Bluefield’s Kirk Bashes His Way to Appy All Star Nod

Kirk
BTD Online photo

Bluefield’s Alejandro Kirk has had a smashing pro debut this season.

Signed in the fall of 2016, he was limited to two ABs in the GCL last season, but the C/DH has made up for lost time this season.  The Tijuana native has been the most consistent threat in Bluefield’s lineup, and was named to the league’s end-of-season All Star team as a DH, joining teammates OF Cal Stevenson and Reliever Sean Racoski.

At 5’9″/220,  Kirk has the build of a Catcher, but doesn’t profile as one long term.  He’s been adequate as a receiver for Bluefield, even catching Eric Pardinho’s near-perfect 7 inning outing.  He’s split time between Catcher and DH, and probably will move to 1B in the future.

Using a wide base, closed stance, and a toe tap, the righthanded-hitting Kirk gets an excellent view of the strike zone, and seldom chases.  He gets good plate coverage, and has strong pitch judgement, as evidenced by a 13% walk rate (vs an 8% K rate).  You’ll find him near the top of most Appy League offensive categories with his .354/.443/.558 line, and is tied for the lead in RBI.  John Eshelman (@2080_John on Twitter) of 2080baseball.com has had looks at Kirk this summer:

 

The challenge as he moves up the system will be finding a place for Kirk on the field.  But that will play, most likely next year in Lansing.

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Who Will the Blue Jays Call Up on September 1st?

MLB Rosters expand on September 1st from 25 to 40 players, a tradition that goes back at least a century – Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig was a September call up in both 1923 and 1924, before sticking for good the following season.

Minor League regular schedules end on Labour Day, and with AAA Buffalo out of the running for a post season spot, it’s reasonable to expect at least a half-dozen Bisons players will cross the Rainbow Bridge and head to Toronto shortly.

RHP Sean Reid-Foley had a decent MLB debut earlier this month, but was hit hard in his second start before being sent back to the minors.  SRF has fanned 150 batters over 129 innings this season between two levels, but he may be running out of gas after being roughed up in his return to AAA.

1B Rowdy Tellez seemed to be on the verge of earning a big league job after mashing 23 Homers in AA as a 21 year-old in 2016.  Justin Smoak’s resurgence, and issues with his mother’s health dropped him off the prospect radar, but a post All Star break line of .320/.371/.536 has probably earned him a look-see in September.

OF Anthony Alford’s last two seasons show that the jump from the minors to the majors is huge, and takes some players several trips back and forth to AAA before they establish themselves.  Alford, quite frankly, has had a disappointing season.  A strained hamstring coming out of spring training landed him on the DL, and while he appeared to be breaking through in June, Alford’s season has fallen short of expectations.  Just the same, he has to be part of the Blue Jays plans going forward, and even though the Toronto outfield is crowded at the moment, it’s reasonable to expect another shot for Alford in September.

OF Dwight Smith Jr has acquitted himself well in his brief MLB tours, and even though his playing time might be limited and his AAA numbers were not overwhelming, he’s earned another shot as well.

OF Dalton Pompey is out of options next year, and after a difficult season, perhaps out of chances as a Blue Jay as well.  2014 was a coming out year for the Mississauga native, when he started at High A and finished in Toronto.  Since then, he’s averaged 65 games per season, as injuries have taken their toll.  Before they let him go, however, the Blue Jays need to see what they have in Pompey, and this September may offer him one last chance.

C Reese McGuire was more than Danny Jansen’s back up in Buffalo.  With Jansen DHing on occasion to keep his bat in the lineup, and his promotion to Toronto, McGuire has appeared in almost 100 games.  Added to the 40-man last fall, McGuire might be ready for an MLB audition this month.

SS Richie Ureña has been lost in the prospect shuffle this year.  Injuries and time on the QEW Shuttle have limited him to 67 games and some disappointing numbers this year.  He gives the team some added flexibility when he is on the roster, however, so we may see Ureña in Toronto once more next month.

