Buffalo Bisons 2015 Report,
By Jay Blue
Blue Jays from Away
While the Buffalo Bisons didn’t have the best season under manager Gary Allenson, the club’s personnel was in constant flux as the big league team had the QEW working overtime to get players to and from Toronto. While competitive throughout most of the season, with injuries to the Blue Jays mounting in September, the Bisons found themselves depleted and went 12-25 in August and September.
The Bisons played to an overall record of 68-76, finishing in third place in the North Division of the International League. The Bisons generated the 10th most runs (out of 14 teams) in the International League, scoring 3.83 runs per game with an average age of 28.1 years, 1.3 above the league average. The pitching, however, was much better, allowing only 3.60 runs per game, good for fourth in the league thanks to a veteran pitching staff that averaged 29 years old, the oldest in the league and 2.1 years older than the league average.
Part 1: Blue Jays from Away Awards
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 Iâ€™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 “€œabove 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 Buffalo Bisons:
Matt Hague 18.1
Andy Burns 8.5
Alex Hassan 7.6
Scott Copeland 7.4
Dalton Pompey 6.6
Jeff Francis 6.5
Sean Ochinko 5.9
Jonathan Diaz 5.6
Randy Wolf 5.3
Daniel Norris 5
Caleb Gindl 4.1
Andrew Albers, Matt Boyd 4
Brad Glenn, Chris Colabello 3.8
Chad Jenkins 3.3
Felix Doubront 3
Todd Redmond 2.9
Melky Mesa, Ty Kelly 2
Chris Dickerson, George Kottaras 1.8
Ryan Goins, Ryan Schimpf, Chris Heisey 1.5
Daric Barton, Luke Scott, Ryan Tepera 1.3
Ezequiel Carrera, Rob Rasmussen, Jon Berti, Donn Roach 1
A.J. Jimenez 0.8
Greg Infante, Andy Wilkins, Kevin Nolan, Luis Perez, Miguel Castro, Josh Thole, Phillippe Aumont, Munenori Kawasaki 0.5
Ramon Santiago, Devon Travis 0.3
No one has ever (in our three years of keeping track) dominated a team’s Player of the Game standings the way that Matt Hague has for the 2015 Bisons. With almost a 10 point margin of victory, Matt “The” Hague is our winner! Check out Podcast #41 for our interview with him from this August!
Blue Jays from Away Player of the Year
This is a pretty obvious award. Matt Hague not only wins our Player of the Year award, but he was also the Blue Jays MVP for the Bisons (the Webster Award) as well as the International League MVP. Hague hit .338/.416/.468, trailing only Chris Colabello (95 plate appearances) and Dioner Navarro (17 plate appearances) on the club in OPS at .885. Hague was so much better than anyone else on the team, the closest players in OPS with any kind of regular playing time were Alex Hassan (.776 OPS), Dalton Pompey (.728 OPS) and Andy Burns (.723 OPS).
Honourable Mentions: Alex Hassan, Dalton Pompey, Andy Burns
Blue Jays from Away Pitcher of the Year
I’m so tempted to give this award to someone who isn’t in the organization anymore but, since I haven’t done it with any of the other teams, I won’t do it now. Because of Randy Wolf’s ineligibility, the award goes to Jeff Francis, the veteran Canadian lefty. Francis had a 2.35 ERA and 1.05 WHIP with just 13 walks and 79 strikeouts in 92 innings. Congrats to our Pitcher of the Year, Jeff Francis!
Honourable mentions: Randy Wolf, Scott Copeland, Chad Jenkins
Blue Jays from Away Reliever of the Year
Ryan Tepera handled his promotions and demotions with class but really gave the Blue Jays no reason to complain and earned his way back onto the playoff roster with an outstanding season split between Toronto and Buffalo. The 27 year old was dominant in Buffalo, posting a 1.06 ERA with a 0.85 WHIP and 37 strikeouts and just 13 walks (with only 16 hits) in 34 innings.
