When and How Do Teams Decide to Promote Prospects?

After having dealt with several members of the Blue Jays front office in a series of email responses over the past few years, and having walked through the maze of workspaces that comprises the nerve centre of the organization at the Rogers Centre, one thing is obvious:  this is a highly literate group.  Stacks of books relating to organizational effectiveness and human relations can be found on almost every desk.  This is a collection of voracious readers who look to implement what they’ve read into methods for building a winner.

Contrary to what many fans might think, the process of deciding when a player is ready for a promotion to the next level is complex, and involves many facets.  It’s not just a process of looking up a player’s stats on milb.com and determining that he’s ready.

One of the books that guides the team in the player development process was written by Florida State Psychology Professor Anders Ericsson that looks at how one reaches the level of expert in any field of endeavour, “Peak:  Secrets from the New Science of Expertise.”  Author Malcolm Gladwell brought Ericsson’s “10 000 hour rule,” into prominence in his book, “Outliers.”  Although Gladwell simplified Ericsson’s rule, somewhat, the principle of the 10 000 hour rule is that is the volume of practice that is needed to become highly proficient in a discipline.

In a sport sense, the 10 000 hour rule doesn’t mean, for example, that a baseball player take 10 000 hours of batting practice when he’s already a good hitter.  Ericsson says that repeating the same activity over and over isn’t enough to allow someone to reach the top of their field.  Ericsson claims that “deliberate practice,” working on skills outside of a player’s comfort zone, is what develops expertise.  And it’s not necessarily skills that the player feels he needs to work on that leads to high performance.  Another factor Ericsson cites is the influence of a highly skilled coach or teacher that dictates the skill(s) that need to be worked on.  Blue Jays Vice President of Baseball Operations Ben Cherington describes the how the team has developed this process:

One of the learnings from that book is about how practice must be adjusted continuously to keep challenging the skill.  In that sense, we believe competition level ought to be adjusted continuously to challenge the skill, though if we go too fast the skill development can get sidetracked so it’s really about hitting that sweet spot.

Reading between the lines, it’s apparent that the Blue Jays have a list of skills for each player to master before they’re ready for the next step.  And it’s not just the skill itself, but the component parts that comprise it.  For an infielder, that may mean working on pre-pitch setup, reads, first-step reactions, footwork, transfer, and arm accuracy and strength.  The team may not necessarily have a stopwatch timing the amount of practice a player has put in, but they do recognize that those skills take time to develop.  The amount of skills a Catcher needs to learn would be lengthy, which might help to explain their collective lengthy developmental process.

So, a considerable amount of time and effort must be expended on the player’s part to get to the next level.  And while this is going on, he’s being watched by many in the organization:  scouts, minor league instructors, analysts, and high performance and front office staff.  Cherington adds:

We’d get input from coaches, high performance, analytics, and front office.  More specifically, we’d be looking for how they are progressing on priority goals, how strong are their routines/work ethic/teammate behaviors, what their underlying performance measures say about whether they are appropriately challenged by the level they are at (that is we’d like players to be challenged but not overwhelmed by the level they are at), and finally we’d look at roster/secondary implications of the move, re who loses out on playing time, who gains it, etc..

 Consensus is an important factor in this process:  a player doesn’t move up unless all of the decision makers feel he’s ready.  Organization solidarity is important in all phases of a player’s development.  As Jason Parks, in an essay titled, “How Are Players Scouted, Acquired, and Developed?” observed:

 You can’t teach a baseball player to play baseball (your brand of baseball) with a chorus of voices singing different songs at different times for different reasons.  The developmental hierarchy has to communicate in order to develop the best possible plan for the player in question.  It’s a team effort and when it loses that consensus, the player suffers.

