The Vancouver Canadians were a very successful team on the diamond despite the fact that the relief corps was, in general, pretty inconsistent. Several players made the jump up from Bluefield and found the going a little bit tougher than in Rookie Ball but some others managed to tame the Northwest League.
Our Reliever of the Year, 21-year-old Canadian righty Andrew Case, led the bullpen in games and innings and had an overall excellent debut professional season. Case, signed by the Blue Jays after the T12 Tournament in 2013, logged 44 innings in 24 appearances and posted a very good 2.45 ERA with a 1.16 WHIP and very solid peripherals thanks to a 20.8% K rate and 7.3% walk rate. Look for him in full-season Lansing in 2015.
6-foot-3 Dominican lefty Jose Fernandez jumped to Vancouver from the GCL and put up some okay numbers with a 4.01 ERA and 1.62 WHIP over 24 2/3 innings. The small sample size probably inflated the WHIP a bit but his 11 walks and 24 strikeouts were pretty solid. A trip to Lansing is likely in the cards for 2015.
Struggling with his control in 2014 was 21-year-old righty Mark Biggs. Biggs’ walk rate jumped from 9.3% in 2013 in Bluefield all the way to 13.7% with Vancouver this year. While his strikeout rate also too a big jump (to 18.7%), Biggs’ 1.81 WHIP and 6.91 ERA are indicators that he needs to polish before he’s going to succeed at a higher level.
20-year-old Dominican Yeyfry Del Rosario has made some progress, pitching with both Vancouver and Lansing this season with the innings totals slightly skewed towards Vancouver. Del Rosario actually put up much better control numbers in Lansing, walking five batters in 18 2/3 innings while he walked 19 in 24 1/3 innings in Vancouver. His strikeout rate, on the other hand, was an outstanding 31.3% in Vancouver and a still-healthy 25.3% for the Lugnuts. Del Rosario will almost certainly be back in Lansing to start 2015 but could also see Dunedin before too long if he pitches well in the Midwest League.
Joe Lovecchio, who recently turned 24, had a fairly decent season, mostly pitching for Vancouver. He posted a 4.37 ERA and 1.54 WHIP over 22 2/3 innings with 17 strikeouts and eight walks before moving up to Lansing where he threw only seven innings but allowed just two runs. Lovecchio, thanks to his age, is going to have to make some real strides in 2015 and a Lansing assignment wouldn’t be out of the question.
I’ll be frank with you all. I thought Brett Barber, a 6-foot-1 righty, would have had a better season with the Vancouver Canadians this year. His 6.91 ERA and 1.46 WHIP are not very nice coming out of the season and his much lower strikeout rate in 2015 (16.4%) is not particularly desirable. That said, Barber allowed eight of his 11 earned runs over just two back-to-back outings on August 10 and 13 and without them, his season’s numbers would look a lot better. I could see Barber, 23, in Lansing in 2015.
Selected in the 37th round this year, Michael Kraft was absolutely dominant and, had he thrown more innings this year, he would have been my choice for Reliever of the Year. In 30 2/3 innings split between Vancouver and Bluefield, Kraft allowed just two runs to post a 0.59 ERA while striking out 34 batters and walking 15. Obviously the number of walks is concerning but Kraft could very well be solid contributor over teh next few years. He’ll be 23 in 2015 and will probably get the chance to show what he can do over a full season, starting in Lansing.
24-year-old Hawaiian Kamakani Usui ended up with Bluefield and Vancouver and while his five innings of work with Bluefield were very solid, Usui struggled with Vancouver, posting a 7.88 ERA and 1.75 WHIP over 16 innings, walking six and striking 12. With such low walk numbers, Usui could just have been unlucky although the offseason will be interesting to see what the Jays decide to do.
Another pitcher who struggled in Vancouver was Tim Mayza. The 22 year old had a 6.75 ERA and a 2.15 WHIP through 20 innings with the Canadians although his numbers through 6 2/3 innings in Bluefield weren’t much better. The 12 walks in 20 innings aren’t encouraging although Mayza did strike out 17. He’s a little younger than Usui and might be afforded slightly more of an opportunity in 2015.
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