Northwest League Notes: Scouting a pair of Jays prospects

 On Monday night I took in some short season Class-A action between the Vancouver Canadians (TOR) and the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (SFG), a game the Canadians took handily by a score of 10-2. The Northwest League season begins in June and is often the first stop for players drafted out of high school or college once they’re signed. For example, Marcus Stroman who was selected No. 22 overall by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2012 amateur draft made seven appearances for the Canadians in July of that year before being promoted to Double-A New Hampshire. Stroman is a particularly exceptional case of course, as just two short years after pitching for Vancouver he is now a member of the Blue Jays’ major league rotation. Now, on to some scouting reports.

Miguel Castro, RHP — Signed as an international free agent on January 5, 2012; $180,000 bonus
The scouting report on the 19-year old is simple: he throws hard, very hard. Castro’s fastball sat in the 94-96 mile per hour range on Monday night and he touched 97 on the gun several times in the first few innings. The Dominican native would throw five innings on the night and was able to maintain his high velocity through the fifth inning despite starting to show some control issues at times as he grew fatigued. The right-hander was tagged for a long home run in the first inning, but managed to settle down nicely and strike out the side in the second where he made all three batters look foolish as he mixed in a changeup that sat in the low-to-mid 80’s.

 Castro’s delivery certainly didn’t look easy and he had a slight pause while pitching from the wind-up, but his 6-foot-5 frame managed to delivery the ball consistently throughout the night and he didn’t appear to be labouring at all. He did run into some control issues and didn’t look as comfortable when he was forced to pitched from the stretch after walking the first batter in the third inning. However he was able to strand the runner at third and assisted on a nice fielding play to get the third out of the inning.

Castro was the recipient of the R. Howard Webster Award as the Most Valuable Player for the Dominican Summer League Blue Jays in 2013. He threw 53 innings across 11 appearances, 10 starts, and allowed just eight earned runs for a measly 1.36 ERA; his 1.37 FIP backed up those results. He also issued just 12 walks compared to 71 strikeouts. So far in four starts with the Canadians in 2014 Castro has allowed eight runs in 18 and 1/3 innings while striking out 21 batters and walking eight.

It looks very much like the stuff is there for 19-year old, but his tools are very raw. He threw a total of 70 innings in 2013 and it’s likely the Blue Jays will want to see him reach the 85-95 plateau by the end of 2014. Castro has swing-and-miss stuff which he demonstrated by striking out seven Volcanoes hitters on Monday, but the thing that’ll help propel him to the next level is learning how to master the control of his fastball. It’s likely that he’ll add a third pitch to his arsenal in the near future, but this kid has late-inning-power-arm written all over him. Not to say that there isn’t a chance for him to succeed as a starter, however.

Castro is listed at 190 pounds so there is still a little bit of room for him to fill out his lanky frame if he wishes. His velocity is obviously the most intriguing tool in his skill set and he’ll be an interesting name to keep an eye on over the next couple years. Remember, he won’t even turn 20-years old until December, so he has plenty of time to develop. Presuming he sticks at Class-A ball with the Canadians for most of the remainder of the season, he should get a chance to face some better hitting with Lansing of the Midwest League (Class-A) or Dunedin of the Florida State League (Class-A Advanced) by 2015 if all goes well.

Obviously it’s too early to make a real accurate guess on when or if we might see him in the major leagues, but if his development runs smoothly and he stays healthy, I suppose 2017 could be a reasonable estimate though it would likely be out of the bullpen.

Ryan McBroom, 1B — Blue Jays 15th selection, No. 444 overall in 2014 amateur draft: Bonus n/a
The 22-year old was originally drafted in the 36th round of the 2013 amateur draft, but elected to finish his senior year at West Virginia University and complete a degree in sport and exercise psychology before re-entering the draft in 2014 — a move that obviously paid off for him. The first basemen has the prototypical slugger build at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds and he hit 12 home runs in his last season of college ball. So far in 2014 the right-handed batter already has three home runs for the Canadians and a .311 batting average in 48 plate appearances which amount to an impressive 172 wRC+ on the season.

 Perhaps the most notable part of McBroom’s game is his approach. He looked very calm and collected in the batter’s box and was content to wait for his pitch. Excuse the stretch of a comparison, but I couldn’t help but be reminded of a young Albert Pujols when McBroom was at the plate. It was probably just in stance and size since he doesn’t compare to Pujols skill-wise, but the 22-year old looks like the type of player who is comfortable hitting in the middle of the order. And you’d want him there too with his strong, easy swing. For such a patient approach, McBroom only has two walks on the season and both of which came last night. He also grounded out before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the blowout.

According to this report, McBroom has really worked at becoming a more complete hitter and his plus-.300 batting average alongside seven extra-base hits reflects that despite the season not even being a month old yet. He’s only struck out seven times in 12 games, but I would like to see him translate some of that plate discipline into more walks. Although that is difficult to do at this level given the very loose strike zone that is often called. He isn’t the most athletic first basemen — and how many really are — but he did make a couple of solid plays in the field including fielding a sharply hit liner on one hop. His teammates in college also spoke very highly of his leadership abilities in the repot and it sounds like he’s well-liked in the clubhouse as well.

Overall, McBroom doesn’t appear to have a very high ceiling, but there definitely is some upside here. His maturity at the plate and ability to hit for contact and power are his best tools and should allow him to move up to Lansing or Dunedin by the end of the 2014 season. If he does get a promotion or two before the end of the year it’s likely he’ll see some time at Double-A in 2015 if he continues to hit.

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