Hi everyone. Before we update our top prospects list, let's take a broader view at what has been going on among the Jays' minor-league affiliates this season. Part I will focus on the lower-level affiliates, Part II on the teams closer to the majors.
Gulf Coast League Blue Jays: The GCL Jays played slightly above .500 ball this season and did so with a number of 2009 draftees and other very young players. 18-year old Carlos Perez (the GCL Jays' MVP) did a great job behind the plate, batting .291/.364/.433. 17-year old shorstop Gustavo Pierre held his own at the plate with 18 extra-base hits in 48 games. Although he did make 14 errors, that's nothing unusual for a shortstop that young in his first taste of pro ball, since his defense is said to be solid overall.
On the mound, Matt Fields dominated, but he was quite old for the level so he was expected to. Ryan Shopshire, a 2009 draftee, was also old for the GCL, but pitched great in his 8 starts and was promoted straight to Lansing by season's end. Aaron Loup, the southpaw 2009 Tulane draftee (go Green Wave!), pitched only in relief for the GCL, probably to keep his innings down as he was more of a starter in college. Loup did a nice job in relief, with a 19/3 K/BB ratio in his 16 1/3 innings and a 3.86 ERA, especially finishing the season strong (he only gave up 2 runs in his last 14 innings).
Auburn Doubledays: Sean Ochinko, the 2009 draftee out of LSU (Aaron Hill and Brian Tallet's alma mater) did a tremendous job from behind the plate, batting .324/.382/.527, with 6 home runs and 20 doubles in 52 games and earning team MVP honors. Very nice. Shortstop Ryan Goins, another 2009 collegiate draftee, didn't show a lot of power but held his own at the plate, earning a promotion to Lansing by the season's end. Yan Gomes, Auburn's other primary catcher, and another 2009 draftee, also did a very fine job at the plate, batting .296/.363/.444, and left-handed hitting Ryan Schimpf, another 2009 LSU graduate (the Jays have really mined the Pelican State in their drafting made a nice debut at second base. On the less encouraging side, 2009 draftee Lance Durham struggled in his professional debut, and toolsy centrefield types Marcus Brisker and Eric Eiland showed very little and Eiland especially looks to be in big trouble as a prospect.
On the pitching side, lefties Egan Smith (a 2.56 ERA in 9 starts, 36/11 K/BB ratio over 38 innings) and Matthew Wright (73 Ks in 59 2/3 innings, with 23 walks and a 3.77 ERA in 16 appearances (12 starts)) and righty Dave Sever (3.34 ERA in 14 games (12 starts) with 57 Ks and just 15 walks over 67 innings) all had very nice seasons from Auburn's rotation. Wright pitched for Auburn (reasonably well) last season, while Smith and Sever were 2009 draftees. Smith was named a 2009 NY-Penn League all-star.
Lansing Lugnuts: Unlike some ohters, we didn't count Johermyn Chavez out after an awful 2008 campaign and he rewarded us (not to mention himself) with a fantastic season for Lansing. The 20-year old batted .283/.346/.474 with 22 doubles, 6 triples, and 21 home runs (2nd in the league) as an underaged hitter in a tough hitters' league. After a scorching start, he tapered off a bit in the late spring, but came roaring back to end the season, which was great to see. Fellow outfielder Welinton Ramirez split his season between Auburn and Lansing and played well for both. Brian Van Kirk (.278/.389/.451 for Lansing) put up solid numbers, earning promotions to Dunedin and, shortly thereafter, New Hampshire. Ty Pastornicky did a very nice job as Lansing's SS, not showing any power, but holding his own at the plate, playing excellent defense, and stealing 51 bases. He was promoted to Dunedin when Justin Jackson went down with a frayed labrum. Balbino Fuenmayor, still just 19 though in his 3rd season with the Jays' organization, had an up-and-down season for Lansing (.663 OPS), but certainly too promising to give up on considering his age. Kenneth Wilson, yet another toolsy CF type, struggled mightily, and none of Jon Talley, A.J. Jimenez, or Chris House had great seasons behind the plate for Lansing (though House was starting to look better as the season neared its end).
