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.

 

Advertisements

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.

Kevin Smith Is This Year’s Prospect on the Rise

Smith
milb.com photo

One of the best aspects of following the Blue Jays system is watching the rise of a breakout prospect.  In 2014, we watched Dalton Pompey begin the year in High A, and finish it in the majors.  Anthony Alford was 2015’s breakout prospect after giving up his college football commitment.  In 2016, Conner Greene added velo to his curve ball, and pitched at three levels.  Last year, after an off-season visit to the optometrist, it was Danny Jansen’s turn.

This year, it’s been Kevin Smith who has been on the helium watch.

A 4th round pick last June, Smith had a reputation as a glove-first player.  Baseball America was not wild about his bat:

Offensively, Smith shows above-average bat speed and raw power. He batted .301 as a rising sophomore in the Cape Cod League last summer, giving evaluators hope that his pure batting had improved. Smith struggled early on this spring, casting further doubt on his ability to make contact and dropping him to the lower third of the Terrapins’ order. His power remains ahead of his hitting ability. In a college shortstop class devoid of players likely to stick at the position, Smith should still be a high draft pick, in spite of his shaky offensive track record.
  Most picks of his stature and background would have been updating their passport and heading off to Vancouver after the draft, but with Logan Warmoth selected ahead of Smith, his travel plans were re-routed to Bluefield of the Appalachian League.  Smith had a decent year at the plate (.271/.312/.466), but gave little indication that he was about to break out the following season.
   A dedicated student of both the game and his own skills, Smith set out to fix a mechanical flaw he had detected, telling Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi:

“I had a loop in my swing and I’m not really sure how it got there. Looking at swings, I can tell when something’s off. I was getting way under the ball, coming way up through it and I really wasn’t on plane with it for a while. The whole off-season was just trying to work on that ball up and that was what was giving me trouble, fastballs up, I’d try to cheat to it and then get exposed with breaking balls away.

The adjustments helped Smith get to the ball on time in a more consistent fashion, and allowed him to make harder contact to all fields:

 

Smith got off to a slow start after his promotion to Dunedin, going for 4-25 in his first half-dozen games.  Since that time, he’s been on fire, with six multi-hit games in his last seven, brining his line up to .351/.406/.491.

A regular observer at Dunedin games quickly became impressed with Smith.  “Plays hard, carries himself well. Dependable at SS, above average arm,” he noted.  “I watch him pre pitch, he never takes his glove off his hand, he’s always aligned properly where the catcher is set up. Is equally adept at going left or right for ground balls, rarely makes mistakes from obvious carelessness or mental lapse. Pretty even, flat swing plane.”

A relentless worker, Smith takes the game seriously, and is very prepared when he steps between the lines.  He told milb.com:

“I give a lot of everything to my routine. I want to go into every game where I’m comfortable where I’m at and what work I put in before the game, after the game, on off days and stuff like that. It’s all about trying to stay consistent with my approach and my swing. I want every day to be I don’t have to worry, just I know I put my work in and the game will sort itself out.”

We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves at this point, but if Smith can continue to hit at the higher levels, he may truly become the Short Stop of the Future.  Bo Bichette has shown adequate defensive skills, but he’s not in the same class as Smith, and there has been considerable debate as to Warmoth’s eventual position.  Splitting time between 3rd and SS at Lansing with the presence of Kevin Vicuna, Smith showed some growing pains at the hot corner, but threw himself into learning the position.  With Warmoth returning from the DL, that trend will probably continue, but Smith has already shown that he has the defensive tools to be a Major League SS.

 

Toronto Blue Jays Top 10 Position Prospects

“There are no shortcuts.”

Of all the correspondence this blog has had with Blue Jays President/CEO Mark Shapiro over the past year, that aphorism stands out the most.  It underscores the approach this management group takes to organization building, a methodology that eschews the quick fix.  Players will be challenged, but they won’t be rushed.  Benchmarks will be established at each level, and a player doesn’t move on until he’s reached them.  With the Blue Jays already double-digit games behind the last Wild Card spot, there are those who are grumbling about the lack of accomplishments since Shapiro took over the reigns of the team 32 months ago (although a 2016 post season appearance seems to be forgotten).  But Shapiro and Co won’t be deterred.  Throughout the system, there is a growing collection of athletes who are receiving instruction from some of the most qualified staff in the game, as well as nutrition and training support from one of baseball’s leading high performance departments.  Building a winner takes time, and while Rogers has not necessarily shown an appetite for a full on rebuild, one is surely coming.  Until they prove themselves at the MLB level, prospects are just that, but a growing stable of them gives teams the best shot at a contending future.

