Blue Jays Add Prospects at 40-Man Deadline

The Blue Jays added 5 prospects to their 40 man roster today to prevent the possibility of losing them at next month’s Rule 5 draft.

Catchers Reese McGuire and Danny Jansen, 1B Rowdy Tellez, and Pitchers Thomas Pannone and Conner Greene were added.  Left unprotect included C/1B/DH Max Pentecost, OF Jonathan Davis, and Ps Andrew Case, Jordan Romano, Francisco Rios, and Angel Perdomo.

The team began clearing space earlier this month by outrighting Bo Schultz, Cesar Valdez, and Darren Ceciliani from the 40.  Last week, Leonel Campos, Taylor Cole, Luis Santos, and Raffy Lopez met the same fate.  Letting Rob Refsnyder go on waivers today and designating Harold Ramirez and Chris Rowley cleared additional space.  In between, Deck McGuire was signed as an MiLB free agent, and Taylor Guerreri was claimed on waivers from the Rays.  Acquiring SS Gift Ngoepe from the Pirates for futures brought the roster to 34 as the day progressed.

The 5 who were protected were not much of a surprise.  Jansen had a breakout year at three levels, and while McGuire missed a good chunk of the season due to knee surgery, could likely fit into any MLB roster as at least a back up, and showed promise with the bat upon his return.  Neither may be quite ready for an MLB job, but both would have likely been claimed.

Greene had his struggles at AA this year, but topped 100 with his fastball on multiple occasions.  It will be interesting if the team continues to let him develop as a starter, or if he moves to the bullpen.  Pannone, acquired in the Joe Smith deadline deal, was among the league leaders in many Eastern League pitching categories.

Tellez struggled mightily at the plate in AAA this year, and given his bat-first profile, he may have gone through the Rule 5 draft unclaimed.  The Blue Jays, obvioulsy, did not want to take that risk, and the promotion of the 40-man has to be seen as a reward to Tellez, as well as a vote of confidence.

If there was a player who may have been protected, it might have been New Brunswick native Case.  After capping off as strong season by providing excellent set-up relief for Peoria en route to their Arizona Fall League title, there was talk that he might be protected.  Case does not profile as a big strikeout guy, which probably is why he was left off the 40.  Similarly, Davis had a strong fall for Peoria, and boosted his stock as a speedy, versatile fourth outfielder.  He might be a good fit for a team in need of that commodity.  Pentecost did not do much to show that he would be worth stashing on a 25-man for a year.  At this point, he has yet to prove he can Catch every day, and he struggled against AFL pitching.  It would be a surprise to see him selected.

With the roster now at 39, the Blue Jays have a chance to add a player at the Rule 5.

 

 

 

 

 

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Toronto Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects – #5 Sean Reid-Foley/Richard Urena

pjimageFor the first time since I started ranking Blue Jays in 2013, I honestly can’t make my mind up about a pair of prospects.

RHP Sean Reid-Foley and SS Richard Urena had their struggles at AA this year, but there’s still tremendous updside to both.  Perhaps the biggest challenge this year was condensing what’s becoming a system with some decent depth into a Top 10 list, and I just could not fathom ranking either player any lower (or higher) for that matter.  Neither deserved to be at the top of the list, nor did they merit being left off altogether.  #5 is a suitable, mid prospect-range place to put them.

For someone pressed for time this spring, watching SRF’s first half-dozen starts was a Godsend.  Wildness drove up his pitch count early, and he failed to last beyond the 3rd inning in five of those.  By his own admission, Reid-Foley was trying to blow his fastball by hitters in his first go at AA (where he was one of the youngest starting pitchers in the league).  He tended to rush his delivery, and threw his four-seamer up and out of the strike zone.  Hitters at the lower levels often chased that pitch, but the more disciplined Eastern League hitters refuse to offer, putting him behind in the count often.  Hitters then sat on that fastball when he caught too much of the strike zone.

