Jays from Away: Gulf Coast Jays
* SS Franklin Barreto, 17, was the Blue Jays from Away player of the game champion with the Gulf Coast Blue Jays. Barreto, 17, stood out amongst five 23-year-olds and a 24-year-old. ….
By Jay Blue
It’s that time of year when the minor league seasons have ended and it’s time to analyze the results and see where everyone stands. I’m going to be doing a three-part series for each minor league team over the coming months.
The first is the year end awards, based strictly on performance.
The second will be a look at the pitchers, how they did (statistically and what scouts are saying) and where they project to be next year (we can all look back later and laugh at how wrong I was).
The third will look at the hitters (in the same way as the pitchers).
For the awards, I want to make something clear. I’m not just going to talk about “prospects.” In fact, you might not see your favourite prospects at all in this part of the season report. Why? Simple. “Prospects” aren’t the only ones playing. I want to highlight the fact that the players who succeed at any given level may not be the ones that are getting all the hype. Heck, they may not even play at levels that are much higher but this year, they caught my attention for what they were doing on the ball field. For that, they deserve the recognition.
Gulf Coast League Blue Jays Part 1: Awards
Blue Jays from Away Player of the Game Champion
For those of you following along with my daily Minor League Reports on Jays Journal and on Twitter, you’ll know that I’ve been “awarding” Player of the Game (PotG) accolades on a game-by-game basis. It should comfort you to know that I’ve been keeping track of these daily awards and without much more ado, here comes my rationale for the system.
The Player of the Game Awards were determined by a number of factors that included who I thought had the most impact on the game and who might have gone “above and beyond.” Most nights, there was one Player of the Game. If there was, he earned one point.
If I thought that either a) no one stood out enough to merit a single PotG, or b) two or more players were outstanding and deserved mention, I split the point up into two or three shares. If two players earned PotG mention, they each received 0.5 points and if three players earned mentions, they each received 0.3 points.
Final standings for Blue Jays from Away Player of the Game for the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays:
Franklin Barreto 8
Chris Rowley 5.5
Thomas Collins III 3, Andres De Aza 3, Francisco Diaz 3.
Rowdy Tellez 2.5
Gabriel Cenas, Nathan DeSouza, Clinton Hollon, Sean Hurley, Andres Sotillo, Jesus Tinoco 2.
Dan Jansen 1.5
Josh Almonte, Michael De La Cruz, Will Dupont, Jose Fernandez, Corey Gorman, Daniel Lietz, Tim Mayza, Rolando Segovia 1.
John Tolisano, Miguel Castro, Jimmy Cordero, Connor Greene, Matthew Smoral .5
The clear winner for the GCL Blue Jays was shortstop Franklin Barreto, 17.
Barreto earned himself a call-up to the Bluefield Blue Jays at the end of the year but is one of the most talked about young prospects in the Blue Jays system. He’s just 17 years old but has been showing remarkable maturity with the bat but has had issues in the field.
Blue Jays from Away Player of the Year
While Barreto was a very solid hitter, his defensive deficiencies led me to select someone else as (position) Player of the Year. That award goes to a player who has really been under the radar. He was an undrafted free agent out of Dallas Baptist University, who ended up getting a lot of playing time and really anchoring the outfield. Congratulations, Boomer Collins (a.k.a. Thomas Collins III), 24.
Blue Jays from Away Pitcher of the Year
Like our Player of the Year, the Pitcher of the Year was a guy who is also very under the radar. He’s another undrafted free agent, this time out of West Point (Army) who has since left baseball to complete his military commitments. Congratulations, Chris Rowley.
(Note: For higher level teams there will be a “reliever of the year” award as well, but since there’s so much piggy-backing in the GCL, the “reliever” definition is much more difficult to pin down.)
Blue Jays from Away Most Improved Player
There weren’t all that many players to choose from in this category, mainly because the GCL team is always very young and with a lot of players from this year’s draft. I did consider Dominican Summer League stats in this category however but you’ll see a lot more competition for this award as we move up the ladder.
However, there is a clear winner (at least in my mind). Congratulations Gabriel Cenas. Cenas, 19, a Venezuelan who had a horrible (statistical) season in the GCL in 2012 but was one of the more solid players in 2013.
