The Dunedin Blue Jays had quite a number of players who either played most of their season elsewhere or had injury troubles. Only five players played more than half of the club’s games with the Blue Jays and it was a mix of older players repeating the level and younger ones trying to find their way for the first time with Dunedin.
Catcher Jorge Saez got a chance to play every day with the Dunedin Blue Jays and showed off his defensive skills, throwing out 34% of batters and allowing only five passed balls despite playing 71 games at the position. Saez struggled at the plate, however, hitting .176/.263/.276 in 251 plate appearances with a solid 10% walk rate and a slightly high 22.3% strikeout rate. Saez has recently turned 25 and could head back to Dunedin for another season, probably as a backup to either Dan Jansen or Max Pentecost.
First baseman Matthew Dean led the Blue Jays in home runs and was our Player of the Year. He led the club in games at first while also playing 13 games at third and 31 as a DH, compiling 521 plate appearances with a .253/.313/.410 slash line. His 14 home runs tied for the Florida State League lead while his 27 doubles and three triples were fairly solid. The stat that stands out the most on the negative side for Dean is his 26.7% strikeout rate which is quite high despite a decent 6.9% walk rate. Look for Dean to move up to New Hampshire next year but if he continues to strike out this much, he may very well have trouble in his Age-23 season.
Second baseman Christian Lopes returned to Dunedin to start 2015 after putting up decent numbers in 2014. While his batting average went up 50 points at the same level in 2015, he saw smaller gains in his OBP and slugging percentage, putting up a .293/.368/.382 line with a pair of home runs and 16 doubles in 278 plate appearances. Lopes doesn’t strike out much, failing to put the ball in play just 15.5% of the time while maintaining a high walk rate at 10.1%. He played in 34 games in Double-A New Hampshire, hitting just .174/.262/.174 without an extra base hit despite striking out less (13.0%) and walking at almost exactly the same rate (10.2%). Lopes will probably get another shot at Double-A in his Age-23 season in 2016.
I thought that Mitch Nay, who just turned 22, was poised for a big year but it never materialized for the big slugger. Nay hit only .243/.303/.353 (for an even 100 wRC+, meaning that his offensive production was exactly average for the Florida State League) with just five home runs. While his walk rate of 7.3% was decent and his strikeout rate of 17.2% was low, his power just hasn’t been showing up in games as is evidenced by a .110 Isolated Slugging (ISO). For someone with as much raw talent as Nay has, he’s going to need to start making good on his potential soon if he wants to move to the top levels of the minors. I can see a repeat of the level to open 2016 in the cards for Nay.
Dawel Lugo played the most shortstop for the Dunedin Blue Jays, eventually getting traded to Arizona for Cliff Pennington. In 67 games for Dunedin, Lugo hit just .219/.258/.292 for a wRC+ of just 68 before getting demoted to Lansing where he was dominant, hitting .336/.348/.451 in 31 games. Lugo, still just 20 years old, still doesn’t walk much, ranging in the 3% region but doesn’t strike out a massive amount either, coming in around 18%. After his trade, he played with the Diamondbacks affiliate in the Midwest League in Kane County, hitting .333/.372/.370, showing a little more patience at the plate.
Jonathan Davis, also known as J.D., started his Age-23 season with the Lansing Lugnuts and came out of the gate (starting his season on May 1 after an injury) on fire, hitting .408/.482/.612 in 58 plate appearances. Promoted to Dunedin, he played only 47 more games for the rest of the season, hitting .230/.288/.342 with a 5.6% walk rate and 19.1% strikeout rate. Because of injuries, Davis hasn’t played much since his first pro season with Bluefield in 2013 and that is the X-factor in his development. I’m still waiting to see what we can get from Davis in a full season. I think he’ll return to Dunedin to start 2016.
Center fielder Roemon Fields rose through the organization much like Dalton Pompey did last year, although Fields is older (24) and didn’t dominate in Dunedin like Pompey did. Fields had solid, but unspectacular stats with the D-Jays, hitting .269/.312/.348 with 21 stolen bases in 30 attempts before his promotion to New Hampshire, striking out in 18.1% of at bats and walking in 5.6%. While his power numbers dropped significantly in Double-A (from an ISO of .080 in Dunedin to .035 in NH), his walk rate rose (to 8.0%) and strikeout rate fell (to 15.1%). so while he was hitting for less power, he was putting the ball in play more and stole successfully in 23 of 28 attempts with a slash line of .257/.321/.292. In a second promotion, Fields made it to Buffalo, Fields went to Buffalo and hit .217/.308/.261 in just 27 plate appearances. With outstanding speed and a matching work ethic, Fields has become a favourite of management. The question is whether he can translate those skills into production in the high minors. Look for him in either New Hampshire or Buffalo next year.
