Saturday, April 6, 2013

April 6 Minor League Starters: A Preview

Today's slate of minor league games features some interesting pitchers starting for the Jays' affiliates.  They range from a veteran with extensive major league experience to the Jays' #1 prospect.
Photo: Victor Perez
Buffalo Bisons: RHP Claudio Vargas

Vargas is a 34 year old Dominican who made his major league debut 10 years ago with the Montreal Expos.    Since then, he's bounced around, playing for the Expos, Nationals, Diamondbacks, Brewers, Mets, and Dodgers.  And that's only in the majors.  He last appeared in the big leagues in 2010 putting up pretty bad numbers with the Brewers (19 2/3 innings, 7.32 ERA, 1.932 WHIP, 18 K, 10 BB).  Since then, he's had a couple of decent seasons playing for the Brewers' AAA team in 2011 and in the Mexican League last year.
Photo: Mike Ashmore

New Hampshire Fisher Cats: RHP Deck McGuire

McGuire, as many of you already know, was the Blue Jays first round pick (11th overall) in 2010 draft, coming out of the Georgia Institute of Technology.  The 23 year old shot through the minors in his first season (2011) pitching extremely well for most of the year in Dunedin (A-Adv.) - a 2.75 ERA in 104 2/3 innings with a 1.213 WHIP and 102 Ks -- and also having solid numbers in a 20 inning call up to New Hampshire.  

Unfortunately, last season, things took a turn for the worse for Deck.  He spent the entire season in AA, throwing 144 innings and putting up a 5.88 ERA, a 1.556 WHIP and had his K% drop from around 24% (rough estimate of the 2 levels) to 15.1%.  I'm hoping that he was having a Ricky Romero-esque minor league year that would force him to learn and make adjustments.  Talking to a couple of scouts and writers in Spring Training, however, my faith in Deck is a bit shaken, but at least today, he gets a chance to begin to turn things around.

Dunedin Blue Jays: RHP Aaron Sanchez

Sanchez, 20, is another 1st round pick from 2010 but came out of Barstow HS in California.  He is the Jays consensus #1 prospect and most prospect nerds have him ranked in the top 50 in the minor leagues.  The Jays have been bringing him along slowly, spending 2010 and 2011 in short season ball, and piggybacking in 2012 in Lansing.  His numbers really started to improve last year, when he gave up only 64 hits in 90 1/3 innings to go with a great 2.49 ERA and an good 1.273 WHIP.  He also struck out 97 batters for a 25.7% strikeout rate.  

While scouts drool over his electric high-90s fastball and solidly developing curve and change, it's his control that keeps his numbers from being jaw-droppingly good.  Sanchez walked 51 batters last season, and that could be a problem moving forward.  However, I saw an interview with Sanchez on Prime Time Sports on Rogers Sportsnet where he talked about how difficult it has been mastering his pitches as he's added velocity on his fastball every few months.  He and the Jays' staff think that as his velocity stabilizes, the command of the fastball will come.  I predict that we'll see Sanchez throwing a lot of fastballs in his first outing looking for that command.  
Hopefully we'll get some action photos of Alonzo this year.

Lansing Lugnuts: LHP Alonzo Gonzalez 

Gonzalez is a 21 year old who came out of Glendale Community College in California in the 18th round of last year's draft.  I'm actually a little surprised to see Gonzo (as I'm sure some of his teammates call him) pitching in Lansing this year, considering that his pro debut last season didn't set the world on fire.  He did have two excellent starts to close the year in Bluefield, but I expected to see Gonzalez in Vancouver this year.  By starting him in Lansing, the Jays get a chance to see what they have in this 6'5" lefty early in the season.  

Some think that he should be able to add velocity (he's listed at only 200 lbs to go with his tall lanky frame) but as it stands, he only throws in the high 80s although I didn't see him throw in Spring Training so I couldn't get an idea of where his velocity is right now.  Jared McDonald of wrote in September that he thinks Gonzalez's changeup is a solid out pitch while his curveball wasn't used much.  As a lefty, he'll need to develop that curveball into a pitch he can trust going forward.

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