Last year, I picked out eight Blue Jays minor league players to keep an eye on, choosing one pitcher and one hitter from each of the four full-season minor league teams. This year, I’m going to break things up a bit, giving you one post for pitchers and one for hitters. These players are guys who are a little bit under the radar who you should probably look out for.
Taylor Guerrieri may not be the most under the radar after the Blue Jays guy after he was claimed off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays, but if he’s healthy, he could very well be another unheralded depth starter on the Bisons. He last pitched extensively in 2016 (after missing most of 2017 with an injury) and had a 3.76 ERA and 1.20 WHIP over 146 innings with Double-A Montgomery (the Biscuits). While he didn’t strike out a ton of batters, he got 57.5% of balls on the ground and that was the lowest number over the course of his minor league career.
New Hampshire Fisher Cats
Zach Jackson is a guy that most people haven’t heard much about. Most of the pitchers on the Fisher Cats are either moving up with some buzz (Jordan Romano) or returning after struggling in their first crack at the Double-A level (Francisco Rios, Jon Harris, Sean Reid-Foley). I also picked Jose Fernandez last year and I still think he’s going to break out, but I think that Jackson, who has low-to-mid-90s heat, a funky delivery, and a knee-quaking curveball, has the potential to be a breakout reliever in 2018. If he can keep the walks down, he’s on the verge of something special.
Dunedin Blue Jays
There’s so many pitchers to choose from in Dunedin. Do I choose Jackson McClelland, whose velocity keeps climbing and has (reportedly) reached 100 mph this spring? I think a lot of people are really starting to hear about him but I want to draw some attention to Patrick Murphy. There were three pitching performances that really impressed me in spring training. T.J. Zeuch, Nate Pearson and Patrick Murphy. And all three are starting the year in Dunedin. Murphy is my dark horse to pull a “Borucki” and get to Buffalo by the end of the year.
Like Dunedin, there are a lot of unheralded players who could make a big impact. Yennsy Diaz is a young fireballer who, if he learns to corral his heat, he’ll be a fast riser. Ditto for Maximo Castillo. Ty Tice was impressive, but I’m going to go with Graham Spraker. Spraker was the one guy that a lot of the Blue Jays brass were telling me to keep an eye on. I’ve heard that he can run the fastball up to 97 and, with good movement and a solid array of offspeed pitchers, he could be a very strong reliever this year if that’s the role he ends up in.
UPDATE: Jesse Goldberg-Strassler reports that Spraker is going to be a starting pitcher for the Lugnuts to start the year. His velocity might be tamed a bit in the starter’s role but he’s going to be able to use and develop his offspeed pitches more.
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