We conclude our in-depth look at the GCL Blue Jays by looking at the hitters. If a player split his season by playing for more than one team, keep in mind he’ll be considered with the team he had the most plate appearances for.
The GCL team was very interesting on the the hitters’ side, being populated mostly with players who were international signees, mostly moving up from the DSL as a group this season.
Though he didn’t start the season with the GCL Blue Jays, 17-year-old Venezuelan catcher Javier D’Orazio led the club in games behind the plate. D’Orazio played 13 games with the DSL Blue Jays, outclassing the competition there with a .375/.444/.479 slash line, hitting three doubles and a triple in 54 plate appearances, striking out 20.4% of the time and walking 11.1%. Moving up to the GCL, his numbers suffered although he still maintained a high BABIP (at .346 in the GCL) as he got into 34 games and had 121 plate appearances. He hit .241/.264/.284 with five doubles but his walk rate plummeted to 2.5% while his strikeout rate jumped to 29.8%. He also saw regression behind the plate: he threw out 45% of potential base stealers in the DSL but just 18% in the GCL. Look for D’Orazio to return to the GCL in his Age-18 season next year but the fact that he was moved up so quickly bodes well for him.
In his second professional year, 18-year-old Geyber Jimenez moved up the GCL, playing sparingly, and had some success in a small sample size. Jimenez hit .292/.400/.417 with three doubles in 32 plate appearances, walking five times and striking out only five times. He caught in 13 games (starting eight) and threw out a very strong 36% of potential base stealers. I can see him back in the GCL but with an expanded role.
19-year-old Venezuelan Jesus Hernandez also made the jump to the GCL from the DSL this year. Hernandez, like Jimenez, got limited playing time, coming to the plate 35 times over 14 games. Unlike Jimenez, however, Hernandez struggled at the plate, hitting .160/.364/.200 with a double while walking seven times and striking out eight times. Catching in 12 games (starting just five), he threw out 29% of potential base thieves. Look for him back in the GCL in 2020.
Catcher Francisco Ruiz, 19, was a late-round pick of the Blue Jays in 2018, coming out of the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico. Ruiz got into 15 games, hitting just .219/.342/.344 with four doubles in 39 plate appearances. He walked just four times (and was hit by a pitch twice) but struck out 12 times for a 30.8% strikeout rate. He also threw out just two of 16 potential base stealers, leaving him with a 13% caught-stealing rate. I can see him back in the GCL for a third year in 2020.
Rainer Nunez, 18, was the GCL Jays’ first baseman for the most games. Nunez got into 37 games at first and two as a DH, coming to the plate 153 times with a .173/.248/.286 slash line, hitting six doubles and three home runs, walking 7.8% of the time and striking out 20.9%. He had a .194 BABIP but also hit the ball on the ground a ton, getting 51.0% of his balls in play on the ground. Look for Nunez back in the GCL unless he takes some strides heading into extended spring training next year.
Jose Rivas, a Venezuelan infielder who just turned 19 on September 5, played 32 games, mostly at second base for the GCL Blue Jays where he hit a solid .284/.368/.413 with eight doubles and two home runs. He also stole five bases in eight attempts while walking in 8.8% of plate appearances and striking out in 19.2%. Rivas, though he stands only 5-foot-9, could certainly move up to Bluefield next year after a solid all-around season.
Jose Zepeda, 18, got in the most time at third base but also played second for the GCL Blue Jays. The Mexican got into 27 games, hitting .225/.406/.324 and stealing six bases without getting caught while hitting four doubles and one home run. Zepeda also walked an incredible 21.4% of the time and struck out only 14.3%. He may return to the GCL because of a glut of infielders but it’s hard to tell how things will shake out next year.
20-year-old Venezuelan Hugo Cardona (turning 20 on September 5) got the most playing time at shortstop on the GCL Jays, playing 41 games and hitting .229/.335/.294 with six double, two triples and 21 stolen bases while being caught just three times. Cardona had a solid 11.0% walk rate while striking out 22.0% of the time and in nine plate appearances with the Dunedin Blue Jays, Cardona was 0/7 with a walk and four strikeouts.
