Had a chance to ask a a couple questions to Jared McDonald, editor of JaysJournal, a site that covers the Toronto Blue Jays and their prospects, just before the start of tonight’s game. Enjoy learning a little bit about the Blue Jays.
1. Brandon Morrow has always been a pitcher with dominating stuff but who has never been able to put the type of consistency together to be as good as he has the potential to be. After his outstanding start in 2012, has he finally turned the corner?
I remember saying prior to the 2011 season that that year was going to be the one Morrow puts it all together, but the addition of a cutter and some mental changes near the tail end of last season set him up for his success this year. Obviously his two shutouts this season have been eye-opening, but he’s pitching as a hybrid between his former self, a power pitcher that racks up strikeouts, and a new type of pitcher, one that now welcomes more contact/ground balls and paces himself better to go deeper into ball games. Morrow’s success has been refreshing, but it’s also, without a doubt, crucial to the Jays making an impact in the AL East either this season or next.
2. Especially when he’s being juxtaposed against Jays starters like Morrow and Ricky Romero, how frustrating is it to watch a guy like Henderson Alvarez who forces groundball after groundball but doesn’t miss any bats? He’s done well in terms of ERA thus far in 2012 but you have to hate his peripherals. Do you think he’ll ever be able to turn that around? (He’s like a Jeremy Hellickson-esque case, but Hellickson strikes out more than double as many guys and forces a crazy amount of pop-ups instead of Alvarez’s outstanding groundball rate.)
Alvarez is definitely an interesting case, considering his inability to miss bats in the minors spurned doubt that he’d ever have a successful career in the Majors. Now he’s arrived in the big leagues and is missing even fewer bats. When he’s on, like his complete-game shutout against the Angels in Anaheim, his command of the strike zone can compensate somewhat for the lack of punchouts, but like in his last few starts when he’s left the ball up and hasn’t mixed up his pitches, he’s been getting hit. He’s working on an out pitch, but he’s going to have to figure things out very soon given the surplus of arms coming up behind him.
3. How excited are you about the Jays’ minor league system which stacks up as one of the best in baseball? Which prospects are you most excited about? We’ve heard about the Jays wanting to emulate the Rays to some extent for a while, but with guys like Daniel Norris, Aaron Sanchez, Justin Nicolino, and Noah Syndergaard moving up the ranks in addition to the young core of pitchers the Jays currently have in the big leagues do you think the Jays have a chance to create a level of pitching depth anywhere near as deep as the Rays’?
Prospects are really my thing, so I’m quite excited about the Blue Jays’ minor league system. General manager Alex Anthopoulos’ expansion of his scouting department has been a key reason why the Jays’ farm system has gone from one of the worst in baseball (28th) to one of the best, and adopting a different draft strategy — drafting more high school players and taking more risks to find those high-ceiling players — from previous GM J.P. Ricciardi has been another big plus.
The four pitchers you mentioned in Norris, Sanchez, Nicolino and Syndergaard are definite gems in the system, and I think Sanchez is the best pitching prospect in the Jays’ system right now, which says a lot. I watched both him and Nicolino pitch two weeks ago, and his stuff was just incredible — consistently mid-90s fastball with late movement, a changeup that projects to be a plus pitch, and a plus-plus, absolutely effortless curveball that’s the best in the Jays’ system.
I was a catcher when I was younger, so I have a tendency to follow catching prospects more closely than any other position (exlcuding pitchers), since I love everything about the position. Luckily the Jays are quite loaded in catching prospects, and not just because of top prospect Travis d’Arnaud. Other guys like A.J. Jimenez, Carlos Perez and Santiago Nessy all come to mind. Other position players I’m keeping tabs on are obviously more well-known guys like center fielders Anthony Gose and Jake Marisnick, but lesser-known guys as well like Matt Dean, Michael Crouse and Andy Burns.As far as other pitching prospects, Adonys Cardona, Tom Robson, Sean Nolin and David Rollins are some intriguing names.
The Q&A had to be a little brief this time, but we’d like to thank Jared for his answers. I also answered some question for Jared and JaysJournal about the Rays here.