We come to the final part of our series on the GCL Blue Jays where we discuss the hitters. It was generally an older group of players in 2015, seeing lots of 2015 college draftees in the mix with a few Latin American players and only one high-school draftee.
Starting behind the plate, we have 19-year-old Venezuelan Javier Hernandez. Hernandez showed some promise with the bat at the GCL level last year with a very small sample-sized call up from the Dominican Republic. Hernandez regressed back to his previous levels, hitting .200/.263/.294 over 97 plate appearances in 2016, walking in only 4.1% of PAs and striking out in almost 30% (29.9%). Hernandez impresses the most behind the plate, throwing out 41% of potential base stealers while being very sure-handed, making only two errors and allowing just four passed balls.
6-foot-4 first baseman Levi Scott came to the Blue Jays in the 28th round of the 2015 draft out of the University of Texas at Arlington and struggled with the bat in the professional game, hitting .205/.316/.273 with the GCL Blue Jays despite being 22. On a positive note, he had an outstanding 14.2% walk rate with a decent strikeout rate of 21.6%, meaning that there could be some solid contact in his bat going forward as he continues to adjust to the pro game. He’s a strong candidate to play either in Vancouver or Bluefield next year.
Second baseman Juandy Mendoza was drafted by the Jays in the 23rd round this year out of Otero Junior College in Colorado and led the club in games at second base. He ended up playing 42 games and coming to the plate 146 times, compiling a .193/.317/.269 slash line with a half-dozen doubles and just one home run. Mendoza looks like he’s got some speed, stealing 10 bases and getting caught only once and showed a good eye, walking in 10.3% of plate appearances despite striking out in 28.8%. Mendoza also pitched in one game, throwing 1 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball, allowing one hit. Next year, I’d look for Mendoza in Bluefield.
After a strong finish to his 2014 season in the Dominican Summer League, I was expecting a lot from 18-year-old Bryan Lizardo, who came up to the Gulf Coast League for 2015. Lizardo clearly had trouble with the competition level, however, seeing a 250-point drop in OPS from year to year. He got into 43 games and was pretty sure-handed at third base, making only five errors (after 20 in 67 games in 2014). Lizardo hit .193/.255/.250 and didn’t show nearly as much power or patience as he had in 2014. Lizardo walked a respectable 7.8% of the time but struck out far too much at 34.6%. He also hit for a very low .057 ISO. Being so young, if Lizardo doesn’t improve considerably in his stint in the Fall Instructional League and in spring training, you could expect to see him back in Dunedin for more GCL action.
Another 18-year-old Dominican, Jesus Severino, held down the fort at shortstop for the most games. After getting off to a roaring start with the DSL Blue Jays (hitting .354/.483/.396 in 14 games), Severino came up to the GCL where he didn’t find the same success, hitting just .198/.316/.260 in 115 plate appearances. Severino was very patient, walking in 11.3% of his PAs but struck out in 26.1%. He made 16 errors in 40 games at shortstop this season but, again, like many young players at that important spot on the diamond, he needs more time to evaluate whether he’ll be a shortstop long term. As it is, Severino could very well be another hold over in the GCL unless there’s significant improvement over the fall and spring leagues.
In the outfield, the GCL Blue Jays were much more reliant on college players who came from this year’s draft. 36th-round pick Lance Jones, 22, showed a lot of poise at the plate, hitting .299/.446/.402 with three doubles, three triples and a home run in 150 plate appearances, stealing six bases. He’s a strong candidate for a job in Vancouver next year.
Reggie Pruitt stood out as the only high-school draftee on in the field after being selected in the 24th round out of his school in Kennesaw, Georgia. Pruitt showed great speed on the bases, stealing 15 bags but also struggled at the plate, hitting .223/.309/.289 with six doubles and a triple in 144 plate appearances. Pruitt’s 8.3% walk rate and 25.7% strikeout rate show some nice potential for the speedy, athletic player. I’d wager that he gets a chance in Bluefield next year.
