Here is a look at the top pitching, offensive, and defensive tools from the Florida State League…
Scouting Blue Jays Prospect #29: Justin James
Name: Justin James
DOB: September 13, 1981
The right-hander had a solid debut in professional baseball during the summer of 2003, while pitching for the Auburn Doubledays in the NY-Penn League. He started eight of his thirteen appearances, and went 2-1 with a 3.20 ERA.
In 2004, James began the season with the Charleston Alley Cats, and was inserted in the starting rotation for Charleston in the South Atlantic League. James started fourteen games before proving he was ready for Dunedin after going 5-4 with a 3.00 ERA, and allowing twenty-four walks in seventy-eight innings pitch.
The promotion to Dunedin did not produce the results James, and the Jays were looking for. James remained in the rotation and started eleven games, but picked up six losses in those eleven games, and posted a 5.40 ERA. What was even more disconcerting was that James' control numbers increased, although nothing dramatic, the increase was not James-like.
James changed his pitching style this past season and pitched more as a control pitcher, than one that is looking to record the strikeout. His strikeout to innings pitched ratio dropped dramatically as James focused more on making hitters draw contact and get ground balls out.
Over ninety-four innings of work, the right-hander issued 107 hits. Most of those hits came during the end of the season, as James allowed thirty-eight hits over his last twenty-two innings of work. That followed a month of July, in which James posted an ERA of 0.82 and opponents hit just .225 off him.
Let's keep in mind James posted an ERA of just 2.87 in 2005, but somehow manage to lose seven games, and allowed plenty of hits. The main reason of James' inflated numbers late in the season, was being inserted in the rotation for couple of spot starts. James is simply not a starter, and is best suited to come in late in the game.
During the first five innings of games, James allowed opponents to bat .373 off him, while over innings six through nine he allowed opponents to hit .226 off him. In five starts that James made, opponents hit .346 (27-78) off James.
James is a pure ground ball pitcher, recording 61% of his outs on the ground this past season, and needs a good defense behind him to be successful.
This past season James began by repeating the Florida State League but was promoted to Double-A New Hampshire by midseason and took off. In 24 games he went 2-0 with a 2.38 ERA.
Repertoire: Fastball, changeup, curveball
Fastball: James will not overpower a hitter with his fastball, but the pitch is effective when he mixes it up with his changeup. James throws an average major league fastball, in the 88-90 range.
Secondary Pitches: James is mainly a three-pitch pitcher who throws a changeup and a curveball to go along with his fastball. His changeup is perhaps his best pitch, as it has solid movement on it, and is tough for hitters to recognize. James also features a quality curveball, but it is a pitch he must develop better if he wants to be successful. The right-hander uses his changeup effectively against left-hand batters to induce ground balls.
Projection: We view his future as a reliever. James needs to improve all three of his pitches and not concentrate on being a simple two-pitch pitcher.
2007 Outlook: We expect James to begin the 2007 season with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and finish off the season in Syracuse.
ETA: 2008 – James will be ready for the big leagues by 2008 if he can go through Double-A and Triple-A with ease this coming season.
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