The Blue Jays have released their roster for the 2016 Fall Instructional League and it features some of the best young players in the Blue Jays’ system.
Generally, the Instructional League is primarily for players who were in short-season leagues, to allow them further developmental time throughout the fall before they have an offseason break. Usually teams will bring the players in whom they are most heavily invested, primarily to accelerate their improvement with more coaches on hand and having them under direct supervision of all of the levels of the minor league development staff.
While I haven’t uncovered any rules on how many times a player may participate in the FIL, very few players who played above the A-ball level are invited. Here is the roster and my notes about some noteworthy players.
As expected, we find most of the Blue Jays’ 2016 draft picks on the list, including first rounder T.J. Zeuch, third rounder Zach Jackson as well as high schoolers Travis Hosterman and Josh Winckowski. International prospects with more minor league time include Wilfri Aleton (three years in the Dominican and one in the GCL), Angel Perdomo (who pitched in Lansing last year), Jose Fernandez (who pitched in Dunedin last year) as well as Osman Gutierrez (who reached Bluefield) and Kelyn Jose (a hard-throwing project who pitched in Bluefield). “Fresher” international free agents (IFAs) who were included on the list are Maximo Castillo, Elio Silva and, most interestingly, one of the 2016 IFAs, Roither Hernandez, who is a little older (18) and whom the Blue Jays likely feel can compete in the GCL in 2017.
There really aren’t very many surprises on this list which also includes 2015 draftees Justin Maese and Jose Espada while it had been reported earlier by our friends at Clutchlings that Clinton Hollon would be attending the instructional league.
The surprises, to me, are in the omissions: Sean Reid-Foley appears to have graduated while Conner Greene and Tim Mayza will be going to the Arizona Fall League. Evan Smith are also not on the list this year. Joel Espinal was on the FIL roster last year and, despite a strong year, wasn’t included this year. Jonathan Harris is also the biggest omission and I’m wondering whether it’s a workload issue or a minor injury.
One very notable (in my mind) omission is Tom Robson who struggled in his first full year back from Tommy John surgery. While he threw very hard (up to 97 mph that I’ve seen) this season, Robson struggled with his command and probably could have used some time to work on things.
This year’s group of catchers includes draft-year catchers Ryan Gold and Ridge Smith while Max Pentecost will get some more rehab time and hopefully begin playing catcher in preparation for next year. Justin Atkinson was also invited, likely to continue his transition to the catching position. The B.C. native played his first real season as a catcher in 2016, getting significant game action behind the plate with Lansing for the first time this season. Matt Morgan struggled at the plate in his second year in Bluefield and Yorman Rodriguez played his way to the GCL (from the Dominican Republic). Javy Hernandez had a decent year with Vancouver but has yet to do enough with the bat to get people excited about being an every day player. Danny Jansen is conspicuous by his absence from the list but will be getting extra development time in the Arizona Fall League.
Luis De Los Santos
Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.
John La Prise
As far as the infielders go, there are a couple of small surprises. Aside from the draft-year folks like Bichette, Biggio, Bradley Jones and David Jacob, there are a couple of international players who appear to be making the jump to the US like Luis De Los Santos and Joseph Reyes. Vladdy Jr., Jesus Severino, Yeltsin Gudino, Bryan Lizardo, Jesus Navarro, Sterling Guzman and Kevin Vicuna represent a Latin-American contingent who have already played in the US. Joseph Reyes, like pitcher Roither Hernandez, was a July 2 international free agent and, usually, if he’s invited to the instructional league, it means that he’ll play in the GCL in 2017.
A number of second-year players including Carl Wise, Christian Williams, John La Prise and Nash Knight were included and Mitch Nay looks to get some playing time after an injury kept him out almost all year. Juan Kelly is also a guy who has been around a while, playing the season in Lansing before going to the instructional league.
Omissions? Richard Urena has graduated and will likely get more playing time in the Dominican Winter League. Ryan McBroom has been assigned to the . Deiferson Barreto didn’t have as strong a season when exposed to pitching in the Northwest League and wasn’t included while J.C. Cardenas also didn’t hit with a ton of regularity with Lansing. Reports are that Rowdy Tellez will play a month in the Dominican Winter League too.
The outfielders list is mostly made up of 2016 draftees (Abbadessa, Daniels, Palacios, Woodman, Young) while Lane Thomas likely gets some extra time to make up for a lost year playing second base and injury in 2015 (and injury time in 2016). Reggie Pruitt is also another toolsy young player (with two years in the pros) who the Blue Jays have hopes for. McGregory Contreras was our Player of the Year in the Dominican Summer League and his inclusion indicates that the Blue Jays will almost certainly have him play in the GCL in 2017.
Anthony Alford will play in the Arizona Fall League while Josh Almonte appears to have graduated. D.J. Davis, and Freddy Rodriguez have both struggled and seem to have fallen off the prospect map (although, for me, D.J. and Jonathan Davis are good candidates to head to the Australian Baseball League this year).
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