Lansing Lugnuts 2017 Report: Blue Jays from Away Awards
By Jay Blue
Blue Jays From Away
The Lansing Lugnuts were stocked with the Blue Jays two top prospects to start the year but even the Bo and Vlad show couldn't get the Lugs to the playoffs in 2017.
Under the leadership of Cesar Martin, who was managing in the Midwest League for the first time, the Lugnuts finished with the second-worst record in the Eastern Division, coming in at 63-73.
The Lugnuts' offence was dominant early and the club still finished with the second-best offence in the league, scoring 5.04 runs per game (well above the league average of 4.43 r/g) while having an offence that was 0.3 years above the league average age. The pitching was another story, however, with the Lugnuts' staff giving up 5.85 runs per game, the worst in the league and 0.4 runs worse than their next closest competition. The Lugnuts pitchers were 0.1 years older than the average league 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.
Bo Bichette 17.25
Edward Olivares 14
Rodrigo Orozco 8.33
Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. 7.83
Josh Palacios 6.9
Mitch Nay 6
Bradley Jones 5.83
Nash Knight 5.58
Patrick Murphy 5.5
J.B. Woodman, Yeltsin Gudino 4.75
Ridge Smith 4.08
Mike Ellenbest, Mattingly Romanin 4
Andy Ravel 3.17
Jake Thomas, Denis Diaz 2.83
Christian Williams 2.67
Nick Sinay, David Jacob 2.5
Ryan Hissey 2.33
Justin Maese 2
Geno Encina, Osman Gutierrez, Yennsy Diaz, Juliandry Higuera 1.5
Kyle Weatherly 1
Javier Hernandez 0.83
Tayler Saucedo, Griffin Glaude, Daniel Lietz, Luis Silva, Kevin Vicuna 0.5
Much like his win of the batting title in the Midwest League, even with a couple of months in Dunedin, no one on the Lugnuts could catch Bo Bichette's lead in the Player of the Game Championship. Congrats to Bo!
Blue Jays from Away Player of the Year
It's tough to go with anyone else at this point. In only 70 games, Bo Bichette had a 1.071 OPS, hitting .384/.448/.623 with 32 doubles, three triples and 10 home runs. While Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was also very impressive (.316/.409/.480) and Edward Olivares had an excellent year over 101 games (second on the club in games played), Bo was the Midwest League MVP, giving him a big edge.
Honourable Mention: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Edward Olivares
Blue Jays from Away Pitcher of the Year
As we've mentioned before, the Lansing Lugnuts' pitching was bad in 2017. Really bad. But that's not to say that there weren't any bright lights. Patrick Murphy was excellent when healthy and had a 2.94 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in 88 2/3 innings, striking out 57 and walking 33. While others threw more innings for the Lugnuts, no one was nearly as effective while seeing as much action.
Honourable Mention: Geno Encina, Yennsy Diaz, Tayler Saucedo
Blue Jays from Away Reliever of the Year
There were certainly more strong candidates for Reliever of the Year than for our previous category. In this category, we're really looking at partial years for most pitchers were moved up and down quickly and frequently. While Jackson McClelland led the club in saves and Jared Carkuff took over when McClelland was moved up to Dunedin, Zach Jackson was probably among the most dominant pitchers on the staff. Jackson struck out 25 batters in 20 innings, walking just eight and giving up 13 hits for a 1.05 WHIP to go with his 3.15 ERA. Kirby Snead was close though, thanks to his 30 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings, 2.4 ERA and 1.25 WHIP.
Honourable Mention: Kirby Snead, Jackson McClelland, Daniel Lietz, Nick Hartman, Jared Carkuff
As good as the Lansing Lugnuts' offence was, their pitching was as bad. It wasn't a great year despite the promise of a couple of up-and-coming starting pitchers who ultimately spent much of the year injured. While the pitchers who did spend much of the year with Lansing showed glimpses of excellence, the overriding narrative was a lack of consistency that made it a difficult year for the Lugs.
