Toronto Blue Jays Winter League Report: Ice Storm Edition


Whether you have electricity or not, you may be able to get these blogs through a mobile device so I’ll dedicate this post to everyone out there who would rather be someplace warm, like the places that these guys are playing right now! Less than two months until pitchers and catchers report . . .



Let’s start down under in Australia where we all know our four Toronto Blue Jays position players are hanging out.


Coming first alphabetically, Jon Berti has been on a tear this weekend, picking up six hits in the last three games, scoring eight runs and stealing six bases without getting caught. Overall, his line comes up to .274/.395/.411 with a whopping 90% success rate stealing bases (18 for 20).


Mike Crouse hasn’t played since December 13 and is hitting .328/.395/.453. December 8th was definitely his best game, going three for three with a double, a home run, two walks and two RBI. He walked in his first plate appearance on December 13 and hasn’t played since.


Catcher Jack Murphy (left) throws a knuckleball with Sean Nolin looking on.
Catcher Jack Murphy (left) throws a knuckleball with Sean Nolin looking on.


Australia’s National Hero™ Jack Murphy has had a nice weekend, picking up four hits including a double and two walks in 11 at bats. He’s hitting .323/.383/.458 with seven doubles and two home run sin 96 at bats.


Finally, Shane Opitz had a couple of tremendous games this weekend, going two for five with a pair of runs scored on Friday and four for five with another two runs scored and a double on Saturday. He followed it up with an oh-for-two performance with a walk on Sunday for a six-for-12 weekend. He’s hitting .283/.333/.359 overall.


The Blue Jays hitters in the Dominican League include Jonathan Diaz who has been on a slide, not getting a hit since December 12. He does have five walks in his last two games, raising his OBP to .444 overall with a .261 average and .328 slugging percentage in 134 at bats.


Kevin Pillar has tweeted that this is his last weekend in the Dominican before coming home for the holidays and had been finishing strong with four hits in his last three games and only two hitless games in his last ten. After a weak start, he’s hitting .227/.239/.258 overall in 66 at bats. He has just two doubles and nine strikeouts and just one walk as well as four stolen bases.


Moises Sierra
Moises Sierra


Moises Sierra continues to hit well, riding a six-game hit streak with nine hits over that span (including a double) from December 14 to December 20. Sierra is hitting .331/.401/.435 with four doubles and four home runs in 154 at bats.


The Dominican Winter League also has several Blue Jays pitchers. Tony Davis, a left-handed reliever who had a strong season with the Dunedin Blue Jays last year has been used sparingly by the Aguilas Cibaenas. He’s made 15 appearances but has only racked up four and a third innings without giving up a run. He has surrendered three hits and four walks with three strikeouts. In the small sample size, he’s had a lot of trouble with right-handed hitters who have two hits and four walks off of him (with no strikeouts) and has only retired three batters. He’s retired 10 lefties and has only given up one hit and has struck out three.


Jeremy Jeffress has gotten into two games for Leones del Escogido, starting both. His first was ugly, giving up three runs (two earned) in just an inning and two-thirds while he second was much better, giving up one earned run (and another unearned run) on three hits and three walks in three innings with four strikeouts. Hopefully the six walks in four and two-thirds innings (overall) is more of an indication of rust as it is of how he’ll far as a starter.


Ramon Ortiz made a very good start this week, pitching five innings with just one unearned run against. He gave up five hits but no walks and struck out two. He’s got a 2.57 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 21 innings with four walks and seven strikeouts.


Juan Perez continues to far much better, with several scoreless outings this week, striking out the side in his inning on Tuesday. Perez has brought his ERA down to 4.91 over 7 1/3 innings and has walked six and struck out five. He appears to be getting stronger, though, picking up three and a third innings over this past week and striking out four of his five batters with only two walks.


Esmil Rogers started last night for Tigres del Licey and was excellent giving up just six hits (no walks) over five and two-thirds innings with five strikeouts. His more recent outings are making his first awful one look more like the outlier. Overall, he’s made three starts, going thirteen innings with a 2.08 ERA, 15 hits and three walks against with 11 strikeouts.


Mickey Storey continues to go strong, racking up the scoreless innings with another four and a third without giving up a run in four appearances this week. His last two outings were especially good, striking out five over two and two-thirds innings with only two hits against. Storey has a 0.64 ERA in 14 innings this season with Escogido, walking just three and striking out 16.


Anthony Gose
Anthony Gose


Moving on to the Venezuelan League, Anthony Gose has been struggling a litttle, going four for his first 25 at bats for a .160/.323/.200 line. The four walks are nice to see and the eight strikeouts are not great but could be worse. He’s also two for two in stolen base attempts.


Adam Loewen
Adam Loewen


Without a contract for 2014 so far, Adam Loewen is playing in Venezuela and is off to an excellent start, hitting .292/.469/.333 in 24 at bats. He has seven walks but nine strikeouts and has hit one double.


Pitcher Austin Bibens-Dirkx, or The X-Man, is pitching for Aguilas del Zulia and threw a very nice start on Friday, going five and two-thirds innings and giving up one run on five hits without walking anyone. In three appearances (two starts), ABD has a 2.38 ERA with 12 hits and three walks allowed in 11 1/3 innings to go with just four strikeouts.


Youngster Jonathan Torres continues to incrementally add innings, throwing two-thirds of an inning (in two appearances) this week. Torres was charged with a run in the most recent one on Friday. He’s finally hit the ten-inning mark and has a 2.70 ERA with seven hits and seven walks against with three strikeouts. It’s important to remember that Torres will be 19 on December 31 and only pitched 12 2/3 innings for the Blue Jays’ Dominican Summer League team this summer. It’s clear he’ll need to get a handle on his control but he’s a guy we might see in the GCL in 2014.


Young shortstop Dickie Thon has returned to action in the Puerto Rican league, going oh for five in two starts on Wednesday and Thursday, striking out three times. In 12 at bats this season (in a very part-time role), Thon has no hits and has two runs scored with six strikeouts and no walks.


Someone who’s having more success in Puerto Rico is reliever Arik Sikula (named MiLB’s Organizational All-Star as a reliever). Sikula is going strong with a 2.60 ERA, 16 hits against and seven walks in 17 1/3 innings with 17 strikeouts. He also has five saves. His last outing was Friday and he went two and two-thirds innings allowing just one hit and one walk with three strikeouts.


An interesting new name to pop up in the Mexican League (Liga Mexicana del Pacifico) is Francisco Rios, an 18-year-old righty from Mexico. He had a decent year in the Dominican Summer League and gave up a run in his only appearance in Mexico on Tuesday, giving up a hit and a walk in one inning of work.


“Mighty Mouse” Jorge Flores has made a couple of starts in Mexico this week, but only had one hit to show for it. He’s batting .125/.176/.125 in 16 at bats with two singles and a walk. He’s only struck out three times, however, and is showing some very good contact abilities here too (after striking out only 36 times in 251 at bats in time in Lansing and Dunedin.


Chin up, Blue Jays fans. Only a couple of months until Spring Training!