By Jay Blue
Blue Jays From Away
The Dunedin Blue Jays were co-champions of the Florida State League, getting some help from the Blue Jays' top two prospects in the second half.
With manager John Schneider on their side, the Dunedin Blue Jays were 72-66 overall, placing second in the North Division overall, behind the stellar Tampa Yankees who won the second half with a 46-19 record. While the Blue Jays were just 34-35 in the first half, their second half record of 38-31 (and the Tampa Yankees' ability to win the division in both halves of the season) gave the club their entry to the playoffs.
With Hurricane Irma bearing down on Florida, the FSL decided to cancel the final series and name the winners of the two semifinal series "Co-Champions." While they lost the first game in their semifinal series to the Tampa Yankees, the Blue Jays rallied to win both games in a doubleheader to win the series 2-1. Over the course of the season, the D-Jays lead the league in runs per game, scoring 4.65 r/g, well over the average of 3.97 with an offence that was 22.6 years old, 0.1 below league average. The Jays' pitching was eighth in the league, allowing 4.29 runs per game (above the league average of 3.97) with a pitching staff that averaged 23.8 years old, 0.7 years above average.
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.
Connor Panas 13.41
Max Pentecost 10.17
Juan Kelly 8.91
Conor Fisk 8.5
Cavan Biggio 8.33
Jordan Romano 7.67
Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. 6.67
Danny Jansen, Ryan Borucki 6.5
Josh DeGraaf 6.33
Bo Bichette 5.33
D.J. Davis, Andrew Guillotte 4.67
Lane Thomas 4.5
Michael De La Cruz 3.83
Angel Perdomo 3
Derrick Loveless, T.J. Zeuch, J.C. Cardenas 2
Matt Dean 1.75
Josh Almonte 1.33
Tayler Saucedo 1.17
Kevin Vicuna, Bradley Jones, Jon Berti 1
Mike Reeves 0.83
Ryan Cook 0.67
Danny Young, Tom Robson, Jared Carkuff, Josh Donaldson, Nash Knight, Dalton Pompey, Carl Wise, Gregorio Petit, Kender Villegas, Edward Olivares 0.5
Justin Shafer, Deiferson Barreto, Ryan Hissey, Chris Coghlan 0.33
William Ouellette 0.25
Canadian Connor Panas (Toronto, Ont.) had a phenomenal second half that allowed him to charge up the rankings, including being a playoff hero, hitting three home runs and driving in five runs in three postseason games. Congrats to Connor.
Blue Jays from Away Player of the Year
The Dunedin Blue Jays had three or four of the Blue Jays' top prospects at one point or another through the season but it was a player who was there the whole year and had a huge playoff who is our Player of the Year. Connor Panas (Toronto, Ont.) led the club and the league in home runs (18) while putting up an .839 OPS in 114 games. While other players made a strong contribution, like Cavan Biggio, Max Pentecost and Juan Kelly, no one put together as strong of a season over quite as many games as Panas.
Honourable Mention: Cavan Biggio, Max Pentecost, Juan Kelly
Blue Jays from Away Pitcher of the Year
Lefty Ryan Borucki had an outstanding season that started in Dunedin. While he started in Dunedin, this season, he had a very different result after getting hit so hard he was sent back to Lansing in 2017. This year, Borucki started in Dunedin, going 6-5 with a 3.58 ERA and 1.24 WHIP, striking out 109 in 98 innings with just 27 walks, before moving up to double-A New Hampshire and triple-A Buffalo where he thrived at both levels. Still, he had some good competition from Canadian Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) who had a better ERA (3.39) and struck out a batter per inning (138), and from Conor Fisk, who led the club with 152 1/3 innings while putting together a 3.84 ERA and a better WHIP than Borucki (1.22). It was a tough choice but we give it to Borucki.