1.  Vladimir Guerrero Jr

There’s little to be said here that can add to the utterly dominant offensive performance Vladdy has put together over the past two months.  One of the youngest players in AA, he has laid waste to Eastern League Pitching.

Despite the gaudy numbers, there are nights when Guerrero plays like a 19-year-old.  Veteran pitchers can have him chasing, and he sometimes short-arms throws to 1st.  While those occasions are few and far between, there have been enough to convince the team to stick to the timetable, despite the clamouring of fans who look up his stats.

With the Blue Jays free-falling from contention for a wild card spot, there’s little need to waste service time and bring him up to the majors.  Shapiro hinted last October that if the Blue Jays were in a playoff race in July, and if the club needed a 3rd Baseman, then there was a good chance we would see him in 2018.  That’s looking less and less like a possibility, now that he’s on the DL for at least a month with a knee strain.

2.  Bo Bichette, SS

With 11 hits in his first 6 AA games, Bichette looked like he had picked up right where he left off last year when he led the minors in hitting.

Bichette soon began seeing a heavy diet of off speed pitches away, and for the first time in his young pro career, he struggled at the plate, and his average dipped to as low as .244 on May 23rd, as he chased a lot of pitches, and seemed to abandoned his excellent two-strike approach.

With a .361 average, including four multi-hit performances over his last 10 games, Bichette appears to have adjusted.  And with every game, he appears to be solidifying his prospects as an everyday SS.  Bichette makes both the routine and the spectacular play, and there is no question as to his focus on the field.

3.  Danny Jansen

Jansen had a breakout 2017, the first time head had been healthy for a full campaign since being drafted in 2013.  After posting a line of .323/.400/.484 last year, he’s almost matched those numbers with this year’s .313/.414/488.

Jansen has excellent pitch recognition, with more walks than strikeouts, and often puts himself in favourable counts, which he takes full advantage of.  On the defensive side, Jansen still had work to do in terms of his blocking skills, but he’s made tremendous strides.  Jansen has an excellent report with his Pitchers, and calls a good game behind the plate.

A couple of factors have led to Jansen’s breakout at the plate.  Corrective lenses, which he started wearing in the Arizona Fall League in 2016 to help him track pitches better while behind the plate have allowed him to improve his pitch recognition greatly.  Being healthy for a prolonged period has helped, too – three of his first four pro seasons prior to 2017 were interrupted by injury.  And working with Buffalo Hitting Coach Corey Hart, who he had at Dunedin last year, Jansen has tweaked his mechanics to keep his weight back (using a slight turn with his leg kick), allowing him to make harder contact.

The development time for Catchers often takes longer than it does for most players.  Jansen has caught just over 300 games as a minor leaguer, and is reaching the time when he’s ready to graduate to MLB.

4.  Anthony Alford, OF

Alford last played a full season in 2015, and it does cause one to wonder if he’ll ever be able to stay healthy.  His last three seasons have been interrupted by injury, and the inconsistency in obtaining reps has hampered his development.  A pro since 2012, Alford has really only been a full-time player since 2015, and still needs seasoning.

Alford is currently hitting only .196/.237/.257 for Buffalo, a reflection of the fact that he’s been in the Bisons’ lineup for only 25 games.  He is hitting .333 over his past 10 games, an indication that he may be turning things around, and more evidence that he just needs to stay healthy for a prolonged stretch.

5.  Cavan Biggio, 1B/2B/3B

Biggio’s K% and Flyball% were career highs last year, an indication of his attempt to put loft on the ball.  The humid Florida air and large Florida State League ballparks conspired to keep many of those flyballs in the park, and Biggio’s numbers were very pedestrian as a result.

This year has been a different story.  Biggio’s 13 Homers to date are good for 2nd in the Eastern League, and outside of Guerrero, he’s become the most dangerous hitter in New Hampshire’s lineup.

There is little doubt about Biggio’s bat, but his glove is a different story.  Labelled a fringe defender in his draft year, the Blue Jays have added duties at 1st and 3rd in an attempt to boost Biggio’s versatility.  His range and arm strength are modest, however, and despite calls from those stats-loving fans for his ascension to Toronto, Biggio isn’t going far until he’s made more progress as a defender.

6. Logan Warmoth, SS

The 2017 1st rounder hasn’t been a pro full calendar year, yet there is already debate as to his long-term future.

Some scouts suggest that Warmoth, who doesn’t have one overwhelming tool, but does an incredible amount of little things well that add up over time.  Others suggest the potential for MLB success just isn’t there, and the Blue Jays may have missed with this pick.

