Hot Prospects: May Edition

Throughout the minors, there are so many players to keep up with.  It is often difficult to know who or what to pay attention to.  With that in mind, right here, right now we'll take a glance at some of the top performers throughout the Blue Jays' system this season and get you all caught up.

Lansing Lugnuts….34-13 record, 1st place in the Class A Midwest League’s Eastern division.

David Rollins, a 24th round draft choice out of San Jacinto College North last year, has posted outstanding numbers for the Lugnuts. The 22-year-old lefty hurler has a 4-0 record with a 2.64 ERA while striking out 41 batters and walking just 15 in 44 1/3 innings through 10 starts this season. Rollins, who stands 6-feet-1-inch tall and weighs around 195 pounds, sports a 1.45 ERA in 4 road games this year. Last year, in 7 combined starts with Bluefield and Vancouver, Rollins went 4-0 with a 1.77 ERA.

Outfielder Chris Hawkins, a 3rd round draft selection in 2010, has put up some excellent numbers for Lansing as well. The 20-year-old has a .327 batting average with 6 doubles, 2 triples and 1 HR while driving in 15 runs in 42 games this season. He has also stolen 6 bases without being caught. In his previous two professional seasons, mainly in the Gulf Coast League and at rookie level Bluefield, Hawkins, a lefty hitter, tallied a .290 batting average with a .783 OPS.

Andrew Burns is another one of the Lugnuts’ offensive threats. The 21-year-old was drafted last season in the 11th round by Toronto out of the University of Arizona. Through 42 games this season, the shortstop is batting .283 with 15 doubles, 2 triples, 7 HR and 22 RBI. His .931 OPS is second best in the league. The righty hitting Burns batted .250 with 3 HR and 14 RBI in 28 combined games last year for the GCL Blue Jays and with short-season Class A Vancouver.

Dunedin Blue Jays….31-17 record, 1st place in the Class A Advanced Florida State League’s North division.

Gabe Jacobo has put up some very solid production for Dunedin. The Rule 5 draft selection from last year, out of the Angels system, has hit .301 with 11 doubles, 2 homers and 17 RBI through 20 games this season. The 25-year-old Jacobo, who plays first base, is a right-handed hitter that was a career .284 hitter in the minors before joining the Toronto system.

Left-handed hurler Sean Nolin may be on the verge of a promotion, as his numbers just keep getting better in the FSL. The 22-year-old, who was drafted in the 6th round by Toronto in 2010, has gone 5-0 with a 2.25 ERA while striking out 57 batters in 56 innings over 10 starts for Dunedin. The San Jacinto Junior College product, who stands 6-feet-5-inches tall and weighs 235 pounds, went 4-4 with a 3.49 ERA with 113 K’s in 108 1/3 innings pitched last season for Lansing.

Dunedin’s closer, Danny Barnes, has a 1-1 record with 16 saves and a 2.08 ERA in 22 appearances this season. The Princeton University product was a 35th round draft selection in 2010 by the Blue Jays. The right-handed Barnes has a 1.69 ERA in 10 May games. In his previous 2 pro seasons, Barnes posted a 6-2 record with a 2.26 ERA and a .203 batting average against in 66 games (2 starts).

New Hampshire Fisher Cats…19-27 record, 5th place in the Double-A Eastern League’s Eastern division.

Ryan Goins has been scorching hot all season for NH. The lefty hitting second baseman has a .331 batting average with 12 doubles, 2 triples, 2 HR and 22 RBI through 44 games this season. In 22 May games, the lefty batting Goins has posted a remarkable .380 batting average. Goins, 24, was a 4th round draft pick in 2009.

Catcher Sean Ochinko has done a very good job filling in for injured counterpart AJ Jimenez (elbow ligament). In 6 games since joining the Fisher Cats, the 24-year-old Louisiana State University product is batting .333 with 2 doubles and 2 HR.

Left-handed reliever Aaron Loup has continued a strong campaign out of the NH bullpen. The 24-year-old is 0-1 with 2 saves and a 1.46 ERA in 20 relief outings this season. Drafted in the 9th round by Toronto in 2009, Loup made the Midwest League All-star team the following year in his first full season as a pro. Loup could be well on his way to getting another such honor this season if his production keeps up.

