We’re going to start our more in-depth look at the GCL Blue Jays by looking at starting pitchers. At the Rookie ball level, the distinctions between starting pitchers and relief pitchers are frequently fluid so we’re going to include anyone who started at least a few times and managed to throw a number of innings that was comparable to guys who started most of their games. Yes, the line is pretty fuzzy in this category.
We begin with the pitchers who made the most starts and work our way downwards from there. With the GCL club, there isn’t much to go on scouting-wise, so we’ll basically be looking at the players’ stats to help get an idea of what might be going on. If a player played for more than one team over the course of the season, he’ll be grouped according to the club he played the most with.
Our 2019 GCL Pitcher of the Year, Rafael Monsion is a 20-year-old lefty from Venezuela who started in five of his 10 appearances and led the GCL Blue Jays with 40 2/3 innings. He had a 1.77 ERA and 0.96 WHIP, holding batters to a .204 average while striking out 23.7% and walking only 5.8%. Monsion seems to be a fly ball pitcher, allowing just 28.0% of balls in play on the ground (and 48.6% as fly balls) but a whopping 36.5% of fly balls stayed on the infield. I think Monsion could be one of these high-spin fastball pitchers who has been pitching up in the zone more. Look for him in Bluefield or Vancouver next year.
Next we’ll look at Santos Moreno, a 19-year-old Mexican righty who stands just 5-foot-9. Moreno started just three of his eight appearances but logged the second-most innings on the club with 34 1/3, posting a 3.41 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. He continues to be a control artist, walking just 3.5% of batters (down from 5.5% last year in the DSL) while striking out 17.2% (down from 23.6% last year). Moreno also had a lower ground ball rate than we might like to see, coming in at 36.1% while his line-drive rate was fairly high at 25.9% and his fly ball rate was 38.0%. I’d say that he could move up a level and hope he’s able to get more strikeouts as he matures.
6-foot-4 Venezuelan righty Alexis Carmona struggled a bit in his first year in the GCL, posting a 5.81 ERA and 1.71 WHIP, striking out only 10.5% of batters and walking a solid 6.3%. He got 41.6% of balls in play on the ground, which is significant because he allowed so many balls in play. Perhaps his BABIP comes down from the .372 mark it was at in 2019 but he’ll need to get more swings and misses before he can really develop as a starter. I can see him repeating the level in 2020.
Wilgenis Alvarado, 19, moved up to the GCL after four strong starts in the DSL this season. The 6-foot-1 Venezuelan lefty tossed 13 2/3 innings in the DSL with a 2.63 ERA and 1.32 WHIP, striking out just six batters and walking four but some numbers improved and some didn’t as he moved up to the GCL, throwing 27 2/3 innings with a 5.20 ERA and 1.45 WHIP, striking out 17.7% and walking 9.7% and his FIP dropped from 5.03 in the DSL to 4.37 in the GCL. I can see Alvarado either staying in the GCL or moving up to Bluefield in 2020.
One of the two pitchers the Blue Jays took in the early rounds of the 2019 draft, Kendall Williams began his pro career as an 18 year old in the GCL (he’s since turned 19). The 6-foot-6 righty from Mississippi (drafted out of the IMG Academy in Florida) posted a 1.13 ERA and 0.81 WHIP over just 16 innings, striking out a whopping 30.2% and walking 11.1%. He did give up quite a few fly balls (50.0%) but it’s a small sample size. Williams could either be in Bluefield or Vancouver next year, but I think the Jays might follow the same progression that they did with Adam Kloffenstein this year, so the Vancouver fans might be getting a heralded young hurler in 2020.
The Blue Jays signed two 17-year-old Dutch pitchers to contracts in late July and one of them, Sem Robberse, made three starts out of his five appearances. Robberse was excellent, tossing 10 1/3 innings with a 0.87 ERA and 1.06 WHIP, striking out 22.0% of batters without walking anyone. Look for Robberse either to return to the GCL or to move up to Bluefield in 2020.
John Axford made just one appearance in 2019, starting one game for the GCL Blue Jays on July 27. He threw one inning, faced three batters, walked one and got a double play ball.
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