Currently on the 7-day DL, Warmoth has not set the Florida State League on fire on either side of the ball, but his bat was showing some signs of progress before we was injured.  He made a lot of loud contact with Vancouver this year, but has not had a similar impact so far in Florida.  The jury is out on Warmoth at the moment.

7.  Kevin Smith, SS

Warmoth’s replacement was leading the Midwest League in a number of offensive categories before he got the call to Dunedin.  After a slow start with the D-Jays, he’s had 1six straigth multi-hit games, and is playing peerless defence.

A 4th round pick last year, there were concerns about Smith’s bat.  So far this year, he’s gone a long way to start to erase them.  Smith has a good approach at the plate, and barreled up a lot of balls enroute to a .355/.407/.639 line with Lansing.

Smith is a student of the game, and a very hard worker.  His defence has always been his calling card, but now it appears that his bat is catching up.  With a glut of SS at the lower levels, Smith split time at SS/3B at Lansing, but depending on the length of Warmoth’s absence, he has some time to settle in for a long stretch at Short.

8. Chavez Young, OF

You wouldn’t ordinarily expect much from a 39th round pick, but Young is truly proving to be a diamond in the rough.  The Bahamian may have been behind his peers in terms of development when he made his pro debut two years ago, but he’s more than made up for that.

Young has been a fixture atop Lansing’s order, although he’s now slid to 3rd with the promotion of Smith.  Young has a simple set up at the plate, gets good plate coverage, and seldom chases.  He can play all three outfield spots, and has been set loose on the basepaths this year, stealing 13 in 19 attempts.

Outside of Alford, there is perhaps no toolsier player in the system.

9.  Richard Urena, SS

It’s becoming harder to see Urena as a top prospect, although one suspects he’d have some value if he was in the right situation.

April was a write off because of time on the DL, and he was on the QEW shuffle for May.  All of that has transpired to limit his season to 20 games at AAA.  And the results reflect the lack of reps.

Maybe it’s focus, maybe it’s that he’s more of a AAAA player, but one gets the feeling that the Blue Jays don’t see a lengthy future for Urena.  The best thing for him now is to contineu to play every day at Buffalo.

 

10.  Miguel Hiraldo, SS

Hiraldo was one of the top-ranked bats in last year’s IFA class, and with a line of .395/.452/.737 in his first 9 games in the DSL – it’s a bit of a surprise the Hiraldo started there, but he likely won’t be there for long if he continues to hit at that clip.

The consensus is that Hiraldo, who is built more like a Catcher, will evenutally move over to 3B, but the Blue Jays are in no rush to move him.

Blue Jays Last Ten Days Hot Sheet

Hiraldo2
Miguel Hiraldo mlb.com photo

Here’s a little project that has been long in the thinking process, but has only recently come into execution.

The following are the top five Blue Jays prospects based on their performance over the past week and a half.  It’s not a re-ranking of the top prospects, but just a snapshot of the hottest players in the system over that period of time, with their stats for that stretch.

1.  Ryan Noda, Lansing .500/.560/1.222

The 2017 Appy League MVP brought his on-base ways with him to full season ball as he transitioned to the OF (a position he played in college), but struggled for the first two months of the season to get his average over the Mendoza line, or tap into the power he demonstrated last season.

With the promotion of 1B Kacy Clemens to High A, Noda shifted to his spot, and seems to have found his comfort zone.  Noda hit his first HR on May 30th, and has hit 4 since then, including a pair in a 3-4 night on June 7th.

2. Patrick Murphy, Dunedin, 1-0, 0.00 ERA, .184 BAA

Murphy was promoted to New Hampshire for a spot start on May 27th, and acquitted himself well with six strong innings.  Sent back to Dunedin, Murphy has not been scored upon over his last two starts.

Murphy is not one of the higher profile arms in the system, but he has steadily put together a good body of work since reaching full season ball in 2016.

3.  Miguel Hiraldo, DSL Jays, .433/.485/.833

One of the top-ranked bats in last year’s IFA class, Hiraldo hammered DSL pitching over the course of its first week of play.  Hiraldo had a three-hit game, and a pair of four-hit games last week, knocking out his first two pro Homers in the process.

Hiraldo’s long-term future probably involves a move from SS to 3B.  His short-term one may see a move to the Gulf Coast League, which starts play next week.

4.  Tayler Saucedo, Dunedin 1-2, 2.55 ERA, 2.65 ERA, .234 BAA

Just over a month ago, Saucedo changed his arm angle, and he’s become one of the more effective starters in the system since then.

