It’s hard to know what to say about the Dunedin Blue Jays’ pitching staff, which allowed the most runs of any club in the Florida State League. The news isn’t all bad and although a couple of prospects passed through Dunedin, the best-known ones were discussed with the Lansing Lugnuts.
We start with 22-year-old Jeremy Gabryszwski who had a very solid season in Dunedin. The right-handed workhorse led the club in innings at 129 with a 3.77 ERA, 3.30 FIP and 1.37 WHIP. As usual, Gaby’s strikeout rate wasn’t stellar, at 16.6% but his control was excellent, at just 5.6%. For a contact pitcher, Gabryszwski doesn’t give up a ton of ground balls and was probably helped by pitching in the Florida State League despite the fact this at his home run rate is traditionally fairly low. Gaby should move up to Double-A at 23 years old in 2016 and, in my opinion, it’s going to be a real test for a pitcher who has never had the velocity to get away with mistakes.
The Jays signed Luis Santos right at the end of spring training and the 24-year-old righty had a disastrous start to his season, posting an 8.15 ERA in his first five games. While he had a few great outings along the way (including seven shutout innings on July 13), he gave up three or more runs in nine of his 21 appearances and went on the disabled list in mid-July, not to pitch again until the beginning of September. Over the course of the season, however, Santos’s numbers aren’t all that bad with a 4.55 ERA and 3.74 FIP with a 1.22 WHIP. His strikeout rate was very strong at 22.1% while his walk rate was also excellent at 5.6%. Was it an injury that caused him so many problems or was it just bad luck? We’ll have to see in 2016 and I can see him returning to Dunedin for a spell before moving up to New Hampshire.
Another late-spring acquisition, Murphy Smith provided enough stability to the Dunedin Blue Jays to earn our Pitcher of the Year award. Smith, 27, has actually spent quite a bit of time in the Athletics organization at Double-A but, like some other pitchers the Blue Jays brought over from other organizations, was able to dominate at a level down from where he has been for the few previous years. Smith posted a 2.92 ERA and 1.30 WHIP over 83 1/3 innings with Dunedin, striking out 19.3% and walking just 6.5%. He earned a nine-inning audition with New Hampshire but was hit hard, giving up nine runs on 12 hits with five walks and five strikeouts and hitting three batters. While he missed the end of the season with an injury, Smith is likely to get another shot at Double-A at the age of 28.
Returning from Tommy John surgery was the Blue Jays’ 2014 first draft pick (ninth overall) who made headlines when he was sent to Colorado in the Troy Tulowitzki trade on July 28. With the Dunedin Blue Jays, Jeff Hoffman showed plenty to impress despite shaking off the rust that came with his year-long layoff from pitching. Hoffman threw 56 innings with Dunedin, posting a 3.21 ERA, 3.70 FIP and 1.32 WHIP, striking out 16.7% and walking 6.6%. He moved up to New Hampshire for two starts before the trade and had a 1.54 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, eight strikeouts and just two walks in 11 2/3 innings. After joining New Britain (Colorado’s Double-A club, not far from Manchester, New Hampshire), he threw another 36 1/3 innings with a 3.22 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 1.02 WHIP, 20.3% K rate and 7.0% walk rate. So long, Jeff. We hardly knew ye.
Another player who was involved in a deadline-day trade was Jairo Labourt who went to Detroit in the David Price deal. The 21-year-old Dominican skipped over Lansing, after struggling there and finding himself in Vancouver in 2014. He rebounded to some extent in 2015, throwing 80 1/3 innings with Dunedin, posting a 4.59 ERA and 4.15 FIP but had a high, 1.58 WHIP with a 19.0% strikeout rate and a 12.0% walk rate. Despite pitching in the MLB Futures Game, Labourt particularly struggled with the walk and, while his periphrals improved after the trade (and pitching in nearby Lakeland for the Tigers’ organization), he actually pitched to a higher ERA (6.31) and WHIP (1.68) in 35 2/3 innings. More of a “lottery ticket” than his trade-mates who spent the end of the season in the majors, Labourt will still probably head to Double-A with the Tigers.
22-year-old lefty Jayson Aquino was picked up by the Blue Jays for Tyler Ybarra in the offseason but he didn’t last long with the club. Making only five starts, he posted a 2.81 ERA, 3.63 FIP and 1.29 WHIP in 25 2/3 innings before being sold to the Pirates on May 10. He had solid numbers with Bradenton before being sold again to Cleveland where he was good in another 33 innings. He closed the season with a 3.28 ERA and 1.20 WHIP across all three leagues with 30 walks and 86 strikeouts over 137 1/3 innings.
After all the trades, the Blue Jays needed some help in the Dunedin rotation, so they signed 30-year-old righty Derek Blacksher from the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League. With the Skeeters, Blacksher had been 5-3 with a 2.45 ERA and 1.08 WHIP, striking out 63 and walking 16 in 69 2/3 innings. In 21 1/3 innings with the D-Jays, he had a 3.38 ERA, 3.54 FIP and 1.55 WHIP with a 15.6% strikeout rate and 4.2% walk rate.
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