Blue Jays Triple-A Dish

With Toronto left fielder Reed Johnson headed to the disabled list with a herniated disc in his back, the Blue Jays called up a prized prospect from Triple-A Syracuse.

The Prospects

Outfielder Adam Lind takes Johnson’s roster spot and, if his brief major league indoctrination–.367/.415/.600–is a fair gauge, Lind should have no trouble approximating the lost offense. The 23-year-old Lind opened 2007 in the minors to stay sharp with consistent at-bats, waiting for just this opportunity.

While Lind has excelled at the plate, winning either his leagues’ doubles, extra-base hits and slugging percentage crown in each of his three pro seasons, his defensive work has not been as advanced.

“By starting him in the minors, we’re also allowing him to work on defense,” Blue Jays farm director Dick Scott said. “It’s much improved, to the point where he’s a major league defender now. He’ll definitely get his chance to play here.”

Like Lind, catcher Curtis Thigpen got a taste of Triple-A at the tail end of the 2006 season. He boasts a disciplined plate approach with the ability to hit to all fields, and the Blue Jays believe Thigpen could see a modest increase in power production. And that notion has merit, considering he’s only been a full-time catcher since turning pro–in deference to Taylor Teagarden when both were at Texas–and that he has a .433 career slugging percentage in tough hitters’ leagues.

Where Thigpen, 23, has struggled is with the running game. In his time with Syracuse, Thigpen has nabbed just one of 21 base stealers.

“He’s a good receiver and he blocks well. It’s just a matter of improving his throwing,” Scott said. “He’s not a plus thrower, but he doesn’t have well below-average release times and footwork, either. He’s got lots of aptitude and confidence.”

The Overlooked

Righthander Jamie Vermilyea was selected by the Red Sox in the 2005 major league Rule 5 draft, but Boston didn’t have the luxury of carrying an inexperienced reliever, whom they could not option to the minors, in the tough AL East. So Vermilyea, 25, was returned to the Blue Jays prior to the 2006 season.

Vermilyea, a ninth-round pick out of New Mexico in 2003, doesn’t impress with radar gun readings–he hovers at 88-91 mph–instead throwing strikes and inducing ground balls with his above-average sinker. He’ll mix in a slider from time to time, but Vermilyea’s ability to locate, hold runners and induce double-play grounders could get him a look in the big league bullpen this season.

The Veteran

Outfielder Chad Mottola has been around. He was the fifth overall pick of the Reds in 1992 and has since played for seven other organizations. The righthanded-hitting Mottola, 35, has batted .280/.338/.458 with 232 home runs in 15 minor league seasons entering 2007. While playing for Syracuse in 2000, he achieved a rare minor league 30-30 season by hitting a league-leading 33 homers and 30 steals. Both figures are career highs.

Read or re-visit the previous Triple-A Dish on the Reds.