Notes From Around the Blue Jays System

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News and views from the various corners of the Toronto organization, far-flung some of them may be…..

Look, I have no idea if MLB’s proposed contraction of Minor League Baseball will take place after this season or not.  Given the lengths to which MLB has already gone, it’s looking more or less like a done deal.  Perhaps they’ll pull back a bit on some of the changes, but I think in the next twenty or so months we can expect to see a reduced number of affiliates, a shortened draft, and a general drop in the number of players an organization has.

MLB has their reasons, as questionable as some as them may be, but one thing is for certain:  fans will miss out.  Fans who can’t necessarily jump in the car and drive for hours to see their closest MLB team, fans who prefer the affordability of MiLB, and fans who just enjoy the atmosphere and experience of a minor league game.

One team that probably is on borrowed time is the Bluefield Blue Jays.  I could go on about how pro baseball has been played in Bluefield since 1937, or how it fits the needs of the Blue Jays as a minor league affiliate for many reasons.  Not only will fans miss out if baseball is not back (at least in its current form) in Bluefield next year, but the community will be missing a good corporate partner as well:

 

  In the grander scheme of things, maybe a $2K donation doesn’t make a huge difference.  But on a micro level, it does.  And if the reports we’ve read are accurate, as many as 42 communities (and their baseball fans) will be minus an active entity next year.

 

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The Blue Jays announced the remainder of their minor league hires last week, after promoting Ken Huckaby and Cesar Martin to the Manager’s posts at Buffalo and New Hampshire, respectively, last fall.

Niall over at Cs+ has a great recap of the Vancouver hires.   The C’s have exchanged one local product for another. Casey Candaele moves from the Manager’s chair to the Player Development group, where he becomes Field Coordinator, and North Delta’s Brent Lavallee takes over after having led the baseball program at his alma mater, LSU Shreveport.

Dallas McPherson moves to the PD side as well, transferring from Managing Lansing to become Skill Development Coordinator.  Luis Hurtado, who led Bluefield last year, will take his place with the Lugnuts. Jeff Ware,  the new Pitching Coach at Buffalo, requested a move from his position as Pitching Coordinator.  A replacement has not been named, but it looks like it will be split into three areas of responsibility, involving MLB Bullpen Coach Matt Buschmann (Director of Pitching Development), Corey Popham (Pitching Programs Coordinator/GCL Pitching Coach), and Matt Tracy (Pitching Analysis Coordinator/Assistant GCL Pitching Coach).

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Baseball America last week ranked the top new prospects in their Dynasty Hot 100, and 3 Blue Jays prospects are included.  It encompasses all players who signed a pro contract in 2019, either via the draft or as an IFA.

Alek Manoah, the fireballing 1st round choice (11th overall) of Toronto last year, ranks a respectable 29th.  For those feeling that he should’ve landed higher, BA cites some uncertainty as to his future role as a reason why they had him at 29:

High-octane fastball/slider combination gives him two plus pitches; lack of a third adds reliever risk.

The next Blue Jay will come as a surprise – Venezuelan SS Estiven Machado, at #70. If you listen to Andrew Tinnish, Blue Jays VP and head of International Ops, you might be getting ready to jump on board.  Toronto had already landed SS Rikelvin de Castro, one of the highest ranked IFAs last June, but at 17, Machado is a little more advanced.  De Castro may be a highlight reel defender, but Machado is projected to stay at the position, and his hit tool gets higher grades.  He may start in the GCL this summer.

Rounding out the Blue Jays contingent is RHP Kendall Williams, taken after Manoah last June.  Reports on Williams do not unanimously agree on his future, but BA feels that while his risk is extreme, so is his upside:

Tall, lanky RHP has shown feel for five pitches and good strikes despite size; creates good angle.

This list is more for the dynasty players, but it’s interesting to see how these guys rank compared to their signing year peers.

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The Blue Jays announced their spring training non-roster invitees, and….well, it’s a departure from the past few years, when young prospects on the cusp of earning big league jobs were invited to soak up the experience and learn from established MLB players.

Anthony Alford told us a couple of years ago after his first big league camp invite that the work ethic and professionalism he witnessed from Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista were huge influences on him.

This year’s group includes veteran MLB backup C Caleb Joseph, minor league veteran Catcher Pat Cantwell, RHP Ryan Dull, veteran MLB IFs Joe Panik and Ruben Tejada.  Hardly a group of wide-eyed youngsters.

In the early going in spring training you need a wealth of backstops, so that explains Cantwell and Joseph.  Dull is probably in the mix for a bullpen spot at some point this season, and Panik and Tejada are simply depth guys.  Nate Pearson might have been a logical candidate to get an invite, but the Blue Jays are still likely being cautious with his workload.  Beyond that, much of the top talent in the system is still a few years away, which probably explains all the veteran invites.  Still, in the opening week to ten days of spring training there is also a great demand for arms, which is why it’s surprising that one or more of say, Zach Jackson, Jackson McClelland, Kirby Snead, Travis Bergen, or Bryan Baker didn’t have an invitation extended.  All of those players are likely to appear in an MLB game at some point in March.  Just not early in the month, apparently.

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Heading into minor league training camp, one thing is certain:  there will be a crunch for innings among Starters at the upper levels.  Between guys working their way up the ladder, and those banging their heads against the AAA/MLB ceiling, there’s at least a baker’s dozen of candidates for a start in Buffalo’s rotation.  It will be interesting to see how that sorts itself out.  And of course, for those hoping to see so in person, the Mattick Complex, which houses the Blue Jays minor league facilities, will be closed to the general public for a second straight spring.  If you’re headed to Dunedin, the Phillies complex at Clearwater might be your best bet to catch some Blue Jays minor league action.

7 thoughts on “Notes From Around the Blue Jays System

  1. Shapiro is the one leading the charge in eliminating as many MILB teams as possible and cutting down the draft after last years raises for MILB players was nothing more than some public relations stunt.

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    1. I have to admit to going back and forth on this.
      On the one hand, I do find the timing of the Jays raising MiLB salaries to be curious in light of what we’ve learned this off season.
      On the other hand, having spoken to Mark Shapiro about this issue at length, I think there is some genuineness to it. Judging from the reactions I’ve had from front office people about the proposed contraction, I think they’re very uncomfortable with it – not enough to go against it, but I think they’re happy with the way things are.

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    2. Wow mighty cynical take of you here. Let me guess, no matter what the front office does you will go out of your way to spin it as a negative. Care to rebut this?

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      1. I don’t know how you can take what he wrote and spit it into negativity about the FO.

        He’s been pretty happy with the FO from my POV.

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      1. Key thing to look for is the subtle indentation underneath the posts to see which one is being responded to. If it’s a reply to a reply, the comment will be indented a slight amount, whereas all replies to a specific comment share the same left margin.

        Liked by 1 person

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