JaysProspects http://jaysprospects.com A Blog of Toronto Blue Jays Prospects Interviews, Evaluations and News Tue, 21 Oct 2014 19:17:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Jeremy Gabryszwski Reliable All Seasonhttp://jaysprospects.com/2014/10/21/jeremy-gabryszwski-lansing/ http://jaysprospects.com/2014/10/21/jeremy-gabryszwski-lansing/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 19:13:08 +0000 http://jaysprospects.com/?p=9827 Every pitching staff has an ace – a top starter who is called upon to log the most innings and earn a win when the team needs it most. The 2014 Lansing Lugnuts had this role filled by right-hander Jeremy Gabryszwski who provided excellent pitching when his team needed him most. Leading Lansing in most [...]

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Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford is currently in his third season of covering the Lansing Lugnuts for JaysProspects.com. Feel free to connect with Brian on Twitter @CrawDaddy222.

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Jamey Gabryszwski

Jamey Gabryszwski spelled success in his time with the Lansing Lugnuts (Scott Mapes/milb.com)

Every pitching staff has an ace – a top starter who is called upon to log the most innings and earn a win when the team needs it most. The 2014 Lansing Lugnuts had this role filled by right-hander Jeremy Gabryszwski who provided excellent pitching when his team needed him most.

Leading Lansing in most statistical categories, Gabryszwski led the Lugnuts in inning pitched (141 1/3), wins for a rotation member (6) and strikeouts for a pitcher who played in the same organization the entire season (91).

The right hander showed excellent command all season walking only 21 batters. The low walk total and increased workload gave the Texas native an excellent 1.3 BB/9 ratio. Gabryszwski also maintained a fantastic 1.394 WHIP.

The only area of concern raised about Gabryszwski is that his k/9 ratio is lower than some scouts would like at 5.8 and his H/9 ratio was at 11.2 in the Midwest League. Lansing Lugnuts pitching coach Vince Horsman wasn’t fazed by these numbers, as he describes what kind of pitcher Gabryszwski is and what he liked about working with the 21-year old.

“Jeremy Gabryszwski has really figured out what kind of pitcher he is this past year,” stated Horsman. “The best part about Gabryszwski is he knows he wants to be a groundball guy that pitches to contact. A lot of young pitchers have trouble understanding when to throw hard, or take a little bit off, but Gabryszwski knows he wants to be a guy who throws 10 pitches and get three outs, instead of a guy who throws 22 pitches an inning and strike out the side. It’s the evolution of a pitcher, knowing what you need to do to be successful and Gabryszwski is figuring it out. He’s done a really nice job.”

Growing up in Crosby, Texas, a town roughly 20 miles from Houston, Gabryszwski attended several Astros games and enjoyed watching Roy Oswalt pitch. The righty is not only a big Oswalt fan, but he feels his pitching is similar to the retired big leaguer.

“Roy Oswalt was my favorite player growing up and I feel we’re similar in a lot of ways,” explained Gabryszwski. “Oswalt and I have similar work ethics. He liked to work fast, throw strikes, and get ground balls. Oswalt also had great command which is something I strive for every outing. I think we’re very similar.”

Originally joining the Toronto Blue Jays organization in the 2nd round (78th overall) of the 2011 MLB draft, Gabryszwski discussed what being drafted meant to him and what stood out about the organization.

“Coming out of high school at 18 years old, it was exciting to go right into pro ball, because you normally think its older guys playing professionally,“ said Gabryszwski. “But I decided to take the opportunity and I’m happy I did. It’s a lot of fun!”

“I really like the way the Blue Jays develop pitchers and handle their business,” he added. “The Blue Jays have a great staff to learn from and they have developed a lot of pitchers that have made it to the big leagues. I hope one day I can be another pitcher that made it from their system.”

Pitching 128 innings combined his first three seasons; Gabryszwski found his season in Lansing the most rewarding to date thanks to the help of pitching coach Vince Horsman.

“I’ve learned so much more about myself and my game from working with Vince than my previous three years in the organization,” explained Gabryszwski. “Vince is very knowledgeable from a big league standpoint and I’ve learned so much from him.”

Earning a promotion to the Dunedin Blue Jays in August, Gabryszwski was able to get a brief taste of the Florida State League and what he can expect for future games at the high-A level. Posting a 1-1 record and a 5.40 ERA in his 10 innings of FSL work saw Gabryszwski fan nine hitters. Although he would have probably preferred better numbers, he’s happy with the experience he gained in his two starts.

“Dunedin was a lot of fun. It was a different atmosphere there,” explained Gabryszwski. “Dunedin had already clinched a playoff spot when I was there, so it was a more relaxed atmosphere. I didn’t notice much of a difference between [Lansing] and here, it’s just baseball. You have to make your pitches no matter where you’re at, but I knew a lot of guys down there like Griffin Murphy, it was fun playing the game with them.”

“There’s not a big talent jump between Lansing and Dunedin,” he added. “Obviously the hitters are a little more disciplined and a little bit stronger because they’re older. Their hand/eye coordination is also a little better.”

