The Dunedin Blue Jays had a couple of strong prospects on the club, but one of the best seasons was had by an under-the-radar outfielder.
The Blue Jays are high on catcher Danny Jansen but, for the second consecutive season, Jansen lost a considerable portion of his year due to injury. This year, Jansen only played in 54 games for the Dunedin Blue Jays (and a three-game rehab stint for the GCL Blue Jays) and wasn’t able to get into a good rhythm at the plate. Jansen is still fairly tough to strike out, with a below average 18.4% strikeout rate and he walked in 10.1% of his plate appearances but hit only .218/.313/.271 on the year with seven doubles and a home run. The .053 ISO was his lowest since his debut in 2013 but the 21-year-old receiver does have good pop in batting practice. Behind the plate, Jansen threw out 26% of runners and allowed just two passed balls and committed two errors on the season. Jansen will get a chance to make up some lost time with an assignment to the Arizona Fall League but I’d be surprised to see him anywhere other than Dunedin to start next year.
In his Age-25 season, Peterborough, Ontario native Mike Reeves put up some of the best numbers of his career in a backup role with the Dunedin Blue Jays. Reeves hit .244/.365/.348 with eight doubles and three home runs (a career high) in 199 plate appearances. This was in the season following a big home run in spring training off of Jays’ starter Marco Estrada (pictured above). Reeves’s ability to take a walk jumped over his 2015 numbers with Dunedin as he walked in 15.1% of plate appearances and his strikeout rate remained stable from last year’s Advanced-A stint at 23.6%. Reeves threw out 28% of base runners, let just one passed ball get away and made five errors. Reeves could be backing up in Double-A next year.
Another backup catcher, Michael De La Cruz, got into 41 games with the Dunedin Blue Jays in 2016, 27 of them behind the plate. De La Cruz hit .241/.309/.391 with six doubles, four triples and two home runs over 149 plate appearances. True to his history, De La Cruz doesn’t strike out much (14.8%) but his walk rate of 8.7%, while solid, was his career low. De La Cruz threw out 23% of potential base stealers and had some trouble corraling his pitchers with seven passed balls. “De La” (as he’s called by his teammates) can play some third base, but he will likely return to Dunedin, Lansing or even New Hampshire as a backup catcher next year.
24-year-old first baseman Ryan McBroom followed up his MVP season in Lansing last year with a very strong season in the Florida State League, hitting .274/.323/.468 with 26 doubles, a triple and a club-leading 21 home runs. McBroom struck out 21.8% of the time and, most concerningly, walked in only 6.6% of his plate appearances, down from 91.% with the Lugnuts last year. McBroom still had a very strong year, despite losing over 50 points in BABIP from his 2015 season and he increased his ISO to .194 from .167 in 2015. McBroom faltered in a brief, nine-game call up to Double-A New Hampshire in which he hit .138/.235/.241. Aside from that stretch, McBroom has done nothing but hit in his tenure with the Blue Jays and he’ll get a chance to go up against some of the top prospects in the game in the Arizona Fall League this October. Look for him to start the year in New Hampshire in 2017.
In 2015, Dickie Joe Thon came out of the game tearing things up in Lansing but cooled off when he got to Dunedin. This season, he put together a very solid season, posting a .258/.333/.400 slash line with a 116 wRC+ (“weighted Runs Created plus” which measures offensive production in relation to league average, meaning that Thon’s production was 16% better than average). Thon brought his strikeout rate down to 23.3% and raised his walk rate to a solid 8.2% and hit 20 doubles, two triples and 10 home runs over the course of the season. I can see Thon starting 2017 either with Dunedin or New Hampshire.
Richard Urena surprised people last year with the power that he unleashed on the Midwest League with 15 home runs but in 2016, he came back to earth a bit despite an outstanding showing with the Dunedin Blue Jays and New Hampshire Fisher Cats. In 97 games with Dunedin, Urena hit .305/.351/.447 with 18 doubles, seven triples and eight home runs but those numbers don’t really reflect the improvement that Urena saw throughout the year. In April, he had a .677 OPS and in May, he put together a .710 OPS. In June, he rocketed up to .795, hitting .308 with taking nine walks and in July, he hit an atounding .371/.407/.534 with four home runs, earning himself an early August call up to New Hampshire. In Manchester, he hit .266/.282/.395 with six doubles and five triples, but after a torrid start (hitting .343 in his first 17 games), he cooled off in the final two weeks of the season. Urena did improve his walk rate with Dunedin, taking a walk in 5.8% of plate appearances and striking out in only 14.8% while striking out in 14.4% in New Hampshire but walking in only 3.0%. Still, there’s a lot to like about Urena’s season and he’s going to be a fearsome 21 year old in Double-A next season.
