Schneider the Right Man to Take the Blue Jays Forward

Schneid
Trentonian.com photo

The Blue Jays have a prospect who has steadily climbed through their minor league system, and is poised to head to the majors before long.

We’re not talking about Danny Jansen, Vladimir Guerrero Jr, or Bo Bichette (although all three have played for him).  We’re talking about AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats’ Manager John Schneider, who is one of the top Managerial prospects in the game.

Schneider was a Catcher in the Jays system from 2002-2007, until injuries forced him into retirement.  He stayed in the organization as a Catching Instructor.  In 2008, he was named the GCL Jays Hitting Coach, and took over as Manager a year later, and was the youngest at that position in all of Minor League Baseball at the time.

Schneider has continually progressed up the Blue Jays system, with stops at Vancouver, Lansing, and Dunedin, where he led the team to the first Florida State League title in the team’s 33 year history.

Along the way, he’s worked with Jansen, Guerrero, and Bichette, along with Ryan Borucki, Cavan Biggio, T.J. Zeuch, Jon Harris, Max Pentecost, and Jonathan Davis.  And he’s gained a solid reputation as a player’s Manager in the process.  From an observer close to the team, here are a couple of examples:

-A pitcher was really struggling and instead of (Pitching Coach Mark) Riggins going out to the mound, Schneider did and got the kid to laugh along with the infielders. Pitcher relaxed and continued on in the game.

-In Lansing a couple of years ago, he thought the team was too loose and unfocused, laying around on the couches and playing ping pong like everything was ok. So he had the ping pong table removed and all of the couches removed and the players had to earn them back.

– In the midst of a terrible 9 game losing streak last season, he told the entire team the next night’s game was at 6:30 and not to show up until 6:00. Result; broke the losing streak and that team went off on a tear that won the FSL championship.

 

With the Blue Jays likely finally to get the go-ahead from Rogers for a full-on rebuild, the composition of the 25-man roster looks to be significantly younger from the current one.  Manager John Gibbons has worked with young players throughout his post-playing career, but one wonders if he has the will to go through another rebuild at this point, or if he’s the right man for the job.  A veteran Manager might be the cure for an underperforming veteran-laden team, and the team probably owes it to Gibbons to let him pursue other opportunities if his heart isn’t into a tear down.

Many have thought former MLB Manager Eric Wedge, currently serving as a field co-ordinator/advisor in the Player Development department, has always been a Manager-in-waiting for the team.  Truth be told, Wedge has not been in charge in a dugout since 2013, and at 50, is more than a dozen years older than Schneider.  And is baseball terms, that’s a significant gap.  Players of this era don’t respond well to the old methods, which sometimes seems to mainly consist of yelling.  That’s not to say that Wedge comes from the school, but Schneider has proven that he’s much more in touch with the mix of millennials that will soon form the core of the Blue Jays roster.

The knock against Schneider is that he’s never been in the majors in any capacity.  Some might argue that his skills might be better developed if he spent some time as an MLB coach first.  That would mean an opening would have to be created on the Toronto staff (I know many of you could suggest a candidate).  Schneider does have over 800 games of experience as an MiLB Manager, and knowing the players he’ll likely get getting from the minors has to be a huge advantage – he knows their respective strengths and weaknesses, and already has their respect. A seasoned bench coach would likely be a huge benefit to him as het gets to know the league. If it’s time to make a clean sweep and get on with the rebuild, the most obvious change should be at the top.  Schneider has won throughout the system, and has contributed greatly to the development of many of the team’s Top 10 prospects.  He’s widely regarded throughout the organization, as well as minor league baseball.  As a rookie Manager, he’s bound to make mistakes, but like his young charges, he’ll have a chance to grow.  As one of the top Managerial prospects in the minors, he may not last long if the Blue Jays don’t soon promote him.

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Canada’s Newest Favourite Team – the Bluefield Blue Jays

BluefieldBlueJayscap

Move over New Hampshire Fisher Cats and your Vlad/Bo travelling Boy Band road show;  take your twenty games over .500 despite shipping out your top prospect every few weeks, Lansing Lugnuts, and have a seat.  Canada has a new favourite minor league team – the Appalachian League’s Bluefield Blue Jays.

A solid 2017 draft, a decent 2016 international free agent group, and the top IFA from 2017 have all converged on Bluefield to create a team that is laying waste to Appy League pitching, and sits atop the East Division with a 15-4 record.

