Well, I just returned from my band’s tour in Germany and Czech Republic and am trying to figure out what’s going on in the Blue Jays’ system after the big trades. So, yeah, I was definitely a little bit floored by the sheer number of trades Alex Anthopoulos consummated and, since this blog follows the Blue Jays’ minor league system, we’re going to take a look at the decimation wrought upon it.
EDIT: Ok, I started this blog about a week ago but I’m finally getting around to finishing it.
So, what are we working with? We have four trades (plus one in August) , all involving significant minor leaguers getting sent over to the other teams. In fact, it seems that Blue Jays dealt exclusively from a position of strength in the minor league system: pitching.
Obviously, Hoffman is the big trade chip here. While Hoffman’s overall numbers this season aren’t fantastic, they still need to be taken with a big grain of salt, considering that he’s in his first season back after Tommy John. Still throwing in the high-90s, his strikeout rate has been in the 16-18% range which is very low for someone who is considered an elite-level prospect. That said, most scouts think that his breaking stuff and life on his fastball have been slow to return after his surgery and if they come back, he will be a dominant pitcher in the major leagues within a year or two.
There are those who believe that Castro is still a starting pitcher but, after a tough start in Toronto and a finger injury, Castro is likely looking at a bullpen role when he returns to the major leagues. He’s still young and has a great arm but needs a lot more refinement to his offspeed pitches and command before being an effective major leaguer.
Jesus Tinoco is an interesting guy. I’ve seen him a couple of times and he has a big fastball, coming in at 94-95 mph with a changeup coming in at around 86 mph and a slider around 83 mph.
This trade seriously depleted the Blue Jays’ stock of lefties. Everyone knows about Danny Norris: the van-living lefty from Tennessee. Norris’s biggest knock to his development is his inconsistency. He can go out and dominate one day and walk six batters the next. The upside, however, is there, as he’s shown in his two starts with the Tigers. He hasn’t been fantastic but he’s only walked one and struck out eight in 10 2/3 innings. If he can become more efficient on the mound, getting ground balls, he should be able to go deeper into games.
Matt Boyd is another name that fans will be familiar with. Boyd has dominated Double-A this year and looks like he’s figuring things out after getting shelled in his big league outings with the Blue Jays. Boyd has made two strong starts with Detroit, recovering from a rough start just yesterday to go 5 1/3 innings with six strikeouts. Boyd is a big lefty with the ability to throw around 94 mph with a full complement of pitches. While no one pitch stands out, he can throw them all for strikes and has been able to rack up big strikeout numbers in the minors. He could be a solid back end rotation piece for the Tigers.
Jairo Labourt is a guy that a lot of prospect watchers love, playing in the MLB Futures Game this year. Another big lefty with a fastball that tops out around 95 mph, Labourt has had mixed results with the High-A Dunedin Blue Jays, walking 44 in 80 1/3 innings with 70 strikeouts. Labourt has struggled with his control after the trade but has a very solid upside and is probably the “lottery ticket” in this trade.
The Blue Jays emptied out their stock of lefties even more by trading Rasmussen, who is major league ready, Brentz and Wells, both from the lower minors. Rasmussen was doing extremely well in Buffalo despite a somewhat high walk total (20 in 42 innings) but he had a 2.36 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. He hasn’t done well with Seattle just yet (giving up six runs in one appearance without retiring a batter) but should be able to recover.
Jake Brentz is the biggest “lottery ticket” as a 20-year-old lefty who wasn’t really a pitcher until his last year of high school. Brentz was in Bluefield with a 4.09 ERA before his trade and hadn’t really been able to show the velocity that he teased before being drafted. I’ve seen him a bit and he only threw in the low-90s without a lot of control. If he eventually makes the big leagues, it’s going to take a lot of time and work.
Nick Wells had a lot of people paying attention to him this year. He’s won an Pitcher of the Week award in the Appalachian League as a 19-year-old and the Jays’ 3rd round pick in 2014 hasn’t stopped after a promotion to the Northwest League for the Mariners’ club there. In his first outing, he threw five innings, giving up just one hit and striking out eight without any walks. Wells could be the one who we really regret giving up in this trade for a reliever.
Okay. In this trade, the Blue Jays weren’t giving up any lefties but there are two arms that have a lot of potential. Jimmy Cordero is closest to the majors and if you’ve heard of him by now it’s because of his (legitimate) 100 mph fastball. Cordero is 23 and had been having good success at two levels of the Blue Jays’ minor league system (peaking in Double-A) but has given up three runs in four innings for Reading. Despite the velocity, Cordero needs to work on his command and his slider before he can be unleashed on the major leagues.
The folks Baseball Prospectus is probably really depressed about the trading of Tirado: at one time, they had him as their #3 prospect in the Blue Jays’ system. While he has been clocked as high as 97 mph (I’ve never seen him throw that hard), he has struggled with his offspeed pitches and his command and had been relegated to a bullpen role this year where he had done very well in High-A Dunedin. Tirado, only 20, had a 3.23 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 61 1/3 innings with Dunedin but had also walked 35. I’ve seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of his potential (seeing him this year in Spring Training) but his ceiling, if he puts it all together, is probably as a high-leverage reliever.
Lugo was the only position player traded by the Blue Jays, getting a utility player in return. Lugo is another player with a lot of talent but who has frustrated management. I’ve already written about this trade, but to summarize my views on Lugo, I think he’s got a ton of contact ability and raw power but he swings at too many bad pitches, often making enough contact to get out but not enough to hit the ball with more authority.
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