Honourable mentions: Rob Rasmussen, Greg Infante, Greg Burke
Blue Jays from Away Most Improved Player
This is a tough award, mainly because most players, by the time they get to Triple-A, are already what they’re going to be, leaving little room for improvement. I’m inclined to give it to Matt Hague but he really didn’t improve THAT much over his 2014 season. He hit .267/.365/.448 with the Indianapolis Indians and actually turned things on in 13 games with Buffalo last year, hitting .377/.411/.566. If we look at his overall stats, they’re not much worse than 2015’s MVP year. In that case, I’m going to award this one to Steve Delabar who was good in Triple-A last year but still struggled with his control. This year, he maintained his high strikeout rate but cut down on his walks and cut his ERA in half, to 1.42 in 25 1/3 innings.
Blue Jays from Away Best Newcomer
Once again, I’m tempted to give this award to Randy Wolf but, again, he’s not with the organization anymore. I’d also give it to Chris Colabello but he only had 95 plate appearances with Buffalo. And so, it goes to Jeff Francis who dominated in Triple-A.
Honourable mention: Alex Hassan
Part 2: Starting Pitchers
The Buffalo Bisons’ starting rotation featured a large number of veterans and just a few “youngsters” who were gone by the time the season was over.
We start with Randy Wolf, the veteran lefty pitching in his Age-38 season with the Bisons and, eventually, Tigers. Wolf was signed almost as a walk-on with the Blue Jays (as reported by Gideon Turk) but he went on to be one of the best pitchers for the Bisons, leading the club in innings (139 2/3) and posting a 2.58 ERA and 2.96 FIP with a 1.28 WHIP, 18.6% K-rate and 7.0% walk rate. As the Detroit Tigers’ lost pitcher after pitcher, Wolf was sent to Detroit where he threw 34 2/3 innings with a 6.23 ERA and 1.76 WHIP.
Coming in second in innings pitched for the Bisons was 27-year-old righty Scott Copeland. Acquired as a minor league free agent in 2012 (after he was released by the Baltimore Orioles), Copeland has been among the most durable and effective minor league pitchers for the Blue Jays ever since, steadily climbing through the ranks and made his major league debut in 2015. With the Bisons, Copeland threw 125 innings with a 2.95 ERA (and 3.92 FIP) enjoying a 1.25 WHIP. He walked only 7.1% of batters but struck out 12.7%, a low number. Copeland added 15 1/3 innings in the big leagues, with a 6.46 ERA but a 3.59 FIP and 3.80 xFIP with a 1.70 WHIP, an 8.7% strikeout rate and a 2.9% walk rate. Without a “plus” fastball (90.2 mph on average), Copeland is a sinker/slider type of pitcher (with his curve and change combining for only 16% of pitches at the major league level) who could be useful in the bullpen but is likely to be an “up-and-down” guy next year.
Daniel Norris made 16 starts for the Bisons in 2016 after having five uneven appearances with the big club. Norris was erratic in Buffalo, with a 4.27 ERA, 3.54 FIP and 1.51 WHIP while striking out 19.3% of batters and walking 10.1%. Norris was traded to Detroit as a part of the David Price deal and went on to improve his numbers, striking out 18.2% and walking just 4.7% with a 1.01 WHIP in eight starts with the Tigers. We recently found out that Norris spent a good part of the season pitching with thyroid cancer and so we wish Norris all the best for his health and for his pitching in 2016 with Detroit.
Andrew Albers finished his season where he started: in Buffalo but it wasn’t without a call up to the Blue Jays. The Saskatchewan-born lefty was hit hard in his return to North America from Korea and posted a 5.70 ERA, 4.05 FIP and 1.63 WHIP in 83 2/3 innings with the Bisons. Called up to the Blue Jays for just 2 2/3 innings, he gave up a hit, a run, a home run and two walks with just one strikeout before being sent outright back to Buffalo. Not on the 40-man, it’s unclear to me whether Albers can opt for free agency or whether he’s still signed on for the 2016 season.
The Blue Jays took a chance on a recovering Felix Doubront in his Age-27 season after flaming out with Boston despite a few strong seasons. Doubront threw 48 innings with Buffalo, posting a 2.44 ERA, 2.76 FIP, 1.13 WHIP, 22.2% K-rate and 9.3% BB-rate. In July, the Blue Jays called up Doubront and he pitched in five games (starting four) for 22 2/3 innings with a 4.76 ERA, 3.35 FIP and 3.82 xFIP while his peripherals of a 12.9% K-rate was low along with his 5.0% walk rate. Sold to the Oakland A’s at the end of July, he pitched another 52 2/3 innings for them, with worse numbers almost across the board (he did improve his strikeout rate).
