We finish our look at the 2017 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. This year’s GCL squad had a few prominent hitting prospects.
Hagen Danner spent the most time behind the plate for the Blue Jays and the 18-year-old (turning 19 on September 30) was able to throw out 21% of the runners trying to steal with six passed balls (by far the most on the club). Danner, the Blue Jays’ second-round pick in the draft this year, struggled to adjust to the pro game, hitting .160/.207/.248 but did show some power, hitting five doubles and two home runs. Danner struck out 26.5% of the time and walked only 3.7% indicating that there are two areas in which some improvement is needed. While Danner could return to the GCL next year, there is a possibility that he moves up to Bluefield.
Jonelvy Molina, 20, moved up from the Dominican Summer League this year and had a very similar year to last year with one big step forward. Molina threw out 32% of runners and had just two passed balls in 19 games but he hit for significantly more power in 2017 than he did in 2016, posting a .133 ISO thanks to four doubles and two home runs in just 80 plate appearances. Molina hit .240/.278/.373 overall, striking out in 13.8% of appearances (down from 14.3% in 2016) and walked in 5.0% (up from 4.8% in 2016). Despite being a righthanded hitter, Molina struggled mightily against lefties, hitting just .095/.174/.238 against them with a .296/.321/.426 slash line against righties. Look for Molina to move to Bluefield or Vancouver.
Andres Guerra, 20, was the GCL Blue Jays’ third catcher, moving up after two years in the DSL. Guerra hit just .114/.204/.182 with three doubles in 50 plate appearances and the Venezuelan struck out 26.0% of the time with a strong 10.0% walk rate. Guerra did, however, throw out 36% of potential base stealers, leading the club in that statistic.
19-year-old Dominican (although he was born in New York) Joseph Reyes was the GCL Blue Jays’ regular first baseman, playing 30 games at the position. Reyes had a solid first year in professional ball, hitting .241/.332/.297 with five doubles and two triples in 187 plate appearances with a strong 12.3% walk rate. He did, however, strike out in 29.4% of his plate appearances, clearly giving him some work for next year. A lefthanded batter, Reyes struggled against lefties, hitting .171/.237/.171 against them and, despite a strong July (when he got five of his seven extra-base hits), he faltered in August, registering just nine hits in his last 20 games. Reyes might move up but he could stick around in the GCL next year too.
Yhordegny Kelly, 20, moved up from the DSL Blue Jays to the GCL Blue Jays and, while he showed his big-time power and patience at the plate, he also struck out a ton. The 6-foot-3 Dominican hit .239/.357/.349 with seven doubles, a triple and a home run in 129 plate appearances, bolstering his batting average with a 14.0% walk rate but he also struck out 34.1% of the time. Like Reyes, Kelly had a strong July (hitting .340/.378/.540) but struggled in August (.146/.305/.188), striking out in 22 of his 59 plate appearances for the month. Kelly could also move up to Bluefield but could also stay in the GCL, depending on how some other puzzle pieces (and next year’s draft) come together.
The Jays’ 14th-round pick in 2017, left-handed hitting first-baseman Patrick Morris, only got into 18 games, playing from the middle of July to the middle of August. The 18-year-old acquitted himself well, hitting .259/.328/.315 with a 9.8% walk rate and a 24.6% strikeout rate, hitting three doubles in 61 plate appearances. Of the three first basemen, Morris is probably the most likely to start 2018 in the GCL but, with the Instructional League and spring training ahead, there’s certainly no guarantee of that.
The Blue Jays brought 19-year-old infielder Jose Theran to the US after a year in the DSL and he thrived in his new environment, hitting .270/.346/.344 in 187 plate appearances with a solid, 9.6% walk rate (up from 6.3% in 2016) and a decent 18.7% strikeout rate (way up from his mark last year, also 6.3%). Theran isn’t hitting for much power right now, just a .074 ISO but he makes solid contact, as a 20.2% line drive rate indicates. The righthanded hitter struggled against lefties (.171/.256/.171), hitting all 10 of his doubles and his only triple against righthanded pitchers. Theran will probably move up to Bluefield next year.
18-year-old Dominican infielder Otto Lopez skipped over the Dominican Summer League and landed in the Gulf Coast League, posting a very strong professional debut, hitting .275/.361/.360 with a 9.4% walk rate and just an 11.3% strikeout rate. His .084 ISO, while low, isn’t bad for someone so young and he hit six doubles, three triples and a home run in his 203 plate appearances. Lopez also showed some versatility, playing second base, shortstop and third base while also getting seven games in center field and eight in left. Lopes should also move up to Bluefield or Vancouver next year.
