At last we’ve arrived at our final projection for a Blue Jays’ farm team: the hitters for the Buffalo Bisons.
One of the major issues with projecting the Buffalo Bisons’ hitters is how the major league team shapes up. Issues like injuries, players with options and minor league free agents versus players on the 40-man roster keeps things in motion right up until the end of training camp.
Reese McGuire, 24, made his big league debut in 2018 and is probably a major-league-ready catcher but his offense has always lagged behind his defense. McGuire hit .233/.312/.339 last year in the minors and he’ll need to do better to unseat Danny Jansen as the starter in Toronto.
Patrick Cantwell turns 29 on April 10 and he’s an organizational catcher but he had a tremendous season with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats last year, hitting .276/.386/.433 in a backup role. I think he finally moves up to Triple-A in the Jays’ system (he’s had 257 at bats at the level with the Rangers’ organization) and is a capable backup who can play more often (and at first base) if necessary.
Michael De La Cruz, 25, is probably strictly a third catcher who may spend much of the season on the “phantom IL” after hitting just .186/.286/.349 in only 14 games in 2018 with the Bisons.
This is going to be a fun infield to watch in Buffalo, at least at the start of the year. Rowdy Tellez will be the first baseman until something gives way for the major league club. He had a mediocre season dealing with some heavy issues but made a huge impression in his September call up, getting plenty of opportunities to hit.
Cavan Biggio will probably get a lot of reps all over the diamond, but I think it’s fair to say that, with Devon Travis out to start the year, he may play a fair bit at second base in case he’s pressed into duty at that level. Biggio was the league MVP in Double-A last year and has shown himself to be up to the challenge at least in his time in big league spring training.
Bo Bichette will probably play shortstop every day for the Buffalo Bisons. While he struggled somewhat in Double-A New Hampshire at times last year, he found his way out of his slumps and is coming into big league camp slugging like no one else for the Blue Jays (except maybe someone we’ll talk about later). Will the Blue Jays wait until after the 2020 season starts to keep his service time down? Or does he make a big league debut in 2020?
Richard Urena has been improving little by little and has shown himself to be a solid defender when he’s had some opportunities at the big league level. That said, a .216/.250/.344 slash line in Buffalo last year and missing some time due to injury doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence. He’s looking for a big rebound season.
Andy Burns will, like Cavan Biggio, be used all over the diamond by manager Bobby Meacham. He’s coming back from two years of playing everyday at second base in Korea but has seen some action at first in limited time in big league camp. I’m looking forward to seeing Andy back.
On the Bubble
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is on the bubble in the sense that he’ll probably come through the Buffalo Bisons on his way back up after he recovers from his oblique injury but there’s no way that the best prospect in baseball is going to be in Buffalo long.
Eric Sogard has been hitting extremely well this spring and, with the injury to Devon Travis, there’s a chance he could make the club out of spring training. If he doesn’t, he’ll be a solid, veteran addition to the Buffalo Bisons.
Anthony Alford is smashing his way through spring training with a .308/.379/.808 slash line with four home runs already and scouts are beginning to take notice (there’s a great Baseball America article about 15 players that have made big impressions and Alford headed the list) with one telling BA, “He looks insanely good. . . .if I were Teoscar Hernandez, I’d be worried.” He’s coming off a rough year in performance and injuries but if he’s healthy and performing at the same level he is now, he won’t be in Buffalo long.
Dalton Pompey is a little iffy because he would need to clear waivers in order to return to the minors. But the Jays have been showcasing him and he’s provided mixed results, playing well on some days and not producing as much on others. Will he be like Dwight Smith Jr. was and become a casualty of a roster crunch?
Jonathan Davis had a strong season in New Hampshire but his numbers fell off from an .830 OPS in Double-A to a .698 OPS after his promotion to Buffalo. That said, he helps a team in a number of ways, with lots of extra-base pop, great speed on the bases (and good baserunning judgement) along with excellent defense in the outfield.
On the Bubble
Roemon Fields is a speedy, excellent defensive outfielder who’s now 28. He regressed at the plate last year in Buffalo, hitting .238/.307/.305 and he only stole 25 bases while getting caught 16 times (after stealing 50 bases the previous season). Another outfielder with little power to speak of, Fields may find himself in New Hampshire if things shake out to his detriment in Buffalo in Toronto. With Dwight Smith Jr. traded to the Baltimore Orioles, there could be a spot open for him on the Bisons.
Billy McKinney has been talked about all spring as a fourth outfielder for the Blue Jays, splitting playing time with Teoscar Hernandez in left. In many ways, they have a similar skill set but with McKinney drawing more walks and playing better defense but McKinney also slumped badly in September after getting off to a great start in August after being called up. I’d say the odds of McKinney making the Opening Day roster are good but having him still in Toronto by June will be all up to him.
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