The New Big Three

In the world of prospects, it’s funny how a year or two can change things.

Before the Jeff Mathis trade, the Jays boasted a trio of young pitchers, Justin Nicolino, Noah Syndergaard and Aaron Sanchez, who were known as The Big Three. They were supposed to be the future rotation for the team.

Now, two of those three pitchers are gone. The lone survivor, Sanchez, just got promoted to AAA. 

When the Marlins trade, and subsequent Dickey trade, happened, it was a clear signal the Jays were going all in, as the expense of the future. They gave up some young promising pieces in exchanged for proven and costly veterans.

Then last year happened and things started to look scary. The big league team struggled. Syndergaard took big steps forward with the Mets, while Sanchez sort of spun his wheels. Going into this year the most pessimistic among us looked at the team and said, “look, the Jays suck. Their farm system now sucks. We’re screwed!”

Funny, that. Entering the midway point of the season, the Jays are in first place. They’ve got a legit shot at making the postseason for the first time in two decades. 

And to top it all off, there is, in a way, a new Big Three, sort of. The Jays still boast three young pitchers who could all anchor a strong rotation in the near future. I say it’s sort of a Big Three for a couple reasons. First, they’re not all at the same level like Nicolino-Syndergaard-Sanchez. Second, because one of them isn’t big at all.

So here I present, the new Big Three. Aaron Sanchez returns, though his place as the crown jewel of the triumvirate is up for debate. He’s made it to AAA Buffalo recently, albeit the moved raised more than a few eyebrows. His first start with the Bisons wasn’t great, but still, as I argued earlier, it’s a good sign to see him moving up the ranks.

The second of the new Big Three is already in the bigs. In 18 innings as a starter with the Jays, Marcus Stroman has looked strong, pitching to a 2.42 FIP, striking out 8.5 per nine innings and walking only one per nine.

Finally, with a promotion today to AA New Hampshire, I dub Daniel Norris the final member of the Big Three 2.0. I have an irrational fandom of Norris, who I’ve never seen pitch. He’s always seemed to me as someone who had great stuff and just needed to harness it. Well, it looks like he has. In the past calender year he’s put up a 1.66 ERA, 2.34 FIP, striking out more than 10 per nine, and walking fewer than three per nine.

The fact those three are now in AA or higher is huge. It’s often said prospects aren’t considered legit until they reach AA. It’s a lot easier to dream on those players some some guys three-plus steps away from the Major Leagues. If Norris does well down the stretch in New Hampshire the Jays’ farm system will regain a lot of its former shine. 

Those three pitchers can also provide a lot of cheap innings, if they pan out, for the team in coming years.

Add in the fact the team had, what many call, the best draft among any organization this year, and the farm system appears to be quickly replenishing itself. 

The big league team. as it currently stands, is built to compete this year and next before some serious decisions will have to be made. Give those players another year of development and the team could simply be looking for a quick retool come 2016 instead of a complete rebuild.

When access to the numbers isn’t better

This is my first post since returning from my trip, and I really should be posting something about how crazy the baseball landscape changed when I was away.

However, I’m gonna talk about Aaron Sanchez. Just cause.

Sanchez got called up to AAA today, and as is the case with all uber-prospects, it’s attracted a lot of attention. Some convinced now we’ll see him in the rotation sooner rather than later. Others thinking it’s a showcase for some trade. Many saying he’s being rushed because his walk numbers stink.

While I love looking at the numbers of minor leaguers, I do it probably once a week for every affiliate of the Jays, I continuously remind myself that they’re just numbers and I haven’t actually seen these players play.

And that’s big. When we watch players we do gain some information that we can’t get from the numbers. Yes, we can take that too far. Watching players can lead to only remembering the great (or terrible) plays they make and can cloud our judgments of said player. JA Happ, for instance, constantly gets shit on as a terrible pitcher. That’s become a thing, and people often only take note when he does struggle. But the truth is, he’s a decent number five pitcher. Then we look at some of his numbers and realize he actually has been ok.

But it can go the other way too. We look at Sanchez’s walk rates and say, “he’s not ready. He needs to improve his control. Blah blah blah.”

What we don’t know is how he’s looked. Perhaps he’s run into some tight strike zones. Perhaps the team’s only been looking for a mechanical change, and that change has finally been implemented.

So at the end of the take take this news the only way we can: it’s a promotion and one step closer to the big leagues.