Dunedin Blue Jays
By Jay Blue
Blue Jays from Away
In the third of our roster prediction series, we visit Dunedin, Florida, the home of the Florida State League Advanced-A Blue Jays and take a look at the pitchers who may grace the roster come Opening Day.
Last year, I only predicted confidently that four pitchers would be in the starting rotation for the Dunedin Blue Jays. Of the four, I was only right in two cases with Brad Allen and Jeremy Gabryszwski making up part of the rotation. Miguel Castro started the season in Toronto while Chase De Jong started in Lansing. I also had six names as potential starters and, of those, only Jeff Hoffman started the season with the Dunedin Blue Jays. Without further ado, here are my predictions for the starting rotation in Dunedin this year.
The biggest prospect name here is obviously Reid-Foley who is in the process of working out mechanical issues that will help him take advantage of his nasty stuff. Reid-Foley, still only 20, will be on the fast track if he can rein in his walk totals. Dawson was outstanding last year and will be moving up to Dunedin with little left to prove in Lansing. Robson could be a real sleeper this year. He’s been clocked as high as 96 mph with a heavy sinking fastball and, now that he’s a year removed from Tommy John surgery, should be moving through the system a little faster. Gabryszwski did nothing to warrant repeating a year in Dunedin but, as a solid, steady starting pitcher, he didn’t do anything to show that he needs to be moved up. With a lot of pitchers in the upper levels, it’s doubtful that Gaby starts the season in New Hampshire.
Justin Shafer and Starlyn Suriel are two wildcards. Both could head to the bullpen but I think the Blue Jays like Shafer’s stuff enough that he’ll start the season in the rotation.
Other Possible Starters
Of these three, the most intriguing is Harris who could wind up starting in Dunedin if the Blue Jays feel that he’s developed enough to be able to handle it. Otherwise, Allen could be a swing man who comes out of the bullpen and makes spot starts here and there while Wandling is, in my mind, on the bubble between Lansing and Dunedin. I also think that Santos is headed for a swing-man role.
There aren’t as many names here as one might think but someone like Starlyn Suriel could easily fit into a bullpen role in Dunedin, as can Luis Santos. Brandon Bixler and Bobby Doran are both new to the system and are unknowns for the most part while I think that Alonzo Gonzalez needs to find some consistency before he sees the higher minor league levels. DeGraaf was very good in Vancouver last year and could very well skip over Lansing. Another sleeper this year is lefty Tim Mayza who can throw in the mid-to-high 90s with a nice slider.
We move on to the hitters that I’m projecting to be on the Dunedin Blue Jays to start the season.
In this group, I see Pentecost getting about half the reps behind the plate (if healthy) while the other two split duties the rest of the time. However, if Pentecost is still unable to catch, I can see Danny Jansen starting the season in Dunedin. Both Reeves and Saez are known for their defense and both struggled with the bat in Dunedin last year and I can see them both returning.
There’s no way that the 2015 Midwest League MVP is not moving up a level so McBroom is almost a sure thing. There’s a chance that Matt Dean returns to Dunedin to start the year, particularly since I think Rowdy Tellez will be in Double-A New Hampshire. With Dantzler a lefty and McBroom a righty, they complement each other well.
Dickie Joe Thon
Thon will get a chance to improve over his poor performance in Dunedin last year. He started out gangbusters with Lansing last year but cooled off quickly when he was promoted to Dunedin.
Nay had a subpar year with the Dunedin Blue Jays last year and his dropping power numbers are likely a concern for the club. Nay could very well start the season in Dunedin in order to prove that he’s ready for Double-A and, if he does, a promotion could come within a month or two.
Urena is another player who struggled when promoted last year. While he was an offensive force in Lansing, in Dunedin Urena lost a lot of power and didn’t hit for a high enough average to compensate for his extremely low walk rate. He’ll start the season back in Advanced-A after impressing in a couple of major league spring training opportunities.
Of this trio, I see Leblebijian breaking out a bit in 2016. He had a terrific time in Australia and while that doesn’t necessarily translate into success in affiliated ball, he was excellent in Lansing and not very good in Dunedin (like several other players). Fermin has bounced between Dunedin and New Hampshire a lot while Atkinson probably deserves a shot at Advanced-A after struggling in Lansing and then finding success in Vancouver after a demotion.
I would almost bet that the first four players on this list are going to start in Dunedin. Aside from D.J. Davis, the rest have already played in Dunedin. Loveless had a decent enough season but it might be enough to break through to Double-A at the beginning of the year. J.D. (a.k.a. Jonathan Davis) crushed in Lansing but injuries kept him to playing just 47 games in Dunedin with mediocre results. Harris was another split personality, hitting very well in Lansing but hitting only .211 in Dunedin and like Leblebijian, had a fantastic winter in Australia, leading the league in hitting. After repeating Lansing, D.J. will get a shot in Dunedin and we all hope that he continues to build on the hard work he put in over the past couple of years. Parmley will likely be an extra outfielder in Dunedin and fourth/fifth outfielders can generally come from anywhere in the organization making a prediction beyond Parmley difficult to make.