Blue Jays Farm Report: Dunedin Blue Jays
June has seen an elevated level of activity down in the minor-leagues for the Toronto Blue Jays and, while the Triple A Buffalo Bisons have accumulated the organization’s top prospect — Aaron Sanchez — the lower levels of the farm continue to thrive with talent and results.
The Dunedin Blue Jays (advanced Single A) have once again prospered from the rich talent pool drafted in recent years.
Daniel Norris, the Blue Jays’ 4th ranked prospect according to MLB.com, received a well-deserved promotion to Double A New Hampshire this week, after posting a 6-0 record and 1.22 ERA in 13 starts.
Having interviewed the star before the season, he told BHC, “my main focus is to answer the bell every 5th day for the entirety of the season.”
Norris led a starting rotation engrossed with high-ceiling talent that’s itching to climb the minor-league mountain, and whom have pushed the junior Blue Jays to a 46-23 record, the best in the Florida State League.
Among those young starlets is 6’1 Taylor Cole, who is a rare player to be drafted in three separate drafts — 2007, 2008 and 2011. Cole, drafted out of Brigham Young University, has dominated the FSL this season, boasting a 5-3 record and 2.60 ERA in 14 games. Despite being a later bloomer, the 24 year old (25 in August) has heeded attention the organization, and leads the FSL in strikeouts with 101 in just 83 innings.
Kendall Graveman is another stud in the rotation, an 8th round draft pick in 2013 in his first season with Dunedin. The former Mississippi State hurler made the competition in the Midwest League look amateur with the Lansing Lugnuts, going 2-0 with a 0.34 ERA in 4 starts. Since earning a promotion to Dunedin, Graveman has continued to pitch well and sports a 5-3 record and 3.24 ERA, including a streak of 5 straight wins between May 12 and June 3, and the 23 year old figures to at Double A next season.
One name you may be familiar with is 25 year old Jesse Hernandez, whom was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2010. Owning a 3-4 record and 3.99 ERA in 12 games (including 3 relief appearances) thus far this season, Hernandez could prove to be a valuable long-man in the bull-pen at the higher level. He will have to overcome inconsistency, but could provide much needed depth in the future.
Leading Dunedin’s offense is Ontario’s own Dalton Pompey, drafted in the 16th round in 2010, the 21 year old outfielder has all the tools to succeed at big-league level. Pompey has slugged 6 home runs and knocked in 33 runs in 62 games, along with 26 stolen bases and an .394 on-base percentage. The Blue Jays’ number 18 prospect should get a late call up to Double A New Hampshire this season, with an outside shot at making the major-leagues in the near future.
Also out of Ontario and drafted in 2010 is Marcus Knecht, the 22 year old outfielder who also has enough tools to succeed at a higher level. However, this is Knecht’s third season in Dunedin and a mediocre average is the only element holding him back. With good defense and run production, the right-handler needs to piece it all together for a whole season to carry on his rise through the farm system.
Another of the high-schoolers drafted by Blue Jays’ General Manager, Alex Anthopoulos, is 21 year old Dwight Smith Jr. The outfield speedster has held his own so far this season, batting .268 with 4 home runs and 27 RBIs in 64 games, but has stolen just 8 bases in that time. With an already loaded major-league outfield — Jose Bautista, Colby Rasmus, Melky Cabrera and Anthony Gose — Smith has time to develop and will not be rushed.
Cole, Pompey and Smith all made the FSL Mid-Season All-Star game last week and all contain a solid chance of being promoted to Double A, should they persist with their impressive seasons. As the Dunedin Blue Jays chase their first league championship, baseball could not be more prosperous down in Florida.