Early in the season, with his pitch count up quickly, he found himself pulled.  It wasn’t until he hit rock bottom on a May 2nd start, when he couldn’t get out of the first inning (lifted with two outs, having given up four runs, three walks, needing 37 pitches to do so), that SRF began to turn things around.  In his next 16 starts, Reid-Foley pitched into the 6th inning 9 times, and began to look more like the mid-rotation starter that he was projected to be.

The knock against him has long been that he lacked the experience to make mechanical adjustments on the fly, resulting in long innings and early hooks.  After a 2016 split between Lansing and Dunedin, in which he fanned 130 batters in 115 innings, Reid-Foley had appeared to learn how to make those in-game changes.  He had moved up to #4 in Baseball America‘s Top 10 Blue Jays rankings, and had even cracked their Top 100, coming in at #75.

When Reid-Foley rushes his delivery in attempt to bump his fastball (which already sits 93-95), he opens up early, and his command is very inconsistent.  As the season progressed, he repeated his delivery with greater frequency.  He could still dial it up to 97, with what was termed “effective wildness.”   SRF had one of the highest (10.6%) swinging strike rates in the Eastern League, and his line drive rate of 18.5% was reasonably low.  Only two pitchers had a higher K/9 rate than SRF’s 8.28.  There’s still plenty of reason for optimism with those numbers.

The bread and butter of Reid-Foley’s arsenal is that fastball.  His slider is probably his best secondary pitch, but both that pitch and his curve have plus potential.  His inability to command that fastball at times this year, of course, limited the effectiveness of his secondaries.  One scouting report from May suggested that his mechanics have been an issue:

Reid-Foley works from an abbreviated delivery that appears as being from the stretch, with a side-step delivery and compact arm action and above-average arm strength. His trouble repeating seems rooted in what’s appears be some limited athleticism in keeping the moving parts of his large frame working together through to an online finish. He had trouble working down in the strike zone and getting over his front side in this viewing.

Given his struggles this year, there was more talk that like rotation mate Conner Greene, who had his issues as well this year, Reid-Foley would be better suited to a back-of-the-bullpen role, where his fastball would play up.  The club will more than likely continue to give him every chance to succeed as a starter, however.  He has the build and three-pitch mix to turn a lineup over and give the team a lot of innings.  SRF was sent back to Lansing in 2016 after finishing in Dunedin in 2015.  One wonders if he may repeat AA to start 2018, before moving up to Buffalo’s rotation.

*****************************************************

Urena, of course, finished the season as Troy Tulowitzki’s injury replacement at SS.  He’s been almost a perennial Top 10 guy since his first pro season in 2013, but as Urena has moved up the ladder, his flaws have been exposed. He acquitted himself well in September, however.

All of Urena’s tools except for his speed show glimpses of above average potential, but consistency and a lack of polish at the plate and with the glove seem to relegate him to average status.

A swtich hitter, we observed earlier this year that he has different swings from each side:

Ureña hits from both sides, but he has shown markedly different mechanics and approach with each.  From the left side (his natural one), he utlizes a leg kick, and has a long, looping swing that can leave him susceptible to off-speed pitches, and can result in weak contact.  From the right side, Ureña uses only a toe tap and a much more compact swing, which allows him to drive the ball to the opposite field.

Urena got off to a very slow start this year, flirting with the Mendoza Line for much of the first two months.  His approach can best be described as aggressive; he can hammer mistakes, especially from the left side, but he gives away a lot of ABs going after pitcher’s pitches.  He has slowly demonstrated improving strike zone judgement over the course of his minor league career, but he struck out a whopping 37.5% of the time against MLB pitching.  Urena has quick wrists and good bat speed, but he does not make a lot of hard contact.

In the field, Urena has a plus arm, good reactions, and decent footwork, but he often makes careless throwing errors when he doesn’t plant his feet, and he has been known to boot the odd routine groundball.  His reactions help to make up for his relative lack of speed when it comes to his range.

