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If today is Thursday then it is middle-infield day in our organizational look-ahead to the 2009 season.

There are twenty-two second base and shortstop candidates in camp, with approximately eighteen jobs available.

Here are the contenders for jobs in '09.

Major League: Aaron Hill; Marco Scutaro; Joe Inglett; John McDonald

AAA: Scott Campbell; Brandon Fahey; Kevin Melillo

AA: Brad Emaus; Angel Sanchez; Jon Diaz

A+: Marcos Cabral; Chris Gutierrez; Justin Jackson; Luis Sanchez

A: John Tolisano; Jon Del Campo; Bryan Kervin; Tyler Pastornicky; Luis Fernandez

Extended: Gustavo Pierre; Kyle Gilligan; Jimmy (Arvin) Gonzalez

Marco Scutaro and Aaron Hill appear to be locked-in on the major league starting jobs.  As of now Joe Inglett and John McDonald could be the major league back-ups but if Kevin Millar makes the team then one of the two backups could head for AAA.  McDonald has the flexibility to play both shortstop and second, while Inglett can play second and the outfield.  If John McDonald was off the team then Aaron Hill would be the backup at shortstop, that doesn't sound likely.  Alternatively the Jays could send Travis Snider down and platoon Millar and Inglett at DH, not exactly the bronx bombers but you have to play the hand you were dealt.

The AAA roster could depend on what position Scott Campbell plays.  In 2008 Campbell played second base all season but when he went to the Arizona Fall League he played some games at third base to increase his positional flexibility.  The Jays have signed Brett Harper as a minor league free agent, presumably to play third base in AAA, so it looks like Campbell will play second in Vegas.  Brandon Fahey will be the shortstop with 2008 hold-over Kevin Melillo as the backup.

Brad Emaus is coming off a strong season in Dunedin and will move up to play second in AA.  Minor league free agent Angel Sanchez will probably play shortstop.  Sanchez has some AAA experience but it is unlikely that he can usurp Fahey and take the AAA job.  Jon Diaz could be the utility guy/backup in AA although Chris Gutierrez could also fill that role.

Justin Jackson will move up from Lansing to Dunedin to play shortstop.  Jackson's numbers in 2008 were average but it was his first full season and he has been highly touted by various organizations such as Baseball America in the off-season.  Jackson's defense is good enough for high A, his challenge this season will be to improve his pitch recognition and cut down on his strikeouts.  There are several candidates to play second base beside Jackson.  Jon Tolisano, drafted at the same time as Jackson, could also be pushed up from Lansing.  2008 hold-overs include Marcos Cabral, Chris Gutierrez, Jon Diaz and Luis Sanchez.  In the absence of an injury one or more of these players could find themselves without a job.  Tolisano had average numbers in Lansing last season but his defense still needs some work, I assume Tolisano will stay in Lansing to start the season.

If Tolisano stays in Lansing then the issue is who will play shortstop beside him?  Tyler Patornicky could follow the Justin Jackson path and move up to A ball for his first full season.  But as Dick Scott said last season the 2008 draftees were less polished than the 2007 crop.  On that basis Pastornicky will head for extended and college level player Bryan Kervin will fill the shortstop job in Lansing.

To sum it up here is my prediction:

Major League: Aaron Hill; Marco Scutaro; Joe Inglett; John McDonald

AAA: Scott Campbell; Brandon Fahey; Kevin Melillo

AA: Brad Emaus; Angel Sanchez; Chris Gutierrez

A+: Marcos Cabral; Jon Diaz; Justin Jackson

A: John Tolisano; Jon Del Campo; Bryan Kervin;

Extended: Gustavo Pierre; Kyle Gilligan; Jimmy (Arvin) Gonzalez; Tyler Pastornicky; Luis Fernandez


