Saturday, December 22, 2012

Prospects! part 5: Dunedin Blue Jays - Pitching

Dark Horse: Marcus Walden
The Closer: Danny Barnes
A Tale of 2 Cities: Jesse Hernandez
Men are from: Dayton Marze
Photo: Jim Goins

The more I looked at Marcus Walden while researching this article, the more I began to think that there might be more to him than just another minor league pitcher.  To demonstrate how little information there is about him, it took me about 20 minutes of searching the internet just to find a scouting report.* The one report I managed to find (from Lansing in early 2012) suggested that Walden tired quickly and may end up in the bullpen.  Walden has been in the Jays system for a long time now (drafted in 2007), and probably has stayed under the radar due to his lack of overpowering stuff and his disastrous 2009 season where he only pitched 16 2/3 innings in Dunedin (to an 8.64 ERA), a level that was probably a bit over his head at the time.  I haven't been able to find a reason for his season being cut short (and missing the entire 2010 season), but I would suppose that it is due to injury.  He came back in 2011 to pitch a solid season in Lansing, where he opened 2011.  After 14 excellent starts there in 2012, he was promoted to Dunedin where he pitched even BETTER over 13 appearances (12 starts) and 77 2/3 innings.  He posted a 14.4% K rate (below average) there and brought his walk numbers more in line with his 2011 numbers (6.2%).  Again, while I can't find what kind of stuff he throws, it's clear from the stats that Walden's success, particularly in Dunedin came from his excellent control and his ability to have hitters hit the ball on the ground.  He has historically had VERY low HR rates (giving up only 5 in 2011 and 2012 combined), and very high ground ball rates (2.82 GO/AO in 2012; only under 2.00 twice since 2007).  Walden is now 24 years old, and will probably have to start in AA next season in order to really be viewed as a viable candidate to make the majors at some point.  However, the Jays have liked these extreme ground ball pitchers in recent years (think Henderson Alvarez, Drew Hutchison, and Chad Jenkins) which may give Walden a fighting chance.
Photo: Jim Goins

Danny Barnes is a 2010 college draftee of the Jays who is now 23 years old and put up a fantastic season for the Dunedin Jays coming out of the bullpen, setting a new team record for saves (34).  He compiled 51 1/3 innings while striking out 63 and walking only 16 (30.7% K rate, 7.8% BB rate).  He throws in the low-mid 90s and has a couple of options for offspeed pitches but the most recent scouting report that I read indicates that his slider is his best pitch and is particularly effective against right handed batters.  He'll probably start in New Hampshire where he got a brief look-see this year and I wouldn't be surprised to see him in Buffalo by the end of the year.  He may have the stuff to pitch in the bigs sometime next year, but with how crowded the bullpen is looking, I don't think he'll get that chance.
Photo: Jim Goins

Pitching in Lansing, 24-year-old Jesse Hernandez looked like he belonged with the Lansing Three (Sanchez and the now traded Syndergaard, Nicolino), despite being 4 years older then any of them.  In 95 2/3 innings in Lansing, Hernandez put up a 2.26 ERA and gave up 82 hits and 19 walks.  The one thing that these cherry picked numbers didn't show is that Hernandez only struck out 16.1% of batters (61 strikeouts in the aforementioned 95 2/3 innings).  After making the jump to Dunedin, in 47 2/3 innings, Hernandez had a 6.61 ERA, maintaining (generally) his strikeout and walk ratios, but getting hit much more, particularly with the ball leaving the park (7 HR in Dunedin compared to 2 HR in almost exactly twice as many innings in Lansing).  According to a "self scouting report" from OK Blue Jays blog, Hernandez is mostly a sinker ball pitcher who has picked up a cutter.  He also says that he throws a slider and a change up.  I have a feeling that he doesn't throw all that hard, which makes any kind of projection of a 24 year old A-ball pitcher with one or two variations of a fastball very difficult.  However, if he takes his rough time in Dunedin as a learning experience, he might come out of it with further advancement through the system in 2013.
Photo: Unknown

Dayton Marze has shown up on the Jays Journal Top 50 prospects list for the last couple of years (landing at #39 in 2011) and had a very solid year at Dunedin in his age-23 season.  The most recent scouting report I could find indicates that Marze (in 2011) was throwing 89-93 with a sinker that was an effective weapon for him.  In his first season of pro-ball in Auburn (the Jays' Short-Season A affiliate before they moved it to Vancouver) he was very effective in just over 26 innings, and had another solid season as a workhorse reliever in Lansing in 2011.  There, he saw a rise in both his K% (to 19.3%) and his BB% (to 8.4%) while his ground out ratio fell (although was still good at 1.60 GO/AO).  In over 70 innigns in Dunedin this season, while he posted a very good ERA (2.82) and an improved WHIP (1.31), his GO/AO ratio (1.09) and K% (12.5%) fell and his BB% went up a tick (to 8.8%).  Marze will probably start 2013 in AA, but I'm not sure if success there will follow unless he improves his secondary pitches and can miss some bats.
*Stats are easy to find.... scouting reports of more obscure players, not so much. 

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