All Aboard the Big Nate Hype Train?

Pearson
Clutchlings Photo

RHP Nate Pearson, the second of two first round picks the Blue Jays had last June, has had quite the week:

 

 

To top it off, after only 8 short season outings, Pearson cracked Baseball America‘s prestigious Top 100 prospects list, checking in at 91.

Is all this to believed?  Are we looking at a top of the rotation arm?

As someone who saw Pearson a couple of times this season, my response to that question is that while the future looks bright, and he “makes hitters uncomfortable,” in the words of BA earlier this fall, well…..let’s pump the brakes a little bit. Just a bit.

The Blue Jays purposely limited Pearson’s work this summer.  A quick look at the number of batters he faced each outing:

7/18 – 4

7/23 – 7

7/29 – 7

8/7 – 8

8/13 – 9

8/18 – 9

8/24 – 13

8/30 – 14

9/6 – 19

9/11 – 17

In those short bursts, Pearson could let it all hang out, and it’s not surprising that he hit 100 numerous times, and sat 96-97.  His velo was no match for Northwest League hitters – he didn’t allow a run until that end of August start.  Heck, he didn’t even allow a runner past 2nd prior to that outing.

Pearson’s fastball command is unquestioned; it’s his secondaries that still need developing.  His change is described as an average pitch with late fade, while his slider has late tilt, but he had his troubles throwing it for strikes.  Pearson’s curve is behind his other pitches at the moment.

But it’s that fastball that buys him room for now.  Pearson can get swings and misses with it up in the zone, or weak contact on it down.  An imposing presence on the mound, Pearson gets late life on his fastball from his long extension, as well as a steep downward angle on it.

In 2018, when he will be stretched out as a starter (most likely at Dunedin), Pearson’s fastball will likely tick down a notch.  It will still be a premium offering, but the onus will be on him to further grow those secondaries.

There’s a lot to be excited about when it comes to Pearson, but he’s still developing as a Pitcher.

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Jays/Vancouver Extend Their PDC

To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Blue Jays and Vancouver have extended their Player Development Contract, which was set to expire at the end of this year,  to 2022.

The C’s earned their fourth Northwest League title since becoming a Blue Jays affiliate in 2011 last year.  The Canadians have consistently set league attendance records along the way, averaging just over 6300 fans a game at venerable old Nat Bailey Stadium.

The Blue Jays have been able to grow their brand considerably with their partnership with the C’s.  Fans come home from work to watch the Jays game on tv, then head out to the Nat to see the Jays of the future that evening in June, July, and August.

A conversation with Blue Jays CEO Mark Shapiro last fall revealed that the Blue Jays are very pleased with all of their PDCs, especially Vancouver’s.   Blue Jays prospects get a taste of life in Canada by playing with the C’s, dealing with the currency and customs issues.  For both sides, there are musts:  from the MLB team’s point of view, they want a first-class development for their players and instructors.  The affiliate wants either a competitive team, or the promise of multiple one-day MLBers passing through their city.

If you are a Blue Jays fan, you owe it to yourself to catch a game in Vancouver.  The Nat is a quaint old neighbourhood ballpark, and is a short walk from the city’s elevated train service.

Conner Greene: Some Final Thoughts

The Blue Jays did have a gaping hole in their Outfield which was nicely patched by the acquisition of Randal Grichuk from St Louis on Friday.

In order to obtain Grichuk, who was likely deemed surplus by the Cards after they had acquired Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins, the Jays gave up journeyman reliever Dominic Leone, who put together a fine 2017, and promising yet enigmatic prospect Conner Greene.

Greene had a junior college commitment lined up in his senior year of high school, which the Blue Jays talked him out of after selecting him in the 7th round in 2013.  Greene fit the draft preferences of Alex Anthopoulos and Blake Parker to a “T”:  long, lean, and athletic, with plenty of room for projection, which in Greene’s case meant added velo.

Greene had to repeat the GCL in his second pro season, but he quickly made up for lost time in 2015, advancing three levels, and reaching AA in August.  Sent back to High A work on his command issues in 2016, Greene appeared set for take off in 2017.

But despite lighting up radar guns across the Eastern League, it was a failure to launch season for the Right Hander.  Still, he showed enough promise for the Blue Jays to protect him from the Rule 5 draft by placing him on the 40-man roster in November.

