Arencibia, Drabek gems of Jays system

After starring in Minors, top prospects will get shots at Majors

J.P. Arencibia led all Blue Jays farmhands with 32 home runs. (Mike Janes/Four Seam Images)

By John Parker / Special to | December 16, 2010 5:00 AM

This offseason, will be honoring the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. We're taking a look at each team to determine the outstanding seasons in Minor League baseball. Select a team from the dropdown below.

The Blue Jays system was solid again in 2010, with Double-A New Hampshire and Class A Advanced Dunedin both making their league playoffs (although both were swept in the first round).

Triple-A Las Vegas, with help from slugger J.P. Arencibia, led the Pacific Coast League in homers but was dead last in team ERA and finished 12 games under .500. Led by Eastern League Pitcher of the Year Kyle Drabek, New Hampshire posted the organization's best record at 79-62. Dunedin won its division in the first half of the Florida State League season but slumped following the All-Star break and finished 72-67. At 70-69, Class A Lansing had its eighth winning season in nine years, while short-season clubs in Auburn and the Gulf Coast League finished in the middle of the pack.

Blue Jays organizational All-Stars

Catcher -- J.P. Arencibia, Las Vegas (104 games), Toronto (11 games): After a down year in his first Triple-A season in 2009, Arencibia put it all together in a breakout performance. The 24-year-old backstop led the organization with 32 homers and a .626 slugging percentage, ranked second with 85 RBIs and 36 doubles and tied for third with a .301 batting average.

The University of Tennessee product earned PCL Most Valuable Player honors, was named to the Topps Triple-A All-Star Team and will get every opportunity to claim the Jays' starting catcher job next season.

"J.P.'s been in Las Vegas two years in a row, had a tremendous year and is 25," Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos told the Toronto Star. "We need to find out about him. There's a lot of things he needs to learn at the Major League level and the only way he'll learn is if you play or at least be around it."

Honorable mention: Brian Jeroloman

First baseman -- Brett Wallace, Las Vegas (95 games), Toronto (51 games): It's been a strange career for Wallace, who played for four different organizations before turning 24 in late August. The Blue Jays acquired him in December 2009 and he put up typically strong numbers at the plate for Las Vegas before he was shipped to Houston at the trade deadline.

Wallace tied for third in the Toronto organization with a .301 batting average, clubbed 18 homers and drove in 61 runs in 95 games for the 51s and was named a midseason PCL All-Star. The Jays swapped him for prospect Anthony Gose, whom the Astros had just acquired from the Phillies in the Roy Oswalt deal, on July 29.

Second baseman -- Jarrett Hoffpauir, Las Vegas (107 games), Toronto (13 games): Hoffpauir got off to a strong start in the Jays organization by hitting for the cycle not once but twice in the first two months of the season. He put up other gaudy numbers throughout the campaign, finishing with a .295 average, a career-high 16 homers and 73 RBIs. Hoffpauir, who turned 27 in June, proved himself the consummate contact hitter, striking out only 34 times (compared to 58 walks) in 500 Minor League plate appearances.

A distant cousin of former Cubs first baseman Micah Hoffpauir, Jarrett was a PCL All-Star and batted .206 in 13 games for the Jays. He was claimed by the Padres off waivers from Toronto on Oct. 6.

Third baseman -- Brad Emaus, New Hampshire (38 games), Las Vegas (87 games): A former 11th-round Draft pick, Emaus batted .290 between New Hampshire and Las Vegas and set career bests with 15 homers, 75 RBIs and 13 stolen bases. The 24-year-old Tulane product led the system with 81 walks and ranked second with a .397 on-base percentage.

Despite his strong season, Emaus was left unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft and was snapped up by the Mets.

"We knew that there was a high probability that we would lose him," Anthopoulos said. "At the same time, you have to go with your scouts and your player development staff. I know it's a compliment to the organization when you start running out of 40-man spots."

Honorable mention: Shawn Bowman

Shortstop -- Manny Mayorson, New Hampshire (54 games), Las Vegas (43 games): The 27-year-old Mayorson had the strongest offensive campaign of his 11-year Minor League career in 2010. (He made his debut with the Medicine Hat Blue Jays as a 17-year-old back in 2000.) Splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A, he led the organization with a career-best .324 average. The native of the Dominican Republic was 19-for-19 in stolen base attempts and struck out only 23 times in 396 plate appearances.

Mayorson led the Eastern League in plate appearance/strikeout ratio (15.71) and ranked third in batting (.316) before his promotion to Las Vegas at the end of June. His strong performance with the 51s was highlighted by five consecutive multi-hit games from Aug. 28-Sept. 1, during which he was 11-for-24 with four doubles and six runs scored.


Eric Thames, New Hampshire (130 games): Thames discovered his power stroke in 2010, leading the Eastern League and the Toronto system with 104 RBIs while ranking second with 27 homers. The Pepperdine product was named to the Topps Double-A All-Star Team and continued to produce in the elite Arizona Fall League, where he drove in 16 runs in 23 games.

Though strikeout-prone -- his 121 whiffs were eighth-most in the organization -- Thames posted a solid .370 on-base percentage, helped in part by being hit with a club-leading 18 pitches.

Thames' breakout season was highlighted by a six-RBI game on July 3, a 15-game hitting streak from July 20-Aug. 5 and getting named the Fisher Cats' best dancer by teammate Kyle Drabek.

