GCL Blue Jays 2017 Report: Blue Jays from Away Awards

 Dom Abbadessa was the only regular GCL Blue Jays player to have an OPS above .800 and had a .340/.402/.408 slash line in 39 games. Photo Credit: Jay Blue

Dom Abbadessa was the only regular GCL Blue Jays player to have an OPS above .800 and had a .340/.402/.408 slash line in 39 games. Photo Credit: Jay Blue

By Jay Blue

Blue Jays From Away

It's that time of year that we begin our reports summarizing the season for the Blue Jays' minor league affiliates. We continue with the Blue Jays' complex team in Florida, the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays.

The GCL Blue Jays had a very strong season in 2017 under manager Luis Hurtado, finishing in second place in their division and narrowly missing the playoffs. They had a 35-25 record, slightly outplaying their 34-26 Pythagorean record. The Blue Jays were a slightly younger-than-average offensive team and finished 11th out of 17 teams in the league with 4.33 runs/game, slightly below the league average of 4.51 runs/game. The pitching was outstanding though. They averaged 3.70 runs per game against, well below the league average of 4.51 runs/game with a staff that was 0.1 years older than 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.

Dominic Abbadessa 5.08

D.J. Neal 4.83

Otto Lopez 3.83

Davis Schneider 3.67

Maverik Buffo 3.5

Joseph Reyes 3

Yhordegny Kelly 2.75

Luis De Los Santos 2.67

Joi Concepcion, Felipe Castaneda2.5

Matthew Gunter 2.33

Hagen Danner 1.67

Elieser Medrano, Jonelvy Molina, Patrick Morris 1.5

Claudio Galva 1.33

Jose Theran, Justin Watts1

Roither Hernandez 0.83

Reese McGuire, DJ Daniels 0.75

Logan Warmoth, Brandon Grudzielanek, Christian Lopes, Anderson Nunez, Ryan Hissey 0.5

Aldo Ovando, Marcus Reyes, Emilio Guerrero 0.33

Congrats to Dom Abbadessa, the Blue Jays from Away Player of the Game Champion for the GCL Blue Jays! Abbadessa was excellent in his second go-round in the league and showed us all that there's a lot more to come from the young outfielder!

Blue Jays from Away Player of the Year

We're not going to hesitate to hand Dom Abbadessa a second piece of hardware as the Player of the Year! Abbadessa was the only regular to have an OPS above .800 and had a .340/.402/.408 slash line, playing 39 games.

Honourable Mention: D.J. Neal, Luis De Los Santos

Blue Jays from Away Pitcher of the Year

As we mentioned above, the GCL Blue Jays had an excellent pitching staff so there are several pitchers who deserve this honour. With that said, we're going to go with Maverik Buffo who was utterly dominant in his debut season. The 21-year-old had a 0.53 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in 34 innings, striking out 36 and walking only two batters all year. He (very) narrowly beats out lefty Matt Gunter who threw 38 1/3 innings with a 0.94 ERA and 0.81 WHIP, striking out 36 and walking four.

Honourable Mention: Matt Gunter

Blue Jays from Away Reliever of the Year

This award is another very tough contest to decide. While Gunter led the team in innings pitched, he did only make 40% of his outings as a starter and could be considered a reliever (although I won't consider him as such). Connor Law had a 1.54 ERA in 23 1/3 innings while Gaudy Ramirez had a 1.21 ERA and just 11 hits allowed in 22 1/3 innings at 19 years old. Jonathan Cheshire walked only one batter in 19 1/3 innings. With all that talent, I'm going with the man the Blue Jays considered an experiment. Emerson Jimenez, despite being 22, was pitching for the first time as a professional after having broken in as a shortstop in the Rockies' organization, reaching double-A in 2017 before being released. Jimenez became a pitcher and didn't show any growing pains at all, throwing 15 scoreless innings and giving up only six hits and five walks while striking out 23, showing a dominance that is almost unheard of in converted pitchers.

