Hi everyone. During the all-star break we took a look at the progress (or lack thereof) for the Bluebird Banter Top 30 Jays prospects. Since then, we've been working our way through the minors looking for breakout candidates or new additions to the system who are making a case for Top 30 inclusion. We'll round out the system today with a look at AA New Hampshire, where we have several names about which to talk, and then Tom or I will tackle Las Vegas.
- Shawn Bowman: A new addition to the Jays' system, Bowman has gone from a good-looking prospect to an injury casualty to a potentially rekindled flame. The British Columbia native has raked this season in AA New Hampshire, hitting .286/.358/.548 with 17 home runs and 25 doubles. This on top of a solid campaign for AA Binghamton last season has put him in potential third baseman of the future territory, at least for some fans. His defense at third base has always been considered solid as well. Back when Bowman was a good-looking prospect in the Mets system, his biggest drawback was high K rates, but he has cut those down to size this season. Health is still a major concern, and he is 25 and repeating the level for the third time, but he's making a case for the top 30. While Brian Dopirak offers a cautionary tale as another once-bright prospect who was derailed by injuries and then flickered again over the past few years before seeming to fizzle this season at a higher level, Bowman has defensive value, something Dopirak does not. On the other hand, Bowman, a 12th-round pick, never had the top prospect gloss that Dopirak (a 2nd round pick).
- Adeiny Hechavarria: The Jays signed the Cuban shorstop amidst a great deal of fanfare earlier this season, then promptly assigned the 21-year old to high-A Dunedin to begin the process of acclimating him to North American professional baseball (not to mention learning English). Hechavarria started slow with the bat but has earned kudos for his glovework. His bat has also started to pick up since his promotion to AA New Hampshire. Adeiny hit only .193/.217/.292 in 165 plate appearances at Dunedin (prompting some truly buffoonishly premature writing off by certain impatient fans) but has hit .281/.333/.391 for New Hampshire. He's got some more work to do before Jays fans can pencil him in at the major-league level, but we're starting to learn what the fuss was all about.
- Brian Jeroloman: The lefty-hitting catcher featured in our top 30 two years ago, but dropped off last season amidst struggles at AA. Defense has long been his calling card and he is considered one of the best defensive catchers in the minor leagues. Offensively, his best skill is an extremely well-developed eye at the plate, but it was clear he'd have to develop better contact skills and more power in order for his walk rate to sustain at higher levels. This season, his third at AA, has seen that happen and Jeroloman is making a case for top 30 inclusion. His line is .278/.448/.443 and he has already set a new high in HRs (7) and is nearing one in doubles (14) at the break. His line drive rates are very solid and his major-league equivalents suggest that he'd be a respectable major league backup catcher as soon as this season. I'm not sure he'll ever hit enough in the majors to be a starting catcher, but I've always thought his skillset (left-handed hitting, plate discipline, poor power, stellar defense) is a great compliment for J.P. Arencibia's (righty-hitting, mediocre plate discipline, great power solid d) and that the two would make a neat tandem.
- Adam Loewen: Personally, I don't see the case for keeping Loewen, another native British Columbian, out of the top 30. A former top pitching prospect for Baltimore, Loewen suffered arm injury after arm injury and eventually faced the prospect of remaking himself as a position player in a new organization. Last season, Loewen, who was an excellent hitter way back in high school, started slow but really picked up as the season went on. This season he's made great strides and is currently hitting .272/.364/.460 with 25 doubles, 2 triples, and 10 home runs so far. He's also swiped 11 bases, fairly surprising for someone 6'6" who tips the scales at 230. I understand his defense to be acceptable in a corner (though he has also played some first) and you know he has the arm for right. Loewen has held his own against lefties as well. While he is 26 now, it's hard to hold that against him too much as it's still just his second professional season as a hitter and he's more than holding his own in AA. His approach is extremely solid at the plate and his power is developing nicely.
- Randy Boone: Boone, a soon-to-be-26 year old righty, is having a decent season at AA New Hampshire. He's pitched in 15 games (13 starts) and has struck out 64 batters in 70 innings and change, while issuing 28 walks and more than twice as many ground ball outs as outs of the aerial variety. While there's nothing wrong with his performance, for a 26-year old righty to be pitching very competently in AA isn't all that compelling given the Jays organization's crowded rotation picture.
- Alan Farina: Farina, a 3rd round pick in 2007, is making his way through the Jays organization as a reliever. Farina had a rough season for Dunedin last year but the 23-year old dominated high-A through most of 2010 before his promotion to New Hampshire, putting up a huge 46/11 K/BB ratio over 36 innings and keeping his ERA a miniscule 1.24. He's only pitched 5 1/3 innings for New Hampshire so far but the results have been quite good - 9 Ks, 2 walks, just 1 hit, and no runs. With some spots opening up in the Jays' bullpen in the next season, Farina could pitch himself into the bullpen picture with continued 2010 success.
- Trystan Magnuson: Magnuson, a supplemental round pick in 2007 and yet another Canadian, had a nice season for Dunedin last year and has been even better for New Hampshire this season. He's pitched 50 innings and has a very fine 43/7 K/BB ratio. On the down side, he's 25 now and while his numbers are very solid, he's not giving you the kind of dominating presence you want when you draft a reliever in the first round.
- Jo-Jo Reyes: The other piece the Jays got in the Yunel Escobar deal, the 25 year-old Reyes hasn't had big-league success yet but he has cracked the majors several times, even making 22 starts for the Braves back in 2008. Reyes has been a little too free with the free pass in the past, and has had trouble with the long ball this season and in the past as well, but he has had a solid amount of minor-league success and he has had very strong K/BB numbers this season in AAA - 50 Ks and 15 walks in 47 1/3 innings (10 starts, 2 relief appearances). So far he's only made one start for New Hampshire but it was a beaut - 8 scoreless, 1-hit innings with 6 Ks and 2 walks. Also, he thought he was a loner but he knew it couldn't last.
Today's title from "New Hampshire," a beautiful song by Matt Pond PA.