The young prospect appreciated all the family support he received throughout his first full season. Having family and friends tuned in and travel to games meant a lot to Gabryszwski.

“My family listens to every game,” explained Gabryszwski. “My immediate family didn’t make it to Lansing, but my grandparents and fiancée did. My parents saw me pitch when I was down in Florida, but they’re always listening to the games. Their support is great.”

Heading back to Crosby for the winter, Gabryszwski enjoys the small town feel of his hometown that’s already produced one major leaguer in J.R. Towles. Hoping to follow in Towles footsteps, Gabryszwski discusses what it means to know another player from his hometown made it to the big leagues.

“It was really cool knowing that my high school produced a major leaguer,” stated Gabryszwski. “When J.R. first made it to the major leagues I was a freshman in high school and he came to our school to do an interview. When you look at our high school field there’s two signs up now that lists J.R.’s and my name, so if either one of us is around town people know us and know we play professional baseball. We gladly talk about the experience. It’s really cool.”

With his 2014 season in the books, Gabryszwski is planning a busy off-season, as he is closing on a house this fall and getting married in November. He feels he’ll be well prepared for 2015.

“In the off-season I follow the Blue Jays workout manual a lot,” stated Gabryszwski. “I work out a lot with my little brother and other players that play professionally; I do a lot of running and basically try to get stronger for spring training.”

Be sure to follow Jeremy Gabryszwski as he continues to log a lot of innings and climb the Blue Jays minor league ladder towards the show in 2015.

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Brian Crawford
Brian Crawford
Brian Crawford is currently in his third season of covering the Lansing Lugnuts for JaysProspects.com. Feel free to connect with Brian on Twitter @CrawDaddy222.

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Jairo Labourt Rebounds in Vancouverhttp://jaysprospects.com/2014/10/06/jairo-labourt-vancouver/ http://jaysprospects.com/2014/10/06/jairo-labourt-vancouver/#comments Mon, 06 Oct 2014 20:16:59 +0000 http://jaysprospects.com/?p=9840 The Vancouver Canadians continued their Northwest League dominance in 2014 by reaching the league championship series for the fourth consecutive season. This edition of the Canadians featured a lot of talented young prospects that were anchored by an excellent rotation headed by staff ace Jairo Labourt. The left-hander led the Canadians in many pitching categories [...]

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Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford is currently in his third season of covering the Lansing Lugnuts for JaysProspects.com. Feel free to connect with Brian on Twitter @CrawDaddy222.

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Jairo Labourt

Jairo Labourt flourished with the Vancouver Canadians. (Tyler Tjomsland/PNG)

The Vancouver Canadians continued their Northwest League dominance in 2014 by reaching the league championship series for the fourth consecutive season. This edition of the Canadians featured a lot of talented young prospects that were anchored by an excellent rotation headed by staff ace Jairo Labourt.

The left-hander led the Canadians in many pitching categories including: Innings pitched (71 1/3), strikeouts (82), and ERA for a rotation member (1.77). Labourt also maintained an excellent 1.18 WHIP and a 10.9 K/9 ratio.

Labourt’s season in the Northwest League was just what he needed after a slow start in Lansing. During the first month of the season in Lansing, the lefty had some command issues walking 20 batters and hitting another four in his 14 innings of work. For Labourt, this was a disappointing setback following his breakout season in Bluefield last year.

The Toronto Blue Jays organization decided to send Labourt back to extended spring training at the end of April. The move paid off, as the coaching staff at their minor league complex in Dunedin, Florida spent the time getting into Labourt’s head, making him mentally stronger for his season in Vancouver.

The extra coaching was a big help for Labourt who features three excellent pitches, including a changeup, slider, and fastball. The Dominican Republic native showed excellent velocity all season continually hitting 95 mph or higher with his fastball.

The young southpaw feels his slow start in Lansing was partly due to the piggybacking system the Lugnuts were using early in the year. Starting the season with seven starters, the Lugnuts needed to team up two groups of younger players to start and relieve some games. Explaining the difficulties he had coming out of the bullpen Labourt describes why his season in Vancouver was more in line with what Blue Jays fans were expecting from a guy who struck out 45 batters in 54 2/3 innings and maintained a 1.92 ERA in 2013.

“With a deep rotation in Lansing, it felt good getting innings early in the year,” stated Labourt. “I found the relieving aspect of the piggybacking system tough because I’ve never been a reliever. I know learning to be a reliever has some benefits, but I found it tough this season.”

“The hardest aspect of the bullpen was getting my throwing in,” he added. “As a starter I do a lot of long toss before a game. I use the long toss exercise to warm up and as a reliever the opportunity to do long toss isn’t there due to limited space available.”

Breaking down the differences between his time in Lansing and Vancouver more, Labourt lowered his H/9 ratio from 9.6 to 5.9 and his BB/9 ratio from 12.9 to 4.7 all the while raising his K/9 ratio from 7.1 to 10.3. It’s safe to say whatever was done to change Labourt’s mindset in extended spring training worked well.

Staying positive on Labourt’s development, Lansing Lugnuts pitching coach Vince Horsman discusses what he liked about the 20-year old lefty.

