Doug Davis is the Blue Jays minor league field coordinator. As usual Doug joins us at the end of the season to share some insights on players. The Jays have a lot of younger prospects in the lower levels and that's where most of my questions went.
BB: Jake Marisnick struggled some after his promotion to AA. He did finish better. He wasn't striking out a lot but he wasn't getting good hits either. What accounted for his struggles?
DD: I think it was just better quality pitching. You are right, he didn't strike out a lot, but he was working on a couple of things. But the big thing for me was that he finished up strong. I saw him twice in the last month and from the first time to the second time I thought he made really good strides, he started driving the ball and even his outs were more impactful. I thought it was a good experience for him and it set him up well for next year. I thought it was positive in terms of how he finished.
BB: Also in AA Ryan Goins had a big year. What does he have left to do to show he is ready for the big leagues?
DD: Just to continue to play. He played short most of the time this year, had a little bit of time at second. He will probably continue to show his versatility, probably when he gets to AAA he will play more places. But he can play short and he can hit, and hit consistently. He probably won't be a big run producer from a power standpoint but he did hit some home runs, he drove the ball, he hit a lot of doubles, he used all the field. I think the bat is very usuable, you can do a lot of things with him. This year was very consistent for him from start to finish, he made hard outs, there weren't a lot strikeouts, he never went though a slump. To me he just needs more time and more time in front of the major league staff. The more they see him, the more they will realise he is a guy they need to consider.
BB: The guy behind him in Dunedin, Kevin Nolan, had been more of a utility player last season and this year, when he was on the field, played really well. Was it just the opportunity or was there more behind his improvement this year?
DD: Kevin is a self-made player. He was drafted a few years ago but he went home after that first year and came back a completely different player from the standpoint of strength. That allowed him to be a completely different guy. He took everything he was taught, he really listened, and not just when the coaches were around. When he was on his own, when he went home, he continued the process. He made a concerted effort and it paid off for him. Last year the opportunity arose and he showed us he could play shortstop. He is a big strong durable guy and in the second half of last year we needed someone to play short in Dunedin and he took the opportunity and ran with it. He is a strong kid, he has a simple swing with not too many moving parts and he runs well. It was an opportunity thing for him and he took it. Unfortunately he got hurt the last month, which I think hurt that team, he showed us what he is capable of and put himself on a lot of people's list of one to watch.
BB: What was his injury, will it carry into next year?
DD: It was a hamstring and it's one of those injuries where you can't play and if you do try and play you can make it worse.
BB: Moving down to Lansing, Chris Hawkins had an up and down year there. What did you see in him and what improvements did you see out of him this year?
DD: I thought he was a typical young player who went to a full season team for the first time. His first half was tremendous, for a long time he was leading the league in hitting. In the second half playing every day got to him a little bit, which happens to a lot of young guys at that level. He hung in there, he had a little slide, but he was able to regroup and finish off a very good season. Our emphasis with him next year will be home runs and power. He is a big strong kid and that will be something we try and implement into his game. The older these guys get the more they learn, it's a process, it takes time and that's next on the list for him.
BB: Kellen Sweeney was his teammate for a while but then was sent to Vancouver. He didn't hit much better there until the end of the season. Was it a hot streak or did he figure something out?
DD: I think he figured something out. I think it was confidence. So many young kids, if they don't have immediate success, and he hadn't played that much due to injury, it took him a while to realize how good he is. We kept telling him things, we never really varied from the program, we kept going with what we thought was the right thing for him. He finally bought in and started to get some positive results towards the end of the season. At the end of the season he took off. We were really pleased with how he finished off the season.
BB: Another guy who finished the season well was Christian Lopes. What have you seen in him?
DD: To me he is a natural hitter. He knows what to do, he understands himself, he understands his swing and he doesn't change. But he's also very confident and I think that's a big thing for him. He came in here as a confident hitter and he just continued that and even when things dont go all that well, he still walks up to the plate knowing he can hit. He's got power, he has the ability to go to right field. He has had a good run this year, he was good in Bluefield and probably even better in Vancouver.
BB: Dwight Smith was another guy who you pushed up this year. He didn't have as much statistical success as Lopes. What did you see in him?
DD: I think Dwight is a natural hitter and another guy with a lot of confidence and he likes to hit. I think that's why we moves both those guys when we did, they are both mature for their age. They showed us they could handle the level at Bluefield and that told us they were ready to handle the next level. You are right, he didn't have statistically as good a year as Lopes did but still those were very valuable at-bats for me and tthey set both those guys up for next year.
BB: Jake Anderson hasn't shown what you would expect from a first round pick. What's missing in his game?
