Tuesday, December 21, 2010
The 2011 Las Vegas 51s
As if I need to provide anyone with another reason to go to Vegas. Here's one anyway. Next year's Las Vegas 51s are going to be good. VERY good.
Despite the Blue Jays prior unwillingness to send top pitching prospects to Vegas, -The air is dry, so batted balls tend to fly farther, also the infield is dry, and plays about the same as concrete from all reports. Not helpful on BABIP.- This season the team will almost assuredly have to send 2-3 of their better pitching prospects to pitch in the desert. Kyle Drabek could be sent down for service time issues. Zach Stewart will have a chance to earn an MLB rotation spot, but will likely go to Vegas to help control his workload, with a possible eye to a call up later in the season. Brad Mills could be back as a leader. Scott Richmond will be in Vegas if he doesn't move to the bullpen. Robert Ray will have a chance to regain his lofty prospect status as well. All excellent options, many with MLB experience.
On the offensive side of the ball, Eric Thames is due for a promotion after his stellar campaign in New Hampshire. Adeiny Hechevaria would help the defense on the rock-hard infield. Brett Lawrie is at least going to start the year in Vegas learning 3B, although he's publicly stated otherwise. Darin Mastroianni will likely be in Vegas if nothing else changes. The right side of the diamond is still in flux. The 51s will need a 1B, and if Emaus manages to crack the Mets opening day roster, they will need a 2B as well. Mike McCoy may be able to clear waivers, but I imagine a signing woul dbe in order. Right field is also currently looking to be open.
Adam Loewen could play RF, and David Cooper's strong second half could earn him the 1B job as well. An organizational move will probably be made for a 2B if Emaus doesn't come back.
Think about the upside that this team has. Mastroianni and Hechevaria at the top of the order. Thames, Lawrie, Cooper, Loewen in the power spots in the lineup, in a homer-friendly park. Thames is my early pick for next year's PCL MVP, but only if he doesn't spend considerable time with the Jays.
With Stewart, Mills, and Ray likely to be the first 3 in the rotation, they will be a force. Even in the PCL, they could post a combined ERA under 4. Depending on who else ends up not making the Jays, the rotation could be Major League Quality. Other options include Jo-Jo Reyes, and Marc Rzepcinski (If he doesn't win a rotation spot in Toronto)
The major question remaining is the bullpen. There will be some pieces that fall through from the Jays. Josh Roenicke was terrific toward the end of 2010 in closing games. Other relievers have options. The Blue Jays are also looking to add organizational depth. Ronald Uviedo has been excellent in winter ball, so he may find his way to Vegas. Alan Farina will also likely be in Vegas next year as well.
I had a discussion last night on Twitter (@5th Starter) as to which team would be better: The 2011 51s, or the 2011 Royals? Right now, I would say that the 51s look better to me. The team will definitely need to add an outfielder, and possibly some relievers. Second base is in flux with the departure of Brad Emaus, and there isn't anyone in the Jays' system to replace him. A healthy Scott Campbell could get a look, but after missing a year with injury, I expect he'll start lower to get his timing back.
So, if you're going to be inVegas, stop by Cashman field and cheer on the boys. If you're not already planing a Vegas trip this summer, it's the perfect reason to go.