In a very under-the-radar move, the Blue Jays released eight minor league players last week: Shawn Griffith from Dunedin, Casey Beck from Lansing, Matt Johnson and Tim Brechbuehler from Vancouver and Shaun Valeriote, Brandon Dorsett, Nico Taylor and Justin D’Alessandro from Bluefield.
These guys are almost all relief pitchers (except Nico Taylor and Shaun Valeriote) and all were playing at levels that are way below their age-level. The news of their release isn’t exactly surprising. I’ll do a little bit of lazy blogging and cut and paste what I wrote about each of them in my season ending reports here.
26-year-old Shawn Griffith has been in the Blue Jays’ organization since being drafted in the 37th round in the 2009 draft. The veteran has been kicking around the A-ball level since 2010 without a lot of success. In 2013, Griffith, a 5’10″ righty, had a rough go in 23 innings in Dunedin, posting a 5.87 ERA and a 1.74 WHIP with a whopping 18 walks to go along with 23 strikeouts. In a five-inning audition in New Hampshire, Griffith gave up four runs but seemed to have better control, striking out four with just one walk. The future is cloudy for Griffith. At such an advanced age without a long track record of success with the organization, he may not return to the Blue Jays in 2014.
I didn’t write about 26-year-old Casey Beck who was injured and hasn’t pitched since 2012. Beck was a minor league free agent signed in 2009 and with his injury history and the fact that he hasn’t played at a level above A+ Dunedin, I think the Blue Jays decided to make room for someone else.
Matthew Johnson has been in the Jays’ system since signing as a non-drafted free agent in 2010 and spent some time in Lansing this year. He returned to Vancouver as a 25 year old and will need to move up through the system a bit quicker in order keep a job. Johnson quietly put together a very good season for the C’s throwing 31 1/3 innings with a 2.30 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP and only 6 walks but also only 12 strikeouts. It’s the strikeouts that are worrisome for Johnson because without the ability to put hitters away at higher levels, Johnson could get stuck in the system. I’ve already written about the challenges that pitchers face going from Vancouver for Lansing and I think that guys like Johnson really exemplify that. If he doesn’t start the season in Lansing or Dunedin, I think Johnson is going to be looking for a new job.
Gargantuan (6’8″) reliever Tim Brechbuehler (11 2/3 IP, 10.80 ERA, 2.84 WHIP, 12 BB, 12 K) spent most of this season on the disabled list but didn’t pitch well when he was active. However, the good strikeout total and teams’ tendencies to like big pitchers probably sees the 23 year old coming back next year, if not in Vancouver then somewhere else.
Brandon Dorsett was another non-drafted free agent from 2012 who came up to Vancouver after a season in Bluefield. His transition wasn’t as smooth as some of the other players’, throwing 19 innings with a 7.58 ERA, a 1.86 WHIP, 16 walks and 8 strikeouts. With a 2:1 ratio of walks to strikeouts (ideally that ratio is the other way around), Dorsett is looking at an off-season of trying to figure out how to improve. I have no trouble seeing him return to Vancouver although if he was promoted next season and had a good year, it wouldn’t be the first case of a player getting promoted and playing better at a higher level.
Justin D’Alessandro got a taste of Vancouver before being demoted to Bluefield. The 23-year-old righty struggled with his control a great deal at both levels and he may be running out of chances to show that he belongs in the Jays organization. A 2012 non-drafted free agent, D’Alessandro posted a 7.94 ERA in Bluefield with a 2.38 WHIP with 8 walks and 11 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings. There are positives: The 11 Ks show that he can get (Rookie League) batters out and his BABIP was a sky-high .421 to give him a better 5.65 WHIP. I’m not sure where he ends up next year. I actually didn’t pay much attention when I saw him pitch (aside from noting the lack of control) and he’s probably one of those guys that can get lost in a bullpen. Hopefully he can turn things around next year.
I condensed what I wrote about Shaun Valeriote, a Guelph, Ontario native, because he really didn’t get much playing time all year. In fact, Valeriote only had one hit (and eight walks) in 34 plate appearances. While he’s only 23, it’s not surprising at all that he was released.
The one player whose release surprised me was Nico Taylor. He played very well at Bluefield when he had the chance to play but his age (23) and the level really worked against him getting a shot with the Blue Jays organization. I wrote this: “Taylor, a 38th round pick from 2011, has had scouts drooling over his athleticism and was able to translate that into results over the 78 plate appearances he got in Bluefield. He showed excellent plate discipline (13 walks and 13 strikeouts) and also hit with some pop (6 doubles and 2 home runs) with a .262/.385/.446 slash line.” I can see Taylor getting a shot with another team at a higher level next year.