The player almost all fans are clamoring to be promoted, of course, is New Hampshire 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr, who is currently laying waste to Eastern League pitching.  But as we’ve known all along, Guerrero’s bat is not the issue, and he likely will only marginally improve his offensive skills at AAA, because the jump between the two levels tends not to be significant.  Prior to this season, Guerrero had played less that 200 games at Third, a position the team switched him to after signing him.  The high performance staff has instituted a program to improve his first-step quickness, and the instructional staff has developed a regimen of drills to improve the other aspects of his defensive game.  And all of those take time – it takes months to see the results from full-time training.  Throw in playing 5-6 games per week, and the time frame expands.  When will Vlad move to AAA?  When he’s checked the boxes on the developmental list.  He must be close to doing so, but obviously the Blue Jays feel he still has some benchmarks to hit.

Teams do want to challenge their players, and the fear of leaving a player too long at one spot and letting him stagnate is probably always present.  And the landscape is littered with players pushed too far too soon.  Travis Snider was promoted to the bigs with just over 300 games of minor league experience.  Dalton Pompey and Daniel Norris made their debuts in 2015 after whirlwind minor league seasons; all have struggled to establish themselves as Major League regulars since that time – Snider is playing Indy ball this year.

At this point, the process of promoting a player is more art than science, although the balance is moving toward the latter.  There still is a highly intuitive aspect to it in the form of the opinions of the people involved.  It’s a process that is constantly developing Cherington admits, when he says, “We’re not perfect at it and continue to learn.”

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An Open Letter to Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins

Dear Mark and Ross:

Hi Guys.  Loved Jaysfest this winter.

Look, you both know it, I know it, and even the bandwagon fans on Facebook know it.  This season had considerable promise and started well, but with the starting rotation in shambles and the bullpen already showing the signs of overuse and this season about to become as disappointing as grocery store sushi, it’s time.

Time to make plans to break up the American League’s oldest roster, a group you knew last year was getting past the point of being able to realistically compete for a post-season berth.  But the higher-ups at Rogers wouldn’t let you take a wrecking ball to it, because they liked the sounds of the cash register ringing.

Even though you both have been on the job for only a couple of years, you’ve built an organization that is poised to become a leader in analytics, scouting, sport science, and minor league instruction.  You quickly understood that the key to long-term competitiveness for this franchise lay in its ability to unearth diamonds in the rough in the form of amateur players both through the draft and IFA markets, and use your system to give them the polish they need.

Mark, you spoke in the off-season about developing waves of prospects to come in an compete for MLB jobs.  The first of them is almost ready.  The best prospect in baseball, Vladimir Guerrero Jr, is part of that group, which includes Danny Jansen, Ryan Borucki, and Anthony Alford.  You certainly could make the argument that more development time is warranted for all four, but you could counter that by suggesting that if the roster is torn down to make room for them, that development could continue at the MLB level. We know all about the risk of failure that can come with accelerating players too quickly, but the Nationals decided to move top prospect Juan Soto (who is all of six months older than Vladdy) to AAA after (check that – he’s been promoted to the bigs) only 32 AA At Bats.  Granted, Jr has some more defensive development to complete before he graduates, and top pitching prospects still give him a bit of trouble, but move him up to Buffalo already.  If he succeeds there an and opening on the big league roster becomes available by, say, July 31st, bring him on up.  Who knows where any of us will be in six years – and it’s hard to see you sticking around that long if you have to keep banging heads with the suits upstairs.

After the first wave has established itself in a year or so, the next wave, with talent like Bo Bichette (who’s struggling for the first time in his pro career this year, but that’s ok – better to learn to deal with it in AA), Sean Reid-Foley,  and Cavan Biggio might be ready, and you could throw in Jordan Romano, too.  Behind them, you’ve got a collection that includes Nate Pearson, Logan Warmoth, Yennsy Diaz, and Kevin Smith, and farther down the road, Eric Pardinho, Miguel Hiraldo, and this year’s top draft choice -hopefully, another arm –  (and a possibly even better one next year) and IFAs.  Players dealt to make room on the MLB roster should be exchanged for more prospect depth.

