The Toronto Blue Jays announced their internal invitees to Major League spring training, giving 15 players the chance to work out with the big boys. The list included some of the Jays’ top prospects who aren’t yet on the 40-man roster as well as a couple of players who signed minor league deals so far this offseason.
Whether it’s indicative of the Blue Jays’ commitment to using their home-grown (and recently acquired) minor leaguers to provide major league depth throughout the season or not, there are only three players who the Blue Jays signed this offseason who got spring invites.
The Blue Jays invited the following players to major league spring training: Pitchers Javy Guerra, Zach Jackson, Mark Leiter, Shawn Morimando, Willy Ortiz, Justin Shafer and T.J. Zeuch, Catchers Patrick Cantwell and Max Pentecost, Infielders Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Santiago Espinal, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Eric Sogard, and Outfielder Forrest Wall
The only three players who were signed this offseason are Javy Guerra and Willy Ortiz on the pitching side and Eric Sogard on the hitting side. The rest are guys whom you would expect to see, with Mark Leiter and Shawn Morimando kind of falling below the radar but I think some within the organization are really high on Morimando, particularly seeing that he went to the Arizona Fall League.
Patrick Cantwell might elicit a few “who’s that?” questions but he’s been a solid player when healthy for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats over the past couple of years. He’s 28 now and catchers are always needed in spring training to catch the plethora of pitchers in camp.
On the infield, the Blue Jays are inviting a number of prospects who are expected to either play in Toronto at some point this year or who are close. With Bichette, Biggio and Guerrero, we’re seeing the future of the franchise, all of whom are expected to start in Buffalo (and Guerrero is, of course, expected to spend most of the year in Toronto). Espinal, if you recall, was acquired in the trade that sent Steve Pearce to Boston and the club is high on him and he’s put up some decent if not eye opening numbers in Dunedin and New Hampshire. Sogard is a veteran minor league signee who will be in Buffalo to start and will likely be an emergency replacement on the middle infield if the Jays are hit by a rash of injuries that take out the guys ahead of him on the depth chart.
Finally, Forrest Wall gets the nod over some other non-roster outfielders like Roemon Fields (who will likely show up in big league games at some point) and, given the number of outfielders on the 40-man roster that need to be seen (Teoscar Hernandez, Kevin Pillar, Randal Grichuk, Billy McKinney, Anthony Alford, Jonathan Davis and Dalton Pompey), there likely won’t be a ton of playing time for any non-roster invitees, particularly after mid-March.
No headlines were made when the Blue Jays signed a couple of minor league pitchers to the organization. They picked up 23-year-old Dominican righty Willy Ortiz after he elected to take free agency after being with the Tampa Bay organization for the first part of his career. He had a 3.74 ERA and 1.25 WHIP, mostly as a starter with Charlotte in the Advanced-A Florida State League, striking out 20.6% and walking 9.3%. He did miss the last part of the season with an injury and it’s likely that his invite to spring training with the Blue Jays was a carrot dangled to entire the youngster with no experience above Advanced-A to sign with the club. He’s been assigned (on paper) to the Buffalo Bisons but could start the year either in Dunedin or in New Hampshire.
Javy Guerra is another minor league free agent signed by the Blue Jays recently. Guerra, 33, is more of a candidate for the Jays’ bullpen or to be a veteran depth pitcher to be called upon in an emergency. The Texan righty has spent several years bouncing around since his major league debut in 2011 with the L.A. Dodgers. He’s made 201 big-league appearances, tossing 213 1/3 innings with a 3.42 ERA and 1.42 WHIP with 171 strikeouts and 94 walks, mostly in the National League. Last year, he pitched with Miami to the tune of a 5.55 ERA and 1.51 WHIP, striking out 30 and walking 12 in 35 2/3 innings.
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