We’re going to start our more in-depth look at the Buffalo Bisons by looking at starting pitchers. We’re going to include anyone who made 50% of his appearances as a starter, or logged enough innings to gain consideration. 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 pitchers who made the most starts and work our way downwards from there.
Chris Rowley led the Buffalo Bisons in starts with 17 and innings with 101 in 2018 but he had a rocky season overall, finishing out with the Triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers. Rowley started his season in Buffalo, posting a solid 3.30 ERA and 1.39 WHIP over his 101 innings with the club. He struggled with his walks, particularly at the beginning of the season and ended up with a 9.6% walk rate on the year, striking out only 14.5%. He was promoted to the Blue Jays in mid-July, making two appearances, giving up three earned runs on two hits and a walk in 2/3 of an inning before he was sent back to Buffalo and placed on waivers after one start in the in the minors. Claimed by the Rangers, he threw 41 2/3 innings in their system with similar numbers, having a 3.46 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, striking out 18.6% of batters and walking 9.0% before he was sent outright to Round Rock at the end of the season and elected free agency.
Righty Sean Reid-Foley started his season back in Double-A New Hampshire after a rough Double-A debut season in 2017. This season, however, the 23 year old dominated Double-A, finding his command and his offspeed pitches, striking out 29.2% of batters and walking 11.2%. After eight starts and 44 1/3 innings with a 2.03 ERA and 1.06 WHIP, Reid-Foley was promoted to Buffalo where he continued his excellent work, posting a 3.90 ERA and 1.24 WHIP, striking out 27.1% of batters and walking only 8.3%. In a start that I saw him pitch in Buffalo, he was dominant, hitting his spots to both sides of the plate and making hitters looking foolish with two fastballs, a slider and a changeup. Reid-Foley earned a call up in August, making two starts. In the first, he was solid, gutting his way through five innings and giving up three runs, but he was hammered for three home runs and eight runs (six earned) in 4 1/3 innings in his next outing and he was sent back to Buffalo for one start. Recalled in September, he showed flashes of brilliance despite his workload being managed carefully. He struck out 10 in his return to Toronto, tossing seven innings of one-run ball against Miami and, after giving up six runs to Cleveland in his next game, he struck out 10 Yankees in five scoreless innings, walking four and allowing two hits. He struggled a bit against the Rays and threw 3 1/3 innings of one-run, one-hit ball, striking out five against the Astros. Overall, Reid-Foley struck out 28.0% of the major league batters he faced, walking 14.0% and posting a 5.13 ERA and 1.56 WHIP in 33 innings. While he could earn a rotation spot in Toronto next year, a lot depends on how many pitchers the Blue Jays add in the offseason.
Another home-grown player, 24-year-old lefty Ryan Borucki, made his big league debut with the Blue Jays in 2018 but came up earlier than Reid-Foley and found more consistency. Borucki made 13 starts with Buffalo, throwing 77 innings with an excellent 3.27 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, striking out 18.4% of batters and walking 8.9% and getting a solid 51.6% of balls hit on the ground. Borucki made three of his first four appearances against playoff teams in the American League and had some solid success. While he had his share of struggles (for example, he didn’t get out of the first inning against the Yankees on August 19), he also threw eight shutout innings at the Orioles on September 17. Overall, he gave up two runs or fewer in 11 of his 17 major league starts and finished the year with 97 2/3 innings in the majors, a 3.87 ERA and 1.32 WHIP, striking out 16.1% and walking 8.0%. Look for Borucki to be given every chance to start 2019 with the Blue Jays.
Brandon Cumpton, 29, started his season with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the Atlantic League, making 11 starts there with a 4.11 ERA and 1.31 WHIP over 65 2/3 innings, walking 20 and striking out 44 when the Blue Jays came calling and signed him to a minor league deal in early July. The former big leaguer who has over 100 innings in the majors started out his Buffalo Bisons career by working out of the bullpen and after three effective outings, he was moved into the rotation, allowing just a run on four hits in his first start. After three starts in Buffalo, Cumpton was promoted to Toronto where he tossed 1 2/3 innings, giving up a run on three hits and two walks with two strikeouts before returning to the minors. While he had one outstanding game with the Bisons after his return, he allowed four runs or more (including 15 runs in his final two starts totally 13 innings) in four of his last six starts, closing out his Triple-A season with a 6.15 ERA and 1.46 WHIP, striking out 13.6% of batters and walking 6.6%. Cumpton was removed from the 40-man roster and sent to Buffalo outright in August and he elected free agency at the end of the season.
Lefty Matt Tracy was added in the offseason to serve as some pitching depth but he spent much of the season injured, only getting started in late June before going back on the DL in late August. Tracy started his season in the GCL on a rehab assignment and had a 3.18 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in three starts totally 5 2/3 innings, allowing eight hits with no walks and five strikeouts. In Buffalo he served primarily as a starter, logging 48 2/Thomas3 innings in 11 outings (nine of them starts) with a 2.40 ERA, a 1.27 WHIP while striking out 15.8% of batters and walking 9.9%. He elected free agency after the season.