We asked Zach Helton (@z_helton on Twitter) to describe the players who have stood out so far to him:

Hitting – Dom Abbadessa continuing to swing a hot bat all while playing tremendous defense in Center Field.  Thru 19 games he’s hitting .385, slugging .477, 3 doubles and 1 HR.

DJ Neal also another outfielder who continues to rake and make all faciets of the game look easy. .359 Avg. 10 extra base hits including 3 Triples, and 15 RBIs here in the early going.

Alejandro Kirk has been splitting time between Catcher and DH but has found a spot in the cleanup spot in the order. .333 Avg, among the Appalachian League leaders in RBI with 19 along with 5 Doubles and a HR.

Davis Schneider .327 Avg, has split time at 2B and 3B, great glove, great bat. 7 extra base hits so far, 4 Doubles, 1 Triple, 2 HRs, and 9 RBIs.

Luis De Los Santos Finally the SS has shined in the field making everything look smooth and effortless.  Hitting .313 as well with 4 Triples (Leads League), 4 HRs (in Top 10 in League), and 13 RBIs (Also in Top 10 of League).

Bluefield has outscored every Appy League team to this point, and their .299 team mark is second-best.  They’ve also drawn more walks and stolen more bases than any other team.

But it’s just not the bats that are worth noting, according to Helton:

Pitching – Sean Racokoski out of the pen has come in and shut the door on everyone face so far. 3 and 0, 4 Saves leading the Appalachian League in both categories. In 8 IP, only allowed 2 runs, on 7 hits with a 1.38 WHIP to go along with 10 Ks.

Eric Pardinho the face of Brazilian baseball has not disappointed so far this summer. Despite the 1 and 2 record, he has had 3 tremendous outing. 1.38 ERA, 0.54 WHIP, among the League Leaders in Strikeouts with 19, while walking only 2 in 13 IP.

Claudio Galva is another solid starter in Bluefield. 2 and 0 in 3 starts, 2.40 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 12 Ks, 4 BB, in 15 IP.

Cre Finfrock is 2 and 0 out of the bullpen. 3.00 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 10 Ks, 1 BB, 9 IP.

It may be early in the Appalachian League schedule, but this has been a great experience for Helton, as you might expect:

Such a fun team to watch! Only one bad loss on the year (16-3 loss to Kingsport July, 8th.) This team has the tools to not only compete for an Appalachian League title but feed the Toronto Farm for years to come.

Players toiling for Bluefield this summer are still several years away from even approaching the big leagues.  For all of them, this is their first extended taste of “under the lights,” play, and dealing with the travel that accompanies this level.  That this team is off to such as good start is a testament to the drafting and development the Blue Jays have done as an organization over the past two years.

Blue Jays Last 10 Prospect Hot Sheet

These are the top performers in the Blue Jays minor league system over the past ten days.

1.  Grffin Conine, Vancouver OF

The 2nd round pick in June’s draft needed a short period to acclimate to pro ball, and he’s been on a tear ever since.  Conine blasted 3 Home Runs over the past 10, and posted an OPS of 1.236.

The 2017 Cape Cod Summer League top prospect, Conine’s stock saw him slip out of the first round this year as he attempted to sell out for more power.  His downgrade and bloodlines were a perfect match for the Blue Jays.  Perhaps as a pro he’s now settled into a routine, and might be tapping into his projected power.

2.  Eric Pardinho, Bluefield P

The top-ranked 2017 international free agent has not disappointed in his pro debut.  Playing in the Appalachian League against players 2 and 3 years older, Pardinho tossed a gem in his third start, allowing only 1 hit over 5 scoreless innings while fanning 9.

The plan for Pardinho is to gradually increase his pitch count – he’s at 65 pitches at the moment.  Whether or not that means a promotion to Vancouver later this summer remains to be seen, but the fans of Bluefield may have a season to remember this year, and Pardinho will probably be a huge part of that.

3.  Tanner Kirwer, Vancouver OF

The Sherwood Park, AB native, a 20th round pick last year, was just beginning to hit his stride with Bluefield last July when he was hit by a pitch, ending his season.

Shipped out to Vancouver this year, Kirwer is starting to show the power/speed combo the Blue Jays saw when they selected him, posting a 1.192 OPS ans swiping 5 bases in 6 attempts.

