Today, MiLB.com named the Toronto Blue Jays Organizational All-Stars, opening up an interesting discussion.
Since it’s just one person for each position (with an honourable mention here and there) for the entire organization, players who excelled at more than one level were not just looked at for their performance with one club. This probably hurt a few players like Andy Burns who suffered a drop off in performance when he was promoted to Double-A New Hampshire.
I highly recommend heading to MiLB.com (via the link above) to see the comments yourself, here’s the list.
C: Derrick Chung (Dunedin Blue Jays)
1B: Mauro Gomez (Buffalo Bisons)
1B Honourable Mention: Matthew Dean (Bluefield Blue Jays)
2B: Jon Berti (Dunedin Blue Jays)
SS: Franklin Barreto (GCL Blue Jays, Bluefield Blue Jays)
3B: Ryan Schimpf (New Hampshire Fisher Cats)
3B Honourable Mention: Mitch Nay (Bluefield Blue Jays)
OF 1: Kevin Pillar (New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Buffalo Bisons, Toronto Blue Jays)
OF 2: Brad Glenn (New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Buffalo Bisons)
OF 3: Dalton Pompey (Lansing Lugnuts)
Utility: Luis Jimenez (Buffalo Bisons)
RHP (Starting): Marcus Stroman (New Hampshire Fisher Cats)
RHP (Starting) Honourable Mention: Austin Bibens-Dirkx (New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Dunedin Blue Jays)
LHP (Starting): Sean Nolin (New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Buffalo Bisons)
Relief Pitcher: Arik Sikula (Lansing Lugnuts)
To me, it’s a bit unclear how the staff at MiLB.com made their choices. To some degree, I think these are safe picks, favouring players at higher levels of the system, particularly those playing in full-season leagues. But what about players who contributed at a level much higher than their peers at lower levels? Or playing at a pace that is above a player’s age level? Playing better than all of the other players at that position in the system?
So here comes the big question. What do I think of these selections? Again, it depends on the criteria. Let’s look at each one.
Blue Jays from Away Organizational All-Star Catcher: A.J. Jimenez
I don’t want to take anything away from Derrick Chung who is an excellent young man and has been tremendously gracious with his time answering questions for Blue Jays from Away. Chung had a breakout season and is really getting a lot of respect for his work at the most difficult position on the diamond, one he’s never really played before at a professional level.
That said, however, I can’t look past the lack of power and the fact that Chung is already 25 and playing at a lower level than A.J. Jimenez. I was also ready to give Chung the award due to the fact that he had logged more playing time than Jimenez, but when you combine the plate appearances Jimenez had at all three levels (Dunedin, NH and Buffalo), he actually had about 14 more plate appearances than Chung. Even taking into account the 31 not-so-great plate appearances Jimenez had in Buffalo, he still had a slugging percentage over .400 and an OPS of .738 (Chung’s were .336 and .677, respectively).
The other candidate that I’d put in this group is first year professional Mike Reeves who played for Vancouver. Kudos go to Reeves for his excellent OBP (.374) but his weak slugging (.321 with an ISO of .046) and his average results catching runners stealing of 25% forces me to go with Jimenez.
Blue Jays from Away Organizational All-Star First Baseman (tie): L.B. Dantzler and Matthew Dean
I think you can see where I’m going here. I’m not going to privilege full-season stats and look at the players who were the most dominant compared to the leagues that they played in. If I wanted to give the award to someone at a full-season level, I suppose Gomez is as worthy a candidate as you could find. On the downside to this selection, Gomez is 29 and a very well-established Quad-A player who struck out almost 30% of the time.
When we look at some of the more advanced numbers, Gomez pales in comparison to the season that both Dantzler and Dean had. Gomez’s 29 home runs led the organization while his ISO of .272 was outstanding. That said, Gomez had a good wOBA of .371 and a 131 wRC+ (for summaries of both stats, head to Fangraphs). It was an excellent season that got Gomez picked up by the Nationals when the Blue Jays tried to get him through waivers after the minor league season. (Gomez has since signed a deal to play for the Hanshin Tigers in the Nippon Baseball League.)
When we look at wOBA and wRC+ numbers for both Dantzler and Dean, they are remarkably similar to each other. Dantzler had a .419 wOBA and 160 wRC+ for Vancouver last year. The wRC+ number is most intriguing, seeing as Dantzler’s production was 60% higher than the league average in the Northwest League last year. For Dean, his wOBA was .415 and wRC+ was 159. Again, outstanding seasons for both young players.
While Dantzler is a couple of years older than Dean and playing at a higher level, it was his first pro season which, for many, is almost a wash as they get used to the new rigours of professional baseball. This also comes for Dantzler at the end of a long college season. That, combined with the numbers means that I let both of the gentlemen share the award.
