Thursday, August 21, 2014

Busy Times in Prospect Land...

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 With the minor league seasons winding down and finishing regular season play next weekend, you would think that things would start to slow down a bit for someone who tracks the progress of milb prospects, but if the last 48 hours are any indication, things are finishing in a flurry of activity.
   This is not unusual, of course.  Teams that are gearing up for the playoffs often receive players from other levels of the organization that are out of a playoff hunt.

   Things got started on Tuesday night when OF Dalton Pompey returned to New Hampshire's lineup after missing three weeks with a quad injury.  We were under the impression that he had been shut down for the year, but not only was he batting leadoff for the Fisher Cats that night, we received word after the game (where Pompey was 1-4 with a 2-run HR that lead New Hampshire to victory) that Pompey was promoted to AAA Buffalo, just a step below the major leagues.

   It's been quite a year for Pompey, who has blossomed in his fifth year with the organization.  After missing much of the 2012 season with a hand injury, the native of Mississauga struggled at the beginning of 2013 with Lansing, but caught fire down the stretch, and was moved up the ladder to High A Dunedin for the 2014 season.  Pompey hit .319/397/.491 in 70 games with the D-Jays, with 29 bases in 31 attempts.  At the start of June, he was rewarded with a promotion to AA, and after going hitless in his first 13 Eastern League at bats, went on a tear, and was named to the World lineup for the Futures Game.  Hitting .432 over his last 10 games, Pompey brought his line up to .295/.378/.473.
   Pompey must be placed on the Blue Jays 40-man roster by November, or the Jays would risk losing him in the Rule 5 draft.  His inclusion on that roster is a no-brainer.  The Blue Jays have been rewarded for their patience with Pompey, and we see parallels between him and Lansing OF DJ Davis, the Jays' first round pick in 2012.  Davis has struggled in his first year of full season ball, and is in his third year with the club.  Like Pompey, Davis was drafted out of high school in a non-traditional baseball hotbed. The term used most often to describe both was raw.  It wasn't until late in his fourth year that Pompey started to turn things around.

   Yesterday, we learned that Lansing 3rd Baseman Mitch Nay was promoted from Lansing to Dunedin.  Regarded as the club's best position playing prospect prior to the season, Nay was playing his first year of full season ball with the Lugnuts.  The MVP of last year's Northwest League playoffs got off to a good start in April, slowed down a bit in May, and has been on fire at the plate almost ever since.  His power has not been there (3 HR), but that is to be expected.  What's more promising is the 34 doubles he hit with Lansing. At only 20 years of age, there's every reason to expect that some of those doubles will turn into home runs as he matures.

  Last night, we got our first glimpse of pitcher Miguel Castro of Lansing, and we were not disappointed.  Hitting 97 with his fastball, and showing nice bite on his slider and good downward movement with his change, Castro gave up a leadoff single, then retired 17 straight hitters.  He pitched into the 7th, and got into a bit of a jam with runners at first and second and none out, but got out of it, and pitched his longest professional game.
   We didn't get to see him, but lefthander Matt Smoral was just as dominant for Vancouver.  Smoral threw four scoreless innings for the Canadians, to run his streak to nine, allowing just one hit, walking a pair, and striking out 5.  Beset by control problems in his first pro season last year, Smoral has allowed only 17 walks in 38 innings this year, against 48 strikeouts.  He may not be Top 10 Prospect material yet, but he may be in the conversation by this time next year.

   We also see that Bluefield, who now appear to be a longshot to make the Appy League playoffs, promoted two of their best players today.  Richard Urena, who hit over .300 hitting leadoff while playing stellar defense at short, was promoted to Vancouver, while power hitting first baseman Rowdy Tellez was skipped to Lansing.  With Matt Dean moved from first to third to make up for the absence of Nay, Tellez likely will take Dean's spot at first.  It's interesting to see what will happen in Vancouver.  Urena is projected to stay at short as he rises through the system, while the C's incumbent, Frankie Barreto, is not.  We can't see Urena moving Barreto off of short at this point in the season, however.

   Speaking of the playoffs, Buffalo is within 3 games of a wildcard spot in the International League, Dunedin is already in the Florida State League by virtue of winning the first half of the season, and Vancouver is a half game out of a playoff spot.  Minor league playoffs may not mean all that much to the casual baseball fan, but it's a good environment for prospects to be in, and while the emphasis for much of the season is on development, playoff experience can bolster that.

