This time of year is kind of like being halfway between two distant cell phone towers in terms of stories about minor league baseball.
Minor league camps opened last week, and will begin playing games shortly. To that end, here is the schedule of the Blue Jays four full season affiliates :
For those of you heading south in the next few weeks, keep in mind with upgrades happening to the Mattick Complex, it will be closed to the public. If you’re staying in the Clearwater/Dunedin area, games at the Carpenter Complex would be a better alternative.
In conversations with Blue Jays Director of Player Development Gil Kim and Amateur Scouting Director Steve Sanders, both have stressed the importance of character in the players the team brings into the organization. The signings of free agents Bud Norris and Clay Buchholz, in the eyes of many, might seem to run counter to that. Buchholz, as you might recall, was charged with stealing laptops from a middle school and trying to sell them to fellow students when he was at McNeese State. That might seem to make him a non-fit with the Blue Jays many years later, but the Red Sox did their homework on Buchholz, according to an article in the Boston Globe. It’s important to remember that current Blue Jays VP of Baseball Ops was the Red Sox Director of Player Development when they drafted Buchholz, and was no doubt heavily involved in his recent signing. Any concerns about Buchholz’ makeup or his potential fit in the Blue Jays clubhouse likely had to pass through Cherington.
Much has been made of the use of technology, particularly the Rapsodo system, in developing pitchers and their pitches. Several of the Blue Jays recent minor league instructional staff hirings have been of coaches who have had success integrating such technology into pitcher development. Mark Suleymanov of Sporting News wrote about how former MLBer Matt Buschmann has been brought into the Blue Jays’ fold as a bullpen coach, mainly because of his familiarity with the use of Rapsodo in pitch design.
I’ve had my say about Vlad Jr’s size, and I’m glad at least that the Blue Jays are not trying to pass him off as a 200 pounder anymore. He’s no Prince Fielder, but players of a certain body type don’t tend to age well unless a lot of work goes into their nutrition, fitness, strength, and agility. Marly Rivera of ESPN tells us that Vlad is working on his fitness, and is not eating fast food as much as he did last year. He did say that his grandmother (Vlad Sr’s mom) has been cooking for him, and while hopefully there is some benefit to that, I know that I probably wouldn’t have lost weight under a steady diet of my grandmother’s cooking. And I wouldn’t have to clean my plate in order to get desert, either. Seriously, the Blue Jays do have dietitians on the staffs of each of their affiliates’, so the information about how to eat properly is available to players.
When you consider Anthony Alford’s childhood, it’s amazing that he has made it this far, and more importantly, despite his prodigious athletic talents remains humble and engaging. Alford told the Toronto Star‘s Laura Armstrong what an strong influence his grandmother was in his upbringing.
Much has been made of the fact that MLB and the MLBPA, with help from a friendly Congress, have conspired to keep minor league salaries down by ridiculously arguing that a minor leaguer is more of an apprentice than an employee. Last time I looked, we’re no longer in the feudal era, but when it comes right down to it, minor leaguers – the majority of whom did not sign for a six or seven-figure bonus – make peanuts, and will continue to do so until such time as the two main partners in the collective bargaining process suddenly embrace socialism. MLB is taking their record profits and investing it back in their player development and scouting programs, and will only do otherwise when they legally have to. MLB teams feel that they are taking their record profits, and rather than spread it among shareholders as the corporate world does, they are spending it on R & D. What’s particularly galling is the fact that minor leaguers receive only a $25/day meal allowance in spring training. For those who attend major league camp early, when a need for arms means a concomitant need for guys to catch them, this is compounded. They receive lunch and breakfast courtesy of the MLB team, but they’re on their own for dinner, accommodations, and transportation. Former Blue Jays minor leaguer Jorge Saez, now with the Yankees, figures prominently in this whole sordid scenario in a USA today article.