I reached out to Dane Johnson last week, the Blue Jays minor league pitching coordinator. I wanted to get updates on some of the Jays pitching prospects. He was busy when I called and when he called me back I was not convenient to a speaker phone or my voice recorder. So here is a summary of our conversation based on my scribbled notes. We talked Deck McGuire, Chad Jenkins, Asher Wojciechowski, John Stilson, Sam Dyson and a few others.
I asked Dane why Wojo was doing better this year. Dane said that Wojo did have a tough time last year but he came into last fall's instructional league with a good attitude and he made some changes to his delivery. Some of the changes he made are Blue Jay standard's. He tried to get more upright in his delivery so he is pitching with more of a downhill plane. He has a new slider that is working better than last years and his change-up is improving. And of course he is learning how to pitch at this level. Dane sounded relatively upbeat about the progress Wojo has made.
There were no magic answers as far as Deck McGuire goes. It's an execution issue per Johnson. Earlier in the season he did have some delivery issues that got him into problems but now McGuire will cruise for two or three innings and then he will leave a few balls over the middle of the plate. With McGuire's mix of pitches, he can't make mistakes like that. It sounds like some tough love for McGuire.
According to Dane, Jenkins came back from major league camp this spring with a tweaked delivery. The changes were made to try and get more plane on his pitches (seeing the theme yet?). Jenkins also changed his slider. Those changes have created inconsistent results and when that is combined with Jenkins spending time on the DL, he hasn't reached his potential this season. For what it's worth, I thought Dane sounded a little bit more upbeat on Jenkins than McGuire, but that is just my opinion.
Johnson described Stilson as a go-getter. He said they had to scale him back to keep him controlled. Stilson throws his fastball between 93-96 per Johnson. He also throws a change up and a curve. Dane said that Stilson's shoulder is fine The main issue that Stilson is working on is repeating his delivery. Dane said that at the start of the season Stilson was repeating his delivery 2 out of 5 pitches. Now he feels he is repeating his delivery 3.5 times out of 5.
Dane confirmed that Dyson is a reliever now. The Jays are working to pare down Dyson's 4 pitch mixture to his best 2 or 3 pitches. Dyson's best pitch is his hard 93-95mph sinker. I asked Dane why Dyson didn't have more K's. He replied that his sinker is soo good that Dyson can throw it successfully to get ground balls. He did acknowledge that Dyson does need to throw more breaking balls to develop those pitches.
Dane acknowledged that Nolin is a four pitch guy, with none of those pitches being plus/plus. But Dane sys Nolin has a good feel for pitching and is determined on the mound. In my opinion, not from Dane, AA is the major testing ground for those types of pitchers.
Johnson said Murphy was progressing with his three pitch mix. He said he would be assigned above the GCL this season. Murphy remained in Florida all last year. I asked is he would be starting or relieving and Johnson was non-committal, he just said he would get his innings. In Bluefield at least, pitchers often rotate between starting and relieving.
Finally Johnson said the young tandem pitchers would move to five innings each after the all-star break.