Alex Anthopoulos wasn’t kidding when, in the process of wooing the Buffalo Bisons to sign a Player Development Contract with the Blue Jays, he promised that giving them a winning team would be important. As May rolls around, the Buffalo Bisons hold the second best record in the International League and sit atop the North Division at 17-7. The leads the league in runs per game (5.83) and also lead in important categories like HRs (27), Batting Average (.305), OBP (.380) and SLG (.480, leading by a mile over the Durham Bulls who are in 2nd place). The pitchers are giving up 4.33 runs per game, right smack dab at 8th place in the 16-team league. The Bisons, like the Dunedin Blue Jays and the New Hampshire Fisher Cats are an older team. The Blue Jays went out and signed numerous players to minor league free agent contracts or claimed players off of waivers to stash Buffalo with a high-calibre (for AAA) team. Basically, it’s a team full of Quad-A players with no technical prospects,* and only two guys who get prospecters interested.
There are no real pitching prospects on the Buffalo Bisons and only Anthony Gose, Moises Sierra and Ryan Goins are under the age of 26.
22 year old Center fielder Anthony Gose is almost certainly going to play in the major leagues. His defense and speed tools are already major league quality, but the Blue Jays are sending him out there in the more realistic International League environment (as opposed to the Pacific Coast League) to get the experience hitting pitching closer to what he’ll see in the majors. Gose has definitely made some strides over last year, seeing increases in his BB% (13.7%), OBP (.370) while seeing a decrease in his K% (17.6%). I’ve seen Gose play in AAA a little bit and I still think he has a ways to go before he’s ready to deal with the increased quality in major league pitching.
Moises Sierra, the 24-year-old right fielder opened a lot of eyes when he went into the seats to catch a ball and hit a game-breaking double for the Dominican team in the WBC. He is also making a lot of noise for Buffalo this year, mainly because it’s clear that no one has told him that he’s not still in the PCL. Sierra is hitting .389/.430/.532 but despite these gaudy numbers there are indications that they are inflated due to his unsustainable .466 BABIP. First of all, Sierra’s walks are down from what he had last year in AAA (5.1%). Second of all, his strikeouts are down about 3% (17.5%)but so is his Isolated Power. Last season in Las Vegas, he had a very healthy .183 ISO (the highest in his career), but this year, it’s down to .153, which means that his power game is coming back to a more normalized result. Sierra is also known for not always having his head in the game, so this right fielder with a cannon for an arm may not be able to stick in the majors as anything more than a fourth outfielder.
SS Ryan Goins, 25, has been splitting duties at shortstop with Mike McCoy in a crowded Buffalo infield. The Blue Jays prospect comes to Buffalo after a very solid AA season last year in which he hit .289/.342/.403. Goins has always hit for a good average throughout his career, but this year, hitting .267/.267/.317, we’re seeing a player who isn’t walking or hitting for extra bases. He’s going to have to do both if he ever wants to see Toronto, and if he had been doing better he might have gotten the call when Jose Reyes went down.
The Buffalo Bats have been dominant. From former IL MVP Mauro Gomez (1.028 OPS) to recent IL Player of the Week Luis Jimenez (1.094 OPS) to veteran outfielder Ryan Langerhans (.991 OPS) to current IL Batting leader Jim Negrych (.429 BA, 1.168 OPS), just about everyone on this team is hitting. Even catcher Josh Thole is red hot, hitting .379/.438/.569. Really, only Andy LaRoche, Mike McCoy, Mike Nickeas and Lance Zawadzki aren’t doing much with the bat (and LaRoche is still having a pretty decent season all things considered).
On the mound, the veteran starters include 42 year old Miguel Batista, 33 year old Dave Bush, 40 year old Ramon Ortiz, and 35 year old Claudio Vargas and most recently, youngsters, 30 year olds Justin Germano and Edgar Gonzalez (although Germano is with the Blue Jays for a brief spell). Bush has been particularly effective, pitching to a 1.61 ERA over 22 1/3 innings. Neil Wagner and Juan Perez have both been very solid out of the bullpen and Alex Hinshaw has been putting some better outings together of late. All in all, it’s a veteran team full of guys who either had their chance to play in the bigs or are career minor leaguers.
*The reason that I use the term “technical” prospects is because Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra have lost their “prospect” eligibility when they exceeded the limits for Rookie status in 2012.
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