We conclude our in-depth look at the Bluefield Blue Jays by looking at the hitters. If a player split his season by playing for more than one team, keep in mind he’ll be considered with the team he had the most plate appearances for.
The Bluefield Blue Jays were a mix of international signees, college draftees from 2019 and younger draftees moving their way up.
Who led the team in games caught for the Bluefield Blue Jays? I’d accept your apologies if you couldn’t name 22-year-old Venezuelan Andres Guerra. In his fifth season with the Blue Jays, the low-level veteran repeated the Bluefield level, playing 30 games and getting 122 plate appearances with a .215/.311/.280 slash line, regressing from a 2018 in which he had better power numbers. Guerra hit four doubles and a home run while striking out in 27.9% of plate appearances (up from 2018 by 2.6%) and walking in 9.0% of plate appearances (down from 2018 by 3.0%). He did, however, throw out 43% of potential base stealers, giving him some excellence in one statistical category. Guerra is likely to get overtaken by other catchers with higher ceilings as 2020 comes.
Ryan Sloniger, our Player of the Year, caught 20 games for the Bluefield Blue Jays and had a couple of stints with the Vancouver Canadians in his first year of professional baseball after getting selected by the Blue Jays in the 38th round of the 2019 draft out of Penn State University. The Pennsylvania native who hits lefthanded was an offensive force, hitting .327/.405/.626 with three doubles, a triple and nine home runs over 121 plate appearances and also hit .255/.321/.392 with four doubles and a home run in 56 plate appearances with the Vancouver Canadians. Sloniger’s walk rate was stable between the two levels, sitting at 9.1% in Bluefield and 8.9% in Vancouver but his strikeout rate jumped significantly, finishing at 17.4% in Bluefield and 25.0% in Vancouver. There is some work to do behind the plate as he threw out 21% of potential base stealers in Bluefield but only 6% (one of 18) in Vancouver. Look for the 22 year old either in Lansing or Vancouver next year.
The third catcher on the club was 20-year-old Puerto Rican Anthony Morales whom the Blue Jays signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Lake Land College in Illinois. Morales got into 21 games, hitting .153/.218/.194 with three doubles in 78 plate appearances, walking in 6.4% of his plate appearances and striking out in 20.5%. Morales threw out 32% of the potential base stealers and, due to his age, will likely be back with Bluefield or in Vancouver next year.
20-year-old P.K. Morris, a 6-foot-1 first baseman made some big strides with the Bluefield Blue Jays in 2019. A 14th-round pick from Florida in the 2017 draft, Morris repeated the level, posting big increases in his batting average and power numbers while also cutting down on his strikeouts. In 230 plate appearances, he hit .253/.370/.416 with seven doubles and eight home runs while walking in 15.2% of his plate appearances and striking out in 23.5% (down from 26.6%) in Bluefield last year. With such an improvement and three years already in short season ball, I can see Morris make the jump to Lansing, at least at first to see how he reacts.
Now 19, Dominican prospect Miguel Hiraldo spent his Age-18 season in the Appy League, posting some outstanding numbers for his age. Hiraldo played second and short but led the club in games at second base, hitting .300/.348/.481 with 20 doubles, a triple and seven home runs, adding 11 stolen bases in 14 attempts. Hiraldo’s biggest knock is his low walk rate which finished at 5.5% in 2019 while his strikeout rate was excellent at 14.1%. Hiraldo earned rave reviews from the staff I talked to and got a late-season promotion to Lansing where he was 1/4 with a triple. He also played in the Crosstown Showdown for the Lugnuts and it can be expected that he could start 2020 with Lansing.
Joseph Reyes, 21, jumped to the Bluefield Blue Jays after two years in the GCL but his batting average sank as he hit just .150/.280/.320 in 182 plate appearances. He was able to walk in 11.5% of his plate appearances while he struck out in 30.8%, an unacceptable number. He did hit two doubles and eight home runs, showing some good pop but he’ll need to make much more consistent contact. I think he’ll repeat the level in 2020.
Slick-fielding Leonardo Jimenez led the club with 39 games at shortstop and the 18-year-old Dominican had a strong year, moving up from the GCL. He came to the plate 245 times and hit .298/.377/.377 with 13 doubles and two triples, walking in 8.6% of plate appearances and striking out in 17.1%. Jimenez also moved up to Lansing for two games at the end of the year and also to play in the Crosstown Showdown. He was 1/6 in Lansing, striking out twice. I can see Jimenez spending his Age-19 season in 2020 with the Lansing Lugnuts.