   Fun times as the season winds down.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Monday Notebook - One Last Look at the Top 10

   With the minor league season winding down, we decided to take one last look at how our pre-season Top 10 Blue Jays prospects have fared.
   We will re-rank our list in the fall, after play in the Arizona Fall League winds down.

1.  Aaron Sanchez
   We had predicted great things for the young righthander - in 2015.
With the Blue Jays' bullpen in tatters, the club promoted Sanchez to Buffalo in June, and then sent him to the bullpen in July for a couple of appearances, before bringing him to the majors.
 Pitching in the middle of a playoff race, Sanchez has bolstered the club's relief corps.
 He had some command issues at both minor league stops this season, but his control has been excellent as a big league reliever, walking only two hitters in 15 innings.  Sanchez has thrown his four-seamer the majority (80%) of the time, and is averaging 97.1 mph with it.
   Moving Sanchez to the bullpen has both served as a good introduction to the major leagues, and has also allowed the club to still be able to use him, without having to worry about his innings total.

2.  Marcus Stroman
   It has been a tale of two seasons for the righthander.
Summoned to the big club at the end of April, he too pitched out of the bullpen, but not effectively, and was sent back to AAA to get stretched out.
   Since his return at the end of May, Stroman has pitched so well that he has quickly become a mainstay of the Toronto rotation.  He took a no-hitter into the 7th against the Red Sox, and matched Max Scherzer pitch for pitch in another start.  He has been rocked a few times, and may have been tipping his pitches against the White Sox in his most recent start, but it's hard to see the Blue Jays in playoff contention without his contributions.

3.  Daniel Norris
   Norris, a dedicated surfer, has ridden a huge wave of helium for the past calendar year, to the point where he could join Sanchez in the Blue Jays bullpen in September.
  Norris started the year in High A, and was Milb's pitcher of the month for April.  Promoted to AA, he had minor struggles with control and economizing his pitch count, but appeared to iron things out enough to merit a promotion to AAA, where he has been dominant in his first two starts, striking out a career-high 13 in his last start.
   Hitting 96 with his fastball and keeping hitters off balance with his change, Norris has struck out 148 batters in 113 minor league innings, and threw a scoreless inning at the Futures Game.  Quite a turnaround for a prospect who seemed to be on the verge of being a bust 16 months ago.  We're very excited about a rotation that will likely include Sanchez, Stroman, and Norris a year from now.

4.  Sean Nolin
  The forgotten man of our top 10 list, Nolin has been bitten by the injury bug this year with ongoing groin issues, but appears to have bounced back.  He likely won't see a September call-up, but he still likely figures into the club's plans, depending on whether or not Mark Buehrle and/or RA Dickey return next year.  Nolin profiles as a back of the rotation innings eater.

5.  Kevin Pillar
   Overmatched in the first weeks of his second promotion to the bigs, Pillar appeared on the verge of putting things together until cameras caught a bit of a dugout temper tantrum after he was pinch hit for, and Pillar was exiled to Buffalo, where he's been for the summer.
   And all he has done since his return to the minors is hit:  .323/366/.476 for the AAA season, with 27 steals in 33 attempts.  We were mildly surprised that Pillar was still a Blue Jay after the July trade deadline, and while we think he'll be a September call-up, his future with the club may be cloudy.
   In order to improve his pitch recognition and stop chasing breaking balls out of the strike zone, Pillar needs to play.  We still believe his ceiling is as a versatile fourth outfielder, but in this day and age of multiple man bullpens, there's a premium on that type of player.  He may reach that ceiling with another organization, though.  With the club's struggles against left-handed pitching this summer, we've struggled to understand why Pillar wasn't called back up.

