This post is the final part of an
eight-part nine-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.
There will be a complementary “Countdown to Baseball” post published on Friday that will feature a member of the projected Buffalo Bisons offense.
Over the past couple of seasons (and probably longer, but I’ve only been blogging for about 2 1/2 years), the Buffalo Bisons’ roster of position players has trended towards minor league veterans with a smattering of major league experience who could be expected to provide experience and the ability to play a short-term role with the major league club in case of injury. The Blue Jays have taken advantage of some of these players at times (Munenori Kawasaki, Chris Getz, Steve Tolleson) while others have come and gone without a sniff of the majors (Mike Nickeas, Ricardo Nanita, Brett Carroll). Who on the 2015 Buffalo Bisons will get a(nother) opportunity to show what he can do in the majors? Are there any up-and-coming prospects to look out for?
Other Possible Catchers
A.J. Jimenez is clearly going to be the everyday catcher for the Buffalo Bisons. The 24-year-old Puerto Rican with a cannon of an arm has been stellar defensively in spring training but, with the logjam in Toronto with newly signed Russell Martin, Dioner Navarro and possibly Thole all expected to the make the big league club this year, 2015 is not going to be Jimenez’s year.
Ochinko had some issues leading into 2014. He was suspended towards the end of the 2013 for using amphetamines and, when he did get back into action, he sustained a concussion that kept him out for another three months. He did play in the Arizona Fall League but he’s been the forgotten man around here. Still, he has shown some pop in his bat and will probably back up Jimenez in Buffalo.
Murphy is a great organizational catcher but he’s probably going to be the type of guy who’s sent where he’s needed which could be either Double-A New Hampshire or Triple-A Buffalo.
Finally, if Thole doesn’t make the Blue Jays’ Opening Day squad, he’ll be in Buffalo, but I don’t think that’s happening, especially if Dioner Navarro gets traded.
One of these three players will probably be the odd man out, meaning that I don’t think he’ll survive the season with the Blue Jays’ organization.
Barton was brought in to compete for a job as a left-handed hitting first baseman/DH on the Blue Jays but since he’s only got a minor league contract, he’s probably going to end up in Buffalo. He’s got a lot of MLB experience but hasn’t been able to match his almost .400 OBP in 2010. He has one hit in 17 plate appearances so far in Spring Training so he’s not doing himself any favours.
Fox is another career minor leaguer who’s now 32 and has only managed to get 534 plate appearances at the major league level with his best numbers coming in 2009 with the Chicago Cubs, hitting .259/.311/.468 with 11 home runs in 241 plate appearances. If he can do that in Buffalo, that would be pretty awesome, actually. He’s only had two plate appearances in major league spring training and I expect him to get sent to minor league camp fairly soon but may hang on until Edwin Encarnacion feels good enough to play.
Matt Hague is probably the player with the most big league upside despite getting a very small look in 2012 and an even smaller one in 2014. Mostly a gap hitter, Hague, 29, can also play third base and slugged in 13 games in Buffalo at the end of last year. Hague is the only player in this group who is on the 40-man roster and is also hitting very well in limited opportunities in spring training, with four hits (including a double) and a hit-by-pitch in nine plate appearances.
Goins is probably most likely to end up playing more shortstop with the Jays seriously looking at Travis as their second baseman of the future. Goins has actually been a decent (if not spectacular) hitter at the Triple-A level and has been hitting fairly well in spring training (5/14 but without any walks). With Maicer Izturis looking healthy and with minor league options remaining, Goins’s most likely outcome of spring training is to get sent to Buffalo.
Travis is almost certainly going to start the season as the everyday second baseman for the Bisons. I’m very curious to see how he hits and how he fields in Triple-A. He has gotten off to a slow start this spring despite being given ample opportunities.
In the past couple of years, the Jays have signed some veteran players to play third base in Buffalo (Jared Goedert, Andy LaRoche) but this year, they’ll probably have someone homegrown.
If I was making the decisions around here, I would put Burns at third base every day in Buffalo and see what he’s got. He’s had hot and cold streaks but I’ve seen first hand how much talent there is and what he can do when he finds a groove. I’ve seen him make some stellar defensive plays, hit some home runs on tough pitches and I’ve seen him struggle a bit but he’s definitely has the tools.
