The pitchers for the Blue Jays’ 2013 GCL team came from several different avenues. There were a few who were with the team last season and are repeating the level, several were drafted in 2013, several were 2013 undrafted free agents and several came from the Blue Jays Dominican Summer League team.
Tyler Gonzales had his second chance to prove himself in the Gulf Coast League but didn’t make much of an impact. In fact, he didn’t pitch very often (his last appearance was August 8) and he actually regressed in just about any category. The hard (95 mph-ish) throwing righty continues to struggle to find his control, walking 12 batters in 10 1/3 innings although he improved his strikeout rate considerably by whiffing 9 batters. It’s hard to gauge what the Blue Jays are going to do with Gonzales, who is now 20. My hunch is that he’ll be in Bluefield next year.
Despite some unappealing numbers like a 5.09 ERA and 1.522 WHIP, Jesus Tinoco had a solid first full season in the GCL as an 18 year old. He led the club in innings pitched (46) and strikeouts (45) and was really only held back due to control issues (21 walks — not horrible, but needs to be better). I couldn’t find a scouting report on him but I see Tinoco in Bluefield in 2014.
Everyone wants to love Matt Smoral. The 19 year old Ohioan lefty throws in the low 90s right now, and standing 6’8″, you’d think that he has some room to grow into some more heat. Due to a foot injury last year, Smoral made his pro debut only this year and really struggled with his mechanics and blisters. He pitched 25 1/3 innings and walked 26 but struck out 27 showing some promise along with the wildness (he also led the club with 10 hit batters). Smoral could repeat the level in 2014 but I could see him having a good fall in the instructional league and solid Extended Spring Training and get sent to Bluefield next year.
19-year-old Dominican lefty Oscar Cabrera was in the same boat as Jesus Tinoco. He pitched in the Dominican league last season and was brought over the US for a few games in the GCL before the end of the season. The results this year were similar to last year: Tinoco walked a lot of batters and gave up a lot of hits, leading to a 6.93 ERA and a whopping 2.03 WHIP. He did strike out a lot of hitters (26 in 24 2/3 innings) but because he faced so many hitters his percentage is a solid but less eye-popping 21.5%. I can see Tinoco either going to Bluefield or staying in the GCL to start the year.
As far as the 2013 draft class goes for the Toronto Blue Jays, Clinton Hollon was the highest (2nd round) to sign and he did so at a discounted rate due to some damage found in his MRI. While 3rd rounder Patrick Murphy never played (he is recovering from Tommy John surgery), Hollon went out on the diamond as an 18 year old and impressed the club. He pitched 12 scoreless innings and gave up only 2 hits with 3 walks and 10 strikeouts at for the GCL Blue Jays. Armed with a nifty 0.00 ERA, Hollon went up to the Bluefield Blue Jays and found a tougher go in 5 1/3 innings there (6 earned runs, 6 hits, 3 walks and 5 strikeouts). Hollon got a taste of tougher competition and will likely return to the Appy League as a 19 year old with a bright future.
Except for Daniel Lietz, most of the 2013 draft class that spent most of their time in the GCL didn’t pitch much. Evan Smith, the 4th rounder, only pitched 12 innings and didn’t pitch at all between July 23 and August 17. He finished with a 7.50 ERA and a 2.00 WHIP in just 12 innings but 5 of his 10 earned runs came in his final appearance on August 27 and they skewed his results a fair bit. The 18 year old had 10 Ks and 9 walks over his 12 innings and he may very well repeat the level next year depending on he does in Instructs and Extended.
Daniel Lietz, the 5th rounder this year, is a 19 year old who had one of the better seasons for the GCL Blue Jays, especially coming out of just one year of community college. The 6’2″ lefty has some work to do but threw 36 innings (3rd on the team), struck out 35 batters (also 3rd on the team) with a 4.75 ERA and respectable 1.61 WHIP. No one paid a lot of attention to him this year but reports after the draft said that his fastball is in the low-90s and he has at least 2 potential ML average pitches. I can see Lietz in Bluefield or maybe even Vancouver next year.