Honourable Mention: Connor Law, Jonathan Cheshire, Gaudy Ramirez

Starting Pitchers

We'll start our in-depth look at the pitching staff of the GCL Blue Jays by looking at starting pitchers. Our definition of a "starter" is a little more complicated for this club (and for the Bluefield Blue Jays and Vancouver Canadians) because the Blue Jays decided to control the innings of some of the club's newly drafted players by having them start and only working an inning or two (or three). This creates a weird scenario wherein one pitcher in particular had six starts (tied for second place on the club) but only nine innings with the GCL Blue Jays (that pitcher threw slightly more innings in Vancouver anyways, so he won't be discussed with the GCL Jays).

So, after much ado, here are the "starting" pitchers for the GCL Jays.

Eighteen-year-old Joi Concepcion got his season off to a fantastic start in the DSL before moving over to the GCL upon the start of the season. The 6-foot-5 Dominican righty dominated in the month of June making four starts with the DSL Jays, posting a 1.06 ERA and a miniscule 0.65 WHIP in 17 innings in the Dominican Republic, striking out a whopping 27.4% of batters and walking just 4.8%. The walk rates skyrocketed as Concepcion crossed into Florida, jumping to 18.2% while his strikeout rate fell to 18.8%. Still there were flashes of a strong pitcher to come as he had a 3.78 ERA overall in the GCL with a 1.56 WHIP, not bad for a pitcher making his pro debut this year while also moving to a foreign country. Look for Concepcion to either repeat in the GCL or move up to Bluefield as a 19 year old in 2018.

At 21, Maverik Buffo was our Pitcher of the Year for the GCL Jays. The Blue Jays' 34th-round pick in 2017, Buffo was absolutely dominant in the lowest affiliated league in the US. A 6-foot-2 righty from Brigham Young University, Buffo threw in 11 games, starting six of them, and had a 0.53 ERA and 0.88 WHIP over 34 innings, walking just 1.5% of batters (two walks all year) and striking out 27.5%. Without having seen him, it's not easy to figure out how Buffo will fare next year. Many college-age pitchers are dominant in the GCL and the real test for Buffo will be how he comes back in 2018. At the very least, he'll start the season in Vancouver, but could very well begin in Lansing, where he got a taste of the Midwest League flavour by pitching in the Crosstown Showdown against Michigan State University.

 Felipe Castaneda. Photo Credit: Jay Blue

Felipe Castaneda. Photo Credit: Jay Blue

I saw 17-year-old righty Felipe Castaneda in spring training and was very interested to see how he'd do in his professional debut. Castaneda, a 6-foot-1 Mexican, put up some decent numbers with some of the usual growing pains experienced by many young pitchers. Castaneda tossed 35 1/3 innings in nine outings (six starts) with a 4.08 ERA and 1.75 WHIP, walking 11.1% of batters and striking out 18.1%. All the numbers indicate that he won't be hurt by another year in the GCL but could move up to Bluefield based on a strong performance in the Fall Instructional League and extended spring training.

Another 17-year-old, Alvery De Los Santos made his professional debut in the GCL, much like Felipe Castaneda. De Los Santos had some other issues rather than just simply his control. De Los Santos struggled with inconsistency early and then didn't pitch again after an August 3 outing. Overall, De Los Santos threw 20 2/3 innings with a 6.53 ERA and 1.55 WHIP, striking out 16.0% and walking just 4.3%. While he didn't appear to have trouble throwing strikes, he did seem to be very hittable, given the low-ish strikeout rate and the high number of hits (28) and home runs (5). Look for him to return to the GCL next year.

