With so many prospects populating the Bluefield Blue Jays, I’m going to divide them up into several posts: “bonus baby” hitters, other hitters, relievers and starters. I saw pretty much all of the position players and relievers, but didn’t time things well enough to see Alberto Tirado, Jairo Labourt, Zak Wasilewski, Tim Mayza or Yeyfry Del Rosario. Here are my reports on the “bonus baby” hitters – guys who were given big bonuses to sign with the Blue Jays. Covered here are D.J. Davis, Mitch Nay, Matt Dean and Dawel Lugo.
Please remember that I’m not a scout. I think that I’m not bad at picking things up in terms of a player’s mechanics, but I also keep my ears open (especially when I’m sitting near scouts or other players) and I’ll report on things that I’ve heard. I also find it very tough to watch all aspects of a player’s performance, especially when I’m also trying to get photos at the same time.
D.J. Davis – I’ve heard amazing things about Davis’s defense but didn’t really see him show off the goods in the 5 games I saw. Davis played four of them and has been really displaying the offensive upside that many people think he’ll develop. He still has trouble laying off the breaking ball that starts in the strike zone and breaks down but he’s been hitting fastballs very well.
Davis had two walks and three strikeouts in the four games I saw which is a very manageable number. He stole 2 bases but was also caught stealing twice. His big shot was a solo home run that he hit out to right field, not far from the foul pole, but he’s definitely not strictly a pull hitter. Reports of his speed are not exaggerated. I didn’t exactly have a stopwatch out (like many scouts did) but I did see him put down a bunt single in the first game. Another positive I saw from Davis was the fact that he worked a walk against a lefty on Saturday. He was able to lay off of some off speed pitches that were up in the zone and get on base. The one area that the needs some more work is his base stealing. He’s stolen 8 of 12 so far this year which is definitely not ideal for someone who can be as dangerous on the basepaths as he is.
Davis is definitely having a good season, showing the ability to make contact, get on base and hit for extra bases. The other positive fact is that he only turns 19 on July 25, so let’s wish him a happy birthday and a strong last 5 weeks of the season!
Mitch Nay – I came away from Bluefield very impressed with Nay, a tall (6’3″), lean right-handed hitting third baseman out of Arizona. Scouts just love his swing and his power potential and it was apparent very early. I overheard some Blue Jays scouts talking about how he’s really cut down the “load” phase of his swing (which they had asked him to do) but his timing was off, making him late on a lot of pitches. I could see that as he was fouling a lot of fastballs off the other way.
Nay’s approach at the plate and ability to make contact are both quite advanced. Looking over his stats as I was writing this report, I was actually really surprised to see his BB/K totals — in 101 ABs, he has walked 11 times and struck out only 14 times. The walks are maybe a little on the low side, but the strikeouts are very encouraging.
On Thursday, he had a hit to the left side through the hole and on Friday, he hit a long fly ball to the warning track in center field. I was able to watch BP on Saturday and noticed that he was having a great session that day with 5 or 6 balls hit out of park. This actually translated to a home run in Saturday night’s game — a game in which 3 different Blue Jays went deep. Nay’s home run wasn’t a wall-scraper like the two that preceded his (by Nico Taylor and Jonathan Davis): it was a mammoth, light-tower type fly ball. Nay seems to be on a roll, as he went three for five with a double the day that I left Bluefield.
On defense, he has the potential to be a major league third baseman. He seems to have good range (at least adequate range) and a strong, accurate arm. Like most prospects who are still 19, he has work to do but after talking to team staff (as well as Nay himself), it looks like he’s been able to make some strides defensively this year. It should be noted that Nay’s presence at 3rd has pushed teammate (and roommate in extended spring training) Matt Dean to first base. Nay is definitely a guy to watch and if he tightens up some hitting mechanics, he could conceivably move through the system quicker than anticipated (possibly Lansing next year to play 3B every day).
Matthew Dean – Dean was drafted as a third baseman in 2011 and has one more pro season under his belt than Nay does (Nay didn’t play after being drafted last year due to an injury). In fact, there are a lot of similarities between Dean and Nay — they’re both about the same size, the were drafted at the same position and both were highly rated hitters. Dean fell to the 13th round but still took home a very nice signing bonus of over $700,000.
As my colleague, Kyle Matte at Jays Journal wrote, Dean has a power-oriented swing but has to work on his “hit tool.” He’s having a much better season repeating the year in Bluefield but his swing can get a little long and is susceptible to off speed pitches. I saw him swing at one breaking ball that bounced two feet in front of the plate. In all honestly, Dean didn’t stand out for me during the games. He strikes out a lot (30 in 98 at bats so far this year) and really needs to work on the two important parts of his hitting game — making contact and developing his understanding of the strike zone (including recognizing the off-speed pitches out of the pitcher’s hand).
Defensively, I didn’t see anything particularly bad. Dean has been known as a solid third baseman and I didn’t see any real glaring weaknesses in his transition to first in the five games I attended. I certainly didn’t see any indications of a Mauro Gomez-like first base ability.* In terms of speed, I think that Dean will surprise a few people with his foot speed, but it’s more like Chris Hawkins‘s “straight-line” speed. When he gets going, he can move, but he doesn’t have the same quickness that someone like D.J. Davis has.
Dawel Lugo – More than any of the other hitters on this Bluefield team, Dawel Lugo surprised me (although I didn’t really have any idea of what to expect). At 18 years old and a top international free agent signee ($1.3 million signing bonus), Lugo’s numbers last year in the GCL weren’t eye popping, but he is definitely making an impression in Bluefield. What really stood out were two things: Lugo seems to be able to make contact at will he’s just beginning to tap into a LOT of raw power. Like Kyle Matte has written over at Jays Journal, Lugo has a wide base at the plate and doesn’t stride much (maybe a couple of inches) but he is able to get around on balls inside by rotating his hips and he doesn’t over-rotate which enables him to have some power the other way.
I was struck by his power when he hit a sacrifice fly on an outside pitch that he just reached out and made contact with. This observation was backed up when he hit an opposite field triple off the top of the wall. He didn’t swing too hard for the ball and still managed to miss a home run by an inch or two. On Friday, Lugo hit a game-winning, walk-off, three-run home run to left field on a pitch that was up and in. Once again, this wasn’t a pitch that was in a sweet spot for the hitter. It was a tough pitch that Lugo was able to bring his hands in to get to and drive out of the ball park (see photo for the position of his hands just after contact). Lugo doesn’t walk much (only 3 this season), but he doesn’t strike out too much either (17 so far in 112 ABs).
His speed didn’t strike me as good or bad and his range at short probably isn’t his strong suit. He has a decent arm (again, I wasn’t struck by either its weakness or strength) but it’s erratic frequently enough to be a concern right now. Again, Lugo is only 18 and he’ll have lots of time to work out his defensive issues and/or find a new position but I’m fine with leaving him at shortstop for the time being. I’m not sure if his plate discipline issues are going to improve or not. As he rises through the minors, I’ll be interested to see how Lugo responds to pitchers with better command and better off-speed pitches who will be able to hit their spots better.
Stay tuned for the next scouting report on some of the lesser known hitters in Bluefield, guys like catcher Jorge Saez, outfielders Jonathan Davis, Derrick Loveless, Nico Taylor and Jesus Gonzalez and infielder Timothy Locastro.
* At the first game I saw in Buffalo, I saw Gomez make two errors at first base. Both were pretty bad.