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Rees (Bluefield 2018) Leads Jays Organizational All-Stars

December 18, 2019

Each offseason, MiLB.com goes position by position across each system and honors the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. Click here to locate your favorite club.

Each offseason, MiLB.com goes position by position across each system and honors the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. Click here to locate your favorite club.

Blue Jays Organization All-Stars
Catcher -- Alejandro Kirk  (Bluefield 2018), Dunedin (71 games), Lansing (21 games): Kirk spent time behind the plate at two different levels in 2019, opening the year with Class A Lansing before moving up to Class A Advanced Dunedin after less than a month. Toronto's No. 12 prospect posted a slash line of .299/.427/.519 with three homers and 18 walks in 21 games with the Lugnuts. He was just as productive in the Florida State League, batting .288/.395/.446 with four long balls and 38 free passes over his final 71 contests.
"He's really good," Lansing manager Dallas McPherson said. "He's a polished hitter. ... When he stays locked into his approach, he can hit to all fields with power. Behind the plate, really good receiver. Good catch-and-throw guy, blocks well, but receiving, he's a head above everyone else."
First baseman -- Yorman Rodriguez  (Bluefield 2017), Vancouver (40 games), Lansing (22 games): After posting career-low figures in average (.257), on-base percentage (.294) and slugging percentage (.330) between two levels the previous season, Rodriguez bounced back in a major way in 2019. He put together a career campaign, with a benchmark .360/.387/.502, five homers and 40 RBIs for Lansing and Class A Short Season Vancouver. He batted .369 with the Canadians and .344 with the Lugnuts, figures that would've led the Northwest League and the Midwest League if he had enough at-bats to qualify.
McPherson attributes much of Rodriguez's return to form to his refined approach at the plate.
"The biggest thing I saw different from the year before was just his ability to go the other way and his ability to take what pitchers give him," the skipper said. "Not get too big, not try to do too much. Just stay within himself and take what they give him and really stay on the ball and drive the ball the other way."
Shortstop -- Otto Lopez  (Bluefiled 2018), Lansing (108 games): 2019 was Lopez's first full season as a professional, and the 21-year-old definitely did not disappoint. He led the Midwest League with a .324 average, setting a career high while posting near-best numbers in on-base percentage (.371) and slugging percentage (.425). He was especially effective as a run producer, scoring 61 times and driving in 50. It was a consistently sharp campaign, but he was even sharper down the stretch; Lopez hit .338 after the All-Star break and .367 in August and September, something that deeply impressed his skipper given his relative inexperience.
"He finished really strong," McPherson said. "The most encouraging part about the way he finished is he really seemed to get better at managing the ups and downs, the challenges that come with the game. As the season progressed, he really seemed to get better at just handling that day-to-day struggle, that day-to-day failure and being able to bounce back. I think that probably led to the jump at the end of the season as much as anything."
Outfielders
Reggie Pruitt  (Bluefield 2016), Lansing (88 games), Dunedin (21 games): If one word describes Pruitt as a prospect, it's speed. The 22-year-old swiped a career-high 48 bases between Lansing and Dunedin, including 40 with the Lugnuts to finish second in the Midwest League behind Dayton's Michael Siani (who played in 33 more games). Pruitt's theft numbers have steadily increased during his five pro seasons, growing from 15 as a rookie to 85 over the past two years. Pruitt also made pronounced progress at the plate, finishing with a .265 average that was nearly 30 points better than his previous career high in 2016.
But what McPherson enjoyed most about having Pruitt in Lansing was not anything you'd find on a stat sheet.
"The best thing about Reggie is he's probably one of the most coachable kids I've ever had," McPherson said. "He's a pleasure to be around every day, he's a pleasure to have in the clubhouse, he's a great teammate. ... He can just do a lot of things on the baseball field. He can change the game on defense, he can change the game on the basepaths and he really made a lot of strides this year with his swing."
Honorable mention:Cal Stevenson  (Bluefield 2018) batted .298/.388/.393 over 90 games with Dunedin that included a 22-game hitting streak before he was traded to the Astros at the deadline.
Relief pitcher -- Jackson Rees Dunedin (25 games), Lansing (14 games): Rees posted a sub-1.00 ERA at two different levels en route to earning the MiLBY Award for Top Relief Pitcher. The right-handed fireman began the season with Lansing, posting a microscopic 0.36 ERA after allowing just three runs over 14 appearances. He didn't miss a beat after being promoted to Dunedin, logging a 0.99 ERA over 25 outings to finish the season with a 0.73 mark and 88 strikeouts over 61 2/3 frames. He only tallied nine saves, although Czajkowski explained that didn't paint an entirely accurate picture.
"Jackson was very successful because we didn't put him in a lot of very high-leverage games early on when he got to us," he said. "He had just come from Lansing. We had like two other closers at the time in Brad Wilson and Dany Jimenez, so there was no need for a closer. But a good setup guy to get to those guys, and then when those guys moved, Jackson slipped in [with] no problem.
"And he took off. I mean, it was like our bullpen, similar to our starting pitchers, were great. They all kind of fed off of each other. I think they all got along down in the bullpen. And the competition was fierce. Lot of good arms, guys who could repeat what they were doing. He probably didn't have the saves amount because a lot of times we didn't have the save opportunities. ... When it came to closing, yeah, he was good."