6.  Roberto Osuna
   The 19 year old underwent Tommy John surgery at the end of July last year, and made his first start less than a year later in the GCL.
   A few weeks later, he made his Florida State League debut, where he became the league's youngest pitcher, and showed why he is so highly regarded.
   Osuna is regularly hitting 95 with his fastball, and is flashing his plus curve and change, and an advanced feel for pitching that is seldom seen in a pitcher his age.  As most players post TJ surgery do, he has struggled with his command.
   In a way, the surgery may have been a bit of a blessing, because there had been many concerns about his high maintenance body.  Osuna appears to have taken the need for proper conditioning seriously, which is vital, as he works his way up the ladder.
7.  D.J. Davis
   It's been a long summer for the outfielder, which was not wholly unexpected.
Davis has shown flashes, and has been brilliant defensively, but he has struggled mightily at the plate (.210/.262/.305), and on the bases (15-33). He has had trouble with pitch recognition, as his 151 strikeouts (although only 2 in his last 10 games) demonstrates.
   While he has taken a bit of a step back in his first year of full season ball, he is still a premium talent.  He may repeat at least a half season of Low A ball next year.  We have to remember that he came from a state (Mississippi) where the high school schedule is all of 20 games long, and Davis just turned 20.  To be honest, we had expected more, but time is still firmly on Davis' side.  Sometimes you have to be patient for a little bit longer.

8.  Andy Burns
   After a great 2013, followed by solid performances in the Arizona Fall League and in spring training, we thought that Burns might see a late-season promotion to the big club.
  A slow start (.200 in April, and .223 in May), may have taken care of that.  Burns had a sizzling July, and has cooled off a bit of late, but has brought his line up to a respectable .256/.319/.419, with 12 home runs and 17 stolen bases.
   Burns has played most of the year at 3rd, although he has been moved around a bit in the second half of the season.  We still envision a super utility role for Burns - like Pillar, his versatility could be his ticket to a big league job.

9.  Franklin Barreto
   The youngest position player in the Northwest League has been exactly as advertised this season.  Hitting third in the Vancouver batting order, he barrels up plenty of balls, leading to a line of .318/.394/.508, with 20 stolen bases in 23 attempts thrown in.  Playing against players 3 years older, he leads the NWL in doubles, rbi, total bases, and runs, and is in the top 10 in just about every offensive category in the loop.
   Barreto's defence remains a work in progress.  It's almost a given that he will end up in the outfield, or perhaps at second.  And we're not all that worried.  Richard Urena, playing behind Barreto at Bluefield, is projected to stay at shortstop, and if his bat in the Appy League this year is any indication, his hit tool is plus.
Both are a long way away from the bigs, but Barreto looms as an impact bat.

10.  Alberto Tirado
   At start of the season, many eyes were focused on the young pitching staff that the Blue Jays had assembled.  One by one, most have fallen to injury (Cardona, Robson, Dawson), or inconsistency, with Tirado and Jairo Labourt falling in that category.
   Labelled a beast in the making by Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus, Tirado struggled to find the plate in the Midwest League, and was sent back to extended spring training in early June after putting up a 6.30 ERA in 40 innings, which included 40Ks, but an unsightly 39 walks.
   Sent to Vancouver when short season play began, Tirado has still had command issues, but has pitched well in his last few outings in relief.
   Tirado has taken a bit of a step back this year, but at 19, there's not great cause for concern, and he would not be the first Latin player to struggle in his first year of full season ball.


  A bit more news....
Joining Max Pentecost and Jake Paterson in injury rehab in Florida was catcher Dan Jansen.  A 16th round pick last year, Jansen was showing signs of putting things together in Bluefield this year, hitting .282/.390/.484 before being sidelined by a knee injury in early August.  The news is not all bad on the injury front, however, as New Hampshire OF Dalton Pompey, who we were originally told would be out for much of the rest of the year with a quad injury, is back in the Fisher Cats' lineup tonight.

   Norris and Barreto both made the latest edition of Baseball America's Prospect Hot Sheet, Norris at #7, and Barreto at #13.  After few Blue Jays prospects have made the sheet this summer, we're up to 5 in 2 weeks.  Labourt made the "Team Photo."
   Lansing SS Dawel Lugo made the list, but for the wrong reasons.  After hitting .155/.152/.178 this month, he made the Not-So-Hot section.  After a .298/.324/.423 July, Lugo, one of the youngest everyday players in the Midwest League, appears to have hit the wall.  Lugo doesn't turn 20 until December, so we shouldn't be raising the alarm just yet.  Like Barreto, Lugo doesn't project to stay at short, but his bat is still considered to be of the potential impact variety.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday Notebook

   Seems like we got to see a lot of baseball this weekend.