Saucedo’s latest effort was a career-high 8 inning effort, in which he allowed two runs on five hits.

Saucedo does not overpower hitters, but relies on a mix of pitches and some deception in his delivery to get them out.  He was Dunedin’s Pitcher of the Month for May.

5.  Sean Reid-Foley, Buffalo, 1-0, 2.00 ERA, .235 BAA

Reid-Foley seems to have alternated good starts with not-so-good outings since his promotion to Buffalo last month.  Knocked out in the 3rd inning in his first start, he fanned 10 over 6 in his next.  Following that, Reid-Foley lasted only two innings, which then was succeeded by one of his best starts as a pro – a career-first 7 inning complete game, a 9-hit effort in which he gave up only one earned run, and more importantly, he didn’t give up a walk.

 

Blue Jays Draft Recap

Sorry for being a bit tardy with this review, dear readers.  Life comes at you fast sometimes, and last week was Formula One-like.

Only the hardiest of prospect hunters could really offer an evaluation of the Blue Jays picks on Days Two and Three.  It’s during that time that teams look to scoop up players who may have slipped through the draft cracks; it’s also time that they also look to building rosters at their short season affiliates for the Day One guys to play with.  At the same time, as Director of Amateur Scouting Steve Sanders told us last year, every player they select had someone who believed in them enough to convince the team to draft them.  That’s how you come up with a Kevin Pillar in the 32nd round, a Danny Barnes in the 35th, and Chavez Young in the 39th.

A quick review of several sources suggests that the Blue Jays had a decent draft, particularly on the first day.  Selecting Texas prep teammates Jordan Groshans and Adam Kloffenstein may have been a bit of a coup, but there were other picks that observers centered out.  Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline feels that Florida HS SS Addison Barger, taken in the 6th round, ” has a strong arm and the potential for at least average tools across the board.” Carlos Collazo of Baseball America is even more sold on Barger’s ceiling, saying he “has solid tools across the board, impressive bat speed and a high baseball IQ.”

Over at Fangraphs, Eric Longehagen and Kylie McDaniel were enthused about 8th rounder Joey Murray, he of the deceptive delivery and high K totals, predicting that he, “could turn into a Yusmeiro Petit type who makes fringe stuff work due to an invisiball.”

Our good friend Jeff Ellis, who probably knows as much about the draft pool as any scouting director, listed a couple of names that jumped out at him, starting with Murray’s Kent State teammate, RHP Austin Havekost.  Ellis says that Havekost is, “a player I had seen a bunch, good velocity and size.”  At 6’4″/220, he throws in the low 90s and can hit 95, and seems to profile as a back end of the bullpen guy.  Havekost also has what BA calls a “sharp” split-change and a slider, and that, “He pounds the strike zone with both offspeed offerings and pitches with above-average control.”

There are many stories about Wake Forest 3B John Aiello, who the Blue Jays took in the 14th round.  A legendary high school slugger, Aiello hit 20 HR as a sophomore, but had a poor draft year season.  That sounds like a similar scenario to Ryan Noda, who was taken in the 15th round last year, and after being named the Appy League MVP last year, has started to heat up for Lansing.  As Ellis puts it, Aiello has, “Big power, but horrible pitch recognition.”

Toronto selected a number of middle infielders, and Ellis singled out 20th round pick Vinnie Capra from Richmond, who he says, “is undersized and from a small school, but was really good back to back years in Atlantic 10, type of guy who makes a ton of sense as a day 3 gamble. There are reasons he is there, but also are reasons he could find success.”

Finally, Ellis mentioned 30th round pick Cobi Johnson from Florida State, son of the Blue Jays bullpen coach and longtime minor league instructor.  Ellis says of Johnson:

I thought he would be drafted out of high school as a first rounder. Turns 23 this year, struggled in college but did miss bats the last two years. Maybe hope he can straightened out and turn into a reliever.

There are likely several other names that stood out to others, but these are several intriguing players who are worth a follow.  We won’t know, of course, how successful this draft will be for several years, and we don’t know how many of these players will reach MLB, but it will probably only be a handful.  The fun is in watching their development, and seeing how far they can go.  The draft is more than an educated guess, but not a lot more.  Teams can follow players for several years, get to know them, and analyze the growing mountain of data that’s coming from college programs, but ultimately no one can predict a player’s maturity, and their ability to overcome adversity.  Many wash out at short season, but if a player reaches full season ball and manages to stick around for at least a season there, you have to consider that a small victory for the prospect, and a small success for the team.

