It’s time to look at the seasons that the starting pitchers for the GCL Blue Jays had in 2016. Like in the Dominican Summer League, starting pitchers in the Gulf Coast League don’t start all of their games and we frequently see “piggybacking” among the pitchers where one pitcher will start and another will finish in one game and they’ll switch around in the next time through the rotation. This allows the club to manage young pitchers’ innings as they get their arms accustomed to a professional workload.
We start with our GCL Blue Jays Pitcher of the Year, Wilfri Aleton. Aleton led the GCL Blue Jays in innings with 49 1/3 and had a very solid 2.92 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, striking out 23.0% of batters with just a 5.6% walk rate. Aleton showed improvements in his strikeout ratio over any of his seasons in the Dominican Summer League (his highest rate was 17.7%) while maintaining a strong walk rate (slightly up from 4.8% in 2015). While some might compare Aleton with Miguel Castro, the comparison might not be fair. Aleton is older at the same stage of development and has better control without quite as much velocity (Chris King reported that he threw 91-94 mph, touching 96). Aleton will move up the ladder to Bluefield but could be jumped further considering that 2017 will be his Age-21 season.
A very young Maximo Castillo started nine games for the GCL Blue Jays, after starting his season with 11 innings of outstanding work in the DSL, striking out 11 and walking three. Castillo found things a little more challenging in the GCL but still put up respectable number for a player who would have been a high-school junior. Castillo, 17, threw 39 innings in the GCL, posting a 4.62 ERA and 1.31 WHIP with a 17.2% strikeout rate and 7.7% walk rate. The control for such a young player is excellent and Castillo probably has some good velocity, considering that he was recorded throwing a 93 mph pitch for Venezuela at the Under-15 Baseball World Cup.
18-year-old Lupe Chavez made six starts for the GCL Blue Jays, posting a 1.69 ERA and 1.03 WHIP before being traded to the Houston Astros in the deal that brought Scott Feldman to the Blue Jays. Chavez had a strong 20.0% strikeout rate and outstanding 3.1% walk rate before moving to the Arizona Rookie League and then the Appalachian League where he only combined for 13 2/3 innings in the Astros’ organization.
6-foot-3 righty Dany Jimenez started the season in the Dominican Summer League with eight scoreless innings, striking out eight and not walking anyone before he was moved to the Gulf Coast League. Once in the GCL, he had a solid season, throwing 38 1/3 innings with a 3.29 ERA and 1.12 WHIP, striking out 25.2% of batters and walking 11.3%. Jimenez is 22 and needs to start 2017 either in Vancouver or Lansing if he’s going to catch people’s attention.
Whether it was through caution or because of minor injuries, Travis Hosterman, 18, only threw 18 1/3 innings for the GCL Blue Jays after getting drafted in the 11th round of the 2016 draft. Hosterman threw in eight games and made five starts, struggling to find control in his professional debut with walks to 11.6% of the batters he faced while striking out 16.3%. He had a 4.91 ERA and 1.58 and will likely move to the Appalachian League next year after (likely) pitching in the Fall Instructional League.
The Blue Jays are taking a flyer on 6-foot-9 (although I’ve seen him listed at 6-foot-10) left-hander Tyler Olander who was an college and European pro basketball player before starting to play professional baseball in 2016. Olander, 24, had a fairly successful season but was likely working mostly on mechanics and fastball command. Olander didn’t give up a run in 10 1/3 innings but walked 14.3% of batters while striking out the same number. Olander is a long term project and could move up to Bluefield next year but will also need a lot of work in Fall Instructional League and spring training.
Josh Winckowski was another high-school draftee from the 2016 draft (15th round). Winckowski, 18, was used sparingly by the GCL Blue Jays (like Hosterman) and threw 13 2/3 innings, walking four and striking out 13 for very solid 6.3% and 20.3% rates (respectively). Winckowski did give up a lot of hits (16) and had a 4.61 ERA and 1.46 WHIP. Like Hosterman, he’ll work in fall instructs and will either remain in the GCL for another year or move up to Bluefield depending on his performance in the spring.
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