When you evaluate prospects, you are limited sometimes by what you can’t see.  In person or online, you can get a feel for a Pitcher’s command, which pitches are working, and which ones aren’t (note to MiLB play-by-play guys, who are the unsung heroes of the minors – could you please toss in some radar readings once in a while?  Even if the stadium gun isn’t accurate, it gives those of us watching online an idea of the separation between pitches, and if a Pitcher loses velo as he turns a lineup over).  What you can’t see is how he makes adjustments, how he responds to mechanics changes suggested by coaches, and how hard he works – in other words, his make up.

The quantitative measures of Greene’s performance are well-known – a fastball that sits 94-97 and topped 100 multiple times this year.  It’s a pitch with some good sink when Greene kept it down in the zone, but it’s also a pitch without a lot of movement when he left it up, and EL hitters hit him fairly hard for a guy with his velocity.

Greene walked 13% of the hitters he faced.  Concentration may have been an issue, as he surrendered a 2.72 WHIP to lead off hitters – Greene often found himself pitching out of the stretch.  Few Pitchers are effective when they fall behind in the count, and Greene was no exception – hitters averaged .357 against him when they were ahead.

His curve was probably his best secondary last year, but scouts were apparently enthused for the potential for his change because of his arm speed.

Both Greene and Sean Reid-Foley had seasons that fell short of expectations, but SRF appeared to straighten out his command issues as the season wore on.  The question for St Louis now is do they continue to let Greene continue try to develop his secondaries as a starter, or after five minor league seasons, is it time to shorten his repertoire and put him in a relief role, where his velo may play up a tick higher.

With Reid-Foley, Ryan Borucki, Thomas Pannone, and T.J. Zeuch and Nate Pearson behind them, the Blue Jays have quite a bit of starting depth in the minors.  Apparently, they felt that they were deep enough to part with Greene.

 

 

 

Guerrero Jr, Bichette Head Up Jays on BA’s Top 100

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To the surprise of very few, Blue Jays prospects Vladimir Guerrero Jr (3), and Bo Bichette (8) have climbed to the Top 10 of Baseball America‘s Top 100 Prospects list.

Braves prospect Ronald Acuna headed up the rankings, while the Angels Japanese two-way sensation Shohei Otani nudged Guerrero to #3.  BA staffers admit that it’s been some time since three players have caused such internal debate about who is first overall.

Anthony Alford (60) and Nate Pearson (91) joined Guerrero and Bichette in the Top 100.  For Pearson, inclusion in the Top 100 capped off a remarkable year for the 2017 draftee.  His fastball garnered a 70 ranking on the 20-80 scouting scale.  Jason Parks, now of the Cubs, gave this primer on FB grades for Baseball Prospectus a few years ago:

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While Pearson only received slightly below or above average grades for the rest of his repertoire (Curve 45; Slider 55; Change 50; Control 45), that 70 stands out, and buys him time to develop his other pitches.  When you consider that Pearson was considered a risky late first round to early second round pick less than a year ago, he’s leapfrogged a considerable number of other prospects.  Pearson feels quite justified in going the JuCo route:

The Blue Jays limited Pearson’s workload this summer, but he was utterly dominant in Vancouver.  He didn’t allow a run until his 6th innings-limited start – he didn’t even allow a runner past 2nd until that outing.  His final start of the season was a lights out effort in Game 1 of Vancouver’s semi-final vs Spokane.  Pearson allowed 1 hit over 4 innings, fanning 10.

Before we get to Guerrero, Bichette, and Alford, here’s Parks on Power Grades:

IMG_0737

 

The Grades for Guerrero included 80 for his hit tool, 70 for power, 40 for speed, 40 for his fielding, and 55 for his arm.  This would seem to lend support to the idea that he’s safe at 3rd Base for now, but a move across the diamond will be in his long-term future.  As someone who saw him in person and online last year, I’ve always liked his reactions to balls hit in his direction; he has excellent hands and footwork, but not necessarily the quickness to get to balls at the edge of his range in a timely manner.