It’s time to put a bow on this season and write it off, rather than continuing to apply duct tape to your broken roster.  The execs at Rogers are no doubt worried that time in baseball’s wilderness will plunge the team back into the bottom third of AL attendance figures, and that is a concern.  It’s bad enough that they seem to keep putting off badly needed renos to the Rogers Centre, but they should give you both a broad brush to undertake the makeover of the 25-man roster.  Yes, attendance will dip, but if/when Vlad is added to the 40 (part of a bigger set of roster decisions) and promoted, that should help stem the slide at the gates.  Yes, this team spent almost two decades wandering through the baseball wilderness before 2015, but you guys are putting together an organization that is becoming one of the top ones in baseball in terms of development.  Your time in the basement shouldn’t be long.

You have some decisions to make (although some of them are pretty obvious), but space needs to be made.  It won’t be easy, but it’s time.    And has they proved three years ago, the fans will come back.

Blue Jays MLB Draft Update

With the MLB draft less than a month away, Crosscheckers and Scouting Directors are criss-crossing the country, getting more detailed looks at players recommended by Area Scouts.

Auburn’s Casey Mize has had a dazzling spring, and while he’s not the consensus #1 pick, he should be headed to the Tigers.

With their first pick at #12, the Blue Jays have been linked to several players.  Jonathan Mayo of MLB Pipeline has South Florida LHP Shane McClanahan going to Toronto with that choice.  McClanahan was viewed earlier this spring as a possible first overall pick, but his stock has dipped to due to command problems.  A 2016 Tommy John patient, McClanahan has added strength during his collegiate career, and has lit up radar guns across the south, hitting 100, and sitting 92-98 with movement.  McClanahan throws a change which projects as a plus pitch, and a slider that is inconsistent.  He’s fanned an impressive 15.1/9 this year, but has also walked 5.3/9.  The development of that third pitch will determine whether his future lies in a starting rotation or a bullpen.

Baseball America published their latest mock draft yesterday, and they have the Blue Jays taking South Alabama OF Travis Swaggerty.  Scouting Director Steve Sanders was on hand to watch Swaggery recently.  BA describes him as having five tools, and he’s put together a proven track record in the Sun Belt Conference.  Swaggerty is also young for his draft class (he won’t turn 21 until August), which the Blue Jays put a premium on as an indicator of the likelihood of future success .

ESPN’s Keith Law has the Blue Jays selecting Stetson RHP Logan Gilbert.  Long and lanky with a bowling ball fastball that has heavy sinking action, Gilbert is Nate Pearson-sized, who is described as athletic, with clean mechanics.  Mississippi LHP Ryan Rolison has had an inconsistent spring, but is still seem by some as one of the top southpaws in the draft.

The Blue Jays have been linked to a couple of high schoolers with their first pick.  Florida  OF Connor Scott, Georgia RHP Ethan Hankins (who was viewed as a possible 1-1 pick before a minor shoulder issue intervened earlier this spring), Arizona 3B Nolan Gorman, and from their backyard, Mississauga’s Noah Naylor, whose stock has risen this spring have all been linked at one time or another to Toronto.  Naylor certainly has the bloodlines, but if past history is any indication, the Blue Jays will shy away from all of these players with their first pick.  Five of their first six selections (and 13 of their first 14) were college players, and that as much as anything indicates that they’ll lean in that direction.

 

Is It Time to Be Concerned About Bo?

An 0-4 in the first game of New Hampshire’s doubleheader with the Nationals’ Harrisburg affiliate yesterday dropped Bo Bichette’s average for the season to .264.  He struck out 3 times (fanning 6 times in 14 ABs in the series against the Senators), and is hitting .194 over his last 10 games.

After leading the minor leagues in hitting last summer as he rocketed his way up the top prospect rankings, this is the first prolonged slump of his young career.  Scouts were lukewarm about his brother Dante’s long-term prospects even though he too tore up short season ball when he first turned pro, and his career stalled at AA, and he’s now playing independent ball.  Bo may not plateau at that level, but is it time to be a little bit concerned after he struck out three times yesterday?

From a stats perspective, there are some reasons to be concerned.  Bichette’s 20.6% K rate is the highest of his career, as his GB rate of 45.2%, which suggests some swing-and-miss, as well as some weak contact.