Was Mike Ellenbest, now 23, the best Lansing starter? No, but he did make the most starts. The 24th-round pick from 2016 led the club with 25 starts of his 27 outings, logging 122 2/3 innings with a 6.53 ERA and 1.74 WHIP. Ellenbest struck out 16.7% of batters, up from his 15.3% ratio in Vancouver last year, while walking 10.1%, also up from 6.6% last year. Ellenbest gave up a lot of home runs, leading the club with 17 allowed, good for 1.25 HR/9 innings. If we're looking on the bright side, Ellenbest had a stronger August, with a 4.26 ERA over 25 1/3 innings, with nine walks and 21 strikeouts but gave up six runs in four innings in his final start of the year in September. Like Tayler Saucedo did last year, Ellenbest seemed to be unable to follow up a good start with another good one but he rarely had two really bad starts in a row. Ellenbest will either repeat Lansing to start next year, or he'll move up to Dunedin.
When it comes to the rotation, the only pitcher who could come close to matching Ellenbest in terms of starts and innings was Andy Ravel. Ravel, 22, was Ellenbest's piggyback partner in Vancouver last year and was a seventh-round pick in 2016 out of Kent State. Ravel finished the year with a 7.56 ERA over 114 1/3 innings while putting up a 1.72 WHIP. While Ravel struck out only 14.2% of batters, that was up from his 13.0% rate in Vancouver last year while his walk rate was up slightly to 7.2%, still a solid mark. The main issue was that he was hit hard, giving up 159 hits in his 114 1/3 innings while allowing an almost equal number of fly balls and ground balls. Ravel, like Ellenbest, could repeat some time in Lansing but might also move up to Dunedin.
Osman Gutierrez made 18 starts for the Lugnuts, also finishing the year with a sky-high ERA at 7.56. Over 78 innings, Gutierrez, 22, had a 1.81 WHIP, thanks to 52 walks (a 13.8% ratio) while striking out 18.8% of the batters he faced. Gutierrez was traded to the Miami Marlins for Tom Koehler and finished the season with the Short-Season-A Batavia Muckdogs.
At 20 years old, Dominican righty Yennsy Diaz joined the Lugnuts in June and finished out the season with some solid numbers for a young righty who is still trying to find himself on the mound. Diaz tossed 77 innings over 16 starts, posting a respectable 4.79 ERA and 1.45 WHIP, striking out 24.7% and walking a high 12.4%. Command was Diaz's weakness as he moved up to a higher level and he really only had a few dominant starts, including a nine-strikeout outing, giving up one run on five hits against Dayton on August 5. With some more consistency, I think we can see Diaz improve on some of those numbers, especially his ground ball rate which, at 35.8% was pretty low. Diaz will likely return to Lansing to start 2018 but could move up around June or July if he's more consistent.
Our 2017 Lansing Lugnuts Pitcher of the Year, Patrick Murphy, reminds me a bit of another pitcher who's starting to really make himself known in the Blue Jays' organization, Ryan Borucki. Borucki, who also has a long history of injuries, rocketed through the organization this year after starting in Dunedin and Murphy could very well follow that same mold next year. While Murphy, 22, is a righty, the 2013 third-round pick has a lot of the same tenacity on the mound with three solid pitches. Murphy started with Lansing and was a bit inconsistent out of the gate but found a rhythm with four solid starts in late May to early June. Injury struck and Murphy was out of action until the middle of July when he made three rehab outings in the GCL, giving up a run and allowing seven hits and one walk over nine innings with 15 strikeouts.
Back in Lansing, Murphy made five starts in August (including a five-inning, scoreless outing in which he struck out six on August 1) and finished his time with the club with a seven-strikeout performance, allowing a run over 6 2/3 innings on August 22. He moved up to Dunedin where he wasn't as sharp, giving up seven runs on 14 hits and three walks with five strikeouts in nine innings. Still, on the whole, Murphy's 2.94 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in Lansing were very strong and, while he only struck out 15.4% of the batters he faced, he walked 8.9% and got 48.7% of his batted balls on the ground. I'll look for Murphy to start 2018 in Dunedin.