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The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Mike Green - Thursday, February 19 2009 @ 09:27 AM EST (#196549) #
Pastornicky had a very nice debut in the GCL offensively (and better than Jackson's the year before).  I am assuming that his defensive game needs some work, which presumably is why the organization might move him slowly up the ranks. 
christaylor - Thursday, February 19 2009 @ 09:41 AM EST (#196550) #
It is always slightly depressing to consider how the org is set at SS today. Not very well to say the least. I know it is a difficult position to fill, but the most promising prospect is Jackson and it is hard not to see him being moved off the position to 3B (perhaps that's just my current attitude of pessimism coloured by how things have worked out). The future of SS looked so good just a 4 years ago when Adams looked like he could be average offensively/defensively (which is valuable), Aaron Hill didn't have an allergy to the position and everyone was saying Tulowitzki was going to be drafted by the Jays (I don't think it was a bad direction to go in taking someone else, given the other needs the Jays had at the time). Things change and I'm sure this situation will as well.

Hopefully the new scouts hired this winter will bring a fresh perspective and be able to bring in talent at the position. I fear however I was spoiled by Tony Fenandez as my achetypeal SS growing up.   
Jdog - Thursday, February 19 2009 @ 09:51 AM EST (#196551) #
From the sounds of it Jackson would never be moved off of SS, as his defense is the one aspect of his game that is not in doubt.

Gustavo Pierre is a 16/17 yr old SS that was a big international signing for the Jays this past season, so hopefully he will fulfill his promise, it would be nice if the jays could get him over to play in the GCL this summer.

Im hoping Tolisano gets promoted to FSL and Pastornicky gets a promotion to Lansing.
Mike Green - Thursday, February 19 2009 @ 09:57 AM EST (#196552) #
I wouldn't be pessimistic about Jackson's defensive abilities at all.  All of the reports are very good.  He apparently moves well and throws well, and makes the routine play. 

So far, he has been a very streaky hitter.  He is at least 2 full years away, and whether he makes it will depend mostly on his offensive development. 

timpinder - Thursday, February 19 2009 @ 10:02 AM EST (#196553) #

Matthew Pouliot's list of the Jays' top 15 prospects:

He seems pretty high on Justin Jackson.  Having a kid who's never played above A ball listed as the third best prospect should say something.  Even if the average doesn't improve as Jackson moves up the system, I'd still LOVE 15+ homerun power, strong on-base skills, and plus defense from the SS position in 2011 and beyond.

Mike Green - Thursday, February 19 2009 @ 10:44 AM EST (#196554) #
Pouliot's list makes a lot of sense to me. 
ayjackson - Thursday, February 19 2009 @ 11:28 AM EST (#196557) #

I'm not even that concerned about JJ's bat.  I think he'll be our top prospect next year.  I'd be concerned if he muddled along at a .700 OPS clip all season at Lansing, but he didn't.  He showed for extended periods of time that he could rake.  He also dis much better with runners on base, which could be attributed to a young players ability to focus over the long grind of a pro baseball season.  Check out his monthly OPS and Runners-on OPS:

April - .941

May - .708

June - .453

July - .867

August - .595

Runners on - .783

Bases empty - .666

toronto9 - Thursday, February 19 2009 @ 12:22 PM EST (#196561) #
It doesnt look like the Canadian kids are fairing too well on these depth charts so far.  From the stats it looks like Baksh, Collins and Gilligan had pretty good seasons when they played.  Am I missing something why they're not being talked about more?
Ryan Day - Thursday, February 19 2009 @ 01:17 PM EST (#196563) #
If I was making a safe bet, I'd compare Justin Jackson to Alex Gonzalez: Strong defence, sporadic offence. But Gonzalez never developed as a hitter despite showing some talent in the minors, so Jackson could be much better.

Interesting that Pouliot isn't sold on Arencibia's defence, while BA said it was quite strong and he was a lock to stay behind the place.

