Hey hey, everybody. Now that the minor-league regular season is over, let's take a look at where the minor-league system is - and end up with the new Bluebird Banter top 20 Jays prospects.
Scott Campbell jumped right to AA this season from Lansing and took a big step forward this season, passing the AA test with flying colors, and earning himself a spot in the Arizona Fall League for his trouble. The young Kiwi batted .302/.398/.427 for New Hampshire overall, but was playing even better before a late-season slide. Cambell showed reasonable power with 32 extra-base hits, including 9 home runs, and showed a great ability to reach base, with more walks than strikeouts. Campbell still needs to learn to hit left-handed pitching, as his splits attest (.892 OPS v. righties/.589 v. lefties) Campbell turns 24 at the end of September and will have a good chance to see big-league action at some point next season.
Brett Cecil had a great season as well. The former college southpaw closer took a huge step forward this season, skipping Lansing and starting the season at high A Dunedin. After just four starts of domination, Cecil moved up to New Hampshire, where he pitched the bulk of the season. Cecil graduated New Hampshire with a 2.55 ERA over 18 starts, striking out more than 1 batter per inning and building up his arm strength and endurance. Cecil was promoted to AAA, where he made his final 6 starts of the season. At AAA, Cecil had 2 dominating starts, 1 very good start, 2 mediocre starts, and 1 terrible start, right at the end of the season, that pushed his ERA just over 4. But all in all it was a tremendous season for the young lefty, and is very likely to see some major-league action next season.
After a rough 2007 short season at Auburn, J.P. Arencibia took a big step forward at the plate. Arencibia skipped Lansing and started the season at Dunedin and dominated, then moved up to New Hampshire, where he acquitted himself quite well. Arencibia showed great power, hitting 27 home runs over the two levels, and not dropping off in New Hampshire. Reports of his defense are that it is coming along quite well. What Arencibia needs to do is learn to take a walk - that's what stopped him from mastering AA (where he batted .282/.302/.496). But he could be behind the platefor the Jays sooner rather than later.
Brad Mills had a nice little season as well. Mills spent most of his season at Lansing, but had great stints at Dunedin and even Hampshire. The 23-year old lefty starter finished 13-5 with a 1.96 ERA and 159 Ks to 52 walks over 147 innings. Despite the good K numbers, Mills is not a fastball pitcher at all and in fact needs to work on better command of his fastball to compliment his fine secondary pitches.
And of course there is Travis Snider. Moonraker, as he is known to Jays fans (at least on this site) ripped up the minors before earning a promotion to the Jays right before September call-ups. Snider continues to strike out a ton but is just 20 years old and hit 23 HRs in the minors (and 1 in the majors!), not to mention 31 doubles, and also walked 61 times. Snider started the season with an elbow injury and that actually depresses his stats, he leapt over the vaunted AA hurdle as a 20-year old, is currently holding his own in the bigs, is by all accounts and impressions a fantastic kid, and is generally everything that is good with the world.
Curtis Thigpen is up with the Jays now, but he had a poor year at the plate and has been passed in the Jays organization by Arencibia and Jeroloman. I still think Thigpen could be a reasonably good fill-in at backup in the event of an injury next season, but he's no longer part of the Jays' plans.
Ryan Patterson has had two consecutive mediocre seasons with New Hampshire and doesn't appear ready to scale the AA hurdle.
Young righthander Kyle Ginley had a tough season at Dunedin, though that may be more due to a nagging oblique injury than anything else.
After being fasttracked by some minor-league analysts for the big leagues, big righty Trystan Magnuson didn't have a great year at Lansing and was not able to move up. Magnuson finished witha 5.40 ERA over his 24 starts and a terrible 49/35 K/BB ratio over 81 2/3 innings. However, Magnuson did look to be improving as the season went on and finished decently strong.
Finally, young right-handed outfielder Johermyn Chavez had a poor season at Lansing, OPS-ing only .595. That said, he's only 19, so let's not break out the bust label anytime soon.
