Blue Jays' top two arms headed to Fall League
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays will be sending two big names to the Arizona Fall League this offseason, as it was announced on Tuesday afternoon that right-handers Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman will be among those representing the organization.
In addition to Sanchez and Stroman, the Blue Jays will be sending left-handers Sean Nolin and Tyler Ybarra, catcher A.J. Jimenez, infielder Andy Burns and outfielder Kenny Wilson.
"No, I think it's as much [about] being able to get them innings and things like that," Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said when asked if sending Stroman and Nolin to Arizona would prevent them from potentially being called up to the Majors in September.
"We did it years ago -- Marc Rzepczynski was up here in September, we were stretching him out as a starter and we got him some innings there. You can always send arms out to the Fall League. That's one thing it seems teams are reluctant to do because of innings."
The Fall League will allow the players to extend their seasons by more than a month and increase their workload. That could prove especially valuable for Stroman, who was forced to miss the first month of the season following last year's 50-game suspension for using a banned substance.
Stroman was selected with the 22nd overall pick in the 2012 Draft, and among Toronto's pitching prospects, he's arguably the closest to being a finished product, having attended Duke University. Stroman was originally selected with the belief that a bullpen job awaited him, but the Blue Jays have opted to use him out of the starting rotation at Double-A New Hampshire.
The 22-year-old Stroman is 4-3 with a 3.22 ERA in 18 starts this season, having struck out 117 in 100 2/3 innings. The 5-foot-9 righty possesses an overpowering fastball to go along with a power breaking ball and a changeup that is still a work in progress.
Sanchez was taken with the 34th overall pick in the 2010 Draft, and he quickly became part of the "Lansing Big Three," alongside fellow prospects Justin Nicolino and Noah Syndergaard. Both Nicolino and Syndergaard were traded away last offseason, but Sanchez was the one pitcher Toronto was adamant about keeping in the fold.
The 21-year-old Sanchez has thrown only 79 1/3 innings at Class A Advanced Dunedin this season, in part because of a minor shoulder injury. He is 3-5 with a 3.63 ERA and possesses a plus fastball and advanced curveball, which should provide him with a legitimate chance to become an impact pitcher in the Major Leagues.
Nolin is the only player heading to Arizona who has any experience in the Major Leagues. He made one start for the Blue Jays, in late May, but spent most of the year with New Hampshire despite a recent promotion to Triple-A Buffalo.
Jimenez is the other main prospect of note. He has appeared in just 66 games this season but is now fully recovered from the Tommy John surgery he underwent last year. He's a defensive-minded catcher who has struggled with the bat at times in the Minors, but he should help ease the transition of Toronto's pitchers to the Fall League.
In 2012, the Blue Jays sent infielder Ryan Goins, outfielder Jake Marisnick, outfielder Kevin Pillar and catcher Sean Ochinko to the Fall League. They were joined by pitchers Deck McGuire, Ryan Tepera and Ian Kadish.
The six-team Arizona Fall League, owned and operated by Major League Baseball, will play six days per week in five Cactus League ballparks in the Phoenix area. All Triple-A and Double-A players are eligible, provided they are on Double-A rosters no later than Aug. 15. In addition, each organization is permitted to send two Class A players, while foreign players are allowed, as long as a player is not on his native country's primary protected player list.