 We admit to being caught by surprise when Daniel Norris was promoted to Buffalo last week.  In 8 starts at AA, he had pitched reasonably well, but his numbers did not match those he put up in High A earlier in the year.  Struggling a bit with his command, Norris posted a 4.54 ERA in 35.2 AA innings, striking out 49.  We were not surprised with his difficulties, as the leap between A+ and AA can be the biggest jump in the minors.  In his last AA start on August 3rd, however, Norris must have shown to the organization he was ready, giving up one run in 6.2 innings, walking none and striking out eight.
   Norris made his AAA debut on Sunday, and facing a Durham lineup that included a rehabbing Wil Myers, Norris was lights out.  In 6 scoreless innings, he gave up just two hits and a walk, while striking out 10.  He commanded the strike zone with his fastball, which touched 96, and his change up, which the Durham hitters were pretty much defenseless.
   Does this set the wheels in motion for a promotion to the big club?  Probably not just yet, but with another start like that it may just be a matter of time, especially given Mark Buerhle's struggles.
   Mitch Nay has pretty much flown under the radar for us this year.  Nay didn't make our top 10 Blue Jays prospects heading into the season, but he did make several others', and he did merit serious consideration. Some have gone as far as to label him the top position player prospect in the system.  The NWL playoff MVP has been solid, if not spectacular, in his first year of full season ball.  He struggled in May, but has surged since June, so much so that Baseball America noticed, and listed him as the 6th hottest prospect in Milb after a 12-28 week.  Here's BA's synopsis of his season:

    Nay’s home run this week was his first since May 12, which is a pretty lengthy gap for a hitter who came out of high school with above-average raw power. But Nay is an example of a young hitter for which home run totals don’t tell the whole story. The 20-year-old is second in the Midwest League with 30 doubles, and while two-baggers don’t always turn into home runs as a hitter matures, they often do. That’s the best-case for scenario Nay, who has just three home runs this year at a power-oriented position.

   We've been a bit concerned that Nay's power has been largely absent this year, but we know that's often the last tool in the kit to develop, and Cooley Law School Stadium in a tough home run park.  There were concerns about his defence entering the season, but he was recently named Best Defensive 3rd Baseman in BA's Best of Tools for the Midwest League.  All in all, Nay is right on track.

   Nay was joined on the Hot Sheet by Bluefield first baseman Rowdy Tellez, who was #11 on the list after a 11-20 week.  Tellez had a slow start once again in his second pro season, but has been on fire the last month, and has a line of .288/354/.406 for the season.  BA observed:
    He ranked among the best lefthanded power bats available in 2013. He’s a big guy (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) who will have to focus on conditioning, but he has above-average bat speed and can drive the ball to the opposite field. That’s good because Tellez’s bat must carry him.

   And that pretty much sums up our opinion of Tellez.  This guy could be an impact bat one day, and we're thinking that the folks in Vancouver may get to see him in time for a playoff push in a couple of weeks.  

   Andy Burns joined Nay and Tellez "in the team photo" section of the list, after a 13-31 week.  We think Burns might have an outside chance to be promoted to the big club when MLB rosters expand on September 1st.  He can play a multitude of positions, can steal a base, and hits from the right side with a bit of pop.  

Two of Nay's teammates also caught our attention last week.  Pitchers Starlyn Suriel and Miguel Castro turned in impressive performances.  Suriel, a little old for an international signing when he signed with Toronto in 2013, was dominant in his last start for Lansing, pitching a scoreless six innings, and allowing only one hit, walking none and striking out four.  Castro pitched better than his line would indicate in his Midwest League debut, and pitched well again in his second start, giving up a run in 4.2 innings, striking out four.  It's been a long season for the Lugnuts, and their prized prospect rotation really didn't materialize, but the pair have been a bright spot as the season winds down.

   We heard today, via Charlie Caskey, who blogs about the Vancouver Canadians, that catcher and first-round pick Max Pentecost has been sent back to the organization's base in Florida to have "a couple of nicks," in the words of C's manager John Schneider. looked at.
   Pentecost has been out of the lineup for three games, and has mostly DH'd over the past two weeks.
We wonder if he's run down after a season which basically began in February.  Pentecost led Kennesaw State to the NCAA Super Regionals.  He did have about a month off after being drafted by the Jays before starting his pro career in Vancouver, but obviously there was a nagging injury of some sort that worsened shortly after he arrived.  
   The Jays, as is their policy, are tight-lipped about the situation, and truth be told, we're not sure there's a lot to be concerned about.  Caskey suggested that if Pentecost does play again this season, it might be for Dunedin in the playoffs.  For fans of the C's, who are a in a battle to claim a playoff bid and a chance to play for their fourth straight NWL title, the loss of Pentecost and Castro no doubt hurts.  Such is the life of a minor league fan, however.  
   New Hampshire outfielder Dalton Pompey may also be done for the year, after the return of a quad injury that he originally suffered at the end of July.  Pompey made the most progress of any Jays prospect this year, leaping into many top 100 lists.  After a slow start following his promotion to AA, Pompey was on fire at the plate, hitting .459 over his last 10 games before being sidelined.  The Jays will likely want to be careful with Pompey, so we may not see him again until the Arizona Fall Leauge.

