Despite the Toronto Blue Jays' fast start in 2010 most experts and fans agree that the teams brightest days lay in the future. If the Jays are to make a push to the top of AL East they'll need a hand from some of the top talent currently found all the way down at the Advanced and Single-A levels of their minor league system. For now however, we'll see who's taking the first steps and starting off this season on the right foot.
Advanced-A Dunedin Blue Jays
Henderson Alvarez is already entering his fourth season in the Jays' system despite being just twenty years old. Last year with Single-A Lansing he saw a heavy work load making 23 starts and throwing 124 1/3 innings finishing with a 3.47 ERA and a FIP of 2.63. He showed impeccable control walking just 19 of 515 batters faced. His success has continued this year in 32 innings across 6 starts in which he's walked just 8 batters and has yet to yield a home run. He has had trouble getting strikeouts, getting just 13.5% of batters faced by way of the K so far(17.8% in '09), but that hasn't hurt him yet, his ERA stands at 1.97.
The other starter to watch is twenty-three year old Joel Carreno, although you wouldn't think so looking at his 4.83 ERA in 6 starts. Going beyond his 1-3 win/loss record and the ugly ERA Joel's putting up some impressive numbers. He's struckout 38 of 140 batters faced so far, coupled with his scant 8 walks and 2 homers allowed for an impressive 2.71 FIP. He's been hit hard with a BABIP of .477 which almost certainly should comeback down closer to his career mark of .333.
Shortstop Tyler Pastornicky is showing signs of improvement over his short 15 game stint in Dunedin last season. His average is about the same, .266 this year compared to last season's .270, but he's been more patient upping his walk rate to 12%, just 4.5% last season. His career ISO stands at just .083 but this season he's hit with more authority for a .110 ISO thanks to 9 doubles. The steals have kept coming too, Pastornicky is 9 for 12 on the season good for a 75% success rate, right in line with last season's 76%.
Single-A Lansing Lugnuts
The Jays have another shortstop prospect off to a much improved start over 2009 in twenty-two year old Ryan Goins. After spending time with three teams in his first pro season Goins is showing improvement all over the stat sheet. Most importantly, Goins has already matched his 15 walks from a year ago but he's done it in 101 plate appearances, it took him 208 a year ago. Likewise, he's struckout less cutting his whiff rate down to 22.8% of his at-bats from 25.1% in '09. Goins also hit his first two homers as a pro. Put it all together and you get a triple slash line of .277/.384/.386 and an OPS that has climbed from '09's .603 to .769 in the first 24 games of 2010.
Twenty year old Dustin Antolin has quickly emerged as one of Lansing's best relievers. In just 17 2/3 innings he has 19 strikeouts against 3 walks. Antolin hasn't allowed a homer yet this year, not surprising considering he'd given up just two in 69 2/3 pro innings coming into 2010. What is a surprise though, is his new found control after walking 9.7% of batters faced in '09 he's cut it all the way back to 4.2% this year.
Chad Jenkins' pro debut has been impressive in 6 starts and a team high 36 2/3 innings pitched. He's shown an early ability to generate ground balls with 50.9% of his balls in play staying on the ground. That's helped keep the ERA(3.68) down despite allowing 40 hits in 36 2/3 innings. The strikeouts have been there as well for Jenkins, he's picked up 35 so far against only 8 walks, a healthy 4.38 Ks/BB.
If you're wondering why none of the Jays' catching prospects have been highlighted it's because we're going to take a look at the group as a whole tomorrow, so be sure to check back.
(Photo at the top was taken by flickr member feinstein in March 2008)