Jays' prospects climbing the ranks
By KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency
|Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Henderson Alvarez makes his major league debut throwing against the Oakland Athletics in the first inning of their American League MLB baseball game in Toronto August 10, 2011. (REUTERS/Fred Thornhill)
OAKLAND -- It's a time of the baseball season where depth charts get adjusted along with player evaluations, not just at the big league level.
It's especially important in the minors as players are rewarded -- or not -- for their performances in the minors.
Saturday night's Blue Jays starter, Henderson Alvarez, and bullpen pitcher Joel Carreno, teammates all season at New Hampshire, represent proof of that but it runs far deeper in the organization.
Two days before his 21st birthday, righthanded pitcher Drew Hutchison has earned his second promotion of the year. He earlier outgrew Lansing and has now been sent from Dunedin to New Hampshire as he rockets his way toward an early ETA in the big leagues.
"When I saw him in instructional league two years ago, he could cluster his fastballs in an area this size," says bullpen coach Pat Hentgen. "He reminded me of Shaun Marcum, who also had great control."
Where Hutchison differs from Marcum is that his fastball has gone from average to plus and it's reflected in his strikeout totals. In 134 innings at Lansing and Dunedin he has fanned 150 hitters while walking just 33. He takes a 2.68 ERA with him to New Hampshire for the final several weeks (and playoffs)."
He joins his former Dunedin teammate Nestor Molina, who was promoted a few days ago and has, in two starts, accumulated 11 innings with 17 strikeouts and one walk to go with an 0.82 ERA
"(Hutchison) is a good-looking young pitcher," said Jays manager John Farrell. "And when you describe a pitcher, you start with their fastball command. That's such an imperative element as they advance from level to level through the system. He does a very good job of that."
A little over a week ago, the Jays raised some eyebrows by promoting shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from New Hampshire, despite his .235 batting average. Since he got to Vegas, he's played eight games and went into Saturday's game hitting .529 with a .568 on-base percentage. Friday night he hit his first triple-A home run to lift his OPS to 1.273.
"Regardless of where a player comes from, one of the things you learn from being part of player development is that the player will tell you when he's ready for the next set of challenges," Farrell said.
"And they tell you by how consistently they perform. In Adeiny's case there have been a couple of times when he's been promoted and he's responded favourably.
"This year he was only hitting .235 but part of our plan coming out of spring training was to be sure that he got some at-bats in triple A so when he was promoted, he takes that as a vote of confidence and he went out and performed."
On the flipside of all that late-season optimism is the troubling story of Kyle Drabek, a cautionary tale if ever there was one.
In 14 starts since his demotion from the majors to Las Vegas, he has failed miserably to regain his mojo. He is 4-5 with a 7.10 ERA. In 58 innings, he has given up 87 hits and 34 walks for a WHIP of 2.09. Opponents are hitting .360 against him.
Friday, in Memphis, he lasted just 31/3 innings, gave up five hits, six walks and six earned runs.
"Tough outing for him last night," Farrell said. "He wasn't able to command his stuff as he's done previously, high number of walks. By the report and the numbers, it was a rough ball game for him.
"The biggest thing we stress with all of our pitchers is the ability to go out and put up a zero following an inning where you score some runs and maintain some momentum."
"Certainly things didn't progress as he would have expected, as we would have expected. Some of those areas are being addressed and have been for some time in terms of composure and dealing with some of the challenges and frustrations that come up inside of a ball game. That's still an ongoing process at this point."
In Memphis, Drabek threw more balls than strikes (46-41). Within a few short months, he has gone from prospect to suspect.
There is every reason to believe that Drabek's talent will eventually win over that imposter who has invaded his body and mind but it's a lesson in humility that any young ballplayer should heed.