From a scouting viewpoint, Bichette seems to be more aggressive this year than he was last.  He’s swinging at a lot of pitches early in the count, and is finding himself in pitcher’s counts more often than not.  Few hitters will produce sparkling numbers in that situation, and Bo is no exception, producing a .193/.193/.333 line.  What’s more concerning is that he’s been in behind-the-count situations almost twice as often as he’s been ahead, although it bears pointing out that his 11% walk rate is above his career average.

When he swings, Bichette seems to be just missing the barrel lately.  His 3rd AB yesterday was a microcosm of his past 10 games.  Hunting a first pitch fastball, Bichette took a mighty hack at an elevated pitch and fouled it back to the screen.  The next pitch was a hanging breaking ball on the outer half, with the same result.  The 3rd pitch in the sequence as a fastball down and in that resulted in another foul, while he laid off the 4th, a breaking pitch in the dirt. Another breaking ball up in the zone had him out in front, and he took a huge rip but missed – somewhat surprising, because Bichette is well-known for his ability to cut down on his swing with two strikes.

Should we be concerned, or is this just a dry spell that he’ll eventually break out of?  History suggests the latter – he did put together a 9 and a 10 game hitting streak in April, a month in which Bichette hit .292/.364/.427.  Evaluators passing through the northeast have all commented on his vastly upgraded defence.  Bichette is showing the requisite footwork, hands, arm strength, and ability to make the double play pivot of a Major League Short Stop.  With fellow prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr receiving national attention, is Bichette maybe pressing a bit much?  That’s a tough question to answer, but it does appear from his approach that he’s not as patient at the plate as he has been in the past.  This may just be a stretch of adversity that it seems like most minor leaguers go through – the successful ones learn how to adjust.  Past performance suggests that Bichette will.

Dillon Fans 10 in First AAA Start

The Buffalo Bisons pitching staff has been beset by major league call-ups, which meant that RHP Justin Dillon, a 10th round pick last June recently promoted from Dunedin, was pressed into duty as a starter yesterday.

Dillon is described as a “big bodied finesse Pitcher (6’3″/225),” who fell to the Blue Jays in the draft after missing much of his junior college season with a groin injury.  Dillon did lead Sacramento State to the WAC title in 2017, and was the team’s ace (as a senior, he had little bargaining power, and the Blue Jays signed him to a $5K bonus).  He showed enough at Vancouver last year (10.96 K/9 vs 1.57 BB/9) to merit a skip to High A this year.  Called up earlier in the week to Buffalo, he had one relief appearance before taking the mound against the Phillies’ Lehigh Valley affiliate.

Over 6 innings (a career high), Dillon fanned 10 Ironpigs, allowing only 3 hits and an unearned run.  Pitching from the stretch, Dillon had pinpoint control, moving the ball around the strike zone in response to Catcher Danny Jansen’s target.  Owner of a four-pitch mix, Dillon does not over power hitters and lacks a true out pitch, but relies on sequencing and location to throw hitters off.  He can elevate his fastball with two strikes to gets swings and misses.  The Bisons couldn’t muster any offence (the team has not scored in 22 innings), and an error in the bottom of the sixth by 1B Jason Leblebijian brought in the game’s sole run, and tagged Dillon with the Loss.

Dillon filled up the strike zone on this night throwing 60 of 82 pitches for strikes.  He induced 5 ground ball outs, against 3 by the fly ball.  It was an impressive performance, and will no doubt earn him another turn in the Bisons’ rotation.

Blue Jays, Bisons Renew PDC

The Blue Jays and their AAA affiliate Buffalo announced a two-year renewal of their Player Development Contract earlier this week.

The Bisons have been a Toronto affiliate since 2013, and the partnership has proven very successful.  Buffalo has a lengthy baseball history dating back to 1877.  Forbes listed the Bisons as the 15th most valuable minor league franchise in a 2016 listing.