Darin Mastroianni, New Hampshire (132 games): Mastroianni's job for the Fisher Cats was to get on base and score runs, both of which he did with great success in 2010. He led the system in hits, runs scored and steals while ranking third in on-base percentage. The 25-year-old speedster was named an Eastern League mid- and postseason All-Star.

"He has short legs and doesn't look like he gets a big lead," former New Hampshire manager Luis Rivera told the Toronto Star. "But he has a wonderful start and gets a great read on pitchers. He'll steal 30 bases in the big leagues."

Mastroianni put together a 15-game hitting streak that helped earn Eastern League Player of the Week honors in early May. He went 14-for-29 (.483) with a homer, three triples and eight RBIs during that stretch and was added to the Jays' 40-man roster in November.

Chris Lubanski, Las Vegas (100 games): The fifth overall pick (by the Royals) in the 2003 Draft, Lubanski was a force in his first year in the Toronto system. The 25-year-old hit .293 and collected 17 homers and 57 RBIs despite being limited by injuries to 25 games following the All-Star break. He received the most votes in the fan portion of the selection process for the PCL All-Star Team.

"I had a bunch of my friends and family voting for me, so it will be nice to be able to go home and play in front of them," Lubanski told the Las Vegas Review-Journal of heading to the Triple-A All-Star Game in Allentown, Penn., about 50 miles from his hometown. "It's a big deal for me."

The left-handed slugger put together a nine-game hitting streak and three separate eight-game streaks. During one of those eight-game tears, from June 16-24, he also drove in a run in each contest, totaling 14.

A free agent following the season, Lubanski signed a Minor League contract with the Florida Marlins in early December.

Honorable mention: Aaron Mathews

Designated hitter -- Sean Ochinko, Lansing (109 games): Ochinko was a revelation in his first full season of pro ball, batting .311 (second-best in the organization) with eight homers and 65 RBIs. An 11th-round pick in the 2009 Draft, the LSU product seemed to grow stronger as the Midwest League season progressed. After hitting a respectable .282 before the All-Star break, he posted a .342 in the second half, including a .378 mark in July.

Ochinko played 22 games at third base, 16 at first, and 45 behind the plate, where he threw out 25 percent of would-be basestealers.

"He'll be a utility guy in the big leagues, a winning-type backup player," Blue Jays senior adviser of player development Mel Didier told the Toronto Sun.

Right-handed starting pitcher -- Kyle Drabek, New Hampshire (27 games), Toronto (three games): The centerpiece of the trade that sent Roy Halladay to the Phillies last winter, Drabek was all the Jays could have hoped for in his first year with the organization. The 22-year-old led the Toronto Minor League system -- and the Eastern League -- in wins (14) and ERA (2.94) and ranked second in strikeouts (132) while holding opponents to a .215 average.

The son of 1990 National League Cy Young Award-winner Doug Drabek, Kyle was named Eastern League Pitcher of the Year. On July 4, he tossed the first nine-inning no-hitter in Fisher Cats history to beat New Britain, 5-0. He won seven of his last eight decisions at Double-A before making his Major League debut on Sept. 15 at Baltimore.

Drabek attributed his success to the consistency of his delivery.

"It's come a long way," he told the Toronto Globe and Mail. "In the beginning, it was like I had different movements for different pitches. Now, everything comes the same and everything stays the same."

Though he took the loss in each of his three big league starts, Drabek was solid, relying heavily on ground-ball outs. Despite the 0-3 mark, the 23-year-old will will get every chance to make the Jays rotation in Spring Training.

Honorable mention: Joel Carreno

Left-handed starting pitcher -- Chuck Huggins, Dunedin (23 games), New Hampshire (two games): Huggins ranked sixth in the system with a 3.73 ERA, which was marred by two rough starts for New Hampshire in which he surrendered four homers and 11 earned runs over 10 1/3 innings. The UC-Santa Barbara product was dominant for Dunedin, going 11-4 with a 3.47 ERA and wins in six of his final seven decisions. He gave up only six homers in 23 Florida State League starts.

Huggins started off on a tear, going 5-0 with a 2.30 ERA and .207 average against before the FSL All-Star break but was less effective after returning from his Double-A stint in early June. Still, the 24-year-old tied for second in the league in wins and ranked fourth in ERA while leading Dunedin to a first-half division title.

Relief pitchers

Frank Gailey, Dunedin (45 games): Gailey did not record a single save in 2010 -- he only had one opportunity -- but pitched effectively over 91 2/3 innings for Dunedin, going 6-4 with a 2.55 ERA. The 24-year-old struck out 99 but, more impressively, issued only 10 walks all season. His 9.9 strikeout/walk ratio and 1.0 walks/nine innings mark both led the system by significant margins.

Alan Farina, Dunedin (32 games), New Hampshire (17 games): Farina was all but unhittable. The Clemson product went 3-1 with six saves and a 1.29 ERA over 55 2/3 innings, during which he allowed only 25 hits (none of them homers). He was even more impressive after a promotion to Double-A, where he gave up six hits in 19 1/3 innings for a .092 average against. The right-hander's dominance extended to the AFL, where he held baseball's best prospects to a .216 average while posting a 0.87 ERA. The Jays placed him on the 40-man roster in late November.

"Alan always had the stuff and the velocity, but he's battled minor injuries like an ankle -- no surgeries -- but it's been tough to keep him going for a long time," Dunedin manager Clayton McCullough told Slam Sports. "Knock on wood, he's been healthy, this is probably the best he's thrown."

Honorable mention: Matt Wright, Matt Daly, Tim Collins

John Parker is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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