Honourable Mention: Jordan Romano, Conor Fisk, Josh DeGraaf
Blue Jays from Away Reliever of the Year
The D-Jays' best relievers all started the season in Lansing before finishing in Dunedin. Jackson McClelland (1.07 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 25 K, 8 BB, 33 2/3 IP) was a dominant closer, breaking out this year while Kirby Snead sidewound his way to a 1.36 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 26 strikeouts and 12 walks in 33 innings. Zach Jackson was a strikeout machine for much of the season, whiffing 43 in 31 innings with a 2.03 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, walking 18 and Danny Young walked just nine batters in 30 1/3 innings, striking out 27 with a 1.02 WHIP and 2.08 ERA. With so much choice, we're going to go with with the safest decision. Congrats to Jackson McClelland, our Reliever of the Year.
Honourable Mention: Kirby Snead, Zach Jackson, Danny Young, Ryan Cook
The Dunedin Blue Jays' starting rotation featured, among others, a Canadian with an injury history, a rising lefty and an innings eater.
In terms of starts made for the Dunedin Blue Jays, Markham, Ont., native Jordan Romano led the way. He made 28 appearances, 26 of them to start the game, tossing 138 innings with a 3.39 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. Romano led the D-Jays in strikeouts with 138, giving him strikeouts to 22.6% of batters faced while he walked 8.8%. A slightly high BABIP (.344) and a low ground ball rate (35.5%) indicate that there could be some positive regression for Romano in the future. Romano may have tired down the stretch, putting up a 4.10 ERA with a .708 OPS against in the final two months of the year, whereas he had a 2.86 ERA and .661 OPS against in the first three months.
It also appears as if the Blue Jays started holding Romano back in terms of how many innings he was throwing. In back-to-back starts at the beginning of July, Romano threw seven innings, eclipsing the 90-pitch mark both times, but he only threw 90 pitches or more once for the rest of the season. Most importantly, however, was the fact that Romano pitched the entire year without injury in his first full season beyond his 2015 Tommy John surgery. The Jays' 10th-round pick in 2014, Romano could very well begin his Age-25 season in double-A next year.
The Blue Jays have several "Connor"s in their organization, in addition to one "Conner" but no one spells his name like Conor Fisk. Fisk, 25, was a 24th-round pick of the Blue Jays in 2014 and has turned himself into one of the most durable and steadfast pitchers in the organization. Fisk led the Dunedin Blue Jays with 152 1/3 innings over 28 outings (including 22 starts) and had a 3.84 ERA and 1.22 WHIP, striking out 17.6% and walking 5.2%. That low walk rate helped Fisk, as did his 44.4% ground-ball rate as he was able to get slightly more ground outs than air outs (1.10 GO/AO ratio). Fisk struggled in June (6.75 ERA and 1.90 WHIP) but got things together, posting a 3.22 ERA and .642 OPS against in the final three months of the season. Fisk is likely to head to New Hampshire next year after spending the bulk of two seasons in Dunedin.
Lefty Ryan Borucki started his second consecutive year with the Dunedin Blue Jays. In 2016, things got off on the wrong foot as he had a 14.40 ERA through 20 innings before spending the rest of the season back in Lansing. After making huge strides, the 23-year-old Borucki, who has missed much of the 2012, 2013 and 2015 seasons due to injuries, was back in Dunedin to start 2017 and, for the month of April, we were wondering if it was more of the same. In four starts, Borucki had a 6.52 ERA and .808 OPS, allowing 18 runs (14 earned) in 19 1/3 innings. But from that point on, things turned around and Borucki punctuated his time in Dunedin with just one more start allowing over four earned runs and with two 10-strikeout games.
By the middle of July, Borucki had amassed 98 innings with the Blue Jays, posting a 3.58 ERA and 1.24 WHIP, striking out 26.5% of batters and walking only 6.6%. He was promoted to New Hampshire and made his first double-A start on July 23, bringing his newfound confidence with him. In seven starts with the Fisher Cats, Borucki completed seven innings five times and struck out seven batters four times. He finished his time with the Fisher Cats with a 1.94 ERA and 0.84 WHIP, striking out 23.5% and walking only 4.5% before he was given one final promotion, making a start in Triple-A with the Buffalo Bisons and throwing six scoreless innings with one walk and six strikeouts. Borucki is a player who may start in double-A next year but will be on a fast track if he shows anywhere near the dominance he had in the last few months of the season. Buffalo for a couple of months is well in the cards and he could even arrive in Toronto next year.