Phillippe Aumont, the enigmatic, Quebec-born righty came to Buffalo and showed off his ability to confound management by being both dominating and perplexingly wild in turns (often within the same game). Aumont made five appearances with the Bisons, posting a 6.00 ERA and 5.71 FIP, walking 25.6% of batters and striking out 26.7%. He was released on August 20.
Drew Hutchison made one (much hyped) start for the Bisons, giving up two runs on three hits and three walks in four innings with four strikeouts.
Part 3: Relievers
As usual with the Blue Jays, they dipped into the Buffalo well for pitchers quite frequently this season and there were a fairly large number of pitchers who spent quit a bit of time on the QEW between the teams. In addition, the Blue Jays seemed to think of the Buffalo and New Hampshire bullpens as somewhat interchangeable so that we have a lot of pitchers pitching at both levels.
The busiest reliever for the Buffalo Bisons in 2015 was fireballer Greg Infante who pitched with Buffalo from April until mid-August before making an end-of-season stop in New Hampshire. Infante’s numbers in Buffalo (for 48 2/3 innings) are interesting in that he outperformed his 4.25 FIP, logging a 2.77 ERA. His 84.8% LOB rate probably contributed to that difference while he posted a decent 1.54 WHIP despite a 15.0% walk rate and a decent (but not spectacular) 19.2% strikeout rate. Sent down to New Hampshire for just eight innings, Infante had a BABIP of .429 and stranded only 47.4% of baserunners to finish with a 5.63 ERA and a 3.64 FIP with a 2.38 WHIP. Unfortunately, his walk rate regressed (rising to 15.9%) while his strikeout rate only improved to 20.5%. Infante’s 28 now and pitching in winter ball but he seems to have lost that edge that had him in consideration for a major league bullpen role.
Who doesn’t root for Bobby Korecky? The soft-tossing righty is now 36 year old but still remains effective against Triple-A competition. With 48 1/3 innings with the Bisons in 2015, Korecky posted a 3.72 ERA and 3.45 FIP, with a 1.53 WHIP, a 16.2% strikeout rate and 6.5% walk rate. While he took a big step back from his outstanding numbers in 2014, Korecky remained a solid bullpen option for Bisons’ manager Gary Allenson. Korecky is likely a free agent and we’ll have to see if he returns to Buffalo.
Another popular pitcher, Chad Jenkins was used mostly in a swingman role for the Buffalo Bisons in 2015. A reliable pitcher for the Bisons, Jenkins had a 2.98 ERA, 3.47 FIP and 1.32 WHIP in Triple-A and only threw 3 2/3 innings for the big league squad, the first year since 2012 in which he didn’t throw about 30 innings. His strikeout and walk rates in Buffalo were pretty much in line with what he did in 2014, a 14.9% K rate and 6.4% BB rate, although his walk rate ballooned to 17.7% in a very sample in Toronto. Jenkins is out of options next year and could get a big league bullpen spot in 2016 much in the same way that Liam Hendriks did in 2015.
Righty Colt Hynes looked like he was going to earn a bullpen spot out of spring training with the Blue Jays and the 30-year-old did, posting a 6.00 ERA in three innings before getting optioned back to Buffalo (and eventually sent outright to the minors, taking him off the 40-man roster). Hynes threw 33 1/3 innings for Buffalo and 13 1/3 for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats posting a 3.51 ERA and 1.50 WHIP for Buffalo and 3.38 ERA and 0.90 WHIP for New Hampshire. His strikeout rates were much better at the lower levels (and with the Blue Jays) at 23.5% in NH and 17.3% in Buffalo and his walk rates also reflected the level difference: 5.9% in NH and 10.0% in Buffalo.
Included in the deal for Mark Lowe, lefty Rob Rasmussen had a great season in Buffalo before changing leagues. Rasmussen put up a 2.36 ERA, 2.99 FIP and 1.10 WHIP with a 23.0% strikeout rate and an 11.5% walk rate. After the trade to the Mariners, he pitched for the big league club, got sent down for just one appearance and then spent the rest of the season in the majors. While Rasmussen was hit hard in his first go-round in the bigs (16.20 ERA, .394 batting average against), he was better (but not much) for his final 11 appearances, posting a 5.87 ERA and .353 batting average against. Overall, his 2.30 WHIP and 10.7% walk rate will need to drop but his 21.3% strikeout rate was pretty solid.