Bichette received a 70 for his bat, 60 power, 50 for speed, 45 for fielding, and a 60 for his arm.  The arm and fielding grades are a bit of a surprise:  I found that Bichette showed sure hands, turned the double play well, and demonstrated increasing range as the season progressed, but the arm strength seemed to be lacking a bit. Bichette may not be possessed of blazing speed, but he’s a smart and aggressive base runner.

Alford’s grades slipped a bit, as did his ranking.  He was given a 60 for his bat, speed, and fielding, 50 for power, and a surprising 40 for his arm.  Alford may not be Amos Otis in CF, but he reads balls well, chases down hits to the gap effectively, and gets rid of the ball quickly.  There has been a little concern that his power has yet to develop, as his swing does not have a lot of loft to it.  Alford does work the count very well, and barrels a number of balls just the same.  His 60 grade speed seems a little on the low side; Alford does have what can be considered game-changing speed on the base paths, but it hasn’t translated into high stolen base totals (19/22 last year).  Then again, given his injury history, the team may not want Alford stealing all that often.

This is a good body of work for the Toronto farm system.  There are clearly three levels of talent represented –  almost ready (Alford),  maybe a year away (Bichette/Guerrero), and a few years away (Pearson).  Perhaps next year we may see Eric Pardinho or Logan Warmoth sneak onto the back end of this list.

It’s Time for Danny Jansen

Let me just start by saying that I’ve always been a fan of the product of Appleton, WI.  Taken in the 16th round in 2013, Jansen epitomized the approach to that annual harvest of talent under former GM Alex Anthopoulos and Scouting Director Blake Parker.  Beyond the coveted projectable high school arm, the Blue Jays actively looked for players who were overlooked for various reasons.  Maybe injury had scared teams off (in the case of Ryan Borucki), or a college commitment (Daniel Norris), or, in the case of Jansen, the Jays weren’t afraid to take a trip off the beaten path to find players in non-traditional baseball places.  An injury his senior year of high school made Jansen even more of a low-profile prospect, but the Blue Jays felt they were getting a prospect who scored high in terms of tools and make up.  Conversations with Jansen over the past four seasons have borne that out.

After a season in which he finally managed to stay healthy, Jansen hit his way through three levels, posting a .323/.400/.484 line in the process, and is on the cusp of a big league job.

A word about how more and more MLB teams are viewing the Catching position:  teams are coming to understand that a Catcher’s value goes far beyond his batting average.  The plethora of posters on various Blue Jays Facebook pages complaining about Russell Martin’s .221 average last year miss the below sea level portion of the iceberg that is Martin’s contribution to the team.  From framing pitches, to blocking sliders thrown in the dirt intentionally in order to get a batter to chase, to working with umpires to get calls, to working with Pitchers to build a bond that can’t be found in any other sport, Catchers are the Field Generals of the action on a ball diamond.  The decisions they make have an influence on every pitch thrown in an MLB game.

 A paragraph from a SABR article takes this several steps further:

Only the catcher is positioned to see the entire field of play, including the hitter, and it is the catcher who triggers virtually every action by calling the pitches.1 The catcher makes calls based on a complex array of data that he processes in a split second. He must be aware of every aspect of the game at all times, particularly the perceived strengths and weaknesses, as well as preferences and desires, of the hitter (the opponent) and his own teammates. He must keep the score, the inning, and the number of outs in mind. He has to know what the count is2 and what the batter did the last time he was up to bat as well as in prior games. Is the pitcher’s curveball working today? Does the umpire have a loose or a tight strike zone? Does the batter dig in? Is his weight leaning forward or on his heels? Do the runners have large leads, and which way are they leaning? These perceptions, judgments, and decisions run through a catcher’s mind before he calls a pitch. Each decision is critical, because the outcome of the game could turn on any one. The complexity seems daunting. But, like a chess master — or a master of any other talent that involves an opponent and/or a team — catching relies on emotional intelligence and perspective taking, which depend on the thoughts and feelings that run through the medial prefrontal cortex hub.

That takes us far beyond whatever Martin did at the plate last year.  With other positions, teams have to weigh whether or not they can carry a glove-first, below-league-average hitter, but that’s not necessarily the case with Catching.  Certainly, the Blue Jays and Martin would have liked to have seen more offensive production from him last year, but his value to the team goes far beyond that, often in ways that are difficult to measure.