Jdog - Thursday, February 19 2009 @ 01:45 PM EST (#196566) #
does rotoworld's Pouliot have more insight than I do after reading the various opinions found online(BA, BP etc.) I dont think Pouliot is a prospect expert by any means
uglyone - Thursday, February 19 2009 @ 01:54 PM EST (#196567) #
The thing I like about Jackson is that with his tall lanky athletic frame, you can easily see him packing on some power muscle the next couple of even if the rest of his hitting numbers stay average, he could add some significant pop to his batting line.
Mike Green - Thursday, February 19 2009 @ 01:58 PM EST (#196568) #
Pouliot's confrere, Aaron Gleeman, has some nice things to say about David Purcey. 
TamRa - Thursday, February 19 2009 @ 03:16 PM EST (#196572) #
Anthopolos said on the fan that the Jays would promote Aherns/Jackson/Tolisino to Dunedin together.

I too think Pastornicky will have the "penciled in" role in Lansing.

John Northey - Thursday, February 19 2009 @ 03:22 PM EST (#196573) #
Sounds a lot like the Jays are seeing Aherns/Jackson/Tolisino as a group - hoping to promote year by year to the majors together.  In truth it makes a lot of sense as ideally you get a batch of kids reaching at the same time and growing at the same time as that leads to higher odds of them peaking at the same time (necessary in the nuclear division).
Mylegacy - Thursday, February 19 2009 @ 04:34 PM EST (#196575) #
2nd and SS are OK at both the big league level and in the minors.

At the MLB level, the Law Firm of: Hill, Scoots, Mighty Joe and the Prime Minister is at least acceptable. Hill - with his new weight and burning desire to reclaim his perch - looks to be a "breakout" candidate. I'm predicting 290/340/489 with 20 dingers.

In the minors we've a reasonably good set of 2nd basemen and a slightly better set of SS's. Campbell and Emaus are VERY similar, both are defensively just barely adequate but offensively both have their uses. The Kiwi looks like he might be a REAL lead off type guy and the Emu.. er... Emaus looks like a Hill type offensive guy - but not as good defensively.

Further down we've the Accounting firm of Jackson and Pastornicky. Defensively, Jackson is a REAL MLB SS. A plus defensive guy. Offensively, he could become a surprising speed power package. Clearly - he's the guy to watch. Tyler is VERY similar but slightly inferior in almost all areas - having said that, at this time I think he is a tad more polished offensively. If we did not have Justin we would be VERY HAPPY to have Mr. Pastornicky. IF - Jackson turns into the guy we think he MIGHT become - then don't be surprised to see Pastornicky at 2nd beside Justin in the Bigs by 2012 - and for a very long time thereafter.

Deeper in the bowels of the system their lurks Gustavo Pierre. Gus is a $700,000 latino bonus baby we signed last year at the tender age of 16. He LOOKS to have TOOLS all over his young body and could become a Jeter or Rodrigues when he grows up - OR he might be, "Who was that lousy bonus baby guy we signed back in 2008?"

SO - we've got good catchers and good middle infielders. As this trip through the organization continues - could it turn out to be that JP ain't the bum many of us think he is?

Pistol - Thursday, February 19 2009 @ 04:49 PM EST (#196576) #
Does Rotoworld's Pouliot have more insight than I do after reading the various opinions found online(BA, BP etc.)?

I can't imagine Rotoworld is sending people out to scout prospects, so it's probably just someone informed from reading things online and giving his own spin on it.

tercet - Thursday, February 19 2009 @ 05:10 PM EST (#196578) #
Forget Ahrens?  Or is he that low on the depth chart?
John Northey - Thursday, February 19 2009 @ 05:14 PM EST (#196580) #
Ahearns is at 3B so he'll be in a different preview.
92-93 - Thursday, February 19 2009 @ 05:22 PM EST (#196582) #
I'm buying into all this Justin Jackson hype. If his defense really is as good as everybody is saying, I think he is a lock to provide positive value as a draft pick. He was signed for $675,000 so all he would need to do is make the big league team as a bench infielder on the major league minimum and he'd be providing savings over a JMac-type player. It seems with his glove and speed this shouldn't be a problem. He's officially passed Arencibia in my mind today on the Jays prospects list.
zeppelinkm - Thursday, February 19 2009 @ 06:56 PM EST (#196588) #

I pray every night that Jackson and Snider turn into the type of players we envision they can be. And that one of Cecil, Mills, the Romero's, develops into a bona fide above average MLB starter. Although the only one with a real shot  at being a front end starter is Cecil, I'd be happy to be surprised!

