Greetings to all from sunny Florida. Ok, points between the Sarasota and Toronto airports might be more like it.
Spring training is starting to wind down, and more and more prospects are being sent to minor league camp from the big league version.
Some updates from a week spend in the south….
-as you no doubt have heard, RHP phenom Eric Pardinho has been shut down due to elbow soreness. A source suggests that this is largely precautionary, and it makes considerable sense. Pardinho was not breaking camp with a full season team anyway, and will remain in Extended. After pitching 50 innings at Bluefield last year in his first pro season, it would be hard to see him exceeding that total by more than about two dozen or so innings, anyway. We still expect to see him in Lansing this spring, although the timetable may be pushed back a bit.
-Rule 5 updates: a source in the Bay area says that Travis Bergen, whom the Giants selected from the Blue Jays in the Rule 5 draft, has an inside shot at breaking camp with the big league team. Bergen has had an impressive spring, and hasn’t given up a run in 10.2 innings over 7 outings. He’s fanned 10, walked 4, and given up but 3 hits. Spring training stats always come with the usual disclaimer about the quality of players they’re compiled against, and Bergen’s 6.8 OppQual ranking by BR is a little bit below middle of the pack, and means that the 35 hitters he’s faced have been primarily AA/AAA types. His performance has been impressive, nonetheless. Markham native Jordan Romano, taken by the White Sox then dealt to Texas, is also impressing at Rangers camp. After pitching 4 shutout innings over his first 3 appearances (all in relief), Romano was roughed up for 4 runs in an inning in a March 7th outing. He’s put together another scoreless streak since then, most noticeably tossing a pair of scoreless innings against the Dodgers on March 15th, striking out 2. When contacted, Romano was pretty upbeat:
Things are going pretty well, throwing the ball well. Had the one rough outing but every other one has been good.
-some changes are in store for the Arizona Fall League. In a release on Tuesday, MLB announced a new schedule for the top prospect finishing school, moving up by about a month to a mid-September start. The new schedule will more closely align with clubs’ traditional minor league and instructs dates:
….the amended timeline allows Minor League players to avoid downtime at the end of their seasons and instead transition directly into the Arizona Fall League schedule. In particular, pitchers will have the opportunity for more continuous rest in preparation for the following year’s playing schedule. The new AFL schedule more closely aligns with timing of Clubs’ traditional Instructional Leagues.
In addition, eligibility has been opened up considerably. In the past, teams were allowed to send only one below-AA prospect, but now any player in an organization is eligible.
-Orelvis Martinez, the club’s top J2 signing last year, was spotted in uniform with the “Lansing” lineup when the Blue Jays sent two teams of lower level prospects to Clearwater to take on the Phillies prospects at their minor league complex. Martinez didn’t take to the field before a pale Ontarian switched to the other diamond to get out of the sun, but word is that he’ll be starting in the GCL (maybe even the Appy) this year, and unlike other up-the-middle players the Blue Jays are developing, he’s projected to stay at SS, and if body type is any indication, the lean Martinez looks the part. Ben Badler of Baseball America says that the Blue Jays were drawn to the whole package in their signing of Martinez:
There are moving parts to Martinez’s swing, which starts with the bat wrapped behind his head and creates extra length to the barrel path, but he generates easy power with quick hands that he keeps inside the ball well. It’s a calm swing without much effort, generating loft and power from the right-center gap over to his pull side that should be plus. Some scouts had reservations about Martinez’s swing, but the Blue Jays were drawn to Martinez for his combination of power, game hitting ability and plate discipline, which he continued to show after signing in the Tricky League.
Some other J2 signings the Blue Jays made Badler says are worth watching include:
-Venezuelan CF Gabriel Martinez, who was advanced enough to have a brief trial in the Venezuelan Winter League:
Signed at 6-foot-2, 170 pounds, Martinez has added strength since then, drawing the Blue Jays’ attention for his righthanded swing and athleticism. He loads up with a leg kick and has a moving parts swing that relies on being on time with his sequencing with an all-fields approach.
-Dominican CF Amell Brazoban, who carries the toolsy-but-raw label;
-Venezuelan C Javier D’Orzario, who is described as having the intangibles (he’s picked up English quickly, for example) that managers love;
According to Badler, the Blue Jays are the favourite to sign Dominican SS Rikelvin de Castro:
Castro is a high-energy, hard-nosed player with a chance to develop into a plus defender, making challenging plays look easy. He’s a righthanded hitter with a quick, loose stroke and gap power
A word or two on catching games at MiLB complexes – it’s highly recommended. The admission is free, and there are usually two games going on at once. You’ll be able to get an up close look at the players (literally), and be sure to bring sunscreen and a hat. The basic scoreboards are in operation, but don’t expect anything beyond the score/inning/count. And since teams only have a set number of pitchers scheduled to work, you can have a scenario where Dallas McPherson, set to manage Dunedin this year, stepped out of the dugout with the bases loaded in the 8th when pitcher Gage Burland hit 30 pitches, and ended the inning.
And speaking of complex games, a visitor to the Phillies complex to watch the Blue Jays A ball guys take on the Phils on opposite sides of the Phillies’ rotunda was impressed by a number of players who will likely suit up for Vancouver or Lansing this year. The most impressive was C Gabriel Moreno, who played in the GCL and at Bluefield last year. The athletic Moreno was cat-like behind the plate, threw out a pair of runners (one at 2nd from his knees), and picked off another. At the plate, he showed more patience than he did last year, although his handling of pitchers will likely be his calling card. His work with Claudio Galva, who pitched in the GCL and Appy last year, and Nathanael Perez, who fanned better than a batter per inning with Bluefield in 2018, was skilled. Griffin Conine’s first pro season fell a bit short of expectations, but he made some loud contact against the Phils, and to be honest he probably belonged on the other diamond. Batting against the shift in his first AB, Conine lined a ball to the 2B, who was playing short RF, but still beat the ball to first. Next time up, Conine hit a towering drive off the LF wall for a double. Conine will start the season on the restricted list as a result of a positive PED test. On the “A+” diamond, off-season Ronnie Brito played 3rd, and showed bat speed plus, and an aggressive approach.