Tuesday, February 25, 2014

2014 Spotlight: the Potential Rotation



Deadspin wasn’t too impressed by the new baseball rules regarding collisions at home plate, but they work fine for me.  To sum up:  1) A catcher cannot block the plate without the ball; if he does, the runner automatically scores.  2) A runner cannot throw forearms/elbows/shoulder blocks at the catcher, he must solely try to slide across home plate.  If the runner raises a forearm or lowers a shoulder, he is automatically out.  Simple.
The video above demonstrates, first, proper plate blocking by a catcher with the ball, and second, a slew of runners coming in shoulder-first or with forearms and elbows raised.
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Since my Baseball America Prospect Handbook arrived in the mail yesterday, I’m now ready to talk in greater depth about the Lugnuts’ potential members of the starting rotation.
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We’ll begin with Tom Robson, 6’4, age 20, a 4th round pick from 2011, and not to be confused with this Tom Robson, a former player, an author, and the uncle of Mike Moustakas. Robson was the highest drafted Canadian in 2011.  By all accounts, his arsenal includes a changeup, a curveball, and a sinking fastball — and what a sinking fastball it is.  He went 6-0 with a dominant 1.12 ERA last season between Bluefield and Vancouver, leading to the guess that he might jump all the way to Dunedin this year.  (Here’s his Baseball-Reference page for your perusal.)
I should mention, too, that all four runs he allowed in Bluefield came in the same inning.  In other words, 25 of his 26 innings were scoreless in the Appy League.  In Vancouver, he did not allow more than one run in any of his seven starts… and then gave up just one run in 11 1/3 postseason frames.  Impressive.
Baseball America rates Tom Robson the #16 prospect in the Blue Jays’ system:  ”Robson will likely begin 2014 in Lansing and profiles as a durable, innings-eating starter as long as his offspeed stuff continues to progress.”
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Dominican 6’1 right-hander Alberto Tirado is 19 years old, and he won’t turn 20 until next December.  In 2011, upon signing with Toronto for $300,000, he threw 87-91 mph.  That velocity rose to 93-95 mph in 2012 and was at 92-96 (topping out at 98) in 2013.  At this rate, he’ll clearly be throwing 105 mph in 2020.  He also works with a couple of different sliders, a sinker, and a changeup with terrific room for growth.  Last season (Baseball-Reference) he was 3-0, 1.68 for Bluefield, with only two wild pitches and only one home run allowed in 207 plate appearances.
Baseball America rates Tirado the #8 prospect in the system.  You’ll like this from BA:  ”The athletic Tirado is an unrefined pitcher whom scouts can dream on because he has some of the most electric stuff in the lower minors.”
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Californian 6’4 right-hander Chase DeJong is 20 with another December birthday — as you’re seeing, all of these guys are young.  Both he and Alberto Tirado pitched in the 2013 Crosstown Showdown; Tirado gave up two hits, a walk, and two runs, but DeJong blew the Spartans away to the tune of four strikeouts in two scoreless innings.  He’s big, he’s physical, he’s aggressive, and he doesn’t walk guys.  (Baseball-Reference)
Also, apparently he was told last year that he won a starting role with the Lugnuts right out of Spring Training, which didn’t quite materialize.  We’ll be ready for Chase in the Lansing rotation this season.
Baseball America rates Chase DeJong as the #11 prospect in the organization, saying, “DeJong should make the Lansing rotation this season and projects as a No. 3 starter long-term.”
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Dominican 6’4 southpaw Jairo Labourt signed for $350,000 in 2011.  He was 17 then, he’s 20 now.  (Actually, he’s 19 now.  He’ll turn 20 on March 7th.)  Jairo, presumably pronounced Hi-ro, has a 90-93 (topping at 95) mph fastball, change, and slider.  Last season, he impressively limited the opposition to a .204 average with a 1.03 WHIP — in other words, you couldn’t hit him and you couldn’t reach base against him.  After going 2-2 with a 1.92 ERA in Bluefield, he received a playoff start for Vancouver and struck out 10 batters in 5 2/3 innings.  (Baseball-Reference)
He also has the first name alphabetically in the letter L for the entirety of professional baseball.
Baseball America ranks Jairo Labourt the #12 prospect in the Blue Jays’ organization.  BA:  ”Labourt, who has the ceiling of a No. 3 starter, will likely pitch at Lansing in 2014.”
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Shane Dawson and Jeremy Gabryszwski (I’m getting really good at spelling his name without looking) are not listed in the BA Top 30… to which I say, so what?
Lefty Dawson (Baseball-Reference) is another Canadian, like Tom Robson, so there are tons of north of the border Toronto Blue Jays supporters who want to see him do well.  So far, he’s living up to their expectations:  61 strikeouts in 46 total innings between Bluefield and Vancouver last year.  (Five of his six runs allowed in Vancouver came in the same game, too.)  Most of the time, he was dominant.  On September 9th, he turns 21.
Righty Gabryszwski (Baseball-Reference) is 6’4, a 2nd round pick in 2011, and a control expert.  No, he doesn’t throw all that hard, striking out only 40 batters in 76 2/3 innings last year for Vancouver.  On the other hand, he walked only 10 batters and gave up 0 home runs, going 5-2 with a 2.82 ERA.  On March 16th, he turns 21.
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That’s a darn good collection of talent, each of them with a fine resume at the lower levels.
This is not even to mention a pair of 2013 Vancouver starters, LHP Kyle Andersonand LHP Colton Turner, and a pair of 2013 Bluefield starters RHP Brady Dragmire and LHP Zak Wasilewski, all of whom pitched well last season.  (Colton was briefly a Lug last season, and I found him to be a fine part of the clubhouse.)
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Coming tomorrow… a spotlight of the potential Lugnuts bullpen.
Monday:  Could the 2014 Lugnuts be as good as 2012?
Today:  starting rotation preview
Wednesday:  bullpen preview
Thursday:  starting lineup preview

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