By: Jay Blue
Blue Jays From Away
We’re two weeks (give or take) into the season for the Toronto Blue Jays’ minor league affiliates and it’s time to see what small sample sizes are telling us. Since the post was starting to get long, you’ll get it in two parts. And now, the conclusion in which I write about the Dunedin Blue Jays and Lansing Lugnuts.
Dunedin Blue Jays
Top Prospect: Max Pentecost
The biggest news around Max Pentecost is that he’s made his debut behind the plate, marking the first time that he’s caught in a real minor league game since his draft year. The former first-round pick is hitting .222/.250/.370 in just six games.
Other Prospects: Danny Jansen
Now wearing glasses, Jansen is making excellent contact, hitting .425/.442/.425 in 10 games this year. Yep, you read correctly, while he’s the leader on the team in hits with 17, all of them have been singles. I think that will change soon for the 22-year-old catcher.
Other Prospects: Derrick Loveless
Loveless finished last year in Double-A and he’s playing like he wants to get back there in a hurry. Leading the D-Jays in OPS, Loveless is hitting .341/.482/.523, taking a ton of walks (11 in 56 plate appearances), hitting a ton of doubles (8), and has stolen two bases so far.
Up-and-Coming: Lane Thomas
Finally healthy, Thomas is off to a very good start with the D-Jays, hitting .271/.352/.417. While he’s been caught in three out of four stolen base attempts, he’s also got the team lead in triples with three.
Up-and-Coming: Juan Kelly
Kelly is another guy who’s not putting up huge numbers but is solidly plugging along at a new level. The 22-year-old has been playing well with a .742 OPS so far.
Top Prospect: Ryan Borucki
While his start to the 2017 season in Dunedin hasn’t been as monumentally bad as it was in 2016, Ryan Borucki is still struggling with a 6.46 ERA and 1.50 WHIP, still the peripherals are quite good with him. He’s given up just one home run and six walks with 18 strikeouts so I’d expect things to turn around for him, particularly with his 3.18 FIP and 2.93 xFIP.
Top Prospect: Angel Perdomo
Perdomo has been hit hard this year, giving up four home runs in his first outing and 14 hits with six runs in 9 2/3 innings. His six walks and just four strikeouts in his first two games are a little worrying but the big lefty is probably still working a few things out.
Top Prospect: T.J. Zeuch
Zeuch hasn’t pitched much – just five innings in two outings this year – but he’s been good when he’s been on. he’s only allowed two hits and two walks while striking out eight.
Up-and-Coming: Jordan Romano
Romano has had an eventful spring, starting out by pitching with Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic. He’s been inconsistent in the Dunedin rotation but has had bright spots despite struggling with his control at times. With eight walks in 13 2/3 innings, he also has 15 strikeouts.
The Renaissance: Justin Shafer
Shafer has been relied upon frequently, with 9 1/3 innings in five appearances already. Shafer, who has had ERAs above 5.00 since being drafted (outside of a stint in Lansing in 2015), has been dominant in 2017 with the D-Jays without giving up a run on seven hits and two walks (both intentional) while striking out 13. If he can become a trusted, high-leverage reliever, he could move up quickly in his age-24 season.
Top Prospect: Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.
Like last year, Vlad’s name, age and star power are overshadowing some of his talented teammates. Still, Vlad is the second-youngest player in the Midwest League at 18 years old and is more than holding his own, despite the fact that pitchers are being very careful with the son of a star. His .282/.429/.462 slash line is excellent but his .890 OPS is still fourth on the team.
Top Prospect: Bo Bichette
Can a year make all the difference? Bichette, 19, is outclassing Guerrero in almost every category, hitting .419/.526/.613 with three doubles and a home run as he continues to put up video-game numbers despite moving up a league in which he’s among the youngest players.
Other Prospects: J.B. Woodman
Woodman got a fair bit of playing time in big league camp this spring but he’s leading the Lugnuts with strikeouts, posting a .267/.292/.289 slash line. He hits the ball so hard when he does make contact that he has a sick .462 BABIP but his 40.8% strikeout rate must come down before he can really excel.
Other Prospects: Joshua Palacios
Palacios just came off the DL but had a great start to his season with two hits and a walk.
Constantly Underrated?: Bradley Jones
Jones is only continuing what he did last year with the Bluefield Blue Jays, leading the team in home runs (4), RBI (18) and OPS (1.156). Jones has real power and is having success as a 22- year-old on this very young team.
Top Prospect: Justin Maese
Maese’s luck hasn’t been the best this year but groundball pitchers generally post better stats the higher up in the minors they are. Still, his last start, in which he allowed 11 runs, wasn’t pretty but I think he’s trying to calibrate himself with some added velocity. He’s also just 20 and with the quality of his stuff, there are no worries.
Other Prospects: Patrick Murphy
Murphy’s had one good start and one bad one, which is to be expected for a 22-year-old who’s trying to get himself going in his second healthy year back from a series of injuries. A 4.91 ERA and 1.54 WHIP are just a starting point.
Other Prospects: Zach Jackson
Jackson is a reliever who’s racking up strikeouts (eight in five innings) while keeping his walks down (two) but he’s given up two home runs which is a general indication that he’s missing spots within the strike zone. Expect to see his strikeout rate to drop along with his ERA as he accumulates innings.
Stepping Up: Geno Encina
Geno Encina has been the go-to reliever out of the Lugnuts’ bullpen for long relief. He’s given up four runs (all unearned) in 9 2/3 innings but has 11 strikeouts and just three walks.