Gulf Coast League Blue Jays Part 2: Pitchers
The pitchers for the Blue Jays’ 2013 GCL team came from several different avenues. There were a few who were with the team last season and are repeating the level, several were drafted in 2013, several were 2013 undrafted free agents and several came from the Blue Jays Dominican Summer League team.
Repeating the level: Tyler Gonzales, Myles Duvall (released), Jesus Tinoco, Matthew Smoral (sort of), Oscar Cabrera
2013 draftees: Daniel Lietz, Conner Greene, Evan Smith, Clinton Hollon, Sean Ratcliffe, Jake Brentz
2013 undrafted free agents: Corey Gorman, Chris Rowley, Cale Wine, Kamakani Usui
Dominican Summer League: Francisco Diaz, Jimmy Cordero, Alejandro Solarte, Miguel Castro, Jose Fernandez
Tyler Gonzales, 19, had his second chance to prove himself in the Gulf Coast League but didn’t make much of an impact. In fact, he didn’t pitch very often (his last appearance was Aug. 8) and he actually regressed in just about any category. The hard (95 mph-ish) throwing righty continues to struggle to find his control, walking 12 batters in 10 1/3 innings although he improved his strikeout rate considerably by whiffing nine. It’s hard to gauge what the Blue Jays are going to do with Gonzales, who is now 20. My hunch is that he’ll be in Bluefield next year.
Despite some unappealing numbers like a 5.09 ERA and 1.522 WHIP, Jesus Tinoco, 18, had a solid first full season in the GCL. He led in innings pitched (46) and strikeouts (45) and was really only held back due to control issues (21 walks — not horrible, but needs to be better). I couldn’t find a scouting report on him but I see Tinoco in Bluefield in 2014.
Everyone wants to love Matt Smoral, 19. The Ohioan lefty throws in the low 90s right now, and standing 6-foot-8, you’d think that he has some room to grow into some more heat. Due to a foot injury last year, Smoral made his pro debut this year and really struggled with his mechanics and blisters. He pitched 25 1/3 innings and walked 26 but struck out 27 showing some promise along with the wildness (he also led the club with 10 hit batters). Smoral could repeat the level in 2014 but I could see him having a good fall in the instructional league and solid Extended Spring Training and being sent to Bluefield next year.
Dominican lefty Oscar Cabrera, 19, was in the same boat as Jesus Tinoco. He pitched in the Dominican league last season and was brought over the US for a few games in the GCL before the end of the season. The results this year were similar to last year: Tinoco walked a lot of batters and gave up a lot of hits, leading to a 6.93 ERA and a whopping 2.03 WHIP. He did strike out a lot of hitters (26 in 24 2/3 innings) but because he faced so many hitters his percentage is a solid but less eye-popping 21.5%. I can see Tinoco either going to Bluefield or staying in the GCL to start the year.
As far as the 2013 draft class goes for the Toronto Blue Jays, Clinton Hollon, 18, was the highest (second round) to sign and he did so at a discounted rate due to some damage found in his MRI. While third rounder Patrick Murphy never played (he is recovering from Tommy John surgery), Hollon went out and impressed. He pitched 12 scoreless and gave up only two hits with three walks and 10 strikeouts at for the GCL Blue Jays. Hollon went to the Bluefield Blue Jays and found a tougher go in 5 1/3 innings there (six earned runs, six hits, three walks and five strikeouts). Hollon got a taste of tougher competition and will likely return to the Appy League with a bright future.
Except for Daniel Lietz, most of the 2013 draft class that spent most of their time in the GCL didn’t pitch much. Evan Smith, 18, the fourth rounder, only pitched 12 innings and didn’t pitch at all between July 23 and Aug. 17. He finished with a 7.50 ERA and a 2.00 WHIP in 12 innings but five of his 10 earned runs came in his final appearance on Aug. 27 and skewed his results a fair bit. The 18 year old had 10 strikeouts and nine walks over his 12 innings and he may very well repeat the level next year depending on he does in Instructs and Extended.
