Moving up the ladder, it’s time to talk about the Bluefield Blue Jays, Toronto’s Advanced-Rookie affiliate in the Appalachian League.
Once again managed by Dennis Holmberg, the Bluefield Blue Jays fielded a decent team, finishing 33-35 over the course of the year but the talent level just couldn’t compare to last year’s playoff team (that was mostly gutted by the time the playoffs actually rolled around). That said, there were definitely some solid prospects as well as some under-the-radar guys who could be blossoming into very good players over the next few years.
Blue Jays from Away Player of the Game Champion
For those of you who followed the minor league reports here, you’ll know that I “awarded” Player of the Game (PotG) accolades on a game-by-game basis. It should comfort you to know that I’ve been keeping track of these daily awards and my rationale for the system is as follows.
The Player of the Game Awards were determined by a number of factors that included who I thought had the most impact on the game and who might have gone “above and beyond.” Most nights, there was just one Player of the Game. If there was, he earned one point. If I thought that either a) no one stood out enough to merit a single PotG, or b) two or more players were outstanding and deserved mention, I split the point up into two, three or four shares. If two players earned PotG mention, they each received 0.5 points and if three players earned mentions, they each received 0.3 points. There were occasions that I felt that no one merited the award and therefore, I did not give out any points.
Here are the final standings for Blue Jays from Away Player of the Game for the Bluefield Blue Jays:
Yep, there’s a dark horse at the top of the list. Josh Almonte had a great season for the Blue Jays, hitting .307/.343/.398 after two years of offensive futility in the GCL. Almonte was rumoured to have had a great spring training (I overheard some very positive comments about him while I was down there) and he followed through. With some pop in his bat (13 extra-base hits), speed in his legs (15 stolen bases) and some decent range in the outfield, Almonte could be making some noise in the near future.
Blue Jays from Away Player of the Year
If you read my post on predicting the R. Howard Webster Award winners, you would have noticed that I’m very high on catcher Dan Jansen who is my choice for the Bluefield Player of the year. The team’s co-leader in home runs with five, Jansen also hit 10 doubles, walked 16 times and only struck out 17 times, posting the highest on-base percentage and slugging percentage on the team despite having his season cut to 38 games due to an injury. The 2013 16th-round draft pick from Appleton, Wisconsin also threw out 34% of the runners trying to steal, giving him a solid defensive tool to go with his developing bat.
Honourable mentions went to Richard Urena and Rowdy Tellez who both had excellent seasons. Urena led the team in doubles (15) and Tellez really turned things on after the first few weeks of the season. If Tellez hadn’t had a slow start, he likely would have gotten the award himself.
Blue Jays from Away Pitcher of the Year
Splitting the season between Bluefield and Vancouver, Ryan Borucki made his return to pro ball after Tommy John surgery kept him out of the entire season in 2013. Borucki, 20, was absolutely dominant in Bluefield with a 2.70 ERA and 0.96 WHIP over 33 1/3 innings. He struck out 30 and walked only six and that 5:1 ratio elevated him above the other contenders.
Honourable Mention: Joey Aquino, the Jays’ 35th-round selection in 2014, had a strong year with a 2.48 ERA and he was second on the staff in innings pitched with 54 1/3. Aquino was 23 this year and his low strikeout total kept him from winning this award despite an excellent pro debut.
Blue Jays from Away Reliever of the Year
There were several outstanding candidates for this award but when the chips all fell, it was Chase Wellbrock whose utter dominance was just mind-blowing. The 33rd-round pick of the Jays in 2014 laid waste to the Appy League hitters, dominating them over 24 1/3 innings, allowing only 13 hits and one(!) intentional walk with 34 strikeouts for an insane 0.57 WHIP and 0.37 ERA.
Honourable Mention: 6-foot-2, Dominican lefty Oscar Cabrera was two years younger than Wellbrock and was very dominating himself, throwing 36 1/3 innings with a 1.98 ERA and 1.32 WHIP and Markham, Ontario native Jordan Romano, a 10th-round 2014 draft pick out of college, had a 2.16 ERA with 9 walks and 33 strikeouts over 25 innings with Bluefield.
Blue Jays from Away Most Improved Player
There were a couple of excellent choices for this award on this team but Josh Almonte went from being a sub-.200 hitter in the GCL to one of the Bluefield Blue Jays’ core players. Going from a .167/.229/.229 slash line in 2013 to a .307/.343/.398 line in 2014, Almonte also played in 62 games (by far the most on the team) and was the club’s center fielder for 56 of them.
Honourable Mention: Oscar Cabrera, our honourable mention for reliever of the year gets another honourable mention, going from a 6.93 ERA and an WHIP over 2.00 down to this year’s sub-2.00 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. He still has a long way to go in terms of command but even if the improved numbers were due to luck, he definitely had it on his side.
Blue Jays from Away Best Newcomer
This is a tough award to call but I’m going to hand it to Joey Aquino. His innings-eating approach (54 1/3 IP) as well as his solid numbers across the board (2.48 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 10 BB, 32 K) are a great sign for a first-year pro.
Honourable Mention: Chase Wellbrock deserves mention again after his tremendous dominance that earned him a promotion to Lansing the end of the year. Outfielder Trent Miller had a solid year (.707 OPS) after being the Jays’ final selection in the draft this year (40th round). Jordan Romano and Conor Fisk (24th round) were also solid out of the bullpen for the Blue Jays.
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!
The All-Star Break Supplement to the Minor League Handbook is also available at Smashwords.com for only $2 US! Get an update on how your favourite players have been doing this season as well as a report on the 2014 draft!
All photos are copyright Blue Jays from Away (2013-2014) and may not be used without permission.