Dominican lefty Angel Perdomo was also seen as a pitcher who might move up to Dunedin and mature this year. Leading the Lugnuts in strikeouts in 2016, Perdomo, who has been in the Jays' system since 2012, had mixed results before succumbing to injury in July. Perdomo tossed 75 1/3 innings with a 3.70 ERA and 1.55 WHIP in 16 starts. He lost 10% of his strikeout rate, dropping to 19.1% this year with Dunedin from 29.1% in Lansing last year, and his walk rate, already high at 10.1% in 2016, rose to 12.6% with Dunedin this year. Perdomo only worked two innings each in his last two starts, his final one of the season being on July 6 before he was put on the DL. Look for Perdomo, 23, to be back in Dunedin next year.
Righty Josh DeGraaf, 24, showed how valuable he can be for the second year in a row, moving between a starting and bullpen role for the Dunedin Blue Jays and New Hampshire Fisher Cats. With Dunedin, DeGraaf had an excellent 3.32 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, striking out 20.8% and walking just 5.3% over 105 innings. Interestingly, in his 15 starts, he had a 3.01 ERA and 1.09 WHIP while he had a 5.40 ERA and 1.54 WHIP in 11 2/3 innings as a reliever. De Graaf moved up to New Hampshire for nine games from May 7 to June 7, pitching mostly in relief with a 3.45 ERA and 1.60 WHIP in 15 2/3 innings, striking out 16.2% of batters and walking 14.7%. I can see DeGraaf back in Dunedin to start the 2017 season but a New Hampshire assignment wouldn't be out of the question.
Blue Jays' 2016 first-round draft pick T.J. Zeuch struggled through an injury-plagued 2017 season. The 6-foot-7, 22-year-old righty only made 12 appearances for the D-Jays, pitching 58 2/3 innings with a 3.38 ERA and 1.36 WHIP, striking out only 17.5% of batters and walking 6.5% despite getting an outstanding 61.5% ground ball rate. Zeuch only managed to make 10 appearances before getting hurt, missing all of June and July and throwing two rehab outings in the GCL, allowing four earned runs in four innings. He pitched again for Dunedin on August 12, allowing seven runs (three earned on four hits and two walks with just one strikeout before returning to the DL and resurfacing on August 28 with the GCL Blue Jays, firing three innings, allowing only one hit and one walk, while striking out three. He returned again to Dunedin, throwing four scoreless innings at the Clearwater Threshers, striking out three. Zeuch also got a start in the postseason, throwing four innings of one-hit ball, giving up an unearned run, walking one and striking out one. Zeuch could start 2018 in Dunedin again, especially if the team is concerned about his healthy. I can see a month or two there before moving up to New Hampshire.
Twenty-four-year-old Hawaiian lefty Tayler Saucedo has been a swing man for a couple of seasons in A-ball and has shown some maddening inconsistency from outing to outing. Saucedo started his 2017 in the Lansing bullpen but also got into three starts, posting a 4.50 ERA and 1.50 WHIP, striking out 20.3% of batters and walking 8.8%. Moved up to Dunedin, he started in 10 of his 16 appearances, putting up somewhat similar numbers with a 4.47 ERA and 1.60 WHIP, but his strikeout rate fell to 18.7% and his walk rate spiked to 11.3% over 56 1/3 innings. Saucedo is an enigma, his ground ball rates rose in Dunedin but he hasn't been able to sustain any good stretches. Saucedo allowed four runs in 6 1/3 innings in his last start but just one unearned run in 11 2/3 innings in the two before that, but the two starts before that had him giving up nine runs in 7 2/3 innings. I'm sure Saucedo will have another chance to figure out a way to produce consistently but I think he'll do that in Dunedin to start 2018.
