We turn to the hitters of the Buffalo Bisons to see who did what in 2018. We’ll start with the catchers and go around the horn to the infield and then to the outfield.
Reese McGuire caught 73 games for the Bisons, playing in 96 games in total, and posted a .233/.312/.339 slash line in 369 plate appearances in his first exposure to Triple-A baseball hitting nine doubles, two triples and seven home runs. McGuire had an 8.9% walk rate and 20.9% strikeout rate and was fairly streaky, having his best month in June, hitting .303/.407/.409 but posting just a .206/.283/.280 slash line in April and May while slashing .221/.287/.349 (albeit with better power numbers) from July to the end of the season. That said, McGuire made an impression on the Blue Jays’ fanbase by hitting .290/.333/.581 in 33 plate appearances, hitting three doubles and two home runs in his brief exposure to the major leagues. That said, in the small sample, it is somewhat concerning that McGuire struck out in 27.3% of plate appearances. McGuire also threw out 29% of potential base stealers in the minor leagues but only caught 13% (two out of 15) in the big leagues. McGuire will likely split 2019 between Buffalo and Toronto.
Danny Jansen had a big highlight to his professional baseball career, a year after breaking through to the upper levels of the minors while also getting taken seriously as a prospect, making the major leagues and doing more than holding his own there, making him the likely choice to get the bulk of the reps behind the plate in 2019. In his 88 games with the Buffalo Bisons, he hit .275/.390/.473, earning himself mid-season and post-season All-Star berths for the International League while also getting to play in the MLB Futures Game. Jansen his a career-high 12 home runs, adding 21 doubles and a triple to the ranks while walking in a stellar 12.2% of plate appearances and only walking in 13.6%. Called up to the major leagues in mid-August, Jansen never looked back, hitting .247/.347/.432 with six doubles and three home runs in 95 big league plate appearances but, most encouragingly, Jansen didn’t see a huge uptick in strikeouts, going down on strikes in 17.9% of plate appearances (still below league average) while walking in 9.5% of his plate appearances. Defensively, Jansen threw out 23% of potential base stealers in Buffalo but only 15% in Toronto.
Backup catcher Michael De La Cruz got only 50 plate appearances in his Age-25 season thanks to the presence of both McGuire and Jansen. He hit just .186/.286/.349 with some significant pop, hitting five doubles and a triple. De La Cruz threw out 25% of potential base stealers and will likely be in a backup role at some level next year.
Rowdy Tellez dealt with some rough times in his personal life, making it through the season to a stellar major league debut shortly after the passing of his mother from cancer. Rowdy, 23, finished the season with a solid, .270/.340/.425 slash line, hitting 22 doubles and 13 home runs with the Buffalo Bisons, walking in 9.0% of his plate appearances and striking out in only 16.7%. Rowdy improved his numbers dramatically as the season went on, hitting just .229/.315/.271 in April while improving steadily and peaking in July with a .309/.338/.574 slash line, hitting six doubles and four home runs. Called up to Toronto in September, Rowdy hit .314/.329/.614 in Toronto, popping a whopping nine doubles and four home runs in just 73 plate appearances but he was aided by a very high .391 BABIP and struck out in 28.8% of his plate appearances while walking in 2.7%. Look for Rowdy to start 2019 back in Buffalo to see if he can duplicate his last half of the season.
Tim Lopes was the Bisons’ everyday second baseman, playing 104 games and hitting .277/.325/.364 with 19 doubles, three triples and two home runs over 385 plate appearances. The younger brother to former Blue Jays’ minor leaguer Christian Lopes, Tim, 24, had a 6.8% walk rate and a 15.1% strikeout rate. Lopes elected free agency at the end of the season.
Jason Leblebijian, 27, spent his second season in Buffalo, seeing some regression across the board. He played in 84 games, seeing time at first, second, third and shortstop while also playing three games in left field. Leb hit .220/.315/./362 with eight doubles, a triple and 10 home runs, giving him a double-digit home run total in three consecutive seasons. While his walk rate rose to 11.1% in 2018, Leb saw his strikeout rate climb to 30.2%. He filed for free agency following the end of the season.