“Jairo had a slow start in Lansing, but he’ll be fine moving forward. His pitches are really good,” explained Horsman. “In April, Jairo was leaving his pitches up in the zone. He just needed to lower them. He worked on that in extended spring training, as well as Vancouver. It’s great to see him getting better. He’s a good kid and I enjoyed working with him.”

Since joining the Blue Jays organization as an international free agent in 2011. Labourt has spent time with the Blue Jays’ Dominican Summer League, Gulf Coast League, Appalachian League, Midwest League, and Northwest League affiliates. Discussing his career in detail, Labourt was excited for every opportunity he has been presented with so far in his career.

“Signing with Toronto was a very happy moment,” Labourt recalls. “I remember being really happy. My family was happy and I remember smiling a lot at the opportunity to play professional baseball.”

“I felt great in Bluefield. I really threw the ball well there. My 2013 season was very successful and that great year was why I was able to start the season in Lansing,” he added. “I really liked playing in Lansing too. The city is nice and I enjoyed my opportunity there. Being from the Dominican I wasn’t used to the cold, but everything else was great.”

The Blue Jays’ 16th highest ranked prospect will be looking to continue building upon the success he found in this year as he moves forward to full season action. Whether his destination is the low-A Lansing Lugnuts or the high-A Dunedin Blue Jays, expect to see better command and a lot of strikeouts from Jairo Labourt.

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Brian Crawford
Brian Crawford
Brian Crawford is currently in his third season of covering the Lansing Lugnuts for JaysProspects.com. Feel free to connect with Brian on Twitter @CrawDaddy222.

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Jimmy Cordero Working on Commandhttp://jaysprospects.com/2014/09/22/jimmy-cordero-lansing/ http://jaysprospects.com/2014/09/22/jimmy-cordero-lansing/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 21:37:12 +0000 http://jaysprospects.com/?p=9825 Baseball fanatics love the art of pitching. They revel in watching pitchers mix up looks and speeds as pitchers paint the corners of the plate like an artist making the final brushstroke on their masterpiece. One aspect most baseball fans agree on is they crave seeing a devastating fastball, which helps their favorite pitchers get [...]

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Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford is currently in his third season of covering the Lansing Lugnuts for JaysProspects.com. Feel free to connect with Brian on Twitter @CrawDaddy222.

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Jimmy Cordero uses his 100+ MPH fastball to strikeout batters. (Justin Rinaldi/Flickr)

Jimmy Cordero uses his 100+ MPH fastball to strikeout batters. (Justin Rinaldi/Flickr)

Baseball fanatics love the art of pitching. They revel in watching pitchers mix up looks and speeds as pitchers paint the corners of the plate like an artist making the final brushstroke on their masterpiece. One aspect most baseball fans agree on is they crave seeing a devastating fastball, which helps their favorite pitchers get ahead in counts early.

Those fans need to get acquainted with Blue Jays minor leaguer Jimmy Cordero, who has arguably the best fastball in the system and the entire organization as a whole. The right-hander is proud of the fact that he has official readings of 101 miles per hour from 2013.

“My fastball hit 101 mph in 2013. At that point that was the highest I had ever hit,” explained Cordero. “Throwing that hard feels good. I’ve really learned how to command my fastball well and I’m really happy with my velocity.”

The velocity didn’t go down in 2014, as Cordero was consistently hitting 99 and higher as a member of the Lansing Lugnuts. As expected with his velocity, Cordero was tough on Midwest League hitters, striking out 34 batters in his 32 1/3 innings of work.

Like many hard throwers, one area of concern is command. The 22-year-old pitcher walked 21 batters and hit four others. Although one would like to see Cordero lower his walk totals in the upcoming seasons, the free passes didn’t hurt him much in Lansing as he maintained a 3.06 ERA despite a 1.732 WHIP.

Helping with Cordero’s command all season, pitching coach Vince Horsman was satisfied with the progress the young right-hander made from April to September.

“With Jimmy it was a matter of getting him out on the mound and being aggressive,” explained Horsman. “A big thing with Jimmy was the fact that he was leaving his fastball high earlier in the season. It was important for Jimmy to understand the importance of locating his pitches. I told him it was great you can throw hard, but if you’re not hitting your spots, it’s not helping you.”

“You could see the difference in his outings,” Horsman added. “When he went to the mound and followed the advice I gave him his outings were very good. When he didn’t follow my advice, hitters hit him well. Both kinds of outings have helped Jimmy a lot as they both serve as learning lessons.”

Even though most Blue Jays enthusiasts know Cordero for his fastball, he’s proud to say that he has four other pitches in his repertoire that he uses at different points of the game, so he doesn’t become complacent.

“I also use a curveball, changeup, sinker, and cutter,” said Cordero. “I try to use them every outing to mix up my speeds and keep hitters off-balance.”

Obviously, being complacent is the last thing Cordero wants and he’s done a great job moving up the levels since being signed as an international free agent in 2011. Since joining the Blue Jays organization, Cordero has pitched in the Dominican Summer League in 2012, the Gulf Coast League and the Appalachian League in 2013, and then the Midwest League in 2014. Cordero made the biggest jump on the Lansing Lugnuts, as he pitched only one game in Bluefield last season before an excellent spring training help land him in Lansing.