Signing late with the Blue Jays in 2014, 19-year-old Edward Olivares jumped into our consciousness after a .314/.436/.414 campaign in the DSL last year. This year, moving up to the GCL, Olivares struggled, like many of his Dominican compatriots. Olivares only hit .198/.345/.362 in 142 plate appearances, walking in 7.7% of PAs while striking out in only 19.0%. Olivares shows a lot of speed, stealing 14 bases and getting caught just twice and strikes me as a guy to still keep an eye on despite a low batting average in 2015. Bluefield will likely be where he goes in 2016.
While he led the club in plate appearances, Jake Thomas didn’t play a lot in the field. Thomas was the Jays’ 27th-round pick of the 2015 draft out of Binghamton, New York and was one of the offensive leaders of the club, hitting .263/.393/.365, walking in 14.5% of plate appearances and striking out in only 17.6%. At 22, you can likely see Thomas in Vancouver next year or even Lansing if another bat is needed and he shows the ability to compete in spring training.
Nash Knight is another player who didn’t spend enough time at one position to be considered the “everyday” guy there but he amassed the third-most plate appearances on the team. Coming out of Dallas Baptist University, Knight, who turned 23 on September 20, hit .207/.331/.286 with five doubles and two home runs. He distinguished himself by walking 28 times (16.3%) while only striking out 39 times (22.7%). Nash is another Vancouver candidate based on his age and college playing experience.
Kalik May was the Jays’ 33rd-round pick this season and came to the Blue Jays out of Mississippi Valley State University. He was one of the offensive leaders for the GCL Blue Jays and played mostly center and right field hitting .261/.376/.406 with six doubles, four triples and two home runs, stealing 10 bases in 13 attempts. May, 22, should jump to Vancouver but could be a dark horse for a roster spot in Lansing if one opens up.
Returning to the GCL Blue Jays at the age of 22 was Cliff Brantley who posted some solid year-over-year improvement while repeating the level. Brantley hit .252/.308/.378, with three doubles, a triple and three home runs in 121 plate appearances, showing the most growth in power production, raising his ISO by 65 points in 2015. His walk rate of 5.8% is still low and his strikeout rate of 22.3% jumped from last year, possibly as a result of his increase in power.
Infielder Miguel Almonte played 28 games at second base for the GCL Blue Jays as an 18 year old coming out of the Dominican Summer League. Like a lot of the other young Latin Americans, Almonte saw a big reduction in effectiveness in the US, hitting just .127/.216/.139 with 31 strikeouts in 89 plate appearances. He’s probably tabbed for another season in the GCL.
The catcher who caught the second most games this year was Owen Spiwak, a 20-year-old, Mississauga native who was drafted in the 10th round this year out of Odessa College in Texas. In 31 games with the GCL Blue Jays, Spiwak didn’t see much difficulty with the pitching, hitting .293/.337/.329 in 89 plate appearances. Despite a low walk total, I can see Spiwak moving up quickly and landing in Vancouver in 2016, in part because of his Canadian passport.
Shortstop Andrew Florides played his third year for the GCL Blue Jays, hitting just .068/.141/.068 despite getting the most playing time he’s had in his career, coming to the plate 65 times over 22 games.
The Jays’ 40th-round pick of the 2015 draft, catcher Robert Lucido was an interesting player who actually didn’t play in his last year of college. He did, however, start to get more playing time as a pro (at the age of 22), hitting fairly well in his 37 at bats for the GCL Blue Jays, posting a .259/.459/.407 line with two doubles and a triple among his seven hits. Behind the plate, Lucido didn’t throw out a single base runner out of the seven who stole against him.
Finally, the Blue Jays selected John La Prise in the 19th round of the 2015 draft but the 22-year-old didn’t play much, just getting two plate appearances all season.
If you like us here, “like” us on Facebook!
Get your 2015 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook now! All the up-to-date information on the Blue Jays minor league system with 250 player profiles, team information and more! You can find it at the BJfA Shop or at our distribution partner, Smashwords.com!
The All-New Blue Jays from Away Premium Content section is here! Combined with the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook, it will be your best resource to the Toronto Blue Jays minor league system for just $1.99 per month or $15 for a full year (and get the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook free with a yearly subscription)!
All photos are copyright Blue Jays from Away (2013-2015) and may not be used without permission.