Blue Jays farm report: Conner Greene getting tips from Aaron Sanchez

Toronto Blue Jays pitching prospect Conner Greene (Rick Madonik/Getty)

Aaron Sanchez sees some of his younger self in Conner Greene, which is why he was more than willing to share when the Toronto Blue Jays prospect sought some help with his off-season workouts last winter. The two right-handers share similar body types, repertoires and upside, making their fit together a natural one, a relationship developing to include regular FaceTime calls between a 25-year-old mentor and a 22-year-old apprentice.

“I just keep telling him he’s the exact same way I was in double-A, wanting to be in different spots than where I was, being frustrated that you’re not moving quickly – there’s a ton of things he’s going through or is about to go through that I went through,” says Sanchez. “When you can hear from somebody that everything is going to be OK, and you trust that person, then you’re at ease with the situation you’re in. That’s where I feel like I am with him. He trusts what I say because I’ve been through it.”

Sanchez’s support has been especially instrumental this year as Greene grinds through what he describes as his “first road bump” in pro baseball, posting a 4.96 ERA over 94.1 innings through his first 18 starts with the double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

Though he’s surrendered only three home runs, he’s walked 58 against 67 strikeouts, lasting only 2.2 innings and one inning in his two most recent outings.

“I feel mentally tested more than anything,” Greene says, “feeling I’m ready to take the next step and not necessarily proving it statistically. A lot of the times I have flashes of it, and I want to show that the consistency could be there. And it will be there. I’m confident in that.”

The raw ability for far more, certainly, is there, which is why there’s a tinge of frustration within his determination.

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A seventh-round pick in 2013, Greene features a fastball that touches triple-digits, but his challenges remain both in harnessing it and using his other offerings to fully leverage the heat.

At times he can drop in a beauty curve or pull a string with a changeup, but he doesn’t do either steadily enough to get hitters off the gas.

“Sometimes, because I throw so hard, I think people, my peers, everybody, we have this thought process that the fastball can just overpower all the other pitches and put the curveball and the changeup in the shadows,” says Greene. “It’s just as important to throw a mixture of pitches because no matter how hard you throw, if they know it’s coming they’re going to hit it. So mixing it up, getting them in between.”

That can be easier said than done, but Greene is making a point of working on some subtleties of the game, learning to better understand how to read hitters’ swings and apply the information he picks up on hitters to his pitch selection.

“I’m going out there to truly pitch,” he says. “I’m studying myself and the usage of my weapons out there.”

For that reason Greene says his focal point for the rest of the season is to maintain an attack mindset on the mound “without getting fastball happy,” and remember this simple motto, especially when the game begins to speed up on him: “Mix it up.”

Both are points Sanchez tries to drive home during their FaceTime conversations.

“He’s a good kid, he’s got tremendous ability,” says Sanchez. “When you do see him pitch, that’s when he’s got big-league stuff. And when you see him throw, that’s why he’s in double-A.”

Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.

Triple-A Buffalo Bisons

Notes: Rob Refsnyder joined the Bisons after his acquisition Sunday from the Yankees for double-A first baseman Ryan McBroom, and the Blue Jays will be watching him closely to gauge if he’ll fit at the big-league level, likely at second base. Worth noting is that the Blue Jays also tried to trade for Refsnyder at the end of spring training. He’s posted an .811 OPS in 523 career minor-league games, and a .643 mark in 94 big-league contests, playing second, third, first, left field and right field. … The Blue Jays also picked up righty Nick Tepesch from the Minnesota Twins for cash. … Dalton Pompey’s ongoing knee issues aren’t considered serious so the Blue Jays are hoping he can soon restart his rehab assignment. If he doesn’t get activated and demoted to triple-A this year the Blue Jays will retain their final option on the Canadian for 2018. … Jeff Beliveau and Lucas Harrell, both recently designated for assignment, cleared waivers and were outrighted to Buffalo.

Rowdy Tellez, 22, 1B/DH
Acquired: 30th round, 2013 draft
Season to date: 360 PA | 6 HR | .203/.272/.325 | 32 BB | 66 K

Dwight Smith Jr., 24, OF
Acquired: 1st round, 2011 draft
Season to date: 305 PA | 8 HR | .285/.345/.423 | 25 BB | 47 K

Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats

Notes: Anthony Alford has been activated from the DL (broken hamate bone) and optioned back to double-A. The Blue Jays would like to see him pick up where he left off before advancing him to Buffalo, and perhaps even the majors. His big-league debut back in May was made on an emergency basis and the plan was never for it to last long. … Lourdes Gurriel Jr., has been mostly playing second base since his recent promotion from Dunedin, where he was predominantly used at shortstop. Why? “We’re trying to create some consistency but ultimately we see him as a player who can play multiple [spots], not just two infield positions but potentially play the outfield as well,” says GM Ross Atkins. “We want to do that gradually and see how it works.” … Lefty Ryan Borucki made an impressive double-A debut Sunday, throwing seven shutout innings while allowing two hits and two walks with four strikeouts versus Trenton.

