The Bluefield Blue Jays’ relief corps featured a lot of new faces to the Blue Jays organization and one who has been around a long time.
Making the most appearances and leading the team in saves with eight was Dusty Isaacs, the Blue Jays’ 18th-round draft pick in 2014. Coming from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Isaacs made himself right at home at the back of the Blue Jays’ pen, throwing 29 innings with just five walks and 36 strikeouts, pitching to an ERA of 3.41 and WHIP of 1.31. Isaacs appears to be a real strike-thrower, walking just 4.0% of the batters he faced and striking out 29% and he could be a candidate to move up to either Vancouver or Lansing next year.
Chase Wellbrock got into 20 games with Bluefield before getting a late-season look in Lansing with the Lugnuts and, as I mentioned in his write up as the Reliever of the Year, was dominant in Bluefield. At 22 years old, Wellbrock made the adjustment to professional baseball seamlessly, despite being a 33rd-round pick, giving up just one earned run in 24 1/3 innings and allowing only 13 hits and one (intentional) walk with 34 strikeouts. Moving up to Lansing, he wasn’t quite as sharp, allowing four runs in seven innings but only walked one and struck out five. Look for Wellbrock to jump to full-season ball right away next year.
I first saw 23-year-old Carlos Ramirez as a toolsy Dominican right-fielder with a cannon of an arm and great BP power but who never figured things out enough in games. After a poor start to another season with the Lansing Lugnuts (in which he hit .176/.250/.242 in 101 plate appearances), Ramirez was sent to extended spring training to begin his transition to being a pitcher. He emerged quickly with the Bluefield Blue Jays and threw 34 1/3 innings, posting a 2.62 ERA but was plagued by walks, issuing 19 free passes and striking out 24 with a 1.48 WHIP. It was certainly a positive start to a pitching career for Ramirez who will likely be moved fairly quickly through the organization starting next year where he could very well be back in Lansing.
Conor Fisk, a newbie to the organization, was selected in the 24th round out of University of Southern Mississippi and became another over-age reliever who had a great year for the Bluefield Blue Jays. Fisk threw 33 2/3 innings with a 2.67 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP, walking only 12 and striking out 32 in his Age-22 year. He’ll likely be in Vancouver or Lansing next year.
Oscar Cabrera really turned things around as a Blue Jays after two seasons in the Gulf Coast League. Last year, his WHIP was over 2.00 and his ERA almost 7.00 but in 2014, things were completely different as he was much harder to hit, posting a 1.98 ERA and 1.32 WHIP with 21 walks and 36 strikeouts over 36 1/3 innings. The walk rate is still very high but Cabrera made big strides and could be up for a Vancouver spot next year as a 21-year-old.
After a year in the DSL, the Blue Jays gave 21-year-old righty Alberto Guzman a chance against much better competition in the Appalachian League. Guzman, didn’t fare nearly as well as he did in 2013, with a 2.06 WHIP and 7.84 ERA, thanks to 20 walks in 31 innings although he did strike out 32. It’s hard to figure where Guzman will be next although a Vancouver assignment wouldn’t be out of the question.
21-year-old Canadian righty Jordan Romano was right at home in pro ball after being drafted by his hometown team in the 10th round of the 2014 draft out of Oral Roberts University. Romano, who stands at 6-foot-4, was one of the more physically imposing members of the relief corps and dominated to the tune of a 2.16 ERA and 1.12 WHIP over 25 innings (with three additional innings in the GCL). Romano only walked 9 while striking out 33 which bodes well for things to come. With that type of mature presence, he may very well be given a chance to pitch in Lansing next year unless the Blue Jays want to get some Can-Con in Vancouver.
The final member of the bullpen (who saw the most time with Bluefield) was 6-foot-5 righty J.T. Autrey, drafted in the 32nd round out of Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. Autrey, 22, did not have a good pro debut, putting up a 9.82 ERA and 2.66 WHIP over 14 2/3 innings split between Bluefield and the GCL. Autrey really struggled iwth his control, walking 16 and only striking out 11 batters. I can see him back in Bluefield to start next year.
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