Since the Major League Rule 4 draft begins tomorrow, and will no doubt dominate the Jays news cycle over the next several days, I'm rushing this a bit. Technically, the second fifth of the minor league system (60 games) is not in the books until Tuesday. But we are not going to draw any conclusions at this point that will be altered by the next two days.
The first thing to note is a bit of breaking news: Brett Lawrie has been placed in the minor league DL retroactive to June 2 (likely so the 51's can add some depth) and can't be activated until Wednesday. That means the Jays have a mildly uncomfortable choice - either bring him to the majors immediately (essentially, because activation Wed. would give them room for one minor league game if they are going to debut him in KC), let him join the team at home (which AA has said he had rather not do), or wait until they travel to Cincinnati June 17. No word yet on how they are leaning obviously. Mike Wilner is saying that you can count on them waiting until Cincinnati. I'm not entirely convinced he won't be activated next Friday.
Beyond that, here's your report. Like last time, I'm gonna give you the top performers among hitters, and among pitchers, so far (cumulatively) . Afterwards I'll make note of those who are disappointing (from the top prospect list)
1. Brett Lawrie - the 21 year old 3B just keeps getting better and better, at least up until that unfortunate pitch. Other than Anthony Rizzo, no one else of a remotely similar age is preforming as well in the PCL. He still leads the league in doubles and total bases, is near the top in homers (despite having missed five straight games) and oh by the way the errors are way down. He's a potential star and he's ready, when the hand heals.
2. Adam Loewen - Talk about a turn-around! Loewen struggled through April and I was beginning to wonder if my faith in him was misplaced, but he's been unstoppable in May. His 1.127 OPS for the month is almost as good as Lawrie's. It's true he's much older, but due to his unique history, he actually has fewer professional at bats than the third baseman. He also played a satisfactory 1B while Cooper was in the majors. I, for one, hope he's on the 25 man roster next year - and I believe he can handle it.
3. Travis d'Arnaud - Here's another guy who's on fire. The 22 year old catcher played 20 games in May after coming back from the DL and hit an astonishing .410 over that period. His OPS over that stretch was 1.221 and he walked more than he struck out. With Brian Jeroloman not setting anything on fire in Vegas, it's not inconceivable d'Arnaud could force his way into a promotion if he keeps this up.
4. Anthony Gose - Gose, like d'Arnaud and Loewen, had a pretty forgettable April but has hit so very well in May that he's made his whole season a success (so far). His OPS for the month is .889 but more importantly for a prospective lead off hitter, he posted a .417 OBP and has supplemented his great bat with great wheels. in 56 games played, he's stolen 27 bases in 32 attempts. That's a pace for 69 on a complete minor league season.
5. David Cooper - Picked up right where he left off before his brief stint in Toronto. Before the call up he hit .395 with a 1.055 OPS, since returning he's hit .397 and the robust OPS over 1.000 is still present. Professional observers insist Cooper's not going to be much of a major leaguer, but it's hard to ignore these numbers. hopefully at some point he helps complete a trade for something good.
6. Mike McDade - like fellow 1B Cooper, McDade gets next to no respect from professional talent evaluators but he just keeps hitting. His OPS of .968 for May has to be respected in a league not known for being a hitter's league. He still has a poor BB:K ratio, but otherwise there's not a lot to criticize.
7. Moises Sierra - Often overlooked in the shadow of Gose and other higher profile OF prospects, Sierra is quietly hitting his way into the conversation. The cannon-armed RF has a .901 OPS in May and, other than a poor SB ratio, is doing pretty much everything right (as much as one can say that based on stats alone of course). I'd be interested in knowing what the front office thinks of Sierra.
8. Justin Jackson - the one-time SS of the future followed up an impressive April with an even better May. his .922 OPS for the month, fueled by a great walk rate, is especially impressive for the FSL. If you were going to complain, you might want a guy with his skill set to successfully steal a bit more.