Steve Delabar was another pitcher who split his 2015 almost equally between the Bisons and the Blue Jays. With 25 1/3 innings in Buffalo, Delabar showed a return to All-Star form, posting a 1.42 ERA, 2.49 FIP, 0.87 WHIP, 30.9% strikeout rate and 10.3% walk rate. In 29 1/3 innings with the Blue Jays, however, most of those numbers took a big jump as his 5.22 ERA, 4.84 FIP and 1.43 WHIP can attest. Delabar’s strikeout rate took a big hit, down to 23.3% (which was higher than his 2014 big league total) and his walk rate remained mostly stable at 10.9%. Still his strikeout rate is well down from the 32.4% he had in his All-Star year in 2013. Delabar is out of options and could be traded or claimed on waivers if he fails to make the 2016 Blue Jays.
The 30-year-old Todd Redmond split the season between Buffalo and Toronto but found that he couldn’t regain the magic that kept him in the Blue Jays’ bullpen over the past few years. Redmond had strong numbers (4.00 ERA, 3.56 FIP, 1.41 WHIP) in Buffalo but his performance in Toronto was lacking, despite posting fairly similar peripherals with a 16.8% K-rate and 7.4% BB-rate in Buffalo and 18.1% K-rate and 9.7% BB-rate in Toronto. Redmond was sent outright to the minors and cleared waivers and elected free agency at the end of the season.
By virtue of one more inning with the Bisons than the Fisher Cats, we’re talking about Greg Burke here. Burke had an excellent season in the minor leagues for the Blue Jays, posting a 2.08 ERA, 2.74 FIP and 1.05 WHIP in 30 1/3 innings with New Hampshire as well as a 3.16 ERA, 4.15 FIP and 0.99 WHIP in 31 1/3 innings with Buffalo. Burke only walked 5.7% of batters faced in New Hampshire but that number rose to 8.5% in Buffalo while his strikeout rate, 29.5% in NH, fell to 23.3% in Buffalo.
Our Buffalo Bisons Pitcher of the Year, Ryan Tepera, was absolutely dominant in Buffalo while more than holding his own in the big time. Tepera threw 34 innings with the Bisons, posting a 1.06 ERA and 2.51 FIP with a 0.85 WHIP, striking out 28.5% of batters and walking 10.0%. When he got to the majors, he didn’t fool quite as many batters, striking out 17.2% but he cut down on his walks to just 4.7%. His 3.27 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in the majors was belied by his sky-high 2.18 HR/9 rate and his 21.6% HR/FB rate, both are very high, and contributed to a 5.77 FIP. Fortunately, that HR/FB usually normalizes at around 10% and his xFIP reflects that. Tepera is likely to be a bullpen option in 2016 and, because he has two options left, he’ll be one of the first to go down.
Bo Schultz was another pitcher to spend much of his season with the Blue Jays, throwing 43 innings for Toronto and 21 1/3 for Buffalo. Schultz posted a 1.69 ERA with the Bisons and a 3.56 ERA with the Blue Jays, having a 4.86 FIP, 4.21 xFIP and 1.07 WHIP. I’m sure the Blue Jays liked his decent 8.1% walk rate but his 17.9% K-rate was probably a little on the low side for a guy who throws with an average velocity of 95.6 mph. Like Tepera, Schultz has an option remaining and if the bullpen is getting crowded, he could be optioned to the minors.
The Blue Jays claimed 6-foot-3 righty Ben Rowen from the Chicago Cubs in August and he managed to get into 14 games with the Buffalo Bisons, posting a 2.00 ERA, 2.60 FIP and 0.78 WHIP in 18 innings. He had a 16.2% strikeout rate with an exceptional 2.9% walk rate. A submariner, Rowen has an option remaining is another option for the Bisons next year and, despite not having any kind of overpowering stuff, has been able to get batters out, usually via the ground ball.