Urena could profile as an above average offensive player, and a generally average defensive one.  The performance this year makes one question whether he’ll ever reach that ceiling.  At the same time, there are those tools, which just can’t be ignored, and the fact that he’s only 21.  Given his age and Tulowitzki’s contract, Urena should be headed to Buffalo for more seasoning come April.

3 Blue Jays Prospects Suspended for PED Use

hugocardona

The look says it all.  16 year-old Hugo Cardona of La Sabana, Venezuela, signs his first pro contract on July 2nd of last year.  It’s for a modest sum in the land of international bonuses, but it’s an opportunity for him and his family to escape the cycle of poverty in his turmoil-filled homeland.

Cardona was one of 3 Toronto Blue Jays prospects were among 5 players handed lengthy suspensions for positive PED tests yesterday.

SS Hugo Cardona, C Leonicio Ventura, and UT Yhon Perez were all handed 72 game bans for testing positive for Boldenone.  The website steroidly.com says that Boldenone, “is one of the most popular and commonly used anabolic androgenic steroids by competitive and non-competing bodybuilders and athletes today.”  Available only in veterenarian’s offices in the USA, it was developed to treat horses.  The list of minor side effects include acne, oily skin, excess hair growth, and deepening of the voice.  Major side effects are many, such as increased risk of cancer, heart and liver disease, high blood pressure, and obstructive sleep apnea.

All 3 players made their pro debuts with the Dominican Summer League Blue Jays this year.  18 year old Cardona was one of the organization’s top international free agents last summer, signing for a $300K bonus (the maximum the Blue Jays could offer as a result of penalties imposed for exceeding their total bonus pool limit after signing Vladimir Guerrero Jr the previous year).  Assistant GM Andrew Tinnish was very high on Cardona prior to the season, calling his arm “plus,” and his speed, “plus-plus,”  and that he profiled as a top of the order hitter if his bat came around.  After a slow start, Cardona finished with a line of .249/.342/.285.  20 year old Dominican Ventura split Catching duties, and led the team with a .790 OPS.  17 year old Venezuelan Perez played several positions, slashing .249/.335/.332.   Of the trio, only Cardona likely would be moving stateside to play in the Gulf Coast League next year.

It seems like the majority of players who test positive for PEDs are from Latin America.  There are a variety of reasons for that, most of them cultural, according to Cleveland blogger Justin Lada of Burning River Baseball:

Lack of education can play a factor and I am sure a language barrier can make that an even bigger issue. I think they see it as a way that will help them earn life changing money since many are sending money back to their families in poor parts of their home countries. I think there are cases where some players and even trainers will allow them to take certain things and just tell them its OK to take.

In many cases, it’s a lack of awareness of either what they’re taking, or the dangers of taking it.  And money, of course, is a motivating factor in places like the Dominican Republic, where the annual per capita income is about $2500 US.  Unscrupulous Buscones, the greedier versions of the famed Latin traininers, can also be a factor.  Their influence over their charges can’t be discounted, and if they say a substance is fine and will help a player’s game, the majority of 16 year olds that come to their academices to train and hopefully land a pro contract will go along willingly.

Their suspensions take effect at the beginning of DSL play in mid-June, and likely wipe out any hope of playing in 2018, a huge blow to the trio’s collective development.  If past history is any indication, the Blue Jays will likely stick with Cardona, even given their comparatively modest investment in him.  The other two probably will be released before spring training is over.

 

4 Jays Prospects Help Propel Peoria to AFL Title Game

Three Blue Jays prospects have played prominent roles in taking their talent-laden Peoria Javelinas to the Arizona Fall League championship game.

