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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, and we continue with the pitchers of the Dunedin Blue Jays!
My spreadsheet is overloaded with pitchers, particularly at the A-ball levels for Lansing and Dunedin. Some of these pitchers may deserve to be in New Hampshire but might get pushed downwards to start the season, particularly since the Blue Jays signed a whole bunch of pitchers this offseason.
I think that Alek Manoah will be the headliner for Dunedin’s pitching staff to start the year. Last year’s first-round draft pick was dominant in Vancouver last year after coming out of West Virginia University and struck out 27 batters in just 17 innings while walking only five in limited use after a long college season. I think he skips Lansing and starts his first full season in Dunedin.
The #2 starter for the Dunedin Blue Jays will likely be Simeon Woods Richardson. The 19 year old was one of, if not the youngest pitchers in A-ball last year and finished his successful first full season in Dunedin after being acquired from the Mets in the deal for Marcus Stroman. While not a particularly hard thrower, he throws strikes with four pitches and shows a maturity on the mound that belies his 19 years. With just six Advanced-A starts under his belt, he’ll probably start back in Dunedin but look for him to move quickly if he pitches as well as he did last year.
He’ll start the season as a 21 year old but it’s likely that Josh Winckowski won’t jump to Double-A just yet. He made 11 appearances in Dunedin last year with a 3.19 ERA but the surplus of pitchers at higher levels will likely force Winckowski to return to Dunedin at least to start the year.
Sean Wymer didn’t have the best numbers in Lansing but he was the most steadfast starter, making 28 appearances and throwing 137 2/3 innings. The former fourth-round pick in 2018 finished his season strongly and should be able to secure a rotation spot in Dunedin.
On the Bubble
I’ve got a ton of guys on my list for “the bubble,” starting with Kyle Johnston. Now 23, Johnston should probably move up to Double-A after parts of two years in Advanced-A at Potomac (for the Nationals’ organization) and in Dunedin. But his numbers at the level haven’t been awe-inspiring although but he did strikeout 100 and walk just 37 in 105 innings with Potomac in 2019. His numbers after coming to Dunedin weren’t very nice as he struggled with control, walking 20 in 19 2/3 innings, leading me to believe that the Jays will want to see him settle down before he moves to New Hampshire.
Graham Spraker, who will be 25 before the season starts, should probably start the year in New Hampshire but I’m not entirely sure where he slots in. The righty had a strong season in Dunedin (and got a start in Buffalo where he acquitted himself well) and was a kind of swing man, making 16 starts in 24 appearances while logging 108 2/3 innings with a 2.90 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. If he’s pushed out of New Hampshire because of the Blue Jays’ new-found depth, he’ll be back in Dunedin to start.
Fitz Stadler was another pitcher in Lansing last year who had issues with consistency and his overall numbers aren’t all that inspiring. 6-foot-9 righty Stadler had a 4.92 ERA and 1.52 WHIP in 106 innings but I think he can move up to Dunedin if there’s room.
Similar to Stadler, Troy Miller had struggles with inconsistency in Landing last year, looking alternately brilliant and dreadful. Overall, his 4.81 ERA and 1.53 WHIP don’t look great and he walked too many batters with 50 walks in 103 innings and just 75 strikeouts but he has stuff that can be competitive and has a whole year in Lansing under his belt going into his Age-23 season.
The third of the trio of potential Lansing graduates is Troy Watson. Watson is also going into his Age-23 year and fared better than Stadler or Miller in about the same number of innings, tossing 91 2/3 inning with a 3.14 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. That said, Watson’s 10.3% strikeout rate leaves a lot to be desired while he didn’t get a ton of ground balls either. He did pitch once in Dunedin last year, putting him a little bit ahead of the other pitchers who spent most of the year in Lansing last season.
Justin Maese hasn’t been around for the past couple of years due to injuries to his shoulder. If he returns, the big Texan groundball artist will likely start in Dunedin.
Hobie Harris was acquired by the Blue Jays in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft from the Yankees in December. He has reached Double-A and picked up big strikeout numbers last year while his walk rate rose too.
Maverik Buffo was used mostly in the bullpen last year as he fought with injuries. The Blue Jays may return him to the starting rotation but there may not be any room. He had some issues walking batters in the 19 innings the threw last year but that could be more due to his injuries as he’s never really had control problems before.
Like Buffo, Grant Townsend‘s status as a starter or a reliever could be resolved in the bullpen in 2020. He pitched well in Vancouver as a starter and made one start in Dunedin last year and I think he may move up to Dunedin and skip over Lansing. That said, I think the rotation is pretty packed and Townsend might move to the bullpen wherever he begins.
I think Cre Finfrock starts his season in Dunedin after finishing off a strong 2019 campaign there. He pitched 33 times in Lansing, leading the league with 17 saves and earned a save in his only appearance in Dunedin. While he may not finish in Dunedin, I think he starts there to begin 2020.
While Jackson Rees got a lot of attention last year, another non-drafted free agent reliever, Sean Rackoski, followed a similar trajectory, pitching very well in both Lansing and Dunedin. 24 to start the season, Rackoski had an ERA under 3.00 at both levels while striking out more than one batter per inning at both levels. He got his walks under control in Dunedin, walking just two in 15 2/3 innings with 18 strikeouts. He’ll be another casualty of the logjam in pitchers and will probably start in Dunedin.
Connor Law started with seven scoreless innings in Lansing and then threw 44 innings with Dunedin with a 2.86 ERA but a high, 1.59 WHIP. He struck out 26.3% but also walked 12.4%. While solid, I think Law will be back in Dunedin to start 2020.
I think Matt Shannon returns to Dunedin last year after throwing just 24 2/3 innings there due to injuries. He had a 4.74 ERA and 1.78 WHIP but he also struck out 29.
Finally, Marcus Reyes has nothing left to prove in Lansing after a strong 2019 campaign in which he threw 77 1/3 innings with a 2.56 ERA that could have been lower had he not run out of gas at the end of the season. While not a strikeout artist, the lefty doesn’t walk many and will be useful in Dunedin’s bullpen in 2020.
On the Bubble
Colton Laws has been injured for the past season and didn’t pitch in 2019 after a rough 2018 campaign. He may come back slowly, seeing time in extended spring training before he comes out in either Lansing or Dunedin.
Will Will McAffer be in Dunedin this year? That’s a good question as he had a decent season in Lansing last year with a 4.34 ERA and 1.45 WHIP. But while his strikeout rate was excellent, retiring 70 batters in 56 innings on strikes, he also walked 39 for a 6.27 BB/9 ratio.
If Brayden Bouchey returns to Dunedin early in 2020, this is where he’ll be. That said, I’m not sure if he pitches this year because he had Tommy John surgery after returning to the Jays from an assignment at Driveline baseball where he successfully added some velocity to his fastball.
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