There is a list of items both sides want from a succesful affiliation.  For the MLB team, it’s a place for the appropriate development of their players, which would extend beyond the stadium itself, and include training facilities, as well as space for visiting team officials.  For the affiliate, a steady supply of prospects that makes the team interesting (if not always in contention) for the fans is the primary requirement.

In the case of this relationship, the proximity of Buffalo to Toronto has had some distinct added advantages.  With only a 90-minute drive (give or take, depending on the Gardiner) between the two cities, players can be summoned quickly when the Blue Jays are at home.  The close distance also helps to further grow the brand of both teams.

In an email, Blue Jays VP Ben Cherington, who oversees the club’s minor league operations, said:

   We’re excited to extend the relationship.  Aside from the obvious geographic advantages, what resonates with me about Buffalo is just how the team means to the people who own the team, work for the team, and root for the team.  People from Buffalo are proud to be from there, and proud of all things that come from Buffalo – including the Bisons.  That creates an environment that aligns with ours….people care about the team and the team’s performance. ……we like the idea of our AAA players playing in that sort of environment as the last step toward the Major Leagues.

PDC’s come up for renewal every other year in even years.  Two is the usual number of years that they are renewed for, although the Blue Jays extended their agreement with the Northwest League’s Vancouver Canadians to 2022 a few months ago.  The only other PDC that expires at the end of the year in the organization is with Bluefield of the Appalachian League, although the expectation is that will be renewed as well.

 

Short Stop Becoming A Blue Jays Position of Strength

Warmoth
Logan Warmoth – Clutchlings Photo

Last year, with the emergence of Danny Jansen, the acquisition at the previous year’s trade deadline of Reese McGuire, and the drafting of Hagen Danner and Riley Adams, Catching became the deepest position in the Blue Jays organization.

This year, the team has built on that depth at Short Stop.

Leading the way is Bo Bichette, who lead the minors in hitting last year, flirting with .400 in early June.  This year at AA, Bichette has been challenged by the higher level pitching for the first time in his pro career.  Still, he’s hit safely in 23 of the 27 games he’s appeared in, and while he’s yet to Homer this season, Bichette has started to tap into his power with 12 extra base hits.  In addition, Bichette has taken great strides to quell concerns about his defence, with most evaluators this year agreeing that he has the skills to play Major League SS.  Bichette was ranked the Midwest League’s #3 prospect, and the Florida State League’s #2 prospect after a whirlwind 2017, and shows all the tools of a future MLBer.

Behind Bichette is a growing wealth of talent.

Logan Warmoth was Toronto’s 1st round pick in last June’s draft, and he had a solid pro debut, leading Vancouver to the Northwest League title,  being named the loop’s 6th-best prospect in the process.  Skipped over Lansing to High A Dunedin this year, Warmoth had his struggles at first, but is hitting .275 over his last 10, and making a lot of hard contact according to reports.  Warmoth does not have one overwhelming tool, but does a lot of things well.  Like Bichette, there were initial concerns about his long-term prospects at SS, but he’s shown the range, footwork, and arm strength to handle the position.

Kevin Smith has been in Warmoth’s shadow since being taken in the 4th round last year.  Normally, a college draftee chosen that high would start at Vancouver, but with Warmoth there, Smith was sent to Bluefield to start his pro career.  A glove-first player for much of his college career, Smith showed glimpses of a bat that was still developing, with his power ranked ahead of his hitting ability.  Sent to Lansing this season, Smith has shown every indication that his bat has caught up to projections – Smith has posted a line of .370/.417/.639, and is hitting .459 over his last 10 games.  With the presence of Kevin Vicuna at Lansing, Smith has split time between SS and 3B, but there is little doubt about his skills on the defensive side of the ball.  Smith has plus hands and a strong arm.

Vicuna was labelled a glove-first player when the Blue Jays signed him as an IFA in 2014.  His bat had progressed enough to be sent to Dunedin to fill in for a month last spring before he was sent to Vancouver, where he was named the Northwest League’s 19th prospect.  There is no doubt about his defence, but Vicuna’s bat has shone at Lansing this year, hitting .308/.325/.375.  Vicuna goes up to the plate looking to swing, drawing only a pair of walks so far.  His glove is what will move him up in the organization, but he’s not proving to be an easy out.

