Yesterday was the first day for minor league spring training games. The minor league regular season is just three weeks or, to be precise, 21 days away. Yesterday the Jays fortified the minor league ranks by returning eight players to minor league camp. To give us our minor league fix I have put together a description of the one thing, and only one thing, that each of the Blue Jays top 30 prospects needs to do in 2006 to move up the prospect charts.
#1 – Dustin McGowan
This one is obvious, better control. McGowan’s major league debut in 2005 showed flashes of brilliance but also periods of wildness where he left pitches in the middle of the plate or missed the strike zone. If McGowan can further refine his control he will be challenging for a rotation spot by mid-season.
#2 – David Purcey
Purcey is also obvious, cut down on the walks. Purcey has an excellent hits allowed ratio in his time in the minor leagues. However his walks allowed have been excessive. Purcey showed some signs of improvement in late 2005 and he needs to further improve in 2006.
#3 – Casey Janssen
Establish a solid base in AA. Janssen was promoted to AA in July 2005 and reeled off five very good starts before struggling in two starts and then getting injured. If Janssen can reproduce his numbers from Dunedin, and from his first five AA starts, he will be ready for an early promotion.
#4 - Zach Jackson/Sergio Santos
Jackson is gone so this is a good place to talk about Sergio Santos, not suggesting Santos would be the number four prospect. Santos needs to do a better job at pitch recognition and making adjustments. Santos does have issues with his free-swinging ways but BA’s scouting reports suggested there was more than that ailing Santos in 2005. BA said that Santos did not look good at the plate and did not make adjustments. Santos has to learn how to hit against the crafty pitchers you see at AAA.
#5 - Adam Lind
Simple, repeat his success from Dunedin with some more homeruns. As a prospective major league first baseman or DH, Lind will need to show some pop. Most of his home runs last season came in the second half. If that continues in 2006 he should be well positioned for a run at the Jays in 2007.
#6 - Guillermo Quiroz
Remain healthy all season. The big thing Quiroz needs is regular playing time after two seasons where he missed more than half of his team’s games.
#7 – Ricky Romero
Fool more hitters. Romero had a brief pro debut in 2005 making nine starts between Auburn and Dunedin. In Dunedin Romero allowed more than a hit per inning and his K rate was 6.5 per nine innings. Romero has to fool more hitters at Dunedin, get his K/9 rate up into the high seven’s or low eight’s and restrict hitters to under a hit per inning.
#8 - Josh Banks
Keep the ball down. Josh has excellent numbers, good hits allowed ratios, low walks allowed, decent strikeout rate. His Achilles heel is the home run rate which is a function of leaving the ball up too high in the zone. If Banks can work the bottom of the zone he will be in Toronto in September.
#9 – Shaun Marcum
Same as Banks, keep the home runs allowed down. Marcum does not overpower the hitters but comes after them with a mix of pitches. His downfall, like Banks, is home run rate.
#10 – Francisco Rosario
Consistency. Rosy has good stuff, a 94-95 mph fastball and a good slider. Rosario needs to be able to command his pitches every time out and lower his ERA from the 3.95 he put up in 2005.
#11 - Davis Romero
Consistency also. Romero was available in the rule 5 draft but was by-passed by all 29 major league teams. The knock on Romero is consistency, one start he blows the hitters away, the next time out he gets hit. BA, in their prospect book, add to this by saying Romero’s velocity changed significantly from outing to outing. It might be that Romero needs to get stronger but in the end it’s consistency he needs to demonstrate.
#12 – Curtis Thigpen
Build on 2006. The development of catchers is tough, they have to spend a lot of time working to support the pitching staff that it wears them down and they have less time to work on their hitting. Thigpen was able to work on both last year and hit well, and improved his catching. For 2006 he needs to continue to build on 2006, provide good defense while hitting close to .300.
#13 – Chip Cannon
Make better contact. Cannon led the Jays minor leaguers with 32 jacks last season but his K rate was 34% at New Hampshire. Chip needs to keep the power but reduce the K’s.
#14 – Vince Perkins
Another need for better control. Perkins has good stuff, a heavy fastball and a good change-up. But he allowed 3.5 walks per nine last season, that’s too high. In spring training Perkins has been wild, it’s time to get that under control.
#15 – Ryan Roberts
Another hitter who needs to reduce his K’s. When Ryan was promoted to AA last year he continued to hit well and showed good power for a second baseman. Roberts has some work to do on his defense but he has only been a second baseman for a little over a year so we will ignore that and point out that his K rate jumped from 16% to 28% after his promotion.
#16 – Chi-Hung Cheng
Cut down on the walks. Cheng allowed 4.7 walks per 9 innings last season. Cheng needs to get that down by 50% to thrive at higher levels. The Jays want Cheng to trust his average fastball more and not nibble so much.
#17 – Ryan Patterson
Keep it going at higher levels. Patterson was the Jays best hitter at Auburn, he needs to do it again against better pitchers.
#18 – Rob Cosby
Be more selective. Cosby was New Hampshire’s best hitter in 2005, hitting over .300 and slugging over .500. But Cosby walked only 24 times in 452 plate appearances. If he is not more selective the better pitchers will take advantage of him.
#19 – Ismael Ramirez
Cut down on home runs allowed. Ramirez allowed nineteen homers last season, more than Josh Banks. Most of Ramirez’ other numbers were good. Ramirez can struggle with his delivery, if his arm drops his pitches can flatten out and become very hittable.
#20 – John-Ford Griffin
More consistent contact, or put another way, fewer strikeouts. Griffin’s 30 home runs in 2005 were excellent but the 140 K’s were too many. More consistent contact would also likely move his batting average up from .254.
#21 – Kyle Yates
More of the same. Yates delivered a great 1.91 ERA in 14 starts for Dunedin. Keep it going Kyle.
#22 – Jamie Vermilyea
If Jamie comes back to the Jays from the Red Sox he needs to get the sinker down in the zone. Vermilyea needs to work the bottom of the zone to be effective.
#23 – Miguel Negron
Hit for average. Negron likes to hit the home runs but with his speed he needs to hit the ball on the ground and leg out some more hits. Negron hit last season and needs to get that up to .300 this year.
#24 - Robinzon Diaz
Be more selective. In 403 plate appearances last season Diaz walked only fifteen times and struck out only 28 times. Diaz needs to work the count and find a better pitch to hit.
#25 – Robert Ray
More of the same. Ray held opponents to a .204 batting average and struck out 8.5 per 9 innings, those numbers would look good in Lansing.
#26 – Lee Gronkiewicz
Keep it going in AAA. As a vertically challenged player Gronk has always had to prove himself. If he proves himself in AAA he should get a call to Toronto.
#27 – Joey Metropoulos
Have a healthy season. Joey was injured for the start of the 2005 season so he didn’t play until Auburn started in June. Joey only hit .212 in June but was over .300 with power the rest of the way. It will be interesting to see what he can do with a full, healthy, season.
#28 – Yuber Rodriguez
Hit. Yuber struggled with a .200 batting average all season. Yuber hit under .200 in three of the five minor league season months and only .206 in another.
#29 – Cory Patton
Hit. Patton had a miserable 2005, struggling at Lansing before returning to Auburn. Patton strikes out too much but that’s only a problem if he hits well enough to move up the system. Patton hit .200 for Lansing before improving his average to .273 at Auburn. Patton should return to Lansing and needs to get his average up to the .273 range.
#30 – Paul Phillips
More of the same at a higher level. Phillips was Auburn’s closer in 2005 and allowed less than a hit per inning while striking out more than a hitter per inning.