A might have been an ambitious debut for Carlson, who only hit Double-A for the first time last season in the Astros organization. Heís doing much better as a Fisher Cat in í05 than he did with Round Rock in í04 ó is it just a ballpark and league effect, or is he actually improving? Carlson had only 2 Ĺ pro seasons under his belt before the Jays picked him up, and heís not too old for this league. Thereís not much room in the Syracuse pen for the moment, but the Jays should take a little longer look at Carlson going forward. Thereís always room for another effective lefty in the system.
Ryan Houston, RHP, 9/22/79
2-1, 2.70, 17 G, 26 IP, 16 H, 10 BB, 37 K, 3 HR, 35.9% KBF
Injured all July, and I donít know if heís expected back this year. Houston has taken a long time to harness his powerful stuff; itíd be a shame if injuries were to slow him down now. Weíll check back next month.
Casey Janssen, RHP, 9/17/81
6-1, 2.26, 10 GS, 59 IP, 46 H, 12 BB, 51 K, 2 HR, 21.8% KBF
1-1, 2.03, 3 GS, 13 IP, 12 H, 0 BB, 13 K, 0 HR, 25.0% KBF
Introducing your 2005 Stealth Prospect. Janssen was ranked just 30th on Baseball Americaís 2005 Blue Jays Top 30 Prospects List. They did me one better, though, because he wasnít on my list at all. Janssen has been the surprise of the year for the Jays, even though, as a 4th-round draft pick in the 2004 draft, expectations should have been fairly high. Janssenís repertoire and performance have been covered extensively elsewhere at Batterís Box this year, so I wonít repeat whatís been said. Iíll only note that Janssen is following in the same path as Josh Banks, Shaun Marcum and Dave Bush before him ó nothing in his record indicates a ceiling any different from what those pitchers have to offer. The true strength of the Jaysí pitching crop lies in the fact that in addition to these four polished, control-and-command guys, the Jays also have high-ceiling burners like Dustin McGowan, David Purcey, Brandon League and Ricky Romero in the stable. You can TINSTAPP all day long, thatís still a good stable.
Dustin McGowan, RHP, 3/24/82
0-1, 4.29, 5 GS, 21 IP, 21 H, 5 BB, 20 K, 2 HR, 22.2% KBF
0-2, 3.34, 6 GS, 35 IP, 35 H, 10 BB, 33K, 6 HR, 22.2% KBF
Heís currently up with the parent club, and he pitched well enough in his debut against Texas that heíll be given another start. Seeing McGowan, League and Halladay together on the same major-league roster is enough to give you goose bumps. Will he stay in Toronto for the balance of the season, return to New Hampshire, or take the middle road down to Syracuse? At this point, McGowan appears to be almost all the way back from his TJ surgery ó only the consistent command, always the last to return, is still missing. I suspect that an extended stay in the Show might expose this weakness, and that a patient team like the Red Sox or Yankees could punish him badly if they caught him now. On balance, I think McGowan would best be served by spending the rest of the season as a Skychief, then possibly jetting off to the Arizona Fall League (if the team thinks he needs the work). But right now, Dustin McGowan has to be considered the early favourite to take the 5th-starter role in the 2006 Jays rotation. That sounded so nice, Iím going to say it again. Right now, Dustin McGowan has to be considered the early favourite to take the 5th-starter role in the 2006 Jays rotation.
Vince Perkins, RHP, 9/27/81
3-6, 4.12, 17 GS, 89 IP, 83 H, 38 BB, 74 K, 8 HR, 19.2% KBF
Back from the DL with a vengeance, Perkins limited opposing batters to a .186 average in 16 innings (11 hits, 20 strikeouts). Walks (8 of them last month) remain his bugaboo, but thatís nothing new. His return to a more dominant form should probably quell any possibility of a bullpen shift anytime soon, even though I still suspect it would help his command more than a little. Heís the forgotten flamethrower in the system, and until he puts it all together, he remains mostly potential. But man, what potential.
David Purcey, LHP, 4/22/82
5-4, 3.63, 21 GS, 94 IP, 80 H, 56 BB, 116 K, 8 HR, 28.0% KBF
0-1, 4.50, 1 GS, 6 IP, 4 H, 4 BB, 3 K, 1 HR
Remember what we said about aggressive promotions? Purceyís awesome strikeout totals led the entire organization, but doubtless heíd be the first to agree that his command isnít nearly what it should be. Nonetheless, the Jays want to push him and see what he can do against more sophisticated competition. It seems reasonable enough ó Purcey can survive with poor control against overmatched Florida State League batters, but heís going to have to learn a little more pitching and a little less throwing in the Eastern League, and more again in Triple-A. Purcey has ace potential, plain and simple, but heís still comparatively raw ó this time last year, he was just making his pro debut. Heís on a steep learning curve, but he should be able to handle it. Think about this: Purcey, selected four full years after fellow first-rounder Dustin McGowan, is just one month younger.
Ismael Ramirez, RHP, 3/3/81
7-10, 4.00, 21 GS, 119 IP, 123 H, 27 BB, 93 K, 14 HR, 18.5% KBF
The strikeout totals keep rising, and although he still has enough rough patches to keep his numbers from shining, Ramirez has been solid for the Fisher Cats overall. In the Blue Jaysí pitching-rich system, Ramirez would likely rate no higher than the tenth-best mound prospect, but he still profiles as an effective middle reliever in the majors. Thatís a nice situation to find yourself in.
Tracey Thorpe, RHP, 12/15/80
2-1, 3.67, 25 G, 0 GS, 34 IP, 32 H, 10 BB, 33 K, 4 HR, 23.1% KBF
2-1, 2.14, 12 G, 1 Sv, 21 IP, 13 H, 7 BB, 18 K, 3 HR, 22.2% KBF
Thorpe was always a big man ó he played football in high school ó but recent photos of him indicate heís a monster out there now, about 6í4 and at least 250 lbs. Fully recovered from a torn labrum, Thorpe is throwing strikes and maintaining decent command. Drafted as a high-schooler, heís still young enough to make an impact, though heís almost certainly destined for relief work from this point onwards. Several short years ago, Thorpe would have been the kind of pitcher the Jaysí system was counting on; today, his success would be a pleasant bonus. If he can turn a few walks into strikeouts, heíll probably move up the ladder.