We’re going to start our more in-depth look at the New Hampshire Fisher Cats by looking at starting pitchers. Like with Lansing and Dunedin, three pitchers topped the 100-inning mark despite one of them going on the IL for a part of the season.
We begin with the pitchers who made the most starts and work our way downwards from there. 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.
Our team leader for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in starts and innings was Yennsy Diaz who started 24 games (of 26 appearances) and threw 144 1/3 innings for the Fisher Cats. When I saw Diaz in spring training, he was all over the place with his control but he was able to put together a strong season in his Double-A debut, posting a 3.74 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, striking out 19.1% of batters while walking a respectable 8.7%. That said, he did come up to the majors and, in his August 4 major league debut, allowed two runs on a hit and four walks in 2/3 of an inning. Diaz likely needs another year of seasoning in Triple-A where he’ll have to deal with a livelier ball.
Hector Perez, 23, is another pitcher closing in on the major leagues for the Blue Jays. Perez spent the season in Double-A New Hampshire, logging 121 1/3 innings with a 4.60 ERA and 1.62 WHIP, striking out 21.5% and walking 12.3%. If that walk rate looks high, it is and he will need to tame his command going forward. While Perez had a stretch when he looked like he would be able to rein in the walks–he walked just 12 over a 34 2/3 inning stretch from May 4 to June 1, walking more than two batters once, and throwing at least five innings in all of those outings–he soon struggled again, walking five on July 3, four on July 21 (despite throwing six scoreless innings) and four in just two innings on August 17. Perez has strikeout stuff, with nine Ks in six innings on June 28 and seven in just four innings on August 27, but he needs to throw more strikes to keep moving. I think the Jays test him in Triple-A next year.
Lefty Zach Logue had a tremendous 2018 but struggled to follow it up in 2019 with a promotion to New Hampshire. The 23 year old logged 101 innings with a 4.10 ERA and 1.26 WHIP, striking out 18.6% of batters and walking 7.5%. Logue had an early season outing in Buffalo, throwing 3 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on five hits and four walks with four strikeouts and a hit batter. Logue also missed most of July and half of August with an injury, going on the DL after three consecutive poor outings, allowing a total of 17 runs and six home runs in just 15 2/3 innings. While he was used in a limited role coming off the DL, he fared much better, giving up just two runs in eight innings with five hits and four walks and eight strikeouts. I think Logue will start 2020 in New Hampshire but if he’s healthy and pitching well, he could move to Buffalo (if there’s room) within a couple of months.
Another pitcher expected to have a big season in 2019 was Patrick Murphy who got rave reviews (from more than just yours truly) in spring training. The 24 year old got dealt a rough hand when umpires informed him that he was pitching illegally, tapping the toe on his left foot on the ground before continuing to stride towards the plate. Murphy had to revamp his mechanics on the fly and struggled with control. He also spent time on the IL, pitching just once after July 13. Overall, Murphy had a 4.71 ERA and 1.21 WHIP over 84 innings for New Hampshire, striking out a solid 23.6% of batters and walking 7.4%. He did also get plenty of balls on the round, allowing grounders on 51.1% of balls in play. Hopefully he’ll be pitching well and healthy in 2020 and could start in New Hampshire for a brief stint but if he has a good spring, he could come up to Buffalo to start and could be pitching in Toronto by the end of the year.
Now the Blue Jays’ top prospect, big righty Nate Pearson showed the world what he can do in 2019 after only pitching in one regular league game in 2018. Because of his lack of pitching in 2018, the Jays treated Pearson’s arm cautiously, having him alternate two-inning and five-inning starts. Pearson, 23, started his climb in Dunedin, throwing six times with a stellar 0.86 ERA and and tiny 0.62 WHIP, striking out a whopping 46.7% of batters he faced and walking just 4.0%. He moved up to New Hampshire and continued to face down the competition. Over 62 2/3 innings, he had a 2.59 ERA and 0.99 WHIP, striking out 28.3% of batters and walking 8.6%. Pearson started pitching more innings in late July, throwing between five and six innings in each of his last five starts with New Hampshire. He moved up to Buffalo for a late-season call up, making three starts and starting his Triple-A career with a stellar seven-inning outing against Rochester, allowing just three hits without walking anyone and striking out three. He struck out seven over six innings in his next start and got touched up a bit against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in his third and final outing for the Bisons, allowing four runs in five innings. Overall, his numbers in Buffalo had him posting a 3.00 ERA and 0.83 WHIP with a 21.7% strikeout rate and 4.4% walk rate. Clearly, Pearson is ready to start in Buffalo but I can see a slow start to his season, keeping him in Florida to start the year to take it easy before giving him a month or two in Buffalo (when it warms up a bit) before he eventually rises to Toronto to begin his big league career.
The Blue Jays acquired 25-year-old righty (just turning 25 at the end of September) Tom Hatch as the return for trading David Phelps to the Chicago Cubs. Hatch spent the first part of the year pitching for the Double-A Tennessee Smokies in the Cubs’ system, tossing 100 innings with a 4.59 ERA and 1.41 WHIP, striking out 21.5% and walking 8.6%. In a small sample size with the Fisher Cats though, Hatch was outstanding, posting a 2.80 ERA and 0.76 WHIP over 35 1/3 innings with a 26.6% strikeout rate and miniscule 1.6% walk rate. Hatch got way more balls on the ground in New Hampshire (51.1% GB% over a 35.2% GB% in Tennessee) and the staff in New Hampshire may have tweaked his pitch usage, although it could be due to the league not knowing about his stuff. Either way, I think Hatch could move up to Triple-A in 2020 thanks to a full year of experience at the level, although there may not be enough space there, depending on how many pitchers the Blue Jays bring in during the offseason.
Jon Harris had a rough season. Out with an injury for most of it, when he tried to come back, he allowed seven runs in 2 2/3 innings for Dunedin before moving up to New Hampshire. In NH, he had a good debut, pitching three scoreless innings, allowing three hits and striking out two but allowed three runs in two-plus innings in his next outing. In his third outing, he got his only win of the season, tossing five runs of three-hit ball, allowing a run on a solo home run with five strikeouts and no walks but in his next appearance, he didn’t get out of the fourth inning, allowing five runs on eight hits (including a home run) in 3 1/3. He went back on the IL and emerged at the end of the season, allowing a run on three hits with two strikeouts in one inning in the GCL. Hopefully Harris will be able to recover in the offseason and get another chance in 2020, likely in New Hampshire.
22-year-old Kyle Johnston didn’t really make a great impression on the Blue Jays after he was acquired from the Washington Nationals at the trade deadline. He had a 4.03 ERA and 1.23 WHIP with the Nationals’ Advanced-A club in Potomac, striking out 100 and walking 37 in 105 innings. After the trade, however, Johnston tossed 19 2/3 innings and wasn’t able to find his control, walking 22.0% of batters while striking out only 14.3%. He’ll probably return to Dunedin after a fresh start to 2020.
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