Toronto Blue Jays Prospects: Young Guns Putting Themselves on the Radar, Part 2
A few days ago, I published the first part of this short, two-part series on the Toronto Blue Jays prospects who the average fan may never have heard of, who are putting themselves on the radar with an impressive start to their 2012 campaigns.
Part one of the series took a look at the prospects excelling at Triple-A Las Vegas and Double-A New Hampshire.
In this part of the series, we'll take a look at the lesser-known prospects who warrant recognition at the lower minor league levels (Class-A Advanced Dunedin and Class-A Lansing).
A few things to note before moving forward: An effort was made to ensure that most of these players are not on most "top 10 prospects lists" in order for them to be "off the radar." Each player in this article is also under the age of 25, to ensure that they're still young and not yet career minor leaguers.
Jon Talley, 1B, Class-A Advanced Dunedin
Jon Talley has been one of the nicer surprises of 2012 for the Class-A Advanced Dunedin Blue Jays.
Taken in the 13th round of the 2007 entry draft by the Blue Jays, Talley, 23, spent most 2007 and 2008 playing short-season rookie ball in the Gulf Coast League.
Over the course of the next few seasons, Talley continue to have problems with the bat, but still managed to work his way up to Class-A Advanced last season, where he hit .241 with 20 home runs and 63 RBI for Dunedin in just 378 at-bats.
This season, Talley started out with Dunedin again and has made up for lost time.
Through his first 119 at-bats, Talley has a slash line of .328/.424/.454 (OPS of .878) with two home runs and 17 RBI.
Though his home runs are down, it's nice to see the 6'3" first baseman piling up the hits.
His left-handed bat is also an advantage.
Dayton Marze, RP, Class-A Advanced Dunedin
Dayton Marze is another 23-year-old prospect the Blue Jays managed to scoop up outside of the first 10 rounds of a draft.
Marze was a 14th-round selection (426th overall) in the 2010 draft out of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Since beginning his professional career in Low-A ball back in 2010, Marze has pitched out of the bullpen and has done so fairly well.
This season, Marze has appeared in 18 games for Class-A Advanced Dunedin, posting a sparkling ERA of 1.61 and a WHIP of 1.04 through 28 innings pitched.
While he doesn't strike out many hitters (only 3.9 per nine innings of work), Marze has been excellent at pitching to contact for outs.
Look for a possible promotion to Double-A later this season if Marze continues to sit down batters at his current rate.
John Stilson, SP, Class-A Advanced Dunedin
While Stilson was left off of Baseball America's top 10 Blue Jays prospects and MLB.com's top 20 Blue Jays prospects lists, Stilson is proving to be one of many young Toronto pitchers who are having a phenomenal start to the 2012 season.
Originally drafted in the 19th round of the 2009 draft by Minnesota, Stilson elected not to sign on with the Twins and re-entered the draft in 2011, where the Blue Jays snagged him in the third round with the 108th overall pick out of Texas A&M University.
2012 has been Stilson's first year of professional baseball and the 21-year-old right-hander made the immediate jump to Class-A Advanced Dunedin, where he has done a fine job.
Through his first nine starts, the youngster has worked 34.1 innings with an ERA of 2.88 and WHIP of 1.49.
With a strikeout per nine innings rate of 7.3, Stilson seems to be able to fool enough hitters, but he'll need to command his pitches a little more, as he also allows nearly four walks per nine innings.
Don't be surprised if you see Stilson taking the mound for Double-A New Hampshire as early as next year, at the age of 22.
Sean Nolin, SP, Class-A Advanced
Sean Nolin is another Blue Jays prospect who is no stranger to Major League Baseball's entry draft.
Before being taken in the sixth round (186th overall) of the 2010 draft by the Blue Jays, Nolin had been taken in the 48th round of the 2009 draft by Seattle Mariners and the 50th round in 2008 by the Milwaukee Brewers.
After playing short-season baseball across two levels in 2010, Nolin posted a respectable 3.49 ERA with Class-A Lansing last season.
So far in 2012, the 22-year-old lefty is on fire with Class-A Advanced Dunedin.
Through his first nine starts, Nolin has thrown 50.2 innings, putting up a stellar 2.31 ERA to go with a WHIP of 1.07.
Nolin has also been able to strike out an average of 9.4 hitters every nine innings, which is an impressive mark.
He's done all this while holding opposing hitters to a batting average of .234.
Danny Barnes, RP, Class-A Advanced Dunedin
Danny Barnes has been a great story for the Toronto Blue Jays over the past few seasons.
The Jays took a flyer on Barnes in the 35th round (that's the 1056th overall pick for those that may be curious) of the 2010 June amateur draft out of Princeton University.
In his first full season of professional ball with Class-A Lansing, Barnes appeared in 44 games (starting only two) and collected 13 saves.
His sparkling 2.32 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and .184 batting average against prompted the Blue Jays to start the 22-year-old hurler off with Class-A Advanced Dunedin in 2012.
So far, Barnes has continued to impress.
In his 19 appearances thus far, Barnes has amassed a total of 14 saves and has posted a 2.41 ERA.
At this point, however, the Jays will look at the youngster to improve his command, as he is issuing nearly five free passes per nine innings pitched, and opposing hitters have an average of .299 against the young right-hander (which have combined to inflate his WHIP to 1.77).
