Letters of Intent
MiLB.com Releases 2014 Blue Jays Organizational All-Stars
By Jay Blue
Blue Jays From Away
MiLB.com has released its 2014 Blue Jays list of Organizational All-Stars and, once again, it’s a fascinating read that may take some readers by surprise.
While my next post will take a look at John Sickels’ Top 20 Blue Jays’ prospect list at Minor League Ball (SB Nation), I’ll look at MiLB.com, the official website of minor league baseball, and how what their Org All-Stars list tells us about the Blue Jays’ organization as a whole, especially when contrasted with what the Top Prospect lists are telling us.
The first thing to know is that this is not a Top Prospects list. MiLB.com uses MLB.com’s top prospect lists but their Organizational All-Stars list recognizes the contributions a player makes over the entire season rather than the potential that he may have. This list is strictly based on results and not tools. This is why the list often includes players who aren’t considered prospects.
A recap of the 2013 winners:
C: Derrick Chung (Dunedin Blue Jays)
2B: Jon Berti (Dunedin Blue Jays)
SS: Franklin Barreto (GCL Blue Jays, Bluefield Blue Jays)
3B: Ryan Schimpf (New Hampshire Fisher Cats)
3B Honourable Mention: Mitch Nay (Bluefield Blue Jays)
OF 1: Kevin Pillar (New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Buffalo Bisons, Toronto Blue Jays)
OF 2: Brad Glenn (New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Buffalo Bisons)
OF 3: Dalton Pompey (Lansing Lugnuts)
Utility: Luis Jimenez (Buffalo Bisons)
LHP (Starting): Sean Nolin (New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Buffalo Bisons)
Relief Pitcher: Arik Sikula (Lansing Lugnuts)
I provided my own list of Org All-Stars last year, which I will do this year as well.
You can find the MiLB.com article to check out for yourself (sans my commentary).
Derrick Chung earns the award for the second year in a row. He didn’t hit as well in Double-A as he did in Dunedin (Advanced-A) but his defensive abilities earned him the award.
For us, Chung was the second best of the Jays’ group of catchers. The Blue Jays did a lot to bolster that position in the 2014 draft, selecting Max Pentecost, who is earning top-10 prospect status on pretty much every list, in the first round. Pentecost didn’t play much due to an injury that required surgery and Matt Morgan (fourth round) struggled in pro ball. For me, the best catcher in the system was Bluefield catcher Dan Jansen. Jansen posted an .874 OPS (albeit in rookie ball) but really started to show that he was comfortable at the plate, hitting 15 extra-base hits (including five home runs) and posting a great .390 on-base percentage while still throwing out 34% of base runners.
MiLB.com selected Dan Johnson and, while, I really loved what Johnson brought to the Buffalo Bisons this year, I’m also going to go lower in the system to find my Organizational All-Star: Rowdy Tellez.
Despite getting off to a slow start, Tellez still managed to hit 16 extra-base hits in 53 games in Bluefield for a .293/.358/.424 slash line while slamming Single-A pitching in Lansing for a .357/.449/.500 with a pair of home runs in 49 plate appearances, all in his Age-19 season. While still a “work in progress” at first base, Tellez is a pure hitter and will look to keep that momentum going when 2015 starts.
MiLB.com selected Tim Locastro, the scrappy infielder out of Ithaca College who the Blue Jays selected in the 13th-round of the 2013 draft. Locastro played in Vancouver this year and was an on-base machine, getting on 40.7% of the time, largely thanks to a fearless approach at the plate (getting hit by 32 pitches this season). Locastro only struck out 23 times in 310 plate appearances and posted a .313 average. He plays more than solid defense and provides great speed, swiping 32 in 2014, getting caught only four times.
You can tell that I like this selection. While the general consensus might be to jump on the Jon Berti bandwagon (Berti has won two consecutive Webster Awards and was the Org All-Star last year), having a speed guy in your lineup who gets on-base as much as Locastro does while providing leadership trumps Berti’s less eye-popping numbers despite his higher level.
Mitch Nay takes the award in 2014 after getting an honourable mention in 2013. He takes the award mainly because of his excellent bat skills. I don’t think that there’s really anyone in the organization who has as much promise at the hot corner than Nay. That said, Nay didn’t completely capitalize on the massive power potential that he has, hitting only four home runs in 558 combined plate appearances between Lansing and Dunedin (only 40 PAs came in Dunedin). The fact that Nay only struck out 88 times in that many at bats and hit 35 doubles is very encouraging, however.
