We conclude our in-depth look at the New Hampshire Fisher Cats by looking at the hitters. If a player split his season by playing for more than one team, keep in mind he’ll be considered with the team for which he had the most plate appearances.
Italian catcher Alberto Mineo, 25, actually led the Fisher Cats in games behind the plate playing 83 games in total and catching 61. He followed up what was a very strong offensive season in 2018 with a relatively weak one, hitting just .220/.296/.313 with nine doubles, two triples and five home runs over 339 plate appearances, walking in 8.6% of them and striking out in a disturbing 29.8% of them, a career high. Behind the plate, Mineo looked good, throwing out 40% of potential base stealers while committing 14 passed balls in those 61 games. Look for Mineo back in New Hampshire if he’s back with the Jays’ organization as his contract may be up.
Riley Adams, 23, was the more “prospecty” catcher on the Fisher Cats. Starting his season in Dunedin, the Jays’ third-round pick in 2017 hit a solid .277/.434/.462 in 19 games back in Advanced-A Dunedin, hitting three doubles and three home runs, walking in 16.9% of plate appearances and striking out in 21.7%. He was promoted to New Hampshire and put up some decent overall numbers although there were some concerning ones as well. Adams slumped badly in June (.176/.256/.203) but recovered with a solid July and a strong August to hit .258/.349/.439 overall with 15 doubles, two triples and 11 home runs. His walk rate regressed to 9.6%, still solid, but his strikeout rate skyrocketed to 31.6% giving us some area for concern as his BABIP was quite high at .362. If the BABIP regresses and he’s not putting the ball in play any more, he could see a big drop in his overall numbers in 2020. Adams had a strong year behind the plate, throwing out 31% of potential base stealers and had just eight passed balls in 57 games. I think he’ll start back in Double-A but could move to Triple-A if both Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire open in Toronto and the Jays don’t go out and get another minor league catcher for depth.
Andres Sotillo, 25, didn’t get into much action in 2019 and is a typical organizational catcher, spending time on the “Phantom IL” when he’s not needed but will be ready to get some action when he’s activated. Sotillo played in just 13 games with New Hampshire, hitting .205/.250/.227 with a double, eight strikeouts and two walks in 48 plate plate appearances. He also played one game with Buffalo, going 0/2 with a walk and a strikeout. Sotillo’s contract may not be still effective after this year and he may not be back in 2020.
Ryan Hissey, 25, retired after playing 12 games, hitting .225/.340/.325 with a double and a home run and retired in May.
25-year-old first baseman Christian Williams finally got to play a significant number of games. Williams started with 29 games in Dunedin, hitting .301/.368/.398 with five doubles and two home runs, posting a walk rate of 8.8% with a very high strikeout rate of 35.2%. He moved up to New Hampshire to play another 70 games with a .228/.276/.342 slash line, hitting 14 doubles, three triples and four home runs while striking out a whopping 113 times (37.5%) and walking 5.3%. Williams will need to regress those walk and strikeout rates in order to be more productive as the pitching gets more competitive in Double-A. Look for him to get another crack in New Hampshire in 2020.
Santiago Espinal, the player the Blue Jays got in return for trading Steve Pearce to the Red Sox, took another step as a prospect. Starting the year in New Hampshire, he played 94 games and was one of the club’s most solid offensive players, hitting .278/.343/.383 with 21 doubles, a triple and five home runs, with a solid 8.6% walk rate and a very low 12.2% strikeout rate. Promoted to Buffalo, Espinal was buoyed by a .392 BABIP, hitting .317/.360/.433 with six doubles and two home runs in 104 at bats, seeing his strikeout rate rise to 20.5% while his walk rate dropped to 6.3%. Espinal is another infield whom the Jays could probably find a use for in a utility role sometime in 2020. He’ll probably start in Buffalo but his offensive profile is unlikely to indicate that he’ll be a starter, particularly with Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio entrenching themselves on the Blue Jays’ infield.
Kevin Smith had his ups and downs in his Age-22 season (though he turned 23 on July 4), playing for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. While his final slash line of .209/.263/.402 isn’t great, it could have been a lot worse as he was hitting just .183/.244/.346 until the end of June. A stellar July (but a poor August) had fans hoping that Smith had figured out his swing and he finished with respectable power numbers, hitting 22 doubles, two triples and 19 home runs for the Fisher CAts but struck out 151 times for a 32.3% strikeout rate while walking in 6.2% of his plate appearances. Smith went to the Arizona Fall League where (at the time of this writing) things weren’t any better so he has his work cut out for him this off season and will likely repeat Double-A until he can cut down his strikeouts and make more consistent contact.
