The Toronto Blue Jays’ minor league teams got their seasons under way on Thursday and there are always interesting players to watch who consistently fly under the radar of prospect watchers. Here is one pitcher per team who you would benefit watching.
Like with the hitters, the Buffalo Bisons don’t really have a lot of “under-the-radar” players by virtue of the nature of the club. If a player makes it to Triple-A, the likelihood is that he has proved himself over and over again on the way up the minor league ladder and most Triple-A players have lost their “underdog” status. That said, it’s easy for a pitcher to get lost in a bullpen or at the back end of a rotation and there are several pitchers who will come out of the ‘pen for the Bisons who you may not have heard of. Justin Shafer was one such pitcher who rose to prominence last year to land with Toronto eventually (although he’s back in Buffalo).
That said, this year, I’m going with Corey Copping. While Copping made a few appearances in the Grapefruit League this year, he’s the mostly unknown reliever who came to the Jays when they sent John Axford to the Los Angeles Dodgers last year. He’s got a mid-90s fastball and is poised to put himself in a position to get to the big leagues this year. Copping is still on the way up (he’s 25) and first reached Triple-A for 7 1/3 innings in 2017. He also struck out 20 batters in 14 innings for New Hampshire after the trade. If he can tame his walks, he could make it all the way to the top.
I’m tempted to go with another fireballing reliever for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Last year, I picked Zach Jackson to watch and he had a solid season for the Fisher Cats. This year, I’m going with a starter: Zach Logue. Logue is impressing all kinds of people with his ability to throw strikes and mix his pitches. Scheduled to pitch today for the Fisher Cats, Logue was strong when I saw him in spring training but he’s also very self aware about his mechanics, a quality I saw in Kevin Smith last year. Look for Logue to be consistent and rise in people’s eyes as a starting pitcher to fill a back-end rotation spot in a year or two in Toronto.
Last year, my Dunedin Blue Jays pitcher to watch was Patrick Murphy. He was pretty good last year and has the Florida State League Pitcher of the Year award on his mantle to show for it. This year, I’m going deeper and selecting Nick Allgeyer. I was very impressed by William Ouellette when I saw him in the spring but I think Allgeyer had the kind of outing that shows his potential, cutting through a Yankees minor league lineup for four innings. Allgeyer is another lefty who was drafted out of college in the 12th round last year and had some solid results in Vancouver. He’s skipping over Lansing and, the way he carved up hitters with a four-pitch mix that he could command very well, showed me that he should be able to thrive in Dunedin this year. While he doesn’t have premium velocity, he may have average velo and for a lefty with good offspeed stuff, that’s going to be enough in a league like Florida.
By midseason, the Lansing Lugnuts will probably have some younger blood in their rotation (like Eric Pardinho) but for now, a 2018 draftee sparked my interest and had a strong season debut last night. Joey Murray doesn’t throw hard. In fact, he barely cracked 90 mph when I saw him in spring training, but I bet if we had TrackMan data for his fastball, the spin rate would be off the charts. He also made A-ball Yankee hitters look silly, getting swings and misses on his fringy fastball like he was blowing it by them. It’s been dubbed the “inivisiball” and, as long as he can throw his offspeed pitches for strikes without changing his arm angle or mechanics, the fastball will be very tough to hit. He’ll definitely be fun to watch and we are mystified as to how hard that fastball is to get the bat on.
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