It was a play in early 2019 that demonstrated Jordan Groshan’s athleticism in one fell swoop.
Groshans had been a full season player with Low A Lansing for only a couple of weeks, skipping a pair of short season levels after a scintillating GCL debut which followed his first round selection by Toronto in the 2018 draft.
Late in a game against division rival South Bend, Groshans ranged far to his left from his short stop position to snare a ground ball up the middle. As soon as the ball nestled in his glove, Groshans did a full 360 in order to orient himself back to the infield, and threw a high, off-balance throw that just missed getting the batter at 1st.
It was a spectacular play that highlighted surprising range for a big kid, but it also showed his inexperience. Groshans’ throw likely would have sailed into the 1st base stands if not for the hulking, 6’5”/235 presence of teammate Jake Brodt at 1st. If Groshans had stopped, made a half turn, and set himself properly, he likely would’ve had an out by at least a half step. It was a play Groshans had made dozens of times as a high schooler, but it wouldn’t be enough to get guys out in pro ball. Not surprisingly, a Lugnuts official indicated the next day that the club had been working with him on his footwork.
If there is one tool of Groshans’ that stood out that warm week in April, it was his bat. A high school student ten months earlier, here he was squaring up pitchers two to three years older than himself. Pitchers want to make at bats uncomfortable for hitters; Groshans was doing the opposite.
We had only a few weeks of Groshans watching before plantar fasciitis sent him to the IL, limiting his season to all of 23 games. The normal development timeline would have seen him likely finish the 2019 season with High A Dunedin, and last year would have found him in AA New Hampshire (where he tweeted he was headed today).
Despite being so close to the majors, Groshans has less than 100 pro games under his belt. The Blue Jays will likely be careful with his development; it will be exciting to continue to monitor his progress.
Orelvis Martinez/Leo Jimenez/Miguel Hiraldo
Last April was supposed to be when this trio would make their Lansing debut. So much for that…..
All three were signed as SSs, but only Jimenez profiles to stay there long term. Martinez is the premium player of the three, with a bat that seems destined for a big league lineup. Brought up to the alt site late last summer, he took his whacks in a simulated game against Alex Manoah. He was overmatched on the first few pitches after not having seen game action since spring training, but several pitches into the at bat took Manoah deep down the left field line, but just foul.
Jimenez is a spark-plug type of player. Blue Jays VP Andrew Tinnish, who oversaw the Panamanian’s signing said that if ever there was a guy to stick at short, it would be Jimenez, who played for his country’s national team at the tender age of 15. There have been concerns about his hit tool, but he showed vastly improved bat speed at last fall’s Florida development camp.
Of the three, Hiraldo may rank the lowest in terms of tools, but there’s a future MLB 2nd baseman in there. He’s more like a Dawel Lugo with an ability to get on base-type, but he still has a high ceiling.
There is some question as to his ultimate position and defensive role as a big leaguer, but there’s no question that Martin will become an integral part of the Blue Jays offence.
With an ability to control at bats, make hard, consistent contact, and get on base, as well as elite base running skills, Martin will be fun to watch. The Blue Jays likely want him to get some AAA experience, but he will be a fixture at the top of the lineup sooner, rather than later.
Like Groshans, we only got a small glimpse of the mountain man, he of the size seventeen-and-a-half cleats, in his pitch count-limited pro debut season in 2019.
Manoah was electric in spring training, and while the Blue Jays prefer to give him every opportunity to develop as a starter, there must have been huge temptation to stick him in a bullpen role when Romano, Merryweather, and Chathwood went down in rapid succession earlier this month.
The development of a third pitch will determine Manoah’s future, but there is no doubt about that fastball, and his ability to make uncomfortable ABs.
As the start of the delayed minor league season approaches, New Hampshire and Buffalo have confirmed that they will be streaming their home games this season. Vancouver has yet to indicate if their relocated home games will be streamed, but Hillsboro, who they will be sharing digs with, is one of the few NWL teams that do.