None of these players are apt to see significant playing time in September, but in one way or another, they’ve all merited a chance to spend a month on an MLB roster as the team looks toward 2019.   Fans will be clamoring for the promotion of top prospects Vlad Guerrero Jr, Bo Bichette, and Cavan Biggio, but the latter pair will be headed to the minor league post season, and all three area lock to go to the finishing school that is the Arizona Fall League in October.  Since none of the trio is on the 40-man roster at the moment, they won’t be eligible for promotion next month, anyway.

 

Blue Jays System Readies for Post-Season

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Post-season baseball for major league organizations is something of a blessing and a curse.  Prospects get to play some pressure-packed baseball down the stretch and into the playoffs, hopefully learning to win together on their way up.  On the other hand, particularly at the lower levels, players are tired after a long season (for many, their first as a pro), and the risk of injury increases.

The Blue Jays sent a number of their front office personnel to Vancouver last year to watch the C’s bring home their fourth Northwest League title as a Blue Jays affiliate.  This year, they have some decisions to make as far as travel plans are concerned.

Low A Lansing clinched a post-season berth by virtue of finishing with the second-best record in the Midwest League’s Eastern Division in the season’s first half.  They open a best of three series with Tampa affiliate Bowling Green on September 5th.

AA New Hampshire clinched a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2011 last Saturday night, with Max Pentecost hitting a three run bomb to seal the deal.   The Trenton Yankees trail the Fisher Cats by a game in the Eastern League’s Eastern Division, so home field for the best of five affair has yet to be decided.

Rookie Bluefield earned a spot in the Appy League playoffs last week, and will play Tampa’s Princeton farm club.  The Blue Jays will host game one of the best of three division series with the Rays on Friday.

Vancouver has yet to lock up a spot in the NWL post season, but leads Spokane by a game heading into the season’s final weekend.   Vancouver plays the next three at home, then finish the regular season in Spokane.

The DSL Jays, despite a decent 41-31 record, and the GCL Blue Jays were eliminated from short season play, as has AAA Buffalo.  High A Dunedin is just a game away from elimination from the Florida State League playoffs.

 

Who Will the Blue Jays Send to the Arizona Fall League?o

As the minor league season approaches its conclusion, we turn our thoughts to the Arizona Fall League, a finishing school of sorts for an organization’s top prospects.

In the past, the Blue Jays have used the AFL experience to give their top prospects a taste of competition against elite talent, or to give them added reps missed due to injury.

Toronto will send six prospects to play for the Surprise Saguaros, who will be managed by former Blue Jays minor league Manager Stubby Clapp, who’s now in the Cardinals organization.  New Hampshire Position Coach Andy Fermin will join Clapp’s staff.

The Blue Jays will be sending six players – they’re allowed to send any AAA or AA player, as well as one from High A.  Projecting the first three players is fairly easy:

1.  Vlad Jr

While fans are clamoring for Guerrero’s promotion to the big club when MLB rosters expand on September 1st, the Blue Jays are still building him up to play a full season (and holding off on his service time), so a shutdown for September followed by a trip to the desert is the most likely scenario.

2.  Bo Bichette

Bichette has had his ups and downs this year as his pitch recognition skills have been put to the test, but his .839 post All Star OPS suggests he’s come through his first taste of adversity as a pro.  Word travelled quickly around the Eastern League that he’d chase, and he struggled until he stopped expanding his strike zone.

Bichette would likely get an opportunity to split time between SS and 2B, adding to his versatility.

3.  Cavan Biggio

Biggio’s prodigious power (26 HRs, .532 SLG) has been one of the bigger surprises in the organization.  Toss in 90 BBs and 128 Ks, and you have a three true outcomes triple crown threat.

Some Toronto media members have been suggesting Biggio could be in the Blue Jays lineup as early as next year, but the team still likely would to see if that power surge is for real, and what his ultimate position might be.  Biggio has played mostly 2B, but has also seen time at 1B and 3B, and the club experimented with him in RF this week.

Facing tough competition in the AFL will give us a good barometer of the legitimacy of his power.

It starts to get a bit unpredictable at this point.  Some possible candidates for the other three spots include:

Nate Pearson

After spending April in shut down mode with an oblique issue, Pearson’s 2018 came to a screeching halt when he took a line drive off of his pitching arm in his first start of the season.  Reports suggested an August return, but he’s yet to pitch in a game since the injury.

