With the Arizona Fall League a couple weeks from wrapping up, last night was the showcase "Fall Stars" event, with two Blue Jays prospects selected to the roster and both making into the game.
The most prominent Blue Jay prospect assigned to the AFL was Rowdy Tellez, who received a record overslot bonus of $850k as their 30th round pick in 2013. He played the entire game, and went 1-4 with a double but two strikeouts. Unfortunately, I missed his first two at-bats, including the first pitch line drive double he hit leading off the second on a 93 MPH fastball.
I did catch the last two at-bats, in which he looked pretty awful in striking out twice, albeit with the caveat that he was facing essentially lefty specialists both times which is a tough matchup. The first was former Jays prospect David Rollins (a note on him below), who got him to swing and miss three times in four pitches, two sweeping breaking balls sandwiched around a fastball at 93. The second time he whiffed on two more sliders. In all, Tellez saw 16 pitches, swung at 10, and missed seven.
Overall in the AFL, Tellez is hitting .298/.328/.491 in 59 PA over 14 games. He's demonstrated power with three home runs, but also plate discipline issues with a 2:15 BB:K ratio. This will be something to keep an eye on, since it hasn't been an issue thus far in his career, but something better, experienced pitching can expose. On the plus side, a near .300 average despite a 25% strikeout rate means he has good hits to fall in.
The second prospect was Chad Girodo, who was also drafted in 2013, in the 9th round but who received a signing bonus of just 5k. Girodo is a sidearmer who works mainly with a high 80s fastball that will touch 90 or so, and a sweeping, slurvy breaking ball in the mid- to high-70s. It's not overpowering, but highly effective against same handed hitters, and he has dominated lefties at every level. Girodo profiles as a classic lefty specialist, and could be MLB ready as soon as next year.
Girodo came into a one out jam in the 6th inning, and faced four batters all from the right side, which represented a good challenge. He got ahead of the first 0-2, and struck him out on a sweeping breaking ball, which you can see below (h/t Minor Leaguer):
He then issued a full count walk, before inducing a routine ground ball to short that should have ended the inning, but was booted. He nonetheless prevented damage by getting Jurickson Profar to roll over to second. All told, a strikeout, a walk and two ground balls is a pretty good outcome for him. Overall for the AFL, he's pitched seven scoreless innings across four games, allowing five hits and a walk with four strikeouts.
One other performance of note is the aforementioned Rollins, who was drafted by the Jays in the 24th round in 2011, traded to Houston in 2012 in the J. A. Happ deal, and taken by Seattle in last year's Rule 5 draft before being suspended 80 games for a positive steroid test. He's posted strong numbers all the way up the minors though he struggled working out the pen for Seattle at the end of 2015. He struck out the three lefties he saw, but allowed a walk and hard double to the two righties. At the least he should be a quality LOOGY, and possibly more.
In addition to Tellez and Girodo, the Jays have five others who have seen playing time in the AFL thus far:
- Brady Dragmire (2011 17th round draft pick, $250k bonus) has appeared in six games, allowing one run on four hits in seven innings with a 7:4 K:BB. This follows up on a very second half for Dunedin, after struggling to start the season and getting sent back to extended spring training. He should start 2016 in New Hampshire and hopefully can be a quality bullpen addition in the near future.
- Roemon Fields (non-drafted FA from the United States Postal Service) is carrying a .222/.348/.352 slash line through 65 PA in 16 AFL games after finishing 2014 in Vancouver and ascending all the way to Buffalo at the end of 2015. On the positive side, he's showing solid plate discipline with 11 walks against 8 strikeouts, and has used his speed to leg out three triples. On the other hand, he's not hitting much and is only 10/15 stealing bases.
- Jeremy Gabryswski (2011 2nd round, $575k bonus) has started four games, with a 4.41 ERA in 16.1 innings. He's allowed 19 hits while walking six but just striking out six as well. Gabryswski has never piled up strikeouts as a professional, but he's maintained strong ratios (>4:1 K:BB in Lansing and ~3:1 in Dunedin) with are critical to success with the amount of contact he gives up. 16 innings is hardly definitive, but it's not a great sign either against better hitters.
- Emilio Guerrero (2011 international FA) has been pushed aggressively through the system, certainly more than his offensive performance would otherwise generate dictate. In 12 games and 47 PA, he's hitting .250/.298/.386, generally in line with what he's hit in Dunedin over the last two years. What stands out most is poor plate discipline, as he sports a 3:15 BB:K ratio.
- Justin Shafer (2015 8th roound, $125k bonus) has appeared in five games, posting a 4.50 ERA in 8.0 innings. He's allowed 10 hits, but recorded a strong 9:3 K:BB ratio. 2015 has been a roller coaster for Shafer, as he started by dominating in Lansing earning a quick promotion to Dunedin where some rough starts just as quickly landed him in the bullpen. He continued to struggle and was sent back to Lansing were he was decent but well short of April success, so it was somewhat surprising to see him sent to the AFL He profiles as a reliever, and could move pretty quickly if he's permanently moved there.