I’ve put off doing this roster projection for the Buffalo Bisons because there are so many moving parts that have yet to be settled.
Triple-A rosters are going to be in flux right up to Opening Day and beyond, mainly because it’s the primary place that minor league free agents, waiver claims and players who are out of options will end up (assuming they clear waivers).
Because of this complication, this post will be structured differently than the other three, mainly because there’s so much we don’t yet know. Triple-A’s proximity to the major leagues means that just about anyone could make the big club, particularly the players on the 40-man roster.
As you can see, now you know why it was so hard for me to figure out who might be in the rotation in Double-A New Hampshire. With so many names who are going to be in competition for the Blue Jays and the Bisons, there’s going to be a trickle-down effect. The way things are going right now, two of the first group will almost certainly be starting in Toronto. If the Blue Jays sign a starter, only one of them will be in the rotation, creating even more havoc with the Buffalo rotation (and subsequently, the New Hampshire rotation).
I anticipate that J.A. Happ is the first player on the list to make the Blue Jays. That’s primarily due to the fact that he’s the highest paid (aside from Romero). If two starters make the Blue Jays, I’m thinking that it’s going to Happ and one of Drabek and Hutchison. Drabek showed a lot more control in the minors last year after rehabbing and Hutchison looked strong in the Arizona Fall League. I think it’s a toss up between the two at this point.
The easiest candidates for Double-A are Marcus Walden, Rob Rasmussen and Deck McGuire but, again, I wouldn’t bet on any of them not being in Triple-A.
Here’s my rotation if the Blue Jays don’t sign anyone:
As you can see, even if the Blue Jays have two of the players from this list in the big league starting rotation, three pitchers who deserve a shot in Buffalo will be down in New Hampshire (unless there are injuries).
There may be a chance to be able to keep all of these pitchers but I could see guys like Bleier, Korecky and Shuman in Double-A. With so many out-of-options relievers that are on the bubble, guys like Neil Wagner, Mickey Storey, John Stilson and Chad Jenkins are almost surely going to be on the Bisons.
Erik Kratz/Josh Thole (whoever isn’t on the Blue Jays)
Sean Ochinko (serving a suspension for the first part of the season)
As I mentioned before in the article on the Fisher Cats’ roster, I think that Jimenez will start the season in Double-A mainly because the Jays want whoever loses the backup battle in Toronto to play every day and they also want Jimenez to play every day. Being lower on the totem pole, Jimenez will probably end up in New Hampshire but this interview by Minor Leaguer (@Minor_Leaguer on Twitter) at Bluebird Banter has Charlie Wilson admitting that there isn’t unanimous consensus within the organization.
Ryan Goins (2B/SS)
Brent Morel (3B)
Jonathan Diaz (IF)
Chris Getz (2B)
Jared Goedert (3B/2B)
Dan Johnson (1B/DH)
Munenori Kawasaki (SS/2B)
Andy LaRoche (3B)
Steve Tolleson (2B)
As you can see, something is going to have to give here. I would also say that 1B Gabe Jacobo has an outside shot at moving up to Triple-A this year but for all of the other infield positions there are just way too many players. Jonathan Diaz is likely going to be an all-around backup while Kawasaki can move around a bit too.
I have a hunch that Morel isn’t going to make the 25-man roster. He’s a right-handed-hitting third baseman who can also play first base too but if the Blue Jays keep all of the infielders that they have on the 40-man roster and they keep eight relievers on the 25-man roster, there are only spots for three outfielders. One of either Ryan Goins or Brent Morel will have to go and right now it looks like it’ll be Morel, especially if Moises Sierra makes the club (see below). Morel will have to clear waivers if the Jays are going to keep him in the system.
I have a feeling that some of these guys will be released to look for other work after Spring Training. There’s not nearly enough room for all of them, particularly if guys are going to come up from Dunedin to play in New Hampshire (like Jon Berti).
One or two of these guys will make the big leagues (unless someone is traded) and, for me, it’s Gose and/or Sierra. If both make the club, you have to remove both an infielder from the above list as well as a reliever. If the Jays have to keep only one of them, I think there’s going to be a tough decision to make.
Gose offers outstanding defense and a terrific arm and both elements of his game are better than anyone in the Blue Jays’ outfield right now. He also would be the fastest player on the big league club. Gose has two factors working against him: he’s a left-handed hitter and he still has minor league options. Moises Sierra hits from the right side (although, historically, he doesn’t hit lefties any better than righties) and he’s out of options but, aside from his arm strength, isn’t an improvement over any of the starters. Sierra is also known for brain cramps in the field and on the bases which further makes keeping him on the big league squad a difficult decision. He’s only really solid at the corner outfield positions (although I did see him play center field once and he made all the routine plays) but the word is that he was taking grounders at first in the Dominican League to possibly be a right-handed platoon bat at that position too.
As far as everyone else, Kevin Pillar will almost surely return to Buffalo. He looked a bit overwhelmed in the bigs and he only has a half-season of Triple-A experience. Brad Glenn will play in Triple-A as well, after a strong showing in a late-season call up last year. Kenny Wilson and Ricardo Nanita are both on the bubble. Nanita will likely back up wherever he goes while Wilson will need to play every day and it will depend on whether Gose and/or Sierra are in Buffalo as to whether he will stick in Triple-A or head back to Double-A.
As you can see, with moves to be made and the fallout from Spring Training remaining to be seen, it’s very hard to forecast the Bisons roster but, it looks like it’s going to be an interesting season in the Queen City.