Bluefield Blue Jays 2017 Report: Blue Jays from Away Awards

 Bowen Field in Bluefield, West Virginia, home of the Bluefield Blue Jays. Photo Credit: Jay Blue

Bowen Field in Bluefield, West Virginia, home of the Bluefield Blue Jays. Photo Credit: Jay Blue

By Jay Blue

Blue Jays From Away

We arrive in Bluefield, the Jays' lowest team that plays a regular minor schedule (as opposed to the "complex" schedule with daytime games). The Bluefield Blue Jays had a strong team this year, making the playoffs, so let's take a look at our Blue Jays from Away Awards for the club.

The Bluefield Blue Jays had a very strong season in 2017 under perennial manager Dennis Holmberg, finishing in first place in the East Division but losing two games to one in a tightly contested semifinals series to the Pulaski Yankees. No game was decided by more than two runs and, after winning the first game, the Blue Jays were swept in the final two at home. The Blue Jays' offence, younger than average (19.9 years, 0.4 years below league average for the hitters) finished second in the league in runs per game at 6.03, well above the league average of 5.26. The Blue Jays were strong on the pitching side too, coming in at about half a run below the league average, in third place with 4.74 runs per game allowed with a pitching staff that ran 0.1 years below the league average in age.

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 0.33 points, etc. There were occasions that I felt that no one merited the award and therefore, I did not give out any points.

Ryan Noda 11.08

Kevin Smith 6.83

Mc Gregory Contreras 6.41

Yorman Rodriguez 5.5

Ryan Gold 4.75

Chavez Young 3.92

Antony Fuentes, Turner Larkins 3.33

Brandon Grudzielanek 3.17

Maximo Castillo, Randy Pondler 2.33

Brandon Polizzi 2

Freddy Rodriguez 1.83

Elio Silva, Josh Winckowski 1.5

Jordan Barrett 1.33

Alvaro Galindo, Joel Espinal, Tanner Kirwer, Jesus Navarro, Reilly Johnson 1

Kelyn Jose, Joe DiBenedetto, Samad Taylor 0.5

Marcus Reyes 0.33

Sterling Guzman, Colton Laws 0.25

Despite a late charge by Kevin Smith, Ryan Noda, the Appalachian League MVP, is our Player of the Game Champion!

Blue Jays from Away Player of the Year

Ryan Noda had good enough numbers to be the league MVP, hitting .364/.507/.575 in 276 plate appearances, posting a 1.082 OPS with seven home runs. In fact, even though his power dropped late in the season, my assumption is that teams weren't pitching to him as he kept walking and finished with an OBP over .500. Ryan Gold was a strong candidate with an .864 OPS and Kevin Smith hit 25 doubles and led the team with eight home runs but had a .778 OPS.

Honourable Mention: Ryan Gold, Kevin Smith, Yorman Rodriguez

Blue Jays from Away Pitcher of the Year

Randy Pondler was the Appalachian League Pitcher of the Year, posting a 2.51 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in 57 1/3 innings, striking out 42 and walking 11. Who am I to deny him the BJfA Pitcher of the Year award?

Honourable Mention: Jordan Barrett, Turner Larkins

Blue Jays from Away Reliever of the Year

The Bluefield Blue Jays were blessed with several dominant relievers this season and it was a tough choice that came down to the club saves leader, Ty Tice and runner up Graham Spraker. Tice had the better ERA but it's Graham Spraker who gets my vote due to a far lower WHIP (0.78) and fewer walks (6) despite throwing more innings (33 1/3) while still posting over a strikeout per inning (39 Ks).

Honourable Mention: Ty Tice, Marcus Reyes

Starting Pitchers

We'll start our in-depth look at the pitching staff of the Bluefield Blue Jays by looking at starting pitchers. Bluefield had a much more established starting rotation with most of the players vying for starts already in the Blue Jays' organization before the season started.

 Randy Pondler. Photo Credit: Jay Blue

Randy Pondler. Photo Credit: Jay Blue

Making 11 starts (of his 12 appearances) and throwing 57 1/3 innings for the Bluefield Blue Jays, 20-year-old Nicaraguan lefty Randy Pondler made his mark on the league, winning the Appalachian League Pitcher of the Year in addition to being on the post-season All-Star team. Pondler had a very strong 2.51 ERA and 0.99 WHIP with just a 5.0% walk rate and an 18.9% strikeout rate. Interestingly, Pondler posted reverse splits, allowing lefties to hit .333/.447/.410 against him while righties hit just .193/.211/.298. Randy made one start in the postseason, giving up three runs on eight hits (including two home runs) with a walk and three strikeouts in five innings. Pondler will likely head to Lansing next year after such a strong season, his second in the Blue Jays' system.

