8/31 Update: The Blue Jays have officially named Jake Marisnick, Ryan Goins, and Kevin Pillar, and apparently Ryan Tepera as well per his twitter. Per this MLB.com article, it appears the eligibility rules have been extended to 7 players again, with 2 from below AA, in addition to one "taxi squad" player who is only eligible to play on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The Jays have designated Kevin Pillar as that player (which makes sense given his relative inexperience, and the presence of Marisnick as well as Brian Goodwin of Washington and Trayce Thompson of Chicago). According to this Baseball America article, one of the 4 remaining spots the Jays have yet to assign is a catcher, with would seem to be for d'Arnaud (unless A.J. Jimenez is recovered from his Tommy John, in which case he could make sense as well). The other 3 are pitchers. One other interesting note: Colby Rasmus' brother Cory has been assigned by Atlant to the Phoenix roster
Last week, the 2012 Arizona Fall League schedule was released, with the Blue Jays being assigned to the Salt River rafters along with the White Sox, Rockies, Nationals, and Diamondbacks. The 32 game schedule starts October 9th and runs through November 15th (detailed schedule here), and initial rosters to be announced on September 1st, though the rosters are very fluid even within the season.
With the big club struggling recently, I've been thinking about which prospects the Jays might send. In particular, I think it's interesting to see the pitchers who get sent, because with starters generally having hit their innings limit, it's usually under the radar guys that the team likes. So it can be a good indication of guys who end up getting called up - for example Aaron Loup, who was sent to the AFL last year and has been a surprise performer out of the pen the last month or so. So I'm going to briefly review eligibility, look back at who was sent in 2010 and 2011 to look for clues about the type of guys the Jays send, and then throw out some names.
Full eligibility rules here, but the main parts are that each MLB team must send 6 players, and players must have less than 1 year MLB service time to be eligible. All players in AA and AAA as of August 1 are eligible, and a team can send one player from below AA. Players from countries with their own winter leagues are not eligible.
Actually played: Gose (138 PA), Kevin Ahrens (103 PA, A+ as of Aug 1), Hechavarria (78 PA), Gomes (73 PA), Crawford (17 IP in 11 games), Loup (16.2 IP in 12 games), Wes Etheridge (8.1 IP in 6 games), Chad Beck (8 IP in 5 games)
In total, 8 different players appeared at various points. Gose and Hechavarria were obvious choices, and my best guess is that Ahrens was a late add to fill a roster hole considering Loup was already the "under AA" player and Ahrens' prospect status was not very high. Gomes, Loup and Crawford were not well known at the time, but have emerged as potentially role players, and being sent to the AFL was likely an indication the Jays liked them. Etheridge and Beck were both older players who weren't there the full AFL, the former hasn't pitched this year and the latter has been bumped up and down. Two prospects who basically played everyday (plus Ahrens), and all pitchers were relievers.
Actually played: Thames (103 PA), McDade (100 PA), Adam Loewen (64 PA), Hechavarria (4 PA), Marc Rzepczynski (31 IP in 6 starts, AAA), Daly (11.1 IP in 10 games), Farina (10.1 IP in 10 games), Farquhar (10 IP in 9 games).
2010 also saw 8 different players, with Thames and McDade receiving everyday playing time. McDade was an interesting choice after a so-so season in the FSL. I believe Hechavarria got injured and Loewen replaced him. On the pitching side, Rzep was a late add, and the only guy who started. He missed the beginning of the season, which is presumably why he had innings left. His strong AFL performance on the back of a strong August/September call-up foreshadowed his value in 2011. Daly had a disappointing 2011 and hasn't taken a step forward, Farina had Tommy John and was outrighted off the 40 man, and Farquhar was been traded to Oakland, traded back from Oakland, claimed by Oakland, then by New York and traded to Seattle.
It seems likely that two positions players will receive essentially everyday playing time, and another will receive platoon time (~50%). The Jays have sent their top prospects, but haven't sent position players with substantial MLB time even if eligible. The pitchers are mainly future MLB relievers, and even Rzep really fits in here despite being a starter at the time. One thing to note is that in terms of starting pitching, many college players have debuted in AFL after signing at the deadline, but with the deadline moved up most are pitching in the minor league seasons and may not have innings. So more starters might be needed, and the Jays might send a less heralded starter in that case.
Likely Candidates (in my view)
Travis d'Arnaud (AAA) - Assuming he's healthy in time, this would make a lot of sense to make up some of the reps missed due to the PCL tear.
Jake Marisnick (AA) - With the promotion to AA, he seems like a prime candidate for some extra reps, in the same mould as sending Hech and Gose in the past couple years. Also, he missed 3 weeks earlier in the year, so the extra reps are good.
Chad Jenkins (AA) - Promotion to big league bullpen (assuming he remains) will keep his innings down. Pitch 167 IP last year, is just under 120 right now so a limit shouldn't be a problem. Would also be good to see how he does against good hitting. Somewhat similar to the Rzep situation in 2010
Sam Dyson (AA/MLB) - Has been in the bullpen since May, so innings limit shouldn't be a problem. Jays liked him enough to put him on the 40 man, and he's missed a lot of development time due to injuries so I think sending him would make sense.
Other Possible Candidates
Danny Barnes (A+) - 23 year old reliever (at end of season) who has lit up the FSL this year as Dunedin closer and the MWL last year as Lansing closer. This would be similar to sending Loup last year from A+, though he didnèt have as strong numbers.
Sean Nolin (A+) - Great numbers in the FSL this season. Might be a bit of a stretch, but he missed a good chunk of the season so it could make sense to send him to make up some of the missed innings. Only one of him and Barnes could be assigned though.
Ryan Goins/Ryan Schimpf/John Tolisano (AA) - I could see any of these going as guys who round out the roster but don`t play everyday. If one or more are sent, would be a strong signal to me the Jays see them as contributing to the big club as soon as next year, probably in a utility role. Maybe it`s just a coincidence, but Schimpf was promoted to AA July 30, which would put him just ahead of the 8/1 deadline to be eligible without being the player below AA.
John Stilson (AA) - Wouldn't think he's have innings available, but hit the DL at the end of July with shoulder tightness. Assuming it's not serious, an AFL assignment could make sense for him, either starting or relieving.
Kevin Pillar (A+) - Recently promoted to A+, but 23 and just keeps hitting. Would be aggressive, but if the Jays really like him, could make sense to challenge him.
Aaron Sanchez (A) - Sidelined since late July with an injury we still know basically nothing about, if it isn't serious and he was recovered, he'd have innings left over. I highly doubt it, but AA is always good for a change-up.
Gose/Hechavarria/Sierra - Additional reps could theoretically make sense for any of them, but I`m basing this on the Jays not sending eligible position players with substantial MLB time in the last couple years.
Marcus Stroman - Got to think they won`t want to push his innings, since he's been pitching since February, but you never know.
This wasn't meant to be exhaustive, so I'm going to leave it here though there's obviously other prospects who could be considered. What do you all think - am I missing someone with a really good shot? Over- or under-estimating the chances of some of the above?