Ryan Schimpf has probably run out of things to prove in Double-A New Hampshire after tying for the club lead in home runs in only 50 games. He went on to lead the Jays’ system in homers in 2015 after hitting another nine for Buffalo and should be a regular in some capacity for the Bisons. Schimpf can play second, third and the outfield and should find a spot in the batting order about five times a week.
I think that Ryan Goins is going to be the everyday shortstop with Devon Travis at second. Playing his natural position, Goins will probably have to show more with the bat to get a call up to the majors this year and, when I say “show more with the bat,” I mean that he’s going to have to get on base a lot more by taking some walks.
Diaz returned to the Jays after having his bat exposed at the big league level last year. He’s a great utility man and has one of the best gloves I’ve seen but with a fringy arm and a weak bat, he’ll probably be low on the 2015 depth for someone to call up to the big club if there’s an injury.
Kawasaki is another light-hitting player who will get some time at second, third and short with Buffalo. His presence is highly sought after on any team and he’s the ultimate team player. He’s shown that he can be fairly useful at the big league level thanks to his ability to work counts and get on base at a reasonable level making him among the top choices to get a call up if needed.
Santiago was signed this offseason is a veteran utility infielder who has hit .243/.314/.330 in almost 2800 plate appearances at the big league level. Another player on a minor league contract, Santiago has been mentioned as possibly sticking with the big league club but unless someone starts the year on the DL, I just don’t see that happening. He’s gone 5/11 so far with a walk in spring training so he may be making an impression on the brass.
Other Possible Infielders
Shortstop Kevin Nolan got a taste of Triple-A last year but unless players are lost to waivers, free agency or injury, he’ll probably be starting 2015 in New Hampshire.
With Michael Saunders looking more like he’ll be healthy for Opening Day, I have a feeling that Carrera will be in Buffalo to start the season. A center fielder who split last year between Toledo and Detroit last year, Carrera is a contact hitter who hits around the .300 mark in the minors with an OBP that is much higher but he’s had only limited success in the big leagues. He’s only 2/16 with a walk and seven strikeouts this spring and he’s also on a minor league contract meaning that he’s probably destined for Buffalo and will play center field every day.
Chris Colabello has some significant big league time under his belt and has been swinging the bat fairly well in spring training, going 5/16 with a double and a home run. The 31 year took a roundabout route to the majors and he’s not giving up just yet. Still, he’s on a minor league deal and he should start 2015 in Buffalo, playing right field and some first base (and DH).
When Michael Saunders went down with his injury, it was speculated that Chris Dickerson would be the beneficiary of the available playing time (beyond Pillar and Pompey) but he hasn’t done much with his opportunities this spring, hitting just 1/13 with three walks and a double. The 32 year old has played in the majors for parts of the last seven seasons, compiling a .257/.335/.395 slash line. On a minor league contract, he’ll likely start in Buffalo.
Andy Dirks is still recovering from back surgery and probably will start the year on the DL. Also on a minor league contract, Dirks could make his way to the major league squad if he gets healthy and starts to hit. He’s probably got the most upside of all the players assembled here.
Caleb Gindl has been putting on a show this spring with five extra-base hits of his six hits in 14 at bats (with two walks and a HBP) for a .429/.529/.857 line through eight games. Gindl has some playing time in the majors with Milwaukee and has a very good eye allowing him to get on base at a respectable rate even if his batting average is low. While he has some pop, it’s mostly gap power and the 26-year-old Floridian has gotten some attention this spring. He’s a dark horse to make the big league squad, especially if Saunders starts on the DL.
Dayan Viciedo has seen his chances of making the Blue Jays diminish thanks to a foot infection but he could very well be manning left field for the Bisons come April 9. Viciedo has big-league power, hitting 20 or more home runs twice in a season but hasn’t got on base at higher than a .304 rate in a year in which he’s played more than 40 games. The power is there but he needs to make more contact (after 122 strikeouts and just 32 walks last year with the White Sox. Still, Viciedo isn’t much of a defender and might be relegated to a DH role.
Other possible outfielders
Glenn has proven that he can hit at Triple-A but all of the minor league free agents that the Blue Jays have signed makes it hard for him to crack the Buffalo roster in April.
Mesa is another player with big league experience but, again, he’ll have to really have a great spring to grab a spot on the Bisons.
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