Some of our baseball writer friends (like Charlie Caskey at YourVanCs) have written that Vancouver’s roster isn’t exactly rife with prospects but there are definitely some interesting and talented players on the roster with a few more to come once some of this year’s draft picks sign.
None of these Vancouver’s starters at the opening of the season are particularly surprising and several of them have started before at this level. The “ace” of the staff is clearly Clinton Hollon. I was actually a little surprised that Hollon was sent to Vancouver after extended spring training finished because the Blue Jays have been very aggressive with both Conner Greene and Sean Reid-Foley and I thought that a Lansing assignment is where Hollon would begin facing competition. On the other side of things, the Blue Jays like to send their top prospects to Vancouver for a taste of Canada and it’s quite possible that if Hollon continues to pitch the way he did in his first outing for the Cs, he’ll be in Lansing sooner rather than later.
Evan Smith, the club’s #2 starter, is a guy that I also thought might be in Lansing to start the season. I wrote him up in a “Countdown to Baseball” post in March and I think that he could very well be a breakout candidate this year.
Rios struggled a bit in Bluefield but the 20-year-old righty should be ready for Vancouver. Lietz was excellent in Bluefield last year but struggled with his control in Vancouver so he’s being given another shot. Jonathon Wandling is a college righty who pitched all over last year and has gotten into a couple of games with Dunedin this year. I’m a bit surprised to see him starting and, although he pitched in relief in the first game, it’s pretty common to see a starter at the back of the rotation get an inning or two in the first game to get some work in over a long layoff from the end of spring training until their first start.
This is a group of veterans who were either later draft picks or non-drafted free agents with the exception of Canadian righty Sean Ratcliffe who’s the baby of the bullpen at just 20 years old. For Ratcliffe, it’s a big step for a guy who hasn’t pitched much in professional competition in his two years since being drafted. Some of these guys have already gotten their feet wet this season with Lansing and Andrew Case, the 22-year-old Canadian, has already logged 21 2/3 innings with the Lugnuts with a very solid 3.32 ERA. Case is the guy that surprises me the most in this bullpen because he’s already shown that he can more than hold his own in Lansing.
This is a somewhat interesting list of players because Garcia, a 30th round pick last year who had some solid numbers in a backup role, is going for playing time with Juan Kelly, a Dominican catcher and first baseman who was one of the Blue Jays’ best hitters in the Gulf Coast League last year. Not listed at catcher is Gabriel Cenas who, while he’s listed a third baseman, can also catch.
This is another interesting group with a few players who are listed as outfielders who will likely play some infield as well. With Kelly available to play first base, Cenas will get some action at third but might also catch a bit, Maldonado is likely to be the everyday third baseman. I’m surprised the 24 year old is still in Vancouver after an excellent season there last year in which he hit over .300. I saw Metzler taking ground balls at second base in spring training and I liked how he looked but he will likely get some time at shortstop too with Christian Vazquez poised to be the most natural shortstop at the position. Rolando Segovia could also get some time at second after playing mostly there in his minor league career so far. Lane Thomas was getting a look-see at second base and he could play there every day for the Cs. The youngster (he won’t be 20 until the end of August) has played the outfield and third base in his minor league career so far and his bat is definitely more advanced than his defense at second base. He’s one of the other true prospects on this Vancouver team to start the season.
It’s most likely to see Thomas on the infield in most of his games so we won’t talk about him much here. Burl has already made an impact. The 30th round pick of this year’s draft signed quickly and is already getting a growing fan base interested in him. He answered some questions for us that we just got up on the site yesterday. Sean Hurley is a big kid who, at 23, will probably get the opportunity to show what he can do. I’ve seen him hit the ball with a lot of authority in spring training but that hasn’t translated into in-game success with a lifetime batting average of just .194 in the minors so far (although he’s gotten off to a fantastic start to the season this year). Juan Tejada will probably be the third member of the everyday outfield (along with Burl and Hurley). Tejada has a lot of power potential and is making a jump from the GCL last year, at 21 years old, to the Northwest League. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Tejada is a big boy and had nearly a .180 ISO last year in the GCL despite a very high strikeout rate.
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