With the season a little over a month old now, we're starting to get big enough sample sizes in terms of innings pitched and plate appearances to start analyzing individual player performances. That's the same case down in the minor league as well, as we can already see players playing up, beyond or below their expectations for 2010. What follows is a brief overview of the Blue Jays' AAA and AA affiliates' prospects, who have gotten it going in the early part of the new season.
Triple-A Las Vegas 51s
The top team in the Jays' system has seen excellent offensive performance from it's youngest player, a solid start from it's everyday catcher and some red hot hitting from the second baseman. The youngster on the club is highly touted first baseman, Brett Wallace, who we all know came over from the Oakland A's in the off-season as part of the Roy Halladay trade. He's hitting .302, walking in 10.8 percent of at-bats and ripping the cover off the ball with an ISO of .330. Wallace has already gone yard nine times and picked up eight doubles. The only cause for concern would be his jump in strikeouts. Last season he struckout in 21.8 percent of his at-bats; that has jumped to 27.4 percent this year.
Top catching prospect J.P. Arencibia is repeating Triple-A this year and has already shown signs of progress. He hit just .236 last year but is off to good start hitting .266. His power has dropped off, despite hitting for a higher average. His slugging percentage is down to .430 from .444 a year ago. The biggest development, however, has been his drastic improvement in plate discipline. In 500 plate appearances in '09, he managed 26 walks; a meager 5.2 percent of his plate appearances ending in a free pass. Already this season, in only 89 PA's he's coaxed 10 walks for a much more impressive 11.2 percent walk rate.
Jarrett Hoffpauir has been around for a while now, and at almost 27 years old, isn't considered to be a top prospect. He is in his first year in the Jays' system but is now in his fourth Triple-A season, including all of '08 and '09. However, he has just 16 Major League at-bats and is putting up numbers good enough to warrant a few more in the show. He sports a .340/.430/.505 triple slash line and has drawn 16 walks against just two strikeouts. The versatile infielder primarily plays second, but has also spent time at third and occasionally even shortstop.
Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats
The Fisher Cats have had the Eastern League's best offense to date, giving them plenty of offensive stars to choose from. The most surprising of them all has been left fielder Eric Thames, seeing his first at-bats above Single-A in his pro career. Due to injuries he played in just 59 games last season, and none in '08 after being drafted the same year. That makes his start even more impressive, not that it wouldn't be anyways.
The 23-year old Thames leads the team in home runs (7) and slugging percentage (.586) while standing second in doubles (6) and fourth in batting average(.313). He's already more than doubled his homer totals from a year ago when he hit just three, and now with a healthy set of wheels he's shown some excellent base running, swiping five bases in five attempts.
After a decent first season with New Hampshire in '09 and a successful trip to the Arizona Fall League, Brad Emaus looks to be showing some excellent improvement. In 58 at-bats he's collected three homers and four doubles, and stolen two bases in two attempts. He did miss a week of action when he hurt his knee sliding into home but that hasn't slowed him down one bit. He's drawn 19 walks against just six strikeouts in 78 plate appearances. It's no surprise then to see his OBP at .474 to go along with a healthy .310 batting average.
On the mound, Randy Boone has been the most consistent starter to date. A bit of shock that Boone is off to the rotation's best start considering he is joined by heralded top prospects Zach Stewart and Kyle Drabek. But he's been getting it done mowing down 25 batters in 30 2/3 innings. More impressive than that he's walked just seven and only yielded one long ball leaving him with a FIP of just 2.67 to go with his sparkling 2.93 ERA. Boone not only keeps the ball in the park he also keeps 'em on the ground generating grounders on 58.5 percent of his ball in play.
The outstanding Fisher Cats' bullpen has been lead by Tim Collins and Trystan Magnuson, while closer Dan Farquhar hasn't blown a save but has struggled recently. The lefty Collins has been fantastic this season, with his 4.26 ERA largely a product of one horrific outing. He's set down 20 of the 55 batters he's faced, while walking seven. In 12 2/3 he's allowed 10 hits with just one homer. The K's have kept his FIP in check at just 2.71. Magnuson has been untouchable no matter how you look at it as both his ERA(1.65) and FIP(1.71) are under two. He's struckout 15 of 59 batters he's faced, (25.4%), against only two walks and has yet to allow a home run.
For much more coverage of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats be sure to check this site out all season long. And be sure to check back here on Bleacher Report this Sunday for a look at the top talent in the Jays' two full-season Single-A teams in Dunedin and Lansing.
(Photo of Eric Thames is provided courtesy of the NH Fisher Cats)