Righty Miguel Castro, 20, was supposed to a be, along with Roberto Osuna, a breath of fresh air for the Blue Jays’ bullpen coming out of spring training. Castro couldn’t deliver with the big league club, however, giving up seven earned runs on 15 hits and six walks in 12 1/3 innings at the major league level. Sent down to Buffalo to find himself, Castro worked out of the rotation, only compiling 11 2/3 innings with eight walks but 15 strikeouts in five starts. After a stint on the DL and five innings in Dunedin (no hits, one walk, seven strikeouts), Castro was back in Buffalo for less than a month, working out of the bullpen for eight innings, allowing six runs on 11 hits, four walks and six strikeouts. Castro was traded to Colorado in the Troy Tulowitzki deal and was excellent in Triple-A but struggled in two of his five appearances with the Rockies.
Preston Guilmet was a true journeyman in 2015. Claimed on waivers by the Blue Jays in December of last year, Guilmet played 10 games for the Bisons, posting a 1.26 ERA and 2.11 FIP with a 0.91 WHIP, 21.4% K-rate and 5.4% walk rate before being claimed on waivers by Tampa Bay in May, by the Dodgers in July and the Brewers on July 31.
The Blue Jays signed Joba Chamberlain to a minor league free agent deal and he only saw five innings of action for the Bisons, giving up eight earned runs on nine hits and four walks with seven strikeouts. He was released on August 14 and signed by the Royals (and left off their playoff roster) on August 19.
Aaron Loup threw only six innings in Buffalo, giving up three runs on nine hits and four walks with just five strikeouts before he was recalled to Toronto. Phil Coke also had a brief Bisons career, throwing four innings in Buffalo and giving up two hits and three walks with four strikeouts before moving up to Toronto. He was granted free agency in June and was signed (and released) by the Oakland A’s. 25-year-old Donn Roach was claimed on waivers by the Blue Jays on August 25, threw 12 innings for the Bisons, allowing just two earned runs on 10 hits and three walks with two strikeouts before the end of the season. He’s become a free agent.
Part 4: Hitters
Like their counterparts on the pitching side, the Buffalo Bisons’ hitters were a group that shuttled frequently either to Toronto or to New Hampshire (and sometimes both).
The catcher who got the most time behind the plate for the Buffalo Bisons in 2015 was . . . Sean Ochinko! Ochinko has had a rough go of it over the past couple of years with a suspension and a serious head injury siphoning away a lot of playing time. Ochinko, a 2009 draft pick and a former LSU teammate of Ryan Schimpf, was able to play a lot more than perhaps anyone expected thanks to injuries to A.J. Jimenez and having Josh Thole on the big league roster for a good portion of the year. In the end, Ochinko played the most he has since 2013, getting into 61 games with the Bisons and hitting .253/.288/.344 with 14 doubles and a pair of home runs. While decent behind the plate, he didn’t throw out many runners trying to steal (just 16%) this season. Ochinko should be a free agent at the end of the season.
At first base, the Buffalo Bisons had the league MVP, Matt Hague. Hague had an epic season with the bat, hitting .338/.416/.468 with 11 home runs. He earned a late season call up with the Blue Jays, hitting .250/.400/.333 in just 15 plate appearances. Adding a ton of awards to his mantle in 2015, Hague had an unbelievable run, striking out in only 10.9% of plate appearances while walking in 10.2%. While Hague has little left to prove in Triple-A, the 30 year old is likely behind Edwin Encarnacion, Justin Smoak and Chris Colabello on the Blue Jays’ depth chart so something will have to give for him to get a shot at The Show with Toronto in 2016.
I’ll get to the player who had the most time at second base next, mainly because he had the second most time at third base. Munenori Kawasaki is, as always, a fan favourite. He played 62 games in Buffalo, bouncing back and forth between the Queen City and Toronto but playing far less for the Blue Jays than he had in previous years. In 227 plate appearances for the Bisons, Kawasaki hit a respectable .245 with a .332 OBP. Kawaski clearly has little power and he posted a weak .286 slugging percentage. In Toronto, he hit .214/.313/.286. Known more for his ability to work counts and take walks, Kawasaki is becoming less and less of a contributor in Toronto, primarily due to the emergence of Ryan Goins and Devon Travis as legitimate big league hitters. Will he be back in 2016? Hard to tell. He’s currently on the 40-man roster but that’s not to say that the Jays won’t release him at some point this offseason and re-sign him to a minor league deal for 2016.