L.B. Dantzler spent the season on and off the disabled list and wasn’t able to do much with the bat. He hit .235/.296/.301 with 10 doubles and a home run in 196 plate appearances and retired after the season concluded.
Emilio Guerrero played exactly 43 games for each of the Dunedin Blue Jays and the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in 2016, in his Age-23 season. Guerrero came to bat 182 times for the D-Jays and hit .284/.343/.537 with 15 doubles, a triple and eight home runs. He added five home runs, eight doubles and two triples in New Hampshire (in 163 plate appearances) with a .282/.327/.463 slash line. Guerrero’s rate stats tailed off expectedly in New Hampshire, as he had an 8.2% walk rate in Dunedin and a 6.1% in New Hampshire while striking out 17.6% in Dunedin and 21.5% in New Hampshire. Look for Guerrero to stick in Double-A in 2017.
Since being drafted in 2014, Aaron Attaway has played mostly in a backup role around the infield. This season, he played 25 games in Lansing and another 26 in Dunedin, hitting a combined .206/.291/.290 with eight doubles, a triple and a home run in 178 plate appearances. Look for Attaway to play the same role with either team next year.
Andy Fermin spent most of the season on the DL, playing in just seven games and coming to the plate 25 times, hitting .200/.200/.280 with two doubles. Fermin is likely a minor league free agent after this season.
Jonathan Davis, our Player of the Year for the Dunedin Blue Jays, finally had his first full season since his draft year in 2013, and he showed what he could do. With a tremendous eye at the plate (13.5% walk rate) and without striking out too much (21.5% strikeout rate), Davis did a ton of damage, creating offense at a 42%-above-average rate. Davis hit .252/.376/.441 with 21 doubles, eight triples and 14 home runs but he didn’t just produce with the bat; he also stole 33 bases while getting caught just six times. Look for Davis to try his hand in Double-A next year after an outstanding season in 2016.
Anthony Alford ran into injury problems in the 2016 season, injuring his knee and then sustaining a concussion and it’s very likely that both affected his season’s numbers through the end of June. His overall line of .236/.344/.378 with 17 doubles, two triples and nine home runs, isn’t all that impressive over 401 plate appearances. Alford’s 13.2% walk rate is outstanding but his strikeout rate spiked to 29.2% this season. When you look at the fact that he hit .288/.403/.494 with seven of his nine home runs, 10 of his 17 doubles and both triples from July 9 to the end of the season, it’s a little more indicative of what Alford, who was in his Age-21 season, can do when he’s healthy. Alford will get more reps in the Arizona Fall League this year and will almost surely get to play in Double-A next year.
D.J. Davis had a rebound year in 2015 with the Lansing Lugnuts, but, moved up a level, wasn’t able to repeat his success, hitting just .197/.295/.263. While he walked in 11.3% of his plate appearances, he struck out in a whopping 31.1% and lost almost half of his power, hitting nine doubles, three triples and just one home run. Davis did improve his stolen base percentage, stealing successfully in 22 of his 28 attempts. Davis will need another comeback season in 2017, probably back with the D-Jays as a 22 year old.
David Harris followed up a huge season in the Australian Baseball League with a big suspension, losing much of his 2016 season in the process. He played in 30 games with the Dunedin Blue Jays hitting just .221/.268/.317 with five doubles, a triple and a home run in 112 plate appearances. Look for Harris to return to Dunedin to regain his timing by playing more regularly.
While Derrick Loveless played seven fewer games with the Dunedin Blue Jays than the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, he actually came to the plate more with Dunedin. Repeating the level, Loveless hit .266/.361/.416 with 11 doubles, three triples and three home runs in 204 plate appearances, walking in 13.2% of his plate appearances and striking out in 27.0%. Loveless, in his trip to New Hampshire, hit .207/.311/.414, hitting for more power and taking advantage of a ballpark that is more conducive to left-handed hitters. There he hit eight doubles, three triples and seven home runs, walking in 12.7% of plate appearances and striking out in 28.4%. Look for Loveless to return to either Dunedin or New Hampshire to start 2017, depending on where he’s needed more.
Michael Bourn played for Dunedin for about a week and a half, hitting .257/.366/.371 before the Jays cut him loose. He caught on with Arizona, playing 89 games with the big league club and hitting .261/.307/.362 and eventually moved on to Baltimore where he’s hit .310/.388/.476 in 23 games.
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