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Bluebird Banter Top 40 Blue Jays Prospects, #40-31

Hi everyone.  Now that we have recapped the seasons of our top 30 prospects, we'll be counting down our new top prospects list.  We decided to do a top 40 instead of just 30, to reflect greater depth in the system and because it's just more fun.  Without further delay:

40.  Alan Farina (not listed last time around):  Farina, a Clemson alum who the Jays drafted in the third round of their busy 2007 draft, had a great season out of the bullpen for both Dunedin and New Hampshire, getting into 49 games and giving up just 8 earned runs (1.29 ERA).  Farina had dominating strikeout numbers at both levels, striking out 12 batters per 9 innings across the two levels, and didn't walk all that many either (3.2/9), which was the biggest improvement from 2009, where he struggled big time.  He then topped off his season with an excellent Arizona Fall League performance. Farina will be 24 this coming season and showed enough that the Jays added him to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.  He could be a middle innings mainstay for the Jays in the coming years.  On the other hand, he's had an up-and-down career in the minors, so he'll look to build on last seasons success in 2011.  

39.  Yan Gomes ("just missed out" last time around):  Gomes, a 10-round draftee in 2009, had a decent season in Dunedin at the age of 22.  The Miami native and catching prospect saw increased playing time due to Travis d'Arnaud's injury and mostly took advantage of it, hitting .275/.312/.489.  Gomes also threw out 32% of would-be base stealers.  Yes, the low on-base percentage and walk rates are a big concern, but less so for a catcher than at another position.  And his power was a nice surprise, with 30 extra-base hits in 247 plate appearances for Dunedin.  

38.  Ryan Goins (20th last time around):  Goins, a fourth-round draft pick in the 2009 draft out of Dallas Baptist University, has had a couple of nice seasons in the minors and worked his way up to Dunedin this year.  His numbers in high-A were terrible (over fewer than 200 plate appearances) but he had a nice year at Lansing before that - hitting .308/.380/.417.  The downside is that some scouts don't necessarily see Goins as a major-league shortstop, he'll be 23 next season, and he doesn't have a ton of power or speed on the bases.  As you can probably tell by my writeup, Tom had him ranked higher than me.  

37.  Egan Smith ("just missed out list" last year):  Smith, a tall (6'5", 200 lbs) Utahan, was taken in the 7th round of the 2009 draft.  Smith just enjoyed a nice age 21 season where he mostly pitched in Lansing, after having solid success after being drafted in short-season A ball last year.  The lefty starter was unlucky on batted balls and was the victim of poor defense at Lansing, as his pitching (7.2 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, tons of groundballs) really outperformed his ERA (4.54).  He was great for Auburn in 2009 and I'm going to call last season a very solid season as well, which means I could see Smith doing good things in 2011, where he'll likely spend the bulk of the season at Dunedin with a good chance to move up to AA by the season's end.  Tom and I both had him in the low 30s.  

36.  Sean Ochinko ("just missed out" last year):  Ochinko, an 11th-round draftee in June 2009, had a nice season at Lansing this year, hitting .311/.360/.459.  Ochinko, a right-handed hitter, has shown good contact skills and credible control of the strike zone in his two professional seasons.  Sean wasn't bad in the Spring but took a bit of time to get fully comfortable with the better pitching at full season ball, and once he did, enjoyed a really excellent June-August, with OPS above .850 each month.  He hasn't shown a ton of home run power yet (8 this year) but he had a ton of doubles (37 in 453 plate appearances is an awful lot) so that may come.  On the down side, Ochinko, who was 22 this season and was drafted as a catcher, spent time at first and third base this season (though he still mostly caught), suggesting that perhaps he won't stick long-term behind the plate.  Third Base could be intriguing if Ochinko can play that position well, since his bat could play there (though not as well as it would behind the plate) and the Jays lack long-term solutions at third.  Sean is likely to begin 2011 at Dunedin.  

35.  Joel Carreno (not listed last year):  Carreno, a righthanded starter signed out of the Dominican, had a bit of a strange season at Dunedin.  Carreno, who will be 24 next season, posted awesome strikeout (11.3/9) and walk (2.0/9) numbers but suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, giving up more hits than innings pitched and spending most of the season with an ERA over 4.  Carreno isn't a groundballer so one way in which he probably was lucky was on home run balls (.5/9 innings), but he's been stingy with homers his whole professional career.  Carreno's luck started to even out as the season went on and he ended up with a 3.73 ERA.  Carreno is ending his year with a stint as a reliever in the Dominican Winter League and, as you'd expect from a 23-year old, is pitching well there.  It'll be interesting to see how his AA season goes in 2011.  

34.  Michael Crouse (not listed last year):  Crouse, a big outfielder, was only a 16th-round pick in 2008, but he dominated the GCL in his second go around in 2010, hitting .333/.402/.594, and earning a promotion straight over Auburn to Lansing, where he held his own despite a low batting average by walking at a strong rate and hitting for power.  Crouse has shown a nice power tool with 23 extra-base hits in 212 plate appearances across the two levels this season.  He's mostly been a right-fielder as a pro and so his future is in the corners.  For a 19-year old to show solid plate discipline and power at Lansing, a tough place for young hitters, is a good sign, although it was just an 105 plate appearance sample.  Still, Crouse is someone about whom we have not likely heard the last.  Crouse was one that Tom picked up on.  

33.  Griffin Murphy (new to the system):  Murphy, a 2nd round draftee a few months ago, is a nice-looking pitching prospect.  The tall, lefty starter throws a fastball in the 93 mph area and a curveball that is well-regarded.  Murphy's third pitch, a changeup, is a work in progress but a pitch for which he is said to have a good feel, giving him a chance at being a legitimate starter if his pitches continue to progress and he continues to improve control-wise.  He's not seasoned enough for full-season ball, I don't think, so we'll likely have to wait until June or so to see him pitch.  I had Murphy ranked higher than Tom did.  

32.  K.C. Hobson (13th last year):  Another of Tom's favs, Hobson, son of former major-leaguer Butch Hobson, was drafted in the 6th round in 2009 but didn't get to play pro ball until this year.  The first baseman didn't have the season you'd like, hitting .271/.303/.403 between the GCL and Lansing, but the Jays liked him enough to move him to Lansing, so that's good.  Hobson did show some power but he's going to need to improve that approach to make it as a first-base prospect.  Still, he just turned 20 in August and of course he has the pedigree, so he'll have plenty more chances.  

31.  Adam Loewen (not ranked last year):  Everybody knows his story - former top pitching prospect, career-ending arm injuries, trying to remake himself as a position player.  On one hand, as Tom mentioned while we were hashing this list out (I think more of Loewen at this point than Tom, I think it's fair to say), Loewen was 26 this season and hasn't really broken out offensively.  On the other hand, my point, the big British Columbia native improved substantially over his previous year's performance while facing AA pitching for the first time, which is very hard to do.  He's just had two seasons of hitting experience as a pro and he did have a solid year, hitting .246/.351/.412, with 31 doubles, 3 triples, and 13 home runs.  Loewen also added 17 steals (in 23 tries).  I don't see how Loewen could have done much better than he has in the two seasons the Jays gave him as a hitter to figure out what they had - if you can hold your own in AA in just your second pro season, that's pretty good, and you have to like that approach.  On the other hand, time is working against Loewen.  He really can't afford a down year in his situation so the pressure will be on yet again.  

For just another small data point, Loewen trashed Arizona Fall League pitching this season, hitting .333/.438/.667 with 5 dingers in 14 games.  

Join us next time for 30-21.