As I mentioned in the last post, it’s hard to discern starters from relievers when the Blue Jays employ a piggy-back system. That said, I’m including pitchers who made around half of their appearances as starters in this category. I’ll use a similar structure to the pitchers’ post for the DSL Blue Jays: I’ll discuss pitchers starting with those who threw the most innings. There are also several pitchers who were promoted to Bluefield part way through the year and, going forward, I’ll include players with the team for which they played the most.
Who is Dalton Rodriguez and how in the world did he end up as the “starter” with the most innings with the GCL Blue Jays? Rodriguez was an international free agent signing out of Mexico and was 17 for most of the season with the Blue Jays. After tremendous success with the DSL Jays last year, Rodriguez made the jump to North America with very limited success, posting a 7.02 ERA and 1.88 WHIP over 41 innings. Some positive takeaways were the 12 walks that Rodriguez issued and his strikeout rate rose in his second year of pro ball. He also appeared to be bitten by the BABIP monster as hitters had a .425 BABIP, causing him to give up 65 hits. What to make of this? Rodriguez is just barely 18 and is still young enough to start 2015 in the GCL without being old for the level. Unless he improves enough by the end of extended spring training, he’ll likely return to Dunedin.
As mentioned in the last post, I thought that Jake Brentz was probably the most improved player for the GCL Blue Jays, leading me to believe that, after the fall instructional league and spring training next year, Brentz will be ready to start ascending through the organization a little bit more. While he saw more side work last year than actual game action, Brentz took on a full load in 2014, pitching in 12 games and starting six of them with an entirely respectable 4.08 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. His 26 walks in 39 2/3 innings is still very high but his numbers are far better than what they were a year ago and his strikeout rate was very solid at 19.3%, especially considering how raw Brentz is.
Despite only starting four games, lefty Nick Wells logged starter’s innings, throwing 34 2/3 innings. Drafted in the third round this year, Wells struggled in his first taste of pro ball, finishing the season with a 5.71 ERA and 1.59 WHIP. He only walked 11 batters but had a very low strikeout total of 18, which translates to an 11.3% rate. Again, it’s important to stress that the organization isn’t going to worry about the numbers too much, especially for a high-school player in his draft year. Wells will have a lot of time to work out any issues that might have plagued him and he’ll likely return to the GCL the start of 2015.
Another 2014 draft pick of the Jays, 26th rounder Bobby Wheatley, got plenty of time on the mound for the GCL Jays. A big, 6-foot-5 lefty who pitched for USC (Southern California, not South Carolina), I actually expected a lot more from the 22-year-old Wheatley than what he ended up doing, posting a 9.37 ERA and a 2.23 WHIP over 32 2/3 innings. He struggled with control (19 walks) and didn’t strike out a huge number of batters (24), which is particularly troubling considering that he was in his Age-22 season playing against a lot of younger players. The one caveat to Wheatley’s struggles is that, like a lot of college pitchers, he threw quite a few innings before he even got to the Blue Jays’ system, logging 58 1/3 with USC. I can see him in Vancouver next year, particularly if he has a solid time in extended spring training.
A high-school draftee in the seventh round of the 2013 draft by the Blue Jays, Conner Greene got his feet wet in pro ball last year with the GCL Jays. Starting there in 2014, Greene got out to a dominant start before the Jays decided to move him up to Bluefield to finish out the year. In Florida, Greene was outstanding, posting a 1.99 ERA and 0.98 WHIP over 31 2/3 innings, allowing just six walks and striking out 30. His numbers took a bit of a hit when he was promoted but were still solid, with a 4.23 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 12 walks and 21 strikeouts over 27 2/3 innings. Greene is a 6-foot-3 righty who will probably continue to stay under the radar as he goes into his Age-20 season in 2015. I could see him starting in Vancouver but an aggressive, Lansing assignment might not be out of the question if he has a good showing in spring training.
Coming out of a Texas community college (coincidentally named Grayson County CC), Grayson Huffman had an outstanding first year with the Blue Jays’ organization after being selected in the sixth round of the 2014 draft. At the time of the draft, I compared him with Daniel Lietz, who the Jays drafted in the fifth round the year before and although Lietz wasn’t as dominant in his first year, both were 6-foot-2 lefties drafted after a year of community college ball. Huffman threw 27 innings over seven starts (eight games) with the GCL Blue Jays and had a 1.00 ERA and 0.74 WHIP, only allowing seven hits but walking 13 and striking out 23. His control issues followed him in Bluefield as he walked seven batters in 11 innings but struck out 11 batters and posted a 0.82 ERA despite the 1.64 WHIP. I can see Huffman starting the season back in Bluefield or even jumping to Vancouver next year.
Sean Reid-Foley came to the Blue Jays organization as a well regarded prep arm coming out of Florida. SRF had flashes of brilliance in his debut professional season but also had rookie moments as well but put together some solid numbers with a 4.76 ERA and 1.37 WHIP, walking 10 and striking out 25 over 22 2/3 innings. Reid-Foley was used in short stints of three innings or less, reaching the four-inning mark only once (allowing only two hits and striking out six on August 5). While he had a couple of small hiccups, walking three in a game twice, the overall body of work for an 18-year-old pitcher is very impressive. Look for Reid-Foley to pitch for Bluefield, logging 50-70 innings 2015.
Hansel Rodriguez was the other 17-year-old pitcher on the GCL Jays’ pitching staff (along with Daniel Rodriguez) and Hansel made some headlines when the Jays signed him over the winter, using some money that they got from the Angels’ international signing bonus pool when the Jays selected Brian Moran in the Rule 5 Draft and traded him to LA. Rodriguez skipped the DSL and logged 19 innings in Florida, pitching to a 7.11 ERA and 1.58 WHIP. He walked 12 and struck out 13 but it’s important to remember that Rodriguez is still very young and will likely repeat in the GCL in 2015.
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