By: Jay Blue
Blue Jays From Away
When you read and hear and see so much about the Blue Jays’ minor league players as I do, it’s hard to get blown away when you see players in spring training. Usually, they’re working on a pitch or an approach and aren’t always at their best. Sometimes you come away with a big impression which doesn’t translate into what they do during games once the lights come on and the season starts.
Regardless of what happens in the minor league regular season, here are six big impressions I took away from my trip to spring training last month. If you want to read more about the players, including seeing the scouting reports I’ve been compiling over the past few years, be sure to subscribe to our Premium Content section!
I only saw a couple of innings of Maese’s work this spring but he was in fine form pitching in an intrasquad game. His velocity was up over the last time I had seen him and he was now touching 95 mph with a heavy, sinking fastball. He was also throwing a hard slider that had very sharp break to it and none of the hitters facing him could get the ball in the air. It just wasn’t fair. I see Maese having a strong start and he might not be in Lansing too long.
Lourdes Gurriel, Jr.
Gurriel was coming back from a thumb injury and so I didn’t see him play much. But he always had a smile on his face and looked like he was loving what he was doing. And when I did see him get into games, he was just mashing the ball and making it look easy. He’s got legit power. Let’s see if he can develop the type of plate discipline that will allow his talent to thrive at the major league level.
You’re probably asking, “Who’s that?” Don’t feel bad. No one is really aware of Nunez, who missed all of last year with a knee injury and hasn’t pitched above the GCL. But when the 21-year-old righty is lighting up the radar gun by sitting consistently at 95-96 mph and touching 97, in spring training (when pitchers usually aren’t throwing all out), you take notice. Look out for Juan Nunez, folks.
It’s kind of cheating to write about someone who’s pretty much a household name already but the fact is that Rowdy’s power to all fields is really impressive, particularly the way he doesn’t really chase a lot of bad pitches nor does he try to do too much. I saw at least one monstrous BP home run from Tellez but the most impressive thing he did was fly out to left-center field. But the only reason he was out was because the Pirates’ minor league leapt over the wall to catch the ball over the fence and bring it back in. Rowdy was robbed!
Another pitcher who was lighting up the radar gun, lefty Jose Fernandez got a New Hampshire assignment to start the year but this lefty could rival Tim Mayza for the “up-and-coming-lefty” tag this year. Fernandez showed three pitches in the outing that I saw while showing an ability to spot the fastball pretty well. It was a fastball that sat in the 94-95 mph range and hit 96 and 97 in the inning I saw him throw.
The most impressive thing I saw from Chris Rowley was his pitching. To prove that “impressive” doesn’t always mean big numbers on a radar gun, I include Rowley here because he was extremely effective in keeping the opposition club off balance by pitching quickly and decisively while mixing his slider and changeup in with his 88-90 mph fastball.