It’s that time of year when spring training has begun. The big league players have returned to Florida, taken their pictures and have even done some baseball related activities. This is when my mind drifts to the season to come and projects the rosters for the Blue Jays’ minor league teams as we look to open the season. As usual, I’m going to start with the Jays’ lowest-level team, the Lansing Lugnuts, and work my way up the ladder to the Buffalo Bisons.
Yesterday, I wrote about the pitchers and today I’ll write about the hitters. You can also find my articles on the Lansing Lugnuts pitchers here and the Lugnuts hitters here.
For the most part, things are a little clearer for me with the position players in Dunedin than they were for Lansing. I’ll still probably get some of these wrong (I always do), but I think there are a certain number of players who are going to be in Dunedin, at least to start the year. Some missed time last year and are going to be returning while others showed their abilities in the pro ranks either in Vancouver or Lansing.
Ryan Hissey spent most of his time in Lansing last year but also got a taste of action in Dunedin, the GCL and New Hampshire. I think that, with him missing time due to injury, Hissey, who’ll turn 24 on April 8, will start the year in Dunedin.
Javier Hernandez, a 21-year-old Venezuelan played mostly in Lansing last year. He’s fairly likely to return to Lansing but I have a feeling that the light-hitting receiver will be backing up somewhere, possibly in Dunedin.
On the Bubble
Ridge Smith could just as easily be in Lansing as Dunedin, as I wrote in the article on the Lansing hitters.
Andres Sotillo gets the same treatment as Ridge Smith. He could be in Lansing, he could be in Dunedin. Possibly even New Hampshire. We just don’t know until the assignments come out.
Christian Williams was getting into a groove with the Lansing Lugnuts last year when he got injured. The 23-year-old left-handed hitting first baseman had some solid numbers, hitting 14 doubles, a triple and three home runs in 66 games, posting a .263/.342/.367 line. I think he moves up to Dunedin rather than someone like Kacy Clemens or David Jacob.
Kevin Vicuna, 20, is a bit of a stretch here, but he acquitted himself well in 26 games with the D-Jays before a solid campaign in Vancouver and Lansing. Vicuna also seems to be a bit of a favourite in the Jays’ organization, getting into three spring training games already this year and I think he’ll trade off time at short and second (and maybe third) with some of the players a little lower on this list.
Bradley Jones tore up Bluefield in his draft year and tore up Lansing at the start of 2017 but shortly after he was promoted to Dunedin (and struggled with the bat), he went down with an injury and missed the rest of the year. The 22-year-old Jones can play first, second and third base (and probably has the versatility to play other positions in a pinch) and will get regular playing time, likely at a rotating position with Dunedin.
Logan Warmoth, 22, played exclusively shortstop with Vancouver last year, hitting .306/.356/.419 in 39 games. I think he skips Lansing, mainly to allow Kevin Smith (last year’s fourth-round draft pick) to play shortstop every day. I think Warmoth will get the lion’s share of time at short but could play second or third to allow Vicuna some time there.
Yeltsin Gudino is still just 21 but he’s played in the Jays’ system for four years and has steadily improved with the bat. Gudino played short and second in Lansing last year, hitting .259/.330/.317, the best offensive numbers of his career. He’ll probably get extra at bats here and there and is a useful player on the field and in the clubhouse but unless he shows more with the bat than Warmoth, Jones and Vicuna, he may be the odd man out.
Nash Knight, 25, had some solid success with Lansing last year as a utility player. He told me that he was starting to play catcher in 2017 but only got into one game behind the plate. He may do more backup catching but he’s already played in four games in big league spring training with two hits in four at bats. I think he’ll be in Dunedin but could, conceivably, start in New Hampshire.
Carl Wise, 23, was a fourth-round draft pick by the Blue Jays in 2015 and hasn’t impressed in three seasons. Granted, he missed most of 2017 with an injury, getting into just 24 games for Dunedin and hitting .172/.198/.207. I think he’ll pick up some at bats at third base along the way.
UPDATE: Thanks to Brian Crawford who pointed out that Wise has retired.
John La Prise, 24, is another 2015 draftee who has missed a lot of time. He played in only one in his draft year and didn’t play at all in 2017.
Josh Almonte, 24, enters his seventh year as a Blue Jay and has peaked in 2017 in Dunedin. While he still has some pretty loud tools, 2018 may be the last chance he has with the Blue Jays (since it’s the last year of his original contract) to prove that he can utilize them in games. He hit just .221/.271/.286 in 49 games with Dunedin last year.
Eduard Pinto, 23, was acquired by the Blue Jays last year for cash from the Texas Rangers. He had hit .311/.358/.446 with the Down East Wood Ducks in the Carolina League (Advanced-A). He hit just .149/.208/.179 but spent some of the summer on the disabled list.
Rodrigo Orozco is a player who I think gets moved up to Dunedin because of the logjam in the outfield in Lansing. He hit .282/.367/.373 in 330 plate appearances with the Lugnuts last year and is probably, as he nears his 23rd birthday on April 2, ready for Dunedin.
Josh Palacios struggled with injury last year but an outstanding second half boosted his numbers in Lansing to .280/.360/.361. While he hasn’t shown a ton of power, he did turn things on a bit in the last couple of months last year and the speedy outfielder should find a home in Dunedin in 2018.
Nick Sinay will be in Dunedin. In 79 games with the Lugnuts last year he had a .405 OBP, mostly thanks to the Midwest League record 38 times he was hit by a pitch. Still, you can’t say he doesn’t give his all to the team.
On the Bubble
Jake Thomas, 24, was a sparkplug in the Lansing offense for the first half of the 2017 season, posting a .457 OBP thanks to the prodigious walk rate he had. He continued to walk in 34 games in Dunedin, getting on base 37.4% of the time. He could be in New Hampshire (as he played 14 games there last year) but may be back in Dunedin.
Bryan Hudson was picked up after five years in the Boston organization. The 23 year old hasn’t shown much power and is coming off a down year but the Jays like his defense and speed (22 SBs last year) and they think he can do more with the bat than he has over the course of his career.
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