I was watching some batting practice yesterday morning and former big leaguer Pete Orr was talking with one of the fans and somehow the conversation turned to how the players are just trying to survive as they fight for jobs. While the fans see athletic and talented players on the field in their Blue Jays uniforms, those of us who follow the minors closely know how precarious a job can be for some of these players within their organizations. Every year players come into camp who are, indeed, fighting for their survival and some of those players inevitably don’t find jobs.
Matt Eddy of Baseball America listed nine Blue Jays minor leaguers who were released from their contracts between March 11 and 17, including some names that those of you who follow along here will recognize.
The list is topped by Jacob Anderson, a former high draft pick who was selected in the supplemental round of the 2011 draft by the Blue Jays. After a stellar pro debut, Anderson struggled in 2012 and then had a hard time staying on the field, getting just 79 plate appearances between 2013 and 2015. In 2016, he had a hard time in Lansing before heading to Vancouver where he put up a .226/.292/.316 slash line.
Another name you might recognize is Justin Atkinson, a B.C. native who was a 26th-round pick in the same 2011 draft that brought Anderson. Atkinson always showed potential with the bat but he had a hard time maintaining consistent success on the field. He had a strong season in 2014 with the Lansing Lugnuts but regressed in 2015, moving back to Vancouver where he hit well (after a slow start in Lansing). Atkinson returned to the Lugnuts in 2016 where he played a lot, splitting time between catching and the infield but hit only .190/.248/.284.
We first wrote about Starlyn Suriel when he was taking people by surprise in 2014 coming out of nowhere to pitch very well in Vancouver and Lansing. He spent all of 2015 in Lansing and had solid numbers in 2016, mostly in the Lugnuts’ bullpen, tossing 61 2/3 innings with a 3.21 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, striking out 60 and walking 23 in 61 2/3 innings. He reached Double-A New Hampshire for one outing last year.
Catcher and infielder Seth Conner was drafted in the 41st round in 2010 and rose through the organization slowly, losing playing time every year after peaking with 54 games played between Bluefield and the GCL in 2012. Conner only played in 48 games in 2013 and 33 in 2014 before not playing at all in 2015 and only getting into two games last year with New Hampshire.
The Jays released three left-handed pitchers in Nate Abel, Hunter Barnett and Christian Cox. Abel was a non-drafted free agent (NDFA) in 2015 and peaked with 10 outings in Lansing last year with solid numbers. Barnett was a 34th-round pick in 2015, pitching in the GCL in 2015 and had a 6.23 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in 8 2/3 innings with Bluefield last year. Cox was signed as a free agent at the end of the 2015 season and pitched in Bluefield with a brief stint in Vancouver last year.
Aaron Attaway was the Jays’ 20th-round pick of the 2014 draft and played mostly as a utility infielder with two years mostly in Bluefield and then in Dunedin and Lansing last year. Attaway had a .210/.311/.297 slash line in three years.
Kalik May was the Jays’ 33rd-round pick in 2015, playing in the GCL in 2015 and then mostly in Bluefield in 2016. In Bluefield he struck out 61 times in 180 plate appearances with a .218 /.311/.346 slash line, hitting eight doubles, three triples and two home runs.
We wish all of these players the best whether they continue their careers in baseball or beyond the diamond.
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