But as he enters the next-to-last-year on his contract, Martin, who turns 35 next month, is likely in his last months as a full-time backstop.  Having appeared in only 91 games last year after averaging 133 in his first two seasons in Toronto, it’s not realistic to expect him to carry a heavy load any more.  120 games might be even a stretch to expect from him.

Which brings in Jansen.

Jansen experimented with sport glasses behind the plate in the Arizona Fall League in 2016, and he found that it helped him pick up pitches better behind the plate.  As an added bonus, he was able to develop better pitch recognition, as he could detect spin much better than in his pre-glasses days.

Behind the plate, Jansen has drawn raves since his 2014 season, when he handled a Bluefield staff that included a young Borucki.  Despite his size (6’2″), Jansen presents a nice low target, which is especially important for sinker ball Pitchers working down in the zone.  Handling Pitchers, calling games, and blocking pitches have long been a strength – because of his size, lateral movement has been a minor issue, but Jansen has the athleticism and work ethic to overcome that.

Jansen is also familiar with the wave of minor league Pitchers who will soon be coming to Toronto, starting with Borucki, who told media at Winterfest this past weekend:

When you move up levels, there’s always that anxiety and you’re a little nervous. When you’ve got a guy back there, especially with Danny, having him in Double-A for my first start and Triple-A, you just have a sense of ease. You just feel comfortable.

Not only has Jansen caught Borucki throughout the minors, he’s also worked extensively with Sean Reid-Foley, T.J. Zeuch, and to a lesser extent, Thomas Pannone.  As these youngsters reach the Majors, having a familiar face behind the plate would help ease their transition.

Ordinarily, incumbent backup Luke Maile might be considered to have the inside track on winning the job again this spring.  However, his offence was beyond anemic last year (9.5% LD rate), and with the increased load Martin’s back up will have to shoulder this year, it would be hard for any team to carry that weak a bat, even at a premium defensive position.

Jansen could benefit from a season of Martin’s mentoring, and would probably learn more in a part-time role than he could in a full season of AAA.  And while he would be hard-pressed to reproduce last year’s breakthrough numbers at the plate, he would bring some offence to the position, and he could also DH on occasion.

It’s been a long road for Jansen.  Injuries ended his 2014 season prematurely, and severely curtailed his 2015 and 2016.  Healthy for the first time last year, he reached MLB Pipeline’s Top 10 Catching Prospects list this year, checking in at #8.  With Martin’s career perhaps starting to wind down, 2018 could represent an excellent chance for his potential successor to start to get some on-the-job training.  He could split the load more evenly with Martin next year, and take over the reigns in 2020, when he would just be entering his prime at the age of 25.

 

Blue Jays Winterfest a Hit with Fans

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Jay Blue/ @JaysFromAway photo

The Blue Jays first attempt at a winter festival in over two decades was a hit for the fans in attendance; for media who were trying to provide coverage, it was not so much.

Over 15 000 fans came (and, one suspects, they could have sold twice that many tickets) to get their photos taken with Jays stars, have their kids play ping-pong with a prospect, or watch Buck and Pat attempt a talk show.  Access to players for anything beyond that was very tightly controlled, however.

To be fair, this was not really a media event, which Blue Jays new VP of Communications, Sebastian Gatica, made clear in an email earlier in the week  The Comms department, of course, has undergone a drastic makeover since last fall, and getting a timely response from the short-staffed group was a challenge.

Arriving at the event, a blogger had to vouch for a long time Toronto media member, who still covers the team in retirement.  The young PR staffer handing out credentials, who was probably not even alive when this gentleman was covering the team during its World Series years, clearly had no clue who he was, but handled the situation gracefully.

Those media who were hopeful of getting to speak to some of the team’s prospects, who are often half a continent (or more) away were limited to one group interview with Ryan Borucki and Danny Jansen, which was not finalized until late in the week.  There seemed to be the possibility of speaking to some of the minor league hopefuls earlier in the week, but that did not materialize.

On the playing field, however, it was a much different story.  Fans lined up for tours of the Dome’s roof, the clubhouse, and the press box.  The tours were all full by early in the afternoon, however.  But the club had to be pleased with the positive PR that was generated, as well as by the jerseys that were flying off the shelves, and the food consumed at the concessions.