Josh Winckowski, 19, was selected by the Blue Jays in the 15th round of the 2016 draft out of Estero High School in Florida. After some success in limited work in the GCL in 2016, Winckowski moved up to Bluefield and saw some progress but also had some issues to work through. The good: Winckowski didn't regress much and his batted-ball data didn't change much. The not so good: Winckowski's walk rate regressed, rising to 9.8% from 6.3% last year, while his strikeout rate dropped slightly to 18.3%. Winckowki's 5.33 ERA and 1.57 WHIP are both reflective of his increased walk rate while the ERA also shows that he continued to give up home runs at an elevated rate (1.33 HR/9). Winckowski's fly-ball rate rose slightly (to 25.3%) and his ground ball rate dropped to 56.0% but both are pretty good and show that he's keeping the ball on the ground. I think Winckowski could be in Vancouver or Lansing but considering that he's still pretty young, I think he could start the season back in Bluefield if the club wants to take things slow with him.

After a debut season in which he got several people's attention by coming to the US and pitching well at the age of 17, Maximo Castillo moved up to the Bluefield Blue Jays for his Age-18 season. The 6-foot-1 Venezuelan righty posted some very strong numbers with Bluefield, having a 3.80 ERA and 1.29 WHIP with a very "maximo" 26.0% strikeout rate and a "minimo" 3.5% walk rate, dropping his rate even further from last year. He was able to post those numbers despite a rather high .368 BABIP. The only real concern in his numbers is the fact that he allowed a line-drive rate of 24.1% which is higher than it was at any level last year. That said, he's otherwise posting some solid numbers and I could see a move to Vancouver next year. I'd say Vancouver over Lansing mainly because I think with a season at 50 innings in 2016 and one at 47 1/3 in 2017, the club may want to use a short season league to help control how much he's throwing. In fact, Castillo , after throwing five innings each in his last five starts, was shut down after his August 20 start before throwing four innings, giving up two runs on four hits with six strikeouts in his only playoff appearance.

Nineteen-year-old righty Alvaro Galindo appeared as a starter in two-thirds of his games. In his third professional season, Galindo hit a bit of a speed bump in his development, putting up some tough numbers. In 47 1/3 innings, he had a 4.94 ERA and 1.58 WHIP, striking out only 13.6% of batters and walking 9.8%. Galindo finished the season on a great note, making two consecutive starts in which he pitched five innings without allowing a run, giving up a total of seven hits and three walks in those 10 innings and racking up seven strikeouts. I'd say that Galindo could probably move up to Vancouver although he may stay in Bluefield to start the 2018 season.

Lefty Elio Silva, 22, has been working his way up the ladder, jumping to the Bluefield Blue Jays after two seasons in the Dominican Summer League. This year, in 45 1/3 innings, Silva posted a strong 3.77 ERA and 1.28 WHIP, striking out 21.0% and walking just 2.6%. The Venezuelan lefty, like Randy Pondler, had reverse splits with lefthanded hitters hitting for a .748 OPS against him while righties had a .681 OPS. Silva gave up three runs in four innings in his only playoff appearance. His advanced command tells me that he's going to be in Lansing next year in his Age-22 season.

After being drafted in the 21st round of the 2017 draft by the Blue Jays, Turner Larkins, 21, was sent to Bluefield where he had a very strong pro debut despite his innings being controlled by the club. Larkins made six starts among 10 appearances and threw 35 1/3 innings with a 2.04 ERA and 1.25 WHIP, striking out 21.0% and walking 7.7%. Larkins appeared to give up quite a bit of hard contact, with 24.2% of his batted balls going for line drives, but he didn't give up a lot of fly balls and had a strong 58.6% ground ball rate. Larkins could be in Vancouver or Lansing next year.