9. AJ Jimenez – Missed a big chunk of May to the DL but he's picked right up where he left off in the half-dozen games since he returned. For a 21 year old catcher in the FSL, it's hard to find fault with his season so far.
10. Marcus Knecht – The 20 year old Canadian outfielder was down a bit in May from his steller April , but an .880 OPS is by no means a disappointment. Unlike his teammates in the Lansing OF, Knecht is a hit-first prospect, but he seems to be quite good at it.
11. Jake Marisnick – Another player fresh off the DL, Marisnick regressed somewhat in May (before the injury) but his overall stats are still quite good. He seems to be back in the grove (albeit in a TINY sample) since his return. Hopefully he'll carry that throughout June.
12. Michael Crouse – The impressive physical specimen (he's been said to resemble Dave Winfield physically) was more low-average/big power in April and much the reverse in May. His OPS is down, though still quite good, and his strikeout rate was way up in may. The team will be looking for him to correct that as he tries to get back to the groove he'd been in.
13. Brad Glenn – the outfielder is admittedly old for the level, but he's leading the league in homers and that deserves some respect. Here's a guy who probably needs, more than anyone else on this list, to be promoted at some point to try his hand with players closer to his age.
1. Nestor Molina – This kid has been virtually unstoppable. On the season he has an incredible 70:7 K:BB ratio in just under 59 IP. In May he walked 2 batters while striking out 43. on the season, opposing batters are hitting .233 of him.
2. Henderson Alvarez – the sample size is small (4 starts) but for a 21 year old pitcher who's having his first look at AA, you have to like the results. Coming into today he'd went 6 innings in each of three games and allowed one earned run in each, while accumulating a K:BB ratio of 13:4 and giving up no homers. He got knocked around a bit today but Ill take that for a blip. Also, there have been reports of his fastball velocity reaching the upper 90's.
3. Joel Carreno – lightly regarded in most circles as a prospect, particularly in terms of remaining a starter in the big leagues, Carreno nevertheless is doing all he can to turn heads. After an ugly April, Carreno turned the page and reeled off five impressive starts in May, holding opposing batters to a miniscule .082 BA. And giving up only 8 hits in 31.2 IP. So why isn't he topping the list? A little matter of 21 walks in the month is all. If Carreno figures out how to stay in the strike zone, his profile goes way up.
4. Deck McGuire – hitters have managed only .230 off the 2010 first rounder on the season so far, resulting in a 3.24 ERA for McGuire. In may his ERA for the month was 1.88 and hitters managed only .203 against him. It's hard to complain about such results for a first pro-season.
5. Chad Jenkins – like his fellow first rounder, Jenkins too improved in may over his good-ut-not-great April. Reportedly a ground-ball machine, Jenkins is not striking out hitters at an impressive rate, but otherwise he's done all you could ask. Given his partial-season at Dunedin last year, don't be surprised if he's moved up to AA around the mid-season mark.
6. Brad Mills – the Rodney Dangerfield of the Blue Jays system continues to roll along seemingly unnoticed. He was notably less effective in May than in April but that has more to do with how VERY good April was. One thing that demands your attention – he walked six against 35 K's in 39.2 May IP.
7. Sean Nolin – the 2010 sixth rounder has mostly justified his elevation to the Lansing rotation, though he was knocked around his last two starts. The sample size on the 20 year old lefty is a bit small yet but he's worth watching.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment so far in terms of magnitude if not lost status is CF Darin Mastroianni. Mastro was always a fringe prospect anyway, you never say him on the “expert” lists. But he was the classic dirtbag sort that fans love to root for. In 2011, after a mediocre 22 games in AA, roster crowding provoked by the arrival of Travis Snider pushed him back to AA and he didn't handle it well, hitting only .202 in May. A prospect on the fringes can't afford to have months like that; Sean Ochinko, winner of the Webster award each of the last two seasons, has struggled all season; Gus Pierre is having a devil of a time on both sides of the game, posting a .512 OPS so far and an astonishing 31 errors.