The Blue Jays have been racked with injuries to their big-league rotation in 2012. From former top prospect Kyle Drabek, to Brandon Morrow and even Drew Hutchison, the Jays have been decimated. Although 2012 is likely a lost cause, the future still looks bright for Toronto due to their stable of young arms sitting at Low-A Lansing.
Aaron Sanchez, Justin Nicolino and Noah Syndergaard are mowing down the competition for the Lugnuts. Sanchez, the 34th overall selection in the 2010 draft, and has posted a 2.27 ERA and 89:49 K:BB ratio in 83.1 innings. A groundball pitcher, Sanchez has notched a superior 2.20 GO:AO ratio. Nicolino was a second-round pick that year and has shown stellar control in 2012; the southpaw has compiled a 107:16 K:BB ratio in 109.1 innings with a 2.63 ERA. Not to be outdone, Syndergaard has notched a 106:26 K:BB ratio in 90 innings with a 2.79 ERA and 2.08 GO:AO ratio. These young hurlers likely won't make their collective debuts until 2014, but Toronto has to be extremely encouraged by the development of their pitchers.
Let's look at the rest of the prospect scene in this week's Minor League Barometer.
Jedd Gyorko, 3B, SD - Gyorko is almost assured of being a September call-up for the Padres. The 23-year-old is slashing .341/.390/.600 with 20 home runs and 71 RBI in 80 games at Triple-A Tucson. Gyorko has been even better over his last 10 contests, hitting .355/.429/.710. With Chase Headley manning third in the majors, Gyorko could see some time at second base upon being promoted.
Tyler Skaggs, P, AZ - Even with a dreadful last start, Skaggs will still be called up to make his MLB debut Wednesday for the D-Backs. The 21-year-old lefty has a 2.91 ERA and 45:16 K:BB ratio in 52.2 innings thus far at Triple-A Reno. Along with Trevor Bauer, Patrick Corbin and Archie Bradley, Skaggs has given Arizona one of the deepest systems with regard to pitching. Although Bauer and Corbin have been shuttled back and forth between the minors and the bigs, Skaggs is hoping to stick in the rotation. He certainly has all the tools to succeed.
Jose Fernandez, P, MIA - Fernandez is not getting enough publicity for his standout 2012 campaign. Between Low-A and High-A, Fernandez is 13-1 with a 1.81 ERA and 150:31 K:BB ratio in 124 innings. Opposing batters are hitting a putrid .189 against him. He has even been getting more ground balls at High-A, posting a 1.22 GO:AO ratio. He has also not allowed a home run since being promoted, a span of 45 innings. A Cuban defector, Fernandez can throw four pitches and get swings-and-misses with his heater, curveball and slider. All in all, Fernandez looks to be a budding star for the Fish.
Xander Bogaerts, SS, BOS - Bogaerts has been on fire since a promotion to Double-A, slashing .390/.405/.756 with three home runs and seven RBI in 10 games. The shortstop hit .302/.378/.505 with 15 home runs and 64 RBI in 104 games at High-A before moving up. The Red Sox have a combination of Mike Aviles, Nick Punto and Pedro Ciriaco playing shortstop. If Jose Iglesias can't hit at the big-league level, Bogaerts could find himself standing next to Dustin Pedroia sooner rather than later.
Jameson Taillon, P, PIT - Taillon was recently promoted to Double-A Altoona. The former No. 2 overall selection in the 2010 compiled a 3.82 ERA and 98:37 K:BB ratio in 125 innings. The Pirates are taking it slow with Taillon, who was drafted directly out of high school and will not turn 21 until November. That bsaid, his strikeout numbers have not been off the charts, and he has surrendered 10 home runs thus far in 2012. Taillon remains an elite talent and could be in the big-league rotation as early as 2014, but we'd like to see him absolutely dominate opposing hitters. Next season will be crucial toward telling whether he will be a future ace.
Jorge Soler, OF, CHC - Another Cuban-born player, Soler has looked the part of a $30 million hitter in his short time in the minors. In nine games for Low-A Peoria, Soler is 12-for-35 (.343) with two home runs, nine RBI and one stolen base. He has a .395 on-base percentage with a .571 slugging percentage. Clearly the sample size is small, though, and we'd like to see how he handles pitching at the higher levels first. Soler certainly appears headed in the right direction for the Cubbies, but don't get too excited just yet.
