I caught up with Doug Davis today as he arrived in Toronto for the Webster Award ceremonies this weekend. Those of you at the Jays games today and tomorrow will see the Jays present end of year awards to scouts and players.
I talked with Davis about some of the players headed, or not headed, to the AFL. I started by asking about AJ Jimenez who was pulled from both a September major league call-up and a trip to the AFL. "He still has some lingering effects from the Tommy John surgery. With the periodic breaks he had to take during the season we thought he wasn't going to go out there and get the work in that we wanted him to. We felt the best thing was for us to send him back to Puerto Rico and let him continue his rehab and strengthening there so that by next spring training he is ready to go." I asked if Jimenez was likely to play winter ball. "No, we would like to avoid that. We are trying to keep on top of his rehab and keep in control so no I don't see him playing before spring".
Sean Nolin has been moved from the AFL to winter ball, I wondered why. "I think it's that Sean has more innings left to throw and in the AFL he wasn't going to get the number of innings we wanted him to get. I think we can send him to winter ball, monitor his work load, and when he gets to his maximum number of innings we can pull him from there. It's also going to be a little higher quality of opposition there too".
Nolin is being replaced by Drew Hutchison. I asked if Drew's control, which was not as good this year as it was before the surgery, was a concern? Davis said he wasn't worried, Hutch had twelve months off and he was encouraged that his control seemed to get better each time out there.
The last player to be taken off the AFL roster was Tyler Ybarra, again I was wondering why. "I think he had a great year in Dunedin and we didn't want to push the envelope any more with him. His career has been a little up and down and this was by far the best year it has been for him. He has enough innings, he doesn't need more. We originally thought we could get him out there to face better quality opposition but the more we thought about it we said let's leave it alone and be satisfied with where we are at and be ready for next year."
Back in April one of the surprises with the initial rosters was the placement of Emilio Guerrero in Lansing. Guerrero proved the coaches right with a good year including a strong second half performance. Davis mentioned the late season promotion to Dunedin and noted that Guerrero should start there next year. "He is an interesting guy. It's hard when you have somebody that tall and thin. We are hoping he goes home and puts on a little weight. Will he stay at shortstop? I don't know but I think he proved he can play there. I saw him play third in Lansing and he is very good there too. We will give him the opportunity to play every day and we will see what we have there. We thought he could play there and it turned out good for everybody."
Another surprise was the improved play from Deck McGuire in August. "I think he matured, I think he executed better and sometimes players get to the point where they say enough is enough. Enough struggling, enough inconsistency, it's time to take the game into another gear and that's what he did. I think it's more experience than anything else." I mentioned to Doug that the AAA rotation could be pretty good next season and he was happy to point out that for him the nice part would be that the rotation should be "our guys' as in home grown players.
We all know that Franklin Barreto can hit, the big question seems to be where will he end up defensively. Davis was non-commital noting that he believed Barreto played a lot of outfield before the Jays signed him. That means that Barreto is now going through a learning curve at short, having to pick up all the nuances of playing the position. Davis confirmed that Barreto is staying at short for now. The Jays have another shortstop, Dawel Lugo, ahead of Barreto who is likely to be Lansing's shortstop next season. Barreto's bat could probably handle Lansing but where would he play the field? I put that to Davis. "You are thinking right along with us. I do think he could handle that level, now whether we are able to get him there, I don't know. But it's certainly something to think about and it's a good problem to have."
One of the new names to track this year is Miguel Castro who came to the GCL from the DSL mid-season. Davis didn't see Castro pitch in Florida but he had seen him in the DSL before recommending his promotion to the GCL. "He has a big arm, he is a tall thin guy too. He has a lot of arm speed and movement on his fastball. He is definitely going to be a starting pitcher for us next season."
I finished by asking about position changes. The instructional league is usually the time that teams try guys in new positions but Davis said this was one of the few years where none of that was planned.
Thanks to Doug Davis for his time.