It’s possible we see him in short stints in the AFL, but the likelihood of that depends on how his arm has healed.  And getting that kind of information out of the Blue Jays is a herculean task.

Travis Bergen

Injuries limited the 2015 7th rounder to 28 innings over his first three pro seasons.  He was a mainstay in Vancouver’s bullpen last year, helping to lead the C’s to a league title, and has taken over the Closer’s role in New Hampshire.  With Bergen eligible for the Rule 5 draft if he’s not placed on the 40-man roster by November, the team likely would like to see how he fares against top prospects.

Zach Jackson

The righty reliever with the funky delivery has fanned 66 in 56 innings for New Hampshire, but has walked 43.  Some added reps might be in order.

Patrick Murphy 

Like Bergen, Murphy has a lengthy injury history, but he’s bumped up his velo, hitting 100 this year, and sitting 96-98 deep into games.  Murphy has also blown past his previous high in Innings Pitched, so there’s every chance he’s shut down come September, given the Blue Jays usual caution with their young arms.  With the Rule 5 a possibility for Murphy, there’s a good chance he’s added to the 40 this fall.

Jon Harris

The 2015 1st rounder had a disappointing season in his first AA campaign last year, but has added velo and some deception to his delivery in his second crack at the level in 2018.  With the Rule 5 looming for Harris, the Blue Jays might give him time in Arizona after a decent second half with New Hampshire.

Jordan Romano

Romano came out like a house on fire at AA, winning his first 8 decisions and getting the starting nod at the Eastern League All Star game.  He hasn’t missed as many bats in the second half as he did in the first, and with scouts wondering if he wasn’t better suited to a bullpen role, the Blue Jays might want to begin that transition this fall if that’s what they have in mind.

Angel Perdomo

The tall lefty with the electric fastball has been a starter since joining the organization in 2012, but the team moved him into the bullpen this year in Dunedin.

Rosters are usually released in late August.  Play in the AFL begins in early October, and wraps up in late November.

Welcome to Minor League Baseball….

The Dunedin Blue Jays get no love.

And their fans (all 161 of them in attendance last night) get even less.  The club-owned team is a place for prospects to play in the Blue Jays system, and not much else.  When Blue Jays President and CEO Mark Shapiro was asked last fall where the D-Jays would play when renos to antiquated Dunedin Stadium take place as part of an $80 million-plus spring training retrofit, Shapiro acknowledged, “you know we’re not exactly displacing a huge fan base there.”

Minor league baseball, more than anything, is a business.  For the owners of the affiliates, it’s a way to sell a cost-friendly fan experience.  For their MLB partners, winning is nice, but it’s not a priority, especially at the lower levels.  In the case of the Blue Jays, when a prospect has met the objectives set for the player, Director of Player Personnel Gil Kim shows up with his notebook, and in the words of one affiliate official, “he’s not leaving empty handed,” usually taking the team’s best player with him.

With their team chasing a playoff spot, the baker’s dozen dozen of D-Jays fans who showed up to their game last night against Jupiter were treated to the site of recently promoted Chad Spanberger in Right Field.  In three years of college and over 160 games of pro playing time, Spanberger has never played the Outfield.  With Kacy Clemens on the roster, something had to give, and Spanberger traded in his first baseman’s mitt for an OF glove.

And the results were predictable.

Dunedin reliever Jackson McClelland came in to the game in the 9th, and tossed a 1-2-3 inning.  With the game tied at 3, the D-Jays failed to score in the home half of the 9th, so the game was headed to extras,

With the new extra innings rule in place, Jupiter began the top of the 10th with a runner on 2nd.  After McClelland had issued a walk, a soft fly ball was lofted to RF.  Whether Spanberger was unable to track it in the lights is unknown, but an easily catchable flyball landed a few feet in front of him, and what proved to be the winning run came home.

In the long run, the game meant little to the organization.  Putting Spanberger in RF was chance to keep Spanberger in the lineup, while SS Logan Warmoth, to whom the team paid a sizeable bonus after drafting him in the 1st round last year, was given a night off from defensive duties and was at DH.  Don’t question if it was fair to the fans, D-Jays players (including McClelland and the other Dunedin Pitchers on the night), or even Spanberger himself.