Another late-round pick of the Blue Jays who pitched in the GCL was Matt Gunter, a 22-year-old lefty out of Hawaii Pacific. Gunter was our runner up for Pitcher of the Year honours and had a sterling pro debut with a 0.94 ERA and 0.81 WHIP in 38 1/3 innings. Striking out 25.0% of batters and walking only 2.8%, Gunter was part of an outstanding one-two punch on the mound (along with Maverik Buffo). Like Buffo, it is expected that Gunter will skip at least one level next year and will probably start in Vancouver.

Roither Hernandez came to the Jays as a fairly exciting international free agent but succumbed to injury after just three professional starts. Hernandez, a 19-year-old 6-foot-4 Dominican righty, was excellent in his 11 1/3 innings so far as a pro, giving up just one run and two walks to help him to a 0.79 ERA and 0.97 WHIP, striking out 19.6% and walking 4.4%. We're certainly looking forward to what he can do next year when healthy but the fact that he was placed on the 60-day DL in the minor leagues is cause for concern.

While he didn't make very many starts (just two), 20-year-old lefty Claudio Galva (who turns 21 in October) was certainly used like a starter, throwing anywhere between three and six innings in all of his appearances. In his second professional season, first in the US, Galva threw 38 innings in nine outings, posting a 3.08 ERA and very solid 1.13 WHIP, both improvements on his numbers in the DSL last year. He impressed with his command, hitting just one batter and walking three for a 2.0% walk rate while striking out 15.0% while inducing a 1.69 groundout-to-airout ratio. Galva appears to be a strike-throwing, ground ball machine who will probably jump up a level or two next year. Look for him in Vancouver or even Lansing to start the year.

Eighteen-year-old Elieser Medrano had a successful first professional season being used as a swingman, throwing multiple innings in all of his outings before being shut down at the end of July. A 6-foot-2 Dominican righty, Medrano threw 23 innings with a 3.52 ERA and 1.48 WHIP, struggling with his control, walking 15.7% and striking out 25.5%. He could repeat the level until he gets a better handle of his control and is certainly not too old to return to the GCL.

Relief Pitchers

We begin with right-hander Justin Watts. Watts, who just turned 24 joined the GCL Blue Jays after being drafted in the 37th round this year out of Southern Indiana. The 6-foot-3 righty had a solid professional debut, tossing 32 1/3 innings in 17 appearances (including three starts), with a 3.62 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. Watts's rate stats were quite impressive as he struck out 25.2% of batters and walked 5.9%, showing a seamless transition to professional baseball. He did appear to give up a high rate of fly balls (46.3%) but also had a very low HR/FB rate (2.6%, average in them majors has been about 10%, but it may be higher this year) and a high infield fly ball rate (21.1%). Watts appears to be a fly ball pitcher but that trait may not bode well for him, particularly when he pitches in a league against older, stronger and better hitters who will be able to hit more balls out of the park. Look for him in Vancouver in 2018 as a 24 year old.

Adams Cuevas, a 21-year-old Dominican righty, came next on the list of appearances with 16, all out of the bullpen for the GCL Jays. Cuevas followed his strong DSL debut last year with a very solid GCL season with a 2.08 ERA, and 1.08 WHIP to go with a 22.3% strikeout rate and 8.7% walk rate. Cuevas was rewarded for his good season with an appearance in the Midwest League (giving up a run on two hits and a walk with two hit batters in two innings) before he pitched in the Crosstown Showdown against Michigan State University. Without having seen him in person, Cuevas's biggest claim to fame so far is his lofty ground ball rates that have hovered at 61% in his two professional seasons, getting far more ground balls than fly balls, inducing a lot of weak contact. I could see Cuevas moving to Vancouver or even Lansing next year, depending on how the brass feels after the Fall Instructional League and spring training.

