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Jays mixing youth with experience

Toronto gets All-Star performance from 2012 top pick Stroman
December 18, 2013

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

A year ago, the Blue Jays system was the toast of baseball. With prospects like Noah Syndergaard, Travis d'Arnaud, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino and Adeiny Hechavarria, Toronto was in a position of strength. They chose to use that strength to make a run at the playoffs, trading those players away for Jose Reyes, R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and others. Though the plan didn't pan out in 2013, there's still promise in the farm system to bolster future postseason runs.

As an organization, Toronto finished 414-413, 14th overall among Major League organizations. Two affiliates reached the postseason. Rookie-level Bluefield was bounced in the first round of the Appalachian League playoffs, but short-season Vancouver continued its dominance over the Northwestern League by defeating Boise in three games to complete a rare three-peat.

Blue Jays Organization All-Stars

Catcher -- Derrick Chung, Dunedin (71 games): A 31st-round pick in 2012, Chung bounced back from a tough pro debut to put up a .287/.341/.336 slash line in the Class A Advanced Florida State League. The Sacramento State University product showed solid plate discipline, drawing 20 walks while fanning just 30 times in 244 at-bats. Chung also was excellent behind the plate, throwing out 43 percent of base runners and committing just one error in 64 games behind the plate. For good measure, Chung batted .390 in 13 Arizona Fall League contests.

First base -- Mauro Gomez, Buffalo (110 games): Playing for his third organization in as many years, Gomez slugged a career-high 29 homers, leading the system in the category. The 2012 International League MVP finished with 73 RBIs, tying for third among Toronto Minor Leaguers, while being named to the IL's postseason All-Star squad.

Honorable Mention -- Matt Dean, Bluefield (63 games): The Blue Jays' No. 20 prospect repeated at Bluefield in 2013 and excelled, leading the Toronto organization with a .338 batting average while smacking 23 extra-base hits. Dean also posted a .996 fielding percentage in 56 games at first base.

Second base -- Jon Berti, Dunedin (128 games): The 2011 18th-round pick wound up in Dunedin, where he had spent half of the previous season. It turned out much better the second time around for Berti, as he led the organization with 58 stolen bases and batted .250 with a .338 on-base percentage. He also topped the Florida State League with 85 runs scored and finished eighth with 57 walks.

Shortstop -- Franklin Barreto, GCL Blue Jays (44 games), Bluefield (15 games): Signed as an international free agent last year, Barreto made his debut in style this season. The 17-year-old compiled an .825 OPS in 59 games, and more than half (32) of his 63 hits went for extra bases. Barreto also stole 10 bases.

Third base -- Ryan Schimpf, New Hampshire (126 games): Despite a .210 batting average, Schimpf was one of the Fisher Cats' more productive players, slugging 23 homers, drawing 79 walks and scoring 67 runs, all team-leading totals. The 2009 fifth-round pick, who was an Organization All-Star in 2012, drove in 65 runs as well. Schimp also saw time at second base for New Hampshire.

"He's got very above-average power for the size he is," Fisher Cats manager Gary Allenson said. "[The ball] comes off his bat pretty nice. I think he needs to be a little bit more aggressive -- he has a tendency to take borderline pitches. To have those kind of walks is good, but there were times where he was taking a pitch that he could have hammered. He's versatile -- he played some second and played some third. You don't find a lot of guys with that kind of power."

Honorable mention -- Mitch Nay, Bluefield (64 games): Nay batted .300, smacked six homers and drove in 42 runs for Bluefield before joining Vancouver for the Northwest League playoffs. There, the 2012 first-round pick batted .381 in the Canadians' title run.


Kevin Pillar, New Hampshire (71 games), Buffalo (52 games), Toronto (36 games): Pillar did what he's done at every level -- hit. Making the jump to Double-A, Pillar batted .313 for the Fisher Cats, amassing 20 doubles and stealing 13 bases before being promoted to Triple-A Buffalo. In 52 International League games, the 24-year-old hit .299 with 19 doubles. Overall, he finished with a .307/.353/.461 line, good for second in the organization.