Despite starting fewer than half of his games, Joel Espinal matched innings pitched with a couple of other starters and so he'll be discussed here. Espinal, a 21-year-old righty from the Dominican Republic split his season between the GCL and Bluefield last year, struggling at the higher level. Espinal had his struggles in 2017 too, posting a 5.51 ERA and 1.42 WHIP over 47 1/3 innings with the Bluefield club, striking out 18.3% and walking 6.8%, both vast improvements on his numbers at the same level in 2016. Espinal had a fairly high BABIP (.333), lowering his FIP to 4.51. Espinal also had reverse splits, with lefties having a 128-point lower OPS against him than righties and he also seemed to take to starting more than relieving, with a 151-point-lower OPS against in that role. Espinal could very well be in Vancouver next year.

Colton Laws was the Blue Jays' seventh-round draft pick this year, coming out of the University of Charlotte and he acquitted himself well in his limited action. The 6-foot-7 righty was dominant in Bluefield, with a 0.82 ERA and 0.91 WHIP over 11 innings in three starts and three relief appearances. he struck out 11 while walking just one, giving up one run on nine hits. Promoted to Vancouver, Laws allowed two runs (one earned) in four innings, striking out four and not walking anyone. I can see Laws in Vancouver or Lansing in his Age-22 season next year.

Relief Pitchers

We continue our look at the Bluefield Blue Jays pitching staff with a look at the relievers.

Ty Tice, 21, was the lock-down closer for the Bluefield Blue Jays, going 12 for 12 in save opportunities and posting a 1.05 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP in 25 2/3 innings. The righty was drafted out of Central Arkansas by the Blue Jays with their 16th-round pick in 2017 and he settled right in for Bluefield. Tice had an excellent 32.7% strikeout rate while walking 10.3%, showing that he was able to dominate hitters in the league. Look for him to jump to Lansing in 2018.

Our Reliever of the Year for the Bluefield Blue Jays, Graham Spraker, came to the Blue Jays as a 31st-round pick in this year's draft. The 22-year-old righty was dominant in Bluefield, tossing 33 1/3 innings with a stellar 1.62 ERA and 0.78 WHIP. A low, .238 BABIP led to just 20 hits in 33 1/3 innings but he walked only 4.7% of batters and struck out 30.2% while getting a very solid 44.3% ground ball rate. Spraker is another candidate for the Lansing Lugnuts' bullpen next year.

 Kelyn Jose. Photo Credit: Jay Blue

Kelyn Jose. Photo Credit: Jay Blue

Kelyn Jose is finally starting to work his way into being an effective reliever. The 22-year-old Domincan lefty is one of the hardest throwers in the Blue Jays' system but, at 6-foot-4, is finally starting to figure out his mechanics. In his fourth season with the Blue Jays and his second in Bluefield, Jose had a 3.12 ERA and 1.54 WHIP but also posted his best strikeout rate (30.8%) while still walking a ton of batters (21.4%). Jose might need another year in short-season ball but I have a feeling that it's time for him to emerge into Lansing to see if he can make it higher levels.

Mitch McKown, 21, had possibly the worst professional debut one could have in 2016 after he was drafted in the 21st round out of Seminole State College. In 2017, McKown moved up to Bluefield and a larger sample size showed us that there's not all doom and gloom with this 6-foot-4 righty. In 25 1/3 innings, McKown had a 3.55 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. While he still walked a lot of batters in 2017 (13.3%), that rate was WAY down from his 2016 walk rate of 36.7%. Additionally, he struck out 21.2%, up from 12.2% in 2016, giving him a strikeout-to-walk ratio above 1.00 this year (1.60 to be exact). Look for McKown in Vancouver next year.

Joining McKown with 16 appearances for the Bluefield Blue Jays was 22-year-old lefty Joe DiBenedetto. DiBenedetto was selected by the Jays in the 29th round in 2017 and, despite standing at just 5-foot-9, he came up with some solid numbers in his pro debut. In 23 1/3 innings with Bluefield, DiBenedetto had a 4.24 ERA and 1.46 WHIP, striking out 17.1% and walking 8.6%. He got promoted to Vancouver where he threw 6 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on six hits and six walks with four strikeouts. The biggest worry I have for DiBenedetto, like many pitchers of shorter stature, is his home run rate. He allowed five home runs in 23 1/3 innings in Bluefield (but none in Vancouver), giving him a HR/9 rate of 1.93. A pitcher with a tendency to give up home runs needs to keep runners off the bases and he'll have to work at walking fewer runners in 2018, likely back in Vancouver.

