Scouting Jays' Prospect #49: Jason Armstrong

Wants to learn to play the outfield as well

The Blue Jays drafted infielder Jason Armstrong in the 25th round of the 2004 draft. Armstrong signed his first professional contract on June 16, 2004 and subsequently was sent to play with the Auburn Doubledays of the NY-Penn League. Armstrong was scheduled to begin the 2005 season down in extended spring training, however, received a roster spot with Lansing at the last minute. Jason made the most of his opportunity and was one of the most valuable players for Lansing during the 2005 season.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Jason Armstrong
Position: Third Base, Shortstop, Second Base
DOB: November 13, 1981
Height: 6'0
Weight: 180
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Armstrong had one of the most surprising seasons in the Blue Jays system this past season, and it catapulted him into the Top 50 rankings. However, as much as Armstrong surprised the organization, he was also surprised when he began the 2005 season with Lansing. Armstrong was told he would be going to extended spring training once spring training concluded, since the college shortstop was being converted to play third base. After being drafted in 2005, Armstrong played twenty-five games at third base with the Auburn Doubledays, thirteen games at second base, and seven games at shortstop. The organization viewed Armstrong as a third baseman and wanted to make sure he had the fundamentals of the position down. The best place to work on that was down in ‘extended.'

However, as luck (lucky for Jason that is) would have it, there was an injury to one of the players that was scheduled to begin the season with Lansing, and the organization called up Jason to take over that spot.

"I had to make the most of my opportunity" Armstrong told us in a recent interview. "I felt that once the player got healthy I would be sent down to extended spring training."

Armstrong did not wait long to make his case. He played in his first game at a full-season club on April 9 and went 2-for-3 with a run scored and a run batted in. Armstrong, however, was still delegated to the bench. Six days later he received another start and Armstrong went 2-for-4 with two runs scored. The next day Armstrong went 1-for-3 with another RBI. Two days later Armstrong had his first three hit game. Two of his three hits were doubles, as the third baseman scored all three times he reached base and also drove in two runs. Nevertheless, the San Francisco native, still had not won a starting job, but that all changed after he hit .371 (13-35) in just thirteen games during the month of April. Armstrong went on to play in twenty-six games during the month of May, and after he hit .337 in June, his spot in Lansing was secured.

"Going into the season, I was in more of a reserve role, backing up at three infield spots" Armstrong said. "However, I eventually worked myself into the everyday lineup and had a solid season, both offensively and defensively."

Armstrong learned a lot about himself and what he needed to work on. He learned to be consistent day in and day out, and learned to grind through when things are not going his way. A good example of that was when Armstrong struggled during the month of July and hit just .230. While most players would get down on themselves and start believing they are not talented enough, Armstrong just worked harder and rebounded by hitting .333 (34-102) during August.

"Over the course of 150 games, you experience several ups and downs, and learning to manage those in the best way possible is a big step in advancing as a player."

"I've never played that many games in a full season and playing everyday definitely breaks you down, especially when things aren't going your way. You just have to make sure that you stay humble, because the minute you get cocky, your performance declines. The game of baseball always has a way of reminding you that you aren't better than the game, no matter how good you are."

Lugnuts manager Ken Joyce was impressed with the way Armstrong handled himself this past season.

"Jason was a guy that didn't get an opportunity to play that much in 2004 with Auburn, but he came to Lansing with a goal, to force his way into the lineup, and he succeeded in doing so."

So what position does Armstrong play down the road? Talent evaluators that spoke with InsideTheDome do not view Armstrong as a shortstop, the position Armstrong played during his collegiate career.

"Without a doubt, I am most comfortable at shortstop. I've played there ever since my junior year in high school" said Armstrong. "I don't have a preference as long as I am in the lineup."

It took a while for Jason to adjust playing third base, but by the end of the season he was playing it at a high level.

"I have the feeling that the organization would like to keep me as a utility guy, like a Chone Figgins."

Armstrong, however, does not mind rotating positions and would even like to learn more positions so he could increase his value to the organization.

"If the organization wants to give me the opportunity, I'd love to get a chance to play the outfield as well. The more positions I can play, the better chance I have of being out on the field."

The talent evaluator that spoke with us regarding Armstrong agreed he has the athleticism to play multiple positions.

"He profiles to be a good utility player, and I believe with proper teaching, could play an adequate outfield."

"It seems everyone likes to compare me to David Eckstein" said Armstrong. "Personally, I'd like to think of myself as more of a Derek Jeter type of player. I hit for average, get on base frequently and can steal some bases, but most importantly, Jeter is a competitor and a winner, and I'd like to think I am too."

Year

Team

AVG.

AB

H

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

K

OBP

SLG

2004

Auburn

.258

124

32

1

12

24

6

13

21

.336

.355

2005

Lansing

.289

484

140

0

52

63

9

29

61

.335

.333



Batting and Power: Armstrong is a contact hitter and profiles to be a top of the order type of hitter. He will not strike out and is a good fundamental hitter. He does not possess lots of power, but could drive the ball into the gaps and over the fence on occasion.

Base Running and Speed: The 24-year-old does have above average speed. In a full season he is a likely candidate to steal double digits bases, and could go from first to third on a single to right field in a fluid manner.

Defense: Armstrong currently plays three positions on the infield but would like to learn more. His most comfortable position is at shortstop. Some scouts believe his best position would be either second base or third base at this juncture.

2006 Outlook: We hope Armstrong gets challenged in 2006 and is placed in the Florida State League. The Blue Jays could keep him in Lansing once again if they feel he needs to work on his defense more, or if they try to teach him different positions. Talent wise, he has proved he can handle the Midwest League and deserves to play at High Class-A

ETA: It is too early to make an accurate assessment on Armstrong. He has just begun playing the game at a high level and the organization might not want to rush him along.

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