Now for the fourth and final part of our report on the 2016 Vancouver Canadians wherein we look at the hitters and how they each did. Remember that to be included here, a player had to get more of his plate appearances with the Canadians than he did with any other team in the Blue Jays’ system. The Canadians had a very stable roster of players who got most of the playing time.
A favourite of the Canadians’ fans, Javier Hernandez was the starting catcher for Vancouver in 2016. The 20 year old jumped up to Vancouver (from the GCL) and wasn’t particularly convincing with the bat, hitting .215/.291/.313 in 182 plate appearances. Hernandez had a solid walk rate of 8.2% but struck out 28.6% of the time. Defensively, Hernandez was solid, throwing out 33% of potential base stealers while letting seven passed balls go by. Still 10 errors on the season is quite a high number for the Venezuelan receiver. Look for him as a backup in Lansing next year.
At 22, the primary back up to Hernandez was Andres Sotillo, another Venezuelan catcher. Sotillo made his debut with the Blue Jays in the DSL in 2012 and has been slowly moving up through the ranks despite not making it out of short-season ball yet. Sotillo hasn’t really shown that he can hit with any authority, posting a .200/.274/.263 slash line with three doubles and a home run in 106 plate appearances, striking out in 17.9% of his trips to the plate and walking in 5.7%. He threw out 35% of potential base stealers from behind the plate and made three errors with four passed balls in 21 games. Sotillo is another player who will likely be a backup catcher wherever he goes next year.
Last year’s 38th-round pick, Josh Reavis, 25, also spent time in Vancouver, showing off his good eye at the plate by walking in 16.9% of his plate appearances but really didn’t contribute too much beyond that. Reavis hit .161/.310/.250 in 71 plate appearances after hitting far better in less time with the Canadians last year. Reavis threw out 41% of potential base stealers in 13 games, though. Reavis could move up a little faster and farther than the other two catchers on the Canadians, mainly due to his age.
Brett Wellman, 24, just got into one game defensively (for two innings), and came to the plate just nine times all season, walking three times, striking out three times and going 1/6 with a run.
Christian Williams, who just turned 22 in September, was the club’s everyday first baseman. While I was very impressed with Williams’s ability to make hard contact when I saw him in spring training, it didn’t manifest itself as much in his move to the Northwest league. Williams did tie for the club lead in home runs (four) but hit .236/.341/.340 in 249 plate appearances. Still, his 12.4% walk rate was very good and his 22.1% strikeout rate not bad. Williams will almost surely move up to Lansing in 2017 and try to improve on a decent but not great season in 2016.
Second baseman Cavan Biggio, the Jays’ fifth-round pick in 2016 and the son of Craig Biggio, earned raves for his performance, winning team awards and was named to the Northwest League All-Star team. Biggio hit .282/.382/.366 over 238 plate appearances, with 11 doubles and three triples, stealing nine bases in 12 attempts. Biggio struck out only 11.8% of the time while walking in 12.2% of plate appearances before he was promoted to Lansing where he faltered ab it, hitting .222/.310/.250 in nine games. Biggio will start 2017 in Lansing at the age of 22.
Playing third base everyday was the 19-year-old Dominican Bryan Lizardo (who actually only turned 19 in late July). Lizardo has struggled with the bat but started to show much more power this season than he did last year in the GCL while seeing a reduction in strikeouts (always encouraging). Lizardo hit just .220/.284/.333 with his ISO doubling to .114 over last season. Lizardo hit 15 doubles, two triples and three home runs and walking in 7.5% of plate appearances, striking out in 26.5% (still high, but Lizardo is still very young for his level of play). Lizardo should move to Lansing next year, starting the season at the age of 19.
Another 19 year old, Venezuelan shortstop Yeltsin Gudino played shortstop most of the time for the Canadians. While Lizardo started to show some power, Gudino lost some of his ability to hit the ball despite an excellent walk rate. Gudino hit .226/.338/.258 with four doubles and a triple, while striking out in 19.2% of his 224 plate appearances and walking in 12.9%. Gudino made 22 errors at shortstop, fairly high for a short-season league but not uncommon with young shortstops. He could stay back in the Northwest League for another season but could also move up to Lansing next year to make room for Jesus Severino in Vancouver.