 Juan Meza Photo Credit: Jay Blue

Juan Meza Photo Credit: Jay Blue

After getting $1.6 million as an international free agent in 2014, Juan Meza has struggled to make his presence felt on the mound. Finally, in his Age-19 year, Meza put up some promising numbers. The 6-foot-2 Venezuelan was used primarily in a relief role (and usually a mop-up role) this season but posted a 2.33 ERA and 1.29 WHIP over 19 1/3 innings, bringing his strikeout rate up to 16.9% (from 8.6% last year) and lowering his walk rate to 7.2% (from 11.1% last year in the GCL). Meza's future could be working out the bullpen or he could return to a starting role if the club feels that he's finding a way to get batters out. I can see him in Bluefield next year.

The Blue Jays signed 6-foot-4 righty Connor Law as a non-drafted free agent and sent him, like many NDFAs, to the Gulf Coast League. The 23 year-old went on to be very effective in the GCL, tossing 23 1/3 innings in 14 appearances (all out of the bullpen) with a 1.54 ERA and 1.03 WHIP, striking out 16.0% of batters while walking 5.3%. He moved up to the Appalachian League at the end of the season, making three appearances with Bluefield in the regular season, throwing five innings and not giving up a run, walking just one batter and giving up three hits with seven strikeouts (38.9% of batters). Law also made one appearance in the playoffs, giving up two runs on three hits (including only the second home run he gave up all season), striking out four in three innings. Law posted a very strong ground ball rate in the GCL (60.9%) while that number dropped a lot in his small sample size in Bluefield. Look for Law to either be in Bluefield or Vancouver next year.

Six-foot-three righty Danilo Manzueta had an interesting first year in America after a solid season in the DSL last year. The 20 year-old made his season debut with the GCL Blue Jays, making six appearances and, aside from a blip on July 20 when he gave up six runs (all unearned), he was pitching pretty well. He got called up to Dunedin for an outing on July 27, tossing 2/3 of an inning without allowing a hit or walk and striking out one before returning to the GCL for another eight appearances before moving up to the Lansing Lugnuts where he threw 1 2/3 innings against the Dayton Dragons, allowing three runs on five hits with two strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings. Overall in the GCL, Manzueta had a 2.55 ERA and 1.53 WHIP over 17 2/3 innings with an 8.6% walk rate and 16.1% strikeout rate. He was more of a fly ball pitcher, getting 0.85 ground balls per fly ball. Manzueta had a decent year but there wasn't anything popping out as exceptional. He's likely to move up to Bluefield or Vancouver next year but a Lansing assignment wouldn't surprise me.

At 19, Anderson Nunez pitched in the GCL with a decent first US season. Nunez had a few blips along the way and finished with a 4.03 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 12.1% walk rate and 12.9% strikeout rate. Clearly the high walk rate and low strikeout rate are going to be the focus of improvement and it also appeared that he gave up some pretty solid contact with a 24.4% line-drive rate. I can see Nunez returning to the GCL Jays next year.

Emmanuel Reyes, 19, moved up to the GCL in 2017 but wasn't able to duplicate the success he had in 2016 with the DSL Blue Jays. Reyes had a 5.48 ERA and 1.83 WHIP, striking out only 11.4% of batters and walking 12.4% in 21 1/3 innings. It's fairly clear that he'll need some more seasoning in the GCL.

Righty Jonathan Cheshire was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 36th round in 2017 and became the GCL Blue Jays' closer out of the gate. Cheshire dominated GCL opponents, throwing 19 1/3 innings with a 1.40 ERA and 0.52 WHIP, striking out 36.2% while walking just one batter, and it was an intentional walk. After racking up six saves, Cheshire was promoted to the Bluefield Blue Jays where he continued to blow hitters away, striking out 37.5% of batters without walking anyone in five innings and giving up just one hit (a solo home run). In the playoffs, Cheshire made one appearance, throwing 1 1/3 innings with a strikeout and one hit against. Cheshire, who will be 23 in November, is likely to move up to Vancouver next year.