To be honest, I didn’t spend much time at Winterfest – I’m not one for lineups.  The baseball fates had their revenge, however, as late-night construction on the 400 north of Vaughan created a huge traffic tie up that stretched for miles.

All in all, it was a great event for the team, and for baseball-starved, winter-weary fans.

 

 

 

Early – Very – Look at the 2018 MLB Draft

NC State vs. Kentucky Lexington Regional
Cameron Mills Radio photo by Hunter Mitchell

Amateur scouts representing all MLB teams have been involved in meetings for the past few weeks in preparation for the June draft, and the Blue Jays are no exception.

With the 12th overall pick, the Blue Jays have a chance to land a player who could have an impact on the team in three to five years.

There is a Blue Jays connection with the player ranked the top draft prospect in RHP

Brady Singer, who the team took in the 2nd round of 2015.  The Florida high schooler opted to go the collegiate route, and as a consolation prize, they landed Bo Bichette with the comp pick the following year.

RHP Ethan Hankins had a strong showing with Team USA in the World U18s at Thunder Bay last year, and is a solid #2 – he may even become the first prep righty ever taken first overall.

Between now and June, of course, players will move up and down the Blue Jays draft board, but here are some names that are ranked in the neighbourhood of Toronto’s first round pick:

  1. OF Tristan Pompey Kentucky 

   The younger brother of the Blue Jays’ own Dalton has seen his stock rise considerably since first suiting up for the Wildcats three seasons ago.  The Mississauga native is currently ranked 21st by Baseball America.  And a report by veteran scout Ted Lekas of 2080baseball. com offered a glowing, toolsy assessment after watching Pompey in the Cape Cod League last summer:

Well-proportioned, athletic body with width to his shoulder and hips; five-tool player; open stance that closes at contact; quick bat; plus bat speed with a good trigger, gets bat through the hitting zone with quick hands and wrists; feel for the barrel; strength, loft and leverage to his swing; plus power potential; above-average runner out of the box and double-plus runner underway with good running stride; plus defensive actions seen in right field with good routes, jumps, and reads; plus range, glides to the ball; above-average arm with good carry; potential first-round tools for the 2018 MLB Draft who should hold down center field for the Wildcats; should be one of the top players in the SEC.

Given his current ranking, it would be a bit of a reach for the Blue Jays take him, but he does fit the profile of a high makeup, athletic, polished college player that they have shown a preference for in the early rounds.  A pre-season All -American, a good spring could raise his profile considerably.

2.  LHP Ryan Rolison Mississippi

If Pompey fits the Blue Jays’ bill for a first round pick, Rolison matches up with it even better.  A draft-eligible sophomore, Rollison was ranked the 3rd-best prospect in the Cape League last summer (Pompey was 6th).  Teddy Cahill of BA gave this evaluation:

Rolison combines good size–a listed 6-foot-3, 200 pounds–with premium stuff from the left side. His fastball sits 91-94 mph, and he pairs it with a wipeout curveball. Both pitches generate swings and misses, and he also mixes in a useful changeup and slider. He fills up the strike zone and had success pitching inside to righthanded batters. Rolison will be a draft-eligible sophomore in next year’s draft and is on track to be the first first-rounder from Ole Miss since Drew Pomeranz was picked fifth overall in 2010.

3.  RHP Logan Gilbert, Stetson

Gilbert was the Cape’s 4th best prospect, who features premium velocity from a loose, easy delivery.  At 6’5″/195, he gets good downward movement on his pitches, and has considerable projection remaining.  MLB Pipeline’s report:

Gilbert is coming into his own, with room to grow into his prototypical pitcher’s body. He’ll throw his fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s, touching 97 mph. He has the chance to have at least three above-average to plus pitches, as his newer slider and changeup both have the chance to be outstanding offerings, while the curve might be a touch behind. A position player in high school, Gilbert is a solid athlete who fields his position and repeats his delivery well, which should lead to solid command.

 


There are several high school players ranked around the 12 spot – Wisconsin high school OF Jarred Kelenic gets the nod on MLB Pipeline, while BA has Florida prep SS Nander De Sedas.  It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that the Blue Jays could select one of these two, but recent history (a total of 3 prep picks in the first 10 rounds over the past two years) suggests a college player is more likely.

