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It’s March and spring training in full swing! 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, continuing with the hitters of the Buffalo Bisons!
I think the hitters will be a little easier to predict than the pitchers for the Bisons than the pitchers so here we go!
Riley Adams is projecting to be the every day (or at least half-the-time) catcher for the Bisons. With a solid season in 2019, mostly in Double-A, where he hit .258/.349/.439 with 11 home runs, Adams is likely to move up and show off what he can do at a higher level.
Caleb Joseph is projecting to be the alternate catcher for the Bisons, getting some time and probably playing some first base or DHing, or letting Adams DH on days he’s not behind the plate. Joseph has four years of MLB service under his belt with 422 games and a career .223/.270/.350 slash line in the big leagues. That said, he’ll be the Jays first call up if something happens with Jansen and/or McGuire in Toronto.
Patrick Cantwell will likely be the Bisons’ third catcher. He’s mostly spent his career as a backup in the upper minors for the past five years or so and hasn’t played in the majors but has been a solid catcher for the Blue Jays in the minors for the past couple of years but has had some injury problems, getting into just 22 games with the Bisons last year.
The Blue Jays are projecting to have a few veterans in the infield in Buffalo. I think that Patrick Kivlehan will see a lot of time either on first base or third base. After hitting 32 home runs (most of them in Triple-A) last year, he’s back on a minor league deal that could see him get back to the major leagues if something happens with corner infielders.
Santiago Espinal had a solid season in 2019 and was rewarded by being added to the 40-man roster this offseason. He hit .278/.343/.381 in New Hampshire but got into a groove in 28 games in Buffalo with a .317/.360/.433 slash line. He offers some middle-infield insurance in Toronto but he’s likely not going to be the first guy called up.
Ruben Tejada was signed on a minor league deal by the Blue Jays and he adds another layer of depth to the Bisons’ roster. Tejada has plenty of major league experience, reaching the big leagues in 2012 and playing regularly for a few seasons. He’s been mostly in the minors in the past couple of years. He’s got a .250/.324/.317 slash line in the major leagues but has done better in the minors over the course of his career.
Andy Burns had a strong season in his return to affiliated baseball after two years in Korea. He hit .275/.364/.470 with 19 home runs in Buffalo last year and was one of the most consistent hitters on the Bisons, playing solidly at a number of positions.
On the Bubble
Rowdy Tellez is probably the biggest name who’s on the bubble between Toronto and Buffalo. If the Jays go with Brandon Drury and Joe Panik on the roster, they also have Travis Shaw who is also a lefthanded hitter and that might mean that Tellez might start in Buffalo (depending on how the outfield lines up). Rowdy had plenty of power in the majors, hitting 21 home runs in 370 at bats but had a .227/.293/.449 slash line with a whopping 116 strikeouts. If he can get on base more, he’ll be in Toronto but could start in Buffalo.
Joe Panik is being touted by many as having a spot in Toronto almost certainly locked up. He’s hitting well this spring and has been taking ground balls at shortstop, where he’d likely be most needed to spell Bo Bichette. There’s a chance he’ll be in Buffalo but things are looking good for Panik, who’s been an everyday major leaguer for several years with the Giants.
Nash Knight will probably start his season with Buffalo. He was in New Hampshire for most of 2019 and hit .252/.365/.381 with 22 doubles, a triple and seven home runs. Knight is known for his versatility and he can fill in almost anywhere on the diamond.
The outfield for the Buffalo Bisons is going to be pretty interesting to see how it lines up. Forrest Wall is probably the guy who is most guaranteed to start the year in Buffalo. Wall was one of the most consistent hitters for New Hampshire, hitting .270/.353/.419 with nine home runs and got into 14 games at the end of the year for Buffalo, hitting .255/.340/.447.
Roemon Fields is also pretty much guaranteed to be on the Bisons’ roster. He’s been in Triple-A for the past few years and hit .254/.324/.321 last year, stealing only 16 bases.
On the Bubble
The bubble is large for outfielders in Buffalo. I think Jonathan Davis could make the major league team but if he doesn’t, he’ll probably play a lot of center field for Buffalo. Davis still hasn’t hit in his exposure to the major leagues but he had a solid .256/.378/.439 slash line in Buffalo, hitting 19 doubles, three triples and 10 home runs in just 82 games.
Another bubble guy is Anthony Alford who is out of options. Alford hit 259/.343/.411 in 76 games with the Bisons last year but struggled mightily with strikeouts in the majors. If he gets through waivers and isn’t with the Blue Jays, I think he’ll try to put up some big numbers to revitalize his career in Buffalo.
Billy McKinney has also had his struggles between Toronto and Buffalo. In Toronto, he hit .215/.274/.422 with 12 home runs in 84 games and had a solid .271/.383/.488 slash line for 36 games in Buffalo. I think he could be on either team.
Finally, I know the Blue Jays are really hoping that Derek Fisher figures things out in the major leagues as a Blue Jay. But his big league track record isn’t impressive although he did his six home runs in 40 games for the Blue Jays last year. He needs to strike out less and get on base more for him to be a contributor.
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