Welcome to the first part of our final team report for the Blue Jays’ system in 2014 in which we discuss the Buffalo Bisons. It was an interesting year for the Bisons who were in a playoff race down the stretch as they tried to capture a wildcard spot in the International League.
Similar to 2013, there was a lot of roster turnover for the Bisons whether it was through injury or just a number of players who just weren’t getting the job done at the major league level. According to John Lott (writing before the end of the minor league season on August 26), there were a record number of players on Bisons in 2014 with 72. Most players on the Bisons didn’t spend the whole season with the club, making it very difficult to choose winners and losers of the Blue Jays from Away Awards.
Blue Jays from Away Player of the Game Champion
For those of you who followed the minor league reports here, you’ll know that I “awarded” Player of the Game (PotG) accolades on a game-by-game basis. It should comfort you to know that I’ve been keeping track of these daily awards and my rationale for the system is as follows.
The Player of the Game Awards were determined by a number of factors that included who I thought had the most impact on the game and who might have gone “above and beyond.” Most nights, there was just one Player of the Game. If there was, he earned one point. If I thought that either a) no one stood out enough to merit a single PotG, or b) two or more players were outstanding and deserved mention, I split the point up into two, three or four shares. If two players earned PotG mention, they each received 0.5 points and if three players earned mentions, they each received 0.3 points. There were occasions that I felt that no one merited the award and therefore, I did not give out any points.
Here are the final standings for Blue Jays from Away Player of the Game for the Buffalo Bisons:
It’s not a surprise that Kevin Pillar won the Player of the Game championship. Pillar was, far and away, the best and most consistent offensive player on the Buffalo Bisons, providing the club with a big charge down the stretch before he was recalled to the Blue Jays for his final time in the season. The inclusion of Dan Johnson, Darin Mastroianni and Liam Hendriks near the top of the list show how important they were over the course of the season.
Blue Jays from Away Player of the Year
Once again, Kevin Pillar and his .868 OPS over 434 plate appearances takes an award. Pillar won the R. Howard Webster Award and he was a force at the plate, hitting .323/.359/.509 with 10 home runs, three triples and 39 doubles, adding 27 stolen bases for the Bisons. Whatever you might think of Kevin Pillar as a big leaguer, he’s a tremendous Triple-A ballplayer.
Honourable Mention: If you look at Dan Johnson’s .232 batting average you might think that he didn’t have a great season at the plate but his 18 home runs, .381 OBP and .434 SLG tell another story altogether. Johnson was one of the most consistent hitters for the Bisons until his major league call up and injury kept him out of action. It’s also worth mentioning Brett Wallace who, after coming over to the Blue Jays again, hit up a storm in 151 plate appearances, posting a .323/.404/.519 slash line.
Blue Jays from Away Pitcher of the Year
It’s a little scary that the Pitcher of the Year for the Bisons didn’t actually finish the season in the Blue Jays’ organization. Liam Hendriks, an International League All-Star, was absolutely dominant in Triple-A for the Bisons, with a 2.33 ERA, 0.91 WHIP to go with a mind-blowing 13.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio with 91 strikeouts and seven walks in 108 1/3 innings. Traded to Kansas City along with Erik Kratz for Danny Valencia, Hendriks made three starts (over six appearances) with the Royals and put up far better results than he did in Toronto and he shone in his five starts with the Omaha Storm Chasers in the Pacific Coast League.
Honourable Mention: Sean Nolin placed third on the Bisons in innings pitched, despite losing almost half of his season due to injury but was very good when he was healthy. My other honourable mention was Bobby Korecky but you’ll hear more about him shortly.
Blue Jays from Away Reliever of the Year
Closer Bobby Korecky, who spent his Age-34 season mostly with the Buffalo Bisons (and made two appearances with the Blue Jays) was a dominant pitcher in the International League, saving 22 games. Despite coming out of the bullpen, Korecky made 55 appearances and threw 64 innings for the Bisons (tied for fifth-most on the club) and had a tremendous year with a 1.97 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 18 walks and 60 strikeouts.
Honourable Mention: Ryan Tepera, 26, threw the same number of innings as Korecky (64) with a 3.66 EA, 1.41 WHIP, 24 walks and 67 strikeouts. Big lefty Mike Zagurski was also excellent in 44 1/3 innings for the Bisons after joining the club at the beginning of June.
Blue Jays from Away Most Improved Player
I’m going to stretch the definition of this award by giving it to Liam Hendriks who, pitching in the same league a year ago, had far poorer numbers posting a 4.67 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in 98 1/3 innings with Rochester.
Honourable Mention: Brad Glenn had a mixed season, posting a .270/.337/.452 slash line overall with 15 home runs but his numbers in Buffalo were far better than they were last year (except for a lower slugging percentage). His poorer numbers in New Hampshire and the mixed results he had prevented me from giving him this award.
Blue Jays from Away Best Newcomer
This one’s going to have to go to Liam Hendriks as well. While Adron Chambers had some solid numbers for the Bisons and so did Cole Gillespie, neither asserted themselves on the lineup for more than 26 games. Matt Hague only managed to play in 13 games down the stretch and Dan Johnson, while having a great season, was not nearly as dominant as Hendriks was in his time in Buffalo.
Who are these players? Find out in The 2014 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook, now available as an ebook at Smashwords.com for $7.99 US. It’s coming soon to Amazon, Apple iBooks, Kobo and other fine retailers. You can purchase and preview the book at our Smashwords.com page! If you like us here,“like” us on Facebook!
The All-Star Break Supplement to the Minor League Handbook is also available at Smashwords.com for only $2 US! Get an update on how your favourite players have been doing this season as well as a report on the 2014 draft!
All photos are copyright Blue Jays from Away (2013-2014) and may not be used without permission.