More on the New Additions to the Minor League Staffs

Blue Jays Director of Player Development Gil Kim sent an addendum to an email he had originally sent with details about the backgrounds of some of the new hires on the minor league staff.

What’s interesting about these new instructors is the wealth of education and experience many of them bring to the organization.  The Blue Jays are on the cutting edge with their new High Performance Department, and these hirings reflect that.

Here’s the bulk of Kim’s email:

Guillermo (Martinez) – Nicaragua native who comes to us from the Cubs, he eats/breathes/lives hitting.  He has a creative mind, he’s resilient and he’s well-respected by players and staff around the game.

Matt Young – not drafted and made it to the big leagues, he’s a hard worker who has been a general manager at a Dallas-area baseball academy.  He’s a cage rat who connects well with people.

Mark Worrell – former big league reliever, impressive background with a PhD in Phys Ed Teacher Education.  He spent last season as the Academic Coordinator/Asst. Pitching Coach for MLB China.  He’s a very driven individual, and passionate about the holistic development of players.

One last note on staffing……… we aim to provide these players with the best resources possible, and that very much includes the people that these players will work with and learn with.  We’re a diverse and multi-cultural game.  We have players in this organization from different backgrounds and from all over the world, so it’s an advantage to also build a diverse and multi-cultural staff as well.      

 

Blue Jays Bring in New Faces to Minor League Staffs

The Blue Jays announced their minor league instructional staffs this week, and there was a mix of old and new faces.

Tim Raines was welcomed back into the organization after having accepted an ambassadorship position with the White Sox.  Formerly a roving Base Running and Outfield coach with the Blue Jays, Raines will be serving as a Special Assistant.  Director of Player Development Gil Kim said that Raines will be on assignments during Spring Training, the regular season, and Instructs:

 While most of the focus will be on basestealing development, Rock brings a wealth of playing and teaching experience, and will be utilized in a variety of ways to help both our players and our staff.

The Blue Jays obviously don’t like to say good-bye to quality staff.  Just over a month ago, Assistant GM Andrew Tinnish appeared on his way to Atlanta, only to have a change of heart a few days later.

Bobby Meacham returns to Buffalo for a second year to Manage the Bisons:

Hart is a rising star in the system with his work as Dunedin’s Hitting Coach after joining the organization last year.  Only a couple of seasons removed from his playing days, Hart drew raves for his work in the Arizona Fall League, and seems destined for bigger things.  According to Kim, he quickly and easily builds a rapport with young hitters:

 Our hitters really connect with Corey – he loves talking hitting, knows how to teach the swing, knows how to teach approach, and stays simple and positive. 

Hart takes over from Blue Jays World Series hero White,  who will serve as Buffalo’s Outfield and Baserunning Coach.

New Hampshire will also feature a Blue Jays staffer whose stock is on the rise in Manager John Schneider.

   Schneider is a Blue Jays lifer, joining the organization after being drafted in 2002.  He began his dugout career in 2009, Managing the GCL Jays.  Schneider has worked in the lower levels of the system until last year, when he managed Dunedin to a share of the Florida State League title.  C Danny Jansen credited the former backstop for much of his success in handling Pitchers while with the D-Jays, and Ryan Borucki, who Pitched for Schneider in Dunedin as well, was pumped at the news of him moving up the ladder:

Nova Scotian Vince Horsman returns as the Fisher Cats’ Pitching Coach, and Andy Fermin will be back as Position Coach.  New to the organization is Hunter Mense, who was drafted by the Marlins, and served as the Hitting Coach with the Padres Northwest League affiliate last year.  Mense’s background is a good fit with the Blue Jays High Performance group, according to Kim:

Hunter has a background as a player and has coached at both the pro and collegiate levels.  He’s also a strong learner who has a Masters in Sports Psychology.  He has a strong work ethic, and a true passion for developing hitting.

Former MLBer Casey Candaele, who was the Mariner’s First Base Coach this year, takes over the Manager’s reigns at Dunedin:

Kim is thrilled with the depth of knowledge Candaele brings to Dunedin:

 Casey brings knowledge and experience in so many areas, having previous experience coordinating Infield and Baserunning development along with one year as a Field Coordinator.  He’s had experience as a Major League player, and as a Major League coach.  We’re excited to welcome Casey’s high energy and creativity as a leader in our department.

