Hot Stove Heaters
  Injuries: AL | NL
  Offseason moves
  Free Agents
  Message Board
  Minor Leagues
  MLB Stat Search
  MLB en espaņol



Sport Sections
Saturday, January 20
Blue Jays minor-league report

System overview
The Blue Jays have a new ownership group on the horizon, giving hope that the franchise will return to the glory days of the early 1990s soon. The farm system isn't empty, but it isn't exactly full, either, due in part to a penurious bonus budget over the last couple of years.

The Blue Jays have several interesting prospects, but the system as a whole lacks depth. Vernon Wells and Joe Lawrence will be capable of handling major-league jobs soon. "Tools" players like Felipe Lopez and Cesar Izturis are often praised as top prospects, but they have yet to live up to their hype. The Jays like to draft athletic players, but have an uneven track record in helping them turn physical tools into baseball skills.

On the mound, the Jays have a large group of guys who throw hard, collectively one of the best collection of good fastballs in the minors. Again, however, they haven't done a great job turning these arms into pitchers, Roy Halladay being the best example. The Jays hope the new group on the way up, headlined by Pascual Coco, will have more success.

An increase in the scouting budget is badly needed. The 1999 and 2000 drafts were rather weak, according to most experts, due in large part to a concentration on signability, rather than talent, especially in the early rounds.

2000 Minor League W-L Percentage: .529 (ranked 6th)

2000 amateur draft
For the second year in a row, the Blue Jays picked a young Puerto Rican outfielder in the first round. Like Alexis Rios in 1999, Miguel Negron is talented, but very raw, and was picked as much for his cheaper bonus expectation as for his ability. Supplemental pick Dustin McGowan, a high school pitcher from Georgia, can hit 95 mph, but had a sore arm in high school and is an injury risk. Second-rounder Peter Bauer, a tall pitcher from the University of South Carolina, throws strikes at 93 mph, and could advance quickly.

A bargain pick in the fifth round was Mike Smith, a senior pitcher from the University of Richmond, who also hits 93 mph and pitched great in his debut. He is a short right-hander, so his draft leverage was limited. Another astute choice was 26th-round pick Jeremy Johnson, an outfielder from Southeast Missouri State. He hit .376 in his pro debut, with outstanding strike zone judgment. He'll have to prove himself at higher levels, but I think he will.

Top prospects
1) Vernon Wells, OF: Many observers, including this one, thought Wells would contribute in 2000. Instead, he hit .243 in Triple-A, thanks to a deep early slump. He still has power, speed, fair strike zone judgment, and excellent defense.

2) Joe Lawrence, C: I love his bat ... he drew 99 walks, stole 28 bases, hit 13 homers and 41 doubles. Still learning behind the plate, but improving.

3) Pascual Coco, RHP: Great name. Throws 90-95 mph, with decent control. Will need a year of Triple-A, after 12-7, 3.76 season in Double-A.

4) Felipe Lopez, SS: Scouts love his tools. I'm concerned about his poor 110/31 K/BB ratio. Granted, he was rushed to Double-A, and is still very young.

5) Bob File, RHP: Throws strikes with 94 mph sinker. Should be a very good setup man, perhaps as soon as 2001.

Others of note
Cesar Izturis, SS: Hit just .218 with 21 steals in Triple-A, but is very young. I'm not that high on him, but scouts like him.

Jeremy Johnson, OF: See draft commentary.

Charles Kegley, RHP: Can hit 97 mph, but horrible 66/74 K/BB ratio in Double-A shows he has a lot of work to do.

Brandon Lyon, RHP: Drafted in 1999, made debut last year. Went 5-3, 2.39 with 55/6 K/BB ratio in the New York-Penn League. Stuff is decent, command is outstanding.

Josh Phelps, C: Excellent raw power, hit 21 homers in less than 300 at-bats. Strike zone judgment may be a problem at higher levels.

Other names to know: Angel Caraballo, RHP; Scott Cassidy, RHP; Aaron Dean, RHP; Matt Ford, LHP; Ryan Freel, 2B; Mark Hendricksen, LHP; Orlando Hudson, 3B; Reed Johnson, OF; Matt McClellan, RHP; Mike Peeples, OF; George Perez, RHP; Cameron Reimers, RHP; Alexis Rios, OF; Andy Thompson, OF; Jayson Werth, C; Orlando Woodards, RHP.

John Sickels is working on the STATS 2001 Minor League Scouting Notebook. You can e-mail your questions to him at

Hot Stove Heaters: Blue Jays's Hot Stove Heaters