Anthony Alford, 22, OF
Acquired: 3rd round, 2012 draft
Season to date (two levels): 181 PA | 3 HR | .291/.381/.399 | 18 BB | 34 K

Danny Jansen, 22, C
Acquired: 16th round, 2013 draft
Season to date (two levels): 328 PA | 7 HR | .329/.405/.481 | 30 BB | 30 K

Reese McGuire, 22, C
Acquired: Trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates
Season to date: 63 PA | 2 HR | .216/.311/.373 | 8 BB | 11 K

Harold Ramirez, 22, OF
Acquired: Trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates
Season to date: 343 PA | 6 HR | .263/.308/.378 | 19 BB | 48 K

Richard Urena, 21, SS
Acquired: Signed as international free agent in 2012
Season to date: 414 PA | 4 HR | .244/.289/.360 | 25 BB | 74 K

Lourdes Gurriel Jr., 23, 2B/SS
Acquired: Signed as international free agent in 2016
Season to date (two levels): 112 PA | 1 HR | .219/.259/.305 | 6 BB | 20 K

Conner Greene, 22, pitcher
Acquired: 7th round, 2013 draft
Season to date: 4.96 ERA | 94.1 IP | 58 BB | 67 K

Jon Harris, 23, pitcher
Acquired: 1st round, 2015 draft
Season to date: 5.02 ERA | 104.0 IP | 34 BB | 80 K

Sean Reid-Foley, 21, pitcher
Acquired: 2nd round, 2014 draft
Season to date: 4.48 ERA | 88.1 IP | 39 BB | 85 K

Advanced-A Dunedin Blue Jays

Notes: The catcher in the Blue Jays system most poised to make a rapid rise through the farm system? Max Pentecost, who has 18 games behind the plate this season and is playing catch up after a series of shoulder surgeries nearly derailed his career. The Blue Jays have been cautious in putting too much too fast on his arm, rotating him through catcher, first base and DH this season, but with his talent and experience level, he could advance quickly if his arm allows it. … Adjusting to a new level hasn’t cooled Bo Bichette one bit, as he’s posted an .884 OPS through his first 14 games in Dunedin. … The adjustment has been a little tougher on Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who has an OPS of .566 in 12 games. … Outfielder Darrell Ceciliani is five games into a rehab assignment with Dunedin as he works his way back from a shoulder injury. … Canadian righty Jordan Romano continues to quietly put up another strong season, with a 3.18 ERA over 104.2 innings in 21 games, 19 starts and 111 strikeouts. … Right-hander T.J. Zeuch, last year’s first-round pick, is back to throwing live batting practice after missing about two months with a lower back strain.

Max Pentecost, 24, C/1B
Acquired: 1st round, 2014 draft
Season to date: 269 PA | 9 HR | .295/.351/.471 | 20 BB | 51 K

Bo Bichette, 19, SS
Acquired: 2nd round, 2016 draft
Season to date (two levels): 379 PA | 11 HR | .382/.443/.597 | 31 BB | 64 K

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 18, 3B
Acquired: Signed as international free agent in 2015
Season to date (two levels): 369 PA | 7 HR | .304/.398/.446 | 46 BB | 42 K

T.J. Zeuch, 21, pitcher
Acquired: 1st round, 2016 draft
Season to date: 3.23 ERA | 53.0 IP | 14 BB | 42 K

Low-A Lansing Lugnuts

Notes: The Lugnuts have had to adjust since the promotions of Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., with Yelstin Gudino covering at short and Mitch Nay and Nash Knight getting some work in third. Mattingly Romanin was promoted from Vancouver and has played at both second and third. Right-hander Justin Maese is pitching in GCL games as he works to return from a bout of arm soreness that’s sidelined him since May 29.

Justin Maese, 20, pitcher
Acquired: 3rd round, 2015 draft
Season to date: 4.24 ERA | 63.2 IP | 20 BB | 54 K

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