|Tim Leiper photo|
A couple of tidbits as we close in on the opening of MLB spring training, and the MiLB version a few weeks later.
Burns signs with Lotte
Andy Burns was given his release so that he could sign with the Lotte Giants of the KBO. Burns appeared in 10 games with the Blue Jays in 2016, going hitless in 7 plate appearances. He was removed from the 40-man roster in November.
An 11th round pick in 2011, Burns' versatility helped move him up the minor league ladder. Originally a SS, Burns can play all four infield positions, as well as the corner outfield spots. He told his hometown Coloradan, he's excited about the prospect playing in baseball-crazy South Korea:
"They absolutely love baseball over there," said Burns, who will leave for South Korea near the end of January. "It's going to be a really fun baseball atmosphere. I'm excited to get over there."Burns reportedly signed a one-year deal with Lotte, and may return to play stateside in 2018.
Word came via Vancouver freelancer Charlie Caskey (@CharlieCaskey on Twitter) when he tweeted from the Canadians annual Hot Stove luncheon that Blue Jays Minor League Coordinator Charlie Wilson informed him that RHP Clinton Hollon has been released.
To say that the 2013 2nd rounder has a checkered past would be putting it mildly. Considered to be in possession of a first-round arm, concerns about his elbow and his makeup caused him to fall to the 2nd round, where he signed for below slot. Hollon underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014, and missed the entire season. He came back impressively in 2015, pitching well for Vancouver and Lansing, before receiving a 50-game suspension in late August for a positive PED (amphetamines) test. Then, just before he was set to return to action in late May, he received another 50-game penalty for a positive test for a drug of abuse.
The Blue Jays stood by Hollon, and invited him to Instructs last fall. Obviously, somewhere along the way the club felt that his mental and/or physical approach to the game was lacking, which is why they decided to release him. The club has shown little tolerance for recreational drug use in the past, sending prospects Tyler Gonzales and Kramer Champlin packing after positive tests.
You can't help but feel for Hollon, but at the same time, he likely was given ample opportunity to redeem himself, and failed to do so. He denied knowingly taking amphetamines, which probably did not enamour him to the organization. Given his electric arm, there still likely will be a team that will given him another chance.
Six Prospects Invited to Spring Training with the Big Club
In addition to recent 40-man additions Richie Urena and Anthony Alford, six prospects were invited to the Blue Jays Major League training camp when it opens next month.
Extending invitations to these players gives them a valuable experience from several perspectives. Not only do they get to practice with and compete against MLB players and play in front of MLB spring training crowds, they get an opportunity to see the work ethic that propelled those MLB players to their team's 25-man rosters. Alford was invited to his first spring training in 2015, and said that he learned a lot about preparation and how to conduct himself from watching Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista. RHP Conner Greene was expected to begin last year at AA New Hampshire after spending the final month of the 2015 season there, but the club felt that he needed to work on his routine between starts, so he returned to High A Dunedin to start 2016. He did improve on that routine, and no doubt his invitation was meant to serve as another lesson in his baseball education.
Joining Greene will be 1B Rowdy Tellez, C Reese McGuire, OF Dwight Smith Jr, 2B Jon Berti, and relievers Will Browning and Tim Mayza. Of this group, only Tellez might have a shot at breaking camp with the big team, although barring further roster moves, he appears headed for AAA Buffalo to start the season. Mayza and Browning are on the verge of joining the decent corps of relievers the Blue Jays have stockpiled in the upper levels of the system. There have been some who suggest that Greene might be in line for a bullpen job this spring, but while his command issues would be likely improved if his repertoire of pitches was cut down in a relief role, the organization still views him as a starter.
There was some concern last year that the Blue Jays minor league hitters did not get enough reps in spring training, and it caused some teams (New Hampshire, in particular) to get off to a slow start. While having hitters in camp like Tellez is beneficial for them, it can also take away from their actual playing time, and it will be interesting to see how long they stay in camp before being shipped to the minor league complex this spring.
MLB Draft Order Set
The Orioles' signing of Mark Trumbo took care of the last remaining free agent with compensation attached, meaning that the order for the June MLB draft has now been set.
The Blue Jays will get the 22nd pick, as well as the 28th pick as compensation for the loss of free agent Edwin Encarnacion. While the loss of Encarnacion hurts, the chance to pick two players in the top 30 could bode well for the future of the organization. It might also give the team a chance to roll the dice with one of those two picks - they could play it safe with a proven college bat or arm with one, and take a chance on a high school player with high upside but equally high risk with the other. Either way, it will help a system on the rebound add some more depth.