Discussing his professional career in detail, Cordero is excited for every opportunity he has been given and what’s still in store for him in the future.

“Signing with Toronto was a happy moment. It gave me an opportunity to do what I like to do which is play baseball,” Cordero said, smiling. “Getting an opportunity in professional baseball was great, because it presented me with a great opportunity to do something good with my life.”

“Last season I was called up to Bluefield the final week of the year and it was great because I played my first night game. My game in Bluefield was also my first game in front of fans,” said Cordero. “This season I got an opportunity to come to Lansing which was awesome. The town is really pretty. Lansing is the furthest north I have been in my life. Earlier in the year it was cold, but once it warmed up I had a great time with my teammates. The stadium and facilities in Lansing are great. I only heard good things about Lansing before I came here and I’m glad I had the opportunity to live it myself.”

Enjoying everything Lansing had to offer, Cordero was particularly excited to work with pitching coach Vince Horsman, who he found both helpful and informative.

“Working with Horsman was a really good experience,” stated Cordero. “He’s a pitching coach that really knows a lot about the game. He tells us every day to use all of our pitches and I feel my pitches are getting better working with Vince. He’s been really good for my development.”

With the 2014 season in the books, Cordero is focused on his off-season routine which includes a lot of working out and playing the game he loves with Escogido in the Dominican winter league. This season will be Cordero’s first season in winter ball and he’s really looking forward to it.

“In the off-season I continue to work hard. I stay busy with workouts to stay in shape,” stated Cordero. “Playing winter ball was something I was aiming for and I’m very excited to get an opportunity to play professional baseball in my home country.”

It is common for pitchers with powerful arms like Cordero’s to have issues commanding their fastball and often learn control later than other pitchers with different styles. If this young pitcher can continue to improve his command, limiting walks and staying down in the zone, he will find himself advancing through the Blue Jays farm system in short measure.

Be sure to keep your eye on Jimmy Cordero, as he continues to blow hitters away with his devastating fastball for years to come.

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Brian Crawford
Brian Crawford
Brian Crawford is currently in his third season of covering the Lansing Lugnuts for JaysProspects.com. Feel free to connect with Brian on Twitter @CrawDaddy222.

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First Full Season a Success for 3B Mitch Nayhttp://jaysprospects.com/2014/09/11/mitch-nay-blue-jays/ http://jaysprospects.com/2014/09/11/mitch-nay-blue-jays/#comments Thu, 11 Sep 2014 17:33:20 +0000 http://jaysprospects.com/?p=9799 The 2014 season marked the first full season for Toronto Blue Jays third base prospect Mitch Nay. Many young baseball players look forward to the opportunity of playing a full 140-game minor league season, but the opportunity can also be nerve-wracking with the uncertainty surrounding how they will adjust to the increased workload of a [...]

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Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford is currently in his third season of covering the Lansing Lugnuts for JaysProspects.com. Feel free to connect with Brian on Twitter @CrawDaddy222.

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Mitch Nay experienced his first full season of professional baseball. (MLBlogs.com)

Mitch Nay experienced his first full season of professional baseball in 2014. (MLBlogs.com)

The 2014 season marked the first full season for Toronto Blue Jays third base prospect Mitch Nay. Many young baseball players look forward to the opportunity of playing a full 140-game minor league season, but the opportunity can also be nerve-wracking with the uncertainty surrounding how they will adjust to the increased workload of a full season schedule.

Nay understood these mixed emotions clearly. Currently ranked as the 7th best Blue Jays prospect by MLB, the third baseman competed in 120 Midwest League games with the Lansing Lugnuts and 11 Florida State League games with the Dunedin Blue Jays in 2014.

“It was a long year being my first full year,” said Nay. “My season’s had a few ups and downs, but more adjustment than anything, which I expected. My final couple weeks in Lansing I felt a lot more comfortable in the field, as well as at the plate. I figured out what worked for me this season. It took roughly three months to figure out, but once I found it, the confidence went up as well.”

Often, the biggest obstacle players encounter when first playing a full season is fatigue. But for Nay, it wasn’t as much of a concern as he had anticipated.

“My first full season had some surprises. At the beginning of the year I thought August would roll around and I would have trouble getting out of bed, but it’s not like that at all,” he added. “The cold weather in April took a little getting used to being from Arizona. At the end of the day, it’s just baseball. 140-game schedule and we all need to get used to it. There have been a few times I was tired, but I pushed through it. We all did.”

Indeed, the overall adjustment to full-season ball didn’t seem to hamper the third baseman as Nay was one of Lansing’s best hitters all season. The Arizona native batted .273 with 11 doubles, three triples, two home runs, and 34 RBIs in the first half of the season, and sported an excellent .339 OBP and .365 slugging percentage from April to mid-June. His performance enabled him to be named the starting third baseman for the East team in the Midwest League All-Star Game. As can be expected, it was an exciting moment for the young prospect.

