We finish our look at the 2016 GCL Blue Jays by taking a peek at how the hitters did. We’ll start behind the plate and look at players who got the most playing time first, followed by the guys who played less.
21-year-old Manuel Herazo caught in the most number of games for the GCL Blue Jays. Jumping to the GCL after two years in the DSL, Herazo played in 38 games but only got 78 plate appearances and 15 starts, hitting .257/.303/.343 with three doubles and a home run, walking just twice (2.6% walk rate) and striking out 17 times (22.1% strikeout rate). Herazo threw out 25% of base stealers and had three passed balls.
Another 21 year old, Mississauga product Owen Spiwak, caught in 24 games, hitting .164/.333/.255 with a pair of doubles and a home run over 69 plate appearances. Spiwak had the best caught-stealing percentage of any of the GCL Blue Jays’ catchers at 29%. He showed that he can take a walk, taking a free pass in 20.3% of his plate appearances but also struck out in 36.2%. Spiwak got into one game with the Vancouver Canadians at the end of the season but I’d be surprised if he wasn’t in Bluefield in 2017.
The third catcher to get significant playing time for the GCL Blue Jays was South Carolinian high-schooler Ryan Gold. The 18 year old got into 29 games, starting 15 behind the plate and had the best hitting numbers of the bunch, slashing .280/.359/.402 with five doubles, a triple and a home run in 92 plate appearances. Gold also struck out in a respectable 19.6% of plate appearances while walking in 10.9%. He threw out 21% of runners trying to steal and had two passed balls, which bodes well for future defensive improvement from the young catcher. He could head to the Appy League next year with Bluefield but could conceivably repeat the level in 2017.
Blue Jays from Away Player of the Game co-champion David Jacob had a whale of a professional debut after being selected by the Blue Jays in the 32nd round of the 2016 draft out of Quincy University. Jacob, a 6-foot-4, left-handed hitting first baseman was second on the club in plate appearances and was one of the key contributors to a club that had the second-best record in the GCL (but, sadly missed the playoffs). Jacob hit .304/.392/.472 with nine doubles and six home runs, walking in 11.1% of his plate appearances and striking out in only 12.7%. A very late promotion to Vancouver got him 10 plate appearances with one strikeout, a single, double and triple and two RBI. Look for Jacob either in Vancouver or in Lansing in 2017.
Utility infielder Javier Monzon made his North American debut after the Blue Jays signed the 23-year-old Cuban this offseason. Monzon started his career with 22 games in the GCL, hitting .232/.353/.464, showing plenty of pop in his bat with three doubles, two triples and three home runs in 85 plate appearances. Monzon hit another four triples and three home runs, with a .261/.350/.507 slash line in another 21 games (80 plate appearances) with Bluefield. Despite the better numbers, Monzon’s strikeout rate spiked in Bluefield, jumping from 21.2% in the GCL to 36.3% in the Appalachian League while his high walk rate fell slightly from 12.9% to 11.3%. Monzon also appears to have some defensive versatility on his side, playing first, third and right field in the GCL and second and third in the Appy League. Look for Monzon to move somewhat quickly, heading to Vancouver to start 2017.
Miguel Almonte, a 19-year-old Dominican infielder played significant time at second base in his second year in the GCL. While he improved significantly, the bar was not particularly high after his 2015 numbers which featured a .127/.216/.139 slash line. In 2016, however, Almonte played in 28 games with 87 plate appearances, hitting .192/.276/.308, hitting a double, a triple and two home runs. That said, Almonte still struck out 33.3% of the time (down just 1.5% from the previous year) with a stable walk rate at 8.0%.
18-year-old Sterling Guzman was one of the offensive forces of the Jays’ DSL team last year but saw some struggles after he moved up to play in the GCL this year. Guzman hit .214/.303/.357 with 144 plate appearances, playing third base. Guzman saw his power increase, hitting six doubles and four home runs while his walk rate dropped from 12.3% in 2015 to 9.0% in 2016 and his strikeout rate rose from 15.3% in 2015 to 22.9% in 2016. At just 18, Guzman could play again in the GCL but might very well be headed to the Appalachian League next year.
Another 18 year old, Venezuelan Kevin Vicuna, was the Blue Jays’ everyday shortstop in the GCL once space was made for him to play. Like most young players Latin-American players, Vicuna’s play dropped off from his professional debut in the DSL last year. This year, he hit .258/.343/.298 with five doubles and a triple in 204 plate appearances, stealing 11 bases and getting caught three times. Vicuna’s miniscule ISO (.039) needs to improve, as does his 5.9% walk rate while his 19.2% strikeout rate was not so bad. He’s another player who might benefit from a second year in the GCL but could also move up to Bluefield depending on his development in the fall instructional league and extended spring training.