Blue Jays from Away Organizational All-Star Second Baseman: Jim Negrych
The Blue Jays just aren’t thick with second basemen in their organization. Jon Berti is definitely a young up-and-comer to watch, especially if he can improve his OBP at the higher minor league levels. Despite his 56 stolen bases, Berti had only a .316 wOBA and a 94 wRC+. Jim Negrych, on the other hand, just provided a very solid bat and defense. Steadiness over a long baseball season is a much-prized commodity and while I said that I’m not going to give more weight for playing at higher levels, the overall stats say that Negrych had a better season with a .342 wOBA and a 111 wRC+.
You really can’t name anyone else who was in competition. For most teams, the Jays had a rotating cast of characters playing the keystone position.
Blue Jays from Away Organizational All-Star Shortstop: Franklin Barreto
Barreto’s time in the GCL was just so dominant that I could come up with a good reason why I should give the award to anyone else. The Jays got solid performance at short from Ryan Goins in Buffalo and Kevin Nolan in New Hampshire. There were several guys splitting time in Dunedin and Emilio Guerrero‘s spectacular August wasn’t enough to give him the award in my mind.
Lower down, Dawel Lugo was very good in Bluefield but fell off in Vancouver. While Barreto also fell off after his promotion to Bluefield, his .420 wOBA and 162 wRC+ in the GCL were unbelievable.
Blue Jays from Away Organizational All-Star Third Baseman: Andy Burns
This is probably the toughest race to call from my point of view. To me, Ryan Schimpf and Andy LaRoche had very similarly productive seasons (albeit in different ways). Schimpf is a Three-True-Outcome player who hits for a very low average (.210) and strikes out a lot (138 times) but also takes a lot of walks (79) and hits home runs (23). LaRoche is a much more balanced player but put up similar numbers when it comes to wOBA and wRC+.
Another candidate is Andy Burns who was dominant in High-A Dunedin and heated up after a slow start after his promotion to Double-A. While his wRC+ was average in New Hampshire (99), if you balance it out with what he did in Dunedin (wRC+ of 156), it’s pretty good overall. Finally, Mitch Nay posted a .368 wOBA and 129 wRC+ in Bluefield. It’s a tough choice and arguments could be made for any of the four.
Blue Jays from Away Organizational All-Star Outfielders: Kevin Pillar, Brad Glenn, Dalton Pompey
I think MiLB.com got it right. Pillar was outstanding right up until he had to go against major league pitching and Glenn was very solid and even improved upon his promotion to Buffalo. While he was streaky, Pompey’s defense elevates his already very good offensive numbers. I considered Dwight Smith and while his offensive numbers are very good overall, he doesn’t have Pompey’s defense to give him that extra push.
Blue Jays from Away Organizational All-Star Extra: Adam Loewen
I’m not sure what the “Utility” designation really means; Luis Jimenez is far from a utility player. I’m including Adam Loewen here because I was on the verge of having him eclipse Dalton Pompey for the third outfield slot. Loewen had a very strong season showing good and versatile defense (playing center field as well as the corners and first base), putting up a .362 wOBA and 122 wRC+ in 491 New Hampshire plate appearances which were better numbers than Brad Glenn.
Blue Jays from Away Organizational All-Star Starting Pitcher (Right): Marcus Stroman
I don’t think you can really argue this point. While Aaron Sanchez struggled with his control, Stroman really showed the world that he was a polished, ready-for-prime-time starting pitcher.
Note: I do love the inclusion of Austin Bibens-Dirkx as an honourable mention by MiLB.com. Bibens-Dirkx was a much overlooked player all year, toiling for whichever team the Jays sent him to despite being 28 years old and just simply outclassed his competition. I really hope that he gets a chance in Triple-A but it’s looking very crowded there already.
Blue Jays from Away Organizational All-Star Starting Pitcher (Left): Sean Nolin
I can’t really argue much with this selection either. I consider Daniel Norris to be right there with Nolin but Norris had his struggles this season, especially in the first half. I also considered Jairo Labourt but in this case, the length of the season and the ability to get it done at a high level separates Nolin from any of the other lefties. There will definitely be better competition next year for this spot, particularly if Nolin is in the bigs.
Blue Jays from Away Organizational All-Star Reliever: Joel Carreno
Yes. I’ve had a man-crush on Joel Carreno all year. He was just dominant at two levels (Double-A and Triple-A) and struck out more than a batter per inning while controlling walks. While Sikula was very, very good, Carreno had 30 more strikeouts in just six and two-thirds more innings.
Who do you think the Organizational All-Stars should be?