Blue Jays Step Out of the Box with First 10 Draft Picks

Known throughout the industry as a risk-averse management group, the Blue Jays stepped out of their comfort zone somewhat when they selected 3 high schoolers among their first ten picks in the second day of MLB’s draft.

After selecting only a single prep player in each of the last two years, the Blue Jays selected Magnolia (TX) HS teammates SS Jordan Groshans and  RHP Adam Kloffenstein with their first and third picks.  Not content to stop there, they also chose Florida HS SS Addison Barger in the 6th round.

High schoolers represent something of a double-edged sword in the draft.  On the one hand, getting players into your system at a young age allows for them to develop under the eyes and guidance of professional instructors, and enhances the chances of them reaching the ample projection they have remaining.  On the other hand, projecting physical development is one thing; doing so with emotional development is another.  There is just no way of accurately forecasting if a player has the work ethic and character to reach their potential.  And always lurking in the background is the spectre of a college committment, which the player can turn to if negotiations don’t go as well as they and their advisor(s) had planned.

Screenshot 2018-06-06 at 8.20.40 AM

In order to move those negotiations along, Toronto did select three college seniors among those first ten picks, and their relative lack of bargaining leverage will probably allow the team to up their offers to the prep players.

A summary of the scouting reports on rounds 3-10:

Adam Kloffenstein

Regarded as one of the best HS players available on Day 2, there is quite a variety of opinion on the 6’5″/220 righty.

From Fangraphs:

Kloffenstein might be in the mid to late first round on some teams’ boards. What you think of him depends largely on when you went in to see him as, at times, he’s been 88-92 with a delivery scouts don’t like and, at others, into the mid-90s with great command and polished secondary stuff. He has size and is young for the class, so if teams who seek those things are also teams who saw Kloffenstein at his best, they might be on him late in the first round.

MLB.com

He kicked off the summer showcase circuit last June with a strong two-inning outing as the first pitcher to take the mound at the Perfect Game National, and he hasn’t let up since. Kloffenstein can work in the low 90s with heavy sink on his two-seam fastball and hit 96 mph with his four-seamer. He has advanced feel for a breaking ball, showing the ability to morph his sharp slider into a bigger-breaking curveball or a harder cutter. He also has a deceptive changeup with tumble that lacks consistency but also can be his best pitch at times. At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, Kloffenstein has a frame built for durability and also the room to add some more strength. He’s athletic and repeats his delivery well, allowing him to throw strikes. He’s a tough competitor who can get overly animated on the mound, but the only real knock against him is that he may difficult to sign away from Texas Christian.

Baseball America:

Kloffenstein is a strong, 6-foot-5 projectable righthander out of Magnolia (Texas) High, who showed an interesting package of starter traits over the summer and impressed scouts and scouting directors early this spring. He has a high, three-quarter slot and a quick arm, with a fastball in the low 90s. His breaking ball had a curveball shape over the summer and came across in the low 80s, but now looks more like a slider thanks to a mechanical tweak made by the Texas commit. This past year, Kloffenstien has shown a lot of progression, as he was always a big, physical presence but has now taken steps mentally and physically. He has cleaned up his body and holds his velocity deeper into starts, while also flashing a changeup in the mid-80s that induced several swings and misses over the summer.

There’s obviously a huge risk that Kloffenstein doesn’t sign, but the Blue Jays are hoping the appeal of playing with Groshans, as well as the above-slot offer they’ll likely make will convince him to sign.  With plenty of projection remaining, the team must feel that there is ample raw material to work with here.  Kloffenstein’s likely landing spot if he signs is the GCL.

Sean Wymer

From BA:

After serving as Texas Christian’s moment of truth reliever as a sophomore, Wymer moved into the Horned Frogs weekend rotation as a junior. Unfortunately for Wymer, he showed in his new role that he’s probably better suited as a reliever. Eventually, TCU moved the 6-foot-1 Wymer back into a multi-inning relief role as April turned to May. Pitching as a starter, his fastball tailed off from 93-95 mph he showed out of the bullpen and settled closer to 90-92 mph. Wymer’s high-70s, 12-to-6 curveball was still an above-average pitch as a starter, but it’s even sharper out of the bullpen. He started using his below-average changeup more in longer stints, but at his best, it’s his above-average control of his big breaking ball and an above-average fastball that could make him a useful reliever in pro ball.

The Blue Jays have a decision to make, but the signs seems to point to him being a back of the bullpen guy, adding him to a growing stable of power relievers.  Wymer should be on his way to Vancouver.

