By Jay Blue
Blue Jays from Away
While the Toronto Blue Jays certainly aren't headed towards a playoff spot in 2018 (and have sold off several of their players for minor leaguers), several Blue Jays' minor league squads are in the hunt (with one team already securing a playoff spot) for postseason action with under a month left to go in the minor league season. What follows is a summary of the teams and their playoff prospects for 2018.
The triple-A Buffalo Bisons are currently 50-61 and 18 games behind division leader Lehigh Valey and are sitting in fourth place in the division. Even with the addition of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Montreal, Que.), the Bisons are not going to the playoffs this year and will milk the marketing of their young star until season ends on September 3. This means that we can probably see a number of players join the Blue Jays when major league rosters expand on September 1. Without a playoff race to engage the players, the Buffalo roster will be ripe for the picking to augment the Toronto roster that is limping towards the end of the season. With Richard Urena recently promoted, I would expect to see Brandon Cumpton, Thomas Pannone, Sean Reid-Foley, Tim Mayza, Danny Jansen, Reese McGuire, Rowdy Tellez, Dwight Smith Jr. Billy McKinney and Anthony Alford all recalled while you could also see potential 40-man additions Jose Fernandez and Justin Shafer promoted.
On the other hand, the double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats are securely in a position to earn a playoff spot. In first place in the Eastern League Eastern Division, the Fisher Cats have the best winning percentage in the league (.586) and have a 2 1/2 game lead over second place Trenton with a 65-46 record. With the top two teams in the division making the playoffs and 10 games between second place Trenton and third-place Binghamton, it looks like the Fisher Cats are pretty much a lock to at least continue their season beyond September 3.
While fans are clamouring to have Vladimir Guerrero Jr. come up to Toronto in September, it wouldn't surprise me to see him return to New Hampshire to help the club once the playoffs begin. Is that a backwards move? It could be seen that way but I would see it as a way to get Vlad a taste of a playoff atmosphere (and possibly another championship ring after he was a co-champion of the Florida State League last year) and help make up for his lost at bats because of his knee injury. If I had my druthers, I'd see Vlad head back to New Hampshire for the playoffs and then go to Arizona for the Fall League before being given a chance to make the club in spring training.
The class-A Advanced Dunedin Blue Jays are in a good position to claim a spot in the postseason and are leading the Florida State League North Division in the second half with a 29-16 record, half a game ahead of the cross-town Clearwater Threshers. Only the best team in the division in each half makes the playoffs, so the Blue Jays will have to continue their hot run of late (winning eight in a row before being stopped the other day) in order to keep the pressure on and take the second half.
Many of the players who have been added to the roster later on have made their presence felt with Kevin Smith and Brock Lundquist lighting things up on offence and with Zach Logue, Maverik Buffo and Yennsy Diaz pitching well. Patrick Murphy has been one of the best pitchers in the Blue Jays' system and there's a lot to like with catcher Riley Adams finding his hitting stroke of late.
The low-A Lansing Lugnuts are assured of a playoff spot, taking second place in the Midwest League Eastern Division in the first half with a 43-27 record. The Lugnuts are playing fairly well, posting a 24-20 record in the second half so far and they're two games behind division leader Bowling Green, whom they also finished behind in the first half.
The Lugnuts have seen their dominant offence dismantled by promotions with, losing Smith, Lundquist and Kacy Clemens (who hasn't had the same success in Dunedin) with recent acquisition Chad Spanberger also going south to Dunedin after just a couple of games in a Lugnuts uniform. They have also lost pitchers but still have Maximo Castillo, Matt Gunter, and Kyle Weatherly is emerging as a solid option in the rotation after pitching the first half of the year in the bullpen. Ryan Noda is the club's offensive engine but Samad Taylor and Chavez Young are both still with the Lugnuts and are contributing.
The class-A Short-Season Vancouver Canadians finished just one game back of the Everett AquaSox in the North Division of the Northwest League and didn't secure a playoff spot in the first half, finishing 19-19. So far in the second half, the Canadians are in first place with an 8-5 record and a one-game lead over Everett and Spokane but it's still early.
Vancouver boasts a few of the Blue Jays' 2018 draft picks including second rounder Griffin Conine while they also have Mc Gregory Contreras and Tanner Kirwer (Sherwood Park, Alta.) in the outfield with Otto Lopez (Montreal, Que.) providing some spark on the infield. There aren't a ton of big names but there are some pitchers to watch like Sean Wymer and Josh Winckowski.
The rookie-class Bluefield Blue Jays started out gangbusters but they've fallen back and currently sit in second place in the Appalachian League East Division with a 28-19 record and sit 1 1/2 games behind the Princeton Rays. Second place will get them a playoff spot and they've got a 2 1/2-game lead on third place Danville.
Bluefield has had some of their early strong performers fall off a bit with Dominic Abbadessa still contributing but with Cal Stevenson putting up gaudy numbers since being promoted from the GCL. Luis De Los Santos is playing well, as is catcher/DH Alejandro Kirk. On the mound, the club has the ace in the hole with Eric Pardinho dominating Rookie-ball batters while the rest of the pitching staff has been solid.
The GCL Blue Jays aren't likely to make the playoffs, sitting in third place, eight games back of the GCL Tigers West with a 19-21 record. The biggest questions for the Blue Jays are whether Jordan Groshans will get a promotion to Bluefield to help them out in a playoff push and whether we'll see Groshans's high school teammate, Adam Kloffenstein in a game.
The DSL Blue Jays are in second place in their division (the Baseball City division) with a 33-24 record but sit six games back of the DSL D-backs1 for the division lead and have an elimination number of 10 before they're out of the playoffs.
If you like us here, like us on Facebook!
The 2018 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook is now available!