The Arizona Fall League, an annual league for prospects and minor league players looking to prove themselves going forward, has had their rosters released and the Blue Jays have seven young players on the roster for the Mesa Solar Sox for 2021, led by MLB’s top Blue Jays propsect, Gabriel Moreno.
The roster, which includes players from the Blue Jays, Athletics, Marlins, Orioles, and Cubs, will feature four pitchers and three position players.
Players can be included on the AFL rosters for a number of reasons. Frequently, players who are eligible for the Rule 5 draft this upcoming winter get sent there to show their stuff against highly-ranked prospects from other clubs. Other times, it’s a way for players who were injured during the season to get more playing time in while for others, it could be a place for more development.
Headlining the pitcher class is righty Graham Spraker who had the best season of any of the four young pitchers. Spraker is 26 and was a 31st round draft pick in 2017 and spent his season mostly in New Hampshire, tossing 42 2/3 innings with a 2.74 ERA and 1.22 WHIP, striking out 13.08 batters per nine innings while walking a fairly high 4.85.
It’s likely that for Spraker, who pitched two strong innings in Buffalo in August, this is a test to see if he’s a possible candidate to be added to the Jays’ 40-man roster this offseason. His age and success in the higher minor leauges could make him a target in the Rule 5 draft and if the Jays think that he could be taken, he may earn himself a 40-man spot.
Releiver Cre Finfrock only pitched 3 2/3 innings this year with one of those innings coming in Low-A Dunedin as a rehab outing and 2 2/3 disastrous innings in New Hampshire (seven runs allowed on three hits and five walks). Finfrock was excellent in 2019 and it’s likely that the Blue Jays are going to want to get the 25-year-old righty some innings in the AFL>
Lefty Brody Rodning struggled somewhat in Double-A this year, posting a 5.58 ERA and 1.71 WHIP over 40 1/3 innings in New Hampshire. He walked 18 and struck out 43.
The biggest surprise for me, was the inclusion of 21-year-old righty Michael Dominguez on the roster. Dominguez didn’t get on the mound until early July with the FCL Blue Jays and threw nine innings with the low-level club before moving up tot he Dunedin Blue Jays for seven outings over the final month and a half of the season. Dominguez had a 3.34 ERA and 1.28 WHIP over 29 2/3 innings, striking out 31 and walking 12, posting solid numbers. It looks like for Dominguez, who is not Rule 5 eligible, this AFL assignment is a test to see how he fares against higher-level competition and to get him a few more innings.
Catcher Gabriel Moreno is the marquee player and top prospect on the roster for the Mesa Solar Sox. The 21-year-old Venezuelan catcher played a combined 37 games this season, and dominated the Double-A Northeast League before going down with thumb injury that cost him most of the season. In 32 games in New Hampshire, Moreno hit .373/.441/.651 with nine doubles, a triple and eight home runs, clobbingering the competition although he did hit just .111/.200/.111 over three games in Buffalo (small sample size alert).
The young catcher, currently on the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster, is ranked the Blue Jays’ #1 prospect by Baseball America and it’s likely that his assignment to the AFL is to make up for some lost time this season.
Shortstop Leonardo Jimenez (also known as Leo Jimenez) also lost time due to injury. The 20-year-old Panamanian hit a solid .315/.517/.381 in 54 games in Low-A Dunedin walking 51 times in 54 games and struck out just 35 times. His bat-to-ball skills and strike zone command appear to be very strong but he still is not hitting for a ton of power. Jimenez is another young player with no experience above the Low-A level, which makes him a bit of a stretch for the AFL.
The final player the Blue Jays are sending had a huge season coming out of the pandemic and has been tabbed by MLB.com as the prospect in the High-A West this year. 23-year-old Spencer Horwitz was another prospect who was able to get on base a ton for the Blue Jays. He played in 105 games in Vancouver and hit .290/.401/.445 and, like Jimenez, walked more than he struck out (70 walks and 66 strikeouts). He also started to show some power, hitting 28 doubles, a triple and 10 home runs and added a couple more doubles and two more home runs in four games (16 at bats) for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats at the end of the year, going 6/16.
If you like us here, like us on Facebook!
All photos are copyright Blue Jays from Away (2013-2020) and may not be used without permission.