Again, it’s a business.

What to Expect from Sean Reid-Foley

RHP Sean Reid-Foley is a study in prospect development.

Thought to be a late first round pick in 2014, the Florida High Schooler fell to the 2nd round due to a college committment.  The Blue Jays scooped him up with the 49th pick, and while he hit full season ball in just his second year as a pro, they have brought him along gradually, challenging him to improve his fastball command and secondaries at each level.  He changed his delivery at Instructs in the fall of 2015 in order to streamline his delivery – the knock from scouts is that he tended to lose his mechanics during games, and lacked the ability early in his career to make adjustments.  At every level, the Blue Jays have allowed Reid-Foley to find his own comfort level, and have not rushed him.

In naming him the Blue Jays 11th prospect after a disappointing 2017 season, Baseball America‘s evaluation is remarkably prophetic:

After Reid-Foley took a step forward in 2016, he struggled in 2017 in the Double-A Eastern League, where he struggled with fastball command, inconsistent stuff and gave up too much hard contact. Despite his struggles, Reid-Foley still flashes average to plus stuff across the board. Reid-Foley’s fastball parks at 91-94 mph with good movement and reaches 97. His best secondary pitch depends on the day. Usually either his curveball or slider are working for him. When they’re right, they’re average pitches, though they sometimes disappeared on him and contributed to his struggles. His changeup flashed average at times too. Reid-Foley must improve his fastball command, which is complicated because of his mechanics and arm action. That leads several scouts to think his future is in the bullpen, though the Blue Jays plan to keep Reid-Foley as a starter. Reid-Foley has the repertoire to project as a back-end starter, though his stuff could tick up in short stints if he’s moved to a relief role, with a chance to get to Toronto by the end of 2018.

With SRF, you will get a fastball that now sits in the mid 90s, a pitch that he often elevates with two strikes.  The trick for Reid-Foley is getting ahead of hitters, where his slider or that upstairs four seamer can become more effective.  But that’s been an issue throughout his minor league career – when he’s on, he misses bats and piles up the Ks.  When he’s not, his pitch count goes up in a hurry.  This year, the former has been the case far more often than the latter – Reid-Foley has fanned 146 batters in 126 innings at two levels, and has limited hitters to a .205 average.  His 13.3% Swinging Strike rate is good enough for 3rd in the International League for Pitchers who’ve thrown more than 80 innings.  He has the lowest pull rate (37.3%) for that same threshold.  The inconsistencies of last year have become a thing of the past.

Reid-Foley will likely be pitching tonight to his Buffalo battery mate Danny Jansen, which should be a tremendous bonus – Jansen knows Reid-Foley’s pitches, and could be a great comfort factor for him. Without a great deal of fanfare, the rebuild is on in Toronto, and SRF, Jansen, and Ryan Borucki should be regulars in the Blue Jays lineup for the remainder of the season, to be joined by several more of their Buffalo teammates when MLB rosters expand in September.

 

What to Expect From Danny Jansen

During the Alex Anthopolous regime, then-Amateur Scouting Director Blake Parker was given free rein (and, for a while, one of the largest scouting departments in the game) to look for players in non-traditional baseball markets.  That approach landed them Anthony Alford in 2012, and a year later, an injured Wisconsin Catcher named Danny Jansen in the 16th round.

It’s been a long and winding road for Jansen (who lost significant parts of three minor league season due to injuries), but sources indicate that one of the top prospect systems will be promoted to the Blue Jays today, taking the place of Yangervis Solarte on the 25-man after Solarte was injured yesterday.

Here’s what to expect from Jansen:

1.  Grit and Resilience

This is a guy, after all, that the Blue Jays drafted even though he’d missed much of the short Wisconsin baseball season his senior year of high school due to a broken wrist (which he tried to play with in the state championship game).

The workload Catchers toil under is enormous, but Jansen has both the frame (6″2″/225) and the stamina to handle the rigours of a full season.  He’ll play through injury, and work hard on rehab if/when he’s out of the lineup.

