We continue our more in-depth look at the GCL Blue Jays by looking at relief pitchers. At the Rookie ball level, the distinctions between starting pitchers and relief pitchers are frequently fluid so we’re going to include pitchers who either got more of their appearances out of the bullpen and who didn’t log a ton of innings compared to the guys who we might call starters.
We begin with the pitchers who made the most appearances 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.
19-year-old Mexican lefty Adrian Hernandez, who stands just 5-foot-9, leads off for us as having made the most appearances for the GCL Blue Jays with 16. He threw 21 1/3 innings with an 8.02 ERA and 1.69 WHIP, striking out 15.0% and walking 8.0%. He also gives up a fair number of fly ball outs and could return to the GCL next year, depending on he progresses over the offseason and in extended spring training.
21-year-old Venezuelan righty Williams Moreno made the second most appearances for the GCL Blue Jays, throwing 20 innings over 14 appearances with a 4.05 ERA and 1.75 WHIP, striking out 16.8% of batters while walking 13.7%. In his second year with the GCL Blue Jays, there were some signs of improvement but the lack of control is definitely an issue that he’s going to have to work out. I’m not entire sure where he’ll start 2020 and much will depend on how he does in extended spring training.
Another second-year pro, Eliezer Bello, a 6-foot-5, 20-year-old Dominican righty, made 13 outings for the GCL Blue Jays but logged just 10 2/3 innings. He struggled in his second year in Florida, posting a 10.97 ERA and a 2.63 WHIP with a whopping 28.8% walk rate and a 15.2% strikeout rate. Obviously Bello has the type of frame that clubs like but he’ll need to command his stuff. Look for him back in the GCL.
Jose Brito, who turns 20 in three days, is another pitcher who had a rough transition to the GCL from the DSL. Brito had a 13.97 ERA and a 3.00 WHIP over his 13 appearances and 9 2/3 innings. Brito walked 31.2% of batters and struck out only 8.2% but got a whopping 63.6% of balls in play on the ground. I think he’ll be back in the GCL (if not returned to the DSL) in 2020.
6-foot-4, 19-year-old, Venezuelan righty Miguel Olivo had some better results than the previously mentioned relievers, tossing 13 innings over 11 outings with a 0.69 ERA and 0.77 WHIP, striking out 25.0% percent of batters faced while walking only 6.3%. I can see Olivo moving up to Bluefield or Vancouver next year, depending on how he does in extended spring training.
We mentioned Dutch righty Sem Robberse in the last post but now we’ll talk about his countryman, Jiorgeny Casimiri, who turned 18 in July. Casimiri also had a strong pro debut, tossing 14 innings over nine appearances with a 2.57 ERA and 0.93 WHIP, striking out24.1% of batters and walking only 3.7%. He did give up 51.3% of batted ball as fly balls while only 33.3% of them were ground balls but it’s a fairly small sample size and it was Casimiri’s first attempt at professional baseball. I’d look to see him in Bluefield next year.
The Blue Jays drafted high schooler Michael Dominguez in the 15th round of the 2019 draft out of Jefferson High School in Tampa, Florida. The 5-foot-10 righty appeared to have no trouble with GCL hitters, tossing 24 innings over nine appearances with a 1.13 ERA and 0.96 WHIP, striking out a stellar 30.5% of batters while walking 10.5%. Dominguez also induced more ground balls than fly balls and got an inordinate number of infield fly balls on his balls in the air. I’d look to see Dominguez, who turned 19 just about a month ago, pitching in Bluefield next year but if his approach and stuff are really advanced, there’s a small chance that he moves up to Vancouver.
19-year-old Jackxarel Lebron came to the Blue Jays one round after Dominguez, coming from the International Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico. The 6-foot-3 righty posted an 11.32 ERA and 1.94 WHIP over 10 1/3 innings in the GCL, walking 17.3% of batters and striking out 13.5%. Look for him to return to the GCL in 2020.
Blake Sanderson was a 31st round pick of the Jays in 2019, coming out of Florida Atlantic University. The 23 year old made five appearances (including one start) with the GCL Blue Jays, tossing 13 innings with a 1.38 ERA and 0.85 WHIP, striking out 32.0% of batters and walking just 6.0%. He got a chance to join the Dunedin Blue Jays for a game but struggled, allowing three runs in 1 2/3 innings, walking two and striking out one. Look for Sanderson in either Vancouver or Lansing next year.
Warnel Valdez was an outfielder for the past two years, peaking in the GCL with a .240/.250/.380 slash line last year but in 2019, he was put to work as a pitcher, getting into three games in July, allowing six runs on five hits with a walk, two home runs and no strikeouts in just two innings over three games. Whether it was injury or a major mechanics overhaul that led to his not seeing action in the entire month of August, we don’t know but we’ll see what happens with him going into 2020.
After missing all of 2018 from shoulder surgery, Justin Maese saw a limited return to action in 2019, making three appearances with the GCL Blue Jays, tossing five innings and allowing five runs (four earned) on six hits with two walks and four strikeouts. He only pitched June 25, July 3 and July 6 before he was shut down again for the rest of the year. We’re hoping for good health for Maese heading into 2020.
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