Chris Bec

The first 4th year senior chosen by Toronto, the U of Maine-Orono product is still new to Catching, but shows promise on both sides of the ball, according to BA:

A transfer from Miami-Dade JC to Maine prior to his junior season, Bec has a solid approach at the plate and decent bat speed. He slashed .315/.379/.539 as a senior in 2018, when he led Maine in hitting, finished second on the team in slugging percentage and third in on-base percentage. His batting average dropped 25 points from his junior to senior season, however, but it was mostly a result of selling out for more power. After hitting just one home run in 54 games in 2017, Bec hit eight home runs in 45 games in 2018. At 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, Bec could potentially tap into average power, at best. He is a good athlete for his size, stealing 16 bases in 21 attempts in 2018. He’s relatively new to catching and still raw behind the plate, but he has above-average arm strength and threw out 27 potential base-stealers over the last two seasons.

Bec will have some value, much of it in the form of a reduced signing bonus.  Along with Griffin Conine, he should provide some pop in Vancouver’s everyday lineup.

Addison Barger.

Reading over the first few lines of Barger’s scouting report had me thinking of the Blue Jays’ first pick last year – and lo and behold, he shows up in the next-to-last sentence:

One of the best all-around players in the Tampa area, Barger has solid tools across the board but didn’t have a single plus tool until his arm strength improved this spring. It’s a 60-grade arm currently, but Barger gets the most out of the rest of his toolset as a sure-fielding shortstop with plus bat speed and feel to hit that gives him average raw power. Barger makes all the routine plays at shortstop and should do enough to stick at the position until someone with more tools comes along and pushes him to second base. He’s a smart player who understands the game and makes adjustments at a level that encourages scouts about his on-field makeup. There’s not a ton of upside with Barger because of his lack of any plus tool, but scouts have compared him to the Logan Warmoths of the world–someone who could end up at college and drastically improve his prospect status. A Florida commit, Barger has no real holes in his game and a hit tool that drives mid-90s velocity with regularity.

After a couple of years of concentrating on Pitching over the first two days of the draft, Barger sounds like another bat speed guy to go along with Groshans and Conine.  If he signs, the GCL will be where he starts his career.

Late word today is that Barger will forego his commitment to Florida in order to sign with Toronto.

Nick Podkul

Two years ago, the Blue Jays tapped a Notre Dame IF with their 5th round pick, and that didn’t turn out so bad, as Cavan Biggio’s power surge this year has turned a lot of heads.  BA’s report:

Podkul is a productive college second baseman with some power potential. He hit .312/.433/.525 this season with 33 walks compared to 32 strikeouts in 202 at-bats.

Podkul sounds like a similar player, with an ability to draw walks.  He’ll be headed to Vancouver once he signs.

Joey Murray

Murray has a fastball of only modest velocity, but he has a deceptive delivery that BA says is a “Favourite of scouts and coaches because of his ability to generate swings and misses with very modest velocity.”

Murray was one of the best Pitchers in all of college baseball this year, fanning 132 in 88 innings.  He’ll head to Vancouver, and might move quickly in the system in a relief role if he continues to miss bats as a pro.

Jake Brodt

Picture the stereotypical lumbering bat-first 1st Baseman, and you have an image of the 6’5″/230 Brodt.

One of those 4th year seniors, Brodt led Santa Clara in HRs with 15.  He’s described as adequate defensively, and will have in passport in hand when he reports to spring training, because he’ll be heading Northwest.

Cal Stevenson

The 5’9″/170 Senior from Arizona by way Nevada and Chabot (CA) JC, Stevenson is a ball hawk with a decent hit and on base tool.  He’ll patrol CF for Vancouver, most likely.

 

The choices the Blue Jays made on Day 2 help to put their Day 1 into perspective.  Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline feels that the only team that made better choices on the day was the Braves.  

All that remains for these players now is to sign, get to Florida for a physical and mini-camp, and for some, be sure to have their passport, because short season and rookie ball begin about a week and a half later.\

 

 

A Couple of Updates….

Just wanted to share with you all a couple of updates from a busy day corresponding with people at various levels of the baseball industry….

Draft Update

A more detailed post about the Blue Jays picks from rounds 3-10 will be up tomorrow.  That’s where the draft starts to become interesting.

From our good friend, Jeff Ellis, who puts in as much work as many scouts across the country, his views on 1st rounder Jordan Groshans:

The talk was that the Blue Jays were all in on prep talent, but I refused to believe it until they did it. Groshans was the 14th rated player on my board, so this pick while surprising to some, but makes a lot of sense here for me. I have stated before that I see some Seagar in him and think that he is a player with an advanced approach who could have above average hit and power tools. I had him rated higher than Nolan Gorman and it seems the Blue Jays agreed with me.