"He really impresses me a lot," said Allenson, a former big league backstop. "Pillar, he was a 32nd-round pick, he's an impressive player. From the first pitch to the last pitch, he is concentrating the whole game. Whether it's the batter's box or getting on base or in the outfield, this guy is locked in. I don't know Dustin Pedroia, but I've watched enough games to know that Pillar has that same look in his eyes. He's a winner, he knows how to play."

Brad Glenn, New Hampshire (111 games), Buffalo (18 games): Another solid and steady contributor, Glenn finished third in the organization with 22 homers and second with 79 RBIs. After racking up 37 extra-base hits and 44 walks with the Fisher Cats, the 26-year-old outfielder slugged .508 in 18 International League games for the Bisons.

"I believe he put himself on the map," Allenson said. "He's got some pop in his bat -- he's a big guy. The ball comes off his bat pretty good. For a big guy that maybe doesn't really run well, he plays a good outfield. He gets good jumps and gets a good read on the ball."

Dalton Pompey, Lansing (115 games): The Blue Jays' No. 15 prospect flashed the speed he's known for in the Class A Midwest League, stealing 38 bases, second-best in the organization. Pompey also hit 22 doubles, legged out nine triples and smacked six homers. The 21-year-old supplemented his .261 average with a team-leading 63 walks.

Utility -- Luis Jimenez, Buffalo (99 games): After two seasons in the Pacific Coast League, Jimenez played in the International League for the first time since 2008, providing a steady bat in the middle of the Bisons lineup. The 31-year-old veteran was fourth in the organization with 73 RBIs, slugged 18 homers and batted .285. Jimenez also finished third in the league with an .845 OPS, thanks in large part to his 36 extra-base hits in 354 at-bats.

Right-handed starting pitcher -- Marcus Stroman, New Hampshire (20 games): This year essentially marked the Duke University product's pro debut -- he pitched 15 innings after being drafted in 2012. As such, jumping to Double-A in his first full season was a tremendous accomplishment for Stroman, before even taking into account how well he actually pitched. After missing nearly two months following a suspension for violating baseball's drug policy, Stroman posted a 3.30 ERA in 20 starts, going 9-5 in the process. The 22-year-old limited Eastern League hitters to a .234 average and fanned 129 batters over 111 2/3 innings.

"In the Minor Leagues when you're coming up, each level you move up is a little tougher," Allenson said. "Marcus fit right in. He was a confident guy on the mound, the ball comes out of his hand nice and easy, and he's got two above-average Major League pitches.

"He throws 93-95 mph, he's nice and smooth. His breaking ball -- his slider -- is average, at times above average. This guy's a big leaguer. I'm not so sure he's not a starting pitcher, because he doesn't get fastball-happy -- he uses his secondary pitches."

Honorable mention -- Austin Bibens-Dirkx, Dunedin (17 games), New Hampshire (12 games): Signing with the Blue Jays as a Minor League free agent on Jan. 15, 2013, Bibens-Dirkx would up leading the organization with 12 wins, 155 strikeouts and finished second with 2.48 ERA.

"He's not a hard thrower, keeps the ball in the zone -- he knows how to pitch," the Fisher Cats manager said. "I can't remember a bad thing he did for us. He mixes his pitches up, keeps the fastball down in the zone, breaking ball in the zone, mixes location on the changeup. He knows how to pitch, he keeps the ball down. He's more of a ground-ball type guy."

Left-handed starting pitcher -- Sean Nolin, New Hampshire (17 games), Buffalo (three games), Toronto (one game):  Coming off a year in which he was 10-0, Nolin followed that up with another strong season, going 9-4 with a 2.77 ERA, a mark that would have been good enough for fourth in the organization had he pitched enough innings to qualify. The Blue Jays' No. 5 prospect also finished fourth in the system with 116 strikeouts.

Relief pitcher -- Arik Sikula, Lansing (50 games):  Sikula was dominant out of the bullpen for the Lugnuts, tying for second in the Midwest League with a system-topping 19 saves. Sikula racked up 60 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings, held opposing batters to a .191 average and compiled an ERA of 1.93.

Robert Emrich is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @RobertEmrich.