By Jay Blue
Canadian Baseball Network
The Blue Jays announced their 2018 internal non-roster invitees to major league spring training today and most of the players listed come as no surprise.
The Blue Jays invited pitchers Andrew Case (Saint John, N.B.), Jose Fernandez, Chad Girodo, Jon Harris, Sean Reid-Foley, Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.), Chris Rowley and Justin Shafer. The only catcher not on the club's 40-man roster invited is Max Pentecost while infielders Jason Leblebijian and Tim Lopes got the invitation and so did outfielders Jonathan Davis and Roemon Fields.
Most of these players were participating in the Blue Jays' Prospect Development Camp last week and made the trip down to Buffalo for their Prospect Showcase. I had a chance to talk to Harris, Reid-Foley, Romano, Davis and Fields while they were down there. Pentecost and Leblebijian were also in Buffalo.
Andrew Case certainly comes as no surprise as the 25-year-old had a terrific season in double-A and triple-A. Lefty Jose Fernandez, however, is a little surprising. The 24-year-old struggled at times to find his command and had moments where he was hit hard despite a high-90s fastball. Girodo has already played in the major leagues and is not surprising that the Blue Jays want to have the lefty in camp.
Highly touted prospects Harris and Reid-Foley both spent 2017 in double-A New Hampshire and Reid-Foley was actually the first Blue Jay minor leaguer to tweet out that he'd be attending major league camp. While both had their struggles in 2017, both have some upside and could potentially contribute at the major league level at some point in 2018.
Rowley, like Girodo, has already been to the major leagues but was sent outright to the minors this off-season after clearing waivers. He's another pitcher who could show up in a Blue Jays uniform at some point this season. Justin Shafer may be a little more unknown to Blue Jays fans. Shafer, 25, had a breakout season in 2017, moving through class-A Advanced Dunedin, double-A New Hampshire and triple-A Buffalo, spending most of his time in double-A. While he walked a lot of batters, he's got a heavy, sinking fastball and slider combination that could show up in Toronto's bullpen in 2018.
For catcher Max Pentecost, the invite to spring training is a nice feather in his cap but he'll likely spend the beginning of the year in New Hampshire as he continues to try to rehab his shoulder and spend more of his time behind the plate while continuing to hit. He struggled in the Arizona Fall League before getting shut down due to more problems with his shoulder.
Fans were clamouring for Jason Leblebijian's call up last year after the 26-year-old got out to a hot start. A versatile and talented defender, the Blue Jays have added some depth ahead of him this year and a call up might be unlikely.
For Tim Lopes, 23, this is his first chance to possibly get some at bats at a larger scale than in the past. He had two at bats last year and had six the year before that for Seattle. Still, Lopes is likely to start the year in Buffalo after a solid season with the Fisher Cats.
In the outfield, Roemon Fields, 27, is a conceivable big league call up despite the increasing numbers of outfielders that the Blue Jays will have in double-A and triple-A ahead of him. Fields' speed and defensive prowess will be on display and you'll be sure to hear Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler speak ad nauseum about his time working for the US Postal Service before signing with the Blue Jays.
Recently married Jonathan Davis, 25, will also join big league camp in February. He's got the least chance of any of the outfielders available to the Blue Jays in spring training of breaking with the big club. No knocks against Davis as he had another strong season in 2017, this time in double-A. With the signings of Granderson and the trade for Grichuk, he's got a growing list of players ahead of him on the depth charts.
Note that all of the players on the 40-man roster are automatically at spring training. This means that the prospects added to the 40-man before the Rule 5 draft (like Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire, Thomas Pannone and Rowdy Tellez) are going to be there too. Newly acquired Taylor Guerrieri (claimed on waivers) and Gift Ngoepe will also join the team as well as those players added to the 40-man and not removed during the season (like Dwight Smith Jr., Anthony Alford, Ryan Borucki, Richard Urena, Carlos Ramirez, Tim Mayza, Matt Dermody and Danny Barnes).
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