Monday, April 15, 2013

April 15 Weekly Minor League Roundup

Welcome to the first Blue Jays from Away weekly minor league roundup.

Buffalo Bisons
3rd in International League North (4-4)

Leaderboards:   2B Jim Negrych – 1st AVG, 1st SLG, 1st OBP, 1st OPS
                                3B Andy LaRoche – 10th SLG, 7th (tie) HR
                                OF Ryan Langerhans – 8th OBP

The Buffalo Bisons are producing numbers just like you’d see in when the Jays had their AAA affiliate in the Pacific Coast League.  Every regular except for SS Ryan Goins and 1B Luis Jimenez have batting averages above .300, and only regulars CF Anthony Gose (.778) and Goins (.667) have an OPS below .800.  Leading the way are minor league free agents Jim Negrych, who leads the International League in four important offensive categories, Andy LaRoche, and Ryan Langerhans. 

On the pitching side, there is a different story.  Veterans Dave Bush and Claudio Vargas have had excellent starts, but because of a major league call up (Bush) and lack of games played (Vargas), they have each made only one start.  The bullpen has put up PCL-like numbers with only Juan Perez appearing to be a reliable go-to guy for manager Marty Brown.

Player of the Week: Blue Jays from Away Jim Negrych

New Hampshire Fisher Cats
4th in Eastern League Eastern (6-5)

Leaderboards:   2B John Tolisano – 7th 2B, 7th, OBP, 5th, SLG, 5th OPS
                                3B/OF Ryan Schimpf – 2nd HR
                                OF Kevin Pillar 1st (tie) SB
                                OF Kenny Wilson – 2nd (tie) SB
                                1B Clint Robinson – 4th OBP
                                OF Brad Glenn – 10th OBP
                                SP Austin Bibens-Dirkx – 3rd Ks
                                SP Deck McGuire – 9th Ks
                                SP Ryan Tepera – 7th WHIP
                                RP Chad Beck – 1st (tie) SV

The Fisher Cats have seen a strong opening to the season from several of their players, including highly-considered prospect Kevin Pillar who leads the club in batting average and stolen bases.  Suprisingly, 24-year-old 2B John Tolisano, who was drafted in 2007, will be opening some eyes with his outstanding start, in which he has hit 5 2Bs, 1 3B, and 2 HRs in the first 11 games of the season.  He has also walked more than he has struck out (8 BBs and 6 Ks).  If he can keep that up, it would be a complete reversal of what he has been able to do over his minor league career.  Waiver claimee Clint Robinson has been an on-base machine having a .500 OBP without much power behind it, while Brad Glenn and Kenny Wilson are also on fire out of the gate (although Wilson is a speed guy, so his SLG percentage isn’t particularly high).  Finally, while Ryan Schimpf’s batting average is languishing at .212, he has a .395 OBP and a .545 SLG (based on his team leading 3 HRs).  A lot of good stuff is happening on the offensive side of the ball with the Fisher Cats.

The veteran pitching staff has been seeing some solid performances (and some poor ones too).  In the starting rotation, Ryan Tepera, Deck McGuire and Austin Bibens-Dirkx have been very good, while Marcus Walden has been solid in his two starts.  Out of the bullpen, Fernando Hernandez has been very good in his 4 innings, Matt Wright has been excellent, pitching 8 1/3 out of the pen, Chad Beck has been a shutdown closer and Joel Carreno has been fantastic with 4 2/3 IP, 9 strikeouts and no runners allowed.

Player of the Week:  John Tolisano

Dunedin Blue Jays
First in Florida State League North (7-3) 

Leaderboards:   OF Jonathan Jones – 2nd SB
                                3B Andy Burns – 10th OBP, 8th SLG, 7th OPS
                                SP Efrain Nieves – 5th ERA, 6th, WHIP
                                SP Jesse Hernandez – 4th Ks,
                                SP Aaron Sanchez – 4th WHIP
                                RP Blake McFarland – 4th (tie) SV

One of the biggest surprises that I’ve had this year from the Dunedin Blue Jays is how well Matt Newman has done so far.  Granted, it’s in only 17 ABs (although he stands to gain the most playing time with Michael Crouse on the DL), but he’s hitting .412 with a 1.212 OPS through the first week and a half of baseball.  Why is this a surprise?  Well, last year, Newman was playing in Vancouver where he hit respectably – an .813 OPS with 16 2B, 5 3B and 6 HRs in 221 ABs.  But I saw Newman take BP in spring training, and while he made a lot of solid contact, he really didn’t hit the ball with much authority.  It’s nice to see him producing some good numbers so far.