17-year-old phenom Orelvis Martinez was our Player of the Year for the GCL Blue Jays after an excellent debut for the 6-foot-1 Dominican. Martinez played in 40 games (including 26 at shortstop and 11 at third base) while hitting .275/.352/.540 with eight doubles, five triples and seven home runs. He was able to take walks at an 8.6% rate while only striking out at 17.8% with a stellar .275 ISO, which is rare at such a young age. Martinez could move up to Bluefield in his second year as a pro but he could even move up to Vancouver or Lansing depending on how he does in spring training.
Yhon Perez, 19, would win the “utility” award as he managed to play every position but catcher and first base for the GCL Blue Jays in 2019. On the offensive side of the ball, he played in 36 games with 113 plate appearances, hitting .302/.402/.385 with eight doubles, seven stolen bases (in 10 tries) while walking in 12.4% of plate appearances and striking out in 12.4%. Perez played 13 games at third base, nine at second, one at short, four in left field, one in center, one in left and he even pitched an inning, giving up a run on two hits and a walk with one strikeout and one hit batter. I can see Perez, who missed 2018 when he was suspended for PEDs, up in Bluefield in 2020.
19-year-old Pedro Hurtado also showed defensive flexibility for the GCL Blue Jays, playing first, second and third base and getting into 28 games in total with 91 plate appearances. While he had decent numbers in the DSL in 2018, he struggled in 2019, hitting .154/.256/.205 with two doubles and a triple and stealing three bases (without getting caught). He did walk in 12.1% of plate appearances and struck out in 19.8% while he had a very low BABIP of .197 so that could regress to his benefit in the future. I think he’ll repeat the level, but it’s so hard to predict what might happen at these low levels.
Erickvi Celedonio, 18, led the club in games in left field, playing 33 games in total with a .197/.322/.237 slash line, hitting just three doubles in 91 plate appearances while walking in 12.1% of the time and striking out 25.3%. Those rates were pretty solid, considering what he did last year, but his ISO of .039 was tiny and doesn’t bode well for a guy who will need to hit the ball harder to get on base more. I think he’ll be back in the GCL.
Jhon Solarte, an 18-year-old Venezuelan, had a solid season, getting into 49 games with a .275/.373/.374 slash line, hitting four doubles, two triples and three home runs in 204 plate appearances with 11 stolen bases in 20 attempts. He had a solid 12.7% walk rate and a 20.1% strikeout rate, showing some solid promise. I think he could be in Bluefield next year.
18-year-old Dominican outfielder Alberto Rodriguez was our runner up for Player of the Year and he had a solid second season as a pro. Playing in 47 of the GCL Jays’ 50 games, he hit .301/.364/.422 with 13 doubles, a triple and two home runs. Rodriguez cut down on his strikeouts from the DSL in 2018, striking out in just 16.4% of his plate appearances but his walk rate fell a bit to 9.7%. Still, his batted ball profile is solid and he showed some power. Look for him in Bluefield next year.
19-year-old Hanley Acevedo played in 24 games for the GCL Blue Jays and came to the plate 72 times, hitting just .190/.310/.241 with three doubles and four stolen bases (in five attempts). Acevedo had a problem with strikeouts, posting a 34.7% strikeout rate while having a 12.5% walk rate.
At just 17 (until September 25), Canadian outfielder Dasan Brown didn’t get into action right after he was drafted in the third round of the 2019 draft by the Blue Jays. When he did play with the GCL Blue Jays, he played 14 games with 63 plate appearances, hitting .222/.444/.356 with a pair of doubles, a pair of triples and six stolen bases (in eight attempts). He struck out in 27.0% of plate appearances and walked in 14.3% (also getting hit by a pitch as many times as he walked) before he was allowed by the Blue Jays to go and play with the Canadian Junior National Team at the World Championships in South Korea. In the tournament, Brown hit .345/.483/.472 with four doubles in 29 at bats. Look for him either in Bluefield or back in the GCL for more development.
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