Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A waaaaaay too early look at the 2015 Lugnuts!

Now that it has been officially announced that the Lugnuts are a Blue Jays' affiliate for the next two seasons, it's time to start forecasting the 2015 Lansing Lugnuts!
I'm excited about this because...
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Interruption: I'm no Photoshop master, but what do you think?
PDCQuick trivia question:  That's Daniel Norris as the centerpiece of the graphic. Can you guess who was my original cover Lug before switching to Norris at the last minute? Here's your answer.
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...listen to this prospect-laden starting lineup:
We begin with 2014 11th overall pick Max Pentecost, who should be the Lugnuts' starting catcher and top prospect. Place Rowdy Tellez at first base, add in Franklin Barreto at shortstop, and the Lugs feature three premier talents batting consecutively (likely 2-3-4 in the order). The ideal super-prospect leadoff hitter is center fielder Anthony Alford, who should drop by from April-ish through July-ish before heading back to Ole Miss. There's the chance, too, that D.J. Davis returns to Lansing for a second go-round, which puts D.J. in center, if not also at the top of the order.
We begin to build:
1. Anthony Alford / D.J. Davis, CF
2. Franklin Barreto, SS
3. Max Pentecost, C
4. Rowdy Tellez, 1B
From here, we look to the Vancouver Canadians' 2014 starting lineup. Vancouver's top players, alongside Barreto, were first baseman Ryan McBroom (.841 OPS), outfielder Chris Carlson (.790 OPS), second baseman Tim Locastro (.774 OPS), third baseman Alexis Maldonado (.747 OPS) and speedy Roemon Fields (48 steals, 64 runs scored in 72 games).
For OPS comparison, consider that Mitch Nay, Midwest League Postseason All-Star and all-around Lugnuts standout, finished 2014 with a .731 OPS in Lansing.
5. Ryan McBroom, DH
6. Chris Carlson, RF
7. Alexis Maldonado, 3B
8. Tim Locastro, 2B
9. Roemon Fields, LF
It's likely we'll see a Lugnuts returnee or two -- perhaps Chaz Frank in the outfield. We should also see 13th-rounder Gunnar Heidt as well as rising Bluefield Blue Jays, perhaps catcher Dan Jansen or teenage third baseman Lane Thomas (Toronto's 5th-round pick this past June).
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The starting rotation might see the return of Shane Dawson and/or Starlyn Suriel, though I'm hoping both land in Dunedin. Likelier, we'll see prospects Matt Smoral, Jairo Labourt and Ryan Borucki rising from Vancouver. Will Toronto try Alberto Tirado in the starting rotation again, or did he find his true home in the bullpen? Where do a healthy Adonys Cardona and Tom Robson land? For now, put me down for:
1. Matt Smoral, LHP
2. Ryan Borucki, RHP
3. Jairo Labourt, LHP
4. Chase Mallard, RHP
And maybe Jesus Tinoco (R), Evan Smith (L) or Grayson Huffman (L) moving up from Bluefield?
The bullpen is a hazier area to project:
Andrew Case, RHP
Yeyfry Del Rosario, RHP
Adaric Kelly, RHP
Michael Kraft, LHP
Joe Lovecchio, RHP
Justin Shafer, RHP
Alberto Tirado, RHP
Chase Wellbrock, RHP
That's where things really get tough, so let's leave off right there.
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Realistically, consider the quantity of top Blue Jays prospects likely to land in Lansing next season: Alford, Barreto, Borucki, Labourt, Pentecost, Smoral, Tellez, Tirado.
The farm system is fertile, and the Lugnuts are reaping the benefits.

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