The Blue Jays tagged veteran minor leaguer John Straka to rejoin the the organization late in the season when they needed an extra arm to help get through the year. Straka, 27, had pitched in New Hampshire last year but was pitching in the independent American Association to start the year. He made 10 starts for St. Paul, posting a 6.02 ERA and 1.72 WHIP over 55 1/3 innings with 21 walks and 37 strikeouts. Straka pitched three times for the Fisher Cats, getting lit up to the tune of an 8.18 ERA and 2.09 WHIP, walking three and striking out nine in 11 innings. He moved down to Dunedin where he made five starts, posting a much improved 3.41 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, striking out only 12.2% and walking 4.9% in 29 innings. It's unclear whether the Jays will re-sign Straka for 2018 but he likely won't rejoin the organization unless there's an emergency.
Few of the Dunedin Blue Jays' best bullpen pitchers started the season in Dunedin but they made a big impact, helping the club to a co-championship in the Florida State League.
It's hard to believe that Adonys Cardona, now 23, has been with the Blue Jays for seven years. Cardona took home a signing bonus of $2.8 million in 2010 and has never really made good on his promise thanks to injuries and ineffectiveness. Cardona spent his second year in the FSL, throwing a career-high 48 1/3 innings with a 7.26 ERA and 2.19 WHIP, higher than his numbers at the same level last year. While he struck out more batters (18.6%) than he did last year, he still walked a ton of hitters (16.1%) and appears to have given up a lot of hard contact (25.5% line-drive rate) although his .417 BABIP is unsustainably high. His minor league contract is expiring after this season and it will be interesting to see if the Blue Jays retain Cardona on a new deal, especially considering the investment they put into his signing.
Twenty-five-year-old righty Philip Walby was picked up by the Blue Jays in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft this offseason and the Blue Jays hoped to get more out of his arm than the Yankees and the Nationals had. Walby started his season with the Lansing Lugnuts and, after a rough debut, giving up four runs in 1 2/3 innings, he pitched very effectively for the rest of the month before being promoted to Dunedin. There, he made 34 appearances, logging 50 innings with a 5.76 ERA and 1.58 WHIP. While walks had been his Achilles Heel, Walby's high, but tolerable 10.4% walk rate was paired with lackluster strikeout rate (16.5%) while he generated a lot of ground balls (54.2%). In Lansing, he had a better strikeout rate (21.4%) but a higher walk rate (11.9%) in 9 2/3 innings. Because Walby had been released by the Yankees, and signed on a minor league deal by Washington before he was selected in the Rule 5 draft, he may be eligible to become a free agent at the end of the season.
Versatile righty Ryan Cook is one of the more underrated relief arms in the Jays' system but he quietly had a great season until injuries derailed his second half. Assigned to Dunedin out of spring training, Cook tossed 50 2/3 innings with the Jays, posting a strong 2.31 ERA and 1.16 WHIP, striking out 20.8% and walking a rather-high 12.1%. Still, Cook was able to come in and throw multiple innings, tossing three frames in relief on five occasions. Cook only pitched twice after going on the DL the first time in late July. Look for him to start back in Dunedin, mostly because I think that there's going to be a big roster crunch among relievers in New Hampshire next year.
Six-foot-5 righty Jackson McClelland emerged as a hard-throwing bullpen candidate for the Blue Jays in 2017, reportedly losing some weight and getting fit, showing some increased arm strength in the process. The 23-year-old Californian was a 15th-round pick in 2015 and started his third season in the Jays' system with Lansing, lighting a fire behind him. He went 8/9 in save opportunities for the Lugnuts, posting a stellar 1.80 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, striking out 21.3% of batters but leaving something desired in a 12.5% walk rate in 20 innings. Once he moved up to Dunedin, however, he kept improving, striking out 18.4% but walking only 5.9% and getting a 52.0% ground ball rate while posting a 1.07 ERA and 1.04 WHIP and saving all seven games he was given the opportunity to. McClelland's emergence has been one of the good-news stories for the 2017 Blue Jays minor league system and we're looking for him to either start 2018 back in Dunedin for a month or so, or he'll start the season up in New Hampshire.
