We turn to the hitters of the GCL Blue Jays to see who did what in 2018. We’ll start with the catchers and go around the horn to the infield and then to the outfield.
Gabriel Moreno, an 18-year-old catcher from Venezuela led the way, catching 17 games and throwing out 34% of potential base stealers but he really made an impact with his bat, hitting .413/.455/.652 with 12 doubles, two triples and two home runs in 23 games, striking out in only 6.9% of plate appearances while walking in 4.0%. After a promotion to Bluefield, he cooled off a bit, hitting .279/.303/.459 with another five doubles and two home runs in 66 plate appearances, walking in 4.5% and striking out in 19.7%. Moreno will probably start back in Bluefield in 2019 but he might reach Vancouver by the end of the year as a 19 year old.
College catcher Troy Squires, 23, got into 35 games with the GCL Blue Jays, struggling in his first exposure to professional baseball. He hit .211/.353/.228 with one triple in 152 plate appearances, but showed some excellent plate discipline, walking in 14.5% of plate appearances and striking out in only 9.2%. His very low BABIP of .239 certainly hurt his numbers overall. Squires played some first base as well as catcher but behind the plate, he was a force to be reckoned with, throwing out 43% of potential base stealers. Look for him in Vancouver next year.
The Jays drafted Puerto Rican catcher Francisco Ruiz in the 38th round of the 2018 draft and he also struggled in his pro debut. The 18 year old hit just .138/.188/.185 with three doubles, showing a lot of issues at the plate, striking out in a whopping 46.4% of his plate appearances and walking in 5.8%. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him repeat the level next year.
21-year-old Jonelvy Molina played 10 games in the GCL and another two in Dunedin and hit .296/.444/.333 with the GCL Jays, hitting a double while striking out eight times and walking seven times in 36 plate appearances. He was 3/6 with a double, two walks and a strikeout in eight plate appearances for the Dunedin Blue Jays.
Corner infielder Joseph Reyes played in his second year with the GCL Blue Jays, getting the most time at first base on the club and also playing an equal number of games at third base while also playing left field a couple of times and right field once. Repeating the GCL level, Reyes turned things around in a big way, improving his OPS by over 260 points, hitting .273/.402/.492 with nine doubles, a triple and a team-leading six home runs. Reyes still had a penchant to strike out, K’ing in 27.4% of his 164 plate appearances but improved his walk rate to 16.5% (from 12.3% last year). Reyes will look to move up in the organization in 2019.
A 17-year-old Panamanian, Leonardo Jimenez had a solid debut season with the GCL Blue Jays despite being 2.7 years younger than the average player in the league. He hit .250/.333/.341 over 150 plate appearances, hitting eight doubles and two triples while walking in 10.7% of plate appearances and striking out in only 11.3%. He played 20 games at second base and another 14 at shortstop, showing his versatility. I wouldn’t be to surprised if he repeated part of 2019 at the GCL but there’s a strong chance he could start in Bluefield.
The Blue Jays’ 2018 first-round pick, Jordan Groshans, played 16 games at third base and another 15 at shortstop, playing 37 games overall with a very strong professional debut, hitting .331/.390/.500 with 12 doubles and four home runs. He walked in 8.2% of his 159 plate appearances and struck out in 18.2% of his plate appearances. In 11 games with Bluefield, he struggled, hitting .182/.229/.273, hitting just one double and one home run and walking in 4.2% of his plate appearances with strikeouts in 16.7%. Groshans turned things around in the playoffs, however, playing in three playoff games, he was 7/12 with two walks and two strikeouts, hitting a double and a home run. Look for Groshans back in short-season ball next year but, if the Jays are aggressive, he could see time in Lansing.
Infielder Addison Barger was selected by the Jays not too long after Groshans was in the 2018 entry draft and the high schooler from Tampa hit .194/.318/.322 with 10 doubles, two triples and three home runs, walking in a healthy 11.7% of plate appearances and striking out in 17.8%. His low, .229 BABIP likely worked against him and he was a little pull happy, going to his pull side 55.7% of the time. He had a very good 49.3% fly ball rate and his power numbers could increase as he gains strength, maturing into his 20s over the next few years. Look for Barger in Bluefield or Vancouver next year.
Yhordegny Kelly, 21, played just 20 games (13 of them at first base), hitting a very solid .288/.373/.507 with six doubles, two triples and two home runs. Kelly walked in only 6.0% of his 83 plate appearances but still struck out almost a third of time (32.5%) but that was still down slightly from his 2017 numbers. Kelly must have been injured as he missed large chunks of time and played his last game of the year on August 9.
Hector Guerrero, a 21-year-old Mexican infielder, made the jump to Florida, playing in 15 games for the GCL Blue Jays, hitting .400/.481/.600 in 52 plate appearances, hitting two doubles, two triples and a home run while walking in 13.5% of plate appearances and striking out in only 11.5%. He saw a little bit of time in Bluefield but didn’t get a hit in 23 plate appearances, taking two walks and striking out seven times.
Warnel Valdez played 33 games (28 in the outfield), mostly in left field for the GCL Blue Jays, and the 19-year-old Dominican hit .240/.250/.380 with nine doubles, a triple and two home runs in 124 plate appearances. He’s quite reticent to walk, taking a free pass in 1.6% of his plate appearances while striking out in 25.8%.
The Blue Jays’ 19th-round pick in the 2018 draft, Adrian Ramos came out of his community college program in Miami to have a solid professional debut. He hit .266/.402/.357 in his Age-20 season, hitting five doubles, three triples and a home run and stealing 23 bases in 31 attempts. Ramos walked in an excellent 13.4% of his 194 plate appearances while striking out in 22.2%.
21-year-old right fielder Aldo Ovando played 28 games for the GCL Blue Jays, repeating the level, and hit .210/.265/.267 with two doubles and two triples. He walked in just 5.1% of plate appearances (a career low in three professional seasons) and only trimmed his strikeout rate (at 32.4% in 2017) to 31.6% in 2018.
Steward Berroa, 19, had a very solid first season in the US, hitting .282/.386/.359 with nine doubles and a triple, stealing 17 bases in 23 attempts. Berroa improved his walk rate from his time in the DSL, upping it to 13.8% while his strikeout rate dropped slightly to 21.6%.
Jose Abel Hernandez signed with the Blue Jays in April after being released a year before by the Houston Astros organization. While he had played two years mostly as a first baseman with Houston, Hernandez played mostly left field for the Blue Jays, getting into 24 games and hitting .208/.291/.273 with five doubles in 87 plate appearances. Hernandez struck out 26 in 86 plate appearances, giving him a fairly high percentage, walking seven times.
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