While I know that these are coming a bit late, I’ve been getting things ready to visit Lansing, but rest assured that these April Reports were written and ready to go. So without further ado, the Dunedin Blue Jays.
After completing their April schedule, the Dunedin Blue Jays sit atop the North Division of the Florida State League with a 1.5 game lead and 15-10 record (third best in the league overall). The D-Jays have gotten to where they are with outstanding pitching, giving up only 3.20 runs per game (almost .30 runs better than the next best team, the St. Lucie Mets). The pitching should get even better towards the end of May as Marcus Stroman will be activated off the restricted list after serving his 50-game suspension. That said, Dunedin sits only eighth (out of twelve) in total team offense, manufacturing only 3.88 runs per game. This is not a good hitting team, and with Gabe Jacobo out, there are only a few players with any kind of power at all. The D-Jays rank dead last in home runs (8 for the entire team) and second last in doubles (37). They sit below league average in OBP and dead last in SLG. On defense, the team’s fielding percentage has been near the top of the league (third) and they lead the FSL in caught stealing with a 50% ratio. With just 20 attempted steals, the opposition just isn’t running on the D-Jays. There is one caveat to this analysis: the Dunedin Blue Jays are the oldest team in the league. There are lots of minor league veterans, but very few real prospects.
The prospects that are playing for Dunedin include the team’s #1 prospect SP Aaron Sanchez (who throws tonight) and more marginal hitting prospects like Andy Burns, Marcus Knecht and K.C. Hobson. Again, this is an older team. Only Burns, Hobson, Michael Crouse, Jason Leblebijian, Peter Mooney and Aaron Sanchez are 22 or younger.
Sanchez, 20, is a tall, hard throwing Californian who has gotten off to a great start to the season. In 25 2/3 innings pitched, he has compiled a 3.16 ERA, 2.54 FIP and 0.935 WHIP to go with 22 strikeouts and 8 walks. There really isn’t much to dislike with Sanchez’s performance so far. He has been pretty dominant and, while the strikeouts aren’t as high as they have been earlier in his career, he has racked up more in his past two starts. His walks are nicely under control and he’s giving up very few hits. Without having seen him since spring training, it’s hard to say for sure, but the numbers indicate that he’s giving up very few hard hit balls.
3B Andy Burns is making a lot of noise as a 25th rounder coming out of college in 2011. He has taken huge steps since his solid season playing mostly shortstop in Lansing. While his home run numbers may be down, the Florida State League is a notoriously difficult league for hitters, and Burns is making up for low HR totals (2 so far) with 4 triples and 7 doubles already. Not only is Burns hitting .347, but he’s taken 15 walks (to only 10 strikeouts) and is slugging .568 to give him an excellent ISO of .211. When I release my May 1 Top 20 Prospects update, Burns will be jumping up onto that list.
1B K.C. Hobson is definitely one of my sleeper prospects this season after the huge improvements he made last season in his Age 21 year in Lansing. So far, however, they haven’t carried through, despite a strong start to his season where he hit two home runs in his first three games. he hasn’t done much since and currently has a 28.8 K% to go along with a 3.8 BB%.
Canadian outfielders Michael Crouse and Marcus Knecht have both struggled since being seen as (along with Jake Marisnick) the outfield of the future when they played in Lansing together in 2011. Crouse got off to a massive start to the year, going 5/14 in his first four games and hitting 2 doubles. Unfortunately, he got injured and we haven’t seen anything from him since. Marcus Knecht struggled last year in Dunedin and is back in his Age 23 year. He’s gotten off to a poor start, hitting for a .213/.255/.281 line in 94 plate appearances. I’m waiting to see Knecht get hot, but the poor start has been endemic to the entire offense.
As mentioned, this team really hasn’t done much on offense, aside from Andy Burns, there are no players with OPSs over .800. Matt Newman started out gangbusters when he got more playing time due to Crouse’s injury, but has cooled off since. He’s now settling into what he really is: a singles/doubles hitter who can get on base with the walk. 2B Jon Berti, despite some great work over the past couple of games, is only hitting .257 (.312 OBP) and even though he has great speed, he only has a 61.5% success rate stealing bases. OF/DH Kevin Patterson has an OPS just over .400 while most of the team hovers in the .550 to .700 range.
The pitching, on the other hand, has been a great strength of the Dunedin Blue Jays. Led by 25-year-old Casey Lawrence, the starting staff has been outstanding. Lawrence was named the Pitcher of the Week for the FSL and even after a horrible last start, he has a 2.67 ERA, 0.963 WHIP, 17 strikeouts to only 4 walks. Jesse Hernandez had another strong start yesterday and carries a 2.38 ERA, 1.118 WHIP with 24 Ks and 12 BBs over 34 innings. Scott Copeland also has a sub-3.00 ERA going into May. Relievers Scotty Gracey, Ajay Meyer, Marco Grifantini, Dustin Antolin and Tony Davis have been excellent. Efrain Nieves has been roughed up a bit while relievers Tyler Ybarra, Blake McFarland and Shawn Griffith have had some success and other outings that have been more difficult.