4.  Yennsy Diaz, Dunedin P

The hard-throwing right hander has not missed a beat since being promoted to Dunedin last month, fanning 13 in 12 innings over his last 2 starts, posting a tidy 2.25 ERA.

What is becoming impressive about Diaz is how he keeps his mid 90s velocity deep into games; he’s also starting to pitch to contact more, allowing him to do so.

5.  Harold Ramirez, New Hampshire OF

Something of a forgotten man since being acquired from the Pirates in 2016, Ramirez repeated AA this year, but his bat seems to finally be on track after he slashed .394/.447/.727 with a trio of long balls over the last ten.

With that outburst, Ramirez has brought his average for the season over .300, and has helped to offset the absence of Vladimir Guerrero Jr in the Fisher Cats’ lineup.

 

Don’t Count Your Prospects Before They’re Hatched

I’m not normally one to single someone out like this, but here goes:

Look, I love prospects more than anyone.  Over the course of a season, I watch about twice as many MiLB games as I do the Major League version.  I like evaluating players, and talking to contacts around the continent about their strengths and weaknesses.

And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from a half-dozen years of writing about them, and a much longer span of observing them in general, it’s this:  until they prove themselves at the MLB level, prospects are just that.  They are players with plenty of promise, but have yet to realize it.

Minor league performance history is as good a predictor of success as anything, but the jump from AAA to MLB is the biggest one in baseball – maybe even in all of sports.  If you have a flaw in your game that your physical talents allowed you to conceal in the minors, you will be quickly and effectively exposed.

This is why teams have three option years on their players.  I’m not aware of any recent studies, but this one from 7 years ago found that it took, on average, between two and three seasons for Top Prospects to have their first 2-Win season.  It stands to reason that it would take players who are not necessarily near the top of the rankings even longer to attain a 2 WAR year (if they ever do).

The problem, I think, that because many fans’ knowledge of prospects doesn’t extend beyond what they’ve read, or the stats lines they’ve looked up, is that prospects can be enveloped in something of a halo effect.  Because they haven’t failed, or maybe because their faults have not been exposed on a prime-time stage, many people think that prospects can come in and take over for an MLB regular.

And more often than not, that’s not the case.

You don’t have to look much farther than the Blue Jays current 25-man roster for proof that prospects still need time to develop once they reach the majors.  Josh Donaldson was dealt by the team that drafted him (the Cubs), and after a brief audition with his new team (the Athletics), spent two and a half seasons at AAA before he became an everyday player. J.A Happ, easily the team’s most consistent starter this year, was up and down with the Phillies for three seasons before being dealt to Houston.  For every Mike Trout or Kris Bryant who comes up and reaches stardom right away, there are countless players who are sent back to AAA more seasoning.

We know that Bo Bichette lead the minors in hitting last year; what some may not know that he struggled earlier this season (his average bottoming out at .244), mainly because he was chasing too many pitches out of the strike zone.  And while his defence appears to be of MLB-quality, he isn’t the best defensive SS in the system – he may not even be #3 at a position where the team is now rich with prospects. This is Bo’s second year of full season ball, and only his third pro campaign.  Expecting him to step in and play every day next year is probably unrealistic.

Cavan Biggio has found the Eastern League air and pitching very much to his liking this year, and leads the loop in Home Runs.  His defence, at this point, could charitably be described as fringy.  He lacks the arm strength and range to play the position in the majors at the moment, which may explain why the team has employed him at several infield spots this season.  His bat holds some Rogers Centre promise, but his glove is not ready.

And Lord knows I’m a huge Anthony Alford booster since he took the time to answer a blogger’s questions somewhere over the Pacific, as he was coming home from Australia and a crash course in pitch recognition after giving up his college football commitment several years ago.  But his injury history is somewhat concerning, not just because of the frequency, but also because of the time it appears to take him to get back into form after time on the DL.  As of this writing, he’s hitting .215/.285/.307 in 45 games with Buffalo.

About the only name  (other than Vlad Jr) I might be in agreement with on the above list is Danny Jansen.  Even though he’s tailed off a bit, his average dipping just below .300, Jansen is an International League All Star, and the heir apparent to the everyday Catching job once Toronto figures out what to do with Russell Martin and his contract.  Still, it’s worth remembering that Jansen has missed some development time due to injury in his minor league career in one of the sport’s lengthier apprenticeships, and he still likely has some learning to do at the MLB level.  His initial trial in the bigs may not be successful.

