We’re moving up through the Blue Jays’ system, projecting the rosters of the Jays’ minor league affiliates and we’ve arrived at the potential pitching staff for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
Double-A is where the accumulated manpower starts to stack up and success doesn’t always mean that a player is going to move up to Triple-A. The Blue Jays have tended to bring in a fair number of minor league free agents over the past few years, mostly to stock the Buffalo Bisons with depth players capable of contributing to the major league club if called upon. These acquisitions tend to push more of the home-grown players back down to Double-A New Hampshire and they’ll need to really excel in order to get a look at Buffalo.
Last year, my success rate for prediction the starting pitching staff for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats was pretty high, mainly because there’s a lot more clarity at this level. That said, the injury to Mike Lee and Roberto Osuna‘s ascension to the major leagues kept me from making it a complete sweep. Let’s see how I do this year.
This year, I think I’m going to have at least an 80% success rate (barring injuries). Anderson had an up and down season and he could be in the bullpen to start the season but I think the club might want to build on his career-high 120 innings that he threw last year in New Hampshire. Cole had a solid season and led the club in strikeouts and innings pitched but Buffalo is going to be crowded and there’s no harm in letting him figure out some consistency and location issues back in Double-A. Greene is the ascending hot prospect and at 21 on Opening Day, he’ll be back in New Hampshire, where he finished last year. Casey Lawrence is a steady hand and while he’s had two-plus solid years in New Hampshire, there just isn’t room for him right now in Buffalo. Murphy Smith got hit hard in his only two New Hampshire appearances last year but he was excellent in 17 games in Dunedin and was the club’s best pitcher until an injury ended his season. If he’s healthy, he’ll get another shot at Double-A (where he had pitched for three years before joining the Blue Jays’ organization).
Other Possible Starters
Berken was signed in the offseason and the 32 year old has been a starter throughout his career. With the exception of much of his time with Baltimore in the majors in 2010 and 2011, Berken has been a starter, although the Phillies had him throw in 28 games in 2015 with 13 of them going for starts. While the Jays were auditioning LeBlanc as a lefty reliever, he’s also been a starter throughout most of his minor and major league career, including his eight starts in Japan last year. While I think that Gaby starts in Dunedin again, there is the chance that the organization wants to see what he can do at the Double-A level.
I think both of these guys start in Dunedin but Reid-Foley is the bigger prospect and, like Conner Greene, started last season at a much higher level than expected (Lansing). Reports on Reid-Foley’s mechanics are that he’s more contained and if he can translate that into repeatability and command, there’s an outside chance that he breaks camp in New Hampshire at the age of 20. Dawson is another possible wild card. Dawson only threw 26 innings in Dunedin last year and, because he’s only 22, the Blue Jays are probably not going to necessarily rush him. Santos, on the other hand, is 25 and posted good numbers in Dunedin, mostly as a starter, striking out 86 in 93 innings with only 22 walks. He missed all of August and came out of the bullpen for two innings in September but didn’t allow a run in 10 1/3 innings in the Dominican Winter League, all in relief.
The New Hampshire Fisher Cats bullpen will probably look a lot like it did last year with Antolin (re-signing as a free agent), Barnes, Browning, Hynes and Smith returning. Dragmire will get the promotion after being added to the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster and pitching with Dunedin last year. Browning probably returns here after having far more trouble in Double-A than in Advanced-A. Hynes pitched in 10 games with New Hampshire, splitting the year between there and Buffalo. Smith made only two appearances with the Fisher Cats last year, spending more time with Dunedin but also pitched in Double-A Trenton when he was with the Yankees’ organization. Schlereth joined the Blue Jays on a minor league deal and hasn’t been seen in major league camp, indicating one of two things: he’s injured or he’s so far down on the depth chart that he’ll probably land in Double-A.
Of these names, John Stilson is the wildcard. After pitching in just one game last year because of injuries, he’s now on the New Hampshire roster and the club may treat his pitching in Double-A as a rehab assignment of sorts before he returns to Buffalo where he was very successful in 2014.
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