DSL Blue Jays 2015 Report, Part 1: Blue Jays from Away Awards
By Jay Blue
Blue Jays from Away
It’s that time of year that we begin our reports summarizing the season for the Blue Jays’ minor league affiliates. We begin (like we did last year) with the lowest level club, the Dominican Summer League Blue Jays.
If you’re new to Blue Jays from Away, we summarize all eight of the Blue Jays’ minor league teams in four parts: The Blue Jays from Away Awards, Starting Pitchers, Relief Pitchers and position players. Players are discussed with the team that they spent the most time with (by innings pitched for pitchers and at bats for batters).
We start with the DSL Blue Jays, who made it to the league finals after a 45-27 season under manager Jose Mateo. The hitters were second in the league in runs per game at 6.32 and ninth in runs allowed per game at 4.56. The hitters were slightly over the average age for the league while the pitchers were slightly younger.
Blue Jays from Away Player of the Game Champion
For those of you who followed the minor league reports here, you’ll know that I “awarded” Player of the Game (PotG) accolades on a game-by-game basis. It should comfort you to know that I’ve been keeping track of these daily awards and my rationale for the system is as follows.
The Player of the Game Awards were determined by a number of factors that included who I thought had the most impact on the game and who might have gone “above and beyond.” Most nights, there was just one Player of the Game. If there was, he earned one point. If I thought that either a) no one stood out enough to merit a single PotG, or b) two or more players were outstanding and deserved mention, I split the point up into two, three or four shares. If two players earned PotG mention, they each received 0.5 points and if three players earned mentions, they each received 0.3 points. There were occasions that I felt that no one merited the award and therefore, I did not give out any points.
The final standings for Blue Jays from Away Player of the Game for the DSL Blue Jays:
Norberto Obeso 8
Yorman Rodriguez 6.8
Francisco Rodriguez 5.3
Antony Fuentes 4.3
Sterling Guzman, Jairo Rosario 4
Guadalupe Chavez 3.8
Jesus Severino 3
Enmanuel Moreta, Jesus Navarro 2.6
Yennsy Diaz 2.3
Wilfri Aleton 2.1
Orlando Pascual 2
Yonardo Herdenez, Victor Figuereo, Jose Nova 1.5
Kevin Vicuna, Manuel Herazo, Joel Espinal, Cristian Peguero 1
Sam Buelens, Juan Meza, Guillermo de la Cruz, Jonathan Torres 0.5
Alvaro Galindo 0.3
The top three players all had very good seasons for the DSL club but 19-year-old Norberto Obeso led the club in OPS by a fairly wide margin. 17-year-old Yorman Rodriguez had an excellent season, considering his age and Francisco Rodriguez (20), led the club in home runs with nine. Congrats to Norberto Obeso, the 2015 DSL Blue Jays from Away Player of the Game Champion!
Blue Jays from Away Player of the Year
The conversation for Player of the Year is the same as the one at the top of the leaderboard for Player of the Game points. Obeso, hitting .351/.470/.427, leading the club in doubles is my clear favourite, especially because of his incredible 58 walks to 20 strikeout ratio. Francisco Rodriguez only hit .251 but walked 45 times (with 52 strikeouts) to give him a .406 OBP while Yorman Rodriguez hit .335/.413/.455 with just 17 strikeouts in 242 plate appearances. In all, this was a solid trio of young players who could see Florida in 2016 but the Player of the Year is Norberto Obeso.
Blue Jays from Away Pitcher of the Year
This award is much harder to call this year. There were several interesting young pitchers putting themselves on the Blue Jays’ radar after solid seasons in the DSL. Wilfri Aleton was the workhorse, starting 14 games and leading the club in innings (63 2/3) but his overall stats weren’t as impressive as some other young pitchers and this was his third season in the DSL. Guadalupe Chavez started 10 games, striking out over a batter per inning and still posting a very solid walk rate as a 17-year-old before moving up to the GCL. Jose Nova was stellar for 9 starts with a 1.74 ERA and 0.97 WHIP before moving up to the GCL but Nova is 20 years old. While Yennsy Diaz was also very effective, to me, Chavez was the best and the youngest of the bunch.
