We, the fans, are prone to overreaction sometimes. After the Orioles series, some of us felt like the Jays had completely forgotten how to hit. Even though rationally, we know we should not take small samples to be indicative of actual changes in the quality of players, we still worry that player X may have totally lost the ability to do Y. And for some fans, the minor leagues work the same way. If a good prospect doesn't produce, the fans worry. Because the fans have something invested in these young players. And that investment is called hope. Hopefully, today's recap will instill or restore some hope.
Las Vegas (won 15-5)
Travis d'Arnaud has been a guy that some people will have worried about a bit, and it's not that irrational. After all, it's the PCL, so you expect a hitter to absolutely pulverize the ball, just like Lawrie and Thames did last year. Well, last night d'Arnaud went 3-for-5 with a home run, bumping his season line to .263/.345/.421. That still doesn't look like a PCL line for a guy who hit .311/.371/.542 in the Eastern League last year, but he might be getting there. Meanwhile his fellow catcher and part-time third baseman, the Brazilian spring training hero Yan Gomes, also homered, and was 2-for-4 with a walk. His .342/.360/.493 line might excite some, but his 2/12 BB/K rate does not inspire confidence.
Adeiny Hechavarria went 2-for-5 with 2 doubles and a walk, now hitting a modest .306/.349/.408. He's drawn 5 walks in the last 10 games, which is good to see. Anthony Gose, who didn't play, has a much less inspiring line at .215/.305/.290 with a very high 27.4% strikeout rate but no homers yet. He's young enough to improve a lot, but the strikeouts remain a worry. Moises Sierra (1-for-4, walk) is hitting .309/.385/.494, which isn't enough to force his way onto the big league club, but close enough that if he gets hot, people will start wondering what he could do in the big leagues. David Cooper (4-for-5, 2 doubles and a homer) is doing his thing again, although at .341/.402/.523 he's not hitting as well as last year and the homer yesterday was only his first of the season. Travis Snider (.400/.477/.693) did not play, but his MRI revealed no structural damage to the wrist he hurt, so he'll soon try to continue hitting the way he did before the injury. At 11/11 BB/K, don't say you've seen him destroy the minors before, because he never did something even close to this kind of dominance (small sample, I know).
Joel Carreno has the unfortunate honor of being picked by the Jays'staff as a pitching prospect who can practice his skills in the PCL. He was decent last night, with 6.1 IP, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. He gets groundballs and strikes people out, but his big reliance upon his slider and his spotty command might make him a better fit in the bullpen, where he excelled last year. Speaking of the rotation, what's up with Jesse Chavez? He has pitched 28.2 innings with a 2.51 ERA, with impressive underlying stats: 27.5% Ks and 51% groundballs. He's looking like solid rotation depth at worst, although his track record tells us this is probably fluke. But is it?
New Hampshire (lost 3-4, 11 innings)
The less written about this year's Fisher Cats team, the better. The offense has been bad, and the pitching isn't what we hoped it would be, especially with Hutchison now in the majors. Deck McGuire has an ERA of 8.24. A.J. Jimenez is hitting .254/.299/.365. Let's skip to the good stuff.
Dunedin (won 6-1)
The good stuff in Dunedin usually goes by the name of Jake Marisnick. After a 2-for-4 performance, including a home run, which was his third in five days, his line now sits at .299/.392/.540. With both Michael Crouse and Marcus Knecht hitting below .200, it looks like Jake is starting to seperate himself from his fellow outfielders and if he keeps this up could find himself in New Hampshire before the end of the season. Let's not yet assume he keeps it up, however, as it is always more fun to be pleasantly surprised than to see your expectations crushed. That, and it's a small sample. Although it's a small sample, I'm already quite tired of writing "small sample". It''s probably time to move on to the rotation.
Sean Nolin, 6.1 IP, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, will probably be unheralded for a while longer, but his sparkling 2.60 ERA and his solid strikeout and walk rates do give me some hope. After all, there are plenty of left-handed major league pitchers who do not throw hard, and Nolin isn't reported to have Brad Mills type velocity either. The more likely outcome for him is probably the bullpen though. John Stilson has a 68% groundball rate and 20.5% Ks, which is a solid mix, but his control could be better. Fellow groundballing injury returnee Sam Dyson has no problem with walks, having issued none so far in 19.2 innings. He has only struck out 14.6% of the hitters he's faced, but gotten 66% groundballs.
Lansing (lost 2-6)
Bad day for the Lugnuts, who were undone by a 6 run 8th inning. Fun fact about this game: no ball was hit out of the infield until with one out in the top of the fourth, when a ball was lined to, and caught by, center fielder Kenny Wilson. The first hit of the game only came in the bottom of the fourth, when Jonathan Berti (.296/.420/.366) hit a groundball for a single. Another fun fact: Carlos Perez was 2-for-4 with a double, he's now at .284/.355/.433 with 8 walks to 10 strikeouts. Chris Hawkins is hitting .325/.357/.438, and while the line drives are good, I'm hoping he can show a little more pop and patience. Kellen Sweeney, .191/.313/.235 has patience enough, but he definitely needs to make harder contact. He had an unlucky lineout to second last night and his line drive rate is solid enough, but the point stands.
The rotation for Lansing has been awesome, but the starters from the last two days, Marcus Walden and David Rollins, are not the guys who should interest you. Aaron Sanchez' 37% strikeouts should wow you, but his high walk rate should temper your expectations: he has a long way to go. Noah Syndergaard's combination of 32% strikeouts and 65% groundballs should make you go "ooooh", but again his walk rate is something that should provide a word of caution. Justin Nicolino's 27% strikeouts, and 53% grounders coupled with his miniscule walk rate should make you expect him to be the first to Dunedin out of these three 2010 draft picks, while Anthony DeSclafani's 20% Ks and 60% groundballs should make you wonder what he can do at higher levels, because he's a college guy doing well against relatively easy opposition.