Ferguson: Mixed bag for Blue Jays pitchers in Fall League

Scott Ferguson
11/4/2013 12:08:10 PM
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Every year you make sure to check out the players an organization sends to the Arizona Fall League.

These can be players the team is fast tracking to the Bigs, players changing positions or players needing extra work while rehabbing from injuries. The Blue Jays have seven prospects playing this year with the Salt River Rafters: four pitchers, a catcher, an infielder and an outfielder.

The four of most interest are all pitchers - Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and John Stillson.

Hutchison, coming off of Tommy John surgery, pitched 35.1 innings this past season split among Single, Double and Triple-A. Clearly, the Jays are trying to get him more work to hasten his return to the big club.

Hutchison has been pretty sharp making four starts for the Rafters, going 1-0 with a 0.57 ERA and with two walks and 14 strikeouts over 15.2 innings. As good as he looked, when you consider how few innings he pitched this past season, it would still make a lot more sense for Hutchison to spend the bulk, if not the entire coming season, in Double and Triple-A.

Aaron Sanchez is two years younger than Hutchison at 21, but is regarded as the Jays top pitching prospect what with the trades of Justin Nicolino to the Miami Marlins and Noah Syndergaard to the New York Mets a year ago.

The only real knock so far on Sanchez has been his control. With the Rafters, he has eight walks in 13.1 innings, but otherwise, the numbers look pretty good. In four starts he's 0-1 with 10 strikeouts and a 1.35 ERA. However, it still looks as though he's at least another year away from a shot at the Majors.

The other two are puzzlers. After a year starting at Double and Triple-A, 22-year-old Marcus Stroman is only working in relief in the AFL. He's pitched in seven games, just 7.2 innings and is 0-2 with a 4.70 ERA. He's struck out six and walked only 3 and opponents have only hit .207 off him.

Alex Anthopoulos said towards the end of this season, he might trade some of the Blue Jays bullpen depth, to fill other holes. So, perhaps, Stroman will move into the Jays 'pen to fill one of the created openings.

The fourth pitcher is right-hander John Stillson, who greatly impressed skipper John Gibbons last spring. The 23-year-old right out of Texas A&M went 6-2 at Triple-A Buffalo out of the bullpen with four saves. He struck out 47 and walked 15.

Unfortunately, he hasn't pitched well in the AFL. He's appeared in just three games out of the 'pen going only two-and-a-third innings and getting hit hard. Stillson's ERA is 23.14 and batters are hitting .438 against him.

Yes, there is still Kyle Drabek and the impending return of Brandon Morrow from his injury and the possibility that Ricky Romero has a shocking return to form, but it's still pretty clear Alex Anthopoulos is going to have to do most of his searching for pitching help outside the organization in the off-season.

Monday at 5:00pm et. is the deadline for teams to make qualifying offers of to their perspective free agents. The Blue Jays are not expected to tender right-hander Josh Johnson who went 2-8 in an injury plagued first campaign with the Jays. The Blue Jays were supposed to have met with their medical people over the weekend to determine if it was worth making Johnson any sort of offer at all, say in the $2-3M range for one season.

Interest in Tanaka

A reworked Japanese player-posting system haven't been put into place yet, but the interest in Masahiro Tanaka continues to skyrocket.

The 25-year-old who went 24-0 this season for the Rakuten Golden Eagles, threw 160 pitches in a complete game loss in Game 6 of the Japanese World Series to the Yomiuri Giants. The very next day, though, in Game 7, Tanaka came right back and threw 15 more pitches in the ninth to nail down the victory and give Rakuten its first league title ever.

The New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs just a few of the clubs who want to get into the bidding once a new posting system is in place.

Bay Area Share?

There is a chance that the Oakland Athletics could be playing in the San Francisco Giants ballpark for the next two years.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, unless the A's can get a two-year lease agreement in Oakland rather than the six-to-eight-year deal the Coliseum people want, they will be playing out of AT&T Park as soon as this spring. The A's want to maintain their flexibility so they can move someplace else if a new facility isn't built in Oakland.

A few scheduling details would have to be worked out, since, right now, the A's and Giants are both scheduled to play eight games at home on the same days.

End of the Astrodome?

The fate of the sport's first indoor facility, the Houston Astrodome, could well be decided shortly. There is a vote being taken on Tuesday on a $217M bond issue on whether to transform the Astrodome into a convention and exhibition centre.

If the nays carry the vote, the Astrodome, which opened in 1965, will be leveled.

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