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.