We’re going to start our more in-depth look at the DSL Blue Jays by looking at starting pitchers. At the Rookie ball level, the distinctions between starting pitchers and relief pitchers are frequently fluid so we’re going to include anyone who made more than two starts for the DSL club in order to even things out a little bit (so that we’re not trying to cram 25 pitchers into one report). We begin with the pitchers who made the most starts and work our way downwards from there. With the DSL club, there isn’t much to go on scouting-wise, so we’ll basically be looking at the players’ stats to help get an idea of what might be going on.
We’ll start with Wilfri Aleton who, in his third year in the DSL, logged 63 2/3 innings with appreciable improvements in almost every category. He lowered his ERA from 4.24 in 2014 to 2.83 while his WHIP dropped from 1.35 to 1.21. Most impressively, Aleton lowered his walk total from 17 in 2014 (in 34 innings) to just 13 in almost twice as many innings in 2015. His strikeout total did not, however, increase proportionally to innings pitched, logging 6.4 K/9 innings this season, a decrease from his 7.1 K/9 ratio in 2014. That said, Aleton should easily be in North America in 2016 at the age of 20 after an excellent third season in the DSL.
Lupe Chavez made 10 starts for the DSL Jays in his Age-17 season. Chavez is listed at 6-foot-2 and 150 pounds (hopefully, he’ll put on some weight soon), but the Mexican righty moved quickly through the organization, throwing 42 1/3 innings in the DSL with a 2.98 ERA and 1.28 WHIP, striking out 45 and walking only 14. Chavez moved up to the GCL where he threw another 19 innings, walking six and striking out 14. A nice positive for his 2015 season was the fact that he didn’t give up a home run in 61 1/3 innings but this will likely change as he faces more physically mature hitters as he moves up. Chavez could very well be seen in Bluefield in 2016.
19-year-old Yonardo Herdenez (who turns 20 in just a few days) is another three-year veteran of the DSL Blue Jays and has also shown improvement each year. While he didn’t quite match his 2014 inning total (throwing 44 innings in 2015), he had a 3.07 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, walking just eight batters and striking out 24 for an unimpressive 4.9 K/9 ratio. It’s very difficult to project pitchers from DSL results but it’s clear that the Blue Jays probably don’t have a very high ceiling in mind for Rosario who would have been moved up the GCL at some point in the last three seasons if they did. Still, after three DSL seasons and going into his Age-20 season, Herdenez is a candidate to fill out the pitching staff in the GCL next year.
Lefty Jose Nova was one of the older DSL Blue Jays, turning 20 this April, but he made the jump out of the Dominican Republic to Florida this season after 41 1/3 very good innings in the DR. Nova made nine starts, posting a 1.74 ERA and 0.97 WHIP, walking just six and striking out 27 in his 41 1/3 innings. Moving up to the Gulf Coast League, he threw another 17 1/3 innings, posting a 4.15 ERA and 1.38 WHIP, striking out 13 but walking seven. Still, his wild pitch and hit by pitch numbers are low which, taken with his walk totals, indicates that his control might very well be advanced. Disappointing is his drop in K/9 ratio from year over year (after his debut in the DSL last year) but he could help anchor the rotation in the GCL or Bluefield next year.
18-year-old Yennsy Diaz had an impressive debut in the DSL, throwing 37 1/3 innings with a 1.93 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, striking out 39 and walking 16 before getting moved up to the Gulf Coast League (note that here was an 18-year-old striking out a lot of batters who DID get moved up to the GCL in a timely fashion). In the GCL he, understandably, struggled a little more, getting another 19 innings under his belt and posting a 4.74 ERA and 1.63 WHIP, walking seven but still striking out a batter per inning (19 Ks). He actually lowered his BB/9 ratio at the higher level (to 3.3 from 3.7). I’m definitely interested in getting a scouting report on Diaz because his strikeout rate combined with the organization’s quick promotion indicate that he could be someone to keep an eye on.
Juan Nunez, 19, is a guy whose promotion to the GCL this year might have taken many by surprise when just looking at his stats. It’s clear, however, that he was pitching better than his statisical lines might indicate. Nunez had poor numbers in 2014 and his numbers over 26 1/3 innings with the DSL Blue Jays were pretty bad, throwing 26 1/3 innings, walking 16 and striking out 20 with a 6.15 ERA and 1.59 WHIP. When promoted to the GCL Jays, however, his numbers took a turn for the better, with a 1.93 ERA and 0.79 WHIP, walking just four and striking out 10 in 14 innings. Small sample size is the warning to heed, however, like with Yennsy Diaz, the fact that Nunez was promoted mid-season shows that the Blue Jays like some of what they saw.
Juan Meza is a 17-year-old Venezuelan who threw for the DSL Jays and the GCL Jays, struggling at both levels. A recipient of a $1.6 million signing bonus in 2014, Meza will clearly be someone whose development we’ll need to watch. Meza had a 6.66 ERA and 1.71 WHIP over 25 2/3 innings with the DSL Jays, walking 14 and striking out 21. He actually started the season in Florida but was sent down to the Dominican after giving up six runs with eight walks (and eight strikeouts) in five innings in the GCL.
21-year-old Jairo Rosario was another workhorse for the DSL Blue Jays, throwing 55 1/3 innings, making five starts out of his 19 appearances. Rosario posted a 1.63 ERA and 1.12 WHIP, striking out 44 and walking 25. He’s seen a reduction in his walk rate in his last two seasons in the DSL (he’s completed three seasons in the Dominican) but has also seen a reduction in his strikeout rate to go with it.
Our reliever of the year is our final “starter” for the sake of this grouping. 19-year-old Joel Espinal had a terrific rookie season in the DSL, throwing 53 2/3 innings with a 2.18 ERA and 1.08 WHIP, striking out 46 and walking 19. It looks like control is an issue for now, as he hit four batters and threw 11 wild pitches. He could go back to the DSL for another if the club doesn’t think he’s ready for Florida.
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