On the mound, Henderson Alvarez (92/19 K/BB ratio in 23 starts (124 IP), with a 9-6 record and 3.47 ERA) was very good, but many of Lansing's other starters struggled, though not Charles Huggins, who was so good in his 7 starts (1.57 ERA, 40/11 K/BB ratio in 34 1/3 innings) that he quickly pitched himself out of the league and into Dunedin (where he also excelled). Joel Carreno made good 14 starts for Lansing. Frank Gailey did a fine job out of the bullpen.
Dunedin Jays: Moses Sierra was another guy who struggled in 2008 but had a very nice season in 2009, earning MVP honors for Dunedin and hitting .286/.360/.393 before his promotion to New Hampshire (where he continued to excel, albeit in just 34 at-bats before the season ended) and showcasing fine defense and an exceptional arm in the outfield. The Jays like Sierra, as they showed when they gave him an extended look in 2009 spring training despite him being a 20-year old outfielder who had a mediocre-at-best 2008 season for Lansing. Sierra wasn't the only quality outfielder for Lansing - in fact, his fly-shagging bretheren Darrin Mastroianni and Eric Thames (.874 OPS in 216 plate appearances) also had big seasons - in Thames' case unfortunately curtailed by injury, something that's proving to be a continued thorn in the side of his development (he could've easily been in AA this season but for his injury). Centrefielder Mastroianni (.325/.426/.390) showed a real knack for getting on base at the top of the order and also earned a promotion to New Hampshire before the season let out. Catcher Jonathan Jaspe hit well but really needs to learn to take a walk (just 17 in 279 plate appearance) while fellow catcher (and yet another LSU product) Matthew Liuzza knows how to walk but was old for the level at 25. Adam Loewen was an interesting story - not unexpectedly, he started slow - no surprise for a hitter's first taste of professional ball being at high-A. But he picked up steam each month was better than the last - until August, that is, when he, somewhat unexpectedly fell off. Overall, Loewen's season (.236/.340/.355) was still pretty encouraging for his first taste of professional ball, and it wouldn't surprise me to see him take a step forward next season.
The trio of 2008 high-school draftees and infield prospects, Kevin Ahrens, Justin Jackson, and John Tolisano, continued to move up together through the system this year, but it wasn't a great season for the three overall. Tolisano (.232/.305/.379, with 12 home runs) had his moments and was looking at an encouraging season before a putrid August dragged down his numbers. Jackson got off to an awful start that injuries robbed him of the chance to overcome and eventually needed labrum surgery, while Ahrens just didn't do anything at the plate until August, when he started to snap out of it a bit. I can't imagine any of them will be moving up to start next season, which puts the Jays in a tough spot with respect to the shortstop position, where Pastornicky outplayed Jackson this season.
On the mound, Andrew Liebel's horrible 5-13 record masks the fact that he was actually pretty good (3.63 ERA, 118/42 K/BB ratio in 156 innings) He threw a lot of quality innings this season (he also made two starts for New Hampshire, in which he pitched splendidly) so he shouldn't feel bad about the record. Kenny Rodriguez also pitched quite well in his 12 starts (2.43 ERA, 63/23 K/BB ratio), and Vincent Bongiovanni wasn't bad either (4.44 ERA with solid K/BB numbers). In relief, we know all about Tim Collins (99 Ks in 64 2/3 innings, with 28 walks and a 2.37 ERA), who hit a bump when he was promoted to New Hampshire, but Robert Bell (112 Ks and just 22 walks) in 96 innings consisting of 10 starts, 32 relief appearances) also put together a very nice season (2.43 ERA). Trystan Magnuson had a decent season out of the pen as well, while Zach Dials and Danny Farquar started at Dunedin but soon moved up due to dominating performance.
Join us next time for AA and AAA, and let us know in the comments which minor league players at these levels caught your eye, good or bad, this season.