Conner Greene was another high school pitcher that the Jays selected in the draft (this time in the 7th round). The 6’3″ righty has a projectable frame and was throwing in the high-80s before the draft. He threw a fair bit (30 2/3 innings) this season but wasn’t quite as successful as the slightly older, harder throwing and more mature Lietz. Greene put up a 5.28 ERA with a 1.70 WHIP, walking 15 and striking out 20. Not the best ratios for the youngster who will turn 19 right around Opening Day next year (April 4). I foresee a repeat performance unless he improves dramatically in Instructs and Extended.
Jacob Brentz was a stretch of a pick in the 11th round (reflected by the amount of money that the Jays had to cough up to sign him – $700, 000) but the Jays inked him and he got into some game action in 2013. Brentz is a fireballer but still has a lot of work to do controlling his power. In 7 2/3 innings, he walked 12 and struck out 8 but only gave up 5 hits. Look for Brentz to repeat the GCL. He’s still new to pitching but with a 96 mph fastball, the Jays will look to move him along slowly to build up arm strength and help him find his control. He’ll also need to develop his secondary pitches to be more successful in professional baseball.
Sean Ratcliffe is an 18 year old Pickering native that the Jays drafted in the 18th round. He didn’t get into much action, throwing only 8 innings before being allowed to join the Canadian National Under-18 team playing in international competition. In those 8 innings, however, the 6’4″ righty put a 5.63 ERA and 1.50 WHIP with 8 strikeouts and 4 walks this season. I see him repeating the level next year, especially to slowly ramp up his innings in professional baseball.
Corey Gorman, along with Chris Rowley, was a real workhorse for the GCL Blue Jays coming out of the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. Gorman ranked 2nd on the team in innings pitched (37 2/3) and was very effective, pitching to a 1.91 ERA and 1.25 ERA. His strikeout rates weren’t particularly impressive (24) but he did limit the walks (13). He’s probably an org guy and I could see him in Vancouver next season particularly considering that he’s already 23 years old. Gorman pitched a bit in the playoffs for Bluefield to end the season.
West Point grad Chris Rowley was our Pitcher of the Year, walking just three batters in 32 2/3 innings pitched. He racked up the strikeouts too, striking out 39 to give him a 13/1 K/BB ratio. His pinpoint control allowed him to come out of the season with a 0.67 WHIP and 1.10 ERA. Unfortunately (for the Blue Jays), the 23-year-old righty has at least 2 years of commitments to the Army to fulfill and coming back to professional baseball at age 25 is not an exciting prospect.
Undrafted free agent Cale Wine pitched 27 innings for the GCL club and walked only 2 batters to go along with 15 strikeouts. His stuff must have been all that deceptive as the 23 year old surrendered 40 hits with it all adding up to a 5.00 ERA and 1.56 WHIP. I’m not sure what the Jays will do with him next year (if he’s even still around).
Kamakani Usui is another undrafted free agent that really blended into the background for the Blue Jays. He posted solid numbers — 3.86 ERA, 1.24 WHIP with 3 walks and 15 strikeouts in 21 innings — but as a 23 year old, he was one of the oldest on the team. I could see him in Vancouver next year as a bullpen arm.
Five pitchers made their US (and GCL) debuts this year out of the Jays’ team in the Dominican Summer League. 20 year old Francisco Diaz (32 2/3 IP, 4.41 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 20 BB, 27 K) and 21 year old Jimmy Cordero (25 1/3 IP, 5.68 ERA, 1.86 WHIP, 17 BB, 30 K) had similar lines to Oscar Cabrera, struggling with control but showing very good stuff to rack up some strikeouts. Cordero, being older, finished the season with a call up to Bluefield and generally performed better as the season wore on.
18 year old Alejandro Solarte (24 1/3 IP, 2.96 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 5 BB, 15 K) and 20 year old Jose Fernandez (20 IP, 2.70 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 3 BB, 13 K) are both lefties who didn’t flash fantastic stuff but had far better control that Cordero or Cabrera.
Finally 18-year-old Miguel Castro made his North American debut towards the end of the season with a big splash. He dominated in the Dominican and carried that over in 15 GCL innings (and 2 in Bluefield). He was known for his control and his overpowering stuff and had a 2.40 ERA, 0.87 WHIP with just 2 walks and 14 strikeouts in 15 innings. Castro will most likely be an Alberto Tirado-like name coming into 2014 and will probably start in Bluefield.
Whew. That does it for the pitchers who spent most of their time in the GCL. Next post might take a couple of days but it will cover the GCL hitters.