It’s hard to remember that Richard Urena is still just 22. The young Dominican shortstop missed time at the beginning of the year due to an injury and spent significant time in Toronto over the course of the season over three different stints. Getting his season started in late April with the Dunedin Blue Jays, Urena hit .148/.172/.148 in seven games with Dunedin before joining the Buffalo Bisons where he went 1/8 before making his season debut with Toronto on May 9. In Toronto, he had solid numbers, hitting .278/.278/.444 with a home run in 19 plate appearances before moving back down to Buffalo. In 65 total games with the Buffalo Bisons, Urena hit .216/.250/.344 with 11 doubles, three triples and five home runs but in the big leagues, where he spent some of August and all of September, he hit a very solid .293/.340/.364 with four doubles and a home run in 108 plate appearances. While he didn’t take a walk in his first stint in the majors, Urena figured something out, with his walk rate of 6.5% in the bigs while it was only 4.5% in Triple-A. Unfortunately, his 17.9% strikeout rate in Buffalo did not improve in the majors as he went down on strikes in 29.6% of his big league plate appearances. Look for Urena to ride the bus between Toronto and Buffalo in 2019, getting more playing time if either Troy Tulowitzki doesn’t play and/or Lourdes Gurriel and Devon Travis don’t produce.
The Blue Jays traded for Gio Urshela from Cleveland in May, sending a player to be named later or cash, getting into 24 games with the Buffalo Bisons and 19 with the Toronto Blue Jays. He didn’t hit much, with a .244/.275/.279 slash line in Buffalo, hitting three doubles in 91 plate appearances and .233/.283/.326 with Toronto, hitting a double and a home run in 46 plate appearances. Urshela was then traded to the Yankees for cash in August and he finished out the season in Triple-A.
Darnell Sweeney got into 88 games for the Buffalo Bisons, playing second, third and short in addition to some outfield and hitting .236/.311/.411 with 13 doubles, four triples and 10 home runs in 332 plate appearances. In two games with Toronto, he was 0/2 but walked twice, giving him a .500 OBP. Sweeney also faced four batters as a pitcher without giving up a hit, striking out one and hitting a batter. Sweeney elected free agency.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. blossomed in 2018, finding his niche with the Blue Jays despite being held back by some injuries. Starting in New Hampshire, he hit .322/.354/.508 with three doubles, a triple and two home runs in 65 plate appearances and moved up to Buffalo where he hit .293/.321/.449 with eight doubles and five home runs in 156 plate appearances. With Toronto, Gurriel still found himself allergic to the walk, walking in only 3.4% of his plate appearances and striking out in a reasonable 22.4% (just 0.6% more than in Buffalo), hitting .281/.309/.446 with eight doubles and 11 home runs in 263 plate appearances. Look for Gurriel back in Toronto in 2019, probably starting at shortstop and/or second base.
Shortstop Gift Ngoepe gets a lot of positive press as the first South African-born player to make the major leagues. But he didn’t hit in his time with the Jays’ organization, posting a .168/.304/.252 slash line in 48 games with Buffalo and a .056/.105/.056 slash line in Toronto, striking out in 12 of his 19 plate appearances. Ngoepe was released in August.
Danny Espinosa, 31, was another minor league free agent signing who put some time in with Buffalo before being released to find opportunities elsewhere. He hit .232/.271/.286 with the Bisons in 60 plate appearances before going to the Dodgers in May and then the Phillies in June. After he was released in early August, he signed with Monclava in the Mexican league, hitting .349/.453/.508 in 17 games there to finish his season.
The Blue Jays signed infielder Tyler Ladendorf to a minor league deal at the beginning of April and he joined the Bisons in May, playing just two games (and going 0/6) before he was traded to Arizona where he hit well in 13 Triple-A games (but not so well in 30 Double-A games). He became a free agent following the season.