2.  A nice, low target

Despite his size, Jansen is flexible enough to present a target at the bottom of the strike zone, a plus for handling sinker ball Pitchers.  His lateral movement to block wayward pitches has always been a work in progress, but he’s shown steady improvement each season.

3.  A good framer of pitches

This was a skill Jansen had as early as Low A.  Jansen is an expert at setting up at different parts of the strike zone to expand the corners.  Like Russell Martin, once one of the premier framers in the game, Jansen doesn’t move his whole arm to coax pitches back into the strike zone – he’s adept at turning his wrist slightly to frame.

4.  A leader

This was evident from his time in short season ball.  Jansen is skilled at working with pitchers and calling their games – you rarely see Pitchers shake him off.  He is a steady influence behind the plate.

5.  A decent bat

Jansen has been hard pressed to repeat his breakout (.323/.400/.484) at three levels performance from last year, but he’s not a guaranteed bottom of the order bat, either.

Jansen rarely chases, and sees a lot of pitches each AB.  He doesn’t strike out a lot, and isn’t afraid to draw a walk – he’s getting on base at a .390 clip this year.  A Catcher’s defensive contributions are far and away the most important aspect of his game, but Jansen should provide some upgraded production for the Blue Jays offence.

 

Raised well by solid Midwestern parents, Jansen is not flashy.  A veteran of six minor league seasons, his patience and work ethic are about to pay off.  Catcher of the Future for the Blue Jays has been a curse this century, but with Jansen and the crop of backstops behind him in the minors, the team appears set there for the next decade.

Time to Take Another Look at Tellez

Lost in the hype of the Blue Jays farm system being named one of the top ones in the game this summer has been the play of Buffalo 1B Rowdy Tellez over the past two months.

Seemingly headed for Toronto after bashing 23 HRs as a 21-year-old in AA two seasons ago, Tellez appeared headed for DFA status after a disappointing start to 2018, following and equally below expectations 2017 campaign.

Hot on the heels of a .309/.338/.574 July, Tellez had a pair of hits in Buffalo’s loss last night, raising his average to .455 over his past ten.  In the process, Tellez has raised his average to .278, to go along with a becoming-respectable .786 OPS.

Off-field problems, including his mother’s battle with cancer, had much to do with Tellez’ struggles last year.  After keeping things inside for much of last year, he’s been more open with his teammates and coaches.

On the baseball side, Tellez is not chasing as many pitches out of the strike zone as he did last year.  After showing remarkable patience in the Eastern League, Tellez saw fewer pitches in the heart of the strike zone in AAA last year, and expanded his strike zone as a result.  Frequently finding himself in pitcher’s counts, Tellez wasn’t cranking out the Quality ABs that he was in AA.  Last year, Tellez seemed to frequently take hacks at pitches that left a viewer wondering why he offered at that pitch; his strike zone judgement seems significantly improved of late.

Does this mean that Tellez is poised to be promoted to the big leagues when MLB rosters expand on September 1st?  He’s not a lock with Justin Smoak ensconced at 1B, but with the Blue Jays looking toward the future, perhaps he could take away ABs from DH Kendrys Morales.  Tellez is a bat-first player, and while his numbers of late are promising, his power numbers are still lacking for a player of his type.  Still, if a rebuild is coming, with Tellez running out of options next year and the team far from contention, it wouldn’t hurt to kick the tires on this former top prospect next month.

Blue Jays Last Ten Prospect Hot Sheet

This is another in a series of posts about the hottest prospects in the Blue Jays system over the past ten days (or so).  It’s not a re-ranking of the top Blue Jays prospects – that will come out after the minor league season.

1.  Cal Stevenson, OF Bluefield.

The 10th round pick from Arizona has dazzled in his first pro season.  Sent to the Appalachian League, he doesn’t have a lot left to prove after slashing .519/.619/.926 over the last ten days.

Stevenson leads the Appy in Runs, and is second in Average and OBP.  He has a patient approach with has led to 35 walks (leading the league) vs only 12 Ks.  He’s also stolen 9 bases, and hasn’t been caught.