OF Jonathan Davis was a 15th round pick in 2013 out of Central Arkansas.  Injuries limited his development early on in his minor league career, but he’s been a steady, get-on-base (.376 at A+ last year, .361 at AA in 2017) guy at the top of the order.  His speed may not be in the Anthony Alford/D.J.Davis/Reggie Pruitt category, but he’s stolen 54 bases over the past two years.  Davis can play all three outfield positions.  Initially sent to the AFL for some exposure to advanced competition, he’s boosted his stock with a .295/.389/.410 fall.  Davis has to be considered at least a fringe 4th oufielder with his showing this year.  He hit an absolute rocket in Peoria’s come-from-behind win last Saturday:

 

 

IF Lourdes Gurriel has split time between 2B and SS for Peoria, and has been a fixture in the botton third of their lineup.  The much-heralded Cuban off season signing had his pro debut season marred by injuries and the rust of almost two years of baseball inactivity.  His stint in the AFL was designed to give him more reps.  He did not set the league on fire, but was solid on both sides of the ball.  Gurriel showed some pop, as suggested by his .802 OPS.  He has a chance at least a utility role in spring training – it feels like the real Lourdes has not quite shown up yet.

Reliever Andrew Case, a New Brunswick native, must be placed on the 40-man roster by Monday, or risk being claimed in the Rule 5 draft.  He may be a long shot, but Case built on a solid 2017 in which he pitched at three levels.  Not a strikeout an inning hurler, Case did not give up an earned run in 10 appearances for Peoria pitching primarily in a set-up role.

T.J Zeuch, who we had written about earlier, has also had a fine fall in the desert, and gets the start for Peoria.

The championship game between Peoria and Mesa will be broadcast on MLB network at 1:08 MST on Saturday.

Blue Jays Linked to Top 2018 IFA SS

Ben Badler of Baseball America attended the showcase of top prospects for next July 2nd in the Dominican Republic earlier this month, and in an article today suggested that the Blue Jays are the odds-on favourite to land 15 year-old SS Orelvis Martinze next summer.  Martinez is expected to command the highest bonus of all IFAs when he signs.

Fresh off this past July 2nd, when the club signed 5 of the top 40 ranked prospects, including Brazilian P Eric Pardinho, the Blue Jays appear to be very competitive in the IFA market.

Martinez showed well in pre-game batting practice and drills during the event, which was held by Major League Baseball.  Having not played in several months, he was rusty at the plate, however.  And his below average 60-yard times suggest that the 5’11″/175 youngster will eventually grow off of the position.

At the plate, Martinez already shows smooth mechanics.  His bat takes a short path to the ball, and he gets good extension on his swing.  He barrels up ball consistently with excellent bat speed.  His motions are fluid and swift.  In the field, he doesn’t show actions that are as smooth, and that coupled with his relative lack of speed lend support to the idea that he may shift over to 3rd. His hit tool is the strongest element of his toolkit.  With the loft he gets on his swing, it’s easy to project some power down the road.

Of course, it’s highly unofficial that Martinez will sign with the Blue Jays.  As we have learned in the past, however, where there’s international prospect smoke, there’s usually fire.  Pardinho was linked to the Jays well in advance of this year’s July 2nd signing date, as was Vladimir Guerrero Jr two years ago.  Credit goes to Blue Jays Assistant GM Andrew Tinnish, and Director of Latin American Ops Sandy Rosario for their work.  Despite bonus limits imposed last year by signing Vladdy Jr the previous one, the Blue Jays got good value from the players they did sign in 2016, despite not being able to offer a bonus beyond $300K.

Martinez is expected to sign for a bonus in the neighbourhood of $3 million. Cuban RHP Oseil Reodriguez, who hit 96 at the showcase, will likely be the top IFA Pitcher.

 

Toronto Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects #6 T.J. Zeuch

The 2016 1st round pick has found redemption in the desert.

Limited to all of 12 innings after a late May stint on the disabled list that stretched into the summer, T.J. Zeuch has been drawing rave reviews for his work in the Arizona Fall League.  Count MLB.com’s Mike Rosenbaum, who caught him in action this month, a fan:

There’s a lot to like about Zeuch, who has a chance to be a successful big league starter based solely on his sinker, a bowling ball of a pitch that’s product of his tremendous extension towards the plate and makes him difficult to barrel for hitters on both sides of the plate (think Aaron Sanchez or a young Rick Porcello). Combine that with a slider that flashes above average and a changeup with similar potential, and the makings are there for a future No. 3 or 4 starter at the highest level.

