Buffalo Bisons 2019 Report, part 2: Starting Pitchers

Andrew Sopko

We’re going to start our more in-depth look at the Buffalo Bisons by looking at starting pitchers. No one cracked the 100-inning mark for the Bisons, likely because no one really was with the team long enough to really rack up the starts and innings.

We begin with the pitchers who made the most starts and work our way downwards from there. 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.


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Sean Reid-Foley

The leader of the Buffalo Bisons when it came to games started was Sean Reid-Foley. It’s important to keep in mind that SRF was pitching in just his Age-23 season as he made a start for the Blue Jays to begin his season. He allowed five runs (three earned on four hits and two walks with three strikeouts before being sent down to Buffalo, where he stayed until mid-June when he pitched three times for Toronto, without allowing any runs in his two bullpen outings (but walking three in two innings in his first appearance) and striking out four in 3 1/3 innings in his last appearance before going back to Buffalo. After four more outings with Buffalo, in which he struggled, he returned to Toronto, making five more appearances and finished his season with two outings for Buffalo but didn’t pitch again in September. Overall, Reid-Foley had a 6.47 ERA in Buffalo, posting a 1.61 WHIP in 89 innings but he had a strong strikeout rate of 25.4% while walking a whopping 15.7%. In the majors, he logged 31 2/3 innings, putting up a 4.26 ERA and 1.71 WHIP, striking out 18.7% and walking 14.0%. Obviously, Reid-Foley’s future depends on whether he can pitch with more command but he may not be that far away from a relief role in the majors.



Conor Fisk

Number two on our list of starters for the Buffalo Bisons is Conor Fisk, a guy who bounced back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation, stepping in where necessary and finished the year, leading the Bisons with 97 innings pitched. He had a 5.10 ERA and 1.40 WHIP, striking out 21.5% of batters and walking 7.2%. The 27-year-old righty posted better numbers as a reliever, with an .829 OPS against as a starter and a .748 OPS against as a reliever although he had a better strikeout and walk rate as a starter. Look for Fisk to be a useful pitcher for the Bisons again in 2020.


Lefty Shawn Morimando finished third on the Bisons with 14 starts and 70 1/3 innings. Morimando, whose season was over at the end of July because of injury, had a 6.01 ERA and 1.58 WHIP, striking out a stellar 23.8% of batters and walking 10.3%. It’s hard to gauge what’s going to happen with Morimando, 26, next year but he’ll probably be given another shot to show more than he did in 2019 as his peripherals suggest that he deserves another try.


T.J. Zeuch

T.J. Zeuch didn’t get onto the mound in a competitive game until mid-June, throwing twice for the Dunedin Blue Jays on rehab starts. He was finally activated by the Buffalo Bisons and pitched on June 22 and would make 13 starts with a solid 3.69 ERA and 1.31 WHIP, striking out only 11.6% of batters while walking 9.6%. That low strikeout rate was concerning but Zeuch went on a terrific run with the Bisons in his final four starts of the year, throwing 25 innings with a 1.08 ERA and just a .315 OPS against, striking out 13 and walking five and including a no-hitter on August 19. Zeuch finished his season by joining the Blue Jays and getting his first taste of major league action, holding his own while pitching against playoff teams in four of his five outings (Braves, Yankees twice and Rays). Zeuch, 24, had a 4.76 ERA and 1.46 WHIP over 22 2/3 innings, and he saw his strikeout rate jump to 20.2% as his walk rate rose a bit to 11.1%. What is Zeuch’s future in Toronto? The groundballer got a lower rate of ground balls in the majors as he did anywhere else last year (57.1% in the minors and 47.1% in the majors) but his increase in strikeouts at the major league level is encouraging. If he can put together a strong spring and the Jays don’t go out to get at least two more pitchers, there could be a spot in the rotation for him in Toronto at the back end.


Lefty knuckleballer Ryan Feierabend made 12 starts (and two relief appearances) for the Buffalo Bisons, logging 68 1/3 innings for the club, also getting in one appearance in New Hampshire and two in Toronto. Feierabend had a late start to his season because of an injury, starting three games (with diminishing results) in the first half of May with the Bisons before getting a promotion to Toronto, throwing twice and giving up seven runs on 11 hits and a walk with four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. Sent back to Buffalo, he made another nine appearances between the end of May and mid-July and was sent to New Hampshire for one start, taking a loss and giving up six runs in three innings. He went back to Buffalo, striking out eight against the Durham Bulls in 5 1/3 innings but that was his last outing until September when he tossed a scoreless inning coming off the IL on September 2. Overall for the Bisons, Feierabend had a 5.53 ERA and 1.43 WHIP, striking out 17.9% of batters whle walking 7.1%. Feierabend elected free agency on October 14.