If Barnes can bring those numbers down a tad, he may be ready for the jump to Double-A at some point in the near future.
Chris Hawkins, OF, Class-A Lansing
Chris Hawkins is one of the more promising Blue Jays prospects out there.
Oddly enough, however, most fans still do not know his name.
Hawkins was a third-round pick in the 2010 draft by the Jays out of North Gwinnett High School in Georgia.
After playing rookie ball in 2010 and 2011, the 20-year-old Hawkins was given his first shot at a full season of professional baseball this season with Class-A Lansing.
So far this season, Hawkins has hit .310 and added a home run and 14 RBI. He's also been successful in each of his five stolen base attempts.
Hawkins can surely improve his plate discipline, as his on-base percentage is only 29 points higher than his batting average, though he's off to a nice start nonetheless.
Kevin Pillar, OF, Class-A Lansing
After an incredible season of rookie ball with Bluefield following his selection in the 2011 June amateur draft (he was the Blue Jays' 32nd-round selection), Pillar was assigned to start the season with the Class-A Lansing Lugnuts.
While expectations weren't high, as it would be his first full season of professional baseball, Pillar seems to have picked up where he left off last year (he finished his short-season with an average of .347).
So far in 2012 for the Lugnuts, Pillar has taken the field for 41 games, posting a stat line of .313/.372/.436 adding a home run and 21 RBI.
Pillar has also utilized his speed, as he's been successful on 15-of-18 stolen base attempts, and he's also crossed the plate 21 times on the young season.
Other than cutting down on the strikeouts a bit, the Jays will look to Pillar to just continue what he's been doing before they call him up to Dunedin.
David Rollins, SP, Class-A Lansing
David Rollins is yet another Blue Jays prospect who was a tough one to sign before he was taken by the Jays in the 24th round in the 2011 draft.
I fact, the Mariners drafted him in both the 2009 and 2010 drafts and the Dodgers drafted him in the 2008 draft, to no avail.
After finally signing with Toronto last season, Rollins started off playing rookie ball and finished up the season with the Low-A Vancouver Canadians.
Across those two levels, he posted an ERA of 1.77 and a spectacular WHIP of 0.87. He also fanned 29 batters over 35.2 innings.
Those numbers earned him a promotion to Class-A Lansing to kick off the 2012 campaign, where once again, Rollins has been impressive.
In nine starts with the Lugnuts, Rollins is 3-0 with a 2.75 ERA and a WHIP of 1.25, while holding opposing batters to an average of .241. His 37 strikeouts in 39.1 innings is also an impressive feat for the 22-year-old southpaw.
Though Rollins may be putting up some nice numbers, don't expect to see a call-up to Dunedin anytime soon. The Lugnuts currently have numerous pitchers having even more impressive seasons than Rollins.
Marcus Walden, SP, Class-A Lansing
It may seem as though the Class-A affiliate Lansing Lugnuts have an endless supply of talented young pitchers who are dominating the Midwest League.
This assumption is not wrong.
Meet Marcus Walden, another 23-year-old Blue Jays pitching prospect (ninth-round selection in the 2007 June amateur draft) who is lighting up Class-A hitters.
After going 6-6 with a 3.24 ERA and 1.18 WHIP through exactly 100 innings last season with Lansing, Walden would return to begin 2012 with the Michigan-based club.
In 2012, he's continued to show improvement, as he's 3-1 with a 2.16 ERA and 1.20 WHIP through 41.2 innings across nine starts. He's also lowered his batting average against; from .239 a year ago to .215 so far in 2012.
Walden, however, is in the same boat as Rollins, as the Lugnuts have so many pitchers hurling the ball so well, that some are bound to spend the whole season in Lansing, no matter how well they're playing.
I have the feeling Walden will be one of those guys.
Jesse Hernandez, Class-A Lansing
Rounding out our series on lesser-known Blue Jays prospects is starting pitcher Jesse Hernandez.
Signed by the Blue Jays for the 2010 season, Hernandez had a rocky start to his career, posting ERAs over 4.00 in his first two seasons in the organization.
Despite those minor setbacks, the Jays bumped Hernandez up to Class-A Lansing to open the 2012 season.
Hernandez has repaid the favor by starting the season with a 3-2 record, 2.09 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and .233 batting average against through 51.2 innings in his first nine games (eight of which were starts).
While he doesn't have an abundance of strikeouts (29), he's also had great command of his arsenal, allowing only nine walks, good for a K/BB ratio of over three.
What on earth the Blue Jays are going to do with the likes of Justin Nicolino, Noah Syndergaard, Aaron Sanchez, Hernandez, Rollins and Walden, who are all having incredible seasons at Class-A Lansing is beyond me. What I do know, though, is that it's a great problem to have.
With that, we have reached the end of this mini-series on Toronto Blue Jays prospects who are putting themselves on the radar.
No need to fret, however, as the June edition of my top prospects report is just around the corner, and we'll also be taking a look at some of the more notable Blue Jays draft picks from the last few June amateur drafts as this year's draft approaches.
If you have any questions about any of your favorite Blue Jays prospects, be sure to leave them in the comments section below, or find me on Twitter by clicking the follow button at the bottom of the slide.