By Jay Blue
Blue Jays From Away
The Arizona Fall League is an annual tradition whereby teams send some of their higher-level prospects in order to gain a little more experience against some top talent. The teams are able to take advantage of the AFL to get another look at some of their players, especially those whom they are thinking about protecting on the 40-man roster from the Rule 5 Draft. The other category of player is those who were injured for part of the year whom the Jays want to get some extra playing time for.
The Blue Jays will send eight players to join the Peoria Javelinas this year. They've listed four pitchers and four position players from the Blue Jays on their roster.
Saint John, N.B., native Andrew Case, 24, is a reliever who has really come a long way (stay tuned for our interview with him, coming soon!), settling in in double-A New Hampshire after starting the year in Dunedin. He's also made four appearances with Buffalo, giving him some high level experience. Signed as a free agent after the T-12 Tournament in Toronto, the New Brunswick native will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft this year and it's possible the Jays are giving him a chance to earn a spot. Another likelihood is that this is a reward for Case really coming on this year, having a 2.92 ERA and 1.10 WHIP combined at three levels.
Jackson McClelland, 23, was drafted in 2015 by the Blue Jays in the 15th round and won't be eligible for the Rule 5 draft for another year. He has, however, turned his career around after a decent season in 2016 with Vancouver. Reports from Jesse Goldberg-Strassler are that he had gotten himself into better shape prior to the 2017 season and his velocity rose into the mid-90s. McClelland has been given closing duties in both Lansing and Dunedin and has a miniscule 1.39 ERA, 1.10 WHIP along with 41 strikeouts in 51 2/3 innings.
Danny Young, 23, has also shown himself equal to pitching at higher levels of ball this year. The lefty was an eighth-round pick of the Blue Jays in the 2015 draft out of the University of Florida and has a 2.83 ERA and 1.21 WHIP combined between Dunedin and New Hampshire, striking out 49 in 60 1/3 innings. While his numbers aren't as impressive at double-A as they were in Advanced-A, Young is projecting to be a decent lefty who's been throwing multiple innings per outing on occasion.
The final pitcher whom the Blue Jays are sending to the AFL is T.J. Zeuch. Last year's first-round pick in the draft, Zeuch's season has been plagued by injuries. The 22-year-old has only pitched in 11 games with Dunedin, posting a 3.62 ERA and 1.39 WHIP over 54 2/3 innings with 43 strikeouts. While the stats aren't eye popping, Zeuch has the stuff to succeed. He'll be getting some extra reps in the AFL and we'd expect him to get another three starts.
Catcher Javier Hernandez is likely in neither category of player who is typically sent to the AFL. Hernandez, 21, will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft but is unlikely to be selected as a backup catcher who hasn't hit particularly well at any level. Hernandez is likely going as a backup and will probably play only a couple of times per week.
Max Pentecost, on the other hand, is going to make up for some lost time. A first-round draft pick in 2014, Pentecost is eligible for the Rule 5 draft this year and, he's spent a big chunk of the year injured. When healthy, he's hit well, putting up a .276/.332/.434 slash line with 14 doubles, two triples and nine home runs in 71 games with Dunedin. While it's highly unlikely that a team will select Pentecost in the Rule 5 draft, given that he has been so injury prone and hasn't played above Advanced-A, the 24-year-old catcher is definitely going to benefit from some extra playing time this year in the AFL.
Lourdes Gurriel is probably the biggest name on this list. The Cuban emigre is already on the Jays' 40-man roster, so that's not really a concern. What is a concern, however, is that he has missed a lot of time at the beginning of the year due to an injury and will benefit from some more playing time. In 60 games at Advanced-A and double-A, Gurriel has hit .233/.268/.338 with four home runs and 11 doubles. Gurriel is a big question mark for Jays fans. In the time that I've seen him, I don't think he's major-league ready yet and will likely have specific things to work on in Arizona.
The final player who is heading to Arizona is Jonathan Davis. The 25-year-old outfielder is getting some attention since he was able to put together a season that was uninterrupted by injury last year with Dunedin. This year, he has put up some similar numbers, albeit with less power, playing in double-A, hitting .249/.359/.383 with 20 doubles, four triples, 10 home runs and 19 stolen bases. Davis is an outfielder who might be considered for the 40-man roster but would be unlikely to be selected in the Rule 5 draft. Still, it's good to see Davis getting some attention after five seasons in the pros.
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The 2017 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook is now available! Check out the Handbook page for more information!