“Being a Midwest League All-Star was fun. It was cool meeting all the guys on both squads,” Nay recalls. “It was a great experience to be able to meet guys that were in the same position you’re in. It was a good venue at West Michigan. The competition was excellent and I had a lot of fun.”

It’s a long season and you get better doing the same thing every day.

The confidence of playing in his first professional All-Star game really showed in the second half of the season, as Nay put up excellent numbers from late June to late August. He batted .299 with 23 doubles, a home run, and 25 RBIs in his second half in Lansing, not only raising his batting average, but also raising his on-base-percentage to .344 and his raising his slugging percentage over 50 points to .415.

Reflecting on his progress through the season, Nay indicated that he was content with how he developed over the season, both offensively and defensively.

“April and May weren’t my best production months,” Nay remembers. “When June came around I started to feel a lot better at the plate. I know people expect a lot of power out of me and I’m working on it. With that said, I’m really satisfied with the number of doubles I’ve hit. It was a learning year for me and I’m very happy with the results.”

“I’ve come a long way at third base from April to September,” said Nay. “Every month I have been in pro ball I’ve got a little better. The game is starting to slow down for me. I feel more comfortable making the plays and throws. Playing third [base] feels more routine now from repetition. It’s a long season and you get better doing the same thing every day. I’m really happy with my development defensively this season.”

Excited for the growth and development Mitch Nay made in 2014, hitting coach Ken Huckaby discussed what stood out about Nay’s 2014 campaign.

“Nay developed a lot between last year and this year,” Huckaby said. “He has matured a lot as a player and is becoming more of an independent thinker. When that happens, good things happen as well.”

Equally excited for the opportunity to be mentored for a second consecutive season by Huckaby, Nay pointed out that working with the same hitting coach in back-to-back years was a great benefit for him and one of the reasons he found success in 2014.

“I know Huckaby pretty well at this point,” explained Nay. “He knows what works for me and what doesn’t. I think the familiarity there is good. It’s been a great two years. We’ve experienced a lot of good things together. He’s a good hitting coach and I’ve really enjoyed learning from him.”

Nay’s great numbers in Lansing earned him a late season promotion to high-A. He joined the Dunedin Blue Jays in late August and appeared in 11 regular season contests, plus the D-Jay’s two playoff games. Nay collected seven hits in his first 37 Florida State League at-bats, which included a double and a RBI.

The young third baseman’s promotion was excellent for Dunedin in their two playoff games. Nay was the Blue Jays best hitter going 4-for-8, with a double, a home run, and three RBIs. The 21-year old also carried an excellent .500/.500/1.000 line in the Florida State League playoffs, definitely a great sign moving forward.

It’s safe to say, Nay has turned a lot of heads in his first full season and with his 2014 season is in the books, he is focused to finding success in 2015.

“In the off-season I work out a lot. I like to lift weights and run a lot,” stated Nay. “Hitting wise I will start hitting a month or two before spring training to get the cobwebs out. I’ll definitely stay busy.”

Watch for Mitch Nay, as he continues to develop his game every day with hopes of being the Blue Jays everyday third baseman in the near future.

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Brian Crawford
Brian Crawford
Brian Crawford is currently in his third season of covering the Lansing Lugnuts for JaysProspects.com. Feel free to connect with Brian on Twitter @CrawDaddy222.

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Miguel Castro Rises Through Jays Organizationhttp://jaysprospects.com/2014/09/10/miguel-castro/ http://jaysprospects.com/2014/09/10/miguel-castro/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 18:09:44 +0000 http://jaysprospects.com/?p=9796 Every season presents a new opportunity for minor leaguers to showcase their skills as they work their way up the ladder. Nobody knows that better than right-handed pitcher Miguel Castro, who went from being in extended spring training to high-A this past season. Castro began his 2014 season as a member of the Vancouver Canadians [...]

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Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford is currently in his third season of covering the Lansing Lugnuts for JaysProspects.com. Feel free to connect with Brian on Twitter @CrawDaddy222.

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Miguel Castro

Miguel Castro rose through three levels of the Blue Jays organization in 2014. (MiLB)

Every season presents a new opportunity for minor leaguers to showcase their skills as they work their way up the ladder. Nobody knows that better than right-handed pitcher Miguel Castro, who went from being in extended spring training to high-A this past season.

Castro began his 2014 season as a member of the Vancouver Canadians in the Northwest League, where he dazzled in the 50 1/3 innings he pitched with the Blue Jays short-season A affiliate. The Dominican Republic native went 6-2 with a 2.15 ERA and 53 strikeouts, maintaining a 1.11 WHIP and keeping opposing hitters to a .202 average against him.

The great numbers quickly earned Castro a promotion to the Midwest League in early August. While the talent level may have jumped, playing for the Blue Jays full-season A affiliate, Castro’s numbers against opposing hitters only got better in his four starts. In Lansing, the young prospect maintained a 0.78 WHIP and an opposing hitter’s batting average of .133, an excellent addition to his 20 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings of work.

Even though his time in Lansing was brief, Castro left a fantastic impression on his pitching coach Vince Horsman, who has nothing but praise for the 19-year old prospect.