   We also learned, via Bluefield broadcaster Kevin Fitzgerald on the "Around the Nest" podcast, that outfielder Jake Anderson is injured again, and has returned to Florida.  The sandwich-round pick in 2011 missed all of 2013 after undergoing surgery to correct a rib problem, and had all of 10 at bats this year before being sidelined in late June.  

Friday, August 8, 2014

Jays Try to Talk Alford Out of Football - Says No, Thanks

  Dual sport-star Anthony Alford revealed this week to Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger that Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopolous offered him a contract extension on the last day of his third successive brief baseball season in early July.
   Alford did not reveal much about the offer, other than that it was for five years, and presumably would mean that he would have to forego his college football commitment.
  We imagine that the dollars discussed were substantial.  The raw, but premium-tooled athlete had just finished a week in low A ball with Lansing, where Alford's prodigious athletic talents were put on display (.320/.320/.480, with 4 SB's in 25 At Bats), despite the fact that he had totalled 48 plate appearances in the Gulf Coast League over two summers.
   Alford admitted that the Blue Jays, who had selected him in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft and gave him a $750 000 bonus despite his stated intention of playing quarterback at Southern Mississippi, pulled something of an all-out blitz, telling Kellenberger, "He (Anthopolous) put some deals on the table and made it difficult for me."
   Obviously, Anthopolous didn't make things that difficult, as Alford carried through with his plans to report for Ole Miss' training camp after getting married in mid-July.  Alford told Kellenberger:

   "Football was my first love, and even if I made $100 million down the road in baseball, I'd still regret not giving football a shot."

  So we can safely assume the answer Alford gave AA was "no, thanks."

   Alford red-shirted at Ole Miss last football season as a result of transferring after a tumultuous freshman campaign at Southern Miss.  He often quarterbacked the scout team in practice last year, and while he has moved to the other side of the ball in a bid to gain a starting position, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze has liked the looks of Alford behind centre in practice.  He likely will be a back-up at defensive safety, and his blazing speed may be put to use on the punt return team.  Understandably, this is an athlete they want on the field.

   Alford's dream all along, of course, has been to play football.  We have heard (but couldn't substantiate) that Alford has confided to friends that he would rather play arena football than pro baseball.  While there's no questioning his desire to play at the college level,  we would question the wisdom of that decision if things were to come to that.  The Blue Jays are obviously willing to make Alford a wealthy young man if he was to focus solely on baseball.  We have written before about Alford not having the best influences in his upbringing.  His father is currently serving a sentence for dealing Oxycodone, and his mother was arrested in 2014 on the same charges.  Judging by his tweets, he has left his young bride behind in his hometown of Petal, and he appears to be boarding with a family in Oxford for the college year.  We wonder what, if any, counsel was available to him in Lansing, hundreds of miles away from home, when Anthopolous was trying to convince him to switch.

   It's far too early to determine what Alford's football future will hold.  Two years ago, as one of the top recruits in the nation, the sky appeared to be the limit.  Alford now is trying to rebuild his name and reputation on the gridiron.  

  We are quite disappointed, but not surprised by Alford spurning the Jays offer, whatever it was.  And he still is very young, having just turned 20 last month.  Even though he's far behind his baseball peers in terms of experience, he showed this summer that he's not all that far behind in development.  There's little doubt that he would reach his potential in a hurry if he was to concentrate solely on baseball.  If he had accepted the Blue Jays offer, he likely would've remained in Lansing for most of the summer, and headed to Instructional League in the fall.  Given his athleticism, we could see him in the majors by 2016, when he will be readying for his junior football season at Ole Miss, presuming he doesn't leave school early and declare for the NFL draft.

   Alford will make his Ole Miss debut on August 28th against Boise State.  We admit that we'll be looking for a live stream of it.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Monday Notebook

   It's early, because we're going to be away from reliable wi-fi for a few days, so here's a look at what happened in the Blue Jays minor league system over the past week.