Gaudy Ramirez started his Age-19 season in the Dominican Summer League and finished it in Lansing but made the bulk of his appearances with the GCL Blue Jays. Ramirez tossed thrice for the DSL Blue Jays, giving up two runs on two hits, walking seven and striking out nine in 6 1/3 innings before coming to Florida. There, he proceeded to turn things around, throwing 22 1/3 innings with a 1.21 ERA and 0.81 WHIP, striking out 29.7% of batters while walking only 7.7%. He got a nice reward at the end of the year, making an appearance with Lansing, giving up a run on two hits and a walk in one inning. Ramirez could end up anywhere between Bluefield and Lansing next year although I'd probably expect to see him in Bluefield.

The Blue Jays took a flyer on our Reliever of the Year, Emerson Jimenez, a 22-year-old Dominican who had reached double-A as a shortstop in the Rockies' organization. Jimenez seems to have taken to pitching instantly, dominating in nine appearances and 15 innings for the GCL Blue Jays. How dominant was he? He gave up just six hits and five walks (although he hit four batters) while striking out 23, without giving up a run. That's a 40.4% strikeout rate, which is practically unheard of, especially for a pitcher making his professional debut on the mound. Jimenez got a chance to visit Lansing for the Crosstown Showdown, striking out two Michigan State Spartans in two innings and could very well be headed to Lansing after spring training next year.

The Blue Jays signed 6-foot-9 righty Brennan Price at the end of July as a non-drafted free agent. At his height, he's probably a work-in-progress when it comes to his mechanics and he struggled in three outings, one on August 1, then next on August 30 and September 2. Price had a 10.80 ERA in 3 1/3 innings, giving up four runs on four hits (including a home run) with three walks and three strikeouts. But the story behind the story is that all four runs were allowed in his first outing in just 1/3 of an inning. Coming back almost a month later, he didn't walk anyone in those last two outings and finished on a high note, going two innings against the tough GCL Phillies with two strikeouts and just one hit allowed. I'd expect to see Price either back with the GCL Blue Jays or possibly in Bluefield.

Our final reliever for the GCL Blue Jays is Mike Estevez who was released after two outings in late-July/early-August. Technically released on September 11, he didn't pitch after August 2, finishing the year with two runs against in 1 1/3 innings, allowing three hits (including a home run) with one walk and one strikeout.

Hitters

We finish our look at the 2017 GCL 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 GCL squad had a few prominent hitting prospects.

Catchers

Hagen Danner spent the most time behind the plate for the Blue Jays and the 18-year-old (turning 19 on September 30) was able to throw out 21% of the runners trying to steal with six passed balls (by far the most on the club). Danner, the Blue Jays' second-round pick in the draft this year, struggled to adjust to the pro game, hitting .160/.207/.248 but did show some power, hitting five doubles and two home runs. Danner struck out 26.5% of the time and walked only 3.7% indicating that there are two areas in which some improvement is needed. While Danner could return to the GCL next year, there is a possibility that he moves up to Bluefield.

Jonelvy Molina, 20, moved up from the Dominican Summer League this year and had a very similar year to last year with one big step forward. Molina threw out 32% of runners and had just two passed balls in 19 games but he hit for significantly more power in 2017 than he did in 2016, posting a .133 ISO thanks to four doubles and two home runs in just 80 plate appearances. Molina hit .240/.278/.373 overall, striking out in 13.8% of appearances (down from 14.3% in 2016) and walked in 5.0% (up from 4.8% in 2016). Despite being a righthanded hitter, Molina struggled mightily against lefties, hitting just .095/.174/.238 against them with a .296/.321/.426 slash line against righties. Look for Molina to move to Bluefield or Vancouver.

Andres Guerra, 20, was the GCL Blue Jays' third catcher, moving up after two years in the DSL. Guerra hit just .114/.204/.182 with three doubles in 50 plate appearances and the Venezuelan struck out 26.0% of the time with a strong 10.0% walk rate. Guerra did, however, throw out 36% of potential base stealers, leading the club in that statistic.