Dwight Smith Jr. bounced between Buffalo and Toronto, putting up solid numbers at both levels in 2018. He played 85 games for the Bisons, hitting .268/.358/.413 with 25 doubles, a triple and six home runs with nine stolen bases in 12 attempts, walking in 12.2% of his plate appearances and striking out in just 14.7%. In the major leagues, he hit a very solid .262/.347/.477 with eight doubles and two home runs, walking in a healthy 9.3% of plate appearances while striking out in 17.3%, cutting that down from 34.5% in his first exposure to the big leagues in 2017. I’d expect Smith to be a swingman again between Buffalo and Toronto but all he does is hit and he certainly deserves a chance to play despite the Blue Jays’ acquiring more outfield talent who are probably ahead of him on the depth chart.
Roemon Fields, 27, played the whole season for Buffalo, hitting .238/.307/.305 with 10 doubles, three triples and two home runs, stealing 25 bases but getting caught 16 times. Fields’s numbers regressed thanks to a league-average BABIP (.305) after having a .357 BABIP in 2017. He walked in 7.9% of his 367 plate appearances and struck out in 21.8%, the second number jumping 5.0% from 2017. Look for Fields back in Buffalo in 2019.
Ian Parmley, 28, made his major league debut in 2017 but didn’t get back to The Show in 2018. Parmley got into 40 games for the Bisons, hitting .263/.293/.339 with three doubles and three triples before he was ultimately released on June 25.
Anthony Alford, 23, struggled with issues of underperformance and injury (again), souring his 2018 season. In 105 games with the Buffalo Bisons, he hit .240/.312/.344 with 22 doubles, a triple and five home runs, adding 17 stolen bases in 24 attempts. Alford struck out 26.9% of the time in BUffalo, walking in 7.2% of his plate appearances but his numbers in Toronto were somewhat worrying as he struck out in 42.9% of his plate appearances, walking in 9.5% and hitting .105/.190/.105 and he didn’t get called back up until the middle of September, so thick were the ranks of Blue Jays outfielders. Look for Alford to start back in Buffalo in 2019.
Dalton Pompey, 25, was bitten once again by the injury bug and had his season marred by run-ins with his manager in Buffalo. Pompey hit .255/.325/.393 in 41 games, hitting eight doubles and four home runs while stealing eight bases in 10 attempts and he also hit well in brief stays in the GCL and Dunedin but struggled in four games in New Hampshire. In five games in Toronto, Pompey hit .200/.273/.200. Still on the 40-man roster, Pompey wasn’t recalled to the major leagues in September and his future with the Blue Jays could be in question as the Jays may want to use his roster spot for someone else to protect him in the Rule 5 draft.
When the Blue Jays acquired Billy McKinney, 23, from the New York Yankees in the J.A. Happ deal, they thought they were getting a player with some pop and good defense in the outfield. McKinney had gotten injured against Toronto in the first series of the season and only hit .226/.299/.495 with 13 home runs, eight doubles and five triples in 56 games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in the Triple-A International League. After the trade, McKinney hit .203/.292/.453 with three doubles, two triples and three home runs in 20 games with Buffalo but made a big impact with Toronto, hitting .252/.320/.470 with seven doubles and six home runs in 36 games with the Blue Jays. Look for McKinney to challenge for a big-league roster spot in 2019.
Teoscar Hernandez played four games in Buffalo before settling in with the Blue Jays in his Age-25 season. He hit two home runs and a double in just four games before his promotion and hit .239/.302/.468 with the Blue Jays, launching 29 doubles, seven triples and 22 home runs but had issues getting on base and defensively to total just 0.2 rWAR (on Baseball Reference, or 0.3 fWAR on Fangraphs). Hernandez continues to struggle getting on base but had a solid 7.8% walk rate in Toronto but struck out in 31.2% of his plate appearances.
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