Deiferson Barreto, 21, was the principal utility infielder for the Canadians, getting into 46 games and coming to the plate 189 times, playing mostly second base and shortstop but also adding seven games at third base, two at first base and one in left field. While Barreto has hit extremely well in his previous seasons with the Blue Jays, he struggled in 2016, hitting .215/.259/.333 with 11 doubles, two triples and two home runs. While he didn’t strike out a ton, Barreto’s strikeout rate rose to 15.9% and his walk rate sank a bit to 4.8%. Barreto could repeat the year in Vancouver or move up to Lansing and continue in his role as a utility player.
Gabe Clark played 10 games for the Canadians, hitting just .132/.233/.237 before he was released in mid-July.
23-year-old Mattingly Romanin played in just 12 games with the Canadians, hitting .229/.426/.343 with a double and his first professional home run while walking in 21.3% of his plate appearances and striking out in only 14.9%.
Left field belonged to 21-year-old Panamanian Rodrigo Orozco who won the Webster Award for the Bluefield Blue Jays last year. This season, Orozco saw a significant drop in his BABIP (by over 60 points) and thus, had a corresponding drop in his batting numbers after his excellent 2015 season. This year, Orozco hit .241/.348/.289, losing a ton of power despite maintaining his excellent strikeout rate (13.0%) and raising his walk rate to 13.5%. Orozco might move up to Lansing but a repeat of the level in Vancouver could also be in the cards.
Second-round draft pick in 2016 J.B. Woodman patrolled center field in 38 games for the Canadians. Woodman had a strong professional debut, hitting .272/.375/.421 in 54 games for Vancouver, hitting 18 doubles, a triple and three home runs while adding 10 stolen bases. Promoted at the end of the season to Lansing, he continued to crush the ball, hitting .441/.487/.588 in 39 plate appearances. A red flag to keep an eye on for Woodman is his strikeout rate which was sky high in Vancouver at 31.0% and went up in Lansing (33.3%). His walk rate, however, is excellent at 12.9% in Vancouver. Woodman will man center field in Lansing in 2017.
Right field, unlike center and left, was a little more democratically manned. D.J. McKnight led the club in games in right but still only had 145 plate appearances, hitting .228/.310/.409. Despite the good power numbers (seven doubles, five triples, two home runs and a .181 ISO), McKnight also struck out 40.0% of the time, an unacceptable figure going forward. He did walk in a very strong 9.7% of his plate appearances. McKnight, 22, could move up to Lansing but I think the Blue Jays might want to see him cut down on his strikeouts before facing better pitching in full-season ball.
We were all pulling for Jacob Anderson, who finally saw significant playing time for the first time since 2012. Now 23, Anderson started the year in Lansing, playing 27 games and hitting .146/.196/.240 with a 33.3% strikeout rate and 5.9% walk rate before the short season opened and he was reassigned to Vancouver. There, Anderson improved, hitting .226/.292/.316, dropping his strikeout rate to 17.2% and raising his walk rate to 7.2%, hitting eight doubles and three home runs in 209 plate appearances. Anderson will be back in Lansing to give it another go. Hopefully, getting over 300 plate appearances under his belt in 2016 will help him catch up lost time due to his injuries.
The fourth-round pick of the Blue Jays in 2016, Joshua Palacios opened some eyes this season. Palacios, now 21, started off his season with some pretty pedestrial numbers in the Gulf Coast League, hitting .265/.321/.327 in 13 games. Once he went to Vancouver, however, he started hitting and didn’t stop. In 28 games with Vancouver, Palacios hit .355/.437/.473 with seven doubles, three triples and four stolen bases, walking in 11.1% of his plate appearances and striking out in only 13.5%. Then, after he was promoted to Lansing, he hit .342/.375/.421 with three doubles in just 40 plate appearances. Palacios will be in Lansing in 2017, looking to move up the ladder again after playing at three levels in 2016.
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