At long last, we come to our final part of our final report for the Blue Jays’ 2016 minor league season. The Buffalo Bisons’ hitters were made up of mostly minor league free agents and they performed about as one might expect.
Catcher A.J. Jimenez had a rough season, spending more time on the DL and getting sent outright to Buffalo and off the 40-man roster at the beginning of the season. The 26-year-old Puerto Rican still put up some decent numbers in Buffalo, improving on his 2015 season with a .241/.290/.377 slash line, hitting 17 doubles, a triple and four home runs in 248 plate appearances. Jimenez hit for more power than he did last year but his walk rate dropped almost by half (from 9.2% in 2015 to 5.2% in 2016) while his strikeout rate by about one percent (from 12.2% in 2015 to 13.3% this year). Defensively, Jimenez was strong, throwing out 35% of potential base stealers and allowing just one passed ball while committing four errors. Jimenez may be able to elect free agency, with nine years of minor league service and is no longer on the 40-man roster.
Tony Sanchez was signed in the offseason to provide some major league depth behind Russell Martin. Throughout his minor league career, Sanchez’s defense had been his calling card, until the Yips set in and he had trouble throwing out base runners. Sanchez threw out 23% of runners and made four errors in 45 games behind the plate, so the defense wasn’t a huge problem but his bat was. Sanchez hit just .201/.292/.309 with seven doubles and three home runs in 168 plate appearances. Sanchez struck out in 18.5% of plate appearances and walked in 10.1%: both were solid numbers. The Jays released Sanchez at the end of July and he was signed a few days later by the San Francisco Giants. He hit only marginally better for the Giants and got a promotion to the big league club in September but didn’t get into any games.
After releasing Sanchez, the Blue Jays brought back a familiar face, Erik Kratz. After stints with Houston and Pittsburgh (as a well as a minor league stint with the Los Angeles Angels’ Triple-A club), Kratz landed in Buffalo, playing 19 games and hitting .155/.269/.172. Kratz, 36, will become a free agent after the World Series.
Humberto Quintero broke camp with the Buffalo Bisons and hit .267/.353/.467 in just 17 plate appearances before he was released in April 18. He signed with the Tigers and stuck around the Toledo Mudhens for 15 games, hitting .244/.277/.289 before he was released.
The first baseman who saw the most time defensively for the Bisons was Casey Kotchman, the slick fielder who was also a solid contributor with the bat. Kotchman, a former Top-10 prospect and first-round pick, has 10 big league seasons under his belt but didn’t spend any of 2016 with the Blue Jays. Kotchman played well in Buffalo, hitting .256/.343/.383 with 18 doubles and eight home runs over 376 plate appearances. He walked more than he struck out (9.6% BB-rate and 8.5% K-rate) and will likely become a free agent after the World Series.
A 26-year-old former top prospect, Jesus Montero tried to resurrect his career in Buffalo after the Blue Jays claimed him on waivers from Seattle. As the season started, however, the Blue Jays got Montero through waivers again, sending him outright to the Bisons. Montero became of the club’s most consistent hitters, batting .317/.349/.438 with 24 doubles, a triple and 11 home runs but his once-fearsome power had gone the way of a singles and doubles hitter. Montero also walked in only 4.4% of plate apeparances and struck out in a career-low 15.1%. He was suspended for taking a banned stimulant and will likely not be back with the Jays in 2017.
Infielder Andy Burns made it to the show in 2016 despite a much weaker season with the bat in 2016 than he had in 2015. Last year, Burns was a revelation in Buffalo, hitting .293/.351/.372 while this year, Burns’s numbers dropped to .230/.285/.352 over 454 plate appearances. That said, Burns’s ISO actually went up 43 points (from .079 in 2015 to .122 in 2016) and that increase in power, which resulted in 25 doubles, a triple and eight home runs (more extra-base hits despite fewer plate appearances and fewer hits than in 2015), is probably the reason for his 5.0% rise in strikeout rate (from 13.1% to 18.1%) while his walk rate (7.3%) remained almost constant. With a constant walk rate and more power, we can trace Burns’s drop in numbers to a corresponding drop in BABIP. What was .335 in 2015 was just .267, likely due to a massive decrease in ground balls. Burns had 52.24% of his batted balls go for ground balls in 2015 with just 42.86% in 2016 and he had more fly outs (up six percent) and pop ups (up four percent), likely giving him extra outs in addition to more extra-base hits. Burns is currently on the 40-man roster and will likely return to Buffalo in 2017.
Another player with first rounder with big league experience joined the Blue Jays’ organization late last year when the Jays’ claimed Matt Dominguez off of waivers from Milwaukee. He was optioned to Buffalo to start the year and was one of the club’s most consistent hitters, leading the Bisons in home runs with a .269/.315/.421 slash line, hitting 18 doubles and 18 home runs. Dominguez’s 5.6% walk rate left something to be desired, but he didn’t strike out much either, fanning in 13.6% of his 514 plate appearances. Dominguez played five games for the Blue Jays over two call ups, one at the end of April and one at the beginning of June, and he didn’t get a hit in 12 plate appearances. Dominguez was designated for assignment and was optioned to Buffalo before being designated for assignment once again and getting sent outright to the minors at the beginning of September. Dominguez could become a free agent after this season.
