Blue Jays Farm Director Gil Kim on Pitching Prospects, and Disparate Development During a Pandemicon August 11, 2020 at 4:30 pm

Blue Jays Farm Director Gil Kim on Pitching Prospects, and Disparate Development During a Pandemic

Three 19-year-old pitchers rank prominently on our Toronto Blue Jays Top Prospects list. Simeon Woods Richardson is most notable, at No. 2, while Adam Kloffenstein and Kendall Williams are 12th and 13th respectively. Right-handers all, each possesses a high ceiling, yet is years away from progressing to the big-league level.

Their developmental situations are currently quite different. Woods Richardson is in Toronto’s 60-man player pool, and thus is at the club’s alternative training site. Kloffenstein is playing independent ball back home in Texas. Williams is also home, but doing the bulk of his throwing in side sessions, relying on a Rapsodo rather than the reactions of opposing hitters to gauge his progress.

I recently asked Blue Jays farm director Gil Kim how the organization is handling player development sans a minor-league season. Prefacing his answer by saying the top priority is ensuring the health and safety of all involved, he said there are a lot of Zoom calls, and that each player has a small support staff that checks in on a regular basis. A show-your-work component exists within many of the exchanges. Player plans being paramount, videos of the work being done are being shared. As Kim explained, “There’s more of a technical and mechanical focus for a lot of those players, especially the younger guys who are not at the alternate training site right now.”

In that respect, Woods Richardson is fortunate.

“Being with our alternate-depth group, Simeon has the advantage of having a little more challenge, and a little more simulation to what his development would be in a minor-league season,” said Kim. “Sim is young, but he’s already experienced the High-A level, and he’s obviously athletic with a strong arm. Right now he’s focused on executing to his targets, and in that environment he’s able to test his stuff against upper-level professional hitters.”

According to Kim, Woods Richardson features a fastball with good ride, a plus changeup that induces swings and misses, and a curveball he’s made “exciting progress” with. The Blue Jays acquired Woods Richardson — a second round pick by the Mets in 2018 — as part of last summer’s Marcus Stroman deal.

“When he came over, we focused on acclimating him to the organization, and getting to know him,” said Kim. “We spoke with the Mets farm director, Simeon’s agent, and anyone who had a history with him. That included CJ Ebarb, one of our cross checkers, and Brian Johnston, one of our scouts who had gotten to know Simeon well in the amateur process. From there we started to formulate a player plan, and after discussing things with Simeon we prioritized curveball development as the next step.”

Kloffenstein, whom Toronto took in the third round of the 2018 draft, is toeing the rubber for the Sugar Land Skeeters, who, with the Atlantic League on hiatus due to the coronavirus, are competing in the four-team Constellation League. Kim, who at the time we spoke couldn’t give me the exact number of Blue Jays farmhands currently playing indie ball — “It’s not a ton.” — said that his staff had received assurances from Sugar Land that proper protocols would be followed, and that a pitching workload was agreed upon for the 6-foot-5, 245-pound right-hander.

“He’s one of our most intellectual pitchers,” said Kim, who shared that the Jays are receiving TrackMan data from Kloffenstein’s starts. “He’s always thinking about the game and analyzing different factors. We’re excited about Kloff. We’ve seen an increase in his fastball velocity to where he’s sitting in the low-to-mid 90s, and right now he’s focusing on executing his sinker and his slider in game action. He’s taken advantage of his time very well. Phil Cundari, who is our pitching coach in [Low-A] Lansing, and Kloff would routinely exchange video of his bullpen sessions, as well as Rapsodo data.”

Williams, who hails from Olive Branch, Mississippi, was Toronto’s second-round pick last year. The 6-foot-6, 205-pound right-hander had spent the previous years at IMG Academy, in Bradenton, Florida.

“He’s another hard worker who has been very proactive during this time off,” said Kim. “As a younger pitcher, he’s spent the past year focusing a lot on his delivery, working off of his back leg and maintaining more of a direct line to the plate. Right now he’s focusing more on his breaking ball. Without game action, we’ve mainly been communicating with Kendall through the exchange of Rapsodo data. And he is facing some hitters. A lot of our pitchers have been able to find environments where they can face hitters in simulated game competition.”

Three promising young pitchers, three different environments. To his credit, Kim is undaunted by the inherent complexities of development during a pandemic.

“It’s certainly presented numerous challenges, but at the same time it’s led to some new and interesting opportunities to push development forward,” said Kim. “We’re definitely proud of the commitment, and the positivity, of both our players and our staff throughout the past few months. We’ve collaborated as much as we can within the organization on different development strategies. We’ve had to.”

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