Our GCL Blue Jays Player of the Year, Bo Bichette, played only 22 games with 91 plate appearances after getting selected by the Blue Jays in the second round of the 2016 draft. The son of former big leaguer Dante Bichette (and brother of minor leaguer Dante Bichette, Jr.), Bo, 18, made his mark, hitting an astounding .427/.451/.732 despite missing time due to an appendicitis scare. Bichette hit nine doubles, two triples and four home runs, driving in 36 runs in just 22 games. While Bichette walked in 6.6% of plate appearances and struck out in 18.7%, he may have fallen prey to the “I can hit everything” disease that plagues hitters who are tearing the cover off the ball. He’ll be encouraged to take more walks as he rises in the organization and could start as high as Vancouver in 2017 and I wouldn’t rule out an appearance in Lansing before the season is over.
Infielder Alfredo Bohorquez was picked up by the Jays as a minor league free agent and the 25-year-old only played in the GCL. Playing mostly at second and third base (with 16 innings at shortstop), Bohorquez didn’t hit much, slashing .216/.345/.289 in 117 plate appearances with four doubles and a home run. On the positive side, he only struck out seven times and walked 12 times.
What? We’re discussing third baseman Mitch Nay with the GCL Blue Jays? Well, the 22-year-old was out all year with a knee injury and only played eight games on a rehab assignment with the GCL club in August. The layoff clearly didn’t sit well with Nay as he only had two hits in 23 plate apperances, hitting .091/.130/.091. Look for him back with Dunedin in 2017.
Our Co-Player of the Game Champion, Norberto Obeso was the club’s primary left fielder, seeing little drop off in production after making the jump from the DSL. The 21-year-old hit .316/.441/.408 in 188 plate appearances, walking almost twice as much as he struck out (15.4% walk rate, 8.0% strikeout rate) while leading the club with 11 doubles and hitting a home run. Obeso’s .343 BABIP was not unsustainable (particularly if he has some speed) and the Mexican outfielder should be able to jump to a higher level in 2017, perhaps Vancouver or Lansing after not missing a beat in jumping from the DSL.
Chavez Young had the most games for the Blue Jays in center field despite playing in just 21 games all year. Young, who turned 19 in August was the Jays’ 39th round pick but he really turned things on late in the season, putting together six multi-hit games in a seven-game span from August 16 to August 24. Young shows some speed and power, hitting .274/.346/.438 with eight doubles and two triples with six stolen bases. He will need to cut down on his strikeouts, however, (at 32.1%) and walk a little more (7.4%). Look for him either back in the GCL in 2017 or in Bluefield.
Antony Fuentes led the club in games in right field as the 20-year-old Venezuelan made his debut in the Gulf Coast League after two seasons in the Dominican. Fuentes played in 36 games, hitting .246/.301/.404, showing some pop with four doubles, four triples and two home runs. Fuentes had some low rates for both strikeouts and walks with Ks in just 8.1% of his 123 plate appearances and walks in only 4.1%. Fuentes could probably move up to Bluefield but may stay back in the GCL in 2017.
D.J. Daniels made his professional debut after being selected by the Blue Jays in the sixth round of the 2016 draft. The 18 year old did not have a good time adjusting to professional pitching, hitting .100/.176/.125 with just a home run as his only extra-base hit in 131 plate appearances. Daniels walked in 6.1% of plate appearances and struck out in 36.6%, leading me to believe that he’s going to be a project who will return to the GCL next year.
Francisco Rodriguez was another player making his debut with the GCL Blue Jays after two years in the DSL. Rodriguez, 21, had a solid 9.2% walk rate that bolstered his .230/.333/.402 slash line as Rodriguez showed similar extra-base pop to his nine-home run season in the DSL last year. While fewer hits left the park, Rodriguez hit 10 doubles, a triple and three home runs in 141 plate appearances (more than 100 fewer PAs than in the DSL last year) but still struck out far too much at 29.8%. Rodriguez could move up to Bluefield but will need to cut down on the strikeouts.
18-year-old Dom Abbadessa was another high-school player selected by the Blue Jays in 2016 (he was taken in the 23rd round) who struggled in his first exposure to professional baseball. Abbadessa hit .192/.250/.192 in 29 plate appearances. Freddy Rodriguez, 19, is regressing after getting a nice bonus to sign with the Jays in 2013. The Venezuelan played in just seven games, hitting .240/.296/.280 with a double in 27 plate appearances.
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