Las Vegas 51’s….25-23 record, 3rd place in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League’s Southern division.

Highly touted shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria is posting strong numbers for the 51’s. Through 47 games played, the Cuba native is batting .322 with 14 doubles, 2 triples, 4 HR and 34 RBI with 6 stolen bases. Hechavarria, 23, was a career .255 hitter with 12 HR in 2 seasons in the minors prior to this year.

Catcher Travis d’Arnaud, fresh off an MVP season in the Eastern League, is having another big year. Through 40 games, the 22-year-old is hitting .307 with a team leading 10 HR and 25 RBI. d'Arnaud was, of course, acquired from Philadlephia in the December, 2009 Roy Halladay trade.


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1BJW Interview: AJ Jimenez

New Hampshire Fisher Cats' backstop A.J. Jimenez is ranked among the top prospects in the Toronto system by virtually every outlet that ranks such things. Regularly praised for his defense and his abilities guiding a pitching staff, Jimenez is among the deep group of catchers the Blue Jays have in the minor league system.

Thus far this season, the 22-year-old Puerto Rico native has posted a .257 average with 2 homeruns and 10 RBI in 27 games in the Double-A Eastern League.

Taken in the 9th round of the 2008 amateur draft by Toronto, Jimenez has progressed steadily up the developmental ladder since turning pro. Last season with the Class A Advanced Florida State League, Jimenez sported a .303/.353/.417 line and was named a mid-season and post-season All-Star.

Recently, I spent some time chatting with AJ and he talked about his draft process, playing for New Hampshire, his manager Sal Fasano and plenty more. Check out the media player below to hear that interview.


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1BJW Interview: LHP Prospect Aaron Loup

Lefty hurler Aaron Loup has been a standout contributor out of the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats' bullpen thus far in 2012.

Loup, who was the Blue Jays' 9th round draft selection in 2009, began the season with 13 scoreless appearances.  Since then, he has allowed runs in back-to-back outings, but he still sports very impressive numbers.  Entering action on Thursday, the Tulane University product had posted a 1.76 ERA with no decisions and 1 save while striking out 11 batters and walking 4 in 15 1/3 innings.

The 24-year-old Loup has moved up the developmental rankings steadily since turning pro, progressing one level each season.

Last week, I spoke with Aaron about his early success, playing in New Hampshire, his pitch repertoire and plenty more.  Check out the media player below to hear the full interview. 


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Mark Sobolewski Postgame Interview

As well thought out as it is to play match ups in baseball, it's always remarkable when you see a team make a smart move and have it completely blow up in their faces.  That exactly what happened to Trenton Thunder manager Tony Franklin in the 7th inning against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats on Saturday night, when, with runners on 2nd and 3rd, the veteran baseball man elected to issue an intentional walk to switch-hitting slugger Mike McDade.  Immediately, NH clean up hitter Mark Sobolewski stepped up and delivered a huge blow, with a grand slam to break a 2-2 tie.

The Thunder battled back to tie the game, but the Fisher Cats locked down a 7-6 win in 10 innings.

After the game, I spoke with the man they call "Sobo" about his big hit, the mentality of the on-deck hitter when the other team issues an intentional walk and more.  Check out the media player to hear that interview.


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1BJW Interview: Ryan Goins

Infielder Ryan Goins, a 4th round draft choice of the Blue Jays in 2009, has been hot as of late with the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats.  The 24-year-old has posted a .372 batting average with 5 extra base hits, 8 RBI and 3 steals in his last 10 games as the team's lead off hitter.

Overall, the Texas native is sporting a .298/.336/.433 line in 26 games for the Fisher Cats.

This week I had the opportunity to speak with Ryan about his success this year, his work at improving, his draft experience and plenty more.  I even set off a bit of a false alarm, asking Ryan about the potential for Yankees legend Andy Pettitte to face NH in a possible tune up start with the Thunder, however Pettitte is set to pitch for the Yanks' Triple-A club this weekend instead.

Check out the media player below to hear that full interview.


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