Davis Romero returned from labrum surgery and has had a nice bounceback season, starting 23 games and finishing with a 3.71 ERA and an 88/29 K/BB ratio over 106 innings. My guess is that Romero's future is in the bullpen and if a lefty like Brian Tallet is moved, Romero could see some big league action next season.
Robert Ray returned from an injury to pitch a full season and had a nice one, splitting his time between New Hampshire and Dunedin. Ray started 16 games for New Hamphsire and finished with a 3.18 ERA and a 72/27 K/BB ratio over 96 innings. Better command is Ray's next step forward.
Justin Jackson, the Jays slick-fielding SS prospect, had a great start to the season at the plate but tapered off as the season went on.
The same could also be said for Jackson's infield comrades and fellow early 2007 draftees: Kevin Ahrens and John Tolisano. None of the three had great seasons overall, however, each showed what they were capable of. Toolsy speedster Eric Eiland had a poor season at the plate.
Brian Jeroloman remains on track for a big-league job as a backup, due to his excellent defensive abilities. What remains to be seen with Jeroloman is whether he can do anything at the plate. Jeroloman has shown great strike-zone discipline but less-than-average power and hitting ability, which has resulted in a high minor-league OBP that might or might not translate to the majors. Jeroloman hit relatively well at New Hampshire before struggling at the plate at Syracuse, but I suppose it is a good sign that his on-base skills continued to show themselves even as he was unable to hit very well.
Much-maligned former first-round pick Ricky Romero started off shakily but finished quite strong and, in my view, played himself back into post-hype sleeper status. The 23-year old lefty (he turns 24 in November) struggled mightily in New Hamphsire but reestablished himself at Syracuse, going 3-3 over 7 starts with a 3.38 ERA and 38 Ks in 42 2/3 innings. Romero perhaps walked too many (20) and so still has some work to do, but he could figure as a fill-in in the case of injury next season. Of course, 7 starts doesn't prove much and Romero will have to have a strong season next year, where he will be a regular part of Syracuse's rotation.
Although he didn't earn a promotion, Mark Rzepczynski had a fine season at Lansing and looks suited for a big-league bullpen role, and perhaps more. "Zep" had a 2.83 ERA over 22 starts and struck out an impressive 124 over 121 innings, while walking only 42. Great stuff.
Taiwanese lefty curveballer Chi-Hung Cheng was unable to succesfully return from Labrum surgery and was released by Lansing. Sad as he had a bright future derailed by injury.
Robinson Diaz was traded for Jose Bautista, as most know by now. Diaz, once considered the likely Jays starting catcher of 2009, had a poor season at the plate and I was never all that impressed by him anyway. It's possible, of course, that he will burn us (more likely than Bautista putting it together to become a productive regular, certainly), so it wasn't a good trade for the Jays, but it's unlikely they gave up too much.
Of course the major new face is first-round 2008 draftee, David Cooper, who appears to be on the fast-track for the majors. Cooper made it up to Dunedin before the season ended, and that's likely where he will begin, but not end, the 2009 season. Cooper was excellent over his 300 or so at-bats this season (he was the first 1st-rounder to sign and so got a little bit of a jump on his classmates) and went .333/.399/.502 over the 3 levels, with a fantastic 29 doubles. Some of those doubles are likely to become home runs pretty soon, Jays' fans.
Kenneth Wilson, another 2008 draftee, didn't do much at the plate for the GCL Jays, but stole an impressive 25 bases (caught thrice) in just 51 games. He also showed a good eye at the plate with 20 walks, which is nice to see in a speedster. Fellow draftee and SS Tyler Pastornicky stole even more bases (27) and also showed a nice eye at the plate (21 walks to 21 Ks in 160 at-bats).
Andrew Liebel pitched well out of Auburn's bullpen, and who can complain about a 9/1 K/BB ratio.
All stats are from milb.com, and impressions are from my own experience and viewpoint as well as a variety of secondary sources, including Marc Hulet of Blue Jay Way, the good folks at Batters Box, and others. Well, chime in with your own opinions and impressions, and together we'll hammer out the Bluebird Banter Top 20 Jays prospects!