Six-foot-4 Oklahoman righty Zach Jackson showed Blue Jays fans why the Jays selected him in the third round of the 2016 draft. He racked up strikeouts like few others in the Jays system and had a period when he was one of the most dominant relievers in the minor leagues. Jackson, 22, started his season with the Lansing Lugnuts, having a 3.15 ERA and 1.05 WHIP despite the fact that he still walked 9.8% of batters with his 30.5% strikeout rate in 20 innings. He baffled hitters even more in Dunedin, logging 31 innings with a 2.03 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, allowing only 19 hits but he walked 14.0% of batters, striking out 33.3%. For Jackson, command will always be an issue, given his herky-jerky pitching motion but if he can get that down to the 9-10% range, he can be a very effective reliever. Look for him to start back in Dunedin but with a promotion in June if he can dominate hitters the same way.
Canadian Tom Robson (Ladner, B.C.) was climbing uphill from a couple of rough seasons following his Tommy John surgery in 2014/15. Robson tossed 34 2/3 innings for Dunedin, putting up his best numbers since 2013 with a 3.05 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, striking out 20.6% and walking only 7.5%. That walk total is particularly satisfying to see since walks had been a huge problem since his return from surgery. Robson was also back to his ground-balling best, getting a whopping 65.0% of batted balls on the ground, hearkening back to his best season in 2013. In July, Robson was promoted to New Hampshire, making two appearances and throwing 3 2/3 innings, allowing a run on two hits and one walk with one strikeout before landing on the DL where he remained until the end of the year. Look for a healthy Robson, now 24, in New Hampshire next year.
Twenty-two-year-old lefty (who turns 23 on October 7) Kirby Snead was a 10th-round pick by the Blue Jays in 2016 and he rose through Lansing and Dunedin, putting up some impressive numbers. The sidearmer threw 22 1/3 innings in Lansing to start the year, with a strong 2.42 ERA and 1.25 WHIP, striking out an outstanding 32.3% of batters but also walking 14.0%. He had a 52.2% ground ball rate before moving up to Dunedin in mid-June where he was even better, with a 1.36 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 20.2% strikeout rate and 9.3% walk rate, getting a whopping 66.3% of his balls in play on the ground. Snead also picked up eight saves for the D-Jays. He will probably start the season either in Dunedin or New Hampshire in 2018.
Jon Wandling pitched just 2 2/3 innings this year, allowing four runs on three hits and a walk with two strikeouts before he was released at the end of May, shortly after being activated off the DL.
The Dunedin Blue Jays' hitters weren't impressive for the first half of the season, only taking flight in the second half, once prospects like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette bolstered the ranks. But since the Wondertwins spent most of their time in Lansing, we won't be discussing them here. Read on to find out more about the players who spent most of their time with the class A Advanced Dunedin Blue Jays.
For the catchers, Michael De La Cruz led the way in terms of games played, catching 48 games among 58 played for Dunedin. For the D-Jays, De La Cruz, 24, hit .246/.308/.332 with 11 doubles and two home runs in 199 at bats. De La Cruz walked in 8.6% of his plate appearances and struck out in 21.2%, a career-high figure (outside of a 23.5% rate in 13 games with the GCL in 2013). "De La" did bounce around a bit, starting his season in Lansing and hitting .200/.288/.244 in 13 games there, and he had a seven-game stint in New Hampshire, hitting .500/.477/.773 with three doubles and a home run in just 22 at bats. De La Cruz threw out 30% of potential base stealers in Dunedin and he could begin in Dunedin or New Hampshire next year, likely in a backup role.
At the age of 27, Peterborough, Ont., native Mike Reeves played in 27 games for the Dunedin Blue Jays and another seven with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats before retiring. Reeves, a 21st-round draft pick in 2013, reached his highest level (double-A) in 2017 before deciding to call it a career. Reeves struggled with the bat, hitting .192/.315/.288 with four doubles and two home runs in 83 at bats while hitting .286/.375/.381 with two doubles in 21 at bats in double-A.