Righty Andrew Sopko had some excellent success with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats this season but struggled when promoted to the Buffalo Bisons over his 13 outings (12 starts) for the club. The 24-year-old also lost time because of injury, cutting down the number of innings he threw this season. He started with six starts in New Hampshire, posting a 2.34 ERA and 0.89 WHIP, striking out 19.4% of batters and walking only 6.0% in 34 2/3 innings before moving up to Buffalo to make his Triple-A debut on May 14. He had some solid starts but some bad ones (giving up six runs in four innings on May 24, eight runs in 3 2/3 innings on June 3) over seven outings between May 14 and June 13 before going on the IL with an injury. He returned to action with two rehab starts with the GCL Blue Jays, giving up just two runs on six hits in seven innings, striking out four before being sent back up to Buffalo. Sopko finished the season with six outings from July 25 to September 2, allowing a lot of runs and finishing on somewhat of a down turn. I did see Sopko start in Buffalo and he was hit hard in that outing. Sopko finished with a 7.12 ERA and 1.67 WHIP over 54 1/3 innings, striking out 16.3% and walking 11.1%. He was particularly victimized by the home run while pitching in Triple-A, giving up 14 HRs in just those 54 1/3 innings.Sopko will get another chance to see if he’ll be more effective against Triple-A competition in 2020.


Jacob Waguespack

Jacob Waguespack, 25, was the pitcher the Blue Jays acquired from the Phillies in the deal that sent Aaron Loup to Philadelphia. Waguespack spent the season showing that he not only could handle a starter’s load in Triple-A but that he could hold his own in the major leagues (sort of). Wags started in Buffalo, taking the ball every five days or so for the first month and half of the season but he had a 5.86 ERA and .853 OPS against in those 43 innings before his first call up to the major leagues. He made his major league debut on May 27, allowing three runs over four innings to the Tampa Bay Rays and was put on the IL until June 16 when he was sent on a rehab assignment back to Buffalo. He pitched three times for Buffalo, giving up one run in each outing (three runs in 9 2/3 innings) before being returned to Toronto where he picked up his first major league win, tossing five innings as the “bulk” guy and giving up just three runs to the Boston Red Sox. He was optioned back to Buffalo but didn’t pitch and returned to Toronto, starting again against the Red Sox and he remained in the Blue Jays’ rotation for the rest of the season. While he wasn’t great (4.38 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 18.8% K%, 8.7% BB%), he was solid enough to suck up some desperately needed innings for the Jays and had a couple of really good outings against good teams (6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 4 K vs. Tampa Bay August 5; 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K vs. the Dodgers August 22) which will earn him some looks in 2020 for the starting rotation. If he doesn’t crack the Jays’ rotation in March, he will be back in Buffalo waiting in the wings.


Although Anthony Kay has only been pitching in the minor leagues for two years, sitting out his draft year of 2017 while recovering from injury, the lefty made a big impact with the Blue Jays after coming over from the Mets’ organization in the Marcus Stroman trade. Kay, 24, was outstanding to start the season in Double-A Binghamton, posting a 1.49 ERA and 0.92 WHIP over 66 1/3 innings, getting a 26.7% strikeout rate and 8.8% walk rate. Promoted to Syracuse, he struggled with a 6.61 ERA and 1.63 WHIP over 31 1/3 innings, striking out only 18.6% of batters and walking 7.9%. Coming over to Toronto, he struggled with his control in Buffalo, walking 13.8% of batters but his strikeout rate was back up to 24.5% and Kay got a September call up to Toronto where he showed a lot of potential despite his 5.79 ERA and 1.43 WHIP over 14 innings in three outings. Kay had a solid 20.6% strikeout rate against some of the best hitters in baseball and struck out eight in 5 2/3 innings in his major league debut on September 7 against the Tampa Bay Rays. Kay will probably start the season back in Buffalo but could crack the Blue Jays’ Opening Day rotation with a strong spring (if the Jays don’t acquire too many starting pitchers in the offseason).


A year after coming over to the Jays in the trade for the closer who is now pitching in Houston, David Paulino was a hopeful for a bullpen spot in Toronto but was sent to Buffalo to stretch out as a starter. He pitched for a month, seeing mixed results in five starts and went on the shelf for a month and a half, coming back with two solid starts before he was shut down again for the rest of the season. Overall, Paulino, 25, had a 3.45 ERA and 1.43 WHIP for Buffalo, striking out 21.4% and walking 8.7% over 28 2/3 innings. He’ll get another shot to join the Jays at some point in 2020.


Thomas Pannone

Soft-tossing lefty Thomas Pannone, 25, split 2019 between Buffalo and Toronto. In Buffalo, he was mostly a starter, tossing 33 2/3 innings with a 3.21 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, striking out 28.9% of batters and walking 10.6% but in Toronto, he spent most of his time in the bullpen, logging 73 innings in 37 appearances (seven starts) with a 6.16 ERA and 1.42 WHIP, striking out 21.2% and walking 9.5%. While those peripheral numbers aren’t bad, he is a fly ball pitcher who relies on location and movement and he allowed 1.6 HR/9. Pannone will likely be back and forth in 2020 between Toronto and Buffalo but might settle more fully into a bullpen role.


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