Lugnut Fan - Thursday, February 19 2009 @ 06:58 PM EST (#196589) #

I got to see Jackson a good bit and all I can say about his defense is that it is probably better than advertised.  I wish I would have had a camera with me at the Midwest League all star game so that I could show you the play he made in the 9th or 10th inning of that game.  There was a ball hit in the hole on the third base side that he back handed, jumped in the air, did a 180 and threw the guy out by two steps.  If you search the bowels of the web, you will probably be able to find it.  I gave it a half hearted attempt and couldn't find a link, but it seems like there was one floating around at mid season last year.

Offensively, I am probably in the minority.  I would rather see Jackson hit the ball on the ground and bunt more.  He has blazing speed and that needs to be utilized.  Trying to muscle up and use his power would be a waste of what he can do in my opinion.  I think he is being groomed to be a top of the order hitter eventually.

Offensive numbers in Low A can be decieving and in a lot of ways should be ignored.  It was Jackson / Ahren's and Tolisano's first full season and there is a ton to learn both on and off the baseball field.  Kids have to learn a routine that will keep them fresh throughout the seaon and that is what most kids struggle with as the season goes on.  Fatigue sets in heavy in the MWL in July and August.

Mylegacy - Thursday, February 19 2009 @ 07:52 PM EST (#196591) #
Lugnut Fan - THAT play from the All-Star game IS on the internet I saw it a few days ago - it is UNBELIEVABLE!!! I'll try and find it again and post the link...
Mylegacy - Thursday, February 19 2009 @ 07:58 PM EST (#196592) #
The link for Justin's play is:


greenfrog - Thursday, February 19 2009 @ 09:44 PM EST (#196594) #
Thanks, Mylegacy. Interesting to read the scouting reports too. And nice to see Snider's swing again...
John Northey - Thursday, February 19 2009 @ 09:47 PM EST (#196595) #
Nice play by Justin.  Makes me remember the old Tony Fernandez days.  Sadly Justin is far behind Fernandez' pace.  At 19 Fernandez hit 318/423/407 in A+, in the majors at 21 for a cup of coffee after hitting 300/381/403 in AAA. An All-Star at 24. Jackson at 19 was in A ball hitting 238/340/368. Still, one can dream.
Wildrose - Friday, February 20 2009 @ 11:04 AM EST (#196611) #
Sadly Justin is far behind Fernandez' pace.  At 19 Fernandez hit 318/423/407 in A+, in the majors at 21 for a cup of coffee after hitting 300/381/403 in AAA. An All-Star at 24. Jackson at 19 was in A ball hitting 238/340/368. Still, one can dream.

I would not take Fernandez's age at face value. It was fairly well accepted during this era that Latin players generally fudged their birth dates by 2-3 years downwards. In fact when the Dodgers had their rookie league team in Lethbridge , I  even know of one California born player who did a 2 year stint in the Marines and was passing himself off as  being two years younger. It was a different  time before the internet and information age.
John Northey - Friday, February 20 2009 @ 12:23 PM EST (#196616) #
Good point Wildrose, although Fernandez might be a special case as he played until he was 39 and was an all-star at 37 (stupid Jays not signing him the next season, forcing him to go to Japan and thus losing Fernandez' shot at 2500+ hits and at least a few years on the HOF ballot).  Funny how he had his highest OBP at 36 then did better at 37, plus had his best two Slg% seasons those two years.  Hrm... hope that doesn't mean what it tends to mean in MLB lately as Fernandez is my all-time favorite Jay.
christaylor - Friday, February 20 2009 @ 02:35 PM EST (#196621) #
I can't even bear to entertain the thoughts that you are hinting at. To do so would be to take myself at 10 years old aside, pull out a hand gun and blow the 'lil guys' brains out. Even though I care nothing for steroid use/abuse in the generation of players that were/are just stat-lines to me, all of us have childhood heroes who retain a modicum of their "cardboard god" status.
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