Blue Jays’ future looking bright

GM Alex Anthopoulos is a believer in developing a stronger farm system (anthopoulos306-cp)
Since Alex Anthopoulos joined the Blue Jays organization, many changes have been made, giving the franchise a new direction.
The first-year general manager is taking the team back to its roots, doing much of his work with the club’s minor league affiliates in an attempt to make the organization younger.

His work to this point has been impressive.

Anthopoulos made an immediate impression with the club when he dealt away ace Roy Halladay to Philadelphia for three minor league players.

Halladay’s departure meant a loss of hope for many fans, but the younger look began with the starting rotation, a move Anthopoulos found with promising success.

Toronto has four regular starters this season, consisting of Shaun Marcum – back from Tommy John surgery – Brandon Morrow, an Anthopoulos acquisition from Seattle, Ricky Romero, who the GM inked for at least four more years, and Brett Cecil.

The quartet of pitchers, whose average age is slightly north of 25, have gone 48-31 so far this season, posting a combined 4.03 ERA with 609 strikeouts.

And beyond the majors, Anthopoulos and his staff have been working hard at building their farm system. Each of the club’s minor league affiliates had some successes this year, with a few unearthing star quality players.

Here are the players Jays fans should look forward to seeing in the coming years:

J.P. Arencibia (C)

Arencibia joined the big league team after catch John Buck cut his hand in early August. He became the only player since 1900 to have two home runs, the first coming off the very first pitch, and four hits in a major league debut.

The Miami native was named the MVP of the Pacific Coast League for his time with the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s. He ranked second in slugging percentage (.626), third in home runs (32), extra base hits (69), and on-base plus slugging (.986), fifth in total bases (258), T-6th in doubles (36) and T-8th in RBIs (85).

His 32 homers match the third best single season total for a minor league player in franchise history.

David Cooper (1B)

Cooper, a first-round pick (17th overall) in 2008, set career highs this season with 20 home runs, 78 RBIs, 220 total bases and 128 hits. Among his teammates with the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats, he finished second in doubles (30), RBIs, and total bases, and was third in hits and home runs.

In 2009 he spent his first full season with the Fisher Cats of the Eastern League, and led the team with 32 doubles. He was also a Louisville Slugger third-team All-American, batting .359 with a team-leading 19 home runs and 55 RBIs in 56 games.

Brad Emaus (2B)

An 11th-round pick in 2007, Emaus spent this season with both New Hampshire and Las Vegas. He set career highs in home runs (15), RBIs (75), walks (81) and on-base percentage (.397).

In 2009, his first season at Double-A, he had 40 extra-base hits. He led the Fisher Cats in games played (137), at-bats (505), runs (67) and hits (128).

After being promoted to Triple-A on June 1 of this season, Emaus saw his offensive game increase. He played 87 games in Las Vegas, hitting .298 (92-for-309) with 10 home runs, 25 doubles, three triples 49 RBI and 50 walks.

Shawn Bowman (3B)

Bowman is a former 12th-round selection by the New York Mets eight years ago, and spent the majority of his season with New Hampshire after being claimed on waivers from New York on April 14.

The third baseman hit a career-high 22 home runs, 29 doubles and 114 hits with the Double-A club this season.

Bowman hails from New Westminster, B.C.

Adeiny Hechavarria (SS)

Cuban Hechavarria signed with the Jays on April 13 and made his debut with the Class-A Dunedin Jays on April 25. He was promoted to New Hampshire on June 28, and saw his numbers inflate.

With the Fisher Cats, he batted .273 (69-for-253) with 11 doubles, a triple and three home runs in 61 games.

Hechavarria was one of more than 20 players from Cuba to leave the island last year in search of a pro contract, and is considered one of the top prospects of the group. He was also a member of the Cuban junior national team in 2008.

Eric Thames (OF)

Thames is a 2008 7th-round pick, and spent his third professional season with the Fisher Cats. He saw a big increase in his power numbers, and had 58 extra-base hits (27 home runs, 25 doubles, and six triples) this season.

He was selected to the Eastern League’s post-season all-star team, and among the league’s players he was first in RBIs (104) this season, second in total bases (261), T-2nd in home runs (27) and third in runs (95). The 104 RBIs also led the entire Blue Jays minor league organization.

Darin Mastroianni (OF)

Mastroianni was a 16th-round draft pick in 2007, and spent the season with New Hampshire. His speed was his greatest asset to the team, recording 46 stolen bases, which led the Eastern League.

Mastroianni was also tied for first in hits, second in runs scored (104), OBP (.390), and walks (77).

He was selected to the league’s post-season all-star team, and led all Jays’ minor league organizations in runs scored, hits and stolen bases.

Chris Lubanski (OF)

Lubanski, the No. 5 overall selection in the 2003 draft, spent his time this season with Las Vegas.

He was tied for first in triples (6), placed 2nd in SLG% (.538), third in OPS (.899) and home runs (17), and fifth in total bases (191).

In the first three months of the season, he batted .305 (75-for-246), with 13 home runs, 20 doubles, six triples and four RBI.

Kyle Drabek (SP)

Drabek was the key acquisition in the trade that sent Halladay to the Phillies in December of 2009. He joined the big league club as a September call-up, and was solid in his debut against the Baltimore Orioles. He allowed three runs on nine hits, walking three and striking out five, albeit in a losing effort.

He was named to the Eastern League post-season all-star team after leading the organization in innings pitched (162.0), wins (14), ERA (2.94) and was second in strikeouts (132).

The highlight of his Double-A season came on July 4 when he threw a no-hitter, walking two batters and striking out three in a 5-0 win.

Chuck Huggins (SP)

Huggins was Toronto’s 23rd-round pick in the 2008 draft and spent time this season with Dunedin and New Hampshire.

He Tied for second in the Florida State League in wins (11) and led the Dunedin Blue Jays in ERA (3.47), WHIP (1.24), and was second in innings pitched (127.0).

In his first nine starts, Huggins went 5-0 with a 2.10 ERA. He made the first start of his career with the Fisher Cats on May 29, and allowed two earned runs over 5 1/3, walking one and striking out three.

Matt Daly (RP)

He spent the 2010 season with the Dunedin Blue Jays, and broke the team’s single-season saves record with 31, third most in Blue Jays minor league history.

From May 31 to the end of the season, Daly went 2-1 with 17 saves in 18 opportunities. He converted 27 consecutive saves from April 19 to August 31.

Daly was named to the Florida State League mid-season all-star team.

Alan Farina (RP)

In 2007, Farina was drafted in the third round by the Blue Jays. This season he spent time with Dunedin and New Hampshire.

He allowed a total of eight earned runs in 55 2/3 innings. From May 30 to July 30, Farina did not allow a run during 14 appearances.

Farina’s 1.29 ERA is the lowest of any player in the team’s minor league organization with a minimum of 30 innings pitched.