Jays From the Couch explains the lack of early prospect movement within the Toronto Blue Jays farm system, with a look at management’s new Philosophy of managing the farm
Heading into Spring Training there was talk was a ‘New Philosophy’ would be implemented how the Toronto Blue Jays Minor League system would handle it’s prospects. The philosophy would be one with a renewed commitment to developing/strengthening the Toronto Blue Jays farm system through a patient approach. Apparently, Mark Shapiro focuses on developing his prospects slowly, allowing them to marinate at each level. This is in stark contrast to what Blue Jays fans began to expect during the last 2-3 years under former GM, Alex Anthopoulos.
Many of us took this chatter with a grain of salt. Too often do we see player/farm development take a back seat to winning now.
Under Anthopoulos prospects were challenged with promotions if they showed an ability to put up good numbers at a lower level, with little focus on playing the game the ‘right way’ or being a well rounded player. For the fans and media, this approach was great. It gave fan, bloggers and Blue Jays Minor League enthusiasts something to write and something to anticipate.
Will prospect X be able to handle the jump from Florida State League to Eastern League?
Prospect X is mowing down the competition at level X, when will he get promoted?
These were some of the fun debates we could have while AA was at the helm.
Eight weeks into the first minor league season with Shapiro and Ross Atkins running the show and it’s been obvious that player movement will be at a different, slower pace. Players are going to need to prove that they are indeed ready to take the next step, rather than just putting up numbers.
So in a nutshell, every promotion will be earned. A prospect’s performance will dictate when they will take the next step, be it during the season or repeating a level next year.
This philosophy will slow down the development for low-level and high level prospects alike and will allow the Blue Jays to fill their system back up. It will also allow the Blue Jays to have prospects that have worked on more than just putting up numbers.
Look at how Dalton Pompey and Anthony Gose, considered high-level prospects, were rushed and mishandled, versus how Kevin Pillar and Ryan Goins, not considered prospects at all, were allowed time to develop more slowly without the pressure of being rushed…..okay maybe Pillar was rushed a little.
What we’ve seen so far this season is that players are being given every opportunity to work through their issues to correct their struggles. Ryan Borucki made six uneventful starts with the Dunedin Blue Jays, despite not pitching an inning above Lo-A. In 20 innings, Borucki amassed a 1-4 record with a 14.40ERA while allowing opponents to hit .421 off him. Since his demotion to Lansing, Borucki has looked much better, going 1-1 with a 2.12 ERA in 3 starts. Opponents are hitting just .242.
In the past, management would’ve quickly dispatched a struggling pitcher/hitter to a lower level after just a few weeks. Jacob Anderson is another example of a struggling prospect who continues to get at-bats despite being over-matched. The 23-yr-old outfielder has struggled to stay on the field since being drafted in 2011, playing 88 games between the Gulf Coast League and Bluefield. Instead of starting Anderson in Vancouver, management decided to start him in A-Ball with the Lugnuts. In 25 games, Anderson is hitting .135 with 3 doubles, a triple and a home run.
Anderson and Borucki aren’t alone, many Toronto prospects have struggled to start the season. Despite these struggles, management has shown confidence and patience that they can work things out rather than having a quick hook.
We also have seen a cautious approach at promoting players who started the season off with a bang. Some have continued to excel while other have slowed. After hitting .333 in April, Andrew Guillotte looked like he was ready for the Florida State League. Rather than being rushed, Guillotte remained at top the Lugnuts lineup into May, where he’s hit just .236 in 24 games.
Pitchers Colton Turner and Francisco Rios performed well in April and were rewarded. Turner has responded. The 25 yr-old reliever has not allowed a run in 21.2 innings to start the year, adding 9.2 scoreless inning with Dunedin to his already impressive 12 scoreless innings in Lansing. Rios dominated Midwest hitters to a tune of 2-0 and 1.20 ERA in 6 starts. Since his promotion to Dunedin, Rios is 2-2 with a 2.54 ERA.
It seems that management won’t be promoting prospects unless they feel certain that they’ll succeed.
This management team appears set on building a winning organization with an emphasis on player development and not just numbers; therefore, the performance of Toronto’s prospects must be consistent and predictable. This patient approach should allow Blue Jay prospects time to develop the fundamentals and a work ethic to succeed not just in the level they are at but at every level. This will allow prospects to truly to build up their confidence which is conducive for long-term success.
The trouble with taking the patient approach is that fans are fickle creatures, they want immediate results. If they see a prospect tearing up Double-A, they want to see them moved to Triple-A, regardless if that player started the year in Advanced-A.
So a word of warning Blue Jays fans. If you see Anthony Alford or any other high level prospect repeat a level, don’t despair. It could just mean that there is more for him to learn at that level before he meets his goal. Meeting your goals is a true indication of success.
*Feature Image Photo Credit: Larry Koester under CC BY-SA 2.0
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