Last fall, Blue Jays President/CEO Mark Shapiro indicated in an interview that the Blue Jays’ brain trust had the tool belts strapped on, and were ready to start a rebuild, but the corporate bosses at Rogers were not comfortable with the drop in attendance and ratings it would likely entail.  And the front office knows that progress is not always measured in a straight line, and that their prospects may need several cracks at becoming an MLB regular.  Shapiro has also talked about developing waves of prospects who will be ready to go if any of the group ahead of them don’t make the grade.  Development takes time, and doesn’t stop once a player is promoted to the 25-man.

The Blue Jays farm system holds as much promise as it has had in some time.  To the above list, you could add the recently graduated Ryan Borucki, as well approaching-readiness players like Sean Reid-Foley and TJ Zeuch, and not-far-away prospects like Nate Pearson, Kevin Smith, and Logan Warmoth.  With four prospects in Baseball America‘s Top 100, the system is becoming one of the top ones in the game.  But that’s not a guarantee of success – it depends on how well those players handle the transition from the minors to the majors.  And that’s why teams lacking a key piece will often pay a heavy price in prospects to acquire a player at the trade deadline.  A top player with a proven track record has more value – prospects are good, parades are better.

 

 

 

What to Expect from Ryan Borucki

 

ryan_borucki_getty
Baseball America

Injuries and underperformance have been slowly combining to force the Blue Jays to dip into their farm system to begin a gradual overhaul of the team.  That trend will continue on Tuesday when LHP Borucki, who has a record of 6-5, 3.27 with AAA Buffalo, makes his MLB debut against the World Series Champs Houston.

Grit

Borucki was considered to be the second-best HS Pitching prospect in Illinois in 2012, until a mid-March UCL tear caused his stock to drop all the way to the 15th round.  The elbow didn’t hold up in pro ball, and he underwent Tommy John surgery and missed all of the 2013 season.

Injuries robbed him of much of his 2015 season, as well.  When Borcuki came back with High A Dunedin in 2016, he was hit hard an often for Florida State League hitters, prompting a demotion to Low A, where he worked on adding some deception to his delivery, and refined his command.

The trials and tribulations Borucki experienced in his first 4 years of pro ball might have tempted some to call it a career, but he stuck with it. and two years after being sent to the lowest rung on the full season ladder, he’s on the cusp of making his MLB debut.

Fastball Command

Usually sitting 91-93 and touching 96, Borucki can command his FB to either side of the plate.  His height allows him to get a good downward plane on it, and he tends to live in the bottom half of the strike zone with it.

A Plus Change

The owner of the best change-up in the organization this side of Marco Estrada, Borucki’s change offers eye-level changing depth and movement.  When he’s ahead in the count, his change becomes a legitimate weapon, as he releases it from the same arm slot and speed as his fastball.

An Improved Slider

Once described as fringy, Borucki has improved his slider to the point where it has become a decent, keep-hitters-honest pitch.  A late-breaking pitch with good tilt, the development of this third pitch has helped Borucki progress from decent minor league starter to MLB call up.

Consistency

The lousy April weather wreaked havoc with Buffalo’s rotation, and Borucki went ten days before his first and second starts.  Since then, he’s pitched into the sixth inning in 11 straight starts.

Athleticism

Tall and lean at 6’4″/175, Borucki consistently repeats his clean delivery, and lands in a good position to field any balls hit back to him.  He can get off the mound quickly to grab choppers or slow rollers.

 

It’s been a long time coming for Borucki – 7 years as a minor leaguer (although he’s only 24), and countless hours of rehab and refining his pitches.  This may only prove to be an emergency start, and he may be back in Buffalo after it, but Borucki will become a mid-rotation anchor before long.

 

 

Blue Jays Last Ten Hot Sheet

Ok, if you’re scoring at home, it’s been a little more than ten days since the last post.

This is not a ranking of the Blue Jays Top 10 prospects – it’s a snapshot of who the top performers have been.

1.  Ryan Noda, Lansing

Noda tops the charts for the second straight time.  This guy is having a monster June, and has posted a ridiculous 1.460 OPS over the last ten days.

Many will be suggesting that the 2017 Appy League MVP has slugged his way into the Top 10 Prospects list.  That conversation should probably wait until we see what he does at the next level, but he certainly has slugged his way into consideration.

Noda’s 59 walks and .455 OBP lead the Midwest League by a wide margin – his BB total is second highest in the minors, and his OBP trails only some guy named Vlad.