24th-round draft pick Spencer Horwitz was another college player who made a big impact on the Bluefield Blue Jays. Horwitz, who was drafted out of Radford University in Virginia, played 51 games for the Blue Jays, hitting .330/.395/.471 with 18 doubles, a triple and three home runs while walking in 9.9% of plate appearances (233 of them) and striking out in only 10.3%. He also played nine games in Vancouver and hit .190/.227/.286 at the end of the year. I think the 21 year old will join the Lansing Lugnuts next year after showing that he wasn’t overwhelmed by the pitching in Vancouver (striking out in only 13.6% of his 44 plate appearances).
Angel Camacho, the Blue Jays’ eight-round pick of the 2019 draft out of Jacksonville University is a 6-foot-3 infielder who played 24 games at third base for the Bluefield Blue Jays. In 29 games, Camacho hit .252/.318/.374 with five doubles and three home runs, walking in 7.0% of plate appearances and walking in 23.3%. The 22 year old will probably be either in Vancouver or Lansing next year.
Davis Schneider, 20, has been moving around the infield but he seems to have found a home at second base, playing 34 games with the Bluefield Blue Jays and another 17 in Vancouver. Schneider’s season got off to a rough start as he hit .145/.272/.200 over 66 plate appearances in Vancouver but he was sent back to Bluefield where he put up some impressive numbers over 150 plate appearances, hitting .313/.380/.550 with 13 doubles and six home runs. Schneider had a solid eye, showing off a 9.3% walk rate while his strikeout rate of 26.0% went up to 27.3% in his time in Vancouver. Schneider also took pride in his defense, making just one error at second base and one error at third base in 34 combined games for the Blue Jays. I think Schneider will be in Vancouver to start 220 but could jump up to Lansing with a strong showing in the spring.
The Blue Jays’ sixth-round pick in 2018, shortstop Addison Barger only played 13 games for the Bluefield Blue Jays before he was placed on the restricted list for an infraction that I have not been able to find a reference to. Barger was putting up much better numbers than he had in his pro debut in the GCL in 2018, hitting .283/.345/.434 with two doubles and two home runs in 53 at bats. I’m not sure what’s going to happen with him going forward.
Playing 20 games in left field (as well as 33 in center field) was Eric Rivera, the Jays’ 14th-round pick in the 2019 draft out of Florida Atlantic University. Rivera was a fixture at the top of the Blue Jays’ lineup, coming to the plate 248 times and hitting .284/.378/.351 with six doubles and four triples, stealing seven bases without getting caught. He also had a walk rate of 12.1%, which was higher than his strikeout rate of 11.3%. I can see Rivera moving up to Lansing in 2020 but the 22 year old could also go to Vancouver next year.
Steward Berroa, 20, moved up a level in 2019, heading to Bluefield and hitting .236/.349/.329 in 189 plate appearances with seven doubles, a triple and two home runs, stealing 14 bases in 19 attempts. Berroa’s strikeout rate went up from his 21.6% rate in the GCL last year, settling in at 28.6% in 2019 while he walked in 14.8% of plate appearances. I think he’ll be in Vancouver next year, up another level, especially if he can temper his strikeout rate.
D.J. Daniels, a 6-foot-3 outfielder who was the Blue Jays’ sixth-round selection in the 2016 draft is next on our list. Playing about the same amount as he did in 2018, also for the Bluefield Blue Jays, Daniels posted a .210/.281/.442 slash line with nine doubles, a triple and seven home runs. While his average was low and his strikeout rate was very, very high at 41.2%, Daniels was successful in putting up some impressive power numbers for a .232 ISO (over 150 points higher than last year) and he walked at a 7.8% rate, another career high. While Daniels was always considered to be raw with his offensive skills, he’s starting to tap into his power but he’ll need to cut down on his strikeouts as he moves into his Age-22 season, probably in Vancouver.
Justin Ammons, a speedy 21-year-old outfielder whom the Jays signed as a non-drafted free agent after the draft, made a strong first impression as a pro. In three games with the GCL Blue Jays, Ammons was 5/9 with a walk and four runs, hitting a double before moving up to the Appalachian League where he hit a staggering .382/.442/.490 with 1 doubles. While he’s got speed, he wasn’t particularly successful stealing bases, nabbing just three in seven tries. But in his 113 plate appearances, Ammons struck out at just a 10.6% rate while walking in 8.0% of the times he came to the plate. I can see him moving up to Lansing but I think Vancouver is likely more his destination with several other outfielders likely to get look with the Lugnuts in 2020.
Scotty Bradley, the Jays’ 36th-round pick in the 2019 draft out of Indiana University, has professional baseball bloodlines and was drafted as a catcher. That said, he played most of his games as a DH or in the outfield and told me in an interview in August that the plan would be to get him catching next season. The Princeton, New Jersey native got 181 plate appearances and struggled at the plate, hitting .192/.287/.272 with four doubles and two home runs. Bradley did walk in 11.2% of his plate appearances but also struck out in 28.0%. I’d look for Bradley to be in Vancouver next year.
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