Posted by: Peter Houston | December 3, 2009

State of the farm

Baseball America ranks the prospects of every organization twice a year in its Prospects Handbook, once in the spring and once in December. In anticipation of the release, John Manuel of Baseball America gives some of his personal insight on the quality of the 30 MLB farm systems.

How did the Jays fare? 28th best! (read: 3rd worse). The best part is, we would have been dead last (30th best!) had it not been for the Scott Rolen trade.

How are we supposed to be “building” when we don’t have any prospects to “build” with?

Honestly, it’s not much of a secret that the Jays don’t have great prospects. The main problem is that some of the top guys, like C J. P. Arencibia, SS Justin Jackson and 3B Kevin Ahrens, seemed to regress last season. The Jays also failed to sign 3 of their top 4 picks last year.

It’s also not a great sign when you minor league teams combine for a 312-379 record. Batter’s Box takes a nice look at the 2009 season for the Jays’ minor league teams. They conclude that the biggest issue is the lack of development of our hitters drafted out of high school.

“The old saying is that one third of your prospects will improve, one third stagnate and one third decline.  2009 feels like a year where 50% declined, almost all the high school kids, Brad Emaus, JP Arencibia, Brian Jeroloman and Scott Campbell declined in 2009.  Or to put it another way in a gross generization, the pitchers moved up and the hitters moved down the prospect rankings.”

On the bright side, there have been some “surprise” players. 1B Brian Dopirak is a good example. He is a former 2nd round draft pick of the Chicago Cubs and was once upon a time their minor league player of the year after a exceptional .307/.363/.593, 39 HR, 120 RBI season in 2004 at the age of 20. Then things went downhill. The next year, in only 47 less at-bats, he hit .235/.289/.381 with 16 HR and 76 RBI. He never fully regained his 2004 form and was eventually released by the Cubs in March of 2008. So the Jays picked him up and the change of scenery appears to have helped. In Dunedin, he hit .308/.382/.577 with 27 HR and 88 RBI. Last year, he was promoted to AA then AAA and continued to make mince meat of minor league pitching with a .317/.371/.549, 27 HR, 102 RBI season. He was added to the 40 man roster and looks like he could be ready for the majors in the near future. Are the Jays trying to make room for him by shopping their current first baseman Lyle Overbay?

There are also a few arms in the system to provide some hope. Reidier Gonzalez moved up to AA last year after posting a 3.14 ERA in 137.2 innings in Dunedin in 2008. In New Hampshire, he only worked 93 innings but had a 2.90 ERA. Not bad.

Henderson Alvarez is “arguably” our best prospect according to AA. He’s got serious potential. The 19-year-old Venezuelan threw 124.1 innings in A ball last year with a 3.47 ERA and 5 to 1 K to BB ratio.

Zach Stewart, one of the guys the Jays got in the Rolen deal, had a very nice 2009 campaign as well. In three levels, for two different teams (Cincinnati and Toronto), he threw 105 innings and posted a 1.89 ERA.

All in all, the Jays definitely need to add some talent, but the cupboard isn’t completely bare.

I hope.

PH

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