Congrats to Lupe Chavez, the Blue Jays from Away DSL Pitcher of the Year.
Blue Jays from Away Reliever of the Year
For me, this is a three-man race between Jairo Rosario, Joel Espinal and Alvaro Galindo. Rosario led the team in saves (4) while throwing 55 1/3 innings in 19 games, starting just five. His 1.63 ERA and 1.12 WHIP are mitigated a bit by his 25 walks in 55 1/3 innings and his age. Rosario was more dominating this year but it was the 21-year-old’s third season in the DSL. Espinal started the season as an 18-year-old (he turned 19 on August 15), posting a 2.18 ERA and 1.08 WHIP, and striking out 46 and walking 19 in 53 2/3 innings. Galindo is still just 17 and the 6-foot-2 righty had a lighter workload than the other two candidates. Galindo posted a 1.82 ERA and 1.18 WHIP with 31 strikeouts and 15 walks in 34 2/3 innings.
While all three were impressive, the combination of age and workload for Joel Espinal makes him the 2015 Blue Jays from Away DSL Reliever of the Year.
We’re going to start our more in-depth look at the DSL Blue Jays by looking at
At the Rookie ball level, the distinctions between starting pitchers and relief pitchers are frequently fluid so we’re going to include anyone who made more than two starts for the DSL club in order to even things out a little bit (so that we’re not trying to cram 25 pitchers into one report). We begin with the pitchers who made the most starts and work our way downwards from there. With the DSL club, there isn’t much to go on scouting-wise, so we’ll basically be looking at the players’ stats to help get an idea of what might be going on.
We’ll start with Wilfri Aleton who, in his third year in the DSL, logged 63 2/3 innings with appreciable improvements in almost every category. He lowered his ERA from 4.24 in 2014 to 2.83 while his WHIP dropped from 1.35 to 1.21. Most impressively, Aleton lowered his walk total from 17 in 2014 (in 34 innings) to just 13 in almost twice as many innings in 2015. His strikeout total did not, however, increase proportionally to innings pitched, logging 6.4 K/9 innings this season, a decrease from his 7.1 K/9 ratio in 2014. That said, Aleton should easily be in North America in 2016 at the age of 20 after an excellent third season in the DSL.
Lupe Chavez made 10 starts for the DSL Jays in his Age-17 season. Chavez is listed at 6-foot-2 and 150 pounds (hopefully, he’ll put on some weight soon), but the Mexican righty moved quickly through the organization, throwing 42 1/3 innings in the DSL with a 2.98 ERA and 1.28 WHIP, striking out 45 and walking only 14. Chavez moved up to the GCL where he threw another 19 innings, walking six and striking out 14. A nice positive for his 2015 season was the fact that he didn’t give up a home run in 61 1/3 innings but this will likely change as he faces more physically mature hitters as he moves up. Chavez could very well be seen in Bluefield in 2016.
Yonardo Herdenez, 19 (who turns 20 in just a few days) is another three-year veteran of the DSL Blue Jays and has also shown improvement each year. While he didn’t quite match his 2014 inning total (throwing 44 innings in 2015), he had a 3.07 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, walking just eight batters and striking out 24 for an unimpressive 4.9 K/9 ratio. It’s very difficult to project pitchers from DSL results but it’s clear that the Blue Jays probably don’t have a very high ceiling in mind for Rosario who would have been moved up the GCL at some point in the last three seasons if they did. Still, after three DSL seasons and going into his Age-20 season, Herdenez is a candidate to fill out the pitching staff in the GCL next year.
