The Lansing Lugnuts got through the season with a fairly compact set of starters for their 2016 season, featuring some excellent talent coming through the Jays’ organization.
Angel Perdomo led the Lansing Lugnuts in innings pitched, starts and strikeouts, spending his Age-22 season finally arriving in full-season baseball. The 6-foot-6 Dominican lefty still has some command issues but he showed the ability to both overpower Midwest League hitters and stay on the mound all season. Perdomo had a 3.19 ERA and an even better 2.89 FIP to go with his 1.22 WHIP. His 29.1% strikeout was outstanding and Perdomo led the Midwest League with his 156 Ks but his 10.1% walk rate could stand some improvement. All in all, it was an excellent season for Perdomo who kept moving forward with a positive season at a new level in 2016. Look for him to start in Dunedin in 2017.
The start of the season for lefty Ryan Borucki was disastrous. He’ll be the first to tell you that (as he told me in this interview). Borucki, 22, was last seen in Vancouver last year but injuries kept him out of all but three games in 2015. I expected Borucki, when healthy, to start 2016 in Lansing but the Blue Jays went ahead and sent him up to Dunedin where he took a beating, giving up 33 runs (32 earned) in just 20 innings, walking 12 and striking out 10. Sent back to Lansing on May 10, Borucki turned his season around, throwing 115 2/3 innings with the Lugnuts and posting a 2.41 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP, 23.2% strikeout rate and 5.6% walk rate. The Ryan Borucki I saw on the mound in August was confident and able to spot pitches effectively. Look for him to make a return to Dunedin 2017 but with far better results.
Our 2016 Most Improved Player, Jon Harris took some huge steps on the mound in 2016, starting with the Lansing Lugnuts. While Ryan Borucki came back down to Lansing after a rough start in Dunedin, Harris, 22, started in Lansing, dominated there, and then moved up to Dunedin where his results were still strong. In 84 2/3 innings with Lansing, Harris was a part of an impressive pitching staff in the first half and had a 2.23 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 20.9% strikeout rate with a 6.9% walk rate. Those strong numbers came back to earth a little bit in his 45 innings in Dunedin where he had a 3.60 ERA, 1.13 WHIP but only a 14.3% strikeout rate and 7.7% walk rate. Considering the fact that the Shapiro regime is more conservative when promoting prospects, Harris will likely return to Dunedin where he would be expected to dominate in 2017 before another to promotion to New Hampshire materializes.
Another lefty, 23-year-old Tayler Saucedo, logged the fourth-most starts for the Lansing Lugnuts but it was a mixed season for the 6-foot-5 Hawaiian. Saucedo’s 5.91 ERA and 1.60 WHIP definitely place his season in the “below average” category but he showed the ability to dominate at times, countered by a frustrating tendency to get shelled in the next outing. His best stretch lasted three starts spanning May 22 to June 1 wherein he threw 18 innings with three runs, four walks and nine strikeouts. Maddeningly, Saucedo gave up four runs in his next start and eight in the start after that. Then, on June 25, Saucedo threw a complete-game shutout at the West Michigan Whitecaps (who scoured him for eight runs on 14 hits the outing before). By the end of July, a string of starts that included six runs in four innings, four runs in six innings and four runs on nine hits in four innings had him sent to the bullpen where he finished the season. Again, Saucedo had some good outings out of the ‘pen but, there were a lot in which he gave up multiple runs (including six and seven runs in back-to-back outings against Great Lakes and South Bend). Saucedo gave up a lot of hits in 2016 with an 11.3 H/9 rate while striking out 12.9% of batters and walking 7.4%. There’s potential there for the tall lefty but he may be back in Lansing to refine some things and to work on being more consistent.
Markham, Ontario native Jordan Romano has had an up and down ride in the Blue Jays’ system since being drafted in the 10th round of 2014. After a strong debut, he tore his UCL in spring training in 2015, leaving him on the sidelines for the entire season. He returned to action in 2016, joining the Lansing Lugnuts after getting stretched out to start (having been a reliever in college and in his pro debut). Throwing 72 2/3 innings with the Lugnuts, Romano had a stellar 2.11 ERA (3.35 FIP) with a 1.05 WHIP, 24.5% strikeout rate and 9.2% walk rate. All of these numbers are better than expected for a player in his first year back from TJ surgery AND in a new role as a starter. Romano, 23, will likely move up to Dunedin in 2017 and if he can dominate there, may reach New Hampshire sometime next season.
Sean Reid-Foley, a big righty, spent his Age-20 season on familiar ground, pitching at the two levels he was at in 2015 but with completely different results. Reid-Foley looked like a new pitcher in spring training with cleaner mechanics, an added curveball and a changeup that I had never seen before. My prediction was that, after a surprising Lansing assignment to start the season, he would be in Dunedin by mid-May. While he wasn’t promoted as quickly as I’d have though, Reid-Foley split his season almost equally between Lansing and Dunedin, making 11 starts with the Lugnuts and throwing 58 innigns with a 2.95 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 25.4% strikeout rate and 9.5% walk rate. Returning to Dunedin, he proceeded to pitch even better, throwing 57 1/3 more innings, posting a 2.67 ERA (but a 2.12 FIP) along with a stellar 0.89 WHIP, an astounding 32.3% strikeout rate and an improved 7.3% walk rate. All around, Reid-Foley is proving himself to be on the fast track and could start 2017 in New Hampshire with a combination of stuff and newfound control that could be lethal to Double-A hitters.
19-year-old Justin Maese is a little bit behind Reid-Foley on the development curve but finished off his second professional season in Lansing. After a stellar GCL season in his draft year in 2015, Maese was slated to start 2016 in Vancouver but forced the club’s hand by moving up to Lansing after just five starts. Maese had a 2.05 ERA in 26 1/3 innings in Vancouver to go with a 0.80 WHIP, a 19.8% strikeout rate and a filthy 1.0% walk rate. In Lansing, he threw another 56 1/3 innings with a 3.36 ERA and 1.30 WHIP and saw a corresponding rise in walk rate to 5.9% and small drop in strikeout rate to 18.6%. While his strikeout rate might be a tad low, Maese is a classic sinkerballer, getting 2.29 ground outs per air out in Lansing (and 3.29 GO/AO in Vancouver). Given his young age, the Blue Jays could have Maese start 2017 in Lansing but there’s an equal or better chance that he’ll being next season joining Harris, Perdomo, Borucki and Romano in Dunedin.
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