We continue our more in-depth look at the Bluefield Blue Jays by looking at relief pitchers. At the Rookie ball level, the distinctions between starting pitchers and relief pitchers are frequently fluid so we’re going to include pitchers who either got more of their appearances out of the bullpen and who didn’t log a ton of innings compared to the guys who we might call starters.
We begin with the pitchers who made the most appearances and work our way downwards from there. 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 son of former Blue Jay and current Jays minor league catching coordinator Ken Huckaby. Kyle Huckaby, however, isn’t a catcher but a pitcher and was signed by the Blue Jays as a non-drafted free agent out of Benedictine University in Mesa, Arizona. Huckaby threw 18 times for the Bluefield Blue Jays, tossing 24 2/3 innings with a 5.11 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, striking out 23.4% of batters and walking 10.3%. Huckaby finished his season in Vancouver, getting into one game and throwing one inning, allowing two unearned runs on two hits and two walks with one strikeout. Look for the 23-year-old lefty to be in Vancouver or Lansing next year.
22-year-old Dominican righty Aldo Ovando spent the first three years of his pro career as an outfielder before he came into 2019 as a reliever. In his first season in that role, he threw 18 times for the Bluefield Blue Jays, posting an 8.89 ERA and 1.94 WHIP, striking out 14.0% of batters while walking 13.2%. I’d look for Ovando to get a lot of work in instructs and extended spring training but he could emerge in 2020 in Vancouver or Lansing if he takes some big strides in his development as a pitcher.
19-year-old Dominican righty Yunior Hinojosa spent the whole year with the Bluefield Blue Jays, throwing in 17 games with 30 innings of work. He had a 5.10 ERA and 1.43 WHIP, striking out a respectable 20.2% of batters and walking 11.2%. Hinojosa got a stellar 58.0% of balls in play on the ground and I can see him moving up to Vancouver next year.
Panamanian righty, Meliton Reyes, 22, followed up a solid 2018 in the GCL with a decent 2019 in the Appalachian League, throwing 17 times, accumulating 34 2/3 innings. Reyes had a 4.93 ERA but a 6.06 FIP and 5.36 xFIP with a 1.38 WHIP. He also had a pretty poor 10.7% strikeout rate but a strong 4.7% walk rate. I can see Reyes moving up to Vancouver next year.
Juan Acosta, a 19-year-old Mexican righty, went to the Appalachian League in 2019 after splitting 2018 between the DSL and GCL. Acosta made 16 appearances and threw 33 2/3 innings with a 7.49 ERA and 1.66 WHIP. He also had a solid 17.4% strikeout rate and a 9.9% walk rate. I think Acosta might repeat the level, proving himself to be fairly easy for hitters to hit, allowing nine home runs in his 33 2/3 innings.
19-year-old Venezuelan righty Luis Alvarez has moved up one level per year since signing in 2016. Alvarez was outstanding in 2019 for the Bluefield Blue Jays, making 14 appearances and throwing 26 2/3 innings with a 2.36 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, striking out 15.5% of batters and walking just 6.4%. While Alvarez wasn’t dominant over the hitters, he was definitely making things tough on them and should move up to Vancouver in 2020.
Adams Cuevas is a little older than most of the other pitchers featured on the Bluefield Blue Jays at 23 years old. In his fourth year as a pro, Cuevas started with the Vancouver Canadians, making five apperances and throwing 8 1/3 innings with a 7.56 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, striking out seven batters and walking three before he was sent back down to Bluefield. In the Appy League, Cuevas threw 31 1/3 innings with a 3.45 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, striking out 30.4% of batters and walking 6.5%. He finished his season with a couple of games in Double-A New Hampshire, allowing a run on two hits and a walk with four strikeouts in just three innings. I can see Cuevas on a full season team in 2020, likely the Lansing Lugnuts or Dunedin Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays selected righty Austin Havekost out of Kent State University in the 17th round of the 2018 draft but he didn’t pitch at all in the pros after an injury kept him out of action last year. Returning to action this year, Havekost threw 6 2/3 innings in the GCL, allowing five runs on six hits and a walk with five strikeouts before he was moved up to the Bluefield Blue Jays where he was outstanding. He allowed only five runs (one earned) on eight hits in 15 innings, posting a 0.60 ERA and a 0.80 WHIP, striking out 27.9% of batters and walking just 6.6%. I can see Havekost, 23, jumping to Lansing next year.
Julian Valdez, a 20-year-old Dominican righty, signed just in 2019 and was outstanding wherever he went. Valdez started with the GCL Blue Jays, making seven appearances and throwing six innings with a 3.00 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, striking out only one batters and walking three. Those numbers improved as he went to work for Bluefield, throwing 22 2/3 innings with a 1.19 ERA and 0.66 WHIP, striking out 20.5% and walking 8.4%. Valdez got 56.4% of batted balls on the ground and looked very composed when I saw him in August. I think he’ll be in Vancouver next year.
22-year-old righty Gaudy Ramirez tossed 11 innings with a 10.64 ERA and 2.45 WHIP for the Bluefield Blue Jays, walking 11 and striking out 15 before he was released on August 20.
Andrew McInvale was selected in the 37th round of the 2019 draft out of Baylor University and the 22 year old pitched in the GCL and in Bluefield. In the GCL, McInvale had a 6.48 ERA and 1.32 WHIP, striking out 10 and walking five in 8 1/3 innings. He moved up to Bluefield and allowed six runs for a 6.23 ERA and had a 1.96 WHIP over 8 2/3 innings, striking out eight and walking five. I think McInvale will either be in Bluefield or in Vancouver in 2020.
Ronald Magdaniel, 22, made just two appearances for Bluefield, throwing 1 2/3 innings with four runs (two earned) allowed on three hits and four walks, striking out just one batter. Given his age and lack of appearances in the last two years (he’s throwing just 2 2/3 innings over that span), I’m not sure where he’ll be in 2020.
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