Blue Jays committed to long-term development
Whenever a new general manager takes over a team, he undoubtedly will talk about a new commitment to scouting and player development as the way to turn things around. Few, if any, have backed it up with action as much as Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos did in his first year. Having the approval and support of ownership certainly helped.
"He made a commitment that a lot of GMs do," Blue Jays vice president of baseball operations and assistant general manager Tony LaCava said of Anthopoulos's pledge to pay more attention to those two areas of the game. "Rogers Communications and Paul Beeston, they put their money where their mouth is and allowed us to increase our signing budget and bring in a lot more scouts."
It enabled the organization to scour both the amateur and pro ranks for young talent and has led to a slightly different philosophy in terms of the types of players the team brings in.
There's a greater emphasis on younger, more athletic players. They have more upside than Blue Jays prospects of the past, but they also might take more time to develop. And while many of them joined the organization via the Draft in 2010, the impact won't be felt until the 2011 season gets under way.
The Blue Jays are already thinking ahead to 2011 in terms of dealing with this influx of talent, adding a seventh affiliate, in the Rookie-level Appalachian League. It will allow the Blue Jays the opportunity to let this new crop develop at a more deliberate pace.
"The thought is it gives us a chance to integrate these younger players at their own pace and not push them to a level too fast," LaCava said. "We're slowing things down a bit."
That, combined with the new complex in the Dominican Republic, means the Blue Jays will be developing some exciting young talent, even if it takes awhile. And it's not like it's completely barren up top, with names like Kyle Drabek and J.P. Arencibia knocking on the door and the newly acquired Brett Lawrie not too far behind them.
The best piece to this puzzle may actually come from the big league dugout. It's not often that the hiring of a manager for the Major League club will have a huge effect on the player development side of things, but the largest offseason acquisition in this regard might be John Farrell, who's got a good amount of history as a farm director on his resume.
"John brings an organizational component; he will help us streamline our teachings from top to bottom," LaCava said. "He understands what we're trying to do. He's trying to be a part of it and we welcome that."
MLB.com's Preseason Picks
Brett Wallace, 1B: The idea of Wallace's bat in the hitting haven of Las Vegas was too good to pass up. And the former first-round pick of the Cardinals certainly performed well there, hitting .301/.359/.509 with 18 homers and 61 RBIs in 95 games. But he ended up being sent in a trade -- again -- to the Houston Astros for toolsy outfielder Anthony Gose.
Kyle Drabek, RHP: The key to the Roy Halladay deal, the thinking was another year removed from Tommy John surgery, Drabek's maturity had caught up with his outstanding stuff and he was ready to put up the numbers befitting a top pitching prospect. He delivered, too, finishing first in the Double-A Eastern League with 14 wins and third in strikeouts (132) and ERA (2.94) while holding hitters to a .215 batting average against. That led to his big league debut, making three starts for Toronto and putting him firmly in the 2011 plans.
MLB.com's Postseason Selections
J.P. Arencibia, C: It's been an up-and-down career for the 2007 draftee, but 2010 was definitely an up. Back in 2008 he was the organization's official Minor League Player of the Year, but he had a hard time in Triple-A back in 2009. He figured things out and then some this past season, leading the Minor League organization in homers with 32, finishing second with 85 RBIs and fourth with his .301 average. His .626 slugging percentage was fourth-highest in all of the Minors and he made his Major League debut.
Kyle Drabek, RHP: Drabek was the best pitcher in the system and then some. The right-hander led the organization in ERA and wins and finished second in strikeouts. He was an Eastern League All-Star and the Double-A circuit's Pitcher of the Year. Now he's penciled in as the Jays' No. 4 starter in 2011.