“Miguel Castro is a special kid. He’s a player to watch for years to come,” stated Horsman. “He is an overpowering kid that can hit 94 to 96 mph consistently and has a sweepy slider and a very good changeup. Everything is in place for him, he just needs experience. Going from Vancouver to Lansing, he handled that transition well and then he moved up to Dunedin, it’s great seeing him continue to have success at higher levels. Miguel is a good kid and I wish him nothing but success at every level.”

I’m very thankful for everything I’ve experienced in 2014.

As Horsman alluded, Castro earned another promotion in late August to the Blue Jays High-A affiliate, the Dunedin Blue Jays. Castro, who was roughly 4.2 years younger than most of his competition wasn’t fazed by the older, more experienced players. He was 1-0 with a 3.12 ERA and five strikeouts in his 8 2/3 innings of work in the Florida State League. The young Dominican continued to be tough on hitters in the FSL, sporting an excellent 0.81 WHIP and hitters managed only a paltry .143 average against him.

Castro appreciated every opportunity he was presented and was pleased about his overall performance in 2014. “I really enjoyed every level I reached this year,” said Castro. “Vancouver was great. I thanked God for the opportunity, as I learned a lot in the Northwest League. Then I came to Lansing and it was great as well. The stadiums and atmospheres in the Midwest League are fantastic, and then I got an opportunity in Dunedin. This season has been unbelievable and I’m very thankful for everything I’ve experienced in 2014.”

It’s safe to say the young right hander has come a long way from the 17-year old kid that signed as an international free agent deal with the Blue Jays in 2012. Even though his signing is a memory now, it was a very special moment for him that he speaks highly of.

“When I found out Toronto wanted to sign me I was very happy and excited for the opportunity,” Castro recalled. “It felt great that an excellent organization like the Blue Jays believed in my ability the way they did. It was very exciting and a dream come true.”

With his 2014 season in the books, Castro is preparing for a busy off-season that will keep him in great shape for another excellent season in 2015.

“In the off-season I take one whole week off and then I get back to work on my routine,” explained Castro. “My off-season routine includes a lot of running. I also do a lot of weight lifting to get bigger and stronger. I’m very active in the off-season.”

Looking back on 2014, we can see that Castro had a lot of success that deserves to be celebrated; however, there are also some areas he will need to address in order for the Webster Award winner to find success at higher levels. Primarily, his impressive numbers appear to have been aided by a high number of stranded baserunners (81.2% LOB) and a moderately low .272 BABIP in Vancouver, implying he may have enjoyed a bit of luck.

His 50 innings in Vancouver may provide the most insight into what we can look forward to in 2015, despite the obvious small sample size caveat. In Vancouver, his 2.15 ERA appears to have been in spite of his 3.48 FIP. This, combined with his 2014 BABIP, implies Castro can likely expect some regression next season if he starts in Dunedin where he will be three years younger than the average age for pitchers in the Florida State League.

It should be emphasized that there are also positive aspects to Castro’s performance to take into account. Castro maintained an encouraging 26.8 K% throughout the season while also limiting the walks to just 9.5% of the 315 batters he faced. If he can maintain similar numbers he should continue to be a notable prospect as he advances through the minor leagues.

Watch for Miguel Castro in 2015, his power arm and sweeping slider will hopefully continue to befuddle batters and give his team every opportunity to win games.

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Brian Crawford
Brian Crawford
Brian Crawford is currently in his third season of covering the Lansing Lugnuts for JaysProspects.com. Feel free to connect with Brian on Twitter @CrawDaddy222.

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2014 Lansing Lugnuts Season Recaphttp://jaysprospects.com/2014/09/02/lansing-lugnuts-recap/ http://jaysprospects.com/2014/09/02/lansing-lugnuts-recap/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 19:59:41 +0000 http://jaysprospects.com/?p=9776 The Lansing Lugnuts wrapped up their season on September 1st with a 5-4 rain-shortened loss to the South Bend Silver Hawks. The Blue Jays low-A affiliate finished the second half with a 30-40 record (62-77 overall) and three games out of the final Midwest League playoff spot. Even though the season didn’t end the way [...]

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Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford is currently in his third season of covering the Lansing Lugnuts for JaysProspects.com. Feel free to connect with Brian on Twitter @CrawDaddy222.

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Cooley Law School Stadium

Cooley Law School Stadium – Home of the Lansing Lugnuts (Al Goldis)

The Lansing Lugnuts wrapped up their season on September 1st with a 5-4 rain-shortened loss to the South Bend Silver Hawks. The Blue Jays low-A affiliate finished the second half with a 30-40 record (62-77 overall) and three games out of the final Midwest League playoff spot. Even though the season didn’t end the way Lugnuts fans would have liked, members of the 2014 Lansing Lugnuts remain high on the talent that was developed in Lansing all season.

“The 2014 season was awesome. We really came together as a team in the clubhouse,” said Lugnuts reliever Scott Silverstein. “I feel we had a championship caliber ball club and we would’ve loved the opportunity to play in the playoffs, but it wasn’t in the cards. Even though the playoffs didn’t happen, I feel we had a great season as a team and I feel it was a great success overall.”