18-year-old third baseman Davis Schneider was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 28th round of the 2017 draft signed for just $50,000, a low figure for a high school player, but he found a home in the GCL, showing a lot of potential. Called the smartest player on the team by manager Luis Hurtado, Davis hit .238/.371/.393 with 12 doubles, a triple and four home runs in his 210 plate appearances, leading the club in home runs. He walked (17.1%) as much as he struck out (17.1%) and he appears to be getting solid contact, hitting 50% of his batted balls for fly balls and 16.4% for line drives. The Blue Jays will be careful with Schneider, giving him another year of short-season ball (in Bluefield or Vancouver) but, after playing in the Crosstown Showdown in Lansing this year, he could be a sleeper prospect.
Ricky Negron, 22, was selected by the Atlanta Braves in the 2017 draft but didn’t sign with them, eventually inking a free-agent deal with the Blue Jays at the beginning of August. Negron didn’t play the field much and hit .038/.107/.038 with just one single in 26 at bats in Florida and struck out in 42.9% of his plate appearances. He’ll probably repeat a year in the GCL but, due to his age, may move up a level.
Shortstop Luis De La Santos was one of the offensive leaders for the GCL Blue Jays, hitting .288/.327.397 with 11 doubles, three triples and a home run. Getting both a mid-season and a late-season call up to Lansing, De La Santos hit .143/.136/.143 in his 24 plate appearances in A ball. The concern with De La Santos is his low walk rate, coming in at 3.0% for the GCL Blue Jays while striking out at a 21.0% rate for the year. Still, his .109 ISO is strong for a 19 year old and he should move up a level or two next year. I could see him starting in Vancouver.
23-year-old Evan McDonald signed with the Blue Jays in mid-July, played six games in Rookie Ball and then retired. He hit .125/.300/.125 with two singles in 16 at bats, walking four times and striking out seven while stealing three bases.
6-foot-3 right-handed hitting outfielder D.J. Daniels was the regular left fielder for the GCL Blue Jays, hitting .156/.248/.214 in 157 plate appearances. Daniels, who was drafted out of his North Carolina high school in the sixth round of the 2016 draft, showed considerable improvement in his numbers of his debut in 2016 but still had just five doubles and one home run, walking in 5.1% of his plate appearances (down from 6.1% in 2016) and striking out 36.3% of the time (down from 36.6% in 2016). The high strikeout and low walk rates are very concerning, particularly since this was Daniels’s second year at the level. Still, he he hit 57 points higher than 2016 and his line-drive rate was more than double that of the previous year. He still hits too many infield fly balls (41.9% of his fly balls) but more solid contact likely caused his BABIP to jump over 100 points. Look for Daniels in Bluefield next year.
19-year-old Dom Abbadessa also returned to the GCL for a second time but, unlike Daniels, Abbadessa dominated the league this time around. The Jays’ 2016 23rd-round pick out of Huntington Beach High School, Abbadessa hit .340/.402/.408 with four doubles and three triples in 164 plate appearances. Dom also played in one game with Dunedin, striking out in three of his four at bats. Of concern is his low, 4.3% walk rate (up from 3.4% last year) while his 8.5% strikeout rate is excellent, down from 10.3% in 2016. Abbadessa had a very high .373 BABIP this year but that could be from an massively increased line drive rate (19.0% this year, 4.5% last year) and fewer fly ball outs. Abbadessa also stole 11 bases in 17 attempts, a pretty low ratio but shows some good speed. Abbadessa could jump over Bluefield and play in Vancouver next year but it really depends on who the Jays select in the 2018 draft.
Aldo Ovando, a 20-year-old Dominican outfielder, got the most time in right field. At 6-foot-5, he’s got a big frame with power potential but he still hasn’t tapped into it, hitting. 181/.242/.247 with two doubles, three triples and a home run in 182 plate appearances with the GCL Blue Jays. In 2017, Ovando took a step back when moving to a higher league and a new country. Ovando walked in 5.5% of his plate appearances (down from 7.0% in 2016) and struck out in 32.4% (way up from 26.9% in 2016) while seeing his ISO drop 11 points to .066. Ovando will likely repeat the year in the GCL, trying to cut down on his strikeouts and getting more balls in play.
Outfielder D.J. Neal was drafted by the Jays in the 26th round of the 2017 draft by the Blue Jays, coming out of college at South Carolina-Sumter. The 20 year old acquitted himself very well in his professional debut, hitting .297/.341/.426 with seven doubles, two triples and three home runs. He also stole eight bases in 10 attempts, showing maturity in his base runner game. Neal didn’t strike out a lot, taking a K in only 15.6% of his plate appearances but walked in only 4.8%. I can see Neal moving up to Vancouver next year, or at least Bluefield. He’s another young player to keep an eye on as he moves up the ladder.
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