One of the tricky things about a series like this is that the talent distribution over the organization was not even - it never is. The other tough thing is the players who appeared on multiple teams, which happened particularly among pitchers in the Blue Jays system. In this case, the five best pitchers to make an appearance in Dunedin all had a noticeable number of starts in New Hampshire. The temptation is to mention each player at the highest level they attained, but three of those pitchers didn’t reach double figures in starts at AA and really are more appropriately discussed here.
It also helps that the NH list is crowded and this one is, really, kinda thin without Drew Hutchison, Nestor Molina, and Deck McGuire. Read on.
1. AJ Jimenez
, 21, C, 5'11" 200
Jimenez did not, in fact, have the best stat line in Dunedin, but there are circumstances. Clearly he’s the best prospect among hitters on the team. There’s really not even anyone else who deserves to be in that conversation. Second, he’s three years younger than the only other guy who would even make you hesitate, and third, he’s a skilled catcher besides the offense he provides. He makes very good contact, has respectable doubles power (which is thought to still have room for growth)runs well for a catcher, and doesn’t strike out too much (for the age and level).
2. Brad Glenn
, 24, OF, 6'2", 220
Glenn is at least a year too old for Hi-A ball. But he led the league in home runs - in fact he wasn’t really challenged as he jumped out to an early lead - and that’s not nothing. I’ve not see any glowing reports on his defense but he spent a decent amount of time in RF which s a sign he’s not a liability. His BB/K ratio is nothing to get you excited either. On the surface, he seems to be one of those guys that you are going to be really skeptical can handle the step up to AA, but he might surprise us.
3. Sean Ochinko
, 23, C/3B/1B, 5'11", 205
Ochinko was the Webster Award winner for Lansing in 2010, and while it’s always been assumed that long term he won’t catch in the majors - that kind of respect for a guy who’s still listed as a catcher was something worth noting. In 2011 he got off to a very cold start in April and early may and, for what it’s worth, collected an unusually low BABiP. Over the balance of the season he recovered his previous power rates, and then some. But his contact rate was still below what he’d had in previous years. Ochinko, as long as the versatility remains viable, might end up being a useful major league player - I’d say he has a better shot at that than Glenn does. But his margin for error is just as slim.
Other names you might be wondering about: 2B Ryan Schimpf (came out of the gate, after an injury, on fire but faded badly after the break), Ofs Brian Van Kirk and Brad McElroy (both were very valuable to the D-Jays, the former with power and the latter with speed, but both were 25 so don’t expect anything)
and on the mound...
1. Drew Hutchson
, RHP, 21
2011 was actually his age 20 season, his birthday was August 22, so the context of his achievements is that much more impressive. The 6'2" (and rail thin) Hutch moved from Lansing right through to New Hampshire this season with hardly a hiccup. He got off his game just a bit in late April, made a bit of adjustment in his approach, and never looked back. He racked up more than a K per IP at each level, displayed impeccable control (4.89 K/BB) and got better the longer the season went on and the higher the level he was challenged at. He was thought to have been a hard-to-sign gamble in the `15th round of the 2009 draft, and he surely got some of the money that Jake Eliopoulos and James Paxton didn’t want. That seems to be turning out pretty well, as Hutch is inarguably a Top 5 prospect in the Blue Jays loaded system. He also rocks impressive facial hair too (see photo), if that's your thing.
2. Nestor Molina
, RHP, 22
As good as Hutchison was, it’s remarkable that he wasn’t the slam dunk obvious choice for #1 on this list. The tiebreaker comes down to Molina being a couple of years older, but with his backstory, the age difference becomes less relevant. Molina was a no-hit infielder who was converted to the mound in the Dominican league in 2008 and took to it immediately. Over three seasons he accumulated about 160 IP, almost all of them in relief. In that period, he struck out 129 and walked only 30. The real challenge came in 2011 when he was shifted to starting and that in his first season at Hi-A ball. Talk about picking up the gauntlet! In 18 starts in Dunedin and 5 in AA, Molina completely dominated hitters in a fashion even the most optimistic scout could not have foreseen. His BB/K ratio was over NINE to one. He walked a mere 2 in 22 innings at AA. Given his history, it’s difficult to just go ahead and pencil him in for unbroken success in the future (particularly in that he was on his way to doubling his career IP in 2011 and a lot of pitchers have to regroup (if not succumb to injury) the following year (this concern applies somewhat to Hutch as well) but you can’t not be extremely excited about the results.
3. Deck McGuire,
How’d you like to be Deck McGuire? First round pick, scouted as the guy who was not only an above average pitcher but A guy who’d move fast through the system. He’s possessed with a big (6'6') classic pitcher’s body and multiple quality pitches. He started his first professional season at Hi-A Dunedin and delivered perfectly praise-worthy results over 18 starts, before being promoted to AA where he was shut down by a mild injury after 4 appearances that were not embarrassing at all. And yet for all that, you can only be called the third best pitching prospect on the team. Hutch and Molina were so very good that it’s hard for McGuire to generate any excitement But in a lot of years past, he’d be on everyone’s lips when it came time to talk Jays prospects. Given his college experience and polish, it’s not impossible that if the Jays are in a tight spot early in the year he might be the first to arrive. Don’t overlook him.
Don’t sleep on: Asher Wojciechowski.
He fell off a cliff in May and June (some reports suggest he fell in love with his fastball) but recovered nicely in the second half. Might move slower than one anticipated but there’s still a lot to like there.