We’re going to start our more in-depth look at the New Hampshire Fisher Cats by looking at starting pitchers. We’re going to include anyone who made 50% of his appearances as a starter, or logged enough innings to gain consideration. If a player played for more than one team over the course of the season, he’ll be grouped according to the club he played the most with.
We begin with the pitchers who made the most starts and work our way downwards from there.
25-year-old righty Jon Harris led the Fisher Cats with 25 starts and the 2015 1st-round pick of the Blue Jays went 12-5 with the championship Fisher Cats, posting a 4.75 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in his 136 1/3 innings. Harris struck out 17.2% of batters while walking only 5.4%, but the strike thrower got a lot of fly balls (more than ground balls) while giving up a lot of home runs (1.4 HR/9). Harris did show enough to get a couple of starts in Buffalo, allowing four earned runs on 14 hits and one walk in 12 innings with nine strikeouts, going 1-1 in a Bisons uniform. Harris made one postseason start, going 6 1/3 innings and giving up a run on five hits with seven strikeouts. Harris should move up to Buffalo for his Age-25 season (he just turned 25 this month) and he has the tools for success and can pitch effectively if he keeps the ball in the yard.
Throwing 137 1/3 innings for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats was 25-year-old Jordan Romano. The Markham, Ontario-born righty made the jump to Double-A very effectively and had some strong numbers in the first half of the season. Romano won his first eight decisions with the Fisher Cats (and then won his only outing with the Buffalo Bisons) before coming back to earth and not picking up another win until late July. Through April and May with the Fisher Cats, Romano had a 2.04 ERA and allowed just a .506 OPS against in his first eight Fisher Cats wins but after returning to the Fisher Cats from Buffalo, he had a 5.96 ERA and a .758 OPS against in those next eight starts before he notched his next win. Romano was more good than bad for the last part of the season and when the dust settled, he had a 4.13 ERA and 1.19 WHIP for the Fisher Cats, striking out 21.9% of batters and walking 7.2%. He got a win in Buffalo, throwing five innings and giving up two runs but he also walked four and struck out three. After a rough final start to the regular season, giving up eight runs in four innings, Romano had a strong postseason, making two starts and giving up three earned runs in 10 innings, striking out seven and walking only one. Look for Romano in Triple-A in 2019.
The 6-foot-7 former first-round pick of the Blue Jays (in 2016), T.J. Zeuch, got himself out of A-ball early after a strong performance with the Dunedin club. In six starts with the Dunedin Blue Jays, Zeuch had a 3.47 ERA and 1.18 WHIP over 36 1/3 innings, striking out 16.2% and walking 6.1% while getting an incredible 62.2% ground ball rate. When he came up to New Hampshire, Zeuch didn’t miss a step, posting a 3.08 ERA and 1.26 WHIP, striking out 16.1% of batters and walking 6.2% in 120 innings, getting a still excellent 55.2% ground ball rate. The big righty was stellar in the postseason, giving up just one run in 12 innings, striking out nine and walking five over two starts. Zeuch was a master of getting weak contact but had a tough time getting swings and misses and I think he will return to New Hampshire as a 23 year old to polish up his breaking pitches.
Josh DeGraaf, 25, split his season between three teams, spending most of the year with New Hampshire. In seven starts with the Dunedin Blue Jays, he had a 4.08 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, striking out 19.8% of batters while walking only 5.8%. Promoted to New Hampshire, DeGraaf tossed 81 innings, mostly as a starter (starting 15 of his 19 appearances), with a 4.33 ERA and 1.40 WHIP, improving his strikeout rate to 22.4% while his walk rate rose just slightly to 6.7%. Making one start in Buffalo, DeGraaf lasted just 3 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on four hits and two walks with two strikeouts.
Francisco Rios, a 23-year-old Mexican righty, started out his season in the starting rotation for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats but struggled through eight starts until the middle of May when he went on the DL for two and a half months. Following his stint on the DL, Rios emerged in a bullpen role (after four appearances with the GCL Blue Jays) and finished his season back in New Hampshire, throwing multiple innings out of the bullpen. Overall, Rios had a 7.15 ERA and 1.74 WHIP, striking out 16.3% of batters but walking 11.8% in 39 innings. With the GCL Blue Jays, he was good, posting a 3.38 ERA in 5 1/3 innings, giving up just one hit (a home run) and two walks with two strikeouts. Rios showed much better stats as a reliever, putting up a 1.62 ERA and 0.60 WHIP with 11 strikeouts and just three walks in 16 2/3 innings. Rios has just one more year on his initial contract and will likely work out of the bullpen with a glut of starters coming up to the top two levels of the organization.
6-foot-4 righty Nick Tepesch, 30, pitched an almost equal amount between Double-A New Hampshire and Triple-A Buffalo, throwing 48 1/3 innings with New Hampshire, holding down a 5.21 ERA and 1.47 WHIP while striking out 14.2% of batters and walking 7.6%. With Buffalo, that strikeout rate dropped to 10.2% and he walked 6.6% but had a 1.73 WHIP and 7.90 ERA. Tepesch was traded to the Tigers for Cash on August 9 and pitched in four games with the Erie SeaWolves out of the bullpen before he was released.
25-year-old righty Justin Dillon made three different stops in the Blue Jays’ organization in 2018 in his second season. Dillon started his season in Dunedin, making five appearances before he moved up to Buffalo on May 3, pitching 2 2/3 outstanding innings. He was then sent back to Dunedin for one outing and then moved up to Buffalo and started three games, striking out 10 in his first Triple-A start and giving up just two earned runs over 20 innings. At the end of May, Dillon was sent to Double-A where he remained for the rest of the season, making seven starts but finishing the season in the bullpen. Overall, Dillon had a stellar 0.79 ERA and 0.53 WHIP in Triple-A Buffalo, striking out 19 and walking just two batters. In Dunedin, Dillon had a 4.43 ERA and 1.39 WHIP over 22 1/3 innings, striking out 17 and walking eight. With the Fisher Cats, Dillon tossed 50 innings, posting a 6.84 ERA and 1.64 WHIP, striking out only 9.7% of batters while walking 9.7%. Which Dillon will return in 2019? Where will he return? Both questions will be answered after the season starts.
The Blue Jays picked up 22-year-old righty Hector Perez from the Houston Astros in the trade that saw the Jays’ closer go to Houston at the trade deadline. Perez, possibly the most intriguing prospect in the deal, showed flashes of why he was so highly coveted in 25 2/3 innings with the Fisher Cats. Perez started the season with Buies Creek in the Advanced-A Carolina League and posted a 3.84 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 72 2/3 innings with a 27.5% strikeout rate but an elevated 13.3% walk rate. Promoted to Double-A Corpus Christi, Perez struck out 18 in 16 2/3 innings, allowing six runs and walking eight batters before he was traded to Toronto. With the Fisher Cats at the same level, Perez tossed 25 2/3 innings, striking out 29.4% of batters with a 14.7% walk rate while putting up a 3.86 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. Perez saw some action in the postseason, giving up three runs in 3 1/3 innings, allowing six hits (including two home runs) while walking two and striking out three. Perez will likely return to Double-A in 2019 where he will continue to get a chance to be a starter as he works on sharpening his command.
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