Yes, it’s been a quiet offseason. As was announced today, we’ve been been hard at work here all winter to produce our 2014 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook (got to get the plug in wherever possible) but for most Blue Jays fans, news like this that normally will fly under the radar might be considered big news.
The Blue Jays signed two players who spent 2013 in independent baseball leagues (h/t to Matt Eddy at Baseball America). Yusuf Carter, a 29-year-old catcher from Brooklyn, New York, was drafted in the 12th round of the 2005 draft by the Chicago Cubs out of El Paso Community College in Texas. Carter was moved quickly to the outfield, catching four games in his draft year but none until 2009 when he was acquired by the Oakland A’s. Defensively, Carter had very good numbers in his three seasons in the A’s organization until he was released in 2011. Carter found work with the Somerset Patriots in the independent Atlantic League and played there for 2011 and 2012 before moving on to play with the Bridgeport Bluefish under manager Willie Upshaw in the Atlantic League, hitting a very solid .265/.301/.522 with 15 doubles and 16 home runs in 274 plate appearances.
Carter is the nephew of former Blue Jays’ legend Joe Carter and takes pride in his arm from behind the plate. He has also shown a lot of power with 106 minor league (including independent leagues) home runs in 2687 plate appearances with a career-high of 16 in 2013 and in 2007 splitting the season between the Cubs’ Class-A and High-A affiliates. Carter has tended to strike out a fair bit over his career (lowest in affiliated ball was 22% in 2008 at the High-A level) but has normally walked at healthy rates in the neighbourhood of 8% of the time (about league average). Carter also has experience playing in the outfield and could end up all over the diamond defensively.
From reading an interview he did with MLB Reports from 2011, he seems like an easy-going and intelligent player who has picked up a few things from his All-Star uncle along the way.
The Blue Jays also signed 26-year-old left-handed hitting outfielder Ryan Scoma. Scoma was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 36th round of the 2009 draft out the University of California, Davis. As a 21 year old in the Arizona Rookie League, Scoma showed some decent numbers and really hit his stride the following year, playing in Salem-Keizer in the Northwest League where he hit .310/.377/.402 in 289 plate appearances. He played one more year (2011) in the Giants’ organization, hitting .254/.310/.358 in 119 games for Augusta, San Francisco’s South Atlantic League Class-A affiliate.
Scoma was released by the Giants at the beginning of the 2012 season and found work with the Rockland Boulders in the independent CanAm League, hitting .310 with 13 home runs. He was traded to Winnepeg in the American Association and played there in 2013 and while his power dropped significantly, he finished 7th in the league with a .341 batting average and third in the league with a .443 OBP. Praised by Winnipeg Goldeneyes manager Rick Forney as a “good hitter” who “gives you a good professional at-bat,” Scoma appears to be a very good hitter who could offer the Jays some depth in the upper levels of the minor leagues.