Good morning Blue Jays fans. It’s a great day to be in Toronto: Baseball returns to the Great White North but yesterday, the minor league schedule started!
I’m sure many of you were reading my minor league reports at Jays Journal last year and it looks like they’re going to be picking that up again without me this year. That’s cool. Go read Michael Wray’s report now and and come back and I’ll fill in some blanks for you.
I’m not going to go as much in-depth with every player as much as I did last year but I will highlight some of the fun things that happened. I’ll be bringing you more than box score reports, scouring Twitter and listening to radio broadcasts to bring you a little more insight than the box score can give you.
Yesterday was a clean sweep for all four minor league teams although the Lugnuts were playing an exhibition game that didn’t count in the Midwest League standings.
Buffalo Bisons (1-0)
I was in Buffalo for their 6-3 Opening Day victory over the Rochester Red Wings. Marcus Stroman was excellent in the first inning, striking out the side but started to run into trouble in the second, giving up a couple of runs. He was sitting 92-93 on the radar gun but hitters were making very solid contact against him. If you watch the clip of his scrum in Buffalo that they’ve posted on the Jays Journal minor league report (yes, I was there), you’ll hear him bring up his changeup. Interestingly, both Jared Macdonald and I noticed that during the game, the only time he was getting swings and misses was with his changeup.
Liam Hendriks came in and threw two solid innings. Since Stroman was on an 80-pitch cap, Hendriks (the Bisons’ #5 starter) was tapped to get a couple of innings in to keep him fresh. Following Hendriks, Marcus Walden threw an effective inning, giving up two ground ball outs and a fly out while John Stilson (to paraphrase manager Gary Allenson) was too fired up and didn’t have his release point at all, requiring Neil Wagner, firing BBs at 94 mph (and touching 97 mph) with an effective slider and change, to give the club a five-out save.
On the offense, the big bomb came from Anthony Gose who went two for four with a double. Matt Tuiasosopo had three hits although one of them was a pop up that Red Wings shortstop Danny Santana lost against the overcast sky and dropped about 10 feet away from him (Tuiasosopo reached second base on what I affectionately call an infield double). Kevin Pillar didn’t look great, going 0/5 and Dan Johnson walked four times, giving him and 0/0 game with a run scored.
It wasn’t exactly a fantastic game with a lot of sloppy defense on both sides. There were only two errors awarded but, there could have been more. There was one play on which second baseman Chris Getz misplayed a ball initially, picked the ball up made a throw in the dirt that Dan Johnson couldn’t scoop. I’m not sure why there wasn’t an error charged there.
Blue Jays from Away Player of the Game: Neil Wagner
New Hampshire Fisher Cats (1-0)
The Fisher Cats game featured top prospect Aaron Sanchez‘s debut on the mound in Double-A and he made quick and easy work of the Trenton Thunder in a 6-0 win. According to CJ Wittman (@CJWittJr), a Baseball Prospectus writer who was at the game, Sanchez was sitting 96-98 mph with his fastball with very good control and made a fan in Wittman. Wittman also reported his 81-84 mph curve flashing “plus-plus” at times (that means it’s outstanding) and he also graded the changeup with “plus potential.” Obviously, this is one of the most exciting things that Blue Jays fans can hear about Sanchez. He threw five shutout innings, giving up only one hit and walking just two batters with five strikeouts.
Casey Lawrence and Scott Gracey threw two innings each to close out the game and each only gave up one hit. Gracey was particularly excellent, striking out four.
The offense pounded out 10 hits with two each going to Ryan Schimpf (who had a single and a double), Kenny Wilson, A.J. Jimenez, and Kevin Nolan (who also stole a base).
Blue Jays from Away Player of the Game: Aaron Sanchez
Dunedin Blue Jays (1-0)
Dunedin opened their season at home against the cross-town Clearwater Threshers with a 7-0 drubbing. Two of my 2014 Jays Journal Top Prospects honourable mentions, Matt Boyd and K.C. Hobson figured prominently in this one.
Boyd threw seven shutout innings, giving up five hits, walking none and striking out five in an outstanding performance that impressed BP writer (and friend to Blue Jays from Away) Chris King (@StatsKing). According to Chris, Boyd was sitting 89-91 (touching 92) on the radar gun and had excellent control of his fastball along with a curve that improved as the night wore on, also mixing in some changeups. Chris is gave pretty much the same scouting report that I had on him last year after seeing him in Lansing (although he’s up about a tick with his fastball velocity).
Another pitcher that caught King’s attention was Chad Girodo who threw an inning, giving up two hits with one strikeout. As you know, I’ve written about Girodo before and raved about the movement that he gets on his sinking fastball. King reported that Girodo was hitting 90 mph (something I’ve never seen from him) with “legit” movement. Blake McFarland cleaned up with a 1-2-3 ninth inning to close out the game.
On the hitting side, Hobson just missed a home run by slamming a ball off the wall, hitting a double and driving in three runners on two hits. Toronto native Marcus Knecht also contributed with a double and an RBI while Dwight Smith, Jr., batting leadoff, went 4/5 with four singles; King loved his smooth quick stroke to the ball. Mississauga-born Dalton Pompey had a quieter game but went 1/4 and added a walk, scoring twice. King reported a rough game in the field for Emilio Guerrero but the shortstop had a base hit in four at bats.
Blue Jays from Away Player of the Game: Matt Boyd
The Lugnuts didn’t play a league game but they played their annual Crosstown Showdown against the Michigan State University baseball team and beat them in a tight game 3-2. I didn’t get home from Buffalo in time to hear much of the game (I did catch the last couple of innings) but Ladner, B.C. native Tom Robson made the start and gave up a run off of two hits and no walks with five strikeouts in just three innings. He was followed by a clean inning by Phil Kish who needed only 9 pitches to notch three outs, two of them by strikeout. 18-year-old Jesus Tinoco, who has yet to pitch above the GCL level, struck out three in 2 2/3 innings, giving up one run on three hits while Mark Biggs, Adaric Kelly, Garrett Pickens, Yeyfry Del Rosario and Francisco Gracesqui all combined for the final 2 2/3 innings without surrendering a hit or walk.
The offense was fairly quiet. Dickie Thon had a double in three at bats while Santiago Nessy went 1/2 with an RBI single. Matt Dean also had a double and scored a run.
No player of the game because it’s an exhibition game but thanks go out to Trey Wilson (@TreyWilson757) for posting the box score to Twitter.
Who are these players? Find out in The 2014 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook, now available as an ebook at Smashwords.com for $7.99 US. It’s coming soon to Amazon, Apple iBooks, Kobo and other fine retailers. You can purchase and preview the book at our Smashwords.com page! If you like us here,“like” us on Facebook!
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