After an extremely active offseason, the Blue Jays are more set than most teams entering Spring Training 2011.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t any interesting NRI’s around, though–it simply means that most of Toronto’s notable non-roster players are prospects with little or no shot and breaking camp with the Blue Jays. But there are still a few interesting veterans as well–anytime Winston Abreu is involved, I pay attention.
Let’s look at this bunch.
RHP Winston Abreu–What more does Abreu need to do to get an extended shot? He continued to carve up Triple-A hitters in 2010 (82/21 K/BB in 55 1/3 IP, just one homer allowed). He’s been at this for half a decade, and can’t seem to stick around regardless. Sure, his stuff is pretty generic (90-95 mph fastball, plus slider), but there’s a reason Triple-A hitters turn him into Carlos Marmol. The guy’s doing something right. Will the Blue Jays give him an extended shot?
RHP Chad Cordero–Once a top-flight reliever, Cordero was never the sort of guy who could afford to lose velocity, and once he did, he just wasn’t that interesting anymore. Now throwing in the mid-to-upper 80’s and mixing in the occasional 75-79 mph slider, Cordero’s fastball-heavy approach just doesn’t work with such little velocity. Call it Bartolo Colon-itis, if you will. A nine-game stint with Seattle didn’t work well, and moving to a more hitter-friendly ballpark in the AL East isn’t likely to help. Barring a surprising increase in velocity or a dramatic shift in approach for the soon-to-be-29-year-old, Cordero doesn’t really belong in the majors. It’s still interesting to see him try to work his way back.
OF Anthony Gose–Acquired for Brett Wallace last year, Gose is a ridiculously fast outfielder, but he also got caught stealing a whopping 32 times last year. Still just 20, Gose seems like he’s been around an awfully long time already, and while he hasn’t developed particularly quickly, he remains an interesting prospect with Carl Crawford-esque upside as a plus defender and plus-plus runner with average power. He’s likely to be overmatched by big league pitching in camp, however, as he struck out over 25% of the time in High-A last year.
3B Brett Lawrie–Blue Jays fans will get their first look at their prized prospect acquisition of the offseason this spring. Lawrie does come with a number of question marks, however. He’s got to show defensive aptitude somewhere, and it’s also time he shows some sort of statistical prowess–while he was young for his levels in 2009 and 2010, his triple-slash numbers of .274/.348/.454 and .285/.346/.449 were far from dominant. Now that he’s been moved off of second base, the 21-year-old will need to raise his offensive game to project as more than an average regular.
LHP Wil Ledezma–Ledezma, like Abreu, has dominated Triple-A of late, but unlike Abreu, the deceptive lefty has gotten plenty of big league shots (almost 400 career innings) and hasn’t done much (5.26 career ERA, 4.70 FIP, 1.7 WAR). Still, last season’s turn with the Pirates was encouraging, despite a 6.86 ERA, as Ledezma posted a 3.23 FIP and 22/6 K/BB in 19 2/3 innings. Just 30, he’s turned up his velocity in recent years, sitting around 94 mph and snapping off a good slider as well. If he shows up throwing strikes, Ledezma probably deserves his umpteenth chance.
1B Mike McDade–The Florida State League homer champion in 2010, McDade showed a far better approach in fall ball than he did in the regular season, putting him on the map as an interesting prospect. Obviously, AFL samples aren’t the best way to gauge someone’s approach, but if it was for real, McDade, 22, could emerge as a viable starter down the line. Considered a plus defender at first, he has obvious power, and could put on some batting-practice shows this spring.
RHP Deck McGuire–The eleventh overall pick in 2010, McGuire is considered a very polished pitcher who could be in the Majors quickly. How quickly he might get there, and where he starts his pro career, could be dictated with how he looks in camp. The four-pitch righty has #2 starter upside if everything goes right, and Jays fans no doubt will be interested to see how he looks against pro hitters.
OF Corey Patterson–Yep, he’s still kicking around. Patterson actually hit .269/.315/.406 for Baltimore last year, and he still runs and fields well, so at 31, perhaps he’s still worth looking at. Let’s not get carried away, though–Patterson’s 2008-09 redefined awful.
OF Eric Thames–A solid B-grade power prospect, Thames hit .288/.370/.526 in Double-A last year. The 24-year-old is fairly close to the majors after bashing 27 homers. Since he’s been a bit old for his levels, proving he can hit MLB pitching in the spring would go a long way toward shaking any potential Quad-A stigma.