We continue our more in-depth look at the Dunedin Blue Jays by looking at relief pitchers. We begin with the pitchers who made the most appearances and work our way downwards from there. If a player played for more than one team over the course of the season, he’ll be grouped according to the club he played the most with.
Emerson Jimenez, a pitcher who was once an infielder whom the Blue Jays took a flyer on a couple of years ago, led the D-Jays in appearances. He bounced back from a rough year in 2018 in Lansing (with a 7.58 ERA) and had some solid numbers but there are others that he’ll need to improve on. In 38 games and 57 innings, Jimenez had a 2.84 ERA and 1.33 WHIP but struck out only 15.5% of batters while walking 9.6%. Jimenez is known for having a big arm but he’ll need to be more effective sitting batters down. He’s still just 24 and should start the year in 2020 back in Dunedin.
Kyle Weatherly is another under-the-radar name who worked hard in the 2019 season for Dunedin. Weatherly just turned 25 on October 3 and put together a solid season for the D-Jays, tossing 59 innings over 37 outings and posting a 3.81 ERA and 1.44 WHIP, boosting his strikeout rate to a career-high 23.8% but he saw his walk rate jump to 12.6% (also a career-high). Weatherly did get 57.1% of batted balls on the ground, the most he’s had in his career and the numbers would suggest that he’s added something to his repertoire that has helped him get more balls on the ground as well as more swings and misses. I think Weatherly could be crowded out of a spot in New Hampshire to start next year but that’s not to say he’s not deserving of one.
Connor Law, a 6-foot-4, 25-year-old righty who was signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2017, had a tremendous season (mostly) with Dunedin and joins the growing ranks of NDFAs who are rising through the Jays’ system. Law started his season making four appearances for Lansing where he didn’t allow an earned run in seven innings, walking just one and striking out 13. He moved up to Dunedin and threw 31 times for the Blue Jays, logging 44 innings with a 2.86 ERA and 1.59 WHIP. That high WHIP comes from a 12.4% walk rate which will need to come down but he was effective, striking out 26.3% of batters and got more outs on the ground (43.6%) than on fly balls (35.0%). Law will probably also fall victim to a numbers game if New Hampshire’s bullpen fills up and start 2020 in Dunedin.
Our Reliever of the Year for the Dunedin Blue Jays was Brad Wilson, a 23-year-old righty who was a 13th-round pick out of Ohio Dominican University in 2018. In his first full season, Wilson went to the mound 28 times for the Blue Jays, saving nine games and throwing 38 innings with a 1.42 ERA and 0.84 WHIP, striking out 32.2% and walking just 6.6% of batters while getting 46.5% of balls in play on the ground. While most numbers regressed as he was promoted to New Hampshire, Wilson got more balls on the ground with 51.9% of balls in play on the ground. Wilson struck out 22.7% and walked 8.0% of batters over 18 innings with a 3.50 ERA and 1.28 WHIP, giving up the only home run he allowed all year for the Fisher Cats. I think Wilson will return to New Hampshire to start 2020 and could be in Buffalo by the end of the year.
Another non-drafted free agent, Jackson Rees took a mammoth step forward in 2019, dominating at two stops in A-ball. With 25 1/3 innings in Lansing, Rees had a 0.36 ERA and 0.67 WHIP, walking just four batters (4.4%) and striking out 44 (47.8%). He moved up to Dunedin and didn’t miss a beat, tossing 36 1/3 innings with a 0.99 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, striking out 30.6% of batters while walking just 7.6%. He’s also getting a ton of ground balls, likely due to weak contact. Now 25, Rees will probably keep moving quickly, particularly as he’s pitching very well in the Arizona Fall League and could start 2020 in New Hampshire.
We haven’t heard much from Mike Ellenbest, the Jays’ 24th-round pick in the 2016 draft, lately but he reestablished himself as he was converted to a relief role after missing the entire 2018 season. In 22 appearances in Dunedin, Ellenbest tossed 48 1/3 innings with a 2.42 ERA and 1.51 WHIP, striking out 16.8% of batters while walking 11.5%. The peripheral numbers aren’t fantastic but Ellenbest did get a look-see in New Hampshire, making three appearances and throwing 6 1/3 innings, allowing a run on five hits with a walk and a strikeout. Ellenbest has also been excellent in the Arizona Fall League and could start 2020 in New Hampshire.
Righty Matt Shannon struggled with injuries in 2019 but the 6-foot-3, 24 year old logged 24 2/3 innings for the Dunedin Blue Jays, missing almost two months from early June to late July, making a couple of rehab starts in the GCL before returning to the Florida State League for early August, getting shut down again after August 7. Overall, Shannon had a 4.74 ERA and 1.78 WHIP in Dunedin, striking out 24.4% of batters and walking 9.2%. Hopefully he’ll be healthy in 2020 but he’ll probably start the year back in Dunedin.
Maverik Buffo also struggled with injuries in 2019, getting into only 11 games for the Dunedin Blue Jays and throwing 19 innings with a 6.16 ERA and 1.84 WHIP with a 17.6% strikeout rate and 13.2% walk rate. He is also in the Arizona Fall League this autumn and he’s struggled somewhat in the first half of the season.
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