The Blue Jays made a couple of more minor league signings over the weekend, adding to the depth of the team in the outfield and in the bullpen.
The first major minor league signing was that of Domonic Brown who was last affiliated with the Philadelphia Phillies. Brown was a top-10 prospect as recently as 2011 when he was the Baseball America’s and Baseball Prospectus’s #4 prospect. Brown, at 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds was a 20th round pick of the Phillies in the 2006 draft who made it through the minors fairly quickly, offering big offensive upside. His career (so far) culminated in an All-Star season of 2013 when he hit .272/.324/.494 with the Phillies with 27 home runs. He quickly regressed, hitting .235/.285/.349 in 2014 and .228/.284/.349 in 207 games with just 15 home runs across them. He was sent outright to the minors and elected free agency in October and signed on with the Blue Jays with a minor league contract (and an invite to big league spring training) on Thursday, February 25.
Brown is best known to Blue Jays fans as being mentioned in trade rumours (involving Jose Bautista) back in 2013. His upside, at the age of 28, remains higher than many of the players who the Jays have signed on for duty to challenge for an outfield spot but it’s more likely that he’ll patrol the confines of Coca-Cola Field in Buffalo. Still, should Michael Saunders or Dalton Pompey fail to live up to their capabilities and if he experience a renaissance at the plate, Brown could easily step in to a job in left field to take over.
The second signing of the Jays’ is the more recent one, with word coming in on Sunday that the Jays had given veteran reliever Rafael Soriano a minor league deal with a big league spring training invitation. Soriano, 36, is another All-Star (back in 2010) and has logged four seasons of 30 or more saves while posting a career ERA of 2.89 and a WHIP of 1.08 over 14 big league seasons. Due to shoulder worries, he only threw in six major league games last year, also making 10 appearances in the minors after a solid 2014 with the Washington Nationals in which he saved 32 games (after usurping Drew Storen’s closer role) with a 3.19 ERA and 1.13.
While his fastball has steadily declined since 2007 from an average velocity nearing 95 mph to 90.8 mph last year, Soriano was very effective for the Nationals in 2014, throwing an average of 91.2 mph. Last season, Soriano threw his fastball less than he had in previous years but it appears that he may be able to be effective throwing in the low 90s.
Soriano is yet another depth piece that the Shapiro/Atkins regime has added to the cupboard and he should be pitching in Buffalo but could give the Jays another veteran arm if he comes out of the gate pitching well for the Bisons.
In other news, John Gibbons announced that Marcus Stroman will start the first Grapefruit League game against the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday. I guess that’s news but not unexpected, or even relevant. It’s really more a matter of how the schedule shapes up and who will be on target to start Opening Day on April 3 down in Tampa.
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