One of my biggest disappointments of 2017 was the fact that Justin Maese didn't get to pitch a full season. After seeing him dominate in spring training, the 20-year-old righty from Texas had his ups and downs with the Lugnuts. He gave up 11 runs (seven earned) in a 4 2/3 inning outing on April 18 but also struck out 12 in seven innings on May 24. His highlight was likely a nine-inning complete game, striking out seven on May 11, giving up one run. At the end of May, he went down to injury, getting three rehab outings with the GCL Blue Jays in July where he struck out 22.5% of batters but also had a 5.00 ERA and 1.56 WHIP. He returned to Lansing for two more starts, giving up eight runs in three innings in the first and throwing four scoreless innings but walked four in his second. He was shut down after that August 8 outing in Dayton and didn't pitch the rest of the season. Overall, the numbers for Maese are mixed. He had a 4.84 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in 70 2/3 innings, with a solid 8.4% walk rate and a good 19.4% strikeout rate. Of course, Maese stands out in his ground ball rate, getting 53.9% of batted balls on the ground and only 5.2% of fly balls went out of the park. Maese will probably start 2018 in Dunedin.
Kyle Weatherly is our final starter for the Lansing Lugnuts. The 22-year-old Texan righty made six starts for the Lugnuts, totalling 22 2/3 innings after making four excellent starts for Vancouver. In Vancouver, he had a 2.05 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, striking out 19.8% and walking 7.7% in 22 innings. After moving up to Lansing, however, those numbers turned around as he had a 6.75 ERA and 1.90 WHIP, striking out only 10.2% and walking 12.0%. While he got more ground balls in Lansing (47.0%), he also had more line drives hit (24.1%), and his low .226 BABIP in Vancouver likely tells us that the real Kyle Weatherly is probably somewhere in between the two sets of results. Weatherly's season was only two months long as he started on June 17 in Vancouver and made his final start with Lansing on August 10, getting shut down due to injury. If he comes back healthy in 2018, I figure he'll start in Lansing.
Yes, the Lugnuts' pitching staff was bad this season but there were some standouts out of the bullpen.
Leading the club with 32 games was Nick Hartman. Hartman, 22, was the Jays' ninth-round pick in 2016 and didn't see action with the Lugnuts until the end of April. Hartman threw 38 1/3 innings with a 3.29 ERA and 1.43 WHIP, striking out 21.5% of batters while walking 8.7%. A key to Hartman's success was his 50.0% ground ball rate. Moving up to Dunedin at the end of the year, Hartman made four appearances, covering 7 1/3 innings and didn't give up a hit, walking only one and striking out five for the Blue Jays. I think Hartman will begin 2018 where he left off in 2017, with Dunedin.
Twenty-three-year-old righty Geno Encina logged 76 innings for the Lugnuts over 29 appearances. An 18th-round draft pick in 2015, the 6-foot-4 Encina had an up and down year, not giving up an earned run until May but he had some slumps throughout the year too, allowing six runs in a start on July 8 and he followed that with three runs in three innings in his next outing and then, on July 19, he gave up six runs in two innings. Encina got a promotion to Dunedin in early August and he was there for two appearances before making one more outing for Lansing before the end of the year. With the Lugnuts, Encina had a 4.26 ERA and 1.50 WHIP, striking out 16.2% and walking 8.6%. With the D-Jays, he gave up five runs in four innings, allowing nine hits including two home runs but didn't walk anyone and struck out two batters. Encina was released on September 11.
Twenty-two-year-old Andrew Deramo pitched for about three-quarters of a season with the Lugnuts, making 28 appearances. Moving up from Bluefield where he spent his draft year (he was a 29th round pick in 2016), Deramo tossed 49 innings out of the 'pen with the Lugnuts, finishing with a 6.24 ERA and 1.98 WHIP, walking 12.0% of the batters he faced and striking out 17.8%. Deramo could be back with Lansing next year.
