FBJ Notebook: May Edition

For those looking for the daily farm report…..my apologies. Life gets in the way some time.

But fear not, for while Alek Manoah was warming up in the Bronx prior to his sizzling debut against the Yankees, Nate Pearson was toiling two hours away in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

The Bisons and Railriders had their Wednesday night game curtailed by the system that swept across the eastern seaboard after three innings, so it was picked up prior to the Thursday game between the two sides. Pearson came in to pitch the fourth inning, and struck out the first two hitters he faced before issuing a two-out walk. He recovered to fan the final hitter of the inning.

The 5th inning proved to be Pearson’s undoing. Throwing more sliders than usual, he had trouble commanding the pitch at times, and the result was a 30+ pitch, four run inning for SWB. Pearson gave up some contact – a pair of doubles and a deep HR, as well as a hit batter. Twice he had hitters in full counts, but was unable to put them away, surrendering the homer and one of the doubles on a payoff pitch.

There were some folks who took issue with a comment that I made on Twitter comparing Pearson and Manoah. The tweet was meant more as a compliment to Manoah, who has battled considerable adversity to reach the bigs. That is not to say that Big Nate does not have a significant amount of girt himself – he overcame surgery to put a screw in his arm to become a helium prospect in the 2017 draft. But stories have surfaced that suggest Manoah was brimming with potential, but seemed to always fall just short of reaching it until he broke through in the Cape League in the summer of 2018.

Otto the Swatto

One of the more remarkable achievements in the Blue Jays system this month has been the progression of Utility Guy Otto Lopez’ progression from a singles to a doubles hitter.

When the Dominican with Montreal connections won a Midwest League batting title in 2019, 85 of his 115 hits were singles. Fast forward to this year, and while he has yet to hit one out of the park, he’s found the gaps more often, and his 10 two-baggers are tied for second in all of minor league baseball.

Some samples of his work. First, from this year:

From 2019:

Lopez’ mechanics don’t look drastically changed, but the numbers suggest he’s selling out a bit for more power. Granted, some of this may be due to the jump to AA, but his K rate is up over previous years (first year in the chart is 2017):

Fangraphs

He’s also using the whole field more:

Fangraphs

And, as you might expect, he’s putting the ball in the air more:

Fangraphs

Lopez’ 10.1% SwStr rate is up slightly from his career average, but despite that, he’s still putting a large number of balls in play. Again, the video doesn’t suggest mechanical changes along the lines of those Santiago Espinal made in 2018, but there is no doubt he’s made some adjustments to his approach, and time in the weight room has probably helped as well.

Originally destined to play several up the middle roles, Lopez had to take over at SS when Jordan Groshans went down for the season at Lansing in 2019, and he was exposed a bit. His true strength lies in his versatility, speed, and baseball IQ. Now, his bat seems to be catching up to his other tools.

Quiñones Returns

A question I like to ask club officials in my travels around the Blue Jays system is “who looks like a big leaguer?”

At one stop, one of the players mentioned was Luis Quiñones, who made his return to competition after a PED suspension at the end of the 2019 season Thursday night. Quiñones was lights out for Vancouver, tossing five shutout innings. It was interesting to see that he started the game, but the organization is likely trying to re-boot his development by giving him those extra innings. He has the makings of a back of the bullpen power arm.

On Injuries….

In turn, a question I often get is about injured Blue Jays minor leaguers. We all want to know when a prospect is returning to competition, but finding information about that is next to impossible to acquire. Teams are very protective of this kind of data. Similarly, affiliate officials aren’t forthcoming with information, likely because they’re on a need-to-know basis. In pre-pandemic times, if a player was working out or in a game at the minor league complex, I would sometimes hear from my network of sources. That, of course, is no longer the case. If a player is removed from a game, I will go to the video if I hadn’t already seen it to try to determine the cause of an injury, but that’s a highly inexact process. Hurry up and wait is about all you can do.

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