Thanks to a dazzling start by Taylor Cole, the Lugnuts got into the win column last night with a win over Lake County. It’s another great day in the minors today, as Buffalo goes on the road for the first time this year, while top draft picks get the ball in New Hampshire and Dunedin. Here’s the Blue Jays minor league schedule for Saturday, April 6:
Triple-A: Buffalo (2-0) @ Rochester (0-2) at 1:05 p.m. ET
Probable starter: Claudio Vargas
One of the few remaining active players with ties to the Montreal Expos, Claudio Vargas made his major league debut with the former National League club in 2003. Since then, he’s bounced around the league with stops in Arizona, Milwaukee, New York and Los Angeles. After returning to the Brewers organization last season, Vargas made 20 starts for their Triple-A affiliate in Nashville before making a brief appearance in the Mexican League, finishing 7-2 with a 3.74 ERA on the year overall.
Double-A: New Hampshire (1-1) vs. Reading (1-1) at 1:35 p.m. ET
Probable Starter: Deck McGuire
After a promising start to his professional career, things didn’t exactly go according to plan for McGuire, the Blue Jays’ first round pick in 2010. After producing good results in 18 starts for Dunedin in 2011, McGuire was promoted to New Hampshire mid-season and performed well in 20 2/3 innings there. Returning to New Hampshire last year, though, McGuire finished 5-15 with a 5.88 ERA in 28 starts, including a drop in strikeout rate and a 1.556 WHIP. The reason? Command. Fisher Cats pitching coach Tom Signore said to me last year that McGuire’s stuff was certainly still there, but that his command was way off throughout the year. With a new year, it will be interesting to see if McGuire can take that next step in 2013.
High-A: Dunedin (2-0) vs. Clearwater (0-2) at 6:30 p.m. ET
Probable Starter: Aaron Sanchez
The pitching jewel of Toronto’s farm system, Sanchez made himself known to the mainstream crowd this past season pitching alongside the other two members of Lansing’s famed pitching trio, Noah Syndergaard and Justin Nicolino. With his two friends traded away, all eyes are on Sanchez in 2013, and with good reason. The 20-year-old can dial up a plus fastball to high 90s and can touch 100 mph, while his free and easy curveball brings new meaning to the term. After learning the importance of a changeup under Lugnuts pitching coach Vince Horsman last season, Sanchez is more well rounded heading into 2013 and can focus on commanding his pitches even more. Unsurprisingly, I’ve been high on Sanchez since draft day and named him as the prospect to watch at Dunedin in the Toronto Star minor league primer.
Low-A: Lansing (1-1) @ Lake County (1-1) at 1:00 p.m. ET
Probable Starter: Alonzo Gonzalez
Drafted by the Blue Jays in the 18th round last year, Gonzalez signed quickly enough to make 10 appearances (seven starts) in the Gulf Coast League. Rookie ball stats should always be taken with a grain of salt, but Gonzalez’s 5.15 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 36 2/3 innings didn’t exactly suggest he’d be a candidate for a promotion to Bluefield. That’s exactly what happened to Gonzalez, though, as he got called up to Bluefield late in the season and scattered only three hits in 12 shutout innings in two starts there. I like Gonzalez and was able to see him pitch in both the GCL and in Bluefield, and will have more in our Lugnuts season primer coming next week.