Perhaps you've read that the Buffalo Bisons crushed the Syracuse Chiefs (former Jays affiliate, no less) 27 to 9. And they're not even in the Pacific Coast League! So, from a hitting perspective, that should be very encouraging to me, right? Well, a bit. I must admit that, strange as it may seem, I'm actually more encouraged by Dunedin's 1-0 extra-inning win. And yes, that's from a hitting perspective, as no pitching prospects of note were pitching in Dunedin yesterday.
The reason I'm not that happy with the Bisons' win is that even though they were quite obviously facing some horrible pitching, top prospect Anthony Gose went only 2-for-7 with 3 strikeouts. That doesn't mean that Gose is suddenly no longer a great prospect, but as far as single days go it was definitely not a good one for him. The other players on the team really can't match Gose's potential value. Moises Sierra, who went 6-for-6, hasn't shown greatly improved discipline at the plate, and no home runs yet, either. He is probably a platoon player at best. People who clamor for Sierra to be called up are forgetting that the team already has hitters who can bash triple-A pitching, like Adam Lind for example. As a corner outfielder, Sierra needs to get on base and hit for power in the majors, and both are serious question marks right now.
Jim Negrych is a minor league veteran, 28 years of age, who has generally had good on-base skills but very little power. The likelihood that he's suddenly turned into a player with major league capabilities is quite slim, but then there's his current .515/.568/.879 line that's looking really impressive. We'll see if that line comes down quickly or if Negrych forces his way onto the big league roster. Andy LaRoche is 29, but has a better track record, and he has 4 homers on the season already for a .279/.319/.581 triple slash. Again, it's unlikely that LaRoche has turned a corner, and certainly 11 games are far too few to even contemplate that notion. Then again, Mark DeRosa is on the big league team, so the bar isn't set too high...
As of now you're probably wondering if I'm going to explain why I was more encouraged by the Dunedin Jays' game, even though they only scored one run. In fact, they only had 4 hits in 13 innings, which is hardly encouraging at all. Still, amid all the bad hitting there was one star performance, and it came from the right guy: Andrew Burns. You see, Burns was only 1-for-3, but he got on base 4 times out of 6, because of 2 walks and a hit by pitch. And his one hit was a triple, which cashed in the game's only run. So in a game where his team found out it difficult to hit, the team's top prospect came through with a good performance. Basically, the exact opposite of Gose's performance, but then Gose is still the much better prospect. However, Burns isn't looking too shabby himself, sporting a .321/.438/.585 slashline with 2 homers and 3 triples already.
Burns is a 6'2 shortstop/third baseman (so probably the latter) who dropped to the 11th round of the 2011 MLB draft after having been rated higher previously. Burns had to sit out the 2011 college season due to switching schools. I had him on my "just missed out" list before the 2012 season, during which he would hit .248/.351/.464, which prompted us to rate him 17th best Jays prospect on our top 20 list. John Sickels had him 20th, commenting that Burns had "power, speed, some defensive ability, and decent overall tools". Burns himself likes to model himself after Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, but as a late round college pick, the best case scenario might look more like that of Ian Kinsler. Of course, that's still setting a very high bar which Burns is unlikely to reach, and there's certainly no shame in that.
Let's look at some possible comparisons and what they hit at Burns' age (22, 23 in august) in high-A ball:
Todd Frazier (1st round supplemental pick): .281/.357/.451 (FSL)
Kyle Seager (3rd round): .345/.419/.503 (in the California league, so inflated numbers)
Jedd Gyorko (2nd round): .365/.429/.638 (again, CAL-inflated)
Josh Donaldson (1st round suppl.): .330/.391/.564 (CAL)
Jed Lowrie (1st round suppl.): .262/.352/.374 (CAR)
Daniel Murphy (13th round): .285/.338/.430 (FSL)
Interestingly all three California league players played in the Midwest league like Burns, and all three had less impressive MWL slash lines than Burns did. So, don't expect Burns to become the next Ian Kinsler, but don't be sursprised if he becomes a decent big leaguer either.