It’s time for post #2 in our series that tries to predict the Opening Day rosters for the Toronto Blue Jays full-season minor league teams. Without further ado, we look at the Lansing Lugnuts position players.
There’s a little less of a logjam on my spreadsheet for the hitters that I project to start the season in Lansing and there are always a few surprises when the rosters are released in April.
Alejandro Kirk distinguished himself in really his first professional season. While he’s been compared physically to Chris Farley, he moves well, with quick feet behind the plate and a strong arm, throwing out 43% of potential base stealers with Bluefield at the age of 19. Kirk also shows power potential with 10 home runs, leading the club and he finished the season with a 1.001 OPS.
Joining Kirk will be Christopher Bec, who had a solid debut season in his draft year with the Vancouver Canadians in 2018. Bec hit .245/.351/.365.
On the Bubble
Ryan Gold played with Lansing last year and his numbers really plunged from his 2017 season in Bluefield, hitting .264/.308/.346. He could be back in Lansing as a third catcher or he could move up to Dunedin to be a backup.
Brett Wright didn’t hit much in his professional debut with the Vancouver Canadians, playing 24 games and hitting just .147/.229/.360 but he hit five home runs in just 83 plate appearances and has some pop that might play at higher levels.
Yorman Rodriguez is 21 and spent 2018 in Vancouver with okay numbers but a .267/.310/.343 slash line isn’t going to pop out at you. With his youth, he could spend another year in Vancouver.
Jake Brodt has a lot of swing and miss in his game and his numbers in Vancouver could have been better at .237/.256/.361 with 15 doubles and two home runs. That said, his power is ripe for the picking and without too many first basemen in the system, Brodt likely moves to Lansing in 2019.
Otto Lopez, 20, was the jack of all trades, playing virtually everywhere for the Vancouver Canadians and hitting .297/.390/.434. Watch for Lopez as he takes his game to a full-season assignment.
Vinny Capra already made it to Lansing in his draft year in 2018. The Jays’ 20th-round pick out of the University of Richmond had a .699 OPS between Vancouver and Lansing and will be one of the middle infielders in 2019.
Bryan Lizardo, 21, is finally looking to get out of short-season ball after five seasons between the DSL, GCL and three seasons in Vancouver. He played 18 games with Lansing and while his career-best numbers with Vancouver (a .780 OPS with four home runs) didn’t carry over (his OPS dropped to .660 in 18 games with the Lugnuts), Lizardo is going to try to get his first Opening Day full season assignment, playing third base for Lansing.
Nick Podkul, 21, joined the Vancouver Canadians after being the Jays’ seventh-round pick in 2018 out of Notre Dame. While he didn’t hit all that well (.222/.347/.364), he did hold his own and there’s a little pop in his bat too. He may play a lot of second base for Lansing.
Jesus Navarro is only 21 despite playing in the Blue Jays’ system since 2015 as a 17 year old. Navarro spent the end of the season in Lansing, playing 54 games and hit a solid .288/.355/.359 with a smidge of extra-base pop. Navarro can play second, third and short and should move around a fair bit for the Lugnuts in 2019.
On the Bubble
Jordan Groshans had an outstanding pro debut for the GCL Blue Jays in 2018 after being selected with the Jays’ first-round pick. He hit .331/.390/.500 with 12 doubles and four home runs in 37 games, playing shortstop and third base, but he faded in 11 games with Bluefield, hitting .182/.229/.273, but got a new life in the playoffs, going seven for 11 with a double and a home run and two walks. I’d say there’s a 50/50 chance that he starts the season in extended spring training but his mature plate approach and the trajectory the Jays took with Bo Bichette suggests that the club might send him to A-ball to see how he handles it.
Brandon Grudzielanek played in Lansing in a utility role in 2018, hitting .245/.322/.354. There’s a good chance he can move up to Dunedin and get into about half of the games, or he could stay in Lansing to start the year and move up as the season wears on.
Dom Abbadessa had his second strong season in a row, posting a .311/.366/.420 slash line in 59 games with Bluefield in 2018. Abbadessa has a bit of extra-base power with 14 home runs, three tirples and two home runs but he also has speed, stealing 18 bases in 23 attempts. After three years and at the age of 21, I think Abbadessa is moving up to Lansing.
Reggie Pruitt got his first taste of the Midwest League last year, but a couple of injuries kept him from really getting into a groove. He hit .211/.300./304 with 13 doubles, three triples and three home runs while stealing 37 bases in 46 attempts. He’ll probably start the season back in Lansing but could move up if he gets off to a good start, showing improvement.
Alberta-born Tanner Kirwer had his best pro season (of his two years) with Vancouver in 2018, hitting .280/.333/.450, showing some improved power with 13 doubles, six triples and four home runs while stealing 28 bases. Kirwer is known for his defense and will be able to give the Lugnuts another speedy outfielder.
Mc Gregory Contreras won’t turn 21 until August but his bat is probably more advanced than his defense. He hit .260/.318/.460 with 11 doubles, four triples and eight home runs but he may end up DHing a lot in Lansing. Still a full year in the Midwest League may help him be a little more patient at the plate as he only walked nine times last year.
Norberto Obeso got 98 games in Lansing last year but saw his production drop to a .614 OPS, continuing a slide year over year since his debut in the DSL in 2015. I think Obeso gets another shot at Lansing.
*Griffin Conine had a solid pro debut in 2018 after being selected in the second round, hitting .238/.309/.427 with the Canadians. But he was suspended for 50 games in the offseason after testing positive for a banned stimulant and won’t play anywhere until late May or early June. But he would have been slotted into the Lugnuts’ order had he been active for Opening Day.
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