People are excited about the New Hampshire Fisher Cats’ 2017 projected lineup and I am too. Heck, I was just wondering when I might be able to get a trip scheduled to see them play. While New Hampshire hasn’t had a really competitive team in a few years, 2017 projects to be a year when the Toronto Blue Jays’ younger players are finally reaching the level.
We talked about the pitchers in our last post in the series and there projects to be several young studs on the mound and we’re going to see some future Blue Jays in the field too. Like with the Dunedin Blue Jays, there are pressures from above as the Blue Jays fill their 25-man roster and that for the Buffalo Bisons below them. Players who can’t quite get onto the Bisons or Blue Jays will end up in New Hampshire and, for some, it will be their third year doing so. Double-A is a level where players can definitely get stuck and moving upwards can be tough as the major league team signs players for big league depth to play above them in Triple-A. The 2017 New Hampshire Fisher Cats will be no different.
I really think that Max Pentecost is the everyday catcher in New Hampshire. While a more conservative approach will be to have him catching every day (or four times a week) in Dunedin, I’m thinking that the Jays are a little more aggressive with him. Besides, I think that Danny Jansen plays every day in Dunedin leaving much less time for Pentecost who needs to put in the innings behind the plate.
Monsalve was signed as a minor league free agent and, while his 2016 season was marred by injury, he played most of his games at the Double-A level. I can’t see him making it to Buffalo with the plethora of catchers above him in the system.
McBroom is an older player (25 in early April) who has done nothing but hit in three seasons at various A-ball levels. Still, in a brief call up to Double-A, he didn’t do much last year. He’ll need to perform at Double-A to keep getting his name mentioned.
Dean played a significant amount in Double-A New Hampshire last year but didn’t produce as expected. The 24 year old finished his year in Dunedin after coming back from an injury but he’ll get another chance to show what he can do for the Fisher Cats.
Acquired by the Blue Jays as the player to be named later in the deal that sent Pat Venditte to Seattle, Lopes is the younger brother of Christian Lopes. The downside to having the two brothers, both of whom have extensive Double-A experience is that they play the same position. I think Tim is in Double-A, being the younger of the brothers.
Emilio has shown flashes of excellence in his playing but has been injured enough to prevent that from being more consistent. Guerrero is 24 and the Dominican infielder can also play some outfield but last year, in just 86 games, he hit 13 home runs (by far a career high) and started to show some significant increases in power, particularly in Dunedin (although some of that carried over to 43 games in New Hampshire).
Can Mitch Nay return? He missed almost all of last year with a knee injury and hasn’t made good on his promise of huge power over the past three seasons. He could easily start in Dunedin though until the brass is sure that he’s found his rhythm at the plate.
If I had my way, Richard Urena will play shortstop for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats every day for about two-and-a-half months. He needs to work on some things (like plate discipline and focusing equally on every play in the field) and I’d rather see him do it in New Hampshire as opposed to Buffalo. The sky is the limit with Urena but he is still very young (just 21 for the whole season) and, with Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop, there’s no rush to develop him.
Conner, 25, hasn’t played much in the last two years, missing time due to injury and only getting into two games in 2016. Opitz, also 25, has been seen already in major league camp and has the potential to be a versatile utility infielder produce more than the .580 OPS he had last year with the Fisher Cats.
Alford’s prospect status and injury woes are well documented but his strong second half and the fact that he’s spent part of two years in Dunedin says to me that he’s going to be moving up to New Hampshire to start the year.
After being one of (if not) the best hitters in Dunedin last year, Jonathan Davis, 24, will need to see if he can repeat the same type of numbers in Double-A. He showed some power, speed and patience at the plate and while his rise through the system has been slow, people could start talking about him this year.
We didn’t see much of Harold Ramirez after he was traded to the Blue Jays in the Francisco Liriano/Reese McGuire/Drew Hutchison deal. He was injured and only played one game with the Fisher Cats. He could be in Triple-A next year, but he’s only 22 and I think he’ll return to New Hampshire.
Loveless seems to have trouble keeping his batting average up but was hitting for some significant power last year while also taking a lot of walks. He maintained an OBP about 100 points above his batting average and the lefthanded hitter saw an (expected) increase in power as he moved up to Manchester for 56 games last year. He’ll start back in NH.
Ian Parmley had a career year last year. The 27-year-old lefthanded hitting outfielder spent the whole year in NH and played in 92 games, hitting .294/.356/.379. No reason to expect that he isn’t back in a backup role.
On the Bubble
Behind the plate, there are a couple of “bubble” guys who will be fighting for either a roster spot in Dunedin or New Hampshire. Barring injury, they could be on either squad to start the year.
I actually think that if Gurriel is in New Hampshire, one of two things has happened. The first is that Richard Urena starts the year in Triple-A Buffalo, which I probably wouldn’t do myself but wouldn’t be completely unexpected. The second thing that could happen is that Gurriel gets moved to third base. If that happens, he almost certainly starts in New Hampshire.
I originally thought that Leblebijian, who had a career year at the plate in Dunedin and New Hampshire, would move up to Buffalo, but I think that he’s going to be caught in a numbers game. The versatile infielder could be the every day third baseman in New Hampshire, however.
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