Andy Burns is also producing the way we would like to see for a guy that several writers are calling a sleeper prospect.  Burns, hitting .359/.432/.590 through 39 ABs also has 3 SBs to his credit.  That said, there really isn’t a lot of power on this Dunedin team, especially with Michael Crouse on the DL.  The team has only hit 2 home runs (one from Burns, one from 2B Jon Berti), and the team isn’t hitting particularly well overall, with only 3 regulars (Burns, 1B Gabe Jacobo, and RF Jonathan Jones) with an OPS over .800.*

While the bats have been cold, the pitching has been hot.  Only two pitchers have ERAs over 3.00 and the starters have been outstanding.  Leading the way are starters Efrain Nieves, Scott Copeland, Jesse Hernandez, and Aaron Sanchez.  Sanchez has limited his baserunners against in a huge way but hasn’t really gotten strikeout numbers up just yet.  It’s hard to really single out any of these four starters because all have done extremely well.  Hernandez has been the only one to really struggle with control, walking 7 batters in 17 innings (so not “bad” at all).  The bullpen was been incredibly reliable.  Combined, Dustin Antolin and Ajay Meyer have thrown 9 1/3 innings allowing only 6 batters to get on base with 11 strikeouts while Scott Gracey has thrown six innings with only 1 run against.  This pitching staff has been outstanding.

Player of the Week: Efrain Nieves

Lansing Lugnuts
6th in Midwest League Eastern (3-6)

Leaderboards:   C Santiago Nessy – 5th (tie) 2B
                                3B Gustavo Pierre – 5th (tie ) 2B
                                SP Roberto Osuna – 5th Ks

The Blue Jays lack of depth in their A-ball batting really comes to the fore when we look at the Lugnuts.  Only two regulars are hitting above .265 and only one Lugnut has an OPS over .800.  2B prospect Christian Lopes leads the team with a .333 batting average, but has only taken one walk this season.  Canadian OF prospect Dalton Pompey has batted .250, but has an OPS of only .554 with only one extra-base-hit in 32 ABs to go along with 13 strikeouts and one walk.  Slugger Balbino Fuenmayor started the season hot, clubbing 2 HRs in the first 3 games, but has since cooled considerably, having his average drop to .222 and leads the team with 15 strikeouts.  One of the bright lights has been 3B Gustavo Pierre who has two HRs to go along with four doubles.  He has had his issues though; he has been caught stealing twice (with only one successful swipe) and has struck out 12 times without a walk. 

The pitching for the Lugnuts is another story.  With 18-year-old #2 prospect Roberto Osuna anchoring the staff, the team has gotten some great pitching performances in the first two cycles through the rotation.  Both Javier Avendano and Taylor cole impressed in their first starts before getting hit hard in their second (although Cole’s numbers are better oveall) while Alonzo Gonzalez leads the starters in ERA (1.64) and has only given up two runs in his 11 innings.  Finally, highly regarded prospect Daniel Norris continues to struggle posting a 12.38 ERA and 2.25 WHIP through his first 2 starts and 8 innings.  Standouts in the bullpen include Wil Browning, Andrew Sikula, Griffin Murphy and Ben White, who have thrown 25 combined innings without an earned run (there are 5 unearned runs there which speaks to a lot of sloppy fielding).  Tucker Donahue and Ian Kadish have both been solid in the pen while Chuck Ghysels has struggled with control (4 BBs in 3 2/3 innings) and Matt Johnson has been hit hard (9 H in 4 IP).

Player of the Week: Roberto Osuna


* Newman and Crouse both have OPSs over 1.000, but in far fewer ABs than can be considered “every day” at-bats.

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