2.  Max Pentecost, C New Hampshire

Pentecost’s last ten days have helped partially salvaged a disappointing season for the 2014 1st round pick.  He slashed .500/.455/.700, and 4 of his 10 hits were doubles, bringing Pentecost’s line for the season up to .228/.263/.345.  His Average had dipped below the Mendoza Line in late July.

The Blue Jays stashed Pentecost on the DL after the Arizona Fall League season in order to help protect him from the Rule 5.  There was thought of the team turning him into a multiple position player, but he’s been New Hampshire’s everyday Catcher for most the season.

3. Josh Winckowski, P Vancouver

At the end of an hour-long conversation with Blue Jays President/CEO Mark Shapiro last fall, I tossed out a line from an old Baseball Prospectus article I read about building a bullpen being a General Manager’s toughest job.  In response, Shapiro said that he thought that developing starting pitching is a more difficult task.

And he’s right.  Starting pitching drives a team’s defensive bus.

A 2016 Florida HS 15th rounder, Winckowski has been brought along slowly, pitching at all three short season levels.  That patience may be starting to pay off, as Winckowski delivered two superb starts for Vancouver over the past 10, as part of a remarkable turnaround for the defending Northwest League champs.

Winckowski pitched a career-hight 7 innings vs Euguene on July 29th, then delivered his best start as a pro, tossing six shutout frames in his following start, allowing 3 hits while fanning 7.

Other Pitching prospects in the Blue Jays system may have posted more dazzling stats over the past 10, but those two starts stood out.

4.  Ryan Noda, 1B Lansing

Last year’s Appy League MVP got off to a slow start with Lansing, but he seemed to find his stride at the plate at about the same time he was moved back to 1B with the promotion of Kacy Clemens to Dunedin.

Noda hit 4 HRs over the past 10, along with 8 walks, in posting a 1.172 OPS.  Noda leads the Midwest League in walks and OBP.  A Toronto media guy suggested Noda would be a LF in the Blue Jays rebuild next year, and while both of those predictions seem highly unlikely, there is no doubt about his ability to grind out ABs.

5.  Patrick Murphy, P Dunedin

Murphy ran into pitch count issues (and some inconsistent Florida State League umpiring) last night, but he became the 2nd pitcher in the system to hit 100 this season (teammate Jackson McClelland is the other).

Murphy’s velo has been ramping up all summer.  Enjoying a second straight season of good health, he’s sat in the mid-90s for much of the season, and has kept that velo deep into games.  Murphy has averaged better than a K per inning over his last ten starts.  No Blue Jays Pitching prospect has done more to improve his stock this year.

With the Rule 5 draft looming if he’s not put on the 40-man this fall, it would seem the team is content to keep him at High A for the duration of the season.  Blue Jays management would not confirm that, of course, but that does appear to be the strategy.

 

Blue Jays Amateur Scouting Director Talks About the June Draft

We had a chance to catch up with Blue Jays Director of Amateur Scouting Steve Sanders to talk about the crop of players the team selected in June’s draft.

The Blue Jays played things relatively safe in last year’s draft, selecting only one High Schooler (2nd round pick Hagen Danner) with their first 14 picks.

It was easy to forecast the Blue Jays dipping into the college ranks to take their first pick this year, 12th overall.  Several high profile collegiate arms appeared to be a fit with Toronto, and many boards seemed to agree.

Sanders and Texas Area Scout Brian Johnston confounded most observers when they took Magnolia High SS Jordan Groshans with that first pick, and then returned to the Lone Star State to take Groshans’ Magnolia teammate Adam Kloffenstein with their 3rd round pick.

Some speculated that the real catch was Kloffenstein, and drafting Groshans was a way to get him under contract.  Sanders says that really wasn’t the case:

Yeah I mean honestly it really wasn’t….those two players were were not really linked on our board, as good as the storyline is,and they’re certainly teammates and close friends….. getting both of them didn’t really come to fruition until the third round when we were able to take Adam and make him a Blue Jay.

It was really more a matter of both those guys were really scouted and discussed and drafted  independent from one another.