Daniel Lietz, 19, the fifth rounder this year, had one of the better seasons for the GCL Blue Jays, especially after one year of community college. The 6-foot-2 lefty has some work to do but threw 36 innings (third on the team), struck out 35 batters (also third on the team) with a 4.75 ERA and respectable 1.61 WHIP. No one paid a lot of attention to him this year but reports after the draft said that his fastball is in the low-90s and he has at least two potential ML average pitches. I can see Lietz in Bluefield or maybe even Vancouver next year.
Conner Greene, 18, was another high school pitcher that the Jays selected in the draft (this time in the seventh round). The 6-foot-3 righty has a projectable frame and was throwing in the high-80s before the draft. He threw a fair bit (30 2/3 innings) this season but wasn’t quite as successful as the slightly older, harder throwing and more mature Lietz. Greene put up a 5.28 ERA with a 1.70 WHIP, walking 15 and striking out 20. Not the best ratios for the youngster who has his birthday around next year’s Opening Day (April 4). I foresee a repeat performance unless he improves dramatically in Instructs and Extended.
Jacob Brentz, 18, was a stretch of a pick in the 11th round (reflected by the amount of money that the Jays had to cough up to sign him – $700,000) but the Jays inked him and he got into some game action in 2013. Brentz is a fireballer but still has a lot of work to do controlling his power. In 7 2/3 innings, he walked 12 and struck out eight but only gave up five hits. Look for Brentz to repeat the GCL. He’s still new to pitching but with a 96 mph fastball, the Jays will look to move him along slowly to build up arm strength and help him find his control. He’ll also need to develop his secondary pitches to be more successful in professional baseball.
Sean Ratcliffe, 18, a Pickering native that the Jays drafted in the 18th round. He didn’t get into much action, throwing only eight innings before being allowed to join the Canadian National Under-18 team playing in international competition. In those eight innings, however, the 6-foot-4 righty had a 5.63 ERA and 1.50 WHIP with eight strikeouts and four walks this season. I see him repeating the level next year, especially to slowly ramp up his innings in pro ball.
Corey Gorman, 23, along with Chris Rowley, was a real workhorse for the GCL Blue Jays coming out of the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. Gorman ranked second on the team in innings pitched (37 2/3) and was very effective, pitching to a 1.91 ERA and 1.25 ERA. His strikeout rates weren’t particularly impressive (24) but he did limit the walks (13). He’s probably an org guy and I could see him in Vancouver next season particularly considering that he’s already 23 years old. Gorman pitched a bit in the playoffs for Bluefield to end the season.
West Point grad Chris Rowley, 23, our Pitcher of the Year, walked three batters in 32 2/3 innings pitched. He racked up the strikeouts too, fanning 39 to give him a 13/1 K/BB ratio. His pinpoint control allowed him to come out of the season with a 0.67 WHIP and 1.10 ERA. Unfortunately (for the Blue Jays), the righty has at least two years of commitments to the Army to fulfill and coming back to pro ball at age 25 is not an exciting prospect.
Undrafted free agent Cale Wine, 23, pitched 27 innings for the GCL club and walked only two batters to go along with 15 strikeouts. His stuff must have been all that deceptive as the 23 year old surrendered 40 hits with it all adding up to a 5.00 ERA and 1.56 WHIP. I’m not sure what the Jays will do with him next year (if he’s even still around).
Kamakani Usui, 23, is another undrafted free agent that really blended into the background for the Blue Jays. He posted solid numbers — 3.86 ERA, 1.24 WHIP with 3 walks and 15 strikeouts in 21 innings — but he was one of the oldest on the team. I could see him in Vancouver next year as a bullpen arm.
Five pitchers made their US (and GCL) debuts this year out of the Jays’ team in the Dominican Summer League. Francisco Diaz, 20 (32 2/3 IP, 4.41 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 20 BB, 27 K) and 21 year old Jimmy Cordero (25 1/3 IP, 5.68 ERA, 1.86 WHIP, 17 BB, 30 K) had similar lines to Oscar Cabrera, struggling with control but showing very good stuff to rack up some strikeouts. Cordero, being older, finished the season with a call up to Bluefield and generally performed better as the season wore on.
Alejandro Solarte, 18 (24 1/3 IP, 2.96 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 5 BB, 15 K) and Jose Fernandez, 20 (20 IP, 2.70 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 3 BB, 13 K) are both lefties who didn’t flash fantastic stuff but had far better control that Cordero or Cabrera.