Infielders

Nineteen-year-old Dominican (although he was born in New York) Joseph Reyes was the GCL Blue Jays' regular first baseman, playing 30 games at the position. Reyes had a solid first year in professional ball, hitting .241/.332/.297 with five doubles and two triples in 187 plate appearances with a strong 12.3% walk rate. He did, however, strike out in 29.4% of his plate appearances, clearly giving him some work for next year. A left-handed batter, Reyes struggled against lefties, hitting .171/.237/.171 against them and, despite a strong July (when he got five of his seven extra-base hits), he faltered in August, registering just nine hits in his last 20 games. Reyes might move up but he could stick around in the GCL next year too.

Yhordegny Kelly, 20, moved up from the DSL Blue Jays to the GCL Blue Jays and, while he showed his big-time power and patience at the plate, he also struck out a ton. The 6-foot-3 Dominican hit .239/.357/.349 with seven doubles, a triple and a home run in 129 plate appearances, bolstering his batting average with a 14.0% walk rate but he also struck out 34.1% of the time. Like Reyes, Kelly had a strong July (hitting .340/.378/.540) but struggled in August (.146/.305/.188), striking out in 22 of his 59 plate appearances for the month. Kelly could also move up to Bluefield but could also stay in the GCL, depending on how some other puzzle pieces (and next year's draft) come together.

The Blue Jays' 14th-round pick in 2017, left-handed hitting first-baseman Patrick Morris, only got into 18 games, playing from the middle of July to the middle of August. The 18-year-old acquitted himself well, hitting .259/.328/.315 with a 9.8% walk rate and a 24.6% strikeout rate, hitting three doubles in 61 plate appearances. Of the three first basemen, Morris is probably the most likely to start 2018 in the GCL but, with the Instructional League and spring training ahead, there's certainly no guarantee of that.

The Blue Jays brought 19-year-old infielder Jose Theran to the US after a year in the DSL and he thrived in his new environment, hitting .270/.346/.344 in 187 plate appearances with a solid, 9.6% walk rate (up from 6.3% in 2016) and a decent 18.7% strikeout rate (way up from his mark last year, also 6.3%). Theran isn't hitting for much power right now, just a .074 ISO but he makes solid contact, as a 20.2% line drive rate indicates. The righthanded hitter struggled against lefties (.171/.256/.171), hitting all 10 of his doubles and his only triple against righthanded pitchers. Theran will probably move up to Bluefield next year.

Eighteen-year-old Dominican infielder Otto Lopez skipped over the Dominican Summer League and landed in the Gulf Coast League, posting a very strong professional debut, hitting .275/.361/.360 with a 9.4% walk rate and just an 11.3% strikeout rate. His .084 ISO, while low, isn't bad for someone so young and he hit six doubles, three triples and a home run in his 203 plate appearances. Lopez also showed some versatility, playing second base, shortstop and third base while also getting seven games in centre field and eight in left. Lopes should also move up to Bluefield or Vancouver next year.

Eighteen-year-old third baseman Davis Schneider was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 28th round of the 2017 draft signed for just $50,000, a low figure for a high school player, but he found a home in the GCL, showing a lot of potential. Called the smartest player on the team by manager Luis Hurtado, Schneider hit .238/.371/.393 with 12 doubles, a triple and four home runs in his 210 plate appearances, leading the club in home runs. He walked (17.1%) as much as he struck out (17.1%) and he appears to be getting solid contact, hitting 50% of his batted balls for fly balls and 16.4% for line drives. The Blue Jays will be careful with Schneider, giving him another year of short-season ball (in Bluefield or Vancouver) but, after playing in the Crosstown Showdown in Lansing this year, he could be a sleeper prospect.

Ricky Negron, 22, was selected by the Atlanta Braves in the 2017 draft but didn't sign with them, eventually inking a free-agent deal with the Blue Jays at the beginning of August. Negron didn't play the field much and hit .038/.107/.038 with just one single in 26 at bats in Florida and struck out in 42.9% of his plate appearances. He'll probably repeat a year in the GCL but, due to his age, may move up a level.

