Blue Jays Minor League Notes and Thoughts

The week that was in the Blue Jays system….

@BallparkGuide (Malcolm MacMillan) photo

WHO’S HOT

WHO’S NOT

As first reported by our great source for all things Cuban, Francys Romero, the Blue Jays are about to sign (or perhaps have signed, although nothing has shown up on the MiLB transactions page) Cuban RHP Rafael Sanchez.

The 22 year old Sanchez was one of 34 players released by the Cuban Federation last year, under the terms of an agreement between Cuba and MLB. Sanchez, who pitched in parts of four seasons in the National Series, left Cuba just before Christmas.

His numbers in the Series are not overwhelming, but his fastball is reported to sit in the 93-97 range, and his sinker has excellent movement. Sanchez also throws a change and a curve. At 6’1/190, he may not have a lot of projection left, but he has something of a power pitcher’s build, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he adds velo with professional coaching and training.

We asked Blue Jays Director of Pitching Development Cory Popham if he had any additional information about Sanchez, and while he admitted he had not seen him as of yet (mid-week, last week), he said the scouting staff is very high on Sanchez.

The Jays have had some success with Cuban pitchers Kendry Rojas and Yosver Zulueta, and obviously they hope for more of the same with Sanchez. Given that he’s older, more developed, and has experience against higher level competition, it’s likely we see him with Dunedin once he’s had a chance to acclimate stateside. He may move quickly.

LINES OF THE WEEK

Not surprisingly, Dunedin leads the way this week. The D-Jays lead the Florida State League in team ERA, with starting pitching leading the way.

April 19th – another scoreless outing for Matt Svanson, this time in a starting role.

April 22nd – Ricky Tiedemann had some issues with his command, but still managed five scoreless innings. Teaming up with him on the three hit shutout was Jimmy Robbins, pitching for the first time since August, 2019. Robbins underwent Tommy John at the end of March last year, and as you might expect, was excited to be on the mound again. “It feels amazing just to be back out there,” he said after his outing. “The journey is just beginning.”

The return of baseball to Vancouver this week was somewhat dampened by the usual April Lower Mainland weather, but the C’s received a shining combined performance from Naswell Paulino and Hunter Gregory in the first game of a Saturday twin bill:

On Sunday, Thomas Hatch twirled six scoreless innings:

D-JAYS, C’s on MILB.TV

Fans who have MiLB’s streaming app will have more options this week. Dunedin is in Bradenton, which streams their games. You might want to circle Wednesday and Friday on your calendar in order to catch a glimpse of Svanson and Tiedemann.

As for the C’s, we were excited to learn their home games would be online this year, but technical difficulties have prevented them from airing any games this past week. Canadians’ broadcaster and director of media relations Tyler Zickel pointed out that 71 year-old Nat Bailey Stadium was not built with airing games on the internet in mind. This week, the C’s are in Hillsboro, their home-away-from-home last year, and those games will be available for east coast insomniacs.

LINKS

Laura Armstrong of the Toronto Star spoke to Blue Jays Director of

Player Development Joe Sclafani about the transition of the system: https://www.thestar.com/sports/bluejays/analysis/2022/04/24/the-next-wave-of-blue-jays-prospects-is-starting-to-make-some-noise.html

As Gabriel Moreno approaches MLB-readiness, profiles about him are beginning to appear. Shi Davidi of Sportsnet had a good one: https://www.sportsnet.ca/mlb/article/blue-jays-taking-deliberate-approach-with-gabriel-moreno-as-top-prospect-impresses/

FINAL THOUGHTS…

Old friend Anthony Alford was DFA’d by Pittsburgh yesterday. Alford had returned to the Pirates lineup only two days earlier, after beginning the season on the IL with a sprained wrist. But the combined effects of a worn out bullpen in the aftermath of a franchise-worst 21-0 loss to the Cubs the day before, and a virus (non-Covid, apparently) tearing through the clubhouse meant that Alford was somewhat of a victim of a numbers game.

Truth be told, the Pirates brain trust of Ben Cherington and Steve Sanders, who, remembering Alford from their days with the Blue Jays, when they picked him up when the Blue Jays DFA’d him in 202, may just have run out of patience with Alford. His prodigious athletic gifts never did manifest into a sustained stretch of performance (or health), but we will always have a soft spot for a guy we’ve known since 2014.

After returning from a crash course in pitch recognition in the Australian winter league following his decision to (finally) give up his pro football dreams to focus on baseball, we began a correspondence that continued for several years. One can understand his devotion of football, coming from football-mad Mississippi, but you can’t help but wonder what might have been if he had focussed on baseball from an earlier age.

Hopefully, another organization will give Alford a shot, let him play, and the baseball Gods willing, keep him healthy.

*****

The Skyliner roller coaster dominates the outfield of Peoples Natual Gas Field in Altoona, PA, home of the Pirates’ Eastern League affiliate. While the Pirates would probably prefer upgraded clubhouse facilities at the ballpark, there is no doubting the awesome sight of the Skyliner. It brings to mind for those of us of a certain age the old Canadian National Exhibition Flyer, a wooden banger of a ride that was the centrepiece of the Ex grounds for almost a half a century. A personal highlight for yours truly was a trip there with my ball team to take part in the annual Toronto Star CNE PeeWee baseball tournament. Our team from tiny Midland advanced to the quarter finals, and our coach, a local radio guy, arranged Grandstand tickets for us to watch Canadian supergroup Lighthouse open for daredevil Evel Knievel, who jumped 13 Mack trucks. Many trips around the 2600’ of the Flyer were taken after that memorable performance. A few days later, we lost in the semis, but it was truly a highlight for a kid who had seen his first MLB game in Montreal earlier that summer.

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