Following a very successful 2014 in Lansing, right fielder Derrick Loveless spent a full year in Dunedin as a 22 year old. Loveless, a former 27th round pick is a player without a standout tool but really figured some things out at the plate last season. This year, however, Loveless had a mixed season, showing improvement in some places and regression in others. Loveless posted a .216/.321/.345 slash line in 450 plate appearances and, in most respects, had a very similar year to 2014. His walk rate (12.9%) was excellent and just 1/10th of a point off of his rate last year, his strikeout rate 0.8% higher than last year (at 24.4% this year) and his ISO was four points higher than last year (at .130). The only thing different was that his batting average was almost 50 points lower which can be accounted for almost entirely through his BABIP, which was 76 points lower than last year (at .273). For Loveless, who had a wRC+ of 108, eight percent above league average, it was actually a very similar year to 2014 but he may start 2016 back in Dunedin just to see if he can get off to a better start.
L.B. Dantzler had a solid year for the Dunedin Blue Jays, finishing among the team leaders in playing time with 406 plate appearances. He hit a solid .251/.305/.368, posting a 105 wRC+ with a 7.1% walk rate and 15.8% strikeout rate. With a .116 ISO, he’s remained consistent over the past two years but isn’t showing the power that he did while with the Vancouver Canadians in 2013. With just five home runs in 2015 following six home runs last year, it’s looking like Dantzler is turning out to be more of a gap power threat rather than a home run threat. The 24-year-old left-handed hitter could very well be in New Hampshire next year.
Another player with significant playing time but not the most at any one position was Dickie Joe Thon. The son of the former big leaguer, Thon had 311 plate appearances over 83 games with the D-Jays, playing second base, third base, shortstop, left field and right field. Thon started his season with 15 tremendous games in Lansing, hitting .315/.403/.519 before his promotion. Following it, however, he saw a big sag in production, hitting just .180/.244/.276 in his first attempt at High-A. Thon has always been a high-strikeout player and, while his rate went down in Dunedin, he still struck out at a 26.4% rate while walking at only a 5.8% clip. Thon, 23, is still behind in his development thanks to time lost from a rare blood disorder that hampered his early career. Still, he’s showing signs of being a productive player, particularly if he can come back to Dunedin in 2016 and do what he did at the beginning of the year in Lansing.
Anthony Alford was promoted to Dunedin in late June after dominating in Lansing and he produced even better results in Florida. Alford, in his first full year of baseball, hit .293/.418/.394 to start the season with the Lugnuts, stealing 12 bases and walking at an incredible 16.8% rate while striking out in 25.9% of his plate appearances. After his promotion, Alford hit .302/.380/.444, improving his ISO and batting average despite seeing a drop in his BABIP. Alford was hitting at 53% better than the league average and stole 15 bases to go with a drop in his strikeout rate (to 19.2%) and walk rate (to a more sustainable 11.0%). Alford’s development has been nothing short of dramatic and he’s vaulted himself to near the top of the prospect list. Alford will likely be in New Hampshire next year and we’ll really see what he’s made of.
Canadian catcher Mike Reeves was the primary backup with the Blue Jays in Dunedin, hitting .219/.289/.291 after some time in Lansing. While he threw out 21% of potential runners in Lansing, that number dropped to just 9% in Dunedin with more chances.
Andy Fermin (who also has big league bloodlines) split his season between Dunedin and New Hampshire, hitting .234/.300/.344 in Florida and just .163/.217/.279 in New Hampshire.
Catcher Martin Medina was picked up by the Blue Jays from the White Sox organization, and he posted his best numbers of any of the three teams he played with in 2015 with the Blue Jays. Medina hit .281/.309/.359 in 18 games with Dunedin as compared to .130/.245/.174 in 15 games with Birmingham, Chicago’s Double-A affiliate and .182/.277/.273 in 17 games with New Hampshire.
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