In his fourth season with the Blue Jays after signing as a free agent from the Dominican Republic, lefty Jose Nova spent the full season with the Bluefield Blue Jays (and made a brief appearance with the Dunedin Blue Jays before the short season got under way), getting hit hard and posting some ugly numbers. Nova's season had a great start as he threw two scoreless innings for Dunedin, giving up two hits and striking out two. Then he got to work for the Bluefield club and promptly gave up five earned runs in one inning in his first outing. He followed with four runs allowed in his third outing and gave up three runs or more five times in the season, only exceeding a two-inning appearance once. Nova finished the season with a 9.97 ERA for Bluefield, posting a 1.80 WHIP with a 14.8% strikeout rate and 7.4% walk rate in 21 2/3 innings. Nova doesn't appear to be either a strikeout or a ground ball pitcher (although he only gave up one home run this year), but having such a struggle as a lefty in Advanced-Rookie ball at the age of 22 is troublesome. How many more chances will he get? Where will he end up next year? That's tough to prognosticate.

Tyler Olander, a 6-foot-9 lefty out of Connecticut also had a rough season but that's to be expected. Just two years into his return to baseball after playing college and pro basketball, Olander had an 8.14 ERA and 2.05 WHIP in his Bluefield debut and the 25-year-old lefty made some progress, striking out 15.7% of batters and walked 11.1%. The important thing was that he got through the season healthy and had a strong ground ball rate of 51.4%. I can see Olander continue working on his pitches and command to move up to Vancouver next year.

The Blue Jays' 38th-round pick this year out of San Diego State, Marcus Reyes is another lefty but this one had an excellent season at three levels. Reyes made his pro debut in the GCL, striking out four in two innings of work and giving up just one hit before moving up to Bluefield. There, he pushed his scoreless outing streak to 11 games (overall, 10 games in Bluefield), posting a 1.77 ERA and 1.03 WHIP, striking out 29.4% of batters and walking just 2.4%. Earning his promotion to Vancouver, Reyes worked five innings, giving up a run on seven hits with one walk and two strikeouts and added a scoreless appearance in the playoffs, working 2/3 of an inning and allowing a hit. Reyes, 22, could easily return to Vancouver next year; as a late-round pick, there's not a lot of incentive to move him up over some pitchers who spent all year in Vancouver, but he could join the Lugnuts at some point in the season.

Twenty-two-year-old Jordan Barrett made his share of starts (5) but since fewer than half of his appearances came at the start of the game, we'll talk about him in relief. Drafted in the 18th-round by the Blue Jays in 2017, Barrett had a strong pro debut, tossing 35 1/3 innings with a 2.80 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. The 6-foot-3 lefty struck out an outstanding 30.7% of batters while walking 8.7% while being one of the only left-handed pitchers to dominate lefties, limiting them to a .362 OPS while righties had a .598 OPS against him. Those peripheral numbers could easily put him in the conversation for a job in Lansing next year.

Hitters

We finish our look at the 2017 Bluefield Blue Jays by taking a peek at how the hitters did. We'll start behind the plate and look at players who got the most playing time first, followed by the guys who played less. This year's Bluefield squad had some thump with a couple of recently drafted players adjusting well to the professional game.

Catchers

The catching duties for Bluefield were split fairly evenly between three players with Yorman Rodriguez getting the most time there. Rodriguez, 20, was in his third season since signing with the Blue Jays out of Venezuela and made his presence felt with a .346/.374/.429 slash line, hitting 11 doubles and three home runs. Rodriguez didn't walk much (just 2.7% of his plate appearances) but didn't strike out much either (just 9.7% of his plate appearances). Rodriguez started the year in Vancouver and hit .190/.227/.238 in 22 plate appearances before moving back down to Bluefield to finish the year. Rodriguez did get some time in the playoffs, hitting .182/.250/.182 with two singles in 11 at bats. Defensively, Rodriguez threw out 26% of potential base stealers and had seven passed balls. He should start in Vancouver next year.

The No. 2 catcher was Ryan Gold, a 19-year-old lefthanded hitting catcher who was the Jays' 27th-round pick out of high school in South Carolina last year. Despite standing at just 5-foot-9, Gold has some surprising power, hitting .302/.382/.482 with 11 doubles, a triple and four home runs for Bluefield. With a solid 9.6% walk rate and decent 21.0% strikeout rate, Gold is progressing very well for a young player moving up in the organization. Gold hit .364/.417/.818 with a pair of doubles and a home run in 11 at bats in the postseason. On the defensive side, however, he still needs to improve, committing 10 passed balls and throwing out just 24% of base stealers. Gold could also head to Vancouver next year.

