Today, MiLB.com posted their Prospect Primers for the American League East with a great article by Tyler Maun on the Blue Jays.
Maun names top prospect Aaron Sanchez the “Shining Star.” His star is especially bright after an eye-opening spring training that saw Sanchez throw over 15 innings (including the game he pitched in Montreal) without giving up a run. He was particularly filthy in Montreal, striking out the side in the ninth to lock up a Blue Jays win (and earn the “W” himself) on Saturday.
Maun gets some great quotes from Assistant GM Tony LaCava, who actually supported what I wrote in my three-part series on player development by saying, “It’s an individual plan for [Sanchez]. We don’t do a one-size-fits-all on our players.” (For more on what I wrote on the subject, check out Part 2 of my “The Elusive Concept of Development” series.) Go over and read the Maun’s article to see what other warm and gooey things LaCava said about Sanchez.
When it came to the “Breakout Prospect,” Maun decided on Mississauga native, 21-year-old outfielder Dalton Pompey. Pompey, who earned the Rawlings Minor League Gold Glove for center field last year (as the best center fielder in the minor leagues), “is ready to glide into elite prospect status with his trademark instinct and ease this year,” according to Maun.
I’ve been high on Pompey since seeing him play last year in Lansing and I think some of the things that he’s been working on in terms of his hitting approach are going to pay big dividends in 2014. Despite the Florida State League being a very strong pitcher’s league, Pompey has the type of skill set (mature approach at the plate, good contact skills, outstanding speed) to really have a good year there. While he may not see a lot of balls leaving the park in the heavy, humid Florida air, he will probably get on base a lot and can turn doubles into triples easily.
Matt Smoral is “At the Crossroads” for Maun. Smoral, a 6-foot-8 lefty with can throw in the mid-90s has had fingernail and blister problems in the past that has derailed his development. Learning to control his long levers and duplicate his mechanics is key for Smoral but hopefully, after offseason surgery to correct the fingernail issue, the blister problems are behind him.
When I saw Smoral in spring training, he was still working on some elementary things so I don’t think we can expect the Blue Jays to be very aggressive in moving him up this year. I think he’ll start the season in Bluefield and could see Vancouver if he’s able to find his control.
In the “More to keep an eye on” category, Maun lists catcher Jack Murphy, pitchers Marcus Stroman and Sean Nolin, and shortstop Dawel Lugo. While I’m not sure how much Murphy is going to be able to do in Triple-A (where he may well open the season as the starting catcher) but teammates love him and pitchers like to throw to him. Stroman and Nolin are both exciting arms who will be just a step away from the big leagues in Buffalo. Stroman has already been named the Bisons’ Opening Day starter for Thursday (I’ll be there to report on that for you) and Nolin will look to refine his solid, big-league ready repertoire.
As far as Lugo goes, I’m actually surprised that he’s the only player starting the year with the Lansing Lugnuts listed in the prospect primer. Lansing is, by far, the most prospect-rich team of the Jays’ full-season affiliates, featuring several talented pitchers including Alberto Tirado, Jairo Labourt, Chase DeJong and Tom Robson. There’s also some tremendous position players too including Lugo, third baseman Mitch Nay, first baseman Matthew Dean and center fielder D.J. Davis.
I really like Lugo. He’s a decent defensive shortstop and can stay there without hurting a team but it’s his bat that is truly special. I believe Teddy Cahill called him the best Pure Hitter in the organization and he’s probably got some of the best hand-eye coordination that I’ve seen; he’s able to hit just about anything in a Vladimir Guerrero kind of way. He has tremendous raw power to all fields and could have a big year in Lansing. The biggest obstacle for Lugo is going to be his impatience at the plate. He wants to hit when he gets in the batter’s box and, against better pitching in the Midwest League, could take a step back for a month or two before he figures out how to wait for his pitch.
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