When he locates that sinker down in the strike zone, Zeuch induces a lot of weak contact, as evidenced by his 61.5% ground ball rate this year.

chart
MLBfarm.com

Delivered from an over the top arm slot, it gets considerable downward, eye plane-changing movement.

The trick for Zeuch, of course, is to be able to consistently locate that pitch.  When he doesn’t,  his fastball tends to get hit when he lives up in the zone.  Reports on his secondaries were not all as glowing as the one above, although they have progressed considerably since he turned pro.  Their continued development will determine whether or not Zeuch reaches that mid-rotation starter projection.

Zeuch might be in line for a promotion to AA New Hampshire in 2018, but given his injury history this year, he may begin the year in Dunedin, forming a formidable 1-2 punch with 2017 1st rounder Nate Pearson.  Zeuch does not profile as a front of the rotation starter, but he has the build and clean mechanics to potentially eat a fair number of innings, depending on his ability to turn over a lineup.  Zeuch is not ready to compete for a major league job next spring, but if he can build on his success in Arizona next season, he could be in the mix for a rotation spot sometime in the 2019 season.  If/when he reaches AA this year, we will truly have a clearer idea of his long range outlook.  A small sample size of his work against elite prospects this fall suggests that he should succeed at that level.

For further viewing – a compilation of Zeuch’s Arizona work by Baseball America:

 

For a more detailed look at Zeuch from a May start this year, have a look here.

 

 

 

 

 

Will a New Team Change Alex Anthopoulos’ ways?

I have to admit to mixed feelings about former Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, who landed with Atlanta yesterday.

When fans almost everywhere were tweeting #FireAA in the early 2-teens, I was a steadfast AA defender, even as his attempted overhaul of the team in the fall of 2012 ultimately proved unsuccessful.  He was a Canadian kid who had made good with two Canadian teams.  He went to the same school (McMaster), and was in the same program (Economics) as my oldest son.

As a guy who follows the minor leagues closely, I was dismayed with the quantity of prospects he dealt from November, 2014 to the the trade deadline the following July, even though it brought the team back to the post season for the first time since that son was a toddler.  It was as if six years of also-ran status was erased in the space of just over two months.  When Anthopoulos left the club shortly after the team was defeated in the ALCS, his image rehabilitation was complete, and he became something of a deity in the eyes of fans (many of whom had clambered aboard the bandwagon weeks earlier).  The FireAA fans were too impatient, while the halo-effect crowd seemed to have forgotten about a half dozen mediocre years prior.  And it’s not like the guys he dealt that July have set the world on fire just yet.

Along with amateur scouting director Blake Parker, Blue Jays drafts were a thing to marvel at, and it still is an interesting exercise to look back on them today.  They found some clever work arounds of the new slotting system, and they weren’t afraid to roll the dice on draft day, often gambling on that most risky draft commodity of all, the high school Pitcher.  And they weren’t afraid to punt a pick – whether it be a Tyler Beede, who turned into Marcus Stroman a year later (not signing Beede also freed up cash to convince Daniel Norris to forego his Clemson commitment) , or Phil Bickford, who begat Max Pentecost.  During the period 2010-14, Anthopoulos and Parker drafted and signed 9 Pitchers who made 20 starts from 2016-17,  but only 2 of them are currently with the Blue Jays.  That fact, as much as anything, might summarize the Anthopoulos philosophy on roster construction.  Just the same, there is a solid legacy in place in Toronto from his years at the helm:  Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Danny Barnes, Ryan Tepera, and Roberto Osuna were all drafted/signed and developed during his tenure, along with Anthony Alford, Sean Reid-Foley, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr, among others.

