It’s that time of year, when the air gets (only slightly) more crisp and the minor league seasons are coming to a close. It’s also time when we start to find out which Blue Jays minor leaguers will head to the Arizona Fall League, where Major League Baseball’s future stars get a chance to shine.
The AFL is generally noted to be a league where many of the game’s top prospects play in the fall and it gives organizations a chance to see how their young players fare against some of the best in the game. This year, 21 of MLBPipeline’s Top 100 prospects will be participating, starting with the consensus #1 prospect in the game, the Red Sox’ Yoan Moncada (who will be called up to the majors this week).
The Arizona Fall League is usually a league for some of the biggest names in the minor leagues as well as players around the Double-A and Triple-A level. This year, the Blue Jays have an interesting selection of players joining the Mesa Solar Sox, featuring two of their top prospects. Also joining the Mesa Solar Sox is Vince Horsman, the Jays’ Double-A pitching coach.
21-year-old Conner Greene was on a rocket-like trajectory last year, playing at three levels before finishing off in Double-A New Hampshire in his Age-20 season. This year, it was somewhat of a surprise when Greene was sent back to Advanced-A Dunedin by the new regime to start the season but it was probably good for him. Greene’s strikeout numbers are down from last year and his walks are up. He’s probably been really working on command as well as being able to throw his offspeed pitches for strikes (or to induce swings) and will be tested in Arizona.
Matt Dermody is the highest-level player going for the Blue Jays, having gotten into 15 games with the Buffalo Bisons after starting the year with Dunedin. Dermody is a lefty who has posted stellar numbers, particularly on the control side of things with just eight walks in 54 1/3 innings (with five of those walks in Triple-A). Dermody’s stellar numbers do take a hit when you look at his Triple-A numbers and there are rumours of a big-league call up swirling around the Jays’ 28th-round pick in the 2013 draft.
Tim Mayza emerged as a power lefty last year, hitting velocities up to 98 mph after being drafted in the 12th round of the 2013 draft. Mayza has been outstanding in Dunedin this year, striking out 50 in 47 innings with a stingy 1.52 ERA. He has been up to and down from New Hampshire where he walked 15 in 15 1/3 innings while striking out only 13, showing that he needs a bit more seasoning. Mayza definitely has the stuff as a fastball/slider lefty with high-90s velocity and he could have a great time in the AFL if hitters are little less disciplined.
21-year-old catcher Danny Jansen has had an injury-plagued start to his professional career, losing time in the last three seasons. This year, playing in only 52 games, the Blue Jays are sending him to Arizona to make up some time that he lost while rehabbing. Jansen hasn’t been able to translate his talent into excellent numbers, hitting .223/.324/.277 this season despite having raw power.
The Jays sent Ryan McBroom to the AFL this year and the powerful 24-year-old first baseman is likely being tested against higher quality pitching. While he’s among the Florida State League leaders in home runs (21), McBroom struggled mightily in a nine-game audition with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats earlier in the year.
Finally, the Blue Jays will send another player who missed time this year, Anthony Alford. The 22-year-old outfielder was a top-100 prospect before the season after a breakout year in 2015. This season, spent entirely in Dunedin, has been interrupted by a couple of injuries including a concussion and he’s only been putting up good numbers since he returned from the DL towards the end of June. Overall, Alford is hitting .240/.344/.383 with a career-high nine home runs but since June 22, he’s hit .258/.377/.451 with eight of those home runs in 58 of his 90 games to this point.
I would expect to see Greene taking a regular turn as a starter while Dermody and Mayza will be used out of the bullpen. I also expect to see Alford getting starts four-to-five times a week while Jansen could be on the “taxi” squad, which will only play twice a week. McBroom could be a taxi squad player but he could also get regular at bats, playing first base, left field or DH.
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