Arizona Fall League Update and Blue Jays Prospect Notes

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Spo

So it's been awhile since I've done any sort of Blue Jays prospect update, mostly due to the fact that there has been nothing to update. But with the start of the Arizona Fall League and Baseball America rolling out their Top 20 prospects in each league lists, finally there has been some news to pass along for us prospect hounds.

On Friday Baseball America put out their Top 20 Prospects for the International League ($), only one Blue Jay was on that list: OF Kevin Pillar, who came in at 19. Obviously, Pillar's time with the Blue Jays was less than stellar to say the least, with a slash line of .206/.250/.333 in 110 plate appearances. So Pillar's inclusion on the list prompted me to ask a question in Baseball America's chat (free to all) regarding Pillar:

Clint (BC, Canada): Kevin Pillar looked really lost at the plate in his brief time with the Jays, especially on offspeed stuff, often swinging at pitches nowhere near the strike zone. I watched him in AAA with the Bisons and he didn't have great plate discipline but nothing like I saw when he faced Major League pitching. Has the outlook changed for him, or is it possible for him to make the necessary adjustments? Also is his ceiling still considered to be a 4th OF?

John Manuel: He may defend enough to be an everyday CF. He continues to earn Reed Johnson comparisons, but his defense in CF might be enough to make him a regular, whereas Johnson was mostly a platoon guy who stuck to the corners. The fact that people liked his defense in CF is what got him into the top 20. He shouldn't be a better player than Gose; he doesn't have Gose's tools. But he is a better player because he can hit. He clearly has some adjustments to make to hit MLB pitching but his track record is that he excels at making adjustments.

That's actually a far better response than I would have hoped, so I'm sure at some point in 2014 we'll see Pillar up again with the Jays and see if he's able to make the necessary adjustments, and really I mean he has to be better, everything Blue Jay related has to be better than 2013, right?

Here are a couple of other Blue Jays related questions from that chat regarding some excellent defenders who have some questions about their bats:

Johnny (Toronto): Was Anthony Gose qualified for this list? If so, how close did he come to cracking the Top 20? Thanks.

John Manuel: Anthony Gose exhausted his prospect eligibility in 2012. He's in that BA netherworld as a 22-year-old who is still really a prospect and not an established big leaguer, but he's no longer eligible for our lists. In many ways he's the same player, though some of our reports have his once premium throwing arm having backed up. He's got elite range in CF as well as plus plus speed, but he still chases too much at the plate. It's hard to see him as a regular if he continues to expand the zone and chase as he has.

Mike (Buffalo): was Ryan Goins from Buffalo considered? Seemed he has elite defence but average bat. How about Anthony Gose? Hit tool too below average?

John Manuel: Goins is impressive defensively. He has SS range at 2B and plenty of arm. Maybe he's the next John McDonald. The bat is light for a regular role.

I don't think the comments about Goins and Gose's bats are surprises to anyone (other than dropping the hammer with the John McDonald comparison) both have a lot of minor league data to go on at this point and it's getting clearer that defense will be their calling cards.

I did however, find Manuel's answer about Gose's arm taking a step back somewhat surprising; I thought his arm came as advertised this season, anyone see something different?

In my opinion I don't think this team could afford having both of them in lineup as everyday regulars, carrying one for their defense perhaps, but not both.  My early prediction is one will be on the bench with the Jays to start the year and the other will be starting in Buffalo, I'm just not confident enough to say who goes where.

We've had some limited AFL action with Marcus Stroman throwing two innings so far out of the pen and Aaron Sanchez going three scoreless innings the other night in a start. On October 8 Stroman threw one inning with one strikeout and no hits. Lots of eyes were on Stroman that game as we've got numerous reports on him after that:

Keith Law in a post for insiders only said that Stroman sat 94-96 but noted he's added a cutter that should help "mitigate the lack of plane on his fastball."

Law still believes ultimately that Stroman will end up in the pen, but does note that he has enough solid pitches to work as a starter.

Perhaps the most encouraging thing I've seen on Stroman was passed along from a highly recommended twitter follow if you're a Jays fan, @BVHJays:

(These quotes were from a Scout.com subscription-only article.)

So if Stroman is not traded this offseason (please don't, AA) then it will be interesting to see if he's battling for the fifth starter job come spring training.

In Aaron Sanchez's AFL debut on October 10 he was able to throw three scoreless innings, which is actually a notable accomplishment in the hitter friendly AFL, but Sanchez did show his control issues he's had this year. Sanchez went three innings giving up a hit, no runs, two walks and one strikeout but he also threw 39 pitches with only 19 for strikes prompting Baseball Prospectus to write this in their Minor League Update:

"The control issues have been there before, but Sanchez has an arm that most players would kill for."

For the position players in the AFL, centre fielder Kenny Wilson has started out on fire with seven hits in 13 at bats to go along with three walks and three K's. His play has prompted several noteworthy tweets, first from Bernie Pleskoff, a former scout and now analyst for MLB.Pipeline.com, and then later from friend of the blog Marc Hulet:

A solid AFL performance could make the Rule 5 decision easier for the Jays. So that's it for now, I'll try to pass on anything interesting in the next few weeks from the AFL.

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