I spoke with Doug Davis, the Jays minor league field coordinator, over the weekend. Davis was in Vancouver visiting with the Canadians. As with my interview with Dane Johnson last week I had to take notes during the call and replicate them here as my recorder has gone missing.
As Doug was in Vancouver I started by asking about Franklin Barreto's defense. We know he can hit, but can he stick at shortstop? Davis said that Barreto is playing shortstop well, he is throwing better, his footwork is better. Overall Davis believes he just looks more comfortable there than he did last year and will continue at shortstop.
Zak Wasilewski had started the game the day before and pitched well. Davis agreed that Zak had pitched well against a Tri-City lineup that had a lot of good hitters, per Davis. He noted that Zak's velocity is up a bit as compared to last season, his FB now sits 88-90. Davis also noted that Zak was stronger than last season.
The next days starter was Starlyn Suriel and I asked Davis about him. He said that Suriel throws a good mix of pitches, he doesn't overpower the hitters. He does have a very good change-up and that pitch helps make his fastball better.
Moving to the Bluefield roster I asked about Dan Jansen. Davis was full of praise for the young catcher noting that he is big for a catcher and saying that Jansen reminded him of Lance Parrish, the former Tigers catcher. Davis noted that Jansen's flexibility had improved significantly since last season, important for a big guy, and he credited Sal Fasano with helping Jansen with that. He also commented that Jansen is a good receiver. Jansen is from Wisconsin and that means that, like Ontario players, he didn't arrive to the Jays with a lot of experience, but he has come a long way.
I next asked about Rowdy Tellez. David felt that Tellez's reputation had preceded him and he wasn't getting a lot to hit. He also felt that he was hitting in some bad luck at the moment, that Tellez was not striking out but hitting at the fielders, and that he would get better with time. (Note: Tellez has 5 K's in 41 at-bats with Bluefield)
Josh Almonte is hitting in the three spot for Bluefield. Davis said that Denis Holmberg decided to put Almonte there and he has run with it. Almonte was drafted out of New York City and Davis said he is still young and raw. But he did say that Almonte had the best extended spring season of any hitter and that he had shown excellent development since last season. Almonte has all the tools including good speed and a strong arm.
Moving on to Lansing, what of Mitch Nay? Davis first commented on Nay's defense. Davis believes Nay has made significant imporvements at third base and that his defense is now above average. On hitting, David noted that Nay is picking up his pace again now after a down May and said that Nay uses the whole field. He felt that using the whole field is taking away power from Nay's game. He hinted that he had that conversation with Nay and suggested he might look to pull more in certain situations.
I next asked Davis about his namesake DJ Davis. Doug said that he knew that the assignment to Lansing at the start of the season would be a challenge. But DJ is learning as he goes and Doug is seeing progress. DJ is showing good defense and good power but he swings and misses too much. I asked Doug about that swing and miss, about pitch recognition and whether it could be improved. Doug said that pitch recognition is an issue for DJ, as well as base stealing. He labelled both of those as baseball instincts. DJ came from a background where he hadn't played a lot of baseball against good competition and hadn't developed those instincts. But Doug said pitch recognition is often the last part of development to come and he again mentioned that he is seeing improvements from DJ.
I asked Davis about Lugo. He didn't have anything new to add, said he was playing good defense, that the cold weather slowed him down, but that he was swinging the bat better recently.
Moving on to New Hampshire I asked Davis what Dalton Pompey would have to do in AA. Davis talked about the big step up from A ball to AA. He talked about the experience of the pitchers, some with major league experience, many with AAA experience. Davis said that fielding would not be a problem but handling those pitchers is the test. (Note: aside from Daniel Norris, the average age of the Fisher Cat pitchers is 28)
I wondered what had gone wrong for Andy Burns this season. Davis didn't have much to add, he said Burns got off to a slow start and it weighed on him mentally which made it worse as he pressed. He noted that reports are getting better on Burns.
Derrick Chung, like Pompey, was just promoted to New Hampshire. Davis said that Chung was the team leader in Dunedin and he has grown as a catcher and particularly in his ability to call games. Chung hits well but not for much power. Davis said that is the way he will be, but he does use the whole field and he doesn't strike out much.
My final question concerned Michael Crouse. Davis said Crouse needs to be more consistent and handle off-speed pitches better.
Thanks to Doug Davis for his time.