Denis Diaz, a 22-year-old Honduran righty, was in extended spring training to start the year. He made his first in-game appearance, starting the second game of a doubleheader for the Dunedin Blue Jays, giving up just one hit in four innings but walking five and striking out three. He was then sent to Lansing where he was used mostly as a starter until the end of June when he finished the year working out of the bullpen likely due to the fact that his previous career-high was 49 2/3 innings. Diaz logged 70 innings with the Lugnuts with a 7.84 ERA and 1.93 WHIP, struggling with his control, walking 16.4% of batters and striking out 17.3%. Diaz had a one-run, one-hit outing with six strikeouts over five innings on May 19 and followed that up with three-hit, one-run game, walking three and striking out six in his next start. He never found that kind of consistency throughout the season. His best strikeout-to-walk ratio in one game was in his first as a Lugnut, walking one and striking out seven in 5 2/3 one-run innings. Diaz could move up to Dunedin next year and I think he very well might, but if he doesn't cut down his walks, he may not be able to move up much further.
Griffin Glaude, 25, was the Blue Jays' mileage kind when it came to his journey around the minor leagues in 2017. A non-drafted free agent out of Beebe, Arkansas, Glaude pitched at three levels but spent the most time with the Lugnuts, throwing 47 2/3 innings in 24 outings, posting a 5.48 ERA and 1.38 WHIP, striking out 22.3% and walking 9.0%. His solid numbers enabled the Blue Jays to send him to New Hampshire where he pitched twice, giving up a run on two hits and two walks with three strikeouts in 2 1/3 innings and to Buffalo where he also pitched twice, allowing just one unearned run on two hits and a walk over 1 2/3 innings. Glaude will probably be in Dunedin to start 2018.
Daniel Lietz, 23, got his second shot at pitching with the Lansing Lugnuts in 2017 and he nailed it. The former 5th-round pick in 2013 was one of the Lugnuts' most effective relievers, throwing 39 2/3 innings with a 2.50 ERA and 1.31 WHIP, striking out 17.0% of the batters he faced but walking 12.3%, a fairly high number. Moving up to Dunedin, he wasn't as successful, posting a 6.75 ERA and 2.10 WHIP over 20 innings and he saw his walk rate jump to 17.9% while his strikeout rate plummeted by half to 8.5%. He finished out the season with Lansing, making one final appearance there. Look for Lietz back in Dunedin in 2018, his sixth with the Jays.
The Blue Jays' 35th-round pick in 2016 out of Austin Peay State University, Jared Carkuff made four stops in 2017, reaching as high as Buffalo. Carkuff started his season with Dunedin and, after he gave up six runs in two innings in his season debut, he settled in, finishing with a 5.14 ERA and 1.43 WHIP, striking out a respectable 16.5% and showing solid control with a 6.6% walk rate. When the short seasons opened, Carkuff found himself in Vancouver and he pitched twice out of the bullpen in mid-June, striking out three in three innings without walking anyone and giving up only two hits. The end of June had Carkuff moved up to Lansing where he spent much of the rest of the year. In 35 2/3 innings with the Lugnuts, he had a 3.79 ERA and 1.12 WHIP, striking out 21.2% and walking 5.3%. He got moved to Buffalo for his final appearance of the year, throwing 3 1/3 innings with just one hit against him, striking out one and walking one. Carkuff could start 2018 in either Dunedin or New Hampshire, depending on where he might be needed most.
A 22nd-round pick of the Blue Jays in 2016, 23-year-old Connor Eller also started his season with the Dunedin Blue Jays. He made 12 appearances there but it was his last three that probably had him sent to Lansing. Until May 15, Eller had a 1.10 ERA and just a .507 OPS against but he allowed nine earned runs in his final three appearances over just three innings and was sent back to Lansing with a 5.12 ERA and 1.91 WHIP. Despite his early success with Dunedin, his strikeout and walk ratios were far from where you would like to see them with a 9.8% strikeout rate and a 19.6% walk rate. With Lansing, Eller had a 4.17 ERA and 1.53 WHIP over 36 2/3 innings, striking out 14.6% and walking 11.1%. Obviously, his walk rate needs to come down and while he had some solid ground ball numbers (49.1% in Lansing, 40.3% in Dunedin), he'll need to add some strikeouts to the ground outs. I can see Eller returning to Lansing next year.