Players that came through Lansing in 2014 included recent Blue Jays September call up Kendall Graveman who started four games for the Lugnuts to start the season, where he went 2-0 with a 0.34 ERA. Graveman only allowed one earned run in 26 1/3 innings of work in Lansing.

Reliever Jimmy Cordero also displayed an excellent fastball that consistently hit triple digits; and starter Miguel Castro made a pit stop in Lansing where he posted a 1-1 record with a 3.74 ERA in 21 2/3 innings of work in the Midwest League before earning a promotion to high-A.

The Lugnuts also saw some excellent young prospects at the plate. 2013 draftee Rowdy Tellez joined the team in August and collected 15 hits in 42 at-bats which included two home runs and seven RBIs in Lansing. In July, Lansing received Anthony Alford from Bluefield. Alford collected eight hits in 25 at-bats before returning to Ole Miss for the college football season.

It’s safe to say the Blue Jays are developing some excellent young talent in their minor league system. Below is a breakdown of some of the players who made a major impact on the Lugnuts roster in 2014.

Lansing’s top hitters for 2014

* Players with at least 300-at bats with Lugnuts

1) Mitch Nay (3B) – Nay led the Lugnuts with 34 doubles and 59 RBIs. The young prospect was the starting third baseman for the East team in the Midwest League All-Star Game. Nay received a late-season promotion to the Dunedin Blue Jays. He was also selected as a Midwest League post-season All-Star, becoming Lansing’s lone representative on the list.

2) Matt Dean (1B) – Dean led the team with 9 home runs and 43 extra base hits. He was the starting first baseman for the East team in the Midwest League All-Star Game and displayed solid defense throughout the season.

3) Dawel Lugo (SS) – Lugo finished third on the team in hits (behind only Nay and Dean) with 123. He also showed excellent plate discipline with the lowest strikeout to at-bat ratio, only striking out 72 times in 474 at-bats.

4) Derrick Loveless (OF) – Loveless had a breakout year in 2014. The young outfielder led the team with 9 triples and a .363 OBP. Loveless also joined the Midwest League All-Star team as a reserve player.

5) D.J. Davis (OF) – Davis displayed excellent speed and extra base power in 2014. He led the team with 19 stolen bases and finished second in home runs (8) and triples (7).

6) Jason Leblebijian (SS) – Leblebijian had an incredible August and was named player-of-the-month. The young prospect collected 30 extra base hits and 48 RBIs in his first full season.

7) Dickie Joe Thon (SS/2B) – Thon displayed an excellent bat all year, collecting 27 extra base hits and 40 RBIs on the season. With 20 doubles and four triples, his speed was on display this year.

Lansing’s Top Pitchers in 2014

** Players who pitched at least 64 innings with Lugnuts

1) Jeremy Gabryszwski (RHP) – Gabryszwski led the Lugnuts in most pitching categories including innings pitched (141 1/3), wins for a rotation member (6), and strikeouts for a pitcher in a Lansing uniform (91).

2) Brady Dragmire (RHP) – Dragmire was Lansing’s most reliable reliever all season. Dragmire was 3-6 with a 2.91 ERA, and recorded 45 strikeouts, and five saves in 77 1/3 innings of work.

3) Chase De Jong (RHP) – The 2012 second round pick was one of Lansing’s most reliable starters all season. He finished the season 1-6 with a 4.82 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 97 innings of work.

4) Roberto Espinosa (RHP) – Espinosa was one of Lansing’s top relievers and only allowed 13 earned runs since the beginning of June. In his 70 innings of work, Espinosa was able to strike out 72 batters and allow no more than two home runs. While his 4.37 ERA may not turn heads, his 3.47 FIP is more in line with his impressive second-half. Espinosa may well be a pitcher to pay attention to in 2015.

5) Brad Allen (RHP) – Brad Allen joined the Lugnuts in May after being released by the Diamondbacks organization. He provided excellent pitching right when the Lugnuts needed him most. He recorded a 3.11 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 75 1/3 innings of work.

6) Scott Silverstein (LHP) – Silverstein spent time as a closer, set up man, and long reliever in Lansing. The left-hander led all Lugnuts in wins with an 11-4 record. He recorded 4 saves and pitched to an excellent 9.4 K/9 ratio as he struck out 67 batters in his 69 innings pitched.

7) Alonzo Gonzalez (LHP) – Gonzalez finished his first full season as a reliever and had an excellent season, collecting 90 strikeouts in 79 1/3 innings.

“The 2014 Lansing Lugnuts team was really young, but really talented,” said Lugnuts infielder Jason Leblebijian. “We’ve had a lot of young talented guys coming through our team this season and it’s outstanding to see the future of this organization moving forward.”

While Lansing’s team record doesn’t fully reflect the talent on display, it’s clear that the future is bright for the Blue Jays farm system. We look forward to seeing which prospects will impress in a Lugnuts jersey in 2015.

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Brian Crawford
Brian Crawford
Brian Crawford is currently in his third season of covering the Lansing Lugnuts for JaysProspects.com. Feel free to connect with Brian on Twitter @CrawDaddy222.