Lefty Jose Nova was one of the older DSL Blue Jays, turning 20 this April, but he made the jump out of the Dominican Republic to Florida this season after 41 1/3 very good innings in the DR. Nova made nine starts, posting a 1.74 ERA and 0.97 WHIP, walking just six and striking out 27 in his 41 1/3 innings. Moving up to the Gulf Coast League, he threw another 17 1/3 innings, posting a 4.15 ERA and 1.38 WHIP, striking out 13 but walking seven. Still, his wild pitch and hit by pitch numbers are low which, taken with his walk totals, indicates that his control might very well be advanced. Disappointing is his drop in K/9 ratio from year over year (after his debut in the DSL last year) but he could help anchor the rotation in the GCL or Bluefield next year.
Yennsy Diaz, 18, had an impressive debut in the DSL, throwing 37 1/3 innings with a 1.93 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, striking out 39 and walking 16 before getting moved up to the Gulf Coast League (note that here was an 18-year-old striking out a lot of batters who DID get moved up to the GCL in a timely fashion). In the GCL he, understandably, struggled a little more, getting another 19 innings under his belt and posting a 4.74 ERA and 1.63 WHIP, walking seven but still striking out a batter per inning (19 Ks). He actually lowered his BB/9 ratio at the higher level (to 3.3 from 3.7). I’m definitely interested in getting a scouting report on Diaz because his strikeout rate combined with the organization’s quick promotion indicate that he could be someone to keep an eye on.
Juan Nunez, 19, is a guy whose promotion to the GCL this year might have taken many by surprise when just looking at his stats. It’s clear, however, that he was pitching better than his statisical lines might indicate. Nunez had poor numbers in 2014 and his numbers over 26 1/3 innings with the DSL Blue Jays were pretty bad, throwing 26 1/3 innings, walking 16 and striking out 20 with a 6.15 ERA and 1.59 WHIP. When promoted to the GCL Jays, however, his numbers took a turn for the better, with a 1.93 ERA and 0.79 WHIP, walking just four and striking out 10 in 14 innings. Small sample size is the warning to heed, however, like with Yennsy Diaz, the fact that Nunez was promoted mid-season shows that the Blue Jays like some of what they saw.
Juan Meza, 17, a Venezuelan who threw for the DSL Jays and the GCL Jays, struggling at both levels. A recipient of a $1.6 million signing bonus in 2014, Meza will clearly be someone whose development we’ll need to watch. Meza had a 6.66 ERA and 1.71 WHIP over 25 2/3 innings with the DSL Jays, walking 14 and striking out 21. He actually started the season in Florida but was sent down to the Dominican after giving up six runs with eight walks (and eight strikeouts) in five innings in the GCL.
Jairo Rosario, 21, was another workhorse for the DSL Blue Jays, throwing 55 1/3 innings, making five starts out of his 19 appearances. Rosario posted a 1.63 ERA and 1.12 WHIP, striking out 44 and walking 25. He’s seen a reduction in his walk rate in his last two seasons in the DSL (he’s completed three seasons in the Dominican) but has also seen a reduction in his strikeout rate to go with it.
Our reliever of the year is our final “starter” for the sake of this grouping. 19-year-old Joel Espinal had a terrific rookie season in the DSL, throwing 53 2/3 innings with a 2.18 ERA and 1.08 WHIP, striking out 46 and walking 19. It looks like control is an issue for now, as he hit four batters and threw 11 wild pitches. He could go back to the DSL for another if the club doesn’t think he’s ready for Florida.
Pitchers who made two or fewer starts.
Alvaro Galindo pitched exclusively in relief for the DSL Jays and the 17-year-old Columbian got a lot of people interested in what he might be able to do at a higher level of competition. Galindo wound up the season with 34 2/3 innings, posting a 1.82 ERA and 1.18 WHIP, striking out 31 and walking 15. His lack of hit batters and only two wild pitches led me to speculate that his high walk total could be due to nibble at the strike zone, a lower quality of officiating in the DSL or a combination of both or other factors. Still, for such a young pitcher, the results are extremely encouraging and we could very well see him in the GCL next year.