Venezuelan lefty Juliandry Higuera, 23, spent most of his season in Lansing after starting the year in Vancouver, striking out nine batters over 4 1/3 innings, walking just one and giving up three hits. With the Lugnuts, Higuera had a 4.74 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP over 43 2/3 innings, striking out an excellent 27.0% of batters and walking 7.9%. In addition, Higuera boasted a 56.8% ground ball rate, showing that he may even improve as he moves up. With solid control, lots of ground balls and a very good strikeout rate, there's nothing that I can see that would prevent me from having Higuera in Dunedin for his Age-23 season.
Twenty-two-year-old Venezuelan righty Yonardo Herdenez also pitched at four levels this season. Getting his season started with the Lansing Lugnuts in mid-June but he didn't make more than three appearances at any one stop until August. After his first two outings in Lansing, Herdenez went to Bluefield for three appearances, then to New Hampshire for two and back to Bluefield for one. Then he went to Vancouver for three outings, Lansing for one and three more in Vancouver. He finished the season back in Lansing and had a 4.13 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 24 innings overall, striking out 16.8% and walking 9.9%. With Bluefield, Herdenez allowed six runs in seven innings, striking out six without walking anyone and in New Hampshire, he gave up a run in four innings, striking out one and walking one. In 13 innings with Vancouver, Herdenez had a 2.08 ERA and 1.08 WHIP, striking out 14.8% of batters and walking 9.3%. It's really hard to tell what to expect with Herdenez in 2018 since he didn't spend much time at any given level in 2017. I think he could start in Lansing or Dunedin for his first full season.
The Lansing Lugnuts' hitters were a powerful force in 2017, particularly in the first half of the year when two of the Jays' top prospects were filling out the left side of the infield.
Ridge Smith didn't arrive in Lansing until the end of April and then only played four games until the beginning of June, but the 22-year-old catcher led the Lugnuts in games caught. Smith hit .247/.337/.386 over 51 games with 15 doubles, a triple and two home runs. Smith struck out 19.4% of the time and walked in 11.7% of his plate appearances. Smith threw out 34% of potential base stealers, showing off a quick release and a strong arm. Smith played in two games for Dunedin in early July, going 0/4 with a strikeout. Smith, the Jays' 12th-round draft pick in 2016, could be back in Lansing in 2018 but could also move up to Dunedin.
Javier Hernandez got a late start to the season, starting with five games in Vancouver where he hit .316/.350/.579 before moving up to the Lansing Lugnuts. In 35 games with Lansing, Hernandez, a 21-year-old Venezuelan, hit .224/.273/.306 with five doubles and two home runs while throwing out 20% of runners trying to steal. Hernandez will be in the sixth year with the Blue Jays and he could be back in Lansing or up with Dunedin.
Ryan Hissey, 23, started his season in Lansing and played 33 games with the Lugnuts but Hissey had a rough season with injuries, playing in only 52 games overall. With the Lugnuts, Hissey hit .254/.313/.356 with four doubles, a triple and two home runs, a 7.5% walk rate and 15.7% strikeout rate around a promotion for one game to New Hampshire. At the end of May, Hissey moved up to the Florida State League, bouncing back and forth between Dunedin and Lansing before going down to injury at the beginning of July. After a two-game rehab assignment in the GCL, he managed to get into three games in Dunedin before finishing his season with two games in New Hampshire. Hissey had a .171/.286/.220 slash line in 41 at bats with Dunedin and was 1/10 in Double-A. Hissey only threw out 16% of runners with Lansing and 12% with Dunedin and didn't throw out any of the four runners who tried to steal in New Hampshire. I can see Hissey starting 2018 in Dunedin.
