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We discovered, through Baseball America’s always useful Minor League Transactions post, that the Blue Jays have released a bunch of minor leaguers, mostly from the lower levels of the system. The club is likely looking to start the process of cutting down the number of players in the minor league system as all of baseball moves to a leaner player development model.
The Blue Jays released pitchers Felipe Castaneda, Juanfer Castro, Yohan Concepcion, Leo Correa, Austin Havekost, Alex Nolan, Blake Sanderson and Andrew Sopko while they also released three catchers – Omar Gutierrez, Jesus Hernandez and Geyber Jimenez – and outfielder Amin Araujo. Pitcher Brad Wilson, who had quite a lot of success in the mid minors, voluntarily retired.
Concepcion, Correa, Gutierrez and Araujo had never even played a professional game in the system when they were released. Castaneda, 20, is a Mexican righty that I actually saw pitch (poorly) on Opening Day in Vancouver in 2019 and after giving up four runs (two earned) on three hits and four walks in two innings, he was sent back to Bluefield where he had a 5.10 ERA and 1.55 WHIP in 47 2/3 innings.
Castro, 19, pitched well in the GCL but struggled a bit in the DSL in his only season in 2019. He had a 5.13 ERA and 1.56 WHIP in 33 1/3 in the DSL but that dropped to a 1.50 ERA and 1.17 WHIP over 12 innings in the GCL but he walked eight and struck out nine in that span.
Havekost, 24, was a 17th round draft pick in 2018 and didn’t play in his draft year. He split 2019 between the GCL and Bluefield and he was very effective in Bluefield, posting a 0.60 ERA and 080 WHIP over 15 innings, striking out 17 and walking four.
Nolan, 24, is probably the toughest release to swallow from a Canadian perspective. The Burlington, Ontario native was signed as a minor league free agent after attending Brock University and was effective for the Jays in Vancouver in 2019. There, he had a 3.22 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 58 2/3 innings, serving as a starter/follower in a piggyback situation. He struck out 35 and walked 11.
Blake Sanderson, 25, was a 31st round selection in 2019 and pitched effectively in the Gulf Coast League at the age of 23 in 2019. He threw 13 innings with a 1.38 ERA and 0.85 WHIP, striking out 16 and walking three but, really, a college pitcher should very well do just that playing in the lowest North American League. He made one appearance in the Florida State League, giving up three runs on three hits and two walks with one strikeout in 1 2/3 innings.
Andrew Sopko is the highest-level player to get released in this batch. The 26-year-old righty was a seventh-round pick of the Dodgers in 2015 before he was traded to the Blue Jays in the Russell Martin deal in January of 2019. His one season with the Blue Jays was marred by injury but he really struggled (as I saw in person) with the Buffalo Bisons, pitching 13 times and throwing 54 1/3 innings and posted a 7.12 ERA and 1.67 WHIP, striking out 41 and walking 28.
Catcher Geyber Jimenez was signed by the Blue Jays on July 2, 2017 out of Venezuela and played in 2018 and 2019, moving from the DSL in 2018 to the GCL in 2019. Most recently, Jimenez played in 15 games with the GCL Blue Jays and hit .292/.400/.417 with three doubles.
Hernandez, 21, is another catcher who spent one season in the DSL and one season in the GCL after being signed on March 2, 2018, also out of Venezuela. Hernandez played in just 14 games in 2019, hitting .160/.364/.200 with one double in 25 at bats.
Wilson, 24, was a 13th-round pick by the Blue Jays in 2018 and pretty much dominated every level he pitched at. He threw 27 2/3 innings in Bluefield in his draft year, posting a 1.63 ERA and 0.83 WHIP, striking out 30 and walking nine before jumping to Dunedin for 38 innings in 2019, where he continued his stellar work, striking out 49 and walking 10 in 38 innings with a 1.42 ERA and 0.84 WHIP. Spending some time in Double-A, he threw 18 innings, posting a 3.50 ERA and 1.28 WHIP, striking out 17 and walking six.
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