A year older than Galindo was Guillermo De La Cruz, who, in his second year in the DSL showed some improvements but also some regression. While his ERA dropped to 3.51, his FIP actually increased to 5.41 in 2015. De La Cruz also saw a drop in his strikeout rate (to 15.7%) while also seeing a corresponding drop in walk rate (to 12.1%), giving up far more home runs in 2015 than in 2014. De La Cruz did pitch a great deal more this season, throwing 33 1/3 innings for the DSL Blue Jays.
Tommy Henriquez, 20, made his debut in professional ball this season with the DSL Jays and had some mixed results. He struck out a relatively high batters (19.4% K rate) while also limiting walks (7.0% BB rate) but he had a 4.50 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in 28 innings.
Another rookie in the DSL was 18-year-old righty Jose Acosta who didn’t impress by posting a 5.56 ERA and 1.90 WHIP, walking 20 and striking out 16 in 22 2/3 innings. Look for him to return to the DSL in 2015.
Wilmin Lara couldn’t get back to the GCL in 2015, returning for his second season with the DSL Blue Jays after making his GCL debut back in 2012. He missed all of 2013 (presumably with an injury or suspension) and did show some improved numbers, particularly in the control department, in 2015. His 3.48 ERA (and 4.05 FIP) were both improvements over his 2014 results although he pitched five fewer innings (20 2/3 in 2015). He struck out 21.7% of batters while walking only 8.7%, showing big improvements over his previous years. Could he make the jump back to the US in 2016? Now 21, Lara would have to move quickly to be taken seriously as a prospect but the improvements are certainly a good direction to be going in.
The curious case of lefty Jonathan Torres continues. Now 20, the Venezuelan is losing a lot of whatever prospect shine he had previously had. Torres has been in the Jays’ system since 2012 but has yet to distinguish himself. He made his GCL debut in 2014 but walked 15 batters in five innings and the 6-foot-4 lefty got another shot to redeem himself in 2015. While he started the year in the GCL, he struggled to the tune of an 8.53 ERA but a 4.10 WHIP while walking 16.1% of batters. He returned to the Dominican and was stretched out in five appearances (starting two) and posted much better numbers despite still walking 12 batters in 20 innings and striking out 19 with an ERA of 0.90 (3.51 FIP) and a WHIP of 1.05.
Jose Dominguez only made seven appearances with the DSL Blue Jays but they were pretty impressive, as he posted a 1.08 ERA (but a 4.12 FIP) and a 1.14 WHIP, striking out 23.9% of batters and walking 14.1% in 16 2/3 innings. The 19-year-old Mexican missed all of July and only made one appearance in August leading me to believe that injuries are what cost him the time.
Venezuelan Elio Silva, 20, got into five games for the DSL Blue Jays, only seeing the mound in June. He had a 1.62 ERA, a 2.26 FIP and 0.96 WHIP, walking 5.7% and striking out 22.9%.
Dominican Ruben Ventura, 20, also got into seven games, missing all of July, but posted some impressive numbers in his limited opportunity. He had a 1.72 ERA, a 1.74 FIP and 0.83 WHIP over 15 2/3 innings, striking out 39.3% of batters with a 9.8% walk rate. All of those figures are tremendous but we’ll have to wait and see what the Blue Jays decide to do with him next year.
Orlando Pascual, a 19-year-old Dominican righty seems physically mature (at 6-foot-3 and 210 lbs) and pretty much dominated his competition, giving up just one run in 13 1/3 innings (for a 0.68 ERA) and walked just one batter, posting a 0.90 WHIP. Pascual struck out 18.0% of batters while walking just 2.0% for some terrific peripherals. He’s another pitcher that we would have to be able to see throw before we could speculate where he’ll end up next year.