Finally, Miguel Castro, 18, made his North American debut towards the end of the season with a big splash. He dominated in the Dominican and carried that over in 15 GCL innings (and two in Bluefield). He was known for his control and his overpowering stuff and had a 2.40 ERA, 0.87 WHIP with two walks and 14 strikeouts in 15 innings. Castro will most likely be an Alberto Tirado-like name coming into 2014 and will probably start in Bluefield.
Gulf Coast League Blue Jays 2013 Report: Part 3, Hitters
Like the pitchers, I’ll divide up the hitters into four categories: those repeating at the level, 2013 draftees, 2013 undrafted free agents and guys from the Dominican Summer League team.
Repeating the Level: Will Dupont, Gabriel Cenas, Anthony Alford, Nathan DeSouza, Josh Almonte, Daniel Devonshire, Trey Pascazi
2013 draftees: Rowdy Tellez, Dan Jansen, Sean Hurley, Andrew Florides
2013 undrafted free agents: Boomer Collins, Koby Kraemer
Dominican Summer Leagers: Richard Urena, Franklin Barreto, Andres Sotillo, Michael De La Cruz, Andres De Aza, Rolando Segovia, Edwin Fuentes, Rolando Segovia
The names of the position players repeating the level for the GCL Blue Jays probably don’t ring much of a bell. Of that group, only Josh Almonte and Gabriel Cenas had more than 90 at bats and Anthony Alford left early due to his football commitments at Ole Miss. DeSouza, Almonte and Devonshire all hit below .200 and Trey Pascazi didn’t even break the .100 level (.083 batting average). DeSouza, 19, had the best OPS of the sub-.200 hitters with a .603, showing some power from the Milton, Ont. resident.
Anthony Alford, 19, showed some improvement from last season despite getting only 30 plate appearnaces. He walked in six of them (and struck out only six times) and flashed some of the tools that make scouts want him to commit to baseball full-time.
Will Dupont, 19, had decent numbers (.262/.338/.311) in 68 plate appearance and played a solid second base.
Josh Almonte, 19, from Long Island, N.Y., played a lot (48 games) and showed some marginal improvement from last season but still hit .167/.229/.229.
Finally, Gabriel Cenas, 19, the Blue Jays from Away Most Improved Player for the club had the third highest OPS on the team (of players with 50 plate appearances or more), hitting a very solid .259/.348/.417 with 14 extra-base hits (3 HRs) mostly as a first baseman (although he played a bit at 3B and catcher).
Of this group, I can see Cenas easily graduating to Bluefield but I could also see one or two of the other guys moving up but mostly to play as backups. I’m not sure what the Jays will do with Alford. Keeping him in Dunedin would be most preferable in order to keep a close eye on him but I’m not sure if GCL roster rules will allow that.
The highest pick to play in the GCL was catcher Dan Jansen, 18 (16th round), who was getting some good reviews and hit .246/.364/.281 showing a great eye at the plate, walking 21 times and striking out only 10 in 140 plate appearances. I’d look to see him possibly repeat the level although a jump to Bluefield wouldn’t be out of the question.
Outfielder Sean Hurley, 21, (24th round) got quite a bit of playing time but, for his age, didn’t do as well as some might have hoped, hitting .216/.335/.338. He did show some pop with seven doubles, two triples and a pair of home runs and also showed patience with 23 walks. The 42 strikeouts in 165 plate appearances could indicate bigger problems. I’m not sure where he’ll go next year but a repeat in the GCL wouldn’t surprise me but neither would a jump to either Bluefield or Vancouver.
Shortstop Andrew Florides (27th round) is a high schooler from New York who was strictly a backup, getting to the plate only 37 times and was used mostly as a substitute late in games, hitting .152/.243/.152. Notably, he only hit singles. He’ll be back in the GCL next year, probably backing up Richard Urena (see below).