Versatile Nash Knight had a solid season for the Fisher Cats, playing 102 games with a .252/.365/.381 slash line, hitting 22 doubles, a triple and seven home runs while walking in 12.8% of his plate appearances and striking out in just 20.7%. He did get three games in Buffalo and was 1/12 with a double but struck out five times with one walk. Knight pitched a third of an inning for New Hampshire, giving up two runs (one earned) on a hit ( a home run), facing just two batters. Knight will probably be a useful utility player for New Hampshire or maybe Buffalo next year (more probably both), as he played first, third and left field in 2019.
23-year-old Vinny Capra played just 25 games in Lansing in 2018 (and 39 in Vancouver) before jumping to New Hampshire in 2019. He played in 110 games with 435 plate appearances and hit .229/.295/.309 with a solid walk rate of 7.6% and decent strikeout rate of 19.1%. Still, Capra needs to hit the ball with more authority as he had 20 doubles but only one triples and three home runs. He’ll probably return to New Hampshire.
Logan Warmoth, 24, is a former first rounder looking for his place in the organization. Starting in Dunedin, Warmoth, hit .292/.380/.423 in 158 plate appearances with seven doubles, a triple and three home runs before he was promoted to New Hampshire. In Double-A, however, Warmoth struggled, hittin g.200/.290/.277 with 11 doubles and three triples, stealing 12 bases (in 14 tries) but seeing his strikeout rate jump to 29.1% (from 25.9% in Dunedin) and his walk rate drop to 8.7% (from 12.0% in Dunedin). Sent to the Arizona Fall League, Warmoth is having best Fall season of any of the Blue Jays’ hitters and is getting time at second, third as well as in center and left field. While his power hasn’t materialized in Double-A, Warmoth is trending upwards while his cohort-mate Kevin Smith’s stock is falling. Can Warmoth have a good 2020 and improve his positioning even more? I think he’ll start back in New Hampshire to try to do just that.
Brandon Grudzielanek, 24, was released by the Blue Jays after hitting .156/.191/.178 in 13 games with the Fisher Cats, hitting just a double and striking out 20 times.
Gunnar Heidt was always a solid player and teammate for whichever team he was on but his road to the majors with the Blue Jays came to an end after he was released in 2019 after playing 14 games with New Hampshire and seven with Buffalo, combining for a .133/.207/.213 line with three doubles and a home run (all with New Hampshire).
Another player to come over to the Blue Jays in the deal with Colorado to send Seung-hwan Oh in 2018 was Forrest Wall. Wall played 109 games with the Fisher Cats, posing some of his best offensive numbers in his career, hitting .270/.353/.419 over 109 games with 27 doubles, four triples and nine home runs, stealing 13 bases in 21 tries. He got a late-season promotion to Buffalo, hitting .255/.340/.447 with three doubles and two more home runs (giving him a career high of 11). Wall’s 10.4% walk rate went up in Buffalo to 11.3% while his 23.2% strikeout rate also rose in Triple-A to 26.4%. With a lot of outfielders in the Jays’ mix for 2020 but none who really profile as elite hitters, there is an opportunity if Wall can turn things up another notch in Buffalo in 2020.
Brock Lundquist had a quiet but strong 2018 with Lansing and Dunedin but he floundered a bit in his first exposure to Double-A, hitting .232/.308/.351 with 20 doubles, three triples and six home runs in 413 plate appearances with New Hampshire. His strikeout rate was a tad high at 25.4% and his walk rate was solid at 9.0% but we’d like to see a bit more of his power manifest at the higher level. He’ll likely start 2020 back in New Hampshire.
Another player who struggled in Double-A was Chad Spanberger, the 6-foot-3, 235-pound slugger who came to the Blue Jays from the Rockies’ organization at the deadline in 2018. In his Double-A debut, he hit .237/.308/.399 with a 9.0% walk rate and 24.4% strikeout rate, hitting 29 doubles, a triple and 13 home runs in 480 plate appearances. Spanberger’s numbers overall weren’t that bad but without speed to beat out balls, he’ll need to have more hits drop (or go over the fence). He’ll be back in Double-A next year but we’ll see if he plays as much left field in 2020 as he did in 2019.
Joshua Palacios had a quiet but solid Double-A debut (well, for a full season, he got into one regular season game in 2018 as well as the playoffs). Spending the entire 2019 in New Hampshire (except for a stint on the IL), Palacios hit a solid .266/.371/.416 with 18 doubles, two triples and seven home runs, stealing 15 bases in 20 tries while walking in 13.2% of his 341 plate appearances and striking out in 20.5%. Palacios could be up for a promotion to Buffalo next year but it may not come at the beginning of the year as there could be a crowd blocking up his opportunities.
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