It’s that time of year, folks, when the Blue Jays call up players from the minors to augment the big league squad as rosters expand on September 1. Here’s a look at some of the decisions that the Blue Jays made at the onset of this time period, which will be followed by a rundown of the players that the Jays will send to Arizona to participate in the Arizona Fall League.
The Jays called up five players from the minors on September 1: Dalton Pompey, Munenori Kawasaki, Aaron Loup, Jeff Francis and Ryan Tepera. All five of these players have already spent time with the big club this year and have been demoted for various reasons throughout the season. Pompey has already made his presence felt, stealing two bases to help the team win on Tuesday night, while Kawasaki will be a useful player on occasion. Aaron Loup hasn’t been fantastic in the minors over six innings with the Buffalo Bisons but he returns to Toronto from his exile in Buffalo. Jeff Francis gives the Blue Jays yet another lefty in the pen and was outstanding this season with the Buffalo Bisons, serving as one of their most reliable starters (along with Randy Wolf and Scott Copeland) with a 2.35 ERA and 1.05 WHIP for the Bisons. After getting sent back to Buffalo, mostly due to roster numbers, Ryan Tepera will get a chance to continue his strong major league debut (with a 2.28 ERA and 0.80 WHIP in 23 2/3 big league innings) and contribute down the stretch in September.
Who’s missing from this list of September call ups? The first name that has been glaringly omitted is Matt Hague. The International League MVP is likely not going to get much playing time in a playoff race as a righthanded-hitting first baseman and third baseman. With Chris Colabello and Justin Smoak ahead of him (not to mention Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson), my thoughts are that he’ll be allowed to finish out the season in Buffalo before being recalled to Toronto so that he’s not sitting around doing nothing for an extra week.
Steve Delabar and Scott Copeland are two pitchers on the 40-man roster who could also easily have been called up. Copeland has been outstanding in Buffalo all year (2.78 ERA and 1.19 WHIP) while Steve Delabar has rebounded, walking just seven and striking out 27 in 22 1/3 innings with Buffalo after decent numbers in Toronto this season.
Don’t forget Marcus Stroman, making his return to non-simulated action tonight with the Lansing Lugnuts. Stroman will bump someone off the 40-man roster because he’ll have to be reinstated from the 60-day DL.
Because the Blue Jays are in a playoff hunt, I won’t expect a lot of the callups to come up to Toronto and see as much playing time as Dalton Pompey and Kevin Pillar did last year. Pompey will probably get some, as he’s not as raw a rookie as he was last year but aside from pinch running and pitching in low leverage situations, the current crop of call ups aren’t going to be given a chance to mess with the success that the Jays have had so far.
The Blue Jays have announced that they’re going to send six players to the Salt River Rafters for the upcoming Arizona Fall League season. If you’re not aware of it, the AFL is a league that teams send some of their prospects to to get them playing time against some of the league’s best young players. Graduates of the league include Addison Russell, Kris Bryant, Aaron Sanchez and Dalton Pompey.
This year, the Jays are sending three pitchers and three position players. Brady Dragmire, Chad Girodo and Justin Shafer are the pitchers and Matt Dean, Rowdy Tellez and Roemon Fields are the position players. The Jays will also send Dunedin hitting coach John Tamargo to the coaching staff for Salt River.
I think that the Blue Jays use this league for two reasons: one is to get a better of idea of whether to protect players for the Rule 5 draft and the second is to get prospects who have spent a significant portion of the season injured a little more playing time. Dragmire and Dean are certainly in that first category this year and, interestingly, only Rowdy Tellez is in the second category.
Dragmire was excellent in Lansing last year and has shown some real improvement but has been getting hit a bit more this year in Dunedin at the age of 22 (5.22 ERA and 1.56 WHIP, 20 BB, 56 K in 60 1/3 innings). Girodo has been rocketing up through the system. The potential successor to Aaron Loup’s LOOGY job, Girodo has been sidearming his way to prospect status after being the ninth round pick in the 2013 draft. At 24, Girodo has recently been given a promotion to Buffalo after starting in Dunedin, posting a 1.32 ERA in 27 1/3 innings there and only getting better. He allowed just two earned runs in 29 innings in New Hampshire before joining the Bisons. Justin Shafer is an interesting choice to go to Arizona. I’ve been impressed by Shafer’s ability to throw a deadly sinker down in the zone and he has a solid slider and changeup to go with it. While I wasn’t impressed by his velocity early in the year, I’ve heard that it has jumped quite a bit over the past few months and Shafer is now touching in the mid-90s with his fastball. Shafer was hit hard in Dunedin and is currently with the Lansing Lugnuts.
On the offensive side, Rowdy Tellez is obviously going well enough to participate after surgery to repair a broken bone in his wrist. Hopefully he’ll be able to get back to his old self: he hit 14 home runs in 401 at bats combined between Lansing and Dunedin as a 20-year-old, without sacrificing average, hitting .289/.347/.454. Roemon Fields is a guy who several people in the organization are excited about. His overall stats aren’t all that great (he has a .260/.315/.319 combined line between Dunedin, New Hampshire and Buffalo) but if he can take more walks, he can wreak havoc on the bases. Matt Dean is the most curious selection of the bunch. He’s put together a second consecutive decent but unimpressive season after winning the Appalachian League batting title in 2013. In Lansing last year, Dean showed reduced power (just nine home runs) but solid average at .281 with a propensity to strike out (117 Ks). This season with Dunedin, Dean has seen his average fall to .254 (in a tougher league on hitters) while he has seen a relatively stable ISO (.148). Dean has improved his walk rate (to 6.8%) but his strikeout rate has also jumped to 26.5%. With Dean eligible for the Rule 5 draft this year, it may be an extra look-see to decide if he’s worth adding to the 40-man roster.
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