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2012 Fish Watch: Toronto Blue Jays - 8/15 Update

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The first thing you need to know about The Fish Watch is that it’s not a list of sleepers. It is instead a list of players at various points in their respective minor league journeys that for one reason or another have piqued my interest enough that I am watching their development more closely than the bulk of prospects out there. To read more about this project, check out the introduction and master list.

This is the second round of updates in this series so I will not rehash why each player made my list but you can always go back and read previous installments of the series. While doing the installments by division worked the first time around, I’m going to go team-by-team from this point forward.

Toronto Blue Jays (S2S 2012 Team Prospect List)

2B/SS – Christian Lopes (19) – Blue Jays 2011 7th Round Pick

2011 – High School (CA)
2012 – Bluefield (Rk): 0.273/.335/.478, 16 2B, 4 3B, 3 HR, 4 SB, 13 BB and 32 SO in 177 PA

Notes – Lopes kicked off his professional career in June by hitting 0.211/.318/.500 in 44 PA for the month. Aside from his SLG – which dipped a bit in July – he’s shown steady statistical improvement at the plate since then and is 13-37 so far in August.

While the anticipation was that Lopes would have to eventually move off SS and settle at 2B at some point in his minor league career, it could be considered a mild surprise that Toronto already has him playing nearly three games at second for every one game at short. Of course part of that has been in deference to 2010 5th round pick Dickie Joe Thon who is considered a much more likely bet to stick at the position long term. It will be interesting to see how this scenario continues to play out as Lopes has proven to be capable with the bat, at least early on, while Thon continues to struggle in that regard.

OF – Michael Crouse (21) – Blue Jays 2008 16th Round Pick

2011 – Lansing (A): 0.261/.352/.475, 26 2B, 5 3B, 14 HR, 38 SB, 44 BB and 113 SO in 421 PA
2012 – Dunedin (A+)/Lansing: 0.206/.304/.355, 11 2B, 1 3B, 10 HR, 12 SB, 38 BB and 105 SO in 329 PA

Notes – While Lopes has been solid overall and has shown improvement in his first professional season, Crouse has been unable to build upon his 2011 performance with the Lugnuts. He started things off by hitting 0.229/.357/.371 with Dunedin in May and never really recovered. 11 games into June, he found himself with a 0.203/.299/.357 line in 202 FSL at bats and was bumped back down to the Midwest League in hopes he would regain his swing and his confidence.

That move has not provided positive returns so far as Crouse is hitting 0.212/.316/.376 in 25 games with Lansing. Coupled with the rest of his minor league resume, his 2011 season is appearing to be more aberration than the breakout I interpreted it to be. He’s still 3 months away from his 22nd birthday so it’s way too early to close the book on him, but striking out in 31.9% of his plate appearances is hardly a morale booster for anyone looking to find positive signs here.

RHP – John Stilson (21) – Blue Jays 2011 3rd Round Pick

2011 – Texas A&M University
2012 – Dunedin/New Hampshire: 3.66 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 95 H, 36 BB and 79 in 93.1 IP

Notes – The overall combined stats may not took that rosy on the surface but it bears pointing out that this is his first professional season. Stilson was dropped into the Dunedin rotation and made 13 starts with a 2.82 ERA and 2.47 SO/BB before he was promoted to the New Hampshire in the middle of June.

Two of his first three Eastern League starts were 5.0 inning, 3-hit shutouts and he followed that up with two 5.0 inning outings where he allowed just a single earned run in each of them. Unfortunately he’s allowed 20 H and 14 ER in his last 17.0 innings over 4 starts and even when he was going well for the Fisher Cats, his hit, walk and strikeout rates were far from any expression of dominance. Adding more worries to the prospect evaluation pot, he was recently placed on the 7-day disabled with right shoulder “tightness.”

While shoulder problems are a concern for any pitcher, that concern is doubled for Stilson since he’s already dealt with a torn labrum in his time at Texas A&M. That injury was one of the primary reasons that the first round talent was available when the Jays drafted him last year. While I believe he has the ability to make it as a starter if he can stay healthy, this latest shoulder issue, coupled with his max-effort delivery, may hasten a transition to a relief role.

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For more on the Toronto Blue Jays, check out Jays Journal

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Tags: Bluefield Blue Jays Christian Lopes Dunedin Blue Jays John Stilson Lansing Lugnuts Michael Crouse New Hampshire Fisher Cats Toronto Blue Jays

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