In the next part of this series, I’m going to look at players that you might think I’ve overlooked so far. These are the guys who are just flat out raking at the plate or mowing down the opposition on the mound.
Yep, I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for me to talk about the awesomeness that is Dalton Pompey, the 21-year-old slick-fielding, Mississaugan outfielder in Dunedin. Struggling from the right side of the plate early in the season, Pompey has put that criticism to rest thanks to his ability hit for more power from the right side. He’s cruising with a .333/.405/.494 line that includes five home runs and 19 stolen bases in 206 plate appearances. There isn’t much to say beyond the fact that, by all reports, Pompey has turned himself into the complete package: a Gold Glove center fielder who makes very solid contact from both sides of the plate, with 12-15+ home run power who can just terrorize pitchers with excellent base running skills. Interestingly, the Blue Jays just promoted center fielder Kenny Wilson to Buffalo which would leave the center field position in New Hampshire open for Pompey if he’s moved up to Double-A soon.
Just like Pompey, Norris has been utterly destroying his competition in the Florida State League. The Blue Jays are still being careful with the 21-year-old, limiting him to about 90 pitches per start but he’s been able to average five innings of work per outing. The control and command issues that have plagued him in previous years have been nowhere to be found as Norris has career-low 7.0% walk rate to go along with a stunning 30.2% strikeout rate. Like Pompey, there’s little more that needs to be said, thanks to his miniscule 0.72 ERA and 0.99 WHIP and I can see a promotion to Double-A when the Blue Jays are done their first half in a couple of weeks (June 12 is their final game before the All-Star break).
Schimpf had his mojo interrupted a little bit by a brief promotion to Buffalo but he’s hitting at the best pace of his career since his 2009 first pro season spent in short-season ball. For a while, I was thinking of Schimpf as a “Three True Outcome” hitter, by which I mean that he would either hit a home run, strike out or take a walk in a huge number of his at bats. This year, however, Schimpf is diversifying and is more than half way to having as many doubles as he did last year but in about a third of the plate appearances. He’s still striking out as much (25.2% of the time in his time in NH) but he’s taking even more walks (15.6% in New Hampshire). His BABIP is exactly the same as his 2012 mark in New Hampshire and his batting average and OBP reflect very similar marks to that year. His massively increased slugging percentage indicates that more hits are going for doubles and home runs which has led to his 1.058 OPS and 183 wRC+ with the Fisher Cats.
Ok, I’ll admit that saying that Michael Crouse is dominating would be a stretch but he’s definitely doing a lot more than I had expected for the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Crouse is hitting .275/.364/.450 in 141 plate appearances but the thing that I’m keying in on here is the fact that he’s doing it at a level he’s never played at before. In fact, Crouse had a disastrous 2012 (during which he was dealing with some personal issues) and a solid but unspectacular 2013, all at the A-ball level. What Crouse is doing this year, at 23 years old, most resembles what he did in 2011 when he was a highly touted prospect that was part of a stellar outfield for the Lansing Lugnuts that also included Jake Marisnick and Marcus Knecht (who has been on fire in the last week for Dunedin). I’d still like Crouse to hit more home runs, but his .175 ISO and 127 wRC+ are still really nice to see for a guy who seems to be coming into his own.
Who are these players? Find out in The 2014 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook, now available as an ebook at Smashwords.com for $7.99 US. It’s coming soon to Amazon, Apple iBooks, Kobo and other fine retailers. You can purchase and preview the book at our Smashwords.com page! If you like us here,“like” us on Facebook!
All photos are copyright Blue Jays from Away (2013-2014) and may not be used without permission.