Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Blue Jays Prospects Who Could Be In The Bigs 2012: Part 1/3 Infielders

With spring training now in full swing, the “rosterbators” are out in full force predicting 25 man rosters for the upcoming season.  This is not is not an article about my own personal rosterbation, but actually one about what prospects could see the big leagues this year.

Lets start this off this three part series with the infield, where the Jays have top notch Catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud, wizard defender Adeiny Hechavarria and not much else in terms of near impact talent.

Travis d’Arnaud

Travis d’Arnaud could be a September call-up this season, or maybe earlier if J.P. Arencibia goes down to injury, as there is no chance that Anthopolous would entrust every day at bats to Jeff Mathis. Possessing solid defensive and receiving skills, he should in time become a plus defender.  d’Arnaud draws rave reviews for his ability to handle a pitching staff to go along with a strong arm and athletic body.  At the plate d’Arnaud has good pop for a catcher projecting as a 20+ homerun hitter down the line with solid on base skills, who will hit for solid average and has a good approach using all fields.

Adeiny Hechavarria

The young Cuban who will be 23 on April 15th is one of the best defensive players in the minors and already plays defense that is MLB ready.  Hechavarria’s questions lie with the bat though.  Over 775 AA plate appearances Adeiny has a triple slash of .248/.286/.362. “Hech” posted fantastic numbers in AAA, at hitter friendly Las Vegas though, in 116 PA.  His triple slash of .389/.431/.537 was off the charts and a complete aberration from the past. While those numbers are to be taken with a grain of salt, scouts of always liked his swing and there is a little potential to hit.  Another problem for Hech at the plate is right handers. He hit .305 off LHP in AA last year,, and only .207 of RHP.  Hechavarria is in line for a September call-up, but likely wont hit much at all. His glove will get him to the big leagues, but his bat will tell if he can play every day or is a bench piece down the line.

Mike McDade

First Basemen Mike McDade has mammoth power, but around that ability there isn’t any tool that really jumps out at all. McDade slugged .457 last season and it wasn’t a product of his favourable home park as he hit 9 of his 16 home runs on the road.  Despite hitting .281 as a switch hitter last season, questions remain about his ability to hit. McDade has struck out over 100 times in every full season since turning pro and not walking much (133 time in 1915 AB’s).  The .281 average he posted last season was his best as a pro though his 5.3% walk rate was below his minor league rate of 6.7% heading into last season.  McDade is not a great defender, but he can hold his own at the position despite his 6’1 260 lb frame. McDade could see time as a September call-up or could end up spending the full season in AAA splitting time with David Cooper at 1B/DH.  Cooper is the higher thought of prospect though.

David Cooper

Cooper had a couple of small cups of coffee last season, where despite not putting up gaudy numbers he didn’t look last. His advanced plate approach led to .678 OPS in 81 big league plate appearances.  While his .211 batting average was nothing to write home about, he managed to slug .394 despite the low batting average which slotted him in between Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion on the Blue Jays leader board.  Cooper doesn’t post typical 1B power numbers but does use the whole field and has a knack for hitting the balls into the gaps in right and left center leading to doubles galore (Cooper recorded 58 doubles and 11 homeruns in 538 At Bats. Coopers supreme approach at the plate had him strike out only 57 times last season while walking 74 times (7BB/14K with the Jays). He’s not a very good defender at first base, but does have the athleticism to one day become and average at least defender. He could spend the full season in the big leagues as Adam Lind’s back up or could be a September call-up.  Should Lind be traded or injured you can bet Cooper will get some serious AB’s with the Jays whether at DH or 1B.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Dustin McGowan's future with the Blue Jays

One of the highlights of the 2011 season occurred on September 6th when Dustin McGowan, 1155 days removed from his last major league appearance, appeared in relief versus the Boston Red Sox.  McGowan pitched 4 innings of relief, while McGowan wasn’t his old self just getting back to the majors was a huge accomplishment.

After his first appearance McGowan made 4 starts with mixed results, with his September 21st start vs. the Angels standing out.   He pitched 5 innings of 5 hit, 2 run ball.  Striking out 8 and walking none and giving up 6 ground balls 4 fly balls and 2 linedrives.  While in other games he struggled greatly with commend and gave up hard contact at an alarming rate.
McGowans stuff still looked good out there, though inconsistent.  The curve flattened out more often then it used to, and his command of his pitches wasn’t as sharp. 

I wont get into predictive stats in this case because really with such a small sample size and the context of the situation, they are just not applicable at all.

2007 PitchFx Data Is the top chart, 2011 the bottom.

As the data shows his fastball clocked in 2.5 MPH slower then in '07. His Slider, curve and changeup all lost velocity, but that was expected with 3 year layoff.  While his pitches recorded similar movement at the finish of the pitch, the command of his pitches was not nearly as consistent and pitches were breaking earlier then in previous seasons.  He threw the lowest % of pitches in the strike zone in his career and the number of whiffs he generated drop from 10.7% in 2007 to 8.5% in 2011.  McGowan did flash the stuff though that made him the Jays top prospect in 2003 and 2006.

McGowan's future will likely be decided in Spring Training this year.  If he can stay healthy there is a good chance that he can jump in and contribute as the #5 starter in the Blue Jays rotation. Its unlikely he fits in with the bullpen with his previous shoulder issues and lack of a routine for dealing with his shoulder.  Should McGowan make the team Farrell has projected an innings cap of around 140-150 innings for McGowan.  With more workouts, throwing more regularly and just resuming normal baseball activities full time it wouldn't be surprising to see McGowan gain a tick or two on his pitches.

McGowan's long term future with the Blue Jays is uncertain, but should he remain healthy and regain a bit more of his previous ability, there is no reason to believe he can't be a valuable contributor in the rotation for at least a few years.  If not, he'll likely be cut as he can't be sent to AAA without being put on waivers.