While 2014 first-round draft pick Max Pentecost was active behind the plate and in the lineup regularly, he only caught 19 games for the D-Jays, getting into 71 games overall with mid-season and late-season stints on the DL. Pentecost hit a very solid .291/.355/.495 with eight doubles, a triple and nine home runs until his first stint on the DL but didn't hit a home run after he returned, hitting .250/.291/.327 with six doubles and a triple. Overall, it was a very solid season for Pentecost, with a .276/.332/.434 slash line but his numbers from July and early August put a real damper on a phenomenal first half despite the fact that Pentecost was both a mid-season and post-season All-Star in the Florida State League. His walk rate of 7.3% was solid and his strikeout rate of 19.7% was quite acceptable, especially when compared with his 32.7% K rate that he had in 12 games with Dunedin at the end of 2016. Look for Pentecost to possibly start back in Dunedin next year, getting some more duties behind the plate (where he threw out 47% of the potential base stealers in 2017) or else he could start the year in New Hampshire.
In his sixth year in the Blue Jays' organization, infielder Juan Kelly (who also caught a few games) continues to be a steady presence in the lineup for whichever team he plays for. Spending all of 2017 in Dunedin, Kelly hit a very solid .272/.342/.412 with 29 doubles, four triples and 10 home runs. Kelly walked in 9.4% of his plate appearances while striking out in 20.4%, both numbers around the same as he had last year in Lansing (10.4% walk rate and 20.6% strikeout rate) and while his power numbers fell a bit (.175 ISO in 2016 and .139 ISO in 2017), the Florida State League tends to suppress offence. One concern is Kelly's ability to hit from the right side of the plate. He had an .846 OPS from the left side, but just a .530 OPS from the right side with only three extra-base hits (a double, a triple and a home run). The 23-year-old played 85 games at first and another 29 at third, committing a high number of errors at first (16) and at third (six). I'd expect Kelly, heading into his final year of his original contract, to be in New Hampshire.
Twenty-two-year-old Cavan Biggio also spent the whole year in Dunedin, making himself one of the D-Jays' most consistent contributors. He hit .233/.342/.363 overall, hitting 17 doubles, five triples and 11 home runs (second on the club), stealing 11 bases in 18 attempts. He struck out in a rather high 25.2% of his plate appearances but had a very healthy walk rate of 13.3% while posting a career-high .130 ISO. Biggio was sure-handed at second base, committing just 13 errors in 116 games. In the playoffs, Biggio hit .167/.286/.417 with a home run in three games. I'd expect to see Biggio get a shot at second base in New Hampshire but his way there could be blocked. He'll only be 23 shortly after the 2018 season starts and his relative youth could have him repeating Dunedin to start the year.
J.C. Cardenas was a versatile infielder for the Dunedin Blue Jays playing 53 games at shortstop while adding another 12 at second base and two at third. Not known for his bat, Cardenas hit .206/.262/.263 in 252 plate appearances, hitting six doubles, two triples and a home run but walked only 6.7% of the time and struck out 30.6%. When he played in New Hampshire for nine games, hitting .200/.250/.200, he walked in 6.1% of his plate appearances and struck out in 30.3%. Obviously, the strikeouts need to come down for Cardenas, especially if he's going to play more often. I can see the 23-year-old infielder who was born in Cuba and drafted in the sixth round of the 2015 draft out of Barry University in Florida staying in Dunedin for another year.
Twenty-four-year-old infielder Matt Dean had a tough season in 2017, struggling with injury. In the sixth year of his initial contract, Dean played 40 games with Dunedin and 33 with New Hampshire, hitting .247/.325/.342 with six doubles, a triple and two home runs in 146 at bats with Dunedin, walking in 9.6% of plate appearances and striking out in 30.7%. Moving up to Dunedin, he hit .196/.282/.351 with four home runs over 111 plate appearances, walking 10.8% of the time and striking out a whopping 35.1% of the time. Heading into his final year on his initial contract, Dean is likely to get another shot at double-A but will need to strike out less and hit more to stick around.