On 2nd rounder Griffin Conine, who was viewed as a probable 1st rounder last fall, but had his stock slip:

 In my very first mock, I had Conine to the Blue Jays at pick 12; instead, they get him at pick 52, where he is an excellent value. The Blue Jays love bloodlines and they took a pair of players with strong baseball bloodlines. Conine had a rough start to the year, but over the last month, he has been killing the ball. I thought his performance might push him up boards, but it did not seem to have an effect, which was to the Blue Jays benefit.

Maxx Tissenbaum

We spoke to Tissenbaum this off season, after he helped lead the Capitales to their second Can-Am League title in a row.  The Toronto native was uncertain of his future at that point, as he was finishing his degree and helping coach his alma mater Stony Brook.  With the Seawolves eliminated from NCAA play last week, Tissenbaum got that itch to step between the lines again, and is heading back to La Belle Province for a third season, and is going to be able to combine playing with preparing for a career after baseball:

A bunch of stuff just kind of came together. I’m going to intern at B45 bat company during the days so I get some experience working in sales and marketing functions, make some extra money and get something for a resume outside of playing/coaching…and I just didn’t want to be done playing.  I think that played a bigger role than I originally anticipated. I thought I was ready to be done but as it got closer it just didn’t feel right not to be playing.

We know just how you feel, Maxx.

Tissenbaum, who was drafted  in the 43rd round by the Blue Jays in 2009 but didn’t sign, played in the Padres, Rays, and Marlins system.  Adding to his baseball travels, he played in the Australian Baseball League for two winters.  Capitales Manager Pat Scalabrini had high praise for Tissenbaum:

Maxx was a very rare kind of super utility player. Maxx played (very well) at mostly catcher and second base (which are not exactly complementary positions) but also played other positions when needed. All of that while being one of the best and most complete hitters in the league.
  Tissenbaum is excited to be suiting up again for Quebec City, which has a long history with indy and minor league baseball.  As an Expos affiliate in the 70s, Hall of Famers Gary Carter and Andre Dawson spent time in North America’s oldest city.  He’s headed to Ottawa to join his team, and says, “(it) feels good to be back on the lineup card rather than on the bench/bullpen.”

   We wish Maxx all the best.  If you are travelling out east this summer, a detour to Quebec City would be more than worth your while.

Blue Jays Select a Pair of Bats in MLB Draft

The Blue Jays, who have shown a preference for middle infielders and pitchers with their top picks in the most recent drafts, added to their growing stable of Short Stops by selecting Texas HS slugger Jordan Groshans with their first pick, 12th overall.

Most mock drafts had the bat-first Groshans in the 30s, but the Blue Jays valued his offensive skills.  “We just feel Jordan has a lot of the attributes we look for both in his swing, his combination of contact, of power, plate discipline,” Amateur Scouting Director Steve Sanders told Sportsnet. “He’s got a great feel and approach in the box, he’s able to drive the ball to all fields and we’re confident that his offensive ability will certainly transfer with wood at the next level.”

Toronto has been following Groshans extensively last summer on the showcase circuit, and continued to keep close tabs on him this spring.  Reports suggest that he will moved to 3B eventually, but his bat will play.  Baseball America‘s draft report:

A 6-foot-4, 190-pound shortstop, Groshans has quick bat speed and plus raw power and he showed the ability to square up elite pitching on the summer showcase circuit in 2017. He hit 90-plus mph velocity hard all over the field in multiple events, including a home run against a 95-mph fastball from New York righthander Lineras Torres Jr. in the Perfect Game All-American Classic. Over the summer, Groshans used a big leg kick to get start his load and when he was on time it didn’t hinder him, instead helping him generate more power. But there were instances where Groshans would get out on his front side and fly open early, leaving some scouts to question whether the big leg kick would create more timing issues as he advanced against better pitching. This spring, Groshans has quieted the leg kick and improved his balance and hand path to the ball, attempting to lift the ball less frequently and has been hitting lasers the entire season. He’s also added around 10 pounds of muscle while maintaining his lean body. Groshans has an above-average arm and he’s shown good defensive actions at a number of infield positions, though most scouts believe he will eventually move to third base with a chance to be an above-average defender as he continues to fill out his frame.

With a commitment to join his brother at Kansas, there is some risk to this pick, but along with tools and makeup, the Blue Jays have heavily scouted his signability.  The slot value for the 12th pick is $4.2 million, or almost half of the Blue Jays’ assigned value for the first ten rounds.  The Blue Jays will likely sign lower picks to smaller bonuses to elevate what they offer Groshans, who won’t improve his draft position by going to college.