Rowdy Tellez, 18, was the biggest name of this group despite being drafted late. Known for his prodigious power, Tellez fell in the draft due to signability issues after making a strong commitment to USC. The Jays picked up the 6-foot-4 30th rounder and paid him $850,000 to forgo his college commitment and play in the pros. He started slowly but really came on towards the end of the year (earning a brief callup to Bluefield in the process) and finished the season with a .234/.319/.371 in 141 plate appearances. Tellez posted a very respectable 15/26 walk to strikeout ratio and began to really show the extra-base power that the Blue Jays (and the rest of the baseball world) saw in him. In his final seven games, he hit two of his five doubles, two of his three triples and both of his home runs. Expect him to return to Bluefield for another year of Rookie ball.
Boomer Collins, or “Thomas Collins III” as he’s listed on MiLB.com was probably the team leader in more ways than one. One of the oldest players on the team, the college free agent turned 24 just before the season and deservedly was an every day player for the club. He faded down the stretch but finished with a very strong line of .305/.391/.439 in 215 plate appearances. He had 57 hits (team lead), 13 doubles (second on the team), with three triples and two home runs. He also had six stolen bases without being caught. Collins will almost certainly jump to Vancouver next year.
Koby Kraemer, 23, a free agent infielder took a fair number of walks (10) and didn’t strike out a whole lot (17 times) in his 117 plate appearances. He also played solid defense but those are really all the positives that can be gleaned from his stat line, as he hit .190/.274/.229. I’d see him in Vancouver or Bluefield mainly because of his age.
Franklin Barreto was the real offensive star of the team until Tellez really emerged in the last week of the season (by which time, Barreto was in Bluefield). Making his pro debut at the age of 17, the international free agent was clearly the offensive engine of the club, leading the team in doubles (16), triples (six), home runs (four) and stolen bases (10) in 194 plate appearances with a .299/.368/.529 slash line. The biggest knock on the youngster is his defense. I had been told on a couple of occasions that any ball hit to shortstop with him on the diamond became a “hold-your-breath” moment in which spectators almost expected him to boot the play. Expect him to start in Bluefield next year (where he finished this year). I also wouldn’t be entirely surprised to see him playing center field.
Catcher Andres Sotillo, 19, made the jump over to the GCL (from the DSL) quite successfully despite splitting time with Jansen behind the plate. He showed very good contact ability, hitting .302 in 71 plate appearances but struck out 15 times and only hit three extra-base hits (all doubles). He went up to the Bluefield when Garrett Custons went into the Air Force and only hit .200 in 30 plate appearances there. Sotillo will most likely be backing up in Bluefield in 2014.
Michael De La Cruz, 20, earned the flight from the Dominican over to Florida after a strong DSL season and after Sotillo’s promotion to Bluefield. He was very solid in the Dominican with more walks than strikeouts and some extra-base pop but he only had four hits in 34 plate appearances in Dunedin. He threw out 50% of base runners in the Dominican but that number dropped to 7% on American soil. I’d see him back in the GCL next year.
I would probably pick either outfielder Andres De Aza, 18, or infielder Edwin Fuentes as my dark horse for the GCL team. De Aza came over from the DSL this year with solid (if unimpressive) numbers .235/.292/.336 in 130 plate appearances and showed some extra-base power with six doubles and two home runs. His strikeout to walk ratio is pretty bad however at nine walks to 39 strikeouts. I could see De Aza having a Gabriel Cenas like improvement next season.
Edwin Fuentes, 19, a Colombian played mostly at third with some very solid results and some see potential there despite a .206/.290/.236 slash line over 188 plate appearances. I could see Fuentes going to Bluefield, particularly because there are going to be several vacancies on the infield there next year.
Rolando Segovia, 18, was just an occasional starter after a good season in the Dominican Republic last year. He only had 73 plate appearances and hit .219/.315/.313. He’ll most likely be back in the GCL.
Richard Urena, 17, kind of snuck into Florida through the back door this season, coming in when Dawel Lugo moved up to Vancouver and Barreto went to Bluefield. The Dominican made a solid debut in his 31 plate appearances in the GCL, hitting .333 with a .400 OBP. He had a pair of doubles among his nine hits and the youngster will most likely return to the GCL for a full season in 2014. Word has it that of the three young Latin shortstops, Urena is the best defensively but he hasn’t shown tremendous power yet despite what appears to be very good plate discipline.
That wraps it up for the GCL Blue Jays.
Come back soon for part 1 of our wrap up of the Bluefield Blue Jays’ season.