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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 New Hampshire Fisher Cats!
As the Blue Jays have added pitchers both at the major league level and in the minors, the spreadsheet has gotten quite full and we may see pitchers who, by every right, should be in Triple-A to start the year open up the season in New Hampshire. There are going to be a ton of possible pitchers in New Hampshire but not all will be able to get a spot.
Despite pitching last year in New Hampshire, I think Patrick Murphy will be debuting his reworked windup after a year plagued with mechanical changes and injuries. He had a 1.21 WHIP last year but had a 4.71 ERA in 84 innings in NH last year.
The best pitcher for the Dunedin Blue Jays last year was definitely Maximo Castillo. While he flies way under the radar of prospect watchers, he’s a guy to watch because of his solid velo, and his physical presence on the mound. He had a 2.69 ERA and 1.10 WHIP as a 20 year old in Advanced-A last year and logged 130 1/3 innings (right about the same as the previous year). He’ll be a 21 year old in Double-A in 2020.
Zach Logue had a decent season in Double-A last year but also had some injury issues. He had a 4.10 ERA and 1.26 WHIP but struck out only 79 in 101 innings. The lefty will likely get another shot to build up to a full season and improve his numbers overall.
Joey Murray showed off his high-spin-rate fastball last year, moving all the way from Lansing to New Hampshire while maintaining high strikeout rates (10.72 K/9 in New Hampshire and 11.00 K/9 in Dunedin) while keeping a low walk rate. While he doesn’t have great velocity, his deceptive delivery also helps the fastball play up, earning it the nickname “invisiball.”
On the Bubble
I’ve got so many “on-the-bubble” guys and I’m going to start with someone who might be up a level had the Jays not signed so many free agents. Yennsy Diaz actually made his major league debut last year but posted solid numbers in New Hampshire in his Age-22 season. He had a 3.74 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, striking out 116 in 144 1/3 innings, but had his plus velocity tempered by lack of control at times. I think he’s back in New Hampshire although there’s a small chance he could be in Buffalo.
Elvis Luciano is also on the bubble after being a Rule 5 keeper last year. It’s hard to know where Luciano will be because he’s not following a typically linear minor-league progression. The Jays definitely want to turn him back into a starter and he could start either in Dunedin or New Hampshire.
Nick Allgeyer started out incredibly well for the Dunedin Blue Jays in his first full season in the minor leagues. He finished with a 3.95 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 118 1/3 innings with 104 strikeouts and 29 walks. He’s got a full repertoire and, coming from the left side, should have a chance to make the New Hampshire rotation but is unlikely to thanks to the depth in the organization.
According to Scott Mitchell of TSN, Hector Perez is being moved to the bullpen but he may start if needed. I think he could move to Buffalo but, again, there’s way more depth in the organization and he’ll probably be pushed down to New Hampshire.
Thomas Hatch was incredible after he came over from the Cubs organization and started using his changeup more (at the urging of Vince Horsman, who’s now no longer with the organization). But he wasn’t great when he was in Double-A Tennessee. Now 25, Hatch should be in Triple-A but I’m not sure there’s going to be room for him.
I think that New Hampshire is going to have a good bullpen, starting with Brad Wilson. Wilson split 2019 between Dunedin and New Hampshire and he struck out well over a batter per inning in Dunedin while coming close to that threshold in 18 innings in New Hampshire. I think he returns to New Hampshire.
William Ouellette opened my eyes last spring training and he pitched solidly in 43 2/3 innings with New Hampshire last year. That said, he only struck out 24 batters and gave up a lot of fly balls (though his HR/FB rate was well below average).
I think that Jake Fishman, a lefty from Massachusetts, will be back in New Hampshire. He struck out over a batter per inning in 62 2/3 innings with the Fisher Cats with a 1.26 WHIP and is looking to improve those numbers even more before a promotion to Buffalo.
Vinny Nittoli was a minor league free agent who pitched well in New Hampshire last year. He re-signed in the offseason and will likely be back in New Hampshire despite his 1.05 WHIP in 42 2/3 innings.
Mike Ellenbest had a strong year in New Hampshire coming out of the bullpen for the first time in his career, coming back from a year off with an injury. He had a 2.42 ERA and 1.51 WHIP with a fairly low strikeout rate, mostly in Dunedin but did well in the Arizona Fall League and finished his year in New Hampshire.
Newly signed James Dykstra has a lot of power in his arm and will likely sit 94-96 mph (touching 98 or higher) and he was signed after a stint in the Atlantic League. You can read our profile on him in The 2020 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook as we talked to him after he signed with the Jays.
Justin Dillon was very strong, mostly as a starter with the Fisher Cats last year, posting a 3.32 ERA and 1.19 WHIP over 57 innings with 17 walks and 42 strikeouts. I think he’ll have to move to the bullpen after a few years as a starter.
On the Bubble
Corey Copping, I think, is one guy who is going to be negatively affected by the number of arms in camp right now. He spent more time in Buffalo last year but struggled with walks despite having more than 1.5 more strikeouts per nine innings.
Last year’s MiLB.com Reliever of the Year, Jackson Rees was dominant in both Lansing and Dunedin but I’m still not 100% convinced that he’s going to be a lock to make the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. The non-drafted free agent has earned it, but decisions aren’t always made because of pure merit. He’s on the bubble but has a good shot.
Turner Larkins was a swing man in Dunedin last year, for the most part, and could move up to New Hampshire if he works out of the bullpen exclusively.
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