I’m going to go against popular wisdom here and give my Org All-Star award to Andy Burns who outperformed Nay on several levels. While Burns seemed a bit disinterested in defense at times and struggled at the plate at others, the 24-year-old from Colorado posted a better OPS than Nay (.745 for Burns, .712 combined for Nay), and he also hit 32 doubles, five triples and 15 home runs while stealing 18 bases.
Franklin Barreto took the award for the second year in a row and there’s no arguing with giving the award to the current Oakland A’s prospect. Barreto had a monster season in Vancouver as an 18 year old, hitting .311/.384/.481, stealing 29 bases. Managers love his maturity at the plate and, despite the fact that he’s not exactly earning raves for his defense, Oakland will find somewhere in the lineup for that bat.
MiLB.com selected Dalton Pompey, Kevin Pillar and Dwight Smith, Jr. for their Org All-Stars and I don’t see any reason to disagree. Pompey just dominated pitching at three levels (.317/.392/.469 with 22 doubles, nine triples, nine home runs and 43 stolen bases) before holding his own at the major league level while Pillar showed some improvement in the majors while dominating in Triple-A (.323/.359/.509). Smith was the biggest surprise, but he was very strong, hitting .284/.363/.453 in 533 plate appearances in a league that hasn’t historically been great to hitters. He also exploded with power this year, hitting 11 more doubles, five more triples and five more home runs than he did in about 50 fewer plate appearances in Lansing last season while maintaining his batting average and walk rate and cutting down on strikeouts.
MiLB.com gave the award to Ryan Schimpf who had somewhat of a split season playing second and third base and right and left field. He hit a career high of 24 home runs, leading the entire organization but while he was wildly successful in his third go-round in New Hampshire (.270/.370/.616 with 15 home runs) but his production dropped off precipitously in 67 games in Buffalo, hitting .289/.290/.358 with nine home runs. That said, his great eye at the plate will enable him to be a productive player and his power will make pitchers deal with him with care. Schimpf gets my nod for the award as well.
MiLB.com selected Kendall Graveman for the award and he was certainly stellar in his rise through the minor league system, pitching at five levels (including Toronto). He’ll probably get a good shot at the Oakland A’s roster in 2015 since being traded in the Josh Donaldson deal and could very well be a solid addition to their big league club. My thoughts are that it’s hard to argue with the consistent success at so many levels of baseball that Graveman had and his tremendous season was only matched by his left-handed counterpart.
Could it be more obvious that Daniel Norris was going to earn this award? Starting at class-A Dunedin, Norris leapfrogged his way into conversations for the best prospect in the Jays’ organization after showing what he’s got at three minor league levels before earning a taste of the big leagues. Most impressive about Norris was the fact that he seemed to get better and better as he rose up the ladder, striking out 38 batters in only 22 2/3 innings in Buffalo while walking only eight. Norris’s ability to find his command (something that had eluded him in previous seasons) and maintain it throughout a game with four major league average (or better) pitches is what set him apart from the rest of the minor leagues as he earned the title of Breakout Prospect MiLBY Award from the staff of MiLB.com and the Best Starter MiLBY in fan voting.
Arik Sikula earned the award for the second straight season and there’s no real reason to go against this one. A 36th-round pick out of Marshall University, Sikula has become a dominant reliever in the minor leagues (and in winter leagues) and he split 2014 between class-A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire with tremendous success, posting a 2.01 ERA with 31 saves (all in Dunedin). While his numbers weren’t as good on the surface in Double-A, Sikula did strike out 20 batters in 15 innings while walking only four in his New Hampshire stint and I’m sure that he was only demoted back to Dunedin to help them out in their playoff run at the end of the season.
Work has started on the 2015 edition of the Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook. You can still purchase The 2014 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook, now available as an ebook at Smashwords.com, now at a reduced price of $2.99 US. You can purchase and preview the book at our Smashwords.com page!
The All-Star Break Supplement to the Minor League Handbook is also available at Smashwords.com for only $0.99 US! Get an update on how your favourite players did last season as well as a report on the 2014 draft!