A former first-round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays, Deck McGuire returned to the organization after finally making it to the big leagues last year with the Reds. McGuire started out in Buffalo and, after a rough Bisons debut, he posted a 2.70 ERA in his first five starts, including eight shutout innings in start number five. Called up to Toronto, McGuire allowed three runs in his first outing (in 3 1/3 innings) but pitched two scoreless outings before giving up three runs in two innings in his last Toronto appearance. Returned to Buffalo, he pitched three more times before he was put on waivers and claimed by Texas. McGuire pitched once for Round Rock (Texas’s Triple-A affiliate), giving up five runs in 1 2/3 innings of relief and he was designated for assignment and traded to the Angels. He went to work in the major leagues immediately, making seven appearances (including three starts) before he was demoted for a couple of games and rode the bus between the bigs and Triple-A Salt Lake the rest of the year. For Buffalo, McGuire made eight starts with a 3.22 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 44 2/3 innings, striking out 40 and walking 19. In the majors with Toronto, he allowed six runs on nine hits and five walks with seven strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings while he had a 6.07 ERA and 1.68 WHIP over 29 2/3 innings, striking out 26 but walking 21 for the Angels. McGuire is once again a free agent.
Thomas Pannone, 24, started his 2018 season on the restricted list as the lefty had been tested positive for a performance enhancing drug. Pannone started his return by giving up seven runs in 4 2/3 innings for Dunedin before moving up to New Hampshire and making two starts, giving up just three runs in nine innings, walking five and striking out 12. Promoted to Buffalo, Pannone made six starts, compiling a 4.91 ERA and 1.28 WHIP with 40 strikeouts and seven walks in 36 2/3 innings before he got the call to the big leagues, making his major league debut on August 10, coming out of the bullpen to give up two runs to the Tampa Bay Rays. He made three more bullpen appearances before he had a stellar first start in the big leagues, allowing a hit and two walks to the Baltimore Orioles in seven innings. He had three solid starts towards the end of the year but, like most young players, his performance lacked consistency in his first taste of major league action. For the Blue Jays, Pannone had a 4.19 ERA with a 1.21 WHIP, striking out 16.0% of batters and walking 8.3%. Pannone will have to live on the edge in the major leagues, especially with a fastball that averaged just over 88 mph in 2018. Look for him to start the 2019 season back in Buffalo but he’ll pick up some starts in Toronto by season’s end.
Acquired at the trade deadline from the Philadelphia Phillies for lefty Aaron Loup, Jacob Waguespack, 25, started five games for Buffalo down the stretch. maintaining very similar numbers to his performances in Reading and Lehigh Valley (Double-A and Triple-A for Philadelphia). For Buffalo, he had a 5.03 ERA and 1.45 WHIP over 39 1/3 innings, with a 21.1% strikeout rate but a significantly lower 5.8% walk rate. Waguespack will return to Buffalo in 2019.
Righty Sam Gaviglio, 29, spent most of his season with the Blue Jays, eating innings for the big league club, but he really excelled in Buffalo, earning himself the opportunity to stick around in the majors with 29 stellar innings for the Bisons. He had a 1.86 ERA and 0.86 WHIP, walking just four batters and striking out 29 before logging 123 2/3 innings with the Blue Jays, posting a 5.31 ERA, 1.44 WHIP with a 19.2% strikeout rate and 6.9% walk rate. Gaviglio is on the 40-man roster and it’s unclear what his role in 2019 might be, much of which depends on whether the Blue Jays look outside the system for pitching help.
To start or not to start? That is the question that has faced Joe Biagini for the past two years. To try to answer that question, Biagini made four starts in Buffalo with a 4.57 ERA and 1.25 WHIP over 21 2/3 innings, striking out 13 and walking eight. As a starter in Toronto, he had a 7.71 ERA and 1.875 WHIP over 18 2/3 innings with just 13 strikeouts and nine walks. As a reliever, he settled in better, posting a 5.40 ERA and 1.59 WHIP, striking out 40 and walking 15, finding a groove in June but losing in in July, finding some kind of groove in August but struggling in September. Biagini will probably be given the whole year in the bullpen in 2019, at least to start, but if he falters, he’ll head back to Buffalo to try to find the secret ingredient that saw him post 0.9 rWAR in 2016.
In their sometimes desperate search for anyone to pick up innings in the major league starting rotation, the Blue Jays signed righty Mike Hauschild who had been released by the Houston Astros. Signed at the beginning of August, Hauschild made two appearances in Toronto (including one start) and allowed four runs on seven hits and four walks in 8 1/3 innings with five strikeouts. In Buffalo, he made four starts, tossing 21 2/3 innings with a 4.98 ERA and 1.43 WHIP, striking out 10 and walking eight. Sent outright to Buffalo in September, Hauschild elected free agency.
Lefty Shawn Morimando got a taste of the big leagues in 2016 and has been putting up fairly solid numbers in the minors since then. The Blue Jays picked up Morimando in July after he was released by the Cleveland Indians and he was placed on the DL immediately. Morimando made four appearances in the GCL, giving up just a run in seven innings, striking out 10 and walking one before joining the Bisons where he had a 4.50 ERA and 1.15 WHIP over 20 innings, walking just two and striking out 11. He is still with the club and the staff sees him as another depth piece for 2019 and he got some extra work in pitching in the Arizona Fall League.
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