DD: I think the thing with Jake is he keeps growing. I don't think he has grown into his body yet and I think the body control for me is a bit of a factor for me. He is a big strong lanky hitter and he has a lot of raw ability and raw tools. When he grows into that body and figures out what he is and how to control everything, I think you will see him take off. It wasn't a terrifically good year for him but it was at times. He had a great extended spring, he just wasn't able to carry it over when he went to Bluefield. He has a consistent demeanor, he has a real good attitude about how to handle things. I am not concerned about him, I think again its a matter of the body and learning to control it.
BB: Santiago Nessy is another guy who you promoted to Vancouver. He seemed to come into his own this year.
DD: Yeah, Santiago had a great run in Bluefield. It was good to see him develop, he had been in extended for a couple of years, he was very young when he got here, but now he has developed into a top line catcher. He is one of those guys that is going to do things from both sides of the ball. He has gotten so much better defensively, he takes charge, he throws well, he blocks well, he is very athletic. But he brings it from the offensive side too, he has tremendous power. He is one of those kids that needs time, he needs at at-bats and learning how to recognize breaking pitches. He did great at Bluefield and it was good to get him to Vancouver at the end of the year just to be a part of that experience.
BB: The Jays have had a range of catchers in the system, Arencibia's game was power, d'Arnaud is an all-rounder, AJ Jimenez is a plus defender and hits for average, Carlos Perez was athletic. Is Nessy like one of those more than the others?
DD: He is a pretty unique guy for me. You look at him and he is a bigger bodied guy than any of them, he is bigger than d'Arnaud, he is bigger than Arencibia. And he catches differently, he is unique. From a power point d'Arnaud is at the top, Arencibia is there and has shown he can hit home runs. Nessy is probably not going to be quite there from a power point but he is going to hit home runs. He is pretty much a complete package.
BB: The last guy you pushed up to Vancouver was DJ Davis, what are your views on him after year one?
DD: We loved him from day one, he is going to be an impact player, he is such an athletic kid. He has tremendous bat speed, he is very quiet and reserved, nothing seems to bother him too much, he just goes out there and does his thing. It was fun watching him in the GCL and originally we just wanted to move him up to Bluefield and give him some experience under the lights there but he handled that extremely well. If you looked at the Vancouver roster we could use another outfielder with more speed and a guy that can play centre and we thought, why not? He went up there and had some pretty good games. He is a special kid and is going to be a special player.
BB: And his range is good in centre?
DD: Well as fast as he is, yes it's good. He just has a lot to learn. We have already given him an awful lot to handle in just three months, which is good for us, we have been able to see who he is and now we know what we have to work on. Now we can start focusing on some of those things in instructional league and next year in spring training and we will see where he ends up.
BB: I am not sure if you have thought about this yet but the signing deadline for the draft was moved up to July 15th this year. So you have been able to see a lot of the newly drafted player for 6-8 weeks whereas in previous years they would sign on August 15th and maybe not get into a game. Will that change the opening day assignments for next year?
DD: I think it will for certain individuals. Like you said guys who might not have had any at-bats, who might have seen for the first time in the instuctional league, now they have a head start which is great. If we had only seen Davis, for example, in instructs instead of at three different levels, it would be different. I think it will be an individual thing but there is no question that for those kids who have the ability to move they have a much better head start than they did previously.
BB: Daniel Norris had an up and down year. What did you see in him that gives you hope?
DD: Daniel was one of those guys who we didn't know much about and we learned a whole lot this year. It was a long year for him, first year out of high school. He has made tremendous strides, he has had to work on some things with that delivery. Periodically we saw flashes of what we wanted to see and at times we saw things that came back to when he first got here. I think it's just part of the process. Again he had time in the GCL, he went to Bluefield and had some success there and ended in Vancouver so I think he is setup very well for next year. We will continue to work on his delivery in instructional league, he still has a long way to go. I think he now has a much better understanding of who he is and what he has to work on. I am sure he enjoyed getting to Vancouver and seeing what he has to work on. Actually I was at the game where he got hit around in Vancouver but it was the best I had ever seen him pitch. He threw strikes, he had velocity, he had good breaking pitches, he had to pitch against that Boise team which was the best hitting team in that league by far. It was a good experience for him and he has come a long way.
BB: What is the status of Travis d'Arnaud? I see he is not going to the AFL.
DD: You are asking the wrong guy, I haven't seen him in a couple of months. I believe he is getting back to some baseball activities, he is tryaing to maintain his throwing but anything that involves his knee he hasn't been able to do a lot.
BB: Do you know about the status of AJ Jimenez and his recovery from Tommy John surgery?
DD: Other than the fact it is going well and he has started throwing I am not sure.
BB: Will Mitch Nay or Matt Smoral be in the Instructional League?
DD: From what I understand Mitch Nay will not be there but Smoral will be.
Batters Box thanks Doug Davis for his time.