Two international players also add to the team’s depth:

-Dominican Miguel Hiraldo was ranked the top bat in last year’s IFA class.  He profiles long-term at 3B, but the Blue Jays wil have him start his career at Short.

-Panamanian Leo Jimenez, who Blue Jays Assistant GM Andrew Tinnish is incredibly high on:

 (He’s) bilingual, great make up, ultra young in the class – a late May birthday – he really has lead-off or #2 hole potential….if you asked me right now who has a chance to play SS in your system, Leo would be at the top of that list.  The way the body moves, the way the arm works, the instincts, he’s a really good, future upside defender.

In addition, the Blue Jays have been strongly linked to Orelvis Martinez of the D.R. Martinez is ranked the top IFA SS in this year’s class, and may command the highest bonus.

Not all of these players will one day patrol the infield at the Rogers Centre, but the depth gives the team plenty of options and flexibility in the future.  Some could be developed into utility players, while others could be used in trades to bolster the organization’s depth at other positions.  The organization has done a good job stockpiling a supply of athletic players at Short Stop.

Pearson Hit by Line Drive in 2018 Debut

Well, that didn’t last long….

Held back for a month because of an oblique issue, the top pitching prospect had one Extended start under his belt before pitching in a game for the Blue Jays High A Florida State League affiliate Dunedin last night.

Pearson showed some obvious signs of rust, according to observers in attendance.  His customary velo (sat 94-96 with his fastball, touched 99), but his release point was inconsistent.  He gave up a two-run Oppo HR in the 1st, but appeared to be settling down a bit in the 2nd.  Pearson gave up an infield single on a sawoff, then fanned a pair of hitters after falling behind.  He fell behind 2-0 to the next hitter, then was walloped with that line drive on the arm after firing a 95 pitch down the heart of the plate. One eyewitness said there were two distinct cracks – one off the bat, the other off of Pearson’s arm.

Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins this morning said that x-rays revealed Pearson has a non-displaced fracture of the ulna, the long bone that runs from the elbow to the pinky.  The best case recovery time will be about six weeks, with rehab after that.  A late August comeback might not be out of the question, but his 2018 is pretty much a write off.

 

Ryan Borucki Rounding Into Form

Buffalo LHP Ryan Borucki may not be the best Pitching prospect in the Blue Jays organization, but he’s closest to MLB-ready at the moment.

Borucki made his first start of the year on April 10th, but because of the poor spring weather that settled in over the Northeast, he didn’t take the mound again until 10 days later.  His performance suffered as a result, but he made his best start of the season yesterday, throwing 7 shutout innings against Washington’s Syracuse affiliate.

Borucki was masterful with his sequencing yesterday, mixing all four of his pitches and keeping the Syracuse hitters off-balance.  He told milb.com:

“I just really had my fastball command. I was working it down, got a lot of ground-ball outs, which is always good. Whenever you keep it out of the air, it’s always a good thing. I had my offspeed. My slider was working to get ahead of hitters. I was putting them away with my fastball and my changeup, which are usually my go-tos. I just mixed my pitches pretty well today and the results showed.”

Consistently working down in the zone, Borucki retired 19 of the last 21 hitters he faced.  In addition to the pair of hits, Borucki surrendered a pair of walks.  10 of his outs came via the ground ball, and he fanned 5.  He was ahead of the hitters all day, making his change-up an even more effective pitch.

If/when the Blue Jays need a spot starter over the next few weeks or months, depending on how his turn in the rotation matches up, Borucki should be at the top of the list of Pitchers the team is considering promoting.

 

When is it time to Promote a Prospect?