Andy Burns led the Buffalo Bisons in games at second base in 2016 with only 46 there. But he was definitely an every day player, playing in 126 games and getting to the plate 527 times this season. He was capitalizing on his versatility, playing 50 games at third, eight at shortstop, 13 at first base and eight in the outfield. Burns was probably a little disappointed at the beginning of the season, starting the year with New Hampshire but he was promoted to Buffalo after just six games (hitting .238/.333/.381) and he posted a very strong offensive season, hitting .293/.351/.372 with 26 doubles and four home runs. Burns cut down on his strikeout rate (which was never particularly high) to 13.1% and maintained a solid walk rate at 7.2% in his first attempt at Triple-A and, while he hit for a very good average, his BABIP was slightly elevated (.335). For me, the most concerning thing about Burns’s season was that his ISO dropped considerably from his very strong power numbers in New Hampshire last year. At .176 in 2014 (with 15 home runs), it fell to just .079. Burns is likely a candidate to join the Blue Jays in September in 2016 if they need another utility player and, if he doesn’t show some of the power he’s had in the past, could wind up with a Steve Tolleson-like career.
Diminutive infielder Jonathan Diaz got into some major league action for his third consecutive year but, like Munenori Kawasaki, has not been able to hit at the big league level. Diaz supplies stellar defense but hit .223/.328/.284 for the Bisons, walking in 11.9% of his plate appearances and striking out in 14.9%.
After being released by the Oakland A’s on May 9, the Toronto Blue Jays swooped in and signed outfielder Alex Hassan to a minor league deal. Hassan has been known for his strike zone discipline and, while his walk rate was down from his usual rates over his career, he was just as good (if not better) as he’s ever been. For the Bisons, in 305 plate appearances he hit .314/.357/.419 with a pair of home runs. While he’s not a home run hitter, Hassan hit 19 doubles and only struck out in 14.8% of plate appearances. while walking in 6.9%. Since Hassan is no longer on his original contract, we’ll have to wait and see a little bit before we know if he’s going to be returning to Toronto and Buffalo in 2016.
After struggling to hold on to his spot in Toronto, Dalton Pompey was sent down to Buffalo where he wasn’t impressive in his 23 games there, hitting .209/.294/.253 before getting sent down another level. Pompey found himself in Double-A New Hampshire, hitting .351/.405/.545 with six home runs in 148 plate appearances. Pompey was moved back to Buffalo and over his final 193 plate appearances of the season with the Bisons, he hit an outstanding .327/.414/.414. Overall, his numbers in Buffalo are very respectable (though not spectacular thanks to his early season struggles) at .285/.372/.345 with a 12.2% walk rate and just a 13.9% strikeout rate, adding 18 stolen bases. While he was mostly used off the bench as a pinch runner in September and the playoffs, Pompey still was 5/9 in his final three games of the year with two doubles, leaving us to wonder what might happen in 2016. His place on the club will be determined by what the Jays do with Ben Revere but having too many good outfielders is a nice luxury for a club.
Outfielder Brad Glenn led the Bisons in games in left field and, probably due to irregular playing time, had one of his weakest seasons, hitting just .239/.293/.372 with five home runs, 13 doubles and a triple in 246 plate appearances. He struck out in 24.4% of plate appearances and walked 6.9% of the time. Glenn is likely going to be a free agent, having his initial seven-year contract expire and is no longer on the Jays’ 40-man roster (he was sent to Buffalo outright last year).
Caleb Gindl had the Bisons’ fourth-most plate appearances at 335, playing in 85 games. Gindl hit .228/.287/.319 with four home runs for the Bisons after a stellar spring training for the Blue Jays. He walked in 7.5% of plate appearances and struck out in only 16.1% but he’s fallen further down the depth chart since the emergence of Pillar and Pompey as well as the usefulness of Ezequiel Carrera.
