This post is the fourth part of an eight-part series that will be my attempt to predict the Opening Day rosters for the Blue Jays’ four full-season minor league teams which start their seasons on April 9.
Each post will have a complementary “Countdown to Baseball” profile of one of the players. You can see this post by becoming a registered member of Blue Jays from Away for free! Just click on the link and follow the simple instructions!
I’ve usually found that the Dunedin Blue Jays’ roster is one of the easier ones to predict. Generally, players who were successful in Lansing the previous year, combined with players who may have gotten their feet wet in Dunedin a bit will make up the bulk of the roster.
As usual, there’s no way I’ll get everything right. There are also going to be surprises; there’s always at least one player who skips Lansing and goes straight to Dunedin.
I’ll write about this a little bit more in my articles on the position players for New Hampshire and Buffalo but, unless there’s a trade at the major league level, I think Jorge Saez will get 65% of the everyday catching load in Dunedin. He was successful there in half a season last year and has been excellent defensively. While he might thrive if put in a situation to start in New Hampshire, I think that the system is just too clogged at the moment for that to happen.
Mike Reeves was a 2013 draft pick who comes from Peterborough, Ontario who showed some promise with the bat in his draft year. In his second professional year, he took a step back, hitting just .213/.312/.257. Solid defensively, I think Reeves will return to Dunedin to be a backup but could be fairly mobile as catchers are needed.
Pierce Rankin and Daniel Klein have been back up catchers in the Jays system for a little while now. Rankin hasn’t been able to do much with the bat and could be a fill in guy who goes where he’s needed. Klein, on the other hand, has shown a little more potential with the bat and has some pop but isn’t necessarily as good with the glove by some of the reports I’ve gotten.
Finally, Justin Atkinson could certainly move up to Dunedin, considering the season he had last year at the plate. He makes solid contact and is probably working on driving the ball more but he’ll be new to catching in 2015. That alone could mean that he gets held back in extended spring training to work on some defensive skills that will, no doubt, be fairly raw.
Dean was one of the best hitters for the Lansing Lugnuts last season and, while he didn’t get a late-season call up, he’ll almost certainly start 2015 in Dunedin.
Dantzler, a 14th-round pick in 2013, had a tremendous first pro season with Vancouver in 2013 but put up decent, but not eye-popping, numbers in 2014 while struggling through injuries. I can see him back in Dunedin to start 2015 as a DH/1B and will try to recapture the power that he showed in 2013.
Thon also had another solid season in Lansing, hitting .265/.314/.359 although his 117 strikeouts were were more than you’d like to see. Thon tended to be streaky as well and will look to address that. He could very well end up in the outfield in Dunedin after getting some looks there in Lansing last year, but I’ll leave him here for now.
After going back and forth on whether I was going to include Lopes, I decided that, in my heart of hearts, I think he’s starting in Dunedin. While he was incredible down in Australia, he wasn’t bad in Dunedin last year and showed a little more consistency than in the previous year in Lansing. I think it’s a numbers game in New Hampshire and that he’s going to be stuck repeating High-A, at least to start the season.
Nay has already shown some pop in 2015, hitting a home run in the intrasquad game. I’ll write more about him in the profile but after finishing 2014 with the D-Jays, he’ll be back for at least half a season.
Lugo has been somewhat enigmatic for the Blue Jays but the raw tools are there. I can see him moving up to Dunedin just to clear room for Richard Urena to play every day in Lansing. Lugo has the tools to hit in Dunedin but will have to make significant adjustments to his approach. Defensively, he’ll probably stick at shortstop for at least one more year before the Blue Jays make a decision about where he’s going to end up.
These two guys, for me, are no brainers. I think Harris has a ton of potential with strong wrists and a powerful swing that get the most out of his size. Defensively he’s played quite a bit both at third base and in the outfield and so I can see him being a really valuable player.
Leblebijian has shown that he can hit a bit and is probably one of the best defenders that I’ve had a chance to see over a longer period of time (I’ve only seen Urena a little bit). Leblebijian has great range, outstanding instincts and a plus arm and he can play second, short and third. If Lugo can model Leblebijian’s work ethic and approach to the game, he’d be a star.
Other Possible Infielders
Here’s where I think things can get interesting. I think either Locastro or Heidt could jump up and start 2015 in Dunedin. Atkinson will also play the infield if he does get a full-season assignment.
I think that D.J. Davis gets a Dunedin assignment. To my mind, it’s extremely tough to make a first-round pick like Davis repeat a level and go back to Lansing. Could they send him back to Lansing and send him a message? Absolutely. I still think that he shows a little bit of improvement over the fall instructional league and spring training and gives the team the confidence that he can hold his own in Dunedin.
Chaz Frank is another utility-type outfielder who will be an extra either in Dunedin or Lansing but I’m leaning more towards Dunedin. He has a way of working walks and is a solid on-base guy who can play anywhere in the outfield.
Derrick Loveless was probably the most consistent Lansing Lugnut last year. He has the ability to make solid contact and was really starting to tap into some of the power in his big, strong frame. He’ll be Dunedin’s starting right fielder.
Ian Parmley was up and down and spent some time in Dunedin showing some decent ability to get on base. He runs well and can play all three outfield positions and should be on the club as a back up.
The Dark Horse
With so many outfielders, I really am not entirely sure where Anthony Alford is going to end up. He could very well start the season in Lansing (and probably will) but, as I wrote in the column on the Lansing position players, I think that it’s already going to be a crowded outfield. Anthony Alford will definitely play every day wherever he goes and he’s only played center field (at least in competitive games). It’s going to be one of the things that I look for when minor league spring training games start (on the 17th of March): where is Alford playing and with whom.
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