A Look to the Future

As promised, the next few posts will focus on the Jays farm system, to at least provide another level of analysis in the state of the franchise. Friend of the blog, "Dewey Finn" was kind enough to answer some questions in regards to the Jays system.

For those unaware of Dewey, silly pseudonym aside, he is one of the better minor league analysts I have come across. Controversial and popular with his opinions he puts on John Sickels' site, his insights unquestionably generate more discussion than any other contributer, arguably including John Sickels himself.

On to the questions:

Q1: What are your thoughts about Travis Snider. Is he as can't miss as they come? We've seen similarly hyped, similar body type guys in the past (including King Billy Royal himself, Billy Butler) come up and not produce as many expected. What are the odds that Snider can live up to the projected 30+ homerun .300 hitting masher he is projected to be?

Dewey Finn: The power is for real, no doubt. 30-35 HR seasons are in his future with that excellent loft in his beautiful swing. It is a very powerful stroke that launches baseballs. However, I personally do not see him as a .300+ hitter. A consistent .280+ average is more likely in my opinion. The strikeouts are a big concern along with his inability to play defense. He's very young though, so I do believe he can improve upon his Ks with more experience and ABs. It would be a shame if the Jays have to move him to DH permanently at such a young age. Hopefully he gets a long look at 1B or LF with the chance to improve, and Adam Lind playing in the remaining position. Bottom line though, Travis Snider will be a major run producer in the middle of the Blue Jays lineup for a long time.

Q2: Much was made of the Jays minor league stockpiling of talent in the 2007 draft, but two of the top Jay picks, Kevin Ahrens and Justin Jackson have really struggled thus far in the low minors. What are your thoughts about the futures of these two players?

Dewey Finn: I'm very disappointed in these two guys. When they were drafted, I read some promising scouting and draft reports on them and was very excited as a Jays fan. Justin Jackson supposedly oozed tools, and Kevin Ahrens had the potential to be a power-hitting switch-hitter. I even read some loose comparisons to Chipper Jones. The optimist in me says that they are still VERY young and are in a tough hitters league (FSL) for the second consecutive year (2008 in MWL - also extremely tough on hitters). Unfortunately, their numbers are downright awful, and its difficult to be hopeful of a 'breakout' anytime soon. It seems they have taken a big step back against more advanced pitching. I definitely think they should repeat the level next year (High A). If there is no improvement, not even the slightest, then I do not believe they should be considered in the long-term plans for the big club.

Q3: I was a big fan of Kyle Drabek when he was drafted by the Phils, but after years of shittiness, and then Tommy John, it seemed that his stock was at an all time low last year. All of a sudden, with good winterball numbers, and a big year this year, the Phillies regard him as an untouchable resource. Is this just a classic case of a team overrating a player? And was it stupid of the team not to sell the player at an all time high stock price?

Dewey Finn: I would say its a little bit of both. Drabek has sky rocketed up prospect rankings the past few months. He possesses an excellent fastball and hammer curve combo that he has used to carve up hitters all year. However, as with any pitching prospect, they carry alot of risk, especially ones with an injury history as Drabek (TJ surgery). I think the problem is that teams are worried about giving up the 'next big thing' when trading. Many refer to the Bartolo Colon trade that sent Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, and Grady Sizemore to Cleveland from Montreal. More recently, the Erik Bedard trade in which the Mariners got fleeced for Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, George Sherill. In my opinion, Drabek should not have been a roadblock for the Phillies to acquire one of the best pitchers in the game in Roy Halladay. Even manager Charlie Manuel publically mentioned his preference for the 'horse' in reference to Halladay. However, Rudy pulled off a great deal in getting Cliff Lee for a significantly cheaper price. Lucky for him, he didn't have to face the wrath of Philly fans.

Q4: Is Bryce Harper the Lebron James of draft prospects? Is he higher regarded that Stephen Strasburg was at this time last year?

Dewey Finn: Fuck Bryce Harper. Yeah, that's right, I said it. Do people realize how young he is and how little he has proven? The hype machine is operating in full force and I am sick of it. Is he the Lebron James of draft prospects? Well with Sports Illustrated covers and featured articles on ESPN, Yahoo!, he is the LeBron James based on hoopla alone. With that in mind, I do believe he is more highly regarded than Stephen Strasburg was at this time last year. Is it justified? Absolutely not.

Q5: After Travis Snider, who is the Jays best prospect?

Dewey Finn: With Marc Rzepczynski now in the majors, I am gonna go with a personal favorite of mine, and that is 2B Brad Emaus. He is relatively unknown and very underrated. However, he plays solid defense at 2B and has an excellent approach at the plate. Heading into the season, Baseball America dubbed him as having the best strikezone discipline in the Jays minor league system. I believe there is also some untapped power potential in his bat that should eventually produce 15+ HRs. He is probably about 2 years away from being a real factor with the big club, but when he's ready, I think the Jays should put him at 2B and move Aaron Hill to his natural position of shortstop.

Q6: I think the Jays will trade Halladay to the Dodgers this offseason, and I don't think the package will include Billingsley or Kershaw. What kind of package would be acceptable for the Jays to move Halladay to LA?

Dewey Finn:
If I were the Dodgers, I wouldn't trade Billingsley or Kershaw for Halladay either. However, even without Billingsley and Kershaw being involved in trade discussions, I still do think the Jays can receive an acceptable package in exchange for Halladay. Assuming we can only get prospects, I would be pleased with a return of Dee Gordon, Ethan Martin, Josh Lindblom, and Andrew Lambo. Although these names do not carry the same sex appeal as the prospects that JP wanted from Philadelphia, these are definitely valuable commodities. Dee Gordon, son of Tom Gordon, is an exciting young SS with tremendous speed. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus made a loose comparison of Jimmy Rollins as his upside. Ethan Martin is a hard throwing right-hander who is still far away, but with a huge potential and a possible front-line starter. Josh Lindblom was a reliever in college, but the Dodgers transitioned him to starting and the results have been good. He does not profile to be an ace, but he is close to being major league ready, and could become a #2 or #3 type starter with 3 solid pitches and excellent command. Andrew Lambo is perhaps the most popular name in the package who has somewhat struggled in AA this year. Heading into the season, Baseball America listed him as the best prospect in the Dodgers system. He reminds me a lot of Adam Lind.

Q7: How do you rate Ricciardi's drafting history with the Jays?

Dewey Finn: I think JP has undeservedly received a lot of heat over the years for his drafting from the media, message boards, and bloggers. Simply put, prospects are hit and miss. Over the last 7 or 8 drafts that JP has been responsible for, I'm sure he has made some selections that he regrets. This is a common denominator for all general managers though, especially the Pirates. However, under JP, the Jays have developed some quality major leaguers, some of which who have the potential to be all-stars. These players include Adam Lind, Aaron Hill, Travis Snider, Ricky Romero, Shaun Marcum, Marc Rzepczynski, Brett Cecil, Jesse Litsch. There are some others on their way up through the system such as Brad Emaus, David Cooper, and JP Arencibia, all of which should have futures with the big club. Overall, I think JP Ricciardi has done alright.


Go Jays Go! said...

Jeff Blair loves Justin Jackson for what it's worth.

rakeback said...

The hype around Bryce Harper is amazing. From most accounts, he is considered to be the most complete high school baseball player since Josh Hamilton. I cant wait to see how this story ends.