Andres Sotillo, 23, finished his sixth year in the Blue Jays' minor league system and reached the full-season leagues for the first time in 2017. The Venezuelan catcher played with the Lugnuts from May until July, getting into 22 games as a backup, hitting .261/.378/.290 with two doubles, walking 12.0% of the time and striking out 25.3% of the time. Sotillo played 13 games with Dunedin, hitting .250/.375/.281 and three games with New Hampshire, going 2/6 with a double and a home run. Sotillo threw 26% of potential base stealers in Lansing, 56% of the nine attempted stealers in Dunedin and 17% of the six attempts in New Hampshire. As a backup, Sotillo could be assigned anywhere from Lansing to New Hampshire.
Leading the charge at first base was Christian Williams. Williams, a 23-year-old 16th-round pick of the Blue Jays in 2015. Williams continually improved his numbers throughout the season, peaking in June with a .307/.369/.493 month before he sat out the rest of the season with an injury. Overall, Williams hit .263/.342/.367 with 14 doubles, a triple and three home runs. Williams struck out 28.7% of the time, a number that will need to come down in the future, while walking a healthy 9.6% of the time. Williams might start the season back in Lansing next year, after some time in the Fall Instructional League.
Yeltsin Gudino, a 20-year-old Venezuelan infielder, spent the whole season playing shortstop and second base in Lansing. He hit .259/.330/.317, his best offensive season of his career, hitting 14 doubles, two triples and two home runs. Gudino's walk rate was down a bit from last year in Vancouver at 7.5% but he also struck out only 13.5% of the time. Gudino could be in Dunedin next year but may also stick around in Lansing.
Eighteen-year-old Vladimir Guerrero Jr. led the Lugnuts with 61 games played at third base where he hit .316/.409/.480, hitting 21 doubles, a triple and seven home runs. Guerrero, one of the game's top prospects, didn't just walk more than he struck out (12.6% BB% and 10.7% K%), but he hit even better as he moved up to the Dunedin Blue Jays when he hit .333/.450/.494 with another seven doubles, a triple and six home runs in 209 plate appearances. In Dunedin, he was able to maintain his positive walk to strikeout rate, with a 17.2% walk rate and a 13.4% strikeouts rate. Guerrero might start in Dunedin but his rise is going to be swift and I'd be surprised if he didn't play in double-A for a large part of the season.
Along with Vlad, everyone is also talking about shortstop Bo Bichette. Bichette, 19, not only won the Midwest League MVP award, but he won the league batting championship (even after having numerous hitless at bats added to his stats in order to give him enough to qualify). His triple slash line of .384/.448/.623 with 32 doubles, three triples and 10 home runs was a thing of beauty and he had a solid 8.8% walk rate to go with a 17.4% strikeout rate. Promoted to Dunedin, he played another 40 games, hitting .323/.379/.463 with nine doubles, a triple and four more home runs to give him a tremendous first full season. In Dunedin, he even struck out less (at 14.3%) while walking 7.7% of the time. Bichette, like Guerrero, will probably start back in Dunedin but time in double-A is almost a certainty in 2018.
After missing almost all of 2016 due to injury, Mitch Nay returned to action, rediscovering his power while not really getting on base at a high rate. Nay hit .222/.265/.393 with nine doubles, two triples and 10 home runs in 252 at bats, walking in 5.5% of the time and striking out in 20.7%. Nay started up his season in June and really came into his own in July, hitting .295/.327/.495 before tailing off in August and September. Nay should move up to Dunedin next year, his sixth in the Jays' system.
Bradley Jones got into 49 games with Lansing in 2017, dominating after being the home run leader in the Appalachian League last year. To start 2017, he hit .326/.394/.560 with 10 doubles, three triples and nine home runs in 184 at bats. In that time, he walked in 10.1% of his plate appearances and struck out in 22.6% before he was promoted to Dunedin, falling off and hitting .156/.206/.219, walking in only 5.9% of his plate appearances and striking out in a whopping 44.1% of his 68 PAs. Jones was injured and missed the rest of the year and I think he'll start 2018 in Dunedin.
The Blue Jays signed Luis Silva after he was released by the Texas Rangers and had him in Lansing where he hit .196/.240/.239 in 38 games with six doubles. He was 1/10 in three games in Dunedin but otherwise was a utility player for the Lugnuts. Silva could be in Lansing or Dunedin next year.