Jake Odorizzi, P, KC - With setbacks in 2012 for Luke Hochevar, Mike Montgomery and Danny Duffy, the Royals are being extra cautious with Odorizzi. The 22-year-old righty has accumulated a 2.80 ERA and 77:35 K;BB ratio in 96.1 innings for Triple-A Omaha. He has allowed three runs or fewer in six straight starts for the Storm Chasers. However, in the Royals' defense, Odorizzi hasn't exactly mowed down hitters despite the low ERA: his strikeouts are down, plus he has been walking a few too many batters, including at least two in each of those aforementioned six starts. He profiles as a No. 3 starter at the next level. As a result, Odorizzi could still see the bigs as a September call-up, but KC may just elect not to rush him, waiting until 2013 to let him loose.
Mike Zunino, C, SEA - The Golden Spikes Award Winner in 2012 from the University of Florida, Zunino was selected third overall by the Mariners. He performed so well in the Short-Season Northwest League (.373/.474/.736 with 10 home runs and 35 RBI in 29 games), that the M's then sent the 21-year-old directly to Double-A. In five games since being promoted, Zunino is 6-for-16 (.375) with two dingers and three RBI for the Generals. The dilemma the Mariners will face is that Zunino is a better hitter than receiver, and they already have a player of a similar ilk (Jesus Montero) at the big-league level. Although Zunino is expected to stick at the catching position and is considered a superior fielder already to Montero, Seattle will have to deal with the fact that it will almost never have the DH slot available with Montero and Zunino both on the squad. A good problem to have, perhaps, but one that could limit the lineup's flexibility as early as 2013.
Robbie Ray, P, WAS - In 2011, the Nats had an extremely productive trio at Low-A with Ray, Sammy Solis and A.J. Cole in the rotation. Flash forward one year, and Ray is the only one pitching for Washington. A.J. Cole was dealt to the A's in the Gio Gonzalez trade and posted a woeful 7.82 ERA in eight starts at High-A before being demoted. Meanwhile, Solis has been out since March after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Even though Ray has stayed, he hasn't exactly pitched well. The 20-year-old lefty possesses a bloated 6.53 ERA and 74:38 K:BB ratio for High-A Potomac. Opposing batters are hitting a healthy .301 against him this year. If possible, Ray has been even worse over his last 10 starts, compiling an 8.31 ERA. A 12th-round selection in 2010, Ray has come crashing back down to earth in 2012.
Joe Benson, OF, MIN - Benson was supposed to figure prominently in the Twins' 2012 plans, eventually becoming a fixture in the outfield for Minnesota. Instead, he suffered a broken hamate bone a la Pablo Sandoval in May, then had a setback in June. He's back now, but it might as well be in spirit only. After struggling at Triple-A, he's done more of the same at Double-A. Over his last 10 games, Benson is batting .100 with 18 strikeouts. Benson is trending in the wrong direction in what has clearly been a lost season for the 24-year-old.
Jonathan Schoop, 3B, BAL - Last season, it was Schoop - and not uber-prospect Manny Machado - who was named Minor League Player of the Year for the Birds. After rising through the minor-league ranks with Machado at seemingly every step, though, Schoop finally hit a wall at Double-A Bowie. On the year, he is batting .244/.318/.386 with 13 home runs and 50 RBI through 111 games. He has fanned 93 times this year. Schoop has been cold recently too, hitting just .182 over his last 10 games. Schoop is still one of the younger players in Double-A at just 20, but continuing the progression with Machado was a near impossible act to follow.
Matt den Dekker, OF, NYM - The 24-year-old outfielder surged through Double-A earlier this season, batting an impressive .340/.397/.563 with eight home runs, 29 RBI and 10 steals in 58 games. Triple-A has been a vastly different story, though, as den Dekker has been grounded to the tune of .215/.248/.394 in 65 games. His patience at the dish has been poor over that span, as den Dekker has been punched out 79 times while drawing just 12 walks. Although he does have eight home runs and 43 RBI, he must improve his plate discipline if he is to become an everyday player at the highest level.