And now in Atlanta, AA takes over a team with the number one-ranked farm system in the game, a new stadium, and hope for the future.  He also inherits an organization that likely will face some harsh sanctions for their international dealings under disgraced former GM John Coppolella – the Braves may have many of their IFA signings declared free agents, including prized prospect Kevin Maitan.  With the Braves heading into year three of a rebuild, he may be under some pressure to make moves to put more fans in the stands – despite a new park, the Braves last year were middle-of-the-pack in terms of attendance, and their local television deal has been called well-below market value.

What will his approach to building his 25-man be?  Will he deal from this wealth of prospects to upgrade it, or will he allow his young players to grow into it?  The Braves have what Baseball America calls the deepest group of pitching prospects in the game, as well as Ronald Acuna, the best prospect in the minors with the possible exception of one Vladdy Jr.

Certainly, his time in Los Angeles has reinforced to Anthopoulos the importance of building from within.  In Toronto, he did have to take something of a riverboat gambler’s approach:  knowing that most free agents were reluctant to come north of the border, he had to deal from his prospect base in order to fill gaping holes in the MLB roster.  We may never know how the behind the scenes events of 2015 played out.  Did President Paul Beeston, who was on the way out the door himself, give his blessing to AA’s deadline moves in an attempt to go out in a mutual blaze of glory?  Had he known he was staying, would Anthopoulos have pumped the brakes on his dealing, or will his philosophy of “Flags fly forever/Prospects are good, parades are better,” always be part and parcel of how he attempts to put together a winner?

Anthopoulos takes over a team in transition and in some turmoil.  His previous experience dealing with Rogers in Toronto should serve him well in Georgia – the Braves are baseball’s only other corporate-owned team.  On the whole, I’m happy for AA.  For whatever reasons, it’s a shame that he either was forced out, or left Toronto of his own accord.  It would have been nice to see where he would have gone with this club.  A cynic might observe that he left the team with an aging core and little farm system depth with which to use in some way or another to upgrade it, while an optimist might say that a guy who dealt Adam Lind for Marco Estrada would find creative ways to improve it.

I wish him well, and will follow Atlanta more closely than I have in the past now that he’s running the show.

Toronto Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects #7 Logan Warmoth

Warmoth2017
Clutchlings Photo

When it comes to the MLB draft, many fans don’t realize that for some teams, selecting a player is the culmination of several years of patiently watching a player develop, and cultivating a relationship with that player, and hoping he’ll still be on the board when their turn to select comes.

The Blue Jays were thrilled to land North Carolina SS Logan Warmoth with their first of two first-round picks (22nd overall) in last June’s First Year Player Draft.  Scouting Director Steve Sanders said after the draft:

 He’s a player we’ve scouted for a long time….he wasn’t a propsect out of High School, but he steadily improved at North Carolina, and that really showed this year.  He’s very steady and a well-rounded player, with a chance to stay at SS and hit for power.  His make up is off the charts, and he has the intangibles to be a top of the lineup hitter.

Prior to his final college season, Warmoth was considered a lock to go in the top two or three rounds of the draft.  With his customary work ethic, his development took another huge leap forward, and by June he was considered the top SS prospect in the draft.  Sent to Vancouver after the customary brief stint in the GCL, Warmoth was ranked the Northwest League’s 6th prospect by Baseball America.

I had a chance to watch Warmoth a number of times this summer, both online and in person at Vancouver’s venerable Nat Bailey Stadium, and even though he was in short season ball, Warmoth looks like a future Major Leaguer.   At the plate, he has what scouts call, “a feel for the barrel.”  And over the course of the games I saw him play, he did indeed square up a number of pitches, rarely having a bad At Bat.  In the field, Warmoth displayed good range, footwork, hands, and a strong arm, which scouts have rated as his best tool.  He lacks that explosive first reaction to the ball that separates pros from the amateurs, and there’s no doubt that the High Performance staff are working with him this off season to develop a quicker first step.

If you watch a small sample size of Warmoth, you may not come away impressed; he does not have one whelming tool.  Over the course of several games, however, you will see him do something special with the bat or glove, or on the basepaths.

