We’ve arrived at our penultimate report for the Blue Jays’ minor league clubs with the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
The Fisher Cats struggled to a 69-73 record under manager Bobby Meacham. They had slightly below league-average offensive production (from a club that averaged 24.3 years old, exactly the league average age) and slightly above league average pitching (in terms of runs per game) with a pitching staff that was a year older than the league average age. The true strength of the Fisher Cats had to have been the bullpen which had several pitchers move up to Buffalo (and even Toronto) successfully.
Blue Jays from Away Player of the Game Champion
For those of you who followed the minor league reports here, you’ll know that I “awarded” Player of the Game (PotG) accolades on a game-by-game basis. It should comfort you to know that I’ve been keeping track of these daily awards and my rationale for the system is as follows.
The Player of the Game Awards were determined by a number of factors that included who I thought had the most impact on the game and who might have gone “above and beyond.” Most nights, there was just one Player of the Game. If there was, he earned one point. If I thought that either a) no one stood out enough to merit a single PotG, or b) two or more players were outstanding and deserved mention, I split the point up into two, three or four shares. If two players earned PotG mention, they each received 0.5 points and if three players earned mentions, they each received 0.33 points, etc. There were occasions that I felt that no one merited the award and therefore, I did not give out any points.
The 2016 Player of the Game Champion for the Fisher Cats is about as obvious as you can get. 21-year-old Ryan “Rowdy” Tellez showed his maturity at the plate as well as his raw power, moving up from Dunedin last year. Dwight Smith, Jr. also showed the ability to make his presence known in games but Tellez was a true difference maker this year.
Blue Jays from Away Player of the Year
Once again, this award is going to go to Rowdy Tellez. Tellez clearly led the club with a .917 OPS and was durable in addition to showing improvement throughout the year. Despite struggling in April, Tellez recovered for a strong May and June and kept improving throughout the year, dominating in August by hitting .333/.406/.640 with eight of his 21 home runs in the final complete month of the season.
Honourable mention: Dwight Smith, Jr., Jason Leblebijian, Christian Lopes
Blue Jays from Away Pitcher of the Year
The Pitcher of the Year for the Fisher Cats is Murphy Smith, whose ability to come out of the bullpen for multiple innings outshined just about everyone else on the staff. Smith threw 72 innings (more than some starters) with a 1.50 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 23.9% strikeout rate and 8.8% walk rate. While other pitchers logged more innings or were more dominant in shorter stints, none combined the durability with effectiveness.
Honourable mention: Danny Barnes, Chris Smith, Wil Browning
Blue Jays from Away Reliever of the Year
When six of your relievers finish the season with sub-2.00 ERAs, the decision of whom to crown the Reliever of the Year is made very difficult. While Murphy Smith was our Pitcher of the Year, our Reliever of the Year is someone who was even more dominant and has pitched effectively at three levels this year. Danny Barnes logged 35 2/3 innings with the Fisher Cats, posting a 1.01 ERA and incredible 0.59 WHIP with 40 strikeouts and just four walks before going up to Buffalo and dominating even more, with just one run in 25 2/3 innings and just six hits and two walks against while striking out 37 batters. If I was just judging based on his performance in New Hampshire, Barnes would still be the Reliever of the Year, but Barnes could very well be the best reliever in the entire Jays’ system this year too.
Honourable mention: Murphy Smith, Chris Smith, Wil Browning
Blue Jays from Away Most Improved Player
While there are some tremendous improvements by relievers this year, I’m going to go back to the hitters and select Jason Leblebijian as our Most Improved Player for the Fisher Cats. Leblebijian was in a strange place in 2015, hitting very well for the Lansing Lugnuts but falling apart in the Florida State League. Leblebijian started 2016, hitting extremely well in Dunedin and continued his tremendous performance when promoted to New Hampshire where he stuck and provided excellent defense as well as solid offense. Overall, Leblebijian hit .294/.361/.436 with 26 doubles, a triple and a career-high 13 home runs and the only real difference in his stats was that he hit for more power in New Hampshire (in a generally better hitting environment).
Honourable mention: Alonzo Gonzalez, Christian Lopes
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