Turns out that Dustin McGowan’s return to the majors was simply the tip of the iceberg when it came to Blue Jays’ call-ups.
With the Las Vegas 51’s out of the Pacific League postseason picture, the Jays have claimed a lion’s share of talent from their AAA affiliate and called on Adam Loewen, Kyle Drabek, Brad Mills, Danny Farquhar, Chad Beck and David Cooper to join McGowan and co. with the big club.
Let’s take a look at why these guys got the call and what they bring to the table.
McGowan may have a tremendous, feel-good story of determination and self-belief, but it’s Loewen who had the longer wait to get back to the major leagues. Now a major league hitter, the Surrey, BC native picked up his first career hit on Wednesday night in his first taste of major league action since July 6, 2008, two days before McGowan’s final appearance in the bigs prior to this week. Whereas McGowan’s exodus could be attributed to injury, Loewen couldn’t cut it as a big league pitcher despite being taken fourth over-all in the 2002 draft but had the athleticism needed to reinvent himself as an outfielder and power bat.
Impressive story aside, Loewen’s call-up stems, quite simply, from an expiring contract and a team looking to see if he’s worth any further investment. Unlike his call-up contemporaries who are playing under decidedly less pressure and with lower stakes, Loewen needs a strong showing to extend his opportunity with the Jays. In his favour, the 27-year old has an imposing (6’6”, 235-lb) build and, well, his nationality can’t hurt. Against him is a lack of options (he’d have to pass through waivers to be sent down again in this or any other year) and a cluttered outfield that also includes Jose Bautista, Colby Rasmus, Eric Thames, Rajai Davis and, potentially, Travis Snider.
The Drabek call-up seems to largely stem from the thinking that, well, it can’t get any worse. The 23-year old has thrown just 147.2 innings this year (mainly because his outings haven’t gone long enough to tally more innings), so the team isn’t worried about over-working him. They will start him out of the bullpen, but could establish a little in-house competition with McGowan and others for one of the starting rotation spots that is likely to come available at some point (Henderson Alvarez and Brandon Morrow are closing in on their innings cap, while the wheels are coming off on Luis Rivera’s run as a starter).
I understand that the hitter-friendly PCL tends to exaggerate pitcher’s ERAs and that the Jays feel that Drabek is done with AA New Hampshire, but wouldn’t a role in a playoff race be more useful to the former blue chip prospect than to potentially get lost in the shuffle in the Toronto bullpen? It’s hard to see him making the kind of season-salvaging gains in Toronto that he could playing meaningful games with the Fisher Cats.
As one of four pitchers to come up on Tuesday, Mills represents another dose of reinforcement to a pitching staff that has been overworked of late. To the Jays, Mills is already a known quantity, but there remains some question as to how he would adapt to a relief role with the club. He could see his versatility tested down the stretch, as it’s unclear whether starting or relief (or both) opportunities might be coming his way.
In his second stint with the franchise, Farquhar will be given a long look out of the bullpen as a potential (sort of) in-house solution heading into next season. The 24-year old has amassed 46 saves over three seasons in the organization, with a slight interruption coming after a trade to Oakland (Rajai Davis deal) before rejoining the club in April (David Purcey). That’s not to suggest that he will have the inside edge on the closer’s role (if anyone should have it, it’s Casey Janssen), but he could secure himself a critical late-inning role with neither of Frank Francisco or Jon Rauch expected back next season.
If anyone profiles as a future closer, it might be the 6’4” Beck. The 26-year old has spent most of the season starting, but boasts a hard, cutting fastball that has given him some big strikeout numbers at both New Hampshire and Las Vegas. The former Diamondback’s (along with many of his teammates, for that matter) main challenge will be finding innings with the Jays, as there are no guarantees that he will get sufficient innings to gain comfort and settle into any kind of groove.
The former first round (17th over-all) pick might be the most mysterious among the call-ups. Not that he didn’t deserve it after a stunning stint at Las Vegas in which he hit a video game-like .364 (.439 OBP) through 120 games. But does Cooper’s recall represent a token of appreciation on the part of the team brass (a la Chris Woodward), or are they giving the 24-year old a real look? It’s hard to see where he’d fit in over the long haul, but that’s assuming there aren’t any moves coming this winter involving Adam Lind and/or Edwin Encarnacion. That being said, any talk of Cooper as a part of the future can only come after he puts his previous big league stint (four hits in 33 at-bats for a .121 average) well behind him.
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Written by Ben Fisher