The Dunedin Blue Jays are always an interesting team to try to project. The players there can sometimes be a surprise, mainly because if a player is coming off an injury and could be with Lansing, Dunedin or New Hampshire, you might see them in Dunedin so that the Blue Jays’ medical team can keep a closer eye on them.
As usual, there are always surprises and, like with the Lansing Lugnuts, I have a much-too-long list of pitchers who will could start the year off in Dunedin.
Nate Pearson will probably lead a fearsome group of starters for the Dunedin Blue Jays, at least to start the season. I’m sure the Blue Jays’ medical staff is going to want to keep an eye on him, but keeping him in Dunedin will allow him to get more regular work in for the first month of the season. He’ll be in New Hampshire soon, but you might have to wait until May to see 100+ mph fastballs in Manchester.
Maverik Buffo had a solid season with the Lansing Lugnuts last year and he’s probably ready to keep things going with the Dunedin Blue Jays, where he finished the season with some struggles, seeing his ERA balloon to over 6.00.
Yennsy Diaz finished out the season in Dunedin and, after getting added to the 40-man roster, he’s probably not quite ready to go to Double-A. Plus, I have so many pitchers on my depth chart that it wouldn’t hurt Diaz to start in Dunedin in his Age-22 season.
Maximo Castillo was one of the few starters who spent the whole season pitching reasonably well in Lansing last year. All that experience, despite not even being 20 yet, means that I think Castillo gets the call to Dunedin. That said, if anyone stays back in Lansing it might well be him.
Zach Logue flew under the radar but the ninth-round pick of the Jays from 2017 translated a 2.67 ERA in nine starts in Lansing to a 3.41 ERA in 18 outings in Dunedin, lowering his home runs rate at the same time. That said, while he was likely one of Dunedin’s best overall pitchers last year, I think Logue, 22, returns for a little bit before any promotion to New Hampshire.
On the Bubble
Colton Laws, a 6-foot-7 starter who was the Jays’ seventh-round pick out of UNC Charlotte in 2017, is a massive specimen who struggled last year with injuries. He had shoulder surgery in November and is projected to come back this year at some point but it may be in Dunedin when he does return so the medical staff can keep a closer eye on him.
Willy Ortiz was signed by the Jays as a minor-league free agent. While he’s only 23, he reached Advanced-A ball with the Rays’ organization last year and had solid results. The Blue Jays tend to have free agents repeat their level to start with when coming from another team, although, after 85 innings in the Florida State League last year, he could easily move up to Dunedin.
Righty Justin Maese missed all of last year with shoulder surgery but he is on the Blue Jays’ list of players in minor league camp. Hopefully that’s good news as Maese was looking very sharp the last time I saw him. Does he start the season in Dunedin? All will depend on his health.
Donnie Sellers, 23, is on the bubble not because of how he pitched last year, with a 3.98 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in Lansing, but what his role is going to be. He had games in which he racked up strikeouts (including 12 in a five-inning outing) early in the year, but he mostly pitched to contact in the role of a piggyback starter and only struck out 6.9 batters per nine innings. The question for me is whether he’ll be a starter in 2019 or a reliever. Space in the rotation is what puts him “on the bubble.”
With a full season in Lansing where he showed a lot of development from the beginning of the season to the end, Dany Jimenez, 25, is getting to the age where he needs to move up. While he could move to New Hampshire and skip over Dunedin, I would think he gets some time in Florida to start the year.
Andy Ravel, 24, had some of the best results in his career when he started last season in Lansing. After moving up to Dunedin, though, his numbers went south and he’ll look to try to find what he had in Lansing this year in Dunedin.
Ty Tice, 22, started the season in Lansing last year after being a 16th-round pick in 2017. He throws hard for a guy who’s listed at 5-foot-9 (I’ve seen him hit 95 mph), and after not giving up any earned runs in nine innings in Lansing, he had a 2.70 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 50 innings in Dunedin. He did see a drop in his strikeout rate and a huge rise in walk rate in Florida and that, combined with his age, lead me to believe he’ll start with the D-Jays.
Graham Spraker, who is almost 24, had a very successful season as a starter in Lansing last year, tossing 91 innings (with time lost due to an injury) with a 3.26 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, but his strikeout rate was pretty low (6.5 K/9) and he may be better suited to the bullpen.
Jonathan Cheshire, 24, has already had a strong season in Dunedin with a 2.47 ERA and 1.06 WHIP, walking just 2.1 batters per nine innings and striking out 7.9 per nine. But I’m wondering how much space there will be in New Hampshire, leaving someone like Cheshire back in Dunedin to start.
Kyle Weatherly, 24, was another pitcher who spent the season in Lansing in 2018. While his numbers aren’t terrific (3.70 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 3.1 BB/9, 6.1 K/9), I think Weatherly’s age and ability to play a versatile role and log innings (87 2/3 last year) helps him get to Dunedin to start 2019.
On the Bubble
Jake Fishman, 24, is one of the few lefty relievers in the organization with some upward momentum. While he was our Reliever of the Year for Dunedin last year and he’s proven he can pitch well at the level, my gut tells me he doesn’t move up right away. But if the Jays look at the numbers: 11 walks and 56 strikeouts in 57 innings, he’s in New Hampshire if they can find space for him.
Turner Larkins is another 2017 starter who missed time in Lansing due to injury. At 23, he’s among the younger pitchers in this group but he put together some solid stats over 63 2/3 innings that merit a promotion. His age and the fact that he lost about half a season could be the factors that keep him in Lansing to start the year.
Cobi Johnson, 23, had a stellar year in Vancouver. That, combined with his big arm give him the edge from the Vancouver staff in 2018 to jump over Lansing to see if his stuff will play in Dunedin after a 1.73 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 12.1 K/9 ratio.
Bryan Baker, 24, was the player to be named later in the trade for Seung-hwan Oh (the return for whom seems to be the best the Jays got in a trade last year. Baker, 24, hit 100 mph with his fastball last year and struck out 58 in 45 innings with Lancaster, Colorado’s Advanced-A team in the California League and struck out nine in 6 1/3 innings with Dunedin at the end of the year. Baker could well start 2019 in New Hampshire but he could be back in Dunedin to start the year.
Nick Hartman did get about half a season in New Hampshire last year, hence why he’s on the bubble, but I think he’s more likely to be back in Dunedin to start the year. He had a 5.09 ERA at both levels (almost evenly split) with a 1.77 WHIP and his strikeout rate and walk rate both went the wrong way significantly after his promotion. I think the lack of room in New Hampshire pushes him to Dunedin but there’s a chance Hartman starts as a Fisher Cat.
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