The Blue Jays drafted 20-year-old (who turns 21 on September 26) Reilly Johnson out of the State Junior College of Florida in the 30th round of 2017 and he served as the Blue Jays' third catcher, hitting .232/.333/.280 in 25 games. Johnson had a healthy 12.4% walk rate and a strong 16.5% strikeout rate but his lack of power is something that will have to be worked on as he continues to adjust to professional ball. Johnson caught in 18 games and threw out just 10% of potential base stealers and had eight passed balls, giving the impression that he'll still have to work on defensive issues. He showed some flexibility, playing a game at third base. Johnson could remain in short-season ball next year and his assignment will depend on where Rodriguez and Gold begin their 2018 seasons.

Infielders

The Bluefield Blue Jays' leading hitter and the Appalachian League's MVP was first-baseman Ryan Noda. Noda joins the Blue Jays' ranks of players drafted in the "teens" (Noda was the Jays' 15th-round pick in 2017) who went on to win an MVP award, following in the footsteps of L.B. Dantzler (Northwest League MVP 2013) and Ryan McBroom (Midwest League MVP 2015). Noda absolutely dominated the Appy League, hitting .364/.507/.575 with 18 doubles, three triples and seven home runs, despite falling off in August although I surmise that he wasn't getting nearly as many good pitches to hit, taking way more walks (his OBP in August was 192 points higher than his batting average). In the playoffs, Noda struggled, going 0/11 with a walk and six strikeouts. I can see Noda in Lansing next year and he has the chance to follow Bradley Jones, who was a dominant hitter in the Appalachian League last year and had a successful transition to Lansing this year.

Twenty-three-year-old Francisco Rodriguez got some limited playing time this year, getting into just 25 games with Bluefield and three with Vancouver. He hit just .183/.293/.225 in 71 at bats with Bluefield, hitting three doubles, despite his strong, stocky built (6-foot-1, 220 lbs.). Rodriguez struck out a whopping 40.2% of the time and walked 9.8% and he didn't get a hit in Vancouver in seven plate appearances. It's hard to see Rodriguez getting many more chances if he continues to struggle at the plate this much in rookie ball.

At second base, Jesus Navarro got the bulk of the playing time. A 19-year-old Dominican, Navarro hit just .203/.267/.221 in 52 games (and went 0/1 in one game for Dunedin). Navarro showed negligible power with a double and a triple among his 35 hits and he didn't steal a base, getting caught twice. On the (sort of) bright side, Navarro's 7.6% walk rate and 15.2% strikeout rate show some promise going forward although in three season in the Blue Jays' organization, has yet to match his offensive production in his debut in the DSL with a modest .632 OPS. He could be back in Bluefield next year.

Twenty-year-old Dominican shortstop Jesus Severino spent most of his time at third base in 2017, hitting .228/.303/.331 with the Bluefield Blue Jays, hitting eight doubles and two home runs. A slick fielder, Severino showed a little with the bat, walking in 8.3% of his plate appearances and struck out in 18.6%, down from 25.0% in 2016, also with Bluefield. Severino will likely move to Vancouver next year.

On a team with a ton of good offensive players, shortstop Kevin Smith stood out, hitting .271/.312/.466 with 25 doubles, a triple and a club-leading eight home runs. Drafted in the fourth round of the 2017 draft out of the University of Maryland, Smith also stole nine bases without getting caught but could improve his strikeout and walk ratios as he walked in just 5.7% of his plate appearances and struck out in 24.7%. Smith struggled in the playoffs, going 1/12 with a single, two walks and one RBI. With Logan Warmoth likely heading to Lansing to start 2018, a Vancouver appearance might be likely to start for Smith although a move to full season ball wouldn't surprise me as a good place for the 21-year-old.

The Blue Jays probably didn't expect much when they signed Brandon Grudzielanek (nephew of former major leaguer Mark) as a non-drafted free agent. Still, he contributed a significant amount to the club, hitting .295/.340/.397 in 146 at bats, hitting five doubles, two triples and two home runs (after going 2/3 in his one game in the GCL). Grudzielanek could walk more, after finishing with a 6.8% walk rate and a 16.1% strikeout rate but did well for a guy who wasn't drafted. Grudzielanek was 1/11 in the playoffs, driving in two runs and walking once. He'll likely head to Vancouver to be a utility infielder in 2018.

