As we do with the hitters, we’ll go around the horn starting with the catchers of this team.
2014 draftee Matt Morgan led the club in games behind the plate with 34 but had an uninspiring beginning to his professional career. Jumping out is the big 42.1% strikeout rate through 133 plate appearances that shows that he’s going to need a lot of work at the plate. Morgan didn’t do much in his time in Florida, hitting .092/.188/.322 but the 10.5% walk rate is very healthy. Defensively, it appears that Morgan will also need to do a lot of work, throwing out 18% of potential base stealers but with inexperienced pitchers holding on runners, the GCL CS% numbers can’t be seen as too reliable. If Morgan’s going to make up some ground in an organization that has several strong young catchers, the fourth-round pick is going to have to bring his A game in 2015, likely returning to the GCL unless he has a strong extended spring training.
Juan Kelly played the most games at first base but also split some of the catching duties for the Blue Jays and had a strong first season in the GCL. Kelly, who had played in the DSL over the last two years, hit for a healthy .287/.363/.383 slash line with 10 doubles and four triples. He didn’t steal many bases but was one of the most consistent contributors to the team. Kelly just turned 20 so you can bet that he’ll be in Rookie ball next year.
The every day second baseman was 19 year old Venezuelan Deiferson Barreto (who is not Franklin’s brother). This Barreto can also play shortstop and third base but got the bulk of his playing time at second thanks to the presence of Yeltsin Gudino on the club. Barreto had a very solid season in his first year in the US, hitting .288/.309/.314 with 15 doubles and two home runs. Obviously, his walk numbers will need to come up as Barreto only took five walks in 51 games but he rarely struck out, going down on strikes just 14 times. Either way, Barreto will probably move up a level to Advanced-Rookie ball next year.
Earning the most playing time at third base was 2012 draftee Trey Pascazi who was in his third year in the GCL. Pascazi continues to be ineffective at the plate, hitting .141/.239/.179 through 88 plate appearances. Unfortunately, this may be the end of the road for Pascazi with the Blue Jays as a 21 year old with three seasons of sub-.200 hitting in the Gulf Coast League and only one extra-base hit is not going to stick around long.
17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Yeltsin Gudino is obviously going to be a work in progress. I think the Blue Jays were hoping they could catch lightning in a bottle again by skipping him over the DSL the way they did with Franklin Barreto last year. Things didn’t work out nearly as well with Gudino posting a .145/.219/.167 slash line over 155 plate appearances. From the limited amound that I saw Gudino in spring training, he really wasn’t hitting the ball very hard as can be seen from his lack of extra-base hits (only two doubles). That said, his walk rate (8.4%) and strikeout rate (18.1%) show some plate discipline and suggest that he’s not being completely overmatched. Look for Gudino to get another shot in 2014 as an 18 year old.
As our Player of the Game Champion, Juan Tejada, a 6-foot-3 Dominican outfielder appears to be the player on the GCL Jays with the most power. After two seasons in the DSL, Tejada, 20, came to the US to lead the GCL Blue Jays in slugging percentage (.420) and home runs (five). Tejada’s .241/.293/.420 slash line shows that he’s not nearly patient enough at the plate and his 31.9% strikeout rate shows that he may have some holes in his swing that need plugging. He could go a number of way but will likely get out of the GCL and move up next year.
Just a couple of months older than Yeltsin Gudino, outfielder Freddy Rodriguez fared better in his professional debut. Like Gudino, Rodriguez was coming over the GCL after never having played in the Dominican Summer League but still managed to hit .239/.306/.336 with four doubles, three triples and a home run over 129 plate appearances. His strikeout rate (23.3%) and walk rate (7.8%) are both very acceptable for a very young player who has more than just baseball related issues to deal with in coming to the US to play. Rodriguez probably starts the season back in the DSL unless he shows some big strides in the fall instructional league and spring training/extended spring training.
Seeing as how versatile Lane Thomas was, he doesn’t show up as having had played the most number of games at any single position. That’s also because the fifth-round pick of the 2014 draft also was impressive enough to get a late-season promotion to Bluefield after 34 games. Just turned 19 in August, Thomas hit .260/.362/.382 with eight doubles and four triples in the GCL while stealing seven bases (out of 10 attempts) before moving up to Bluefield and decimating the opposition with a .323/.384/.431 line over 18 more games. Playing center field and third base, Thomas is an athletic player who seems to have an advanced approach at the plate and could make the jump to Vancouver next year.
Edwin Fuentes, an infielder, also managed to get into quite a few games this season. In his second season with the GCL Jays, Fuentes, who just turned 20, hit only .203/.251/.285 in 175 plate appearances. While versatile, Fuentes will probably need to show more with the bat to keep a job in the Jays’ system.
6-foot-2 Puerto Rican Angel Gomez played for the Blue Jays’ organization for the first time since 2011 and really rewarded the Blue Jays’ faith in him. He played in 30 games, going .320/.411/.412 and striking out only 16 times in 113 plate appearances. It’ll likely be sink or swim for the 22 year old outfielder who will probably be given a chance to move up through the system at a quicker pace next year.
Dave Pepe, a 31st round pick of the Blue Jays in 2014, gets my vote for being this year’s Boomer Collins, a character guy coming out of college who is just too good for the GCL but didn’t have anywhere else to go. As a 22-year-old, Pepe’s .304/.430/.362 slash line shouldn’t be given too much weight but it’s nice to see a college guy come right in a play well despite limited opportunity throughout the year. Pepe will probably be with Vancouver next year as a fourth outfielder.
Other outfielders for the Blue Jays included 19-year-old Dominican outfielder Andres De Aza who regressed in his second year in the GCL, hitting .193/.244/.253 over 90 plate appearances. Cliff Brantley, on the other hand, was a 19th round pick this year and the 21-year-old with big league bloodlines put up some mediocre numbers, hitting .232/.284/.293 in 89 plate appearances. Canadian Nathan DeSouza, 20, finally started to hit, slashing .263/.344/.368 in his limited opportunities (64 plate appearances).
John Silviano, Dean Bell and Andrew Florides all subbed in on the infield. Silviano, who was released this season after hitting .154/.214/.154 in seven games, all at first base. Bell, 21, hit .191/.225/.206 in 21 games (71 PAs), playing second and third base. Florides, 19, had only one hit in 15 plate appearances.
Brett Wellman was the club’s third catcher after signing as a non-drafted free agent this year. Wellman got into nine games behind the plate, didn’t throw out either of the runners who tried to steal and hit .077/.294/.077 in 35 plate appearances.
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