We’re on to part two of my annual spring exercise to try to predict the opening day rosters for the Jays’ minor league affiliates. In today’s chapter, I speculate as to which hitters will populate the Lansing Lugnuts as the season starts.
For me, deciding on which hitters might be in Lansing was much easier than the pitchers. While I may be wrong, I decided to use a few pieces of information to help me decide. I looked at who was a late-season call up to the Lugnuts as well as some other players who snuck in for the Crosstown Showdown. The hardest position for me to figure out was the catching slots. There just wasn’t a clear standout to be the everyday catcher for the Lugnuts.
Hernandez was pretty much the main catcher in Vancouver and while his offensive stats were nothing that stood out, he was able to do the job over the course of the season. He’ll probably be a backup in Lansing.
Smith had very strong numbers with some good power in Bluefield last year and he deserves the chance to get a significant amount of playing time as he moves into his first full season. He has a very strong arm behind the plate and I’m hoping that he gets a starting role and plays 70+ games in Lansing.
Morgan is the wild card here. After three seasons of short-season ball, he hasn’t really progressed with the bat but, as a fourth-round pick, he needs to move up. His high strikeout rates tell me that he may not be ready but he’s coming into a make or break season.
Jones led the Appalachian League in home runs last year and was a huge part of a strong Bluefield team. While he strikes out a lot, he’s a college player who definitely wouldn’t be rushed if he heads to Lansing.
Williams has impressed me in spring training but it hasn’t translated into numbers for the 22 year old from Florida but he’s got a big frame, a lot of raw power and needs to be tested at a higher level.
The son of Craig Biggio was a very solid player coming out of the draft last year. While he doesn’t stand out with his tools, his baseball IQ and intangibles make him a strong team player.
Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.
Vladdy, by all accounts (including my own) had a stellar professional debut at the age of 17 in the Appy League. He’s mature enough and has been around enough baseball to handle the jump to Lansing as an 18 year old and my thought is that he needs the reps in a higher level than extended spring training can offer him.
Here is where I diverge from what might be the conventional thinking out there. After a phenomenal debut as an 18 year old in the Gulf Coast League, Bichette (the son of Dante Bichette) was brought up to Lansing for the Crosstown Showdown and would give the Lugnuts one heck of a legacy infield with him, Biggio and Guerrero. The other reason that I think Bichette makes the jump is that I think that Yeltsin Gudino may not be ready for Lansing.
Monzon was a Cuban defector who signed last offseason at the age of 23. Not as heralded as some of the other Cubans who have come out in the past, Monzon tore up the GCL and had some solid numbers (especially power numbers) in Bluefield. High strikeout rate there is a concern but, at 24 years old, he probably needs to see what he can do.
Cardenas was with Lansing last year in a utility role (playing mostly shortstop) and he would be valuable being able to take the pressure off Bichette at short. He didn’t really hit well, and a return to Lansing could give him a chance to show what he can do with the bat in a return engagement.
Romanin didn’t play much with the Vancouver Canadians last year but could be a valuable versatile utility man. He showed a little more pop last year and walked a ton and might not be a hole in the lineup when he plays.
I think Lane Thomas returns to play center field after an injury plagued year in which he struggled to find his groove at the plate. A former high draft pick, he deserves to find his form.
Woodman was an outstanding call up to Lansing after a very strong debut season with the Vancouver Canadians last year. He also has some swing and miss to his game, but he has a ton of other skills.
Palacios likely rounds out the every day outfield for the Lugnuts. He dominated Vancouver pitching and was solid when called up to Lansing last year.
Orozco had a very strong first season in the US in 2015 but regressed a bit in 2016 with Vancouver. Still, he walked more than he struck out and he has the potential to have some gap power.
On the Bubble
Anderson struggled to start the season in Lansing and still had some trouble in Vancouver. Still, 2016 was Anderson’s first full year of playing since 2012 so some growing pains are to be expected. He probably has one more shot to be productive.
Jones and Sinay were both in short-season ball last year and both had some decent numbers. Sinay, in particular, is a gritty player that managers love. He grinds out at bats, walks a ton and has great speed. Jones had great numbers in Bluefield and solid ones in Vancouver and, at 24, could probably use a step up to Lansing.
How did we do? Is your favourite player not on this list?
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