In short, expect Groshans to sign well in advance of the July 15th deadline, but he will be one of the last players to affix his name to a contract.  Groshans will begin his pro career in the Gulf Coast League, and if a position switch is in the offing he may spend some time there.  Vancouver may be a late-season destination.

 

Duke OF Griffin Conine was originally thought of as a first round pick, but an inconsistent spring caused his stock to drop.  The Blue Jays covet players in that type of situation, and his blood lines only help his cause in the eyes of the organization.  The consensus seems to be that Conine sold out and went for more power as he came under more intense scrutiny from scouts this year.  As a pro, there’s a good chance that the Cape Cod League’s 2017 Top Prospect rediscovers his stroke.

2080baseball.com’s report on the son of Mr Marlin:

Athletic right fielder with plus bat and power potential; good, sound approach at the plate from a slight open stance; good balance; plus bat speed with quick hands and quick wrists; plus barrel control, barrels up balls and projects as a plus hitter; present strength; loft and leverage to all fields, projects to plus power; below-average run; did not produce home-to-first run time; above-average arm strength (55) with good carry; average defensive actions; tools to be above-average major league regular contributor.

Conine could prove to be a steal.  Like Groshans, he may be one of the last draftees to sign, but expect him to head northwest to patrol RF for the Vancouver Canadians shortly after he does.  C’s fans should be excited – Conine may be the best bat to join the team since they became a Blue Jays affiliate.

 

 

Let the Draft Flow!

draftMajor League Baseball’s draft takes place over the next three days, starting today.  It’s hard to know who the Blue Jays will take with their first pick, but if past history is any indication, a college arm would be a safe bet when Toronto steps up to the podium for the 12th pick.

Here’s a look around at what the top sources in the industry are saying.

MLB Pipeline:

Jonathan Mayo predicts that the Blue Jays will step out of the college player mold with their first pick, selecting Arizona HS 3B Nolan Gorman, who many reports have had them linked to.  Not hedging his bets, Mayo also suggests the team may select local product C Noah Naylor, whose stock has climbed steadily this spring.

Mayo’s colleague Jim Callis suggests that reports he’s received indicate that the Blue Jays are looking at a bat, and South Alabama OF Travis Swaggerty fits that bill.

Baseball America

BA notes that Swaggerty’s late-season slide, where his average dipped below .300, may cause him to slip.  They have the Jays taking Mississippi LHP Ryan Rolison, who has been linked to Toronto for much of the spring, with their first pick.  The Blue Jays have shown a preference for players who are young for their draft class, and Rolison matches that trend.

Jeff Ellis

Few people outside of MLB scouts watch more college and prep baseball than Ellis, who we spoke to earlier this spring.  Ellis has the Blue Jays taking Arizona HS LHP Matthew Liberatore.  Liberatore would certainly be an outside-the-box pick for Toronto, but as Ellis writes, “His fastball is a low to mid 90’s pitch, but his off-speed pitches are the separators right now..”

Ellis’ colleague Taylor Blake Ward has the Blue Jays picking Wisconsin HS OF Jared Kelenic, who has the toolsy upside the Blue Jays covet.

Minor League Ball

Respected MiLB writer John Sickels has the Blue Jays selecting Florida prep righty Carter Stewart, who the team has been linked to several times this spring.  And when we say the Blue Jays have been linked to a player, by the way, it’s an indication not just that Toronto scouts have been following them, but that regional and cross-checking scouts have been spotted at that prospect’s games.  Much of that is due diligence, but when a team is taking multiple looks at a player, they’re likely very interested.

Keith Law

ESPN’s Law predicts that the Blue Jays will select Texas HS RHP Grayson Rodriguez.  Rodriguez has caught a heavy dose of helium this spring thanks to his fastball, which hits 98 and sits 93-94.

 

Future Blue Jays

We have spoken with Blue Jays execs over the past couple of seasons, and have charted their draft history, and a couple of trends do emerge:  they do look for past performance, as well as MLB bloodlines.  Mark Shapiro feels that starting pitching is the hardest commodity to develop, and while there are a number of position players with plenty of upside available, it’s likely that they’ll be looking at an arm.

With that in mind, if they are available, we suggest that Rolison, ordraft Stetson RHP Logan Gilbert might be called if they are still on the board at #12.

The next few days are always fun to watch, as we dig into the backgrounds of players the team selects.  And we’ll do our best to list the signing scouts for the prospects the team chooses – these are the guys who have done the heavy lifting with these players, following them for several years, developing a relationship with them, and assessing their signability.