I was trying to figure out how to characterize this prospect update but with little success. It was going to be called “A Bit of This, A Bit of That” but what I ended up with sounded a little better. In this post, I’m looking at prospects who aren’t really standing out but aren’t being overwhelmed either.
The Blue Jays’ top prospect is pitching up a level this year with the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats and the results haven’t necessarily been great. Coming off his worst outing of the year in which he didn’t retire a batter, walked four, hit one and gave up a runner on an error, Sanchez continues to be his own worst enemy. He still hasn’t harnessed his control, walking 16.0% of the batters he faces while only striking out 19.3% (the first time in his career he’s ever been below the 20% mark). Sanchez hasn’t walked fewer than two batters in any of his outings this year and his low strikeout rates are probably an indication that he’s not getting the more advanced, Double-A hitters to bite on his great stuff. As I wrote in our first mailbag (second one is coming soon), I don’t think that we can write him off thanks to the filth that comes out of his hand when he’s pitching. His young age (not yet 22) means that there’s lots of time for him to figure things out. That said, Sanchez needs to make big strides somewhat soon because starting next year, the Jays will need to put him on the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft in December. This means that he’ll be burning option years for every season (starting in 2015) that he hasn’t figured things out.
The speedy second baseman turned some heads last year when he earned the Webster Award as the Dunedin Blue Jays’ most valuable player last year. Berti, 24, had a solid year with the D-Jays, getting on base at a .338 clip and stealing 56 bases before blazing a trail through the Australian Baseball League this winter. Berti is hitting .259/.300/.350 this season with 18 stolen bases (third in the Eastern League) and clearly the biggest concern is that he’s taking far fewer walks this year (5.2%: the lowest, by far, in his career). Berti is still tough to strike out (another career low, 14.6% strikeout rate) and can make things happen on the bases. He’s also hitting for a bit more power in a more hitter-friendly league. With no real second base prospects in the Blue Jays’ system, Berti will go as far as his bat takes him. He’s in the scrappy mold of someone like Munenori Kawasaki but needs to be able to get on base much more to take advantage of his tremendous baserunning skills.
Guerrero’s wRC+ of 101 and thoroughly average wOBA of .328 puts him squarely on this list. He’s definitely not floundering but he’s not dominating in Dunedin either. There are two big issues with Guerrero right now: his lack of walks (5.9%) and his defense (14 errors). That said, Guerrero is actually on pace to have about the same number of errors that he had in Lansing last year and three of his errors this year have come in the five games that Guerrero’s played at third base. With a .133 ISO in a tougher league on hitters, Guerrero is actually doing quite well. I’m not too worried but I would like to see him get on base more and be a little more reliable at shortstop, especially if he wants to stick at the position with some much higher-ranked prospects coming up behind him in Dawel Lugo, Franklin Barreto and Richard Urena.
Ryan Tepera (still listed as “Dennis” on Fangraphs) was one of the players that Marc Hulet tagged to be selected in the Rule 5 draft in 2013 after he noticed some increased effectiveness while he was coming out of the bullpen. No one bit on Tepera and the Blue Jays sent him to Buffalo where he’s been very effective for the most part. His 2.59 ERA and 2.75 FIP are very shiny while his 1.40 WHIP is just okay. He’s been striking out more batters than ever now that he’s coming out of the bullpen (30.6%) but his walk rate is also up to a career-high 12.0%. If the Jays didn’t have such a clogged bullpen with guys ahead of him in Buffalo like John Stilson, Neil Wagner and Chad Jenkins (not to mention Esmil Rogers), I’d say that Tepera would be in line for a callup in September. The way things stand now, he might be fodder for the Rule 5 draft again thanks to success at a higher minor league level and a clearly-defined bullpen role.
Stilson, a 23-year-old Texan righty, started off very slowly for the Buffalo Bisons this year, getting trounced to a 9.39 ERA and 3.00 WHIP in 7 2/3 innings in April. In May, he hasn’t allowed a run in 14 1/3 innings and has held hitters to a measly .447 OPS with far better strikeout and walk numbers. Is this the real John Stilson showing up? I think so. Stilson is probably the next big arm in line for a promotion after Neil Wagner but I think the Jays like having Stilson in the minors for another year of seasoning. He will be Rule 5 eligible this winter and the Jays will likely protect him, starting his option clock in 2015.
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