Sterling Guzman was another utility infielder for the Bluefield Blue Jays, but an injury placed him on the 60-day DL at the beginning of August after a solid start to his year. Guzman hit .304/.429/.413 in 46 at bats, hitting two doubles and a home run and stealing two bases. Guzman's healthy 17.2% walk rate was almost as high as his 22.4% strikeout rate and the young player could return to Bluefield in his Age-20 season next year to try to get a full year of action.

Outfielders

Playing every day in left field, Mc Gregory Contreras, 19, jumped over the GCL with a solid offensive season, hitting .279/.335/.421 with eight doubles, two triples and five home runs. Contreras, who played centre field last year and was mostly used in left this year, saw a vastly lower walk rate of 5.8% this year (down from 15.4% in the DSL last year) while striking out in 26.6% of his plate appearances. Still, the numbers are strong for a young Venezuelan making his US debut in Advanced-Rookie ball. Contreras appeared to improve, particularly in his power-hitting department as the season went on, launching six doubles, a triple and two home runs in August. Look for Contreras to spend his Age-20 season in Vancouver next year.

Twenty-one-year-old Antony Fuentes was another solid hitter for the Bluefield club as he continued his steady ascent through the Jays' system at the age of 21 (turning 22 on September 26). The Venezuelan outfielder hit .284/.347/.439 in 45 games, hitting eight doubles, two triples and four home runs. Fuentes walked in 5.7% of his plate appearances (up from 4.1% in the GCL last year) while striking out in 19.5% (way up from 8.1% last year). I can see Fuentes getting some time in Lansing next year but a stop in Vancouver could also be in his cards.

 Chavez Young. Photo Credit: Jay Blue

Chavez Young. Photo Credit: Jay Blue

In his second year with the Blue Jays, Chavez Young had a very strong season, showing people what this young Bahamian might be. In 62 games in Bluefield, Young hit .282/.332/.440 with 14 doubles, seven triples and four home runs. He did walk in only 4.6% of his plate appearances but struck out in a vastly reduced 20.6% over his 32.1% in the GCL last year. Chavez actually started his season in Vancouver, hitting .308/.400/.538 with a double, a triple and five strikeouts in 15 plate appearances before heading back southeast to Bluefield. Young was fortunate enough to get into the playoffs with two teams, going 7-for-26 overall with two home runs (one each for Bluefield and Vancouver) while showing a lot more patience in the playoffs with Vancouver, despite hitting just .176, he had three walks in 17 at bats. Young is looking more and more like an exciting young player who, having just turned 20 in August, could be demonstrating that his learning curve is going to be a lot shorter than some think. He could either start in Vancouver or Lansing next year.

Even though he's been in the Jays' system for four years now, Freddy Rodriguez is still only 20 years old. The 6-foot-1 Venezuelan outfielder may have finally turned a corner in his professional career as he's traversed the US-based Rookie-Ball levels for four seasons. Not hitting above .240 in his first three years, Rodriguez hit .308/.388/.473 with the Blue Jays this year (in his second try at Bluefield), hitting two doubles, two triples and three home runs in 28 games. He appears to be recovered from the injury that landed him on the 60-day DL last year and had a career-high 11.5% walk rate and a career-low 20.2% strikeout rate while posting an ISO over .100 for the first time (at .165). Things are definitely looking up for Rodriguez and he could either be in Vancouver or Lansing in 2018.

The Blue Jays' 20th-round pick out of Niagara University, Tanner Kirwer hails from Alberta and made his pro debut with the Bluefield Blue Jays, hitting .224/.323/.329 in 25 games before being put on the 60-day DL. Kirwer hit four doubles, a triple and a home run, striking out in 26.2% of plate appearances and walking in 4.9% before his season ended on July 23. Kirwer could be a strong part of a Canadian contingent playing for Vancouver in 2018 and he'll be 22 next season.

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Jay Blue

A lifelong Toronto Blue Jays fan, Jay Blue started blogging about the Jays when he was living in Berlin, Germany. He founded his own blog, Blue Jays from Away, to write about developments with his home town team, focusing on the Jays' minor league system. When he's not watching baseball, he is usually on the diamond umpiring or he's pursuing his research interests in the field of ethnomusicology.