Las Vegas (lost 12-9)
Bad news first: Kyle Drabek wasn't immediately "fixed" by his demotion. He did get over 50% groundballs, but the rest of his line was horrible. He walked seven batters, struck out three, gave up eight hits, and somehow managed to give up only four earned runs in four innings. "Only four" might sound strange, but he did put fifteen(!) men on base. We'll be hoping he fares better in his next start.
The good news is that Brett Cecil got the start on Saturday and managed a seven inning game with nine strikeouts and two walks, giving up three earned runs in seven innings. That means he got the consecutive good starts AA said the Jays wanted from Brett, but they might be a bit concerned that only 18% of the balls hit in play against him were hit on the ground.
With Travis Snider and Brett Lawrie both down to injuries related to pitcher wildness, it's up to David Cooper and Eric Thames to make the hitting in Vegas interesting to us. They did not disappoint yesterday. David Cooper went 2-for-5 with a home run and did not strike out. He brought his line up to .389/.442/.576. Since his upside is so often linked to Brett Wallace, I'll compare the two's Triple-A Vegas stats here. David Cooper has struck out in 7.6% of his trips to the plate, Wallace struck out in 19.6%. Wallace walked 6.1% of the time, Cooper has done so at a 8.4% rate. Cooper's ISO (isolated power) is .188, Wallace had an ISO of .208. So while Cooper is unlikely to hit for a lot of power, he seems to have the potential to control the strikezone better than Wallace does. Kind of a Lyle Overbay with less power but a higher average, and probably worse defense.
Eric Thames did not homer, but he did hit two doubles and drew a walk to go 2-for-4. He's now hitting .350/.420/.619 and while that looks good, I think his relatively low walk rate and his high strikeout rate during his short stint in the majors are good reasons to give him a full year in triple-A. He hasn't had a lot of pro at bats yet, so while he's relatively old, he could probably use the experience. I'm confident we'll see him in September if he's uninjured.
New Hampshire (lost 1-3)
Joel Carreno struck out seven in five innings and gave up two runs, which would be enough damage for the Erie Seawolves to get the win. Carreno also walked three, and his wildness has been his main problem. He's struck out hitters at an elite rate (29.7%), but he has issued too many free passes by walking or hitting batters, and he's also old for the league at 24. It would surprise me if the Jays think his future is in the rotation, but with his strikeout ability they just might think he can one day control his stuff enough to be a good starter.
Moises Sierra single-handedly accounted for the Cats' run production, as he hit his team-leading 11th home run. He also drew a walk and struck out, and he's now hitting .284/.357/.479. A recent trend for Sierra has been more walks and more strikeouts (still not alarmingly many or anything), which may indicate pitchers are staying away from his raw power.
Anthony Gose had the only other Cats' hit of the ballgame, but he's been struggling mightily. Over his last 10 games he has struck out 18 times while walking just twice. Yesterday he ended a streak of five games in which he struck out at least twice a game. That's not very good if you're someone who can run weak grounders into singles and steal second as often as he can.
Travis d'Arnaud got on base with a walk but also struck out. He's now hitting .301/.379/.494, which is great for catcher, obviously, but he does have a high BABIP which doesn't correspond with his high popup rate, which is actually higher than Aaron Hill's popup rate. Every prospect has his flaws I guess, but d'Arnaud will still be very high on a lot of prospect lists, you can count on that.
Mike McDade is hitting .312/.359/.506 with still worrisome control over the strikezone, but he did hit 2 homers and a double on Saturday. Adeiny Hechavarria is hitting .232/.259/.361 with even more worrisome "control" over the strikezone, but at least he plays great defense (or so we hear). I don't think any kind of good defense can justify his current "hitting" though.
Lansing (won 8-2)
Dunedin did not play because they're having the All-Star break in the FSL. A.J. Jimenez hit a triple and struck out in his two trips to the plate and Deck McGuire worked a scoreless inning with 2 walks and 3 strikeouts in that All-Star game. Brad Glenn finished second in the home run derby.
Anyway, Lansing had to win their game and the Great Lakes Loons had to lose theirs for Lansing to secure a playoff spot, and...they succeeded!
They had exactly the right starting pitcher on the mound in the dominant Drew Hutchison, who struck out 10 hitters in 6 innings while walking one. He got more than half of the balls hit in play to be grounders and didn't give up any runs. In fact, Hutchison has now not given up a run in 27 consecutive innings. He's going to put some pressure on Nestor Molina (who was skipped for his last start and didn't pitch in the All-Star game despite being selected) for best statistical performance from a Jays pitching prospect in 2011. Not that that's actually an award, though we could of course hand out some fictional awards here on Bluebird Banter.
Jake Marisnick was one of three 'Nuts to go deep in this game in a 2-for-4 effort which also included a double. He's hitting .319/.388/.493 but I don't really like his BB/K rate (18/48), so he's got some improvements to make with swinging at the right pitches and making contact.
Michael Crouse has the same problems with strikezone control, but he also went deep yesterday and added a walk, but also a strikeout. He's still hitting .272/.347/.471 and that's not that bad in what is essentially a pitcher's league this year.
Marcus Knecht also strikes out a bit much, and he did strike out twice yesterday. But when you also add a home run and a double to your day at the plate you're probably going to forget those. Knecht is hitting .322/.411/.536, and is in the top 3 in the Midwest League in both the OBP and SLG categories. That's one 3rd round pick the Jays probably don't regret.
K.C. Hobson drew three walks and had a hit and a strikeout. While his BB/K rate is still good at 36/43, he is still not hitting the ball with any sort of authority. Since we do know he has the raw power, it might just be worth waiting a while for it to surface.
Vancouver (won 3-0)
Yes folks, the short-season season is underway! The Canadians have already played three games, winning two of those, and shortly the GCL BlueJays (starting today) and Bluefield Blue Jays (starting tomorrow) will join them. Oh, the excitement!
While Vancouver doesn't have all that many exciting prospects, Justin Nicolino sure is one of them. The 2nd rounder from the 2010 draft was the only high school pitcher from that draft to be assigned to the Canadians and he repaid the faith the Jays have in him by dominating his opponents for five shutout innings. In those innings he gave up one hit, one walk, struck out five and got 50% groundballs. His first three innings were his most dominant, as he struck out four and got 100% groundballs to start off his game. The last two innings he would strike out one, walk one, and get 0% groundballs.
Blake McFarland debuted by no-hitting the Yakima Bears the rest of the way, striking out three in four innings while walking none. The non-drafted free agent is 23 though, so he doesn't compare to 19-year old Nicolino very well.
Notable position players are Jonathon Berti, a 2011 draft pick and second baseman, hitting .500 in just 2 games (1 BB, 1 K) and Shane Opitz, a 2010 draft pick and shortstop who has 2 walks, 2 strikeouts and 3 hits in 3 games. Most exciting prospects like Aaron Sanchez, Noah Syndergaard and Kellen Sweeney will be in Bluefield or with the GCL Jays.