It's my turn again to get to write on our prospects, and I get a particularly interesting group of players. We get a couple of guys that haven't had much playing time in our system, a couple of older prospects, who are closer to the majors and a guy who has been in the system for a few years now, but still has just turned 20.
25. Andy Burns, age 24 (DOB: 08/07/90), INF, last year: 14
Andy spent last year in New Hampshire, playing mostly third base, with a few games at short, second and first mixed in (get the feeling they are grooming him to be a utility infielder?). He had a pretty good season, hitting .255/.315/.430 with 15 home runs, 41 walks, 99 strikeouts and 18 stolen bases (caught 8 times). Burns was one of the prospects that the 3 of us didn't agree on, or at least I didn't agree with the other guys, I had him further down the list, I see him as a utility infielder and the Jays seem to use older guys in the utility role. I mean, I figured we had decent utility infielder types in the minors, a couple of years ago, but the Jays went with Omar Vizquel instead. But, Scott and MjwW (can we buy the guy a vowel or two?) have a point, he has pretty good power, some speed, and a decent glove.
Burns made a few more errors than you would like to see from your third baseman. 17, in 94 games,adding up to a .935 fielding average, but I tend to discount errors in minor league ball. Official scorers tend to vary in quality. I'd be happier if he could stick at second, heck, if he could play second, he'd have a shot at winning a job with the major league team in spring training, but his range plays better at third. Andy was an 11 round pick in the 2011 draft out of the University of Arizona and he's clearly out punted his coverage for a guy picked that far back (sure Tom, go with the football metaphor). We aren't deep in the infield, Andy could be a hot start and an injury away from getting a shot in the majors.
24. Anthony Alford, age 20 (DOB: 07/20/94), CF, last year: unranked
Speaking of guys that are hard to rank....Anthony jumps onto the list mostly because he's burned his bridges in football. Troubles (calling being arrested and charged with ‘conspiracy to possess a firearm on campus and hindering prosecutions' troubles kicking a lot of stuff under the bed) and play that was less than great, has helped Anthony make the choice to switch to baseball full time, which is why he gets a spot on our list.
As a baseball player, he has great tools, speed, power, range, arm, everything you could want from an outfielder. Unfortunately, he hasn't played enough ball yet for us to get a handle on if he can turn all those tools into baseball ability. So far, over 3 football shortened minor league seasons, he's played in a grand total of 25 games, hitting .234/.339/.383 with 3 home runs, 11 stolen bases, 13 walks and 31 strikeouts. In a year's time, we should have some idea of whether he deserves to be on our list or not. He's a right-handed bat, has all the tools in the world, it could turn out that the $750,000 that Alex paid our 3rd round pick in 2012 will be the biggest bargain in his time as GM. If he does play up to his tools, he should move through the system quickly.
I rarely consider 'makeup' issues when we look at prospects, but Anthony is going to have to show he can be a good citizen, as well as a good baseball player. Maybe, with baseball being an everyday game, he can stay out of trouble in the future.
23. Clinton Hollon, age 20 (DOB: 12/24/94). RHP, last year: 27
Again, a guy that's tough to rank. Our second round pick in the 2013 draft went under the knife, having Tommy John surgery back in May of last yar. The good news is that he should be ready to pitch competitively pretty early in the 2015 season.
Before the surgery, he was a hard throwing right-hander. Able to get up to 95+ with his faseball and had a slider, curve and change. I'm hoping we'll finally get to see him throw some innings for us (since signing in 2013, he's had a total of 17.1 professional innings.
22. Taylor Cole, age 25 (DOB: 08/20/89), RHP, last year: unranked
Taylor returns to our list, after missing out last year. Back in 2013, Taylor was number 32 on our list. He had a very good season, with Dunedin, pitching in 24 games, 23 starts. Putting up a 3.07 ERA in 132 innings, allowing 114 hits, 4 home runs, 39 walks with 171 strikeouts. The strikeout rate is what grabs your attention. In Dunedin, he was getting 11.7 strikeouts per 9 innings. This is after getting just 6.8 per 9 in 2013. The cool part is that, as well as almost doubling his strikeout rate, he also walked fewer batters, giving up just 2.9 base on balls per 9 after walking 4 per 9 in 2013.
He did have a tough couple of starts, after being moved up to New Hampshire at the end of the season. He took 2 losses and put up a 7.30 ERA in 12.1 innings, but then I wouldn't worry much about 12 bad innings.
Taylor is a little old for the level, but he missed 2 year of ball doing a Mormon mission, so, for a change I won't worry about his age. Taylor was our 29th round draft pick out of Brigham Young University, back in 2011, so he has done very well for himself.
Apparently, Cole is another weighted ball success story. His two years off from baseball cost him a fair bit of his conditioning and he's needed time to get back into shape. Presuming he can continue to get strikeouts at a rate close to last year's, he should be up in Buffalo before midseason. I do worry about outlier seasons, often a season that is massively better than the previous seasons is a fluke of some sort, but I'm going to hope that the improved fastball is really because of improved fitness and that he can continue to surprise us.
21. Dawel Lugo, age 20 (DOB: 12/31/94), SS, last year: 13
Dawel (how many Dawel's do you know?) had a pretty poor year with the bat, hitting just .259/.286/.329 in 117 games at Lansing, with 4 home runs, 18 walks and 72 strikeouts. It sounds bad, but then he was just 19 years old, playing A-ball against players 2.5 years older, on average, than he was.
Lugo was an international free agent signing out of the Dominican Republic, back in 2011, picking up a pretty nice $1.3 million. He's still young, the Jays figure there will be some power showing up, as he puts on size. He's said to have a good arm, and considering his age, he doesn't make too many errors, but if he does put on size, he might have to move to second base.
But, before we have to start worrying about them moving him off short, he's going to have to show he can learn to take some walks and cut down on his strikeout rate. If he can't learn to use to those things, it doesn't matter what position he plays. He's young enough to learn, but, if he wants to stay on our prospect lists, he's going to have to start that learning soon.