Patient almost to a fault, the knock against Noda was that he sometimes was too selective.  He’s now doing a much better job of managing the strike zone.  Midwest League Pitchers pay a heavy price for their mistakes as a result.

After a long wait, Lansing’s games finally came online this past week with milb.com’s subscription service.  Let’s celebrate with some Noda video, narrated by our good friend Jesse Goldberg-Strassler:

 

2.  T.J. Zeuch, New Hampshire

Zeuch did not give up a run over two starts totalling 15 IP over the past ten days, and is really starting to open some eyes with his ability to generate ground ball contact and work deep into games.

Zeuch’s detractors will point to his low strikeout totals as evidence that he doesn’t miss enough bats to get MLB hitters out.  With his bowling ball sinker, he pitches to contact, and this season is getting hitters to ground out about 60% of the time.

In his first of two starts over this period, Zeuch worked a career-high 8 innings, and allowed only two hits and one walk, needing less than 90 pitches.  He followed that up with 7 innings, giving up a pair of unearned runs.  Zeuch was worked into the 7th in six straight starts.

3.  Eric Pardinho, Bluefield

Two years ago, the Blue Jays sent their prize IFA signing from the season before to the Appalachian League for a challenge to begin his pro career.  They’ve done the same with Pardinho, last year’s top ranked Pitcher.

Last fall AGM Andrew Tinnish indicated that Pardinho would likely start 2018 in the Gulf Coast League.  This is a common path for IFAs, allowing them time to acclimate to playing stateside.  Pardinho impressed so much this spring that the decision was made to send the Brazilian far from home to Bluefield.  If his first start is any indication, he may not last long there.

Pardinho pitched 4 strong innings in the Jays’ season opener, fanning 5.  He gave up 2 hits, which a witness said were more like swinging bunt singles.  He did allow a stolen base and followed that up with a wild pitch, likely indicating some nerves.  Pardinho hit 97 with his fastball, and showed a curve that already ranks as a plus pitch.  As Tinnish said last fall, it’s not just that velo that makes Pardinho special – it’s his secondaries, and his feel for pitching.

He’s still a long way away, and there will be bumps on the road, but that was an incredibly encouraging start.

4.  Yeltsin Gudino, Lansing

Long regarded as a glove-first player, Gudino is having some success at the plate this year.

The Blue Jays have focussed extensively through their amateur scouting efforts on up-the-middle players, which has led to a bit of a glut of middle infielders.  Gudino started the year in a utility role with Dunedin, but was overmatched by Florida State League hitters.  Sent to Lansing in early May, he’s responded to the regular playing time he’s received since Kevin Smith’s promotion, filling Smith’s 3B/SS role.

Gudino has hit .364 for the month, with a 1.162 OPS over the last 10 days, with three straight two-hit games.

5.  Miguel Hiraldo, DSL Jays

Imagine, for a moment, being Blue Jays Director of Player Development Gil Kim.  He has a pair of blue chip SS prospects in the upper levels in Richie Urena and Bo Bichette,  another brace of top prospects at Dunedin in Kevin Smith and Logan Warmoth, a couple at Low A in Gudino and Kevin Vicuna, and now with the complex leagues getting underway, he has to find playing time for top picks Jordan Groshans and Addison Barger, as well as Hiraldo, the top-ranked bat in last year’s IFA class.

It’s likely that Kim would prefer to have Hiraldo, who scouts suggest will have to move off of SS, a full season in the DSL to play the position.  If he continues to rake as he has, Kim will have a dilemma on his hands.  Hiraldo posted a 1.080 OPS over the last ten, and with 9 hits in his last 4 games, brought his average up to .418.

It’s hard to see him staying in the DSL much longer, but playing time could be an issue.  Kim likely would agree that’s a nice problem to have.

 

Blue Jays Draft Picks by Signing Scout

Theirs is a largely thankless job.

Since the early days of the last century, scouts have toiled largely in anonymity,  criss crossing the back roads of the U.S. and Canada, looking for the “arm behind the barn.”

Times may have changed – scouts are more apt to be found now at Showcase events across the county, but the basic concept of scouting remains the same:  get to know the player, his strengths and weaknesses, his character, and (perhaps most important of all) what his price tag will be.

This year’s draft may be over, but preparations for next year’s has already begun.  Summer is peak Showcase season, as teams begin the lengthy process of building their draft board for next June.