Canadian Mattingly Romanin, a Burlington, Ontario native played 31 games with the Lansing Lugnuts, starting his season in mid-June. With the Lugnuts, Romanin hit .204/.261/.296 with 10 doubles before moving down to Vancouver to play for the champion Vancouver Canadians and hitting .200/.378/.243, walking an amazing 14.4% of the time but striking out 26.7%. Romanin could be back with Lansing in 2018 as a 25 year-old.
Twenty-three-year-old Nick Sinay set an unusual record for the Lugnuts, getting hit by a pitch 38 times to set a MWL record. Despite a .215 batting average, the HBPs and a 10.9% walk rate gave him a .405 OBP to go with his .256 slugging percentage. Sinay also added 23 stolen bases in 33 attempts. Sinay could be back in Lansing next year or he could be in Dunedin.
While he got a late start to the season, starting on April 17, Joshua Palacios started off slowly but really got going in July and August. The final numbers were flattering with a .280/.360/.361 slash line, walking in 10.0% of his plate appearances and striking out 18.6%. The 22 year-old turned things on in the last couple of months of the season, hitting .348/.422/.438 with 13 doubles, a triple and a home run from July 1. Palacios played mostly in center field but has the ability to play anywhere in the outfield. He should be in Dunedin in 2018.
Edward Olivares spent the whole season in Lansing and, playing in the shadow of Vlad and Bo, quietly put together a very strong season. Olivares hit .277/.330/.500 with 26 doubles, nine triples and 17 home runs, stealing 18 bases in 25 attempts. Olivares's walk rate of 4.7% leaves something to be desired but his 17.7% strikeout rate is pretty solid. Olivares got a late-season promotion to Dunedin where he hit .221/.312/.265 with a 10.4% walk rate and 22.1% strikeout rate. I think he'll start 2018 in Dunedin in his Age-22 season.
Left-handed hitting outfielder J.B. Woodman didn't quite have the season he did in 2016 when he was a second-round draft pick of the Blue Jays. Woodman's first full season of professional baseball was somewhat sobering as the 22 year-old hit .240/.320/.378 in 96 games with the Lansing Lugnuts. When he hit the ball, he hit the ball hard, hitting 19 doubles, five triples and seven home runs for a solid, .138 ISO and an outstanding .394 BABIP but he also struck out a ton, K'ing in 37.9% of his plate appearances while walking in 9.7%. Woodman will likely move up to Dunedin next year and will work hard to cut down the strikeouts in order to take advantage of the pop in his bat.
Rodrigo Orozco joined the Lugnuts at the beginning of June and was a very solid contributor to the club down the stretch, hitting .282/.367/.373 with 19 doubles, two triples and a home run. For Orozco, it was his ability to get on base that was his most valuable asset, walking in 11.8% of his plate appearances and striking out in only 15.8%. A switch hitter, Orozco had better numbers from the right side of the plate last year, particularly in his batting average and slugging percentage. Orozco, 22, may return to Lansing next year or could be in Dunedin, depending on how the rosters start to shake out.
Finally, on-base machine Jake Thomas, 24, spent the first two months of the season in Lansing, hitting .275/.457/.358 with an uncanny 24.4% walk rate and a 20.1% strikeout rate. At the beginning of June, Thomas moved up to New Hampshire and bounced between double-A and Advanced-A Dunedin for the remainder of the season. In Dunedin, he hit .255/.374/.327 with a 15.9% walk rate and 26.5% strikeout rate and he hit .182/.357/.342 with a 21.4% walk rate and 19.0% strikeout rate in New Hampshire. At each level, Thomas saw his ISO decline slightly from .083 in Lansing to .073 in Dunedin to .061 in New Hampshire. Thomas hits mostly for doubles if he hits for extra bases, with 13 doubles, two triples and one home run over 263 at bats. Thomas will likely be a fourth outfielder in Dunedin or New Hampshire next year.
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