There was a big group of pitchers who came up to New Hampshire after spending last season in Dunedin, showing some nice linear growth for the relief corps. The group in New Hampshire was generally pretty solid with a couple of excellent seasons from the staff.
Randy Boone was not one these players coming up from Dunedin this year. Boone has been with the Blue Jays’ organization since he was drafted in 2007 and was in his Age-29 season and has played at the Double-A or Triple-A level in every season since 2009. In 56 innings with the Fisher Cats this year, Boone had one of his best seasons, with a 2.89 ERA, a 1.16 WHIP and 55 strikeouts with 17 walks. Boone could be back for his Age-30 season but he could also become a free agent. We’ll find out fairly soon.
Lefty Tyler Ybarra continued his linear rise through the Blue Jays’ system in his Age-24 season, spending all of 2014 with the Fisher Cats. He wasn’t nearly as dominant as he was last year in Dunedin, posting a 4.42 ERA with a 1.36 WHIP over 53 innings. His control was a big issue this season as he walked 30 and struck out 43, the first time since 2009 that Ybarra hasn’t struck out more than a batter per inning. While Ybarra certainly wasn’t out of his depth with New Hampshire, he certainly could return to polish up his control.
Another 24-year-old (although he’s now 25) with the Fisher Cats was Dustin Antolin, a 6-foot-2, Hawaiian righty. Antolin, an 11th-round pick in 2008, improved incredibly over his time in New Hampshire last year and had a very solid 3.38 ERA with a 1.34 WHIP and 52 strikeouts and 15 walks in 42 2/3 innings. Antolin’s big step forward could mean a spot in Buffalo although Antolin will be eligible for free agency in the offseason.
Despite being only 26, Greg Infante was available for the Blue Jays to pick up as a minor league free agent. He brought his big arm (reputed to being able to throw 101 mph this year) to the Jays’ system, throwing 38 2/3 innings with the Fisher Cats, saving 22 games and having an ERA of 1.86, a WHIP of 1.14, 34 strikeouts and and 16 walks. He also threw 7 2/3 innings in Buffalo, striking out 10. It’s safe to say that Infante had the type of year that the Blue Jays were hoping for and I think that he could be the closer (depending on John Stilson‘s health) in Buffalo next year.
27-year-old righty Scott Gracey couldn’t recapture the solid season he had last year for New Hampshire as he was hit hard and had a 5.50 ERA and 1.41 WHIP over his 52 1/3 innings. He did strike out over a batter per inning with 53 Ks and only walked 19 giving him very solid peripherals that helped him have a 4.33 FIP. Gracey is eligible for minor league free agency this year and it will remain to be seen if he returns to the Blue Jays fold in 2015.
The Blue Jays picked up 27-year-old lefty Richard Bleier in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft last year. Bleier went on to put up solid numbers, mostly for the Fisher Cats, where he logged 84 2/3 innings over 34 appearances including five starts. His 3.93 ERA and 1.31 WHIP are strong indicators of his good control that saw him walk only 11 batters all season although the 100 hits he gave up and the 43 strikeouts indicate that he might have gotten a little lucky, as can be seen by his 4.83 FIP this season.
John Anderson, a 25-year-old, oft-injured lefty had a better season than his stat line might suggest. While he had a 4.59 ERA and 1.30 WHIP, Anderson struck out 72 and walked 32 over 68 2/3 innings. That said, Anderson made six starts on the season and his ERA, WHIP and walk rate were far better in his starts than in his relief appearances. Anderson, a 28th-round draft pick in 2008 should be eligible for free agency this offseason and his low-to-mid-90s fastball from the left side could be in demand.
26-year-old Blake McFarland made the most of his New Hampshire call up this year, sticking there and logging more innings in Double-A. McFarland lost his closer’s job in Dunedin this year to Arik Sikula but he still put up some solid numbers with a 4.00 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, eight walks and 36 strikeouts in 27 innings at the High-A level. Coming up to New Hampshire and throwing 35 1/3 innings, McFarland had a 2.04 ERa, 1.13 WHIP, 15 walks and 37 strikeouts. The 6-foot-5 righty is headed to the Arizona Fall League and should be back with the Fisher Cats to start 2015.
Veteran Mickey Storey had a rough season that included an injury and getting released by the Blue Jays twice. Storey only managed to pitch 26 innings with 14 2/3 of them in New Hampshire where he had a 2.45 ERA with a 1.02 WHIP, 18 strikeouts and three walks. Released on April 29th, Storey was re-signed on May 23 but released again on August 18.
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