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Warmoth embraces AFL after erratic season

@GoldenSombrero
October 4, 2019

When the Blue Jays selected Logan Warmoth in the first round (No. 22 overall) of the 2017 Draft out of North Carolina, he was viewed as a player who, with his strong track record of performing against advanced college competition in the Atlantic Coast Conference, could move quickly through the

When the Blue Jays selected Logan Warmoth in the first round (No. 22 overall) of the 2017 Draft out of North Carolina, he was viewed as a player who, with his strong track record of performing against advanced college competition in the Atlantic Coast Conference, could move quickly through the Minor Leagues.

After an underwhelming first full season in which he batted .248/.322/.319 over 75 games with Class A Advanced Dunedin, Warmoth returned to the Florida State League in 2019 and fared considerably better, producing a .292/.380/.423 line over his first 36 games before moving up to Double-A New Hampshire. But the Eastern League proved a challenge for the 24-year-old infielder, and he batted just .200/.290/.277 with 74 strikeouts in 65 games with the Fisher Cats.

Daily Blue Jays updates | Scottsdale Scorpions roster & stats | Blue Jays Top 30 prospects

“The biggest difference I think I saw was how many fewer mistakes the pitchers made,” said Warmoth about the jump from Dunedin to New Hampshire. “If you missed that mistake in your at-bat, then it’s probably the only one you’re going to get.”

With plenty of room for improvement after his up-and-down offensive campaign, Warmoth was chosen by the Blue Jays for Arizona Fall League so that he could continue to hone his game against some of the top prospects in baseball.

“It means they see something in me, and it’s just a great opportunity to showcase my talents,” said Warmoth about his AFL selection. “Looking back at the roster in the past and the rosters here this year, it’s a really big pleasure.”

Warmoth has made the most of the opportunity so far, with a .321 average, three doubles and six runs scored in seven games for the Scottsdale Scorpions. It’s an encouraging sign for a player who batted .310 in 174 college games and .302 in his professional debut.

“Obviously I didn’t have the best year,” Warmoth acknowledged. “I started off really well, so what I’m working on is just trying to build on what I did during the first half of the season. Just trying to cut down on the strikeout numbers, drive the ball a little bit more and hopefully it’ll work out.”

Warmoth is also using the Fall League to increase his defensive versatility. After playing shortstop and second base primarily during the regular season, he’s bounced between second and third base in the Fall League while also seeing consistent work in the outfield, including center.

“The way the game’s going right now, the more positions you can play the more you can help your team and the quicker you can get to the big leagues,” he said. “I’m looking to become more comfortable at second while still playing shortstop as well.”

Blue Jays hitters in the AFL
Cullen Large, 3B:
The 2017 fifth-rounder out of William & Mary battled injuries for a second straight year but still managed to reach Double-A and finished with a .260/.340/.388 batting line across three levels. He makes solid contact from the left side of the plate with a line-drive stroke but is yet to offer much in the way of power in the pro ranks, with nine homers in 171 games.

Kevin Smith, SS/2B (No. 13): After a breakout first full season in which he batted .302 with 25 homers, 31 doubles and 29 steals across two levels, Smith, a former fourth-round pick (2017), struggled with the move up to Double-A this year, batting just .209 with 151 strikeouts in 116 games. The good news is that he still hit for power, totaling 19 homers and 22 doubles, while continuing to earn high marks for his defense at shortstop.

Blue Jays pitchers in the AFL
Maverik Buffo, RHP:
A former 34th-round pick out of Brigham Young, Buffo, 24, flashed promise during his first full season but was limited to just 25 innings in 2019. The 6-foot-2 righty pitches at 92-95 mph with a fastball that jumps on hitters because he gets good extension over his front side, and he also has feel for throwing both a breaking ball and a changeup.

Mike Ellenbest, RHP: Ellenbest had his 2018 campaign wiped out by Tommy John surgery but returned this past season to record a 2.30 ERA in 54 2/3 innings between Dunedin and New Hampshire. He operates with a low-90s sinker that generates a healthy number of groundballs, but still has gains to make with his control and bat-missing ability.

Jackson Rees, RHP: Sporadic success and a history of injuries in college left Rees undrafted when he graduated from Hawaii in 2018, though the Jays signed him for $1,000 as a free agent. He was spectacular in his first full pro season, using a lively sinker and slider to rank third among Minor League relievers in ERA (0.73) while recording a .183 opponent average and an 88/15 K/BB ratio in 61 2/3 innings between two Class A stops.

Graham Spraker, RHP: A 6-foot-3, 200-pounder, Spraker features a low-90s fastball that he pairs with a low-80s curveball, and he’s also capable of mixing in a slider and changeup. The 24-year-old right-hander was impressive in a spot-start for Triple-A Buffalo but otherwise spent his 2019 campaign in the Florida State League, posting a 3.26 ERA with 66 strikeouts and 26 walks in 91 innings (18 games/15 starts).

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.