The Blue Jays signed Jiovanni Mier to a minor league deal back in November and he played for the Buffalo Bisons all season. Another former top prospect, Mier has never really contributed a ton with his bat and slid downward offensively this year. Like Andy Burns, Mier suffered from a low BABIP, hitting .219/.287/.317 with 11 doubles, a triple and three home runs in 249 plate appearances. The Blue Jays likely have an option for Mier’s 2017 year and it will be interesting to see if the Blue Jays exercise it on the 26-year-old’s contract. A lot of that has to do with when the Blue Jays believe Richard Urena might make it to Buffalo.
29-year-old David Adams came to the Jays on a minor league contract over the offseason and had a decent season with the bat as a versatile utility infielder. In 236 plate appearances, Adams hit .243/.339/.350 with 16 doubles and two home runs. Adams was helped by his excellent 12.3% walk rate and his 19.5% strikeout rate was reasonable, but a little high for a player with little power. Adams likely will be a free agent again when his contract expires.
With parts of nine season in the big leagues, Alexi Casilla, 32, was signed to be insurance on the infield. Unfortunately, Casilla didn’t do too much with the bat, hitting .241/.296/.319 with 10 doubles two triples and two home runs over 282 plate appearances. Casilla walked in 7.1% of his plate appearances and struck out in 14.2%, both solid numbers.
Chris Colabello came back to the Bisons after serving his suspension for a performance-enhancing drug, despite professing his innocence. The 32-year-old struggled with the bat, hitting .180/.248/.288 over 153 plate appearances in Buffalo, striking out 30.1% of the time while hitting just .069 in 32 plate appearances in Toronto. Colabello is still on the 40-man roster and with talk of re-signing Edwin Encarnacion, with Justin Smoak locked up to at least two years beyond this one, and with Rowdy Tellez charging hard, Colabello may be hard-pressed to find playing time.
Ryan Goins spent some time in Buffalo this year, although he played more in Toronto. Goins hit .265/.318/.388 with six doubles and two home runs in 110 plate appearances for the Bisons but hit only .186/.228/.306 in 196 plate appearances for the Jays. He has been left off the playoff rosters thus far in favour of Darwin Barney and the hobbled Devon Travis.
Domonic Brown led the Bisons in games played in left field, but the 29-year-old Georgian actually spent most of his time in right field. Brown, a former NL All-Star, had a decent enough season, hitting .239/.303/.336 with the Bisons, hitting 24 doubles and seven home runs in 509 plate appearances, striking out 19.4% of the time and walking 7.5%. Brown will likely be a free agent at the end of the season.
After a very strong 2015 in Buffalo, Dalton Pompey came back to earth a bit in 2016 but had some solid numbers in Triple-A. Pompey hit .270/.349/.353 with 14 doubles, a triple, four home runs and 18 stolen bases while posting a 10.5% walk rate and 18.8% strikeout rate. His BABIP was actually almost the exact same as it was in Triple-A last year and his ISO rose 12 points to .083. Pompey had just two plate appearances with the Blue Jays and didn’t register a hit but stole two bases. Interestingly, Pompey had a slow start with the bat but peaked in July, hitting .312/.365/.442 for the month but his hits dropped off in August. Pompey is still only 23 and the Canadian could be a post-season roster addition for his ability to score runs based on his legs alone. He will be back in Buffalo next year and if he continues to show improvement and a consistent approach day in and day out, could be in Toronto for more than a September call up next year.
Junior Lake played 82 games with the Bisons while also getting into 22 with Toronto. Lake, 26, hit .231/.314/.352 in 318 plate appearances with Buffalo, hitting 12 doubles, two triples and six home runs and hitting .200/.282/.371 with three doubles and a home run in Toronto. Lake strikes out a lot (24.2% in Buffalo and 28.2% in Toronto) but also walked in over 10% of his plate appearances. Lake was on and off the 40-man roster all season and was sent to Buffalo outright three times which likely gives him the opportunity to declare free agency this offseason.
Darrell Ceciliani played just over half the season with the Bisons, missing time due to a couple of stints in the majors and a month on the DL. Ceciliani was, aside from Dalton Pompey, the one Bisons outfielder who excelled with the bat. Ceciliani hit .266/.323/.441 with 17 doubles, three triples and 10 home runs in 82 games, striking out in 15.6% of his 334 plate appearances and walking in 7.8%. In limited opportunity with Toronto, Ceciliani hit just .111 with strikeouts in a whopping 48.3% of his 29 plate appearances. Still, Ceciliani’s success with Buffalo makes him viable at least as insurance in the minors. He’ll be back in Buffalo in 2016 and has a minor league option left.
Remember when Quintin Berry was a member of the Buffalo Bisons? Don’t worry, we don’t really remember it either. Berry was signed at the beginning of September and played only five games for the Bisons before being released. He hit an unmemorable .105/.227/.105 in 23 plate appearances.
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