   It actually promised to be a quiet week.  Pitcher Ryan Borucki was promoted from Bluefield to Vancouver on Tuesday, and then all hell broke loose on Friday.  First, a check of our Twitter timeline revealed that Roberto Osuna was going to make a rehab start that night for the Dunedin Blue Jays. Moments later, we saw that Miguel Castro was elevated from Vancouver to Lansing, and then Kendall Graveman was promoted from New Hampshire to Buffalo, with Taylor Cole called up from Dunedin to take Graveman's place in the Fisher Cats' rotation.  Finally, Lansing sent righthander  Jeremy Gabryszwski to fill Cole's spot in the D-Jays rotation.  It seemed like this all took place within a matter of minutes.  After being very conservative with their young pitchers the past few years, the message seems to be different this year:  pitch well, and you will advance quickly.

   With a rehabbing Brett Lawrie in the lineup, Osuna took to the mound in Florida for the first time since pitching an inning in a GCL almost a month ago.  Osuna had a 1-2-3 first inning, sandwiching a ground out around a pair of swinging K's.  He gave up a single and a triple on his first two pitches in the second, then struck out two of the next three hitters.  Osuna lasted until he had reached his pitch limit with one out in the fourth.  He allowed 3 runs (all earned), on 4 hits, giving up a walk and striking out 6.  His 8.10 ERA for the game may seem unsightly, but Osuna showed a great deal in this outing, including a fastball which sat between 93-95, a curve at 81, and a changeup that constantly kept hitters off balance.  We look forward to his next start.  At 19, he's the youngest player in the FSL, and is the third youngest at High A.

   Graveman's promotion to Buffalo came as a surprise.  He has made a rapid rise through the system this year, starting at Lansing in April, and progressing up each level.  Most of his year has been spent at High A with Dunedin, where he has broken a lot of bats en route to an 8-4, 2.23 record.  Promoted to New Hampshire a little over a week ago, he made one start in AA before being sent to Buffalo.  In his first AAA start on Saturday, he pitched well, giving up 8 hits (only one for extra bases), but only a pair of runs in 6 innings.  Not a strikeout per inning guy, Graveman walks few (only 18 in 96 FSL innings), and pounds the zone down low, as evidenced by his 10:1 ground out to fly ball ratio.

   Cole, Graveman's former rotation mate in Dunedin, did not fare as well in his AA debut.  The minors strikeout leader, Cole gave up 8 hits in 5.1 innings, giving up 8 runs (7 earned), walking and striking out four.  That Cole struggled and Graveman didn't can be explained by the huge gap between A and AA.  AA is the level where hitters start to have a plan, and pitchers can't rely on simply blowing fastballs by them.  The gap is not as big between AA and AAA.
   Borucki pitched very well in his Northwest League debut, throwing 5 scoreless innings last night, striking out 7, and only giving up 2 hits and a walk.  The 2012 draft pick, who missed all of last year due to TJ surgery, is quickly making up for lost time.

    There is no word when Castro will make his Low A debut with Lansing, or whether he will make it in a starting or relief capacity.  He was one of the youngest players in the Northwest League, and now is one of the youngest in the Midwest League.  Castro was simply dominant at Vancouver, with a 6-2, 2.15 record in 10 starts for the C's, including 53 strikeouts in 50 innings.  His promotion was something of a surprise given his age, and that he's only been pitching stateside for about a year.

   Our prospect hitter of the month is Dunedin OF Dwight Smith, Jr.  Overshadowed by teammate Dalton Pompey in Florida earlier this year, Smith quietly put together one of the best lines in all of the system in July, leading all prospects in batting average, on-base percentage, and OPS.  His line for the month was .356/.429/.586, and his totals for the season are:


   Our prospect pitcher of the month comes down to Castro or Graveman.  And it's a tough choice.  Because he's pitched at four levels this year, we'll take Graveman, but you could easily make a case for Castro.
   Graveman was 3-1 for the month, with a 0.93 ERA.  In 38.2 IP, he gave up 37 hits, walked only 6 batters.  Castro was 4-1, 1.13, striking out 32 batters in as many innings.  The line for both this year:


   All of the Blue Jays affiliates had a winning record for the month, except for Dunedin, which is the only club that's clinched a playoff spot to this point.