Several pitchers threw fewer than 10 innings for the DSL Jays. Jose Agrinzones was the youngest, at 17, posting a 5.68 ERA and walking 10 batters in 6 1/3 innings. At 19, Luis Mendoza threw just 2 2/3 innings, allowing three runs (two earned) with a walk and three strikeouts. 20-year-old Pedro Diaz had a 3.38 ERA in 5 1/3 innings, walking eight in his third season with the DSL Blue Jays, while Wilton Mueses (also 20) had a 4.50 ERA, walking 11 batters in six innings. Manuel Dominguez, 21, walked 10 in three innings and 21 year old Dany Jimenez had solid peripherals (four walks and 12 strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings) but gave up two home runs, only pitching in August.
We start behind the plate and go around the horn and then to the outfield.
enezuelan Manuel Herazo, 20, was the club’s everyday catcher, getting into 48 games, all as a receiver. He showed some improvement over his 2014 stats defensively, committing only 15 passed balls (with 16 last year, in fewer than half the number of games). He threw out 25% of base runners in a much larger sample size. At the plate was where Herazo really shone, hitting .282/.409/.329 with a 12.5% walk rate and a 17.4% strikeout rate. I could see Herazo jumping to North America in 2016.
Powerhouse Francisco Rodriguez played first base in 41 of his 61 games, hitting .251/.406/.437 with a team leading nine home runs (placing third in the league). Rodriguez, 20, is already physically mature at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds and his 2015 season showed a huge improvement in power while also seeing improvements in walk rate (17.7%) and strikeout rate (20.5%). He’s another player who could very well jump to the GCL or even the Appalachian League in 2016.
Jesus Navarro had the most playing time at second base and the 17-year-old posted some very solid numbers, especially considering his young age. He hit .250/.346/.286 and will definitely need to put some muscle on his 5-foot-11, 160 pound frame in order to hit the ball with more authority, after a season with just seven extra-base hits (five doubles and two triples). Navarro made 17 errors in 67 games, not a bad total for such a young player. Navarro also played 16 games at shortstop in addition to 47 games at second and eight at third base. While his signing bonus wasn’t as high as some of the other players, he could make the jump in 2016 but could also benefit from another year of physical development. We’ll have to see what happens.
A new name showed up this year in the Blue Jays’ camp as a third baseman and that was Sterling Guzman who played 55 games at the hot corner. Despite being only 17 years old, Guzman showed maturity at the plate as well as some pop, hitting .285/.383/.395 with eight doubles, seven triples and two home runs, striking out in only 15.3% of appearances and walking in 12.3%. Guzman could also be solid defensively with 15 errors in 65 games. He played nine games at second base, making only one error there. Guzman’s youth might allow the Jays to keep him in the DR in 2016 but his performance on the field makes a promotion a good possibility too.
Another 17-year-old Venezuelan, Kevin Vicuna, was the everyday shortstop for the DSL Blue Jays. Vicuna took home a signing bonus of $350,000 in 2014 and has looked a little more rough around the edges, particularly defensively, making 28 errors this season. Vicuna hit respectably, slashing .268/.354/.304 in 62 games, but had only six extra-base hits with three doubles and three triples, adding 10 stolen bases (in 14 attempts). Vicuna didn’t strike out much (10.0%) but neither did he walk a lot (5.8%). At 6-foot and 140 pounds, there’s obviously a lot of physical development that needs to take place before Vicuna can handle some of the elite pitchers that he’ll see at higher levels.
Blue Jays from Away’s Player of the Year and Player of the Game Champion Norberto Obeso played 70 games in left field. The 20-year-old Mexican showed himself to be more advanced than most players in the league, finishing fifth in the league with a .351 batting average and second with a .470 OBP. Obeso also hit for a .427 slugging percentage, getting 12 doubles and four triples as part of his 92 hits (first in the DSL). The rookie to affiliated ball struck out in only 6.0% of his plate appearances while waking almost three times as much (17.3% of the time) and will probably leave the Dominican Republic behind him in 2016.
Cristian Peguero, 19, played the most in center field and hit .277/.372/.361 with five doubles, three triples and a home run. He doesn’t appear to be extremely fast with only six stolen bases (in 11 attempts) but he had some solid numbers with a 10.3% walk rate and 21.6% strikeout rate.