Melky Mesa split his season between Buffalo and New Hampshire, playing in 43 games in Double-A and 61 in Triple-A. For the Fisher Cats, he hit .299/.326/.443 with four home runs but he struggled to do something similar with the Bisons, hitting only .215/.259/.358. Mesa’s pretty much the same player at either level: he’s a guy who walks very little and strikes out a lot and while his walk rate and ISO remain mostly stable, his tendency to whiff is exposed even more in Triple-A (3.3% BB-rate in NH, 4.5% BB-rate in Buffalo; 27.6% K-rate in NH, 33.7% K-rate in Buffalo; .144 ISO in NH, .142 ISO in Buffalo).
In the “Passing Through” category comes Luke Scott, who returned from North America from Korea, signing with Puebla in the Mexican League and hitting .292/.499/.519 before the Blue Jays signed him in May. In 52 games with the Bisons, Scott hit .240/.311/.391 with four home runs and 15 doubles in 52 games before being released in August.
Catcher Josh Thole also spent much of the season in Toronto but his biggest value is not with the bat. He hit .228/.320/.262 with the Bisons in 45 games and .204/.250/.245 in 18 games with the Blue Jays. Defensively, he threw out 21% of potential base stealers with Buffalo but none with Toronto.
Chris Dickerson played in 38 games for the Bisons, hitting .270/.354/.340 but lost much of the season due to injuries. Dickerson didn’t play a game after June 10th and whether he returns for 2016 or not is unknown.
Infielder Ty Kelly was picked up by the Blue Jays after being put on waivers by the Cardinals and he had a solid season in Buffalo, hitting .264/.331/.313 in 38 games. He walked more than he struck out (8.8% BB-rate and 6.3% K-rate) but doesn’t hit for much power. Kelly was designated for assignment in August.
Ramon Santiago started off the season with a chance to be a utility infielder for the big league club. A broken collarbone ended that dream and he was released (and re-signed). He played in 33 games for the Bisons but hit only .202/.283/.218 before being released.
Ezequiel Carrera became a player who was useful in a pinch for the Blue Jays after he was signed over the offseason. With Pompey failing in the early going, Carrera actually played 91 games in Toronto, hitting .273/.321/.372 with eight doubles and three home runs, contributing an OPS just under .700. In 30 games with the Bisons, Carrera had almost exactly the same OPS as in Toronto, hitting .276/.349/.345. Carrera is out of options and would have to clear waivers to return to Buffalo in 2016.
Another player “Passing Through” the Jays’ organization this year was Daric Barton who hit .353/.421/.647 in a small sample of four games before moving up to Buffalo and struggling, hitting .196/.282/.299 in 111 plate appearances. He was released at the beginning of July.
I’m sure people are wondering whatever became of one-time “Catcher of the Future” A.J. Jimenez. The 25 year old spent much of the season hurt and only played in 28 games all year, 23 with the Bisons, hitting .218/.296/.322. If he can get his health together, he could have a shot at a roster spot with the Blue Jays in 2016 seeing as it’s unlikely that the Jays will re-sign Dioner Navarro. Josh Thole will still have the edge as the backup in Toronto with R.A. Dickey returning, however.
Chris Colabello certainly made the most of his minor league contract to start the season, hitting .337/.421/.554 with the Bisons (and could have been the IL MVP had he not been promoted to Toronto). Once with the Blue Jays, Colabello continued to hit, posting a .321/.367/.520 slash line with 19 doubles, a triple and 15 home runs in a statistically significant 360 plate appearances. Without a particularly significant platoon split (he did home runs at a higher rate against lefties but was pretty damn good against righties too), Colabello will either be given a shot for the Jays or be traded at what could be the height of his value.
“Passing Through”: Andy Wilkins - sold to the Dodgers after 21 games in Buffalo, hitting .264/.353/.319. Hit much better for power with the Dodgers’ Triple-A team.
“Passing Through”: Chris Heisey - hit just .155/.269/.259 before being traded to ... the Dodgers!
George Kottaras joined the Bisons late in the season, playing 16 games and hitting .220/.304/.280.
Things were messy with Steve Tolleson. I won’t go into details (far too long of a story) but he played in eight games for the Bisons, hitting .133/.235/.133, mostly in a rehab assignment.
The Blue Jays picked up Danny Dorn on waivers late in the season from the Diamondbacks, sending him outright to Buffalo. He played in just six games, hitting .227/.250/.318 but was destroying the Pacific Coast League, hitting .386/.444/.618 in 75 games there.