Warmoth was called pull-happy prior to the draft, and with his bat speed and ability to recognize pitches, he does get out in front, but the Blue Jays worked with him this summer to use the whole field more, and it showed:

Logan Warmoth
MLBfarm.com

There are some who suggest that Warmoth may not stick at SS, and that he profiles better as a top third of the order offensive 2nd Baseman.  He has an ahtletic frame, and there is still some room for him to fill out.  The comp that has been made most often is to Orioles’ SS JJ Hardy, and that’s a reasonable one.  While there still is room for development (for someone with good strike zone management, Warmoth did not draw a lot of walks – 4% – at Vancouver this year), he profiles as a steady 2nd Division player.   Warmoth is a good defender, runner, and has a smooth, line-drive swing.  He should skip Lansing next year and being 2018 in Dunedin.

Toronto Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects #7 Logan Warmoth

Warmoth2017
Clutchlings Photo

When it comes to the MLB draft, many fans don’t realize that for some teams, selecting a player is the culmination of several years of patiently watching a player develop, and cultivating a relationship with that player, and hoping he’ll still be on the board when their turn to select comes.

The Blue Jays were thrilled to land North Carolina SS Logan Warmoth with their first of two first-round picks (22nd overall) in last June’s First Year Player Draft.  Scouting Director Steve Sanders said after the draft:

 He’s a player we’ve scouted for a long time….he wasn’t a propsect out of High School, but he steadily improved at North Carolina, and that really showed this year.  He’s very steady and a well-rounded player, with a chance to stay at SS and hit for power.  His make up is off the charts, and he has the intangibles to be a top of the lineup hitter.

Prior to his final college season, Warmoth was considered a lock to go in the top two or three rounds of the draft.  With his customary work ethic, his development took another huge leap forward, and by June he was considered the top SS prospect in the draft.  Sent to Vancouver after the customary brief stint in the GCL, Warmoth was ranked the Northwest League’s 6th prospect by Baseball America.

I had a chance to watch Warmoth a number of times this summer, both online and in person at Vancouver’s venerable Nat Bailey Stadium, and even though he was in short season ball, Warmoth looks like a future Major Leaguer.   At the plate, he has what scouts call, “a feel for the barrel.”  And over the course of the games I saw him play, he did indeed square up a number of pitches, rarely having a bad At Bat.  In the field, Warmoth displayed good range, footwork, hands, and a strong arm, which scouts have rated as his best tool.  He lacks that explosive first reaction to the ball that separates pros from the amateurs, and there’s no doubt that the High Performance staff are working with him this off season to develop a quicker first step.

If you watch a small sample size of Warmoth, you may not come away impressed; he does not have one whelming tool.  Over the course of several games, however, you will see him do something special with the bat or glove, or on the basepaths.

Warmoth was called pull-happy prior to the draft, and with his bat speed and ability to recognize pitches, he does get out in front, but the Blue Jays worked with him this summer to use the whole field more, and it showed:

Logan Warmoth
MLBfarm.com

There are some who suggest that Warmoth may not stick at SS, and that he profiles better as a top third of the order offensive 2nd Baseman.  He has an ahtletic frame, and there is still some room for him to fill out.  The comp that has been made most often is to Orioles’ SS JJ Hardy, and that’s a reasonable one.  While there still is room for development (for someone with good strike zone management, Warmoth did not draw a lot of walks – 4% – at Vancouver this year), he profiles as a steady 2nd Division player.   Warmoth is a good defender, runner, and has a smooth, line-drive swing.  He should skip Lansing next year and being 2018 in Dunedin.

Toronto Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects – #8 Conner Greene

I don’t tend to write critically about Blue Jays prospects – I will be the first to admit that.  I prefer to state my opinion about their tools, the strengths, and their weaknesses, and let you the reader form yours.