Venezuelan right fielder Antony Fuentes played a lot more in his second season with the DSL Blue Jays than in his first but, although his rate statistics regressed, he only had 38 plate appearances in his first season. The 19 year old had a very solid season, hitting .294/.343/.396 with 11 doubles, five triples and one home run while stealing 15 bases in 17 attempts. Impressively, he only struck out in 6.7% of plate appearances but walked in only 6.3%.
Catcher and first baseman Yorman Rodriguez had a tremendous rookie season in the DSL, starting the year at the age of 17 (turning 18 in late July). He hit .335/.413/.455 in 61 games with nine doubles, five triples and two home runs while also stealing 12 bases in 16 attempts. He had an overall strong season with the bat but may fall into the category of a “positionless” player soon. He played mostly at first but, as a right-handed thrower, and standing just 5-foot-10, is not built to be a protoypical first baseman. As a catcher, he threw out just 4% of runners attempting to steal, leading me to believe that his arm strength is lacking (particularly since he was never tried at third base, a popular positional shift for a catcher with a strong arm but limited range on the infield). Is a transition to left field in the cards for Rodriguez who may fall into a defensive “no-man’s-land” while still a teenager? He’s still far too young to categorize yet and could hit a growth spurt causing all of this speculation to go out the window.
Last year Enmanuel Moreta had a good season as a 19 year old and I thought that he’d be moving up to the GCL. He stayed in the Dominican and had significant power regression, hitting .260/.371/.370 as a 20 year old in his second year in the league. Playing in only 44 games in 2015, I wonder if there was an injury that sapped Moreta’s power (he hit 21 doubles and seven triples in 2014 but just three doubles, two triples and three home runs in 2015). He also saw an increase in strikeout rate (from 20.3% to 26.7% in 2015) but an increase in walk rate too (from 7.3% to 9.1%). With so little information coming out of the Dominican Summer League, it’s hard to know what to make of Moreta’s season.
Sam Buelens is a favourite of many fans (and us) out there as one of the only Belgian players in affiliated baseball. The 19 year old made his debut in 2015 with the DSL Jays, putting together a solid season, hitting .232/.347/.253 with a team-leading 20 stolen bases (and was caught just twice). Buelens had an 18.0% strikeout rate and a very good 10.7% walk rate over 122 plate appearances. It appears that the Blue Jays were really working Buelens into games slowly, appearing late in games as a pinch runner early in the season, and it’s always tough to tell how someone who comes from a country where baseball is not played as much will develop. Still, Buelens could come to Florida in 2016 or he could end up with another year in the Dominican.
Backup catcher Antonio Concepcion had 81 plate appearances for the DSL Jays in his rookie season as an 18-year-old. The Panamanian threw out 27% of runners trying to steal (three of 11) but it’s tough to tell much in only 53 innings of work behind the plate. He hit respectably, with a .290/.395/.435 slash line, hitting five doubles, a triple and a home run and his 11.1% walk rate and 14.8% strikeout rate bode well for the future. Still, he’s very young and will need to get a year with more playing time before we can speculate more.
Of the players with 55 or fewer plate appearances, only Jean Almanzar was older than 18 at the start of the season. 2015 was Almanzar’s third season with the DSL Blue Jays and in each year, he he played in 16 or fewer games. Is he injury prone? This year, he actually hit the ball, slashing .250/.357/.292 in 28 plate appearances. Victor Figuereo, 18, had just 55 plate appearances and hit .146/.255/.271. Venezuelan 18-year-old Andres Guerra threw out 22% of potential base stealers from behind the plate while hitting .146/.314/.195 in just 51 plate appearances. Anderson Green, an 18-year-old Dominican played eight games and hit .333/.391/.333 and Ronald Concepcion played two games at second base as an 18-year-old and didn’t get a hit in five plate apperances, walking three times but striking out twice.