Here are the draft picks the Blue Jays have signed, with their signing scouts.

Round Number Scout Last Name First Name POS School
1 12 Brian Johnston Groshans Jordan SS Magnolia HS
2 52 Jason Beverlin Conine Griffin OF Duke
3 88 Brian Johnston Kloffenstein Adam RHP Magnolia HS
4 116 Gerald Turner/Brandon Bishoff Wymer Sean RHP TCU
5 146 Pete Holmes Bec Christopher C U Maine Orono
6 176 Matt Bishoff Barger Addison SS C Leon King HS (FL)
7 206 Matt Huck Podkul Nicholas 2B Notre Dame
8 236 Coulson Barbiche Murray Joseph RHP Kent State (OH)
9 266 Randy Kramer Brodt Jake 1B Santa Clara U
10 296 Darold Brown Stevenson Cal CF U Arizona
11 326 Dallas Black Steinmetz Hunter CF Missouri St (MO)
12 356 Wes Penick Allgeyer Nick LHP U Iowa
13 386 Coulson Barbiche Wilson Brad RHP Ohio Dominican
14 416 Jason Beverlin Aiello John 3B Wake Forest (NC)
15 446 Darold Brown Watson Troy RHP U North Colorado
17 506 Coulson Barbiche Havekost Austin RHP Kent State
18 536 Darold Brown Stadler Fitz RHP Arizona State U
19 566 Matt O’Brien Ramos Adrian CF Miami Dade CC (FL)
20 596 Doug Witt Capra Vinny SS U Richmond
22 656 Ryan Fox Burland Gage RHP Lewis-Clark St Col
23 686 Nate Murrie Squires Troy C U Kentucky
24 716 Brian Johnston Pascoe Mike RHP San Jacinto Col N
25 746 Brian Johnston McAffer Will RHP Tulane (LA)
29 866 Matt O’Brien Finfrock Cre RHP U Central Florida
30 896 Matt Bishoff Johnson Cobi RHP Florida State
32 956 Brian Johnston Pulido Joey RHP U Houston
33 986 Matt O’Brien Harris Matt RHP Florida Atlantic
34 1016 Dallas Black Townsend Grant RHP Oral Roberts
38 1136 Matt O’Brien Ruiz Francisco C Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy
NDFA Jim Lentine Rees Jackson RHP U Hawaii
NDFA Nate Murrie Thurston Ryan LHP Western Kentucky

 

Teenager Pardinho Dominant in Pro Debut

17-year-old Eric Pardinho, the top ranked international free agent Pitcher last July 2nd, made his first start as a professional last night, and it was everything Blue Jays fans had hoped for.

Hitting 97 with his fastball, Pardinho allowed a run on two hits, walked a pair and fanned five over four innings.  The other 7 outs were recorded by ground outs.  Pardinho missed a number of bats on the evening, getting 10 swinging strikes.  One of his strikeout victims was Nolan Gorman, the Cardinals 1st round pick.

The 2nd inning presented the only difficulty for Pardinho on the evening.  A one out single by RF Sanel Rosendo was followed by a Wild Pitch.  Gorman’s ground out moved Rosendo to 3rd, where he was cashed in by 2B Donivan Williams’ RBI single.  Pardinho retired the side in order in the 1st and 3rd.  He threw 65 pitches on the night, 39 for strikes.

Pardinho displays excellent athleticism with a polished delivery, and a good feel for pitching as evidenced by his ability to sequence his mix of pitches.  The Blue Jays challenged him with a first assignment to the Appalachian League, as they did with top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr two years ago.

Bluefield was unable to muster any run support for Pardinho and the relievers who followed him, as the Blue Jays went down to Johnson City 2-0, tagging him with his first pro loss.

 

 

 

 

A Look at the Bluefield Blue Jays

The Bluefield Jays of the Appalachian League start play tonight.

The Jays have been a Toronto affiliate since 2011.  Even though it’s near the bottom of the minor league ladder, playing in Bluefield is a big jump from the complex leagues.  For many players, particularly high schoolers, it’s their first extended experience with travel, and “under the lights” play.

Leading the list of prospects on the Bluefield roster is RHP Eric Pardinho, last summer’s prize IFA signing.  Assistant GM Andrew Tinnish, who oversees international operations for the club, compares Pardinho favourable with Marcus Stroman, saying last fall that he’s never seen such athleticism, or feel for pitching from a sixteen-year-old.

