The Vancouver Canadians had a very stable group of starting pitchers in the 2016 season with a few minor changes over the course of the season and just one set of piggybacking starters.
While he didn’t lead the club in innings pitched, Dalton Rodriguez did make the most starts, throwing 62 2/3 innings over 14 starts for the Canadians. Rodriguez struggled in his Age-19 season as he pitched at the highest level, on average 2.3 years younger than pitchers in the Northwest League. Rodriguez had a 6.18 ERA (but a 5.01 FIP) in his tenure while also having a 1.90 WHIP, a low 13.8% strikeout rate and a high 11.5% walk rate. Rodriguez, a 6-foot-1, Mexican righty, could move up to Lansing next year (after three seasons in short-season ball). While he’s not striking out a lot of batters, he’s getting a ton of ground-ball outs (2.19 ground outs per air out) and had very high .372 BABIP and would benefit from better infield defense behind him.
6-foot-4 righty Patrick Murphy is a physical specimen in the mold that clubs like in their starting pitchers and finally put together a healthy season, earning several accolades including the Blue Jays from Away Pitcher of the Year award for the Cs. Murphy, 21, started the season mostly working out of the bullpen in Lansing, putting together a 4.29 ERA and 1.81 WHIP in 21 innings with 20 strikeouts but 14 walks. When sent to Vancouver for the opening of the short season, he was much more dominant, posting a 2.84 ERA and 1.35 WHIP with a 16.1% strikeout rate (much lower than it was in Lansing) but a 7.7% walk rate (almost half of what it was in Lansing). Murphy was the club’s most reliable starter and has set himself up well to increase his innings load in Lansing in 2017.
Dominican righty Luis Sanchez jumped from the GCL and Appy Leagues in 2015 to the Northwest League in 2016, throwing 52 2/3 innings over 12 starts with Vancouver. At 22, Sanchez isn’t particularly young for the level and he struggled to confound batters, escaping with a 4.61 ERA (but a 5.48 FIP) and 1.67 WHIP, walking 13.2% of batters and striking out 11.2%. Sanchez may well repeat the level in 2017.
21-year-old Denis Diaz split his season in 2016 between Bluefield and Vancouver, making seven starts with the Canadians after pitching well in Bluefield. In the rookie league, he had a 2.91 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 21 2/3 innings before his promotion, walking six and striking out only 12. Diaz started all seven games in which he appeared with Vancouver but struggled with his control, walking 28 batters in 28 innings and giving up 25 runs leading to a 7.71 ERA with just 14 strikeouts. Diaz probably will need to prove himself again in Vancouver next year.
At 6-foot-7 and 225 pounds, T.J. Zeuch is an imposing presence on the mound. The 21 year old was selected by the Blue Jays with their first-round pick of the 2016 draft and he had a strong beginning to his pro career, spending much of his debut season in Vancouver. Zeuch threw three hitless innings in the GCL before coming to Vancouver where he added 23 innings to resume, posting a 3.52 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, striking out 24.2% of batters while walking only 5.5%. Promoted to Lansing where he made two starts, Zeuch gave up eight runs in eight innings but walked only two and struck out 14. Look for Zeuch to start his Age-21 season in 2017 back with the Lansing Lugnuts to open the year.
I’m going to consider Mike Ellenbest and his piggyback partner as starter since they were used in an almost exclusive piggyback arrangement after their selection in the 2016 draft. Ellenbest, who turned 22 in August, threw 30 1/3 innings, starting five of his 11 games and had a 4.45 ERA (4.00 FIP) and a 1.62 WHIP. Ellenbest’s control was very good, walking only 6.6% of batters but struck out 15.3% although he did keep the ball on the ground very well, with a 1.46 GO/AO ratio. Ellenbest will likely move up to Lansing next year.
Selected in the seventh round of the 2016 draft, Ellenbest’s piggyback partner was Andy Ravel, 21. Ravel is a slim, 6-foot-2 righty but allowed a 5.12 ERA and 1.55 WHIP in his professional debut, striking out only 13.0% of batters but had good control, walking on 6.5%. Unfortunately, Ravel is a fly ball pitcher, getting just 0.57 ground outs per air out and gave up five home runs over the 31 2/3 innings he threw with Vancouver. Look for him to join Ellenbest in Lansing next year.
If you like us here, “like” us on Facebook!
The 2016 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook is now available in e-book and print formats! Visit the Handbook page for more information!
Now is a great time to subscribe to the Blue Jays from Away Premium Content Section!
All photos are copyright Blue Jays from Away (2013-2016) and may not be used without permission.