Carl Wise, 23, had injuries hamper his 2017 season. He didn't start his year until May 10, getting things under way with the Dunedin Blue Jays and hitting a lacklustre .172/.198/.207 with a paltry 3.3% walk rate and high 29.7% strikeout rate. Things did not look good for Wise in his 91 plate appearances but that was it for his year, 24 games and 91 plate appearances, as he was done before the calendar turned to July. Wise will probably start back in Dunedin if he's healthy.
The Blue Jays' first-round pick of the 2012 draft, drafted ahead of even Marcus Stroman, was D.J. Davis, who has had an up and down professional career. The 23-year-old from Wiggins, Miss., repeated the Advanced-A level in 2017, playing the outfield (mostly left field) with the Dunedin Blue Jays. Compared to his 2016 stats at the same level, there's a lot to like with Davis's numbers as he hit .258/.331/.324 with nine doubles, four triples and two home runs, stealing 32 bases in 43 attempts. He looks like he's using his speed much more effectively on the bases and his the 37-point rise in BABIP from year to year doesn't completely account for his 61-point batting average increase, showing that he's just hitting better. In addition, while his walk rate dropped to 8.8% (from 11.3% in 2016), Davis got his strikeout rate under control, down to 23.2% (from 31.1% in 2016). The biggest thing that can make us hopeful about Davis's season is that from the beginning of July to the end of the season, Davis's slash line was .293/.371/.378 with 16 stolen bases in 20 attempts and almost all of his extra-base hits come from the final two months of the season. This bodes well for the future and hopefully he'll be able to make an adjustment when he gets a chance to play in double-A, probably next year at some point.
Lane Thomas, 22, started the season with some solid numbers in Dunedin, hitting .252/.319/.383 with 12 doubles, six triples and four home runs in 274 at bats before he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals on July 2. He spent much of the rest of the year on the DL.
Like D.J. Davis, 24-year-old Torontonian Connor Panas turned things on at the end of the season. A ninth-round draft pick out of Canisius College in 2015, Panas slugged his way to a league home run title, hitting 18 home runs with a .276/.364/.475 slash line with 20 doubles and three triples, walking in 8.9% of his plate appearances and striking out in 21.6%, a career-low. Panas was named to the Post-Season All-Star Team for the FSL, showing how well he ended his season, hitting .315/.388/.590 with 14 of his home runs after July 1. Panas could very easily start his 2018 season in New Hampshire but it will interesting to see how the rosters line up.
Twenty-three-year-old outfielder Josh Almonte got into 49 games in an injury plagued season, hitting .221/.271/.286 with three doubles, two triples and a home run, stealing five bases in six attempts. Almonte did increase his walk rate to 6.0% while lowering his strikeout rate to 26.9% but it will be interesting to see where he fits in the Blue Jays' minor league matrix next season.
When the Blue Jays traded Jason Grilli to the Texas Rangers, they got Eduard Pinto back. Pinto, 22, is a Venezuelan lefthanded-hitting outfielder who only played 15 games with the Blue Jays before getting hurt. While he hit .311/.358/.446 with 10 doubles, a triple and four home runs with the Rangers' Advanced-A club in the Carolina League, he hit only .149/.208/.170 with the Blue Jays in only 47 at bats. Pinto could be back in Dunedin next year to show what he can do, but it's most certainly better than what he did in 2017.
And we come to Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.). The 24-year-old Torontonian actually played more in Dunedin than at any other level in a disappointing season that involved a concussion in spring training and then a knee injury when he was trying to come back. Pompey hit .259/.375/.370 in Dunedin and .118/.118/.176 in five games with Buffalo before he went back on the DL, staying there until the season ended. Pompey's position in 2018 is a big question mark. If he can return healthy, he could challenge for a big-league roster spot. If not, he should have one more option year to play with.
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The 2017 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook is now available! Check out the Handbook page for more information!