It’s March and not only is spring training in full swing but I’ll be heading down to Florida in less than two weeks! That also means that it’s time to try to play the roster projection game! Over the next week or so, I’ll give my projections on the rosters of all four full-season teams in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, starting with the pitchers of the Lansing Lugnuts, starting now!
Like it was last year, my spreadsheet is overloaded with pitchers, particularly at the A-ball levels for Lansing and Dunedin. Some of these pitchers may deserve to be in Dunedin but might get pushed downwards to start the season.
Eric Pardinho is almost as sure of a thing to start in Lansing as anyone. He’ll anchor the rotation after having a strong professional debut at the age of 17 with the Bluefield Blue Jays. I think the youngster is going to follow in the footsteps of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. by starting his second professional year in the Midwest League at the age of 18.
Josh Winckowski is a hard-throwing righty who showed a lot of competitive fire and polish on the mound in the Northwest League as a third-year pro after being drafted in 2016 out of high school. He was the Northwest League Pitcher of the Year in 2018 and deserves to move up to Lansing.
Randy Pondler is another former Pitcher of the Year, he won the award in 2017 in the Appalachian League and had a strong year in 2018 in Vancouver with a 2.90 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. He got a start in New Hampshire last year so a trip to the Midwest League won’t intimidate him.
Sean Wymer didn’t have great results in Vancouver last year but he was the Jays’ fourth-round pick in 2018 and usually it’s tough to judge college pitchers in their draft year. The Blue Jays took care not to overwork him, giving him just 35 1/3 innings but he had a strong 4.86 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Joey Murray is another 2018 draftee who was given a light workload, piggybacking with Vancouver. Murray was dominant, striking out 39 in 25 2/3 innings and we’re likely to see him get opened up a bit more in Lansing in 2018.
Jose Espada is also likely to come up to Lansing after a full year as a starter in Vancouver and, although his ERA was high at 4.88, his 1.29 WHIP was solid and he struck out 70 batters in 59 innings and he’s spent two seasons in Vancouver now.
On the Bubble
Nathanael Perez has had two strong seasons in short season ball and he’s already 20 with an okay season in Bluefield after skipping the GCL. Could he rise all the way to Lansing in his third year.
Jordan Barrett split his season between Lansing and Vancouver and had some decent numbers, especially in Vancouver but his strikeout rate was quite low in Lansing (5.6 K/9) and there’s probably some learning at a lower level needed before he moves up.
Matt Shannon pitched fairly well in 2018 but missing time at the beginning of the year and needing to bring his walks down (4.5 BB/9) could have him back in Lansing.
Nick Allgeyer is kind of on the bubble in terms of being a starter or a reliever. While he started six games in a row at the end of the 2018 season for the Vancouver, he only went two innings in each of those appearances so I’m not sure if that speaks to the Blue Jays wanting him to get used to starting or if he was being used as Vancouver’s “Opener.” Still, the Jays’ 12th-round pick of 2018 was very strong in his professional debut and will likely open 2019 with Lansing.
Adams Cuevas pitched his third season with the Blue Jays, making some starts and some appearances out of the bullpen and logging a fair number of innings (53) with the Bluefield Blue Jays. With a 10.4 K/9 rate and a tiny, 1.5 BB/9 rate, there may not be much more he can do in short season ball and I think that Cuevas is a surprise to join the Lansing Lugnuts in 2019.
In his second year in Lansing, reliever Andrew Deramo struggled, despite improving his K/9 rate to 8.9, he also didn’t reduce his walk rate from 5.6 BB/9. Look for him to start the season back in Lansing.
24-year-old Connor Law had some decent numbers with Vancouver, striking out 10.7 batters per nine and I can see him moving up to Lansing.
Emerson Jimenez is a converted infielder who was excellent in his pitching debut for the GCL Blue Jays in 2017 but struggled with the Lugnuts in 2018. If the experiment continues, he’ll be back in Lansing.
The Jays’ 18th-round pick in 2018, Fitz Stadler was so good with the Bluefield Blue Jays (17 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings) that he was promoted to Vancouver where his numbers were a little bit more moderate (2.22 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, 8.1 K/9, 3.3 BB/9), but Stadler is a good candidate to start 2019 with Lansing.
On the Bubble
Troy Watson was very strong in his professional debut with the Bluefield Blue Jays and there’s a very good chance that he jumps up to Lansing in his second year with the Jays.
Brayden Bouchey spent a lot of time with the Lugnuts last year, performing well, averaging almost a strikeout per inning but walking 4.6 batters per nine inning. I’d like to see some better control from Bouchey but his ability to limit hits might move him up to Dunedin.
Brody Rodning had a solid season in Lansing last year with a 3.89 ERA in 69 1/3 innings with a 1.31 WHIP and 60 strikeouts. He’s on the bubble because I could also see him in Dunedin.
Andy McGuire is an interesting player. Drafted in 2018in the 28th round, he’s the only current two-way play in the Blue Jays’ system. While most people think his future is as a pitcher, McGuire has told us at Blue Jays from Away that he fully expects to take at bats and get on the field as a position in addition to working out of the bullpen. That said, he had a strong season in Bluefield but will he be ready to pitch in Lansing or will he go to Vancouver in 2019?
One of the biggest question marks in the Blue Jays’ system in the past few years has been Kelyn Jose. The fireballing lefty reliever who has touched over 100 mph in the past has suffered from extreme control issues and suffered from injuries in 2018, pitching just twice. Jose has spent four years in the GCL or the Appalachian League and he’s probably not ready for full-season ball but after five years in the system, and at 23 years old, he needs to move up.
I can see the Blue Jays sending Emilio Guerrero back to Lansing. A popular player back when he was an infielder, Guerrero’s working on becoming a pitcher but missed the whole season with an injury and never got to pitch in a game. He could emerge from extended spring training with Lansing.
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