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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, starting with the pitchers of the Lansing Lugnuts!
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 Dunedin but might get pushed downwards to start the season.
I’m also finding that there are lots of pitchers who are worthy of moving up to a full-season team from both Vancouver and Bluefield so it’s going to be a real crunch once minor league spring training opens to see who gets those slots in Lansing to start the year.
Adam Kloffenstein is about as much of a lock as you can get. He starred for the Vancouver Canadians last year and, after just two years of professional baseball, is ready for his first full-season assignment.
I think that Juan De Paula will be back in Lansing after struggling there last year following his trade from San Francisco. He missed a lot of the year with an injury and needs to establish his ability to throw strikes early in the season.
Nick Fraze was outstanding in a limited starter role with Vancouver after finishing his junior year at Texas State. I think he gets a shot at full-season baseball with Lansing.
Edisson Gonzalez, acquired from the Rays as a player to be named later in the Eric Sogard trade, pitched in his Age-19 season for Short-Season-A Hudson Valley and was excellent. I think he may be held back in extended spring training a bit but he looks like he’s ready for a full-season assignment.
Jol Concepcion is a name that you might not have heard before. He’s a hard-throwing righty who has had some suspension and injury problems but he looked excellent in Bluefield last year. I can see him skipping over Vancouver to start in Lansing.
Canadian Alex Nolan had a strong year as a starter for the Vancouver Canadians and was one the Cs’ better pitchers after he signed on a minor league free agent deal out of Brock University.
On the Bubble
Juan Diaz, 21 was very solid in Vancouver last year and could come north early.
Grant Townsend will be in his Age-22 year and was very good in Vancouver last year. He could be ready for Lansing but if he has a good spring, I could see him starting in Dunedin.
Gabriel Ponce is another 2019 draftee who had some solid results in Vancouver but he could start in extended spring training.
I think Juan Nunez and his 95+ mph fastball could start the season with Lansing after bouncing between Lansing and Vancouver last year.
Josh Hiatt will probably return to Lansing, needing to work on his control but having otherwise decent results in 2019.
Luke Gillingham was one of the best relievers for Vancouver in 2019. The US Naval Academy grad will probably move up to Lansing but a jump to Dunedin isn’t out of the question.
Andy McGuire walked more than he struck out in a limited call up to Lansing last year and I think he’ll be back.
Joey Pulido will also likely be another returning pitcher to the Lugnuts in 2020 and is another guy who struggled in his first real chance at Lansing.
Cobi Johnson bounced between the bullpen and the rotation, logging almost 100 innings for the Lugnuts but he walked 56 batters and needs to get a handle on his control before he moves up to Dunedin.
Parker Caracci had a strong pro debut in Vancouver and is likely slated to move up.
Grayson Huffman looks like he’s put his injury woes behind him but still had high walk rates despite velocities that I heard reported in the high 90s. He also struck out 11.3 batters per nine innings and is going to be 25 in May. He needs to get out of short season ball.
On the Bubble
Another name you might not be familiar with is William Gaston. The 23-year-old Cuban was with Vancouver last year and struggled to throw strikes, walking 6.1 batters per nine. I think if his control looks better in spring training, he’ll emerge with the Lugnuts.
Austin Havekost looked quite good to me when I saw him in Bluefield. He struck out 17 and walked just four in 15 innings and could be a dark horse for the Lansing bullpen.
Luis Quinones was outstanding in Vancouver last year but was suspended for 80 games for using a banned substance. He’ll join the Lugnuts midseason.
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