As for Groshans’ small-sample sized sizzling debut (.380/.439/.593) in the GCL, Sanders was very pleased, to say the least:

I mean (it’s) still a small sample size and it’s still a compact Complex League, but wow – look it’s early for sure and there’s only so much stock you can put in a hundred plate appearances, but we’re certainly very very happy with the start he has gotten off to .  We’re not surprised. I think we we certainly felt that with the type of investment we’re making  in him, and the amount of time we spent scouting him, we certainly were hopeful that he’d get off to a good start. He’s hit the ground running  – we’re obviously very pleased with the start he’s gotten off to for us.

As for Kloffenstein, who has yet to make his pro debut, that’s largely out of Sanders’ hands, but he did some have some insight to offer:

 I don’t really have any specifics on that (when he’ll make his debut). You know Adam had a pretty heavy workload. Earlier this year believe he threw something in the realm of 80 innings. So for us, it’s just it’s pretty much just the standard progression with every pitcher that comes into the system out of the draft. The first thing that’s pretty much done is assessing where they’re at. From a inning standpoint of where they’re at, from a season progression standpoint.  And putting together a development plan that’s specific to them. So you know that (Director of Player Development) Gil Kim (VP of Baseball Ops),  Ben Cherington, and the PD are certainly working with Adam. I would certainly expect to see him on the mound at some point soon.

Entering the 2018 college season, Duke OF Griffin Conine was viewed as a potential high first round pick.  Coming off a Cape Cod Top Prospect ranking the previous summer, the sky seemed the limit for the son of the former Major Leaguer.

But Conine’s season fell short of expectations.  Some put it down to selling out for power, while others suggested problems with his swing.  The Blue Jays quietly bided their time, and scooped Conine up in the 2nd round.  For the Blue Jays his past history, tools, and even the struggles he faced this year added up:

Griffin was an interesting one for us, and he was the guy that, like I said right after the draft, he’s a guy we’ve been watching for a long time, and that we’ve had interest in for quite some time and no doubt coming into the year certainly felt like he was somebody who was in the mix. He was a guy  certainly discussed in that first round area, again based on the year he had, and some of the struggles he faced we certainly felt opportunistic and being able to have the opportunity to take him in the second round. Sometimes those struggles are actually good to see. We don’t often have the opportunity to see guys with that type of talent level  – especially amateurs  – go through periods of struggle, and seeing him come out on the other side of it he finished the year the year on a  particularly strong note which was certainly a positive for us. But but you know it goes back to the value of scouting history and knowing the player for some time. We had scouted him quite closely in the Cape League last summer where you know he hit well over 300 with power with wood.

As for the bloodlines, Sanders says despite the fact that there are a number of players with MLB dads in the system, it’s not necessarily a draft strategy:

I don’t think it’s so much a concerted effort that we target players with Major League bloodlines . But I think we do target players with aptitude, strong baseball IQ, and  work ethic – an understanding of how to be a professional:  character,  makeup,  toughness, and ability to deal with adversity.

After a discussion about the top draft picks, we moved on to talk about several other players, including:

4th rounder Sean Wymer, TCU RHP:

He‘s had success in multiple roles both out of the pen and as a starter, and  throws a lot of strikes. . A little bit more velocity than Joey Murray but probably in a similar mold of pitcher first. Not necessarily going to overpower with pure stuff. He’ll run his fastball up in the mid 90s, but really really knows how to pitch, throws a ton of strikes, and  has a feel for a breaking ball and a change and has shown the ability in college to be successful in a multiple of roles which is which is exciting for us.

6th round pick Florida HS Infielder Addison Barger

 Addison is an interesting guy, and again someone that we’ve known for quite some time. He’s been a part of some of our scout teams down there in Florida. Our Area Scout Matt Bishoff did a tremendous job of getting to know Addison not just as a player but as a kid. And he’s he’s really interesting. You know it’s not often that you get the opportunity to add a high school left-handed hitting middle infielder at that point in the draft with with tools that Addison has – he’s got feel for his bat, and he’s got a plus arm and he has some pop from the left side. So you know right now it’s been fun to watch as he Jordan, Leo Jimenez (one of our international signings) for the infield there at the GCL – all have rotated through and gotten shortstop innings. All three have also shown the ability to move around and play multiple positions. Addison’s an impressive kid,  very very strong makeup, and we were certainly excited to get him where we got him.