Shortstop Luis De La Santos was one of the offensive leaders for the GCL Blue Jays, hitting .288/.327/.397 with 11 doubles, three triples and a home run. Getting both a mid-season and a late-season call up to Lansing, De La Santos hit .143/.136/.143 in his 24 plate appearances in A ball. The concern with De La Santos is his low walk rate, coming in at 3.0% for the GCL Blue Jays while striking out at a 21.0% rate for the year. Still, his .109 ISO is strong for a 19 year old and he should move up a level or two next year. I could see him starting in Vancouver.

Twenty-three-year-old Evan McDonald signed with the Blue Jays in mid-July, played six games in Rookie Ball and then retired. He hit .125/.300/.125 with two singles in 16 at bats, walking four times and striking out seven while stealing three bases.

Outfielders

Six-foot-three right-handed hitting outfielder D.J. Daniels was the regular left fielder for the GCL Blue Jays, hitting .156/.248/.214 in 157 plate appearances. Daniels, who was drafted out of his North Carolina high school in the sixth round of the 2016 draft, showed considerable improvement in his numbers of his debut in 2016 but still had just five doubles and one home run, walking in 5.1% of his plate appearances (down from 6.1% in 2016) and striking out 36.3% of the time (down from 36.6% in 2016). The high strikeout and low walk rates are very concerning, particularly since this was Daniels's second year at the level. Still, he he hit 57 points higher than 2016 and his line-drive rate was more than double that of the previous year. He still hits too many infield fly balls (41.9% of his fly balls) but more solid contact likely caused his BABIP to jump over 100 points. Look for Daniels in Bluefield next year.

Nineteen-year-old Dom Abbadessa also returned to the GCL for a second time but, unlike Daniels, Abbadessa dominated the league this time around. The Jays' 2016 23rd-round pick out of Huntington Beach High School, Abbadessa hit .340/.402/.408 with four doubles and three triples in 164 plate appearances. Abbadessa also played in one game with Dunedin, striking out in three of his four at bats. Of concern is his low, 4.3% walk rate (up from 3.4% last year) while his 8.5% strikeout rate is excellent, down from 10.3% in 2016. Abbadessa had a very high .373 BABIP this year but that could be from an massively increased line drive rate (19.0% this year, 4.5% last year) and fewer fly ball outs. Abbadessa also stole 11 bases in 17 attempts, a pretty low ratio but shows some good speed. Abbadessa could jump over Bluefield and play in Vancouver next year but it really depends on who the Jays select in the 2018 draft.

Aldo Ovando, a 20-year-old Dominican outfielder, got the most time in right field. At 6-foot-5, he's got a big frame with power potential but he still hasn't tapped into it, hitting. 181/.242/.247 with two doubles, three triples and a home run in 182 plate appearances with the GCL Blue Jays. In 2017, Ovando took a step back when moving to a higher league and a new country. Ovando walked in 5.5% of his plate appearances (down from 7.0% in 2016) and struck out in 32.4% (way up from 26.9% in 2016) while seeing his ISO drop 11 points to .066. Ovando will likely repeat the year in the GCL, trying to cut down on his strikeouts and getting more balls in play.

Outfielder D.J. Neal was drafted by the Jays in the 26th round of the 2017 draft by the Blue Jays, coming out of college at South Carolina-Sumter. The 20 year-old acquitted himself very well in his professional debut, hitting .297/.341/.426 with seven doubles, two triples and three home runs. He also stole eight bases in 10 attempts, showing maturity in his base runner game. Neal didn't strike out a lot, taking a K in only 15.6% of his plate appearances but walked in only 4.8%. I can see Neal moving up to Vancouver next year, or at least Bluefield. He's another young player to keep an eye on as he moves up the ladder.

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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.