You can’t see it unless you’re there, but there is a wide array of data being collected at each and every minor league game.  Behind home plate sit scouts with notebooks and radar guns, as well as last night’s Pitcher, who is charting pitches.  Further up, somewhere in the press box level is a Trackman sensor that can capture upwards of 27 different and unique measurements grouped by release point, pitch movement, plate location, and batted ball.  In the dugout, the Manager and coaching staff are taking mental notes to include in the post game report they file for the affiliate’s MLB parent.  In addition, there are the observations from the club’s roving instructors, training staff, and front office staff that are compiled on a regular basis.  Depending on the time of year, front office staff may be in attendance, taking notes. As fans, we don’t get to see this, but there is a mountain of information collected every game.

For fans whose actual exposure to a minor league prospect consists of looking up their stats on milb.com while clamoring for the promotion of that player, they’re looking at the tip of the developmental iceberg, missing the bulk of that player’s characteristics which lies below the surface.

Promoting a player to the big leagues is a process that can be fraught with hazards.  In the words of Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus,

Grant promotions too early or too often, and they risk jeopardizing his future by burying him on the bench or subjecting him to the mental and physical rigors of major-league life before he’s equipped to handle them. Delay advancement too long, and they threaten to sabotage his development in a different way, blunting his talents against inferior competition while more expensive players with shorter shelf lives take up space on the big-league roster.

We could be talking about any minor leaguer, but of course, we’re mainly discussing Vladimir Guerrero Jr, who is shredding AA pitching at the tender age of 19.  The media has been full of suggestions that it’s time to promote the youngster, and Blue Jays-related social media has been circling the bases multiple times with that idea.

But as GM Ross Atkins told Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, there’s more to promoting a player than his numbers:

“That’s just offence, right, when you say statistically,” the Blue Jays GM says in an interview. “There are so many more aspects of the game. And it’s only a month of performance above A-ball, as well. Look, man, we’re elated that he’s having this type of performance and it doesn’t look like this performance is going away, the way he’s doing it.

Atkins did not come out and say that Guerrero, who has played less than 200 games at 3B, needs more reps, but he certainly did suggest it:

“It’s really two things,” Atkins said of the developmental priorities for Guerrero, “it’s first-step quickness and how that impacts his defence, and best possible teammate, because he has the potential to be a leader.”

When it comes down to evaluating whether a prospect is ready for a promotion, teams go far beyond their stats (although minor league numbers, of course, tend to be a good indicator of future MLB success).  Everyone involved with the team’s minor league system has a say in whether a player is ready from a competitive and emotional standpoint for the next level.  For the Blue Jays, that line starts with VP of Baseball Ops Ben Cherington, whose focus with the team is on player development and their minor league system, through Atkins,  and includes Director of Player Personnel Gil Kim,  Director or Minor League Ops Charlie Wilson, High Performance Director Angus Mugford, Analytics Staff, Roving Instructors, Minor League team staff, and likely Special Assistant Tim Raines.  Gathering consensus from such a large group is probably quite difficult, but all have a say, and a player generally doesn’t move forward until it’s reached.  Atkins confirmed that process:

(W)e work through a very detailed process to understand all of the risk factors, all of the objective and subjective information in and around what’s best for a player’s development,” said Atkins. “That’s thinking about the complete player, factoring in environment, factoring in competition level, factoring in resources such as coaches, who he’ll be playing alongside of and what that means for putting the best possible challenge in front of our players in the best possible environment. It’s not about the right time. We’re constantly doing that. We’re constantly factoring in all of those factors.”

The biggest pitfall in promoting a player is that he proves not to be ready for that level, and many teams tend to err on the side of caution in that regard.  The Blue Jays have proven that they don’t mind being aggressive with their prospect promotions, but they have developed a one-step-at-a-time template that they widely adhere to.  Each level of the minors has its own developmental challenges for players, and the Blue Jays see value in spending time at each one – including AAA –  as Cherington told Sportsnet:

“We do feel like it’s important for players to play at the triple-A level. It’s an important development challenge to be here,” Cherington said. “We’ve got players here right now who we really believe in and believe are going to be good major-league players. They are being challenged by this level. This is an important level to be at for some period of time.

“It’s a different level of competition than double-A is,” he added. “Different kind of players you’re facing, different matchups, different game-planning strategies — it’s just a different level of play.”