C Hagen Danner, a 2nd round pick last year, will likely form a battery with Pardinho.  A storied youth player, Danner struggled in his debut with the GCL Jays last year, but indications are he had a tremendous spring with the bat in Extended.

Bluefield’s Outfield will likely be its strength, featuring last year’s GCL batting champ Dom Abbadessa, toolsy but raw OFs DJ Daniels and DJ Neal, and Hunter Steinmetz, who was taken in the 11th round of this year’s draft.

2017 draftees 1B Pat Morris and 3B Davis Schneider should man the corners of Bluefield’s Infield, joined by sparkplug 2B Otto Lopez.

A couple of surprises are on the Pitching roster:  former OF Josh Almonte, who began the conversion to Pitching at Instructs last fall, and has hit the high 90s with his fastball, and former 1B/3B Emilio Guerrero, who has played over 500 games in the system, and has reached as high as AA.  Guerrero’s switch has been recent, as he was still a position player in spring training.

Veteran Blue Jays staffer Dennis Holmberg returns to Manage Bluefield.  A skipper in the system since 1979, it was announced las week that Holmberg will be inducted into the Florida State League Hall of Fame in November.

 

So Long, DJ Davis

DJ Davis
Clutchlings Photo

The Blue Jays released DJ Davis, their first pick (17th overall) in the 2012 draft this week.

Davis was a bit of a reach, and the Blue Jays were likely more focussed on their other 1st rounder, Duke RHP Marcus Stroman, who went 22nd overall with the pick they received for failing to reach a contractual agreement with high schooler Tyler Beede the year before.  Young for his draft class, the Blue Jays were prepared to be patient and give Davis plenty of time to develop.

Slot for the 17th pick was $2 million – Davis signed for $1.75, and some of the savings the team realized from signing him went to fellow Mississippi HS OF Anthony Alford, who they drafted in the 3rd round after most teams shied away due to his college football commitment. Alford signed for about $300K over slot.

Mississippi is not exactly a hotbed of high school baseball talent, but the Blue Jays at that time were full on into their strategy of looking for players in non-traditional markets.  Baseball America‘s draft report pointed out his strengths:

He’s faster even than Reds prospect Billy Hamilton, the state’s current standard-bearer, turning in 6.4-second 60 times, and has more than enough range for center field, with below-average but playable arm strength. Moreover, Davis has good strength in his hands and forearms, with a real chance to hit for average. He’s fast enough to be a slap hitter but isn’t one. He has an old-fashioned handsy, whippy swing and has shown gap power and consistent hard contact against good competition, such as at East Coast Showcase and playing for the Mets scout team in the fall. He has better instincts more polish than the average Mississippi prep player, which gives some ammunition to counter the state’s track record in the first round. He’s considered signable, having committed to Meridian (Miss.) CC.
   Davis’s pro career got off to a good start – he was ranked the GCL’s 3rd prospect after his debut season, and he moved up to #2 in the Appalachian League rankings the following year.  When he reached full season ball, however, Davis’ inability to make consistent contact, or take advantage of his speed when he did get on base caused him to repeat Lansing after he struck out 167 times in less than 500 ABs in 2014.
  Davis’ second go at the MWL in 2015 produced some better numbers (.282/.340/.391, 21/31 stealing), but he was very overmatched when he was promoted to Dunedin the following year, appearing in only 83 games, as he struggled to reach .200, and got on base less than 30% of the time.  Pitchers could easily overpower Davis, and when he did hunt the fastball, he often got badly fooled on off speed pitches.
  The club sent Davis to Australia this off-season in the hopes of giving him some further reps and extra education in pitch recognition, but the veteran pitchers in the ABL took full advantage, and Davis could produce only a .174/.252/.266 line.
  Davis has an impressive toolkit starting with that speed, but he never learned to harness it effectively on either side of the ball.  There was a glimmer of hope last year, when he posted a .283/.357/.369 second half and cut down on the whiffs, but his numbers returned to their former numbers this year, as he fought for playing time in his third tour with Dunedin.  The strike zone management and bat speed was just not there, and his reads in the OF were not where one would think it would be for a player entering his eighth year of pro ball.
   Also released along with Davis was SS J.C Cardenas, a 6th round pick in 2015.  Cardenas played 78 games with Dunedin last year, but with the focus on middle infielders in the draft and IFA market, he was unable to crack a full season roster this year.