We’re two weeks (give or take) into the season for the Toronto Blue Jays’ minor league affiliates and it’s time to see what small sample sizes are telling us. Since the post was starting to get long, you’ll get it in two parts. First up, the Buffalo Bisons and New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
Top Prospect: Rowdy Tellez
Since his massive opening game with the Bisons in which he hit two home runs, Tellez has only hit .147 without any extra-base hits. He has walked a fair bit and that could very well be because he’s getting fewer good pitches to hit.
Other Prospects: Dwight Smith, Jr.
Smith has been a bit more consistent than Rowdy and has been a more active contributor to the club. With two home runs and eight RBI, Smith’s .289/.357/.500 slash line is very solid for a 24 year old making his first Triple-A appearance
Up-and-Coming: Jason Leblebijian
The Buffalo Bisons’ success with the bats has gotten a huge benefit from Jason Leblebijian’s bat. While some might have thought his progress last year with the bat might have been an illusion, he has carried that success through to 2017, hitting .344/.447/.656, playing in all 11 of the club’s games, leading them in home runs (3) and RBI (10).
Starters: T.J. House
While 35-year-old Jarrett Grube has been very good for the Bisons’, anchoring their rotation after Casey Lawrence got a couple of call ups to the majors, House, 27, has been even better, with an 0.77 ERA and 0.86 WHIP through 11 2/3 innings, striking out 12 and walking five.
Bullpen: Danny Barnes
Barnes’s eight strikeouts in six innings has gotten him a call up to the major league club but the big number for Danny is the fact that he hasn’t walked anyone in Buffalo so far.
New Hampshire Fisher Cats
Top Prospect: Anthony Alford
Alford has been unstoppable with the bat so far in his first crack at Double-A. He’s got a .514/.605/.657 slash line and, while we’d all like him to hit a little more gap power, I think there’s little more he can do. He’s only been kept hitless once in 10 games and has gotten on base in every game. He also has six stolen bases in 10 games (partly because he’s on base more than 60% of the time) and it looks like his knee injuries from last year aren’t holding him back on the basepaths anymore.
Top Prospect: Richard Urena
So far, Urena hasn’t hit much, to the tune of a .211/.279/.237 slash line. He’s struck out 13 times in 43 plate appearances (30.2%) but, he is taking more walks with four thus far (9.3%). We may still be seeing Urena in the process of adjusting to a new approach at the plate and more positive results could take time.
Other Prospects: Reese McGuire
McGuire has been hit or miss. He has just five hits in seven games, but two of them have been home runs.
Other Prospects: Ryan McBroom
While he hasn’t gone “McBoom” yet this year, McBroom is hitting above .300, with a .439 OBP.
Other Prospects: Harold Ramirez
Ramirez, who was praised to me in spring training by some of the Jays’ staff, hasn’t gotten off to a great start, hitting just .103/.161/.138 in eight games. Still, Ramirez has hit all throughout his career and I think this is just a slow start.
Up-and-Coming: Gunnar Heidt
Is his start to the season just a small sample size? Or is getting out of Florida nothing but helpful for Gunnar? Heidt’s .231/.302/.487 slash line isn’t the best, particularly in the average and OBP portions, but he has a share of the team lead with three home runs (with backup catcher(!) Raffy Lopez).
Up-and-Coming: Jonathan Davis
Davis’s .296/.472/.444 slash line is everything I’ve been hoping from this 25 year old since I first saw him in Rookie Ball in 2013. And I don’t even think he’s really all that hot right now.
Top Prospect: Sean Reid-Foley
Reid-Foley has gotten off to a rough start to his Double-A career, not getting out of the second inning in his first two outings and having his second one cut short at three innings. His walks are up again but I’m willing to ignore his April and pay more attention to what he does the rest of the year. Despite the mature moustache that he sports, Reid-Foley is still just 21.
Top Prospect: Conner Greene
Despite being less than half a year older than Reid-Foley (Greene just turned 22 on April 4), with much more Double-A time under his belt, I think the brakes are off Greene a little more than Reid-Foley. Still, he’s struggling with his control (nine walks in 9 1/3 innings) but hasn’t been giving up much solid contact, allowing just five hits in the same span and just one extra-base hit. If he throws more strikes, Greene might just start to mow through opposing lineups with his fastball that approaches 100 mph.
Up-and-Coming: Jose Fernandez
One run on four hits in six innings of relief. With 12 strikeouts. That’s been Fernandez’s year so far. I’ll say it again: he impressed me a ton in spring training. I think the lefty is finally coming into his own at the age of 24.
Up-and-Coming: Carlos Ramirez
Ramirez has only been pitching since part-way through the 2014 season and, while it’s taken some time for him to figure things out, he’s been able to be dominant while taking his mid-90s fastball and solid slider to the next level in Double-A. Ramirez hasn’t given up an earned run in 7 1/3 innings, allowing only two hits and two walks with 10 strikeouts.
Personal Favourite: Chris Rowley
I was a little surprised when Rowley got the assignment to head to New Hampshire to start the year. But after seeing Rowley churn through a lineup in spring training, he’s bringing savvy beyond the number of years he’s actually spent pitching professionally after his four years at West Point and pitching for Army. Rowley has allowed two runs in 8 2/3 innings, with just one walks and seven strikeouts. His stuff isn’t sexy but he knows what he’s doing on the mound.
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