We move on to the starting pitchers at for the GCL Blue Jays. At the Rookie ball level, the distinctions between starting pitchers and relief pitchers are frequently fluid, particularly since teams tend to use a piggyback system that has pitchers only starting half of their games so we’re going to include anyone who started at least 50% of their appearances. You’ll also notice that there are pitchers who ended up (or started) with the GCL Blue Jays who aren’t discussed here. Players are listed with the teams that they threw the most innings for and there are several pitchers who were called up to the GCL from the DSL who were discussed in the DSL report.
The distinction of the first spot in this report goes to Osman Gutierrez, a 20-year-old Nicaraguan righty who stands 6-foot-4. After spending three years in the Dominican Summer League, Gutierrez finally graduated to the Gulf Coast League and made nine starts for 46 1/3 innings, tops on the team. He ended up posting a 4.66 ERA with a 1.40 WHIP, striking out a decent 20.0% of batters while walking only 7.3%, an improvement on every other year that he’s pitched in the Blue Jays’ organization. Still, Gutierrez gave up a lot of runs and even a few home runs in a league that he was right around the average age for leaving cause to wonder about the quality of his stuff.
The pitcher with the second most innings and tied for second most starts was Hansel Rodriguez. The 18-year-old Dominican showed tremendous improvement in his second year in the league, posting a 4.68 ERA but a 2.65 FIP and a 1.37 WHIP. Rodriguez struck out 20.2% of batters while walking only 5.5%, cutting his HBP numbers by three-quarters (from four to one) despite pitching more than twice as many innings. Rodriguez is starting to show what he can do and should move up to Bluefield next season.
At the age of 20, Honduran righty Denis Diaz threw 37 2/3 innings for the GCL Jays (and added three innings for the Dunedin Blue Jays), logging a 3.58 ERA, 4.69 FIP and 1.43 WHIP. He had a worrisome 13.3% walk rate and a an 18.7% strikeout rate. Danny Jansen mentioned that he was impressed by his stuff which leads me to believe that he could still put things together by finding his command.
If you follow Chris King on Twitter (@StatsKing), you’ll know that he has high regard for the Jays’ fifth-round draft pick in 2015, Jose Espada. The 18-year-old righty from Puerto Rico had a 3.41 ERA, a 3.34 FIP and a 0.96 WHIP in his draft year. Espada held batters to a .195 average while also striking out 22.8% of hitters and walking only 5.9% showing some interesting maturity on the mound to go with a high-80s/low-90s fastball, changeup and breaking ball. He and Maese are probably the top two guys who could get the “Sean Reid-Foley” treatment and jump straight to A-ball but I think the Jays will be patient and have them open the year in extended spring training.
6-foot-3 Dominican righty Luis Sanchez also had a very strong half-year with the GCL Blue Jays before moving up to the Bluefield club. He threw 33 1/3 innings, posting a 2.97 ERA, 2.92 FIP and 1.35 WHIP. Sanchez struck out 18.6% of batters while posting an 8.6% walk rate in the GCL. He didn’t far as well, however, in 20 1/3 innings for Bluefield, getting tagged for a 7.08 ERA (5.34 FIP) and 1.87 WHIP, walking 15.3% and striking out 17.4%. Sanchez, 21, will probably start another season in extended spring training but could see Vancouver if he gets off to a good start.
Our 2015 Pitcher of the Year, Justin Maese, wasn’t given a very large workload. The Blue Jays are likely sheltering the 6-foot-3 righty due to his young age of 18. The big Texan was impressive in that he kept improving his results towards the end of the season, giving up just four walks and two runs in his last four outings, despite pitching at least five innings in all of them. Maese probably won’t be fast-tracked, primarily because of his low strikeout rate (13.3%) despite his outstanding control numbers (4.2% walk rate, just one wild pitch). I can see him in Bluefield and Vancouver in 2016 as a 19-year-old.
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