7th round pick Notre Dame 2B Nic Podkul:

Nick is a guy who may not stand out amongst the crowd in terms of size, physicality, or tools, but really has a pretty good feel to hit. Had a nice year at Notre Dame, hit over 300 with 8 HRs and has performed well over the summer with wood, so he’s somebody to watch as well, someone who we certainly were excited to grab.

8th rounder Joey Murray, RHP from Kent State:

Joey doesn’t have the big velocity like some of the Pitchers that can strike out 140 guys (in a college season) . I think he’s effective – his velocity can play up a little bit because of his ability to change speed and throw strikes with multiple pitches. He’s got deception you know that’s hard. That part that’s carried over to an extent you know with his start in Vancouver. He’s got a feel to stay off of barrels, and any time you talk about a college pitcher who pitches in the upper 80s/low 90s,  I’m not sure if surprise is the word for where we got him but he was a guy that we certainly were interested in, and probably considered him a little bit higher than that, but we’re certainly happy with the opportunity to get him where did.

At that point, the conversion diverged into a discussion about scouting in general.  Given the scores of players a team evaluates, we asked Sanders at what point does he turn things over to his scouts, since he can’t possibly scout every player in person himself:

 I don’t know if there’s a specific round. I think the biggest thing is that area scouts are really the driver of the process in every round. Even in the first and second rounds where there’s an abundance of information, and there’s there’s a significant amount of scouting looks at those guys across our staff, really the area scouts are the guys who know the players best. And and as a staff you know oftentimes our comfort level in taking a player,  whether it’s in the first or 40th rounds is really derived off the comfort of the area scout. So, I don’t know that there’s a round, or that necessarily takes over or changes, but the biggest thing that changes as you go deeper and deeper into the draft is the amount of other information that you have to accompany on a first rounder, someone we may have seen a dozen or more times spring. Obviously that that’s no longer possible in the 28 rounds, but deeper in the draft again you’re really very reliant on the area scout tooIn some cases he may have been the only person to see the player. But I think the big thing thathammers it home is hat those those guys really do drive the process. It’s not just on day two and three but you know even at the very top of the draft that that area scout conviction not just in the player but in person is important,  because really those are the guys who know the players, and is really probably the single biggest driver of our scouting process.

On the process of selecting what Sanders terms “Post 10” players, guys taken after that round:

There’s a lot of scout conviction that carries a lot of the weight of the process. So you know like we talked the last year I think the neat thing is each and every single one of these guys that we took and ultimately signed you know somebody was was pounding the table, whether it was the area scout or one of the crosscheckers.

On who is in the Blue Jays “War Room” during the draft:

It’s a collection of people from across not just the department but baseball operations.  So there are people in there from:  obviously our scouts, our front office, members of the player development,  medical, and high performance group. Really it’s a collection of people that can offer up varying experiences and combining those collective experiences to make the best decision. It’s a very collaborative effort, and over the course of a week plus (the success of the draft) hinges on sort of the participation and effort of everybody in that room.

We asked Sanders what the busiest month of his post-draft seaon is:

I don’t know what the busiest month is in particular. I think really all parts of the office are surprisingly busy with different stuff. Right now, it’s largely about being on the road seeing players for next year’s draft, and then come the fall into winter time we’ll shift to staff meetings for administrative preparation for the draft. But right now we’re still pretty busy scouting. The Cape League is still going on, and  all of the summer leagues are still going so we’ve got guys out watching all those and the high school showcase circuit is at the half way point.. So these next few months are surprisingly busy as we really prepare for next June.

The Blue Jays drafted 40 players in total, 31 of them from the college ranks.  Sanders isn’t comfortable about talking about a player who got away, but 27th rounder Kyle Luckham, a California HS RHP may have been one.  Scouts had concerns about his mechanics and long-term value as a starter, but the Blue Jays saw enough to take a flyer on 2017 2nd rounder Hagen Danner’s high school teammate.

With the Blue Jays likely to be picking higher than 12th (their current record is worse than only 8 other teams) next June, Sanders and his scouts are no doubt already in the early stages of assembling next year’s board.