At Low A Lansing, Cesar Martin returns to helm the Lugnuts:

Antonio Carceres, who had served a stint as the Lugs’ Pitching Coach in 2009 and 2010, returns to Lansing after seven years with Bluefield.  Matt Young, who played with the Braves and Tigers, operated a baseball academy in Texas before joining the Jays this year, and will be Lansing’s Hitting Coach.

Short Season Vancouver will have a new man running the club this year.  Dallas McPherson, a two-time MiLB POY in the Angels system, takes over from the departed Rich Miller.  Longtime Blue Jays minor league Pitching Coach Jim Czajkowski returns, and will be joined by former Jays minor leaguer Aaron Matthews.  Matthews replaces Dave Pano, who will be joining Lansing’s staff.  Kim is high on McPherson:

Dallas McPherson comes to us from King’s Ridge Christian School in Georgia, where he served as the head varsity coach and also founded the Hard Knox travel ball program.  Dallas has a good knowledge of the game, experience as a player and strong leadership skills.  He’s open-minded and is constantly trying to improve himself

Veteran Blue Jays staffer Dennis Holmberg, who has been in the organization since 1979, returns to Manage Bluefield.  Adam Bernero, who Pitched for five teams in a 7-year MLB career, joins the team as Pitching Coach.  Bernero, who has a Masters in Sport and Performance Psychology, served as a Pitching and Mental Performance Coach with Dunedin last year.

Luis Hurtado will return as the GCL Jays Manager, along with Hitting Coach Paul Elliott.  Rafael Lazo moves up from the DSL to act as Pitching Coach, while Mark Worrell joins the team as a part-time Pitching Coach.  Former Blue Jays farmhand George Carroll, who helped rehabbing players at the Minor League complex last year, will joing the staff as a Position Coach.

John Tamargo Jr will return for a second season as the DSL Jays Manager.

Jeff Ware will return as the Roving Pitching Instructor, as will Ken Huckaby as the Catching Co-Ordinator.  Guillermo Martinez, who served as the system’s Hitting Instructor from 2011-2013, returns after three seasons with the Cubs.

After two seasons of little change among the minor league staff,  it was time to head in a new, more Sport Science-oriented direction.  Kim concluded:

 We’ve made several changes and additions in the past two years, and we’ve also seen some of our staff members take advantage of different opportunities whether that’s within or outside the organization.  We realize that at the same time that players are continuously striving to get better, we are as individual staff members and we are as a department. 

Top Blue Jay Prospects will be in Town Next Week

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Tim Leiper photo

Going through Customs, the different currency, and many other subtle day-to-day things are a fact of life for American and Caribbean players who venture north of the border to play for the Blue Jays.

For several years, the Blue Jays have held a January mini-camp at the Rogers Centre for their top minor league players to give them a little more exposure to life in the Great White North.  Starting on January 15th,  Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Bo Bichette, DJ Davis, Reese McGuire,  Roemon Fields, newly-acquired Taylor Guerreri,  Lourdes Gurriel, Danny Jansen, Jason Leblebijian, Thomas Pannone, Ryan Borucki, Max Pentecost, Sean Reid-Foley, and the GTA’s own Jordan Romano will be in Toronto for a series of on-field drills and off-field seminars.   The group will be at the Blue Jays first annual Winter Fest that weekend.

When the announcement was made last week, Twitter instantly was full of rumours about Conner Greene, who was not part of this year’s contingent.  The rumours suggested Greene was being held back because he was going to be part of a package of players for Pirates star Andrew McCutchen.  As has been pointed out, Greene was part of last year’s tour, as were Rowdy Tellez, Anthony Alford, and Richie Urena.  Greene’s command issues were a concern last year, but that 100 mph fastball isn’t going anywhere just yet.

In the off-field sessions, players will receive training in dealing with the media, as well as how to deal with situations that might crop up as professional athletes.  It sounds like Romano is excited to have some of his fellow prospects to his paren’t basement:

Jansen, McGuire, Urena, Guerreri, and Pannone are all on the 40-man roster, and will be attending spring training with the big club.  The team has not announced which minor leaguers will receive an invite, but that it expected shortly.