We’re going to start our more in-depth look at the Bluefield Blue Jays by looking at starting pitchers. At the Rookie ball level, the distinctions between starting pitchers and relief pitchers are frequently fluid so we’re going to include anyone who made 50% of his appearances as a starter, or logged enough innings to gain consideration. If a player played for more than one team over the course of the season, he’ll be grouped according to the club he played the most with.
We begin with the pitchers who made the most starts and work our way downwards from there.
The pitcher who made the most starts for the Bluefield Blue Jays was Nathanael Perez. Perez, a 20-year-old Dominican righty, was stellar in the Dominican Summer League last year but saw his stats come back down to earth jumping two levels up to Bluefield. Throwing 56 1/3 innings, Perez had a 4.47 ERA and 1.49 WHIP, but maintained his solid strikeout rate, down just 0.1% to 23.8% while his strikeout rate burped upwards to 8.5%. Perez allowed two runs on four hits and a walk with four strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings in his only playoff start. This type of regression is to be expected, particularly since Perez was not only moving to a new country and culture but jumping a level of competition, playing against players with a wider mix of experience. I could see him in Vancouver or Lansing next year.
Dominican lefty Claudio Galva continued his upwards trajectory through the system, pitching at his third level in three years at the age of 21. That said, starting 11 games and throwing 54 2/3 innings, Galva’s numbers took a hit at the new level, with his ERA jumping to 4.61 and his WHIP increasing to 1.46. Galva’s never been a strikeout pitcher and he has stayed fairly consistent with his strikeout rate, peaking at 15.4% in 2018 (up from 15.0% in the GCL in 2017 and 14.3% in the DSL in 2016). while his walk rate was quite good at 6.0%. I can see Galva also being in Lansing or Vancouver in 2019. Galva made a start in the playoffs, taking the loss in Game 2 against the Princeton Rays, allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits with three walks and three strikeouts.
17-year-old Brazilian phenom Eric Pardinho made a big impact, getting raves for his maturity and excellent curveball is his professional debut. Pardinho also features a solid curveball and was better than his competition more often than not in 2018. Pardinho had a 2.88 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 50 innings with Bluefield and struck out a whopping 31.5% of batters while walking a solid 7.9%. He also induced quite a few ground balls (46.3%) but he tended to give up some home runs (0.9 HR/9) and had two starts in which he got roughed up. Only one was truly bad (giving up five runs on eight hits in 2 2/3 innings) but in the only other two outings in which he allowed three runs or more, he still struck out at least six batters in each. Pardinho was shelled in his one playoff start, lasting just one inning and giving up six runs on three hits and four walks (including two home runs).
Felipe Castaneda was the third youngest pitcher on the staff and he took a regular rotation with the Bluefield Blue Jays despite some struggles. Making 10 starts, Castaneda tossed 37 2/3 innings with a 6.69 ERA and 1.83 WHIP, having issues with walks, walking 15.3% of batters while striking out 15.9%. The 6-foot-1 Mexican righty will likely spend another year in short-season ball next year.
Colombian righty Alvaro Galindo pitched 10 times in his return to Bluefield and the 20 year old started seven games and tossed 27 innings with an ugly 9.33 ERA and 2.15 WHIP. Galindo also struggled with his control, walking 14.2% of batters and struck out 18.4%. I’d look for him to also stay in short-season ball but he’s already pitched two years in Bluefield.
Troy Watson started six of his nine games and logged 27 innings for the Bluefield Blue Jays after being selected in the 15th round of the 2018 draft. Watson was outstanding, posting a 1.67 ERA and 0.78 WHIP, striking out 19.6% of batters and walking 7.8%. The key will be to see if Watson, who also had a 53.4% ground ball rate, will be equally as effective as he starts going deeper and deeper into games, turning over lineups for a third time, something he did only once in 2018, in a five-inning start on August 7. He also missed time at the end of the year, going just one inning on August 12 and didn’t pitch again for the remainder of the season. Look for Watson, 21, in Lansing next year.
Joel Espinal came off a rough season in Bluefield in 2017 and had a rough time with injuries in 2018. He pitched just 11 1/3 innings with Bluefield as a 21 year old (who turned 22 on August 15) and was solid in his limited time, putting up a 3.18 ERA and 1.24 WHIP with a 30.4% strikeout rate and 10.9% walk rate in two starts and one relief appearance. Espinal pitched once in May, tossing three scoreless, hitless innings, striking out three against the Tampa Tarpons in Advanced-A Dunedin but didn’t pitch again until he resurfaced in mid-August with the Blue Jays where he finished out the rest of the year. I’d look for him in Lansing in 2019.
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