Marcus Stroman and Daniel Norris have been among the top performers in the Toronto Blue Jays’ minor league system early on in 2014, with left-hander Sean Nolin and Canadian outfielder Dalton Pompey also impressing.
Stroman has posted a 2.18 ERA through his first four starts at triple-A, which leaves the Blue Jays more convinced than ever that their 2012 first-round pick is now a fully-formed pitcher.
“Stroman has continued to impress,” Toronto assistant GM Tony LaCava said. “It’s just a matter of the opportunity and the right time for him. We think his time is coming soon.”
How soon? With Dustin McGowan struggling at the big league level and the bullpen under increasing pressure, it might not be long before the Blue Jays seriously consider promoting Stroman.
Here’s a team-by-team look at how Blue Jays prospects have been doing since the season began, with comments from LaCava on select players:
BUFFALO BISONS – Triple-A
Marcus Stroman, RHP
2.18 ERA, 20.2 innings, 26 K, 6 BB
“He’s done very well to date and we think his time is coming soon and it’s just a matter of the right opportunity for him,” LaCava said.
Sean Nolin, LHP
2.70 ERA, 16.2 innings, 21 K, 7 BB
The Blue Jays felt that Nolin never had his legs under him in 2013, since hip and groin injuries limited his pre-season preparation.
“We never really saw that velocity that he had shown the year before,” LaCava said. “Already this year, one of his starts he hit 96 mph which is more the kind of power that he had in the past. We think he’s making strides there and he’s at the right level and he’s challenged there. He’s been impressive.”
Kyle Drabek, RHP
5.03 ERA, 19.2 innings, 14 K, 6 BB
Buffalo pitching coach Randy St. Claire told LaCava he has seen progress for Drabek early on in 2014. “He feels Kyle’s heading in the right direction and at some point should factor in again for us,” LaCava said. “Coming along fine.”
Chad Jenkins, RHP
2.30 ERA, 15.2 innings, 11 K, 2 BB
John Stilson, RHP
11.12 ERA, 5.2 innings, 3 K, 5 BB
Ricky Romero, LHP
4.80 ERA, 15 innings, 10K, 8 BB
Kevin Pillar, OF
.216/.256/.324, 0 HR, 6 2B, 78 PA, 1 SB
Anthony Gose, OF
.255/.379/.345, 0 HR, 3 2B, 67 PA, 4 SB
NEW HAMPSHIRE FISHER-CATS – Double-A
Aaron Sanchez, RHP
2.66 ERA, 23.2 innings, 21 K, 13 BB
Sanchez took a big step forward in 2013, and the Blue Jays are hopeful he can take another one this year. “He continues to refine all his pitches and he’ll let us know when he’s ready to move to the next level,” LaCava said.
One remaining hurdle for the 21-year-old is fastball command.
“It’s getting close,” LaCava said. “It’s not quite where he wants it or where we want it, but I think that’s the key. Once he gets that, he’ll be able to pitch anywhere.”
A.J. Jimenez, C
.462/.533/.615 0 HR, 2 2B, 15 PA
Tyler Ybarra, LHP
2.16 ERA, 8.1 innings, 11K, 4BB
DUNEDIN BLUE JAYS – Class-A Advanced
Daniel Norris, LHP
0.95 ERA, 19 innings, 21 K, 5 BB
After struggling with command earlier in his career, the 21-year-old southpaw has shown improvement through four starts.
“Daniel’s breaking out,” LaCava said. “He’s shown us signs in the past. Here’s another guy with great ability. It’s a matter of just being consistent. He’s shown us all of that in the past in spurts. But so far, so good. This year he’s very consistent and his stuff is above to well-above average.”
Dalton Pompey, OF
.346/.407/.436 1 HR, 2 2B, 87 PA, 11 SB
Dwight Smith Jr., OF
.329/.398/.443, 2 HR, 3 2B, 88 PA, 2 SB
LANSING LUGNUTS – Class-A
D.J. Davis, OF
.246/.289/.391, 1 HR, 5 2B, 77 PA, 4 SB – read more about Davis here
The Blue Jays view Davis, a 2012 first-round pick, as a potential five-tool talent. It’s now a matter of turning tools into production.
“It comes down to consistency, because on a given night, D.J. can be the best player on the field,” LaCava said. “He can run, he can throw, he’s got power. All of that’s there. It’s just now he needs the consistency.”
The weather has been rough, which means playing time has been irregular for Davis and his Lugnuts teammates.
“Once the weather warms up and they get into routines, I think they’re going to impress,” LaCava said.
Mitch Nay, 3B
.306/.346/.389, 0 HR, 4 2B, 78 PA
Nay is off to a strong start, even if the power numbers aren’t there quite yet.
“Mitch has done a good job,” LaCava said. “He’s doing his thing, controlling the strike zone, he’s spraying the ball all over the field, a lot of hard contact. He’s playing good defence at third.”
Dawel Lugo, SS
.183/.219/.250, 0 HR, 4 2B, 64 PA, 1 SB
Alberto Tirado, RHP
3.27 ERA, 11 innings, 15 K, 10 BB
Chase De Jong, RHP
4.61 ERA, 13.2 innings, 13 K, 4 BB
Tom Robson, RHP
11.05 ERA, 7.1 innings, 5 K, 8 BB