Monday, March 11, 2013

Spring Training: part 6 - Minor League Intra-squad

I ventured over to the minor league complex today with the major league boys having an off-day.  I got to see some of the youngins playing their first game action, even if it was against each other.  It's a little tough to cover with two games going on at once, but I think the only guy that I didn't really see that I had wanted to was Sean Nolin who was throwing just before I arrived.

Now before I go on and give you my thoughts, I want to preface this by saying that I'm not a professional scout.  I just write what I see and what I can tell.  It's also really hard to extrapolate what a player can do from one at bat or one inning of work, or even one BP session.  I'm only going to comment on things that really stood out for me and reserve thoughts -- especially on hitters -- for later when I can gather more data.  Guys have bad days.  Maybe their off-speed stuff isn't as sharp as it could be, or their location isn't great, or maybe they just had a bad day at the plate.  None of my thoughts here are conclusive.  Guys can look great today and go out and have a bad year, or month in their leagues. Or they can look horrible here but have a great season.  The tools can be hard to assess, but the things that are even tougher to scout, like makeup and baseball IQ, are the ones that only show themselves when you watch a player over an extended period of time.  It's why a guy who isn't "toolsy" like Kevin Pillar can go out and be the Midwest League MVP and hit well even at the next level.
For more on scouting, check out my upcoming interview with Baseball Prospectus writer Zach Mortimer that I'll be publishing shortly in 2 parts.  We could have talked much longer, but we got kicked out by the security at the Bobby Mattick Complex -- they had finished the work for the day and wanted to close up shop. 

On the mound, I saw a bunch of interesting young arms including Javier Avendano, Andrew Sikula, Clint Everts, Buddy Carlyle, Tim Brechbueller, Will Browning,Tucker Donahue, Scott Gracey, John Stilson, and Dustin Antolin.

Most impressive was Avendano.  I didn't get radar readings for him, but he had nice downward plane on his fastball and he mixed in his offspeed stuff well, getting a couple of strikeouts to Dwight Smith Jr. and Balbino Fuenmayor (who bit hard on a curveball) and getting a groundout to Kellen Sweeney.  The hitters who got hits against him seemed to be late on his fastball.  Always a good sign.  Avendano is also bigger than I thought he'd be, which is a good sign for a starting pitcher.

Carlyle has some major league experience and was throwing with good velocity (in the low 90s) but wasn't commanding it down in the zone.  

As you'll read in my interview with Zach Mortimer, he thinks that Will Browning, a side-armed righty, will have success until he hits AA.  He throws 88-90 with a decent slider but Zach thinks he relies on deception a bit too much.  

We were both a bit impressed by Tucker Donahue.  Tucker didn't have a great year with Vancouver and was one of the Jays 4-10 round draftees in 2012 -- the guys they drafted knowing that they'd take small signing bonuses to free up more money for guys like D.J. Davis, Matt Smoral and Anthony Alford.  Donahue struggled with control last year (14 walks in 25 2/3 innings), but looked in command today.  He threw 92-94 mph and Zach really thinks that the Jays got a bargain in him.  

By the time John Stilson took the mound, the other game had finished up, so there was a big group of Jays farmhands crowding around the home plate area to watch him throw.  Stilson started his inning in the 94-96 mph range with a decent slider and changeup combo.  From my eyes, his delivery looked high effort, which would mean that Stilson is probably more suited to being a reliever rather than a starter.  He seemed to tire quickly -- I was informed that his velocity dropped after about 15-20 pitches.  I'm hoping that he can work out those issues and post a strong year in AA or higher.

Again, I couldn't see much out of the hitters in one at bat.  D.J. Davis struck out looking at a fastball but hit a towering foul ball.  From a guy who's so small, he must have really strong wrists to generate that kind of power. Catcher Chris Schaeffer, a non-drafted free agent signed in 2011, showed some good bat speed by pulling a Buddy Carlyle pitch down the left field line for a double.  Jonathan Jones, a speedy CF, also had a double by hitting the ball over the left fielder.  OF Nico Taylor, who may be in Lansing, also had a couple of hits including a double down the left field line.  

Other than that, I'll reserve judgement on everyone else until either I can see more, or until they have some stats to look at.

Stay tuned, Blue Jay Fans!  Coming up later today will be the first part of my interview with Baseball Prospectus writer Zach Mortimer!

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