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Anthony Alford: Two Sports, No Problemhttp://jaysprospects.com/2014/08/11/anthony-alford-blue-jays/ http://jaysprospects.com/2014/08/11/anthony-alford-blue-jays/#comments Mon, 11 Aug 2014 20:28:17 +0000 http://jaysprospects.com/?p=9702 Playing professional baseball can be a tough task with all the responsibilities that athletes undertake on a daily basis. Now, imagine mixing that busy schedule with college classes and football. Sounds tough, right? Well that’s business as usual for Blue Jays outfield prospect Anthony Alford. Juggling the two sports is nothing new to Alford who [...]

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Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford

Brian Crawford is currently in his third season of covering the Lansing Lugnuts for JaysProspects.com. Feel free to connect with Brian on Twitter @CrawDaddy222.

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Anthony Alford plays both baseball for the Blue Jays and football for the Ole Miss Rebels.

Anthony Alford plays both baseball for the Blue Jays and football for the Ole Miss Rebels.

Playing professional baseball can be a tough task with all the responsibilities that athletes undertake on a daily basis. Now, imagine mixing that busy schedule with college classes and football. Sounds tough, right? Well that’s business as usual for Blue Jays outfield prospect Anthony Alford.

Juggling the two sports is nothing new to Alford who has spent most of his life handling the schedules and demands of being a multi-sport athlete.

“Playing both baseball and football has been good to me so far,” explained Alford. “Growing up I always had to juggle the schedules of playing two sports, so I’m used to it.”

The Mississippi native enjoys playing both sports so much he decided he wanted to pursue both as a future path. Alford chose to pursue football at the collegiate level and baseball at the professional level. His dream of playing professional baseball became a reality when the Toronto Blue Jays selected him in the 3rd round of the 2012 MLB draft out of Petal High School. The moment was special for both Alford and his family.

“Being drafted by the Blue Jays was a neat experience,” Alford said. “It is really nice hearing your name called on draft day. My family was really proud of me. Everybody around town was proud. It was a great experience.”

Being drafted came after being named Mr. Baseball in the state of Mississippi, a memorable moment for Alford who edged out fellow Blue Jays prospect D.J. Davis and Dodgers prospect Zachary Bird for the honor.

“Being named Mr. Baseball was special,” explained Alford. “There were some excellent candidates in the state of Mississippi. It was an honor to be named the number one player in the state with that kind of competition.”

Since beginning his professional baseball career, Alford has spent time in the Gulf Coast League, Appalachian League, and the Midwest League. Most recently with the Lansing Lugnuts, Alford batted .320 with a double, a home run, and three RBIs.

The speedy center-fielder was four-for-four on steal attempts and didn’t make an error in the five games he played roaming the Lugnuts’ outfield. Alford explains how he uses his speed to his advantage.

“On the base paths I understand when it’s the right time to use my speed and when it’s the right time to shut it down,” stated Alford. “I feel I have good baseball instincts. I just let my athletic ability take over.”

Another aspect Alford enjoyed was playing for Lugnuts’ hitting coach Ken Huckaby.“I’ve really enjoyed working with Huckaby. He’s really cool and feels like a mutual friend to me,” Alford explained. “Ken feels like a mutual friend, because the guy that I work with back home was roommates with Ken for five years. From a coaching standpoint I feel he did a great job with me and I feel blessed to have worked with him.”

After completing his most recent stint with the Lansing Lugnuts, Anthony Alford was reportedly approached by Toronto Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos in hopes of persuading the young athlete to commit to baseball on a full-time basis. Alford, however, politely declined and has returned to Ole Miss’ training camp for the collegiate season.

Alford is preparing for his sophomore football season at Ole Miss where he has now transitioned to safety in 2013, after sitting out a year due to transfer rules. Prior to joining Ole Miss, Alford spent a season at Southern Mississippi as a dual-threat quarterback in 2012.

“I’m really looking forward to helping my team any way I can at Ole Miss,” stated Alford. “I chose to transition to safety, because I felt it would be better for me in the future.”

“The transition started out a little slow, but it wasn’t hard,” he added. “The toughest part of the transition was learning the playbook.”

Much like baseball, Alford was named the best football player in the state of Mississippi, as he was named Mr. Football in both his junior and senior years of high school.

“Being named Mr. Football in the state of Mississippi was a huge honor,” stated Alford. “Football is a really big sport in Mississippi and to be named the number one player in the state meant a lot to me personally.”

Even though football takes up a lot of Alford’s time. He’s proud of the development he has made in baseball since being drafted in 2012. “I feel my development is going well,” stated Alford. “Every season I come here to play I feel I learn a little bit more than I knew before.”

“After every season I play with the organization, the Blue Jays coaching staff tells me what they want me to work on,” he added. “I take that information and work hard on it throughout the off-season, so my next season can be even better.”

Whether it’s one or two sports in Alford’s future, may he continue to develop and reach his future goals.

Author information

Brian Crawford
Brian Crawford
Brian Crawford is currently in his third season of covering the Lansing Lugnuts for JaysProspects.com. Feel free to connect with Brian on Twitter @CrawDaddy222.

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