For Canadian baseball fans, the Albers signing is the more exciting of the two. Albers made headlines after a very strong major league debut with the Minnesota Twins in 2013. Albers seemingly came out of nowhere and made 10 starts with the big league club, posting a 4.05 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP in 60 innings with just seven walks and 25 strikeouts. In his 132 1/3 innings in Triple-A Rochester that same year, Albers was similarly dominant, posting a 2.86 ERA, a 1.18 WHIP and a better strikeout rate (but a worse walk rate).
With the Twins signing several free agent pitchers in the offseason, Albers was allowed to go to Korea where he wasn’t all that effective, posting a 5.89 ERA, 1.59 WHIP with 40 walks and 107 strikeouts in 151 1/3 innings with the Hanwha Eagles who finished with a 49-77 record in 2014.
Albers was initially drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 10th round of the 2008 draft and is 29 years old. He managed to get his way back into organized baseball by playing in Quebec in the Canadian-American Association in 2010, signing on with Minnesota and working his way up from A-ball to the big leagues in three seasons. Albers features a below average fastball (averaging 86.6 mph, according to PITCHf/x) and generally tries to get ground balls with his sinker. He’s obviously not a signing for the big league team (intially) but will provide depth along with guys like Liam Hendriks.
By signing Ryan Kalish, 26, the Blue Jays are bringing in another left-handed hitting outfielder who might compete for a backup job in the major leagues. Kalish is an injury-plagued player who is considered to be extremely athletic after having been a successful pitcher, quarterback, safety and punter in high school. Despite considering playing college football, Kalish signed on with the Red Sox after being drafted in the ninth round of the 2006 draft.
In 2007, Kalish hit .368/.471/.540 in the low minors and, while he took a small step back in 2008, he kept improving over the next two years until 2010, putting up decent numbers in major leagues, hitting .252/.305/.405 with 11 doubles and four home runs in 53 games.
In April 2011, he crashed into an outfield wall in Triple-A Pawtucket and eventually had cervical fusion surgery, the same procedure that Payton Manning had. After struggling through pain in 2012 and missing all of 2013, Kalish put up solid numbers in Triple-A for the Cubs and a .248/.295/.347 line for the big leauge club (in 57 games).
Kalish is the type of player who, going into his Age-27 season, could still reach his potential after years of injury woes and a post-surgery season of high-level competition under his belt. He’s another “low-risk, high-reward” player that the Blue Jays have added to their system and he could challenge Chris Colabello or Caleb Gindl for playing time in Buffalo and in Toronto. Both players have been invited to major league spring training.
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