While the starting rotation for the Dunedin Blue Jays featured some tremendous performances, the bullpen was just as effective. With several pitchers having great years, the D-Jays pitching staff was probably the deepest in the Jays’ organization this year.
Getting into a team-high 47 games was lefty Chad Girodo who was incredibly impressive throughout the season. Throwing 76 2/3 innings, Girodo posted a 2.47 ERA and 1.17 WHIP with just 20 walks and 81 strikeouts, giving him almost exactly the same strikeout and walk percentages that he had last year in Lansing. The 2013 ninth-round draft pick is a side-arming lefty who gets a ton of ground balls (2.09 Ground Out to Air Out ratio) with his heavy fastball that features a ton of movement. I also saw an increase in velocity during spring training for Girodo over what he was doing at the end of last year which gets him into the low 90s and gives him a better chance of being effective and, significantly, righties didn’t hit much better against him than lefties did. I see Girodo moving up to New Hampshire in 2015.
With 44 appearances, Puerto Rican side-winding lefty Efrain Nieves, acquired by the Blue Jays in the 2012 Rule 5 draft, actually logged more innings for the D-Jays than Girodo did thanks to his four starts. Nieves had a 2.29 ERA and 1.17 WHIP with a solid 5.9% walk rate. The downside is that Nieves only struck out 16.1% of batters against, but he showed a huge increase in ground balls (3.15 GO/AO ratio) which leads me to believe that he’s been working on a sinker to help him get those outs. Nieves is another pitcher who could very well end up in Double-A next year.
25-year-old righty Arik Sikula was our reliever of the year thanks to an outstanding season with the Dunedin Blue Jays, spent as the team’s closer. The Marshall University product, taken in the 36th round of the 2011 draft, racked up 31 saves in 44 games for the D-Jays, posting a 1.66 ERA and 0.90 WHIP in 43 1/3 innings while walking just eight batters and striking out 60. Moving up for a 12-game promotion to New Hampshire mid-season, Sikula threw another 15 innings, allowing five runs, walking four and striking out 20, showing that his stuff played at the higher level too. Look for Sikula to start the year with the Fisher Cats in New Hampshire.
Wil Browning had another dominant year in A-ball after being signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2012. Browning reached Double-A in his Age-25 season, but didn’t do nearly as well there, walking far too many batters over a six-game trial. In Dunedin, however, Browning had a 1.65 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP over 43 2/3 innings with 17 walks and 57 strikeouts. I think Browning gets another shot at Double-A next season to see if he can repeat his success when given a longer rope.
Justin Jackson, the 25-year-old former infielder-turned-pitcher, got roughed up in his second year as a pitcher. Pitching in Dunedin and a little bit in New Hampshire, Jackson posted a 4.38 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP to go along with 22 walks and 40 strikeouts in 49 1/3 innings with Dunedin before throwing up an ERA over 6.00 and a WHIP over 2.00 in 8 2/3 innings in New Hampshire. Jackson’s future in the organization is unclear. He’s already eligible to leave as a minor league free agent and I don’t know what the club’s scouts and minor league staff think of him as a pitcher. I’ll definitely be following what happens with Jackson very carefully.
After pitching just three innings in 2013 due to injury, Danny Barnes had a comeback year but couldn’t stay healthy the whole season, missing all of July this year. In 38 2/3 innings with the D-Jays, Barnes had a 4.19 ERA, 1.24 WHIP to go with a very good ratio of 4.08 strikeouts for every walk, striking out 49 batters. The peripheral numbers suggest that Barnes, who will be 25 this month, will get a shot to see what he can do in Double-A.
The Blue Jays allowed several of the Dunedin Blue Jays pitchers to test their mettle against better competition with the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats, including lefty Tony Davis. Davis posted similar numbers to last year as a 26 year old in the Florida State League with a 3.53 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 53 strikeouts and 16 walks in 43 1/3 innings. Davis actually started the season in Double-A but struggled, getting lit up for a 5.70 ERA, 1.90 WHIP and more walks than strikeouts (and almost as many walks as innings pitched) with 22 free passes in 23 2/3 innings.
6-foot-6 righty Kramer Champlin was one of the pleasant surprises after a solid season in Lansing last year. In his Age-24 season in Dunedin, Champlin put up some very good numbers despite injuries that kept his campaign to just 30 innings (not counting the five innings in the GCL on rehab). Champlin’s 2.70 ERA and 1.13 WHIP were very strong and his strikeout numbers fell from his Lansing percentage (22.7%) last year to 15.1%. Is the pitcher who relied on the strikeout less in 2014 the real Kramer Champlin or did the injury take its toll on the 2011 33rd-round draftee? We’ll see next year when I think he could start in either Dunedin or New Hampshire.
In his Age-25 season, Hunter Carnevale was picked up by the Blue Jays as a minor league free agent after he was released by the New York Mets. Carnevale threw only 4 1/3 innings for Dunedin before the end of the season.
Ajay Meyer was off to a great start to his season after three previous excellent years as a pro. Meyer, now 27, had 7 1/3 innings under his belt, allowing just two runs before he decided to call it quits, retiring before April had finished.
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