It was during a conversation with Blue Jays Director of Player Development Gil Kim that I came to understand that there was a sixth tool that we as fans often overlook, but baseball insiders are keenly aware of:  the intangible quality called make up.  Kim even called it the sixth tool.  Subsequent conversations with Amateur Scouting Director Steve Sanders and High Performance Director Angus Mugford confirmed the importance of what the dictionary calls, “the combination of qualities that form a person’s temperament.”  As Mugford pointed out, skills-wise, there is not to distinguish a lot of minor league players from one another.  Make up, more often than not, seems to be the determining factor.  Those who have it tend to reach the top far more often than those who don’t.

Which brings us to Conner Greene.

Greene was a gem uncovered by the previous administration, one of those high risk/high reward prospects former Scouting Director Blake Parker, under the direction of noted dice-roller Alex Anthopoulos,  the Blue Jays coveted.  Baseball America‘s draft report:

Long and lean at 6-foot-3, 160 pounds, Greene is all about projection. He has a high waist, long legs and a quick arm, and he has cleaned up his delivery, helping him touch 91-92 mph on occasion. He usually pitches at 87-88, and his secondary stuff is underdeveloped. He throws a splitter rather than a changeup, and the pitch has sink but is inconsistent. His curve has 11-to-5 break, and his best ones rate as 40s on the 20-80 scouting scale. He needs to sharpen it up and improve his command of his entire repertoire.

Greene committed to the legendary JC of Southern Nevada, but a $100K bonus offered by the Blue Jays, who had taken him in the 7th round, helped him change his mind.  Greene had a rocky pro debut in 2013, and repeated the Gulf Coast League the following year, but his career took off when he was promoted to full season Lansing in 2015, after which he was ranked the Blue Jays 2nd prospect by BA.  Discovered by the Toronto media last spring, Greene stumbled in his second go at AA this year, despite the fact that he dialed up his fastball to triple digits on occasion.

Much of Greene’s difficulties stemmed from his not being able to command that fastball this year.  An 8% swinging strike rate indicates that he did not miss a lot of bats for someone with his heat, and a 43% pull rate reflects that he lived up in the zone (and was squared up) frequently.  The silver lining has to be his 52% ground ball rate, which likely came off of weak contact against his curve or change up.  His 13.6% BB rate, which was far and away the highest in the Eastern League,  demonstrates that finding the strike zone was a challenge.  Greene was pitching from behind for much of the summer, a high-wire act that few Pitchers can successfully walk.

Greene’s fastball, obviously, is the primary weapon in his arsenal.  It does not have much movement, but when he commands it gives him a great margin for error. His change is still inconsistent at this point, but multiple evaluators have called it a potential above average pitch once he can throw it close to the strike zone consistently.  His curve and slider have made tremendous strides, but both need to progress more if he is to turn a lineup over. They function more as an option to keep hitters honest at this point. Greene’s is an intriguing arm, but at this point he seems to be more of a thrower than a Pitcher.

To get back to the concerns about make up,  reports about Greene suggest that his levels of grit and resilience may not be the highest, and his troubles this season may have come from an inability to make necessary adjustments. Whether that was mechanical or attidutinal is up for speculation, but it was a frustrating season for Greene (who sometimes seemed to let his emotions get the better of him during games), and many who were watching him.  This was Greene’s first extended taste of difficulty in pro ball.  The question is will this experience help him grow, or will it keep him from doing so?

It’s hard to say where the Blue Jays go from here with Greene.  Do they continue to let him develop as a starter next year in Buffalo, or do they convert him to relief, where his high velo coupled with his change could be a devastating late inning combination?  Or, since he was a signing from a previous regime, do they view him as a long-term player, or do they include him in a package to help fill a need on the major league roster?  One thing is for sure:  Greene needs to be added to the 40-man by November 18th, or he will be exposed to the Rule 5 draft, where he won’t last long.   The betting here is that he will be added;  Pitchers who top 100 don’t come along every day.  That Greene will eventually learn to harness his stuff and forge a big league career is not as sure.