Martinez, Conine among Jays prospects at instructs

October 1st, 2018

For the Toronto Blue Jays, the fall instructional league is all about specialization.

Held annually at the club's spring training complex in Dunedin, Fla., the Blue Jays' fall camp is structured to help further the development of their wide-ranging, diverse crop of young players.

"We do about four different types of camps to hit on more specific, individual needs. It's a way to split up and attack more based on need compared to just one big camp, with everyone on the same schedule," noted Blue Jays director of player development Gil Kim.

Instructional league rosters

One of those groups is dedicated to hitters whom the club believes stand to benefit from additional, personalized instruction. There's a similar group for pitchers, too, as well as a group there with the purpose of increasing their game reps.

The final group, however, is reserved for players new to the organization -- a group that includes approximately 50 players from the 2018 Draft (including non-drafted free agents) and international ranks.

"Our rookie camp is for guys who probably will make their debut in the United States next year," explained Kim. "It's more about the acclimation into Blue Jays culture, understanding teammate values, knowing how to practice … things like that."

Among the players to participate in this year's rookie group was 16-year-old shortstop Orelvis Martinez, whom the Blue Jays' inked with a class-high $3.5 million bonus on July 2 after the Dominican teenager ranked No. 5 on MLB Pipeline's list of the Top 30 international prospects.

"He's an impressive young man -- obviously a very talented hitter with loud tools and good actions at shortstop -- and it's been nice to see him come over and develop," said Kim about the Blue Jays' No. 13 prospect.

"The priority with Orelvis this fall has been to acclimate him here to life in the United States and to familiarize him with our complex, our facilities and the faces of the people there. The most important thing has been his acclimation to the routines and lifestyle here in the US, and he's progressing with that."

Blue Jays No. 8 prospect Jordan Groshans also stood out this fall during his first instructional league camp as he tied a bow on what was an impressive professional debut.

"He had a good camp," said Kim, "especially with his progress on the defensive side at shortstop. He's been working really hard with staying consistent and accountable with his routines, really learning how to prepare to the best of his ability."

After signing for $3.4 million as the No. 12 overall pick in June, the Magnolia (Texas) High product turned in a .296/.353/.446 line with five home runs, 13 doubles and 43 RBIs in 48 games across two levels including Rookie-level Bluefield. He swung the bat well in the Appalachian League playoffs, too, posting a pair of three-hit games en route to a .583 average.

"It's always a challenge for high school players to make that adjustment from high school season into professional baseball, but Jordan made that transition seamlessly into the [Rookie-level Gulf Coast League]," said Kim.

"The biggest focus for him there was staying consistent to his routine, and when we saw progress with that, we were comfortable with challenging him at Bluefield. It was nice to see how he handled that challenge and more importantly how he finished strong there in the playoffs."

Kim and the Blue Jays' player development staff are also high on outfielders Griffin Conine and Cal Stevenson, the club's second- and 10th-rounnd picks in the 2018 Draft.

Conine, No. 16 on Toronto's Top 30 Prospects list, connected on seven home runs in 55 games with Vancouver in the Class A Short Season Northwest League after clubbing 18 home runs as a Duke junior during the spring.

"The way the ball comes off his bat is different," noted Kim, "and he's a very intelligent kid. He's done a nice job here in camp of integrating with the whole group -- he named every single player in camp by their first name during the first week."

As for Stevenson, the University of Arizona product slashed .474/.645/.579 over six games in the Gulf Coast League and then continued to excel in the Appalachian League, where he finished among the circuit leaders with a .359 average (second), .494 OBP (first), 1.012 OPS (second), 61 runs scored (first), 53 walks (first) and 20 steals (second).

Altogether, the 22-year-old outfielder hit .369/.511/.523 with 64 walks and 24 strikeouts in 59 games across the two levels.

"[Cal] is a polished player who controls the strike zone very well and has very good hand-eye coordination. He gets on base -- probably one of our best baserunners in the organization -- and anticipates on the basepaths and in the outfield, where he can play all three spots," said Kim.

"Apart from being a talented baseball player, he's such a quality person, and I think that will continue to be a separator for him."