The Northwest League Champion Vancouver Canadians boasted a phenomenal bullpen, featuring several dominant pitchers.
With 24 appearances, righty Orlando Pascual had a share of the club lead. The 21-year-old threw 33 innings in relief for the Canadians and had a 2.18 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. Where his numbers really jump out is how he struck out 33.8% of batters, almost double his total the previous year, split between the GCL and the DSL. Pascual vastly increased his strikeout rate with a solid walk rate at 7.5% and a 53.4% groundball rate. Pascual took huge steps in 2017 and will look to continue to make strides with Lansing in 2018.
William Ouellette, 24, was the Vancouver Canadians’ closer, notching 13 saves in 15 opportunities. Ouellette also got the chance to show what he could do in Dunedin before the short-season in Vancouver got started. In three outings, he pitched 6 1/3 innings, giving up one run on three hits with three walks and four strikeouts. Once in Vancouver, he settled in nicely, posting a 3.00 ERA and 1.00 WHIP, allowing walks in just 5.8% of plate appearances while striking out 28.9% of batters. Despite being a non-drafted free agent in 2016, Ouellette will likely continue his Blue Jays career with the Lansing Lugnuts in 2018.
Vancouverite Brayden Bouchey got a chance to win a championship in his hometown, pitching for the Canadians. Bouchey, 22, was a 33rd-round draft pick out of the University of Louisiana-Monroe and followed up a very strong 2016 campaign, spent mostly in Bluefield, with another strong one in 2017 in Vancouver. Making 24 appearances, the 6-foot-6 Bouchey tossed 30 innings with a 4.20 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, striking out 30.5% of batters and walking 10.2%. Bouchey has been able to strike out at least 30.% of batters at every level while his best walk rate is 10.0%. Obviously, Bouchey will need to get his walk rate down but his strikeout rate builds a ton of confidence for how he’ll do when he graduates to full-season ball in 2018.
Grayson Huffman hasn’t impressed many people in his professional career since his first season with the Blue Jays’ system in 2014 when he was a sixth-round draft pick out of community college. Huffman, now 22, returned to Vancouver for his second season there and improved in many areas, putting up a 3.93 ERA, 1.40 WHIP and a 17.9% strikeout rate and 12.6% walk rate. Huffman’s ERA and WHIP were both significantly lower than last year at the same level but his strikeout rate was down 0.5% from 2017 and his walk rate was up 0.8%, both trending in the wrong direction. Huffman was a ground ball machine, though, getting 61.1% of his batted balls on the ground while getting 1.88 ground outs to every out in the air. Huffman should probably be ready for a chance to pitch in Lansing in 2018.
Chris Hall came to the Jays as a 14th-round pick in the 2016 draft out of Elon University and was excellent in Bluefield last year. This year, he started his season in Lansing but was shelled to the tune of a 13.50 ERA and 1.490 OPS against in 7 1/3 innings over four games clustered in late April and late May. Hall reported to Vancouver and was excellent, tossing 36 1/3 innings with a 1.49 ERA and 1.02 WHIP, striking out 28.6% of the batters he faced while walking only 7.5%. He returned to Lansing at the end of August to make two more appearances and didn’t give up a run in four innings, allowing four hits and no walk with six strikeouts. Expect Hall to return to Lansing to start 2018 at the age of 24.
In our discussion of the Bluefield bullpen, we talked about Tyler Olander, who changed sports from basketball to baseball and signed with the Blue Jays. Another multi-sport athlete, Bobby Eveld, was a part of the Vancouver Canadians in 2017. Eveld, 25, who was a college quarterback, took to the mound last year and threw just 1 1/3 innings with the GCL Blue Jays. This year, Eveld, a 6-foot-5 righty who throws in the low 90s, started his season with the Vancouver Canadians, throwing 19 1/3 innings over 16 games with the Cs and had a rough go, getting handed an 11.17 ERA and 2.17 WHIP, striking out only 13.0% of batters and walking 7.0%. Towards the middle of August, he came down to the GCL where he had two scoreless outings, striking out four and walking one in three innings. He made an appearance with the Dunedni Blue Jays, striking out two in a perfect inning and made one more outing in the GCL, giving up a run on two hits and two walks. He finished his season in Lansing, allowing two runs (one earned) over five innings in two outings, striking out three and walking two. Overall, it was a mixed season for Eveld who is still trying to find himself as a pitcher. It’s tough to know where he’s going to land in 2018 but it could very well be in either Lansing or Vancouver.
22-year-old lefty Miguel Burgos completed his sixth year in the Blue Jays’ organization this year, pitching at three levels but spending most of his time in Vancouver. Burgos started in Vancouver and pitched until the end of July there, moved down to the Appalachian League for three outings and then came back to Vancouver. He finished the year with four appearances in Lansing, quite possibly setting himself up for a return next year. In 25 innings in Vancouver, Burgos had a 4.68 ERA and a 1.64 WHIP along with a 14.9% strikeout rate and 11.4% walk rate. In Bluefield, he was much more dominant, throwing three scoreless innings, giving up two hits with one walk and five strikeouts. In Lansing, He allowed one run on three hits over 4 2/3 innings but walked five and struck out six. 2018 will be the final year of Burgos’s initial contract and I think the Blue Jays will push him a little, starting him in Lansing.
22-year-old lefty Jake Fishman made a very positive impression in Vancouver. The Blue Jays’ 30th-round draft pick last year, Fishman started his season with the GCL, tossing a scoreless inning, giving up a hit and striking out one before moving up to Vancouver near the beginning of July. In Vancouver, Fishman logged 23 innings with a stellar 1.17 ERA and 1.04 WHIP, striking out 25.3% of batters and walking just 4.4%. He was rewarded with a trip to Lansing, tossing 6 2/3 innings over four appearances, giving up three runs off of six hits (including two home runs) but he didn’t walk anyone and struck out a whopping 15 batters. I think Fishman will call Lansing home at the beginning of 2018 and, as a lefty reliever, could move quickly if he continues to strike out batters so prodigiously.
The Blue Jays selected righty Justin Dillon, who just turned 24 at the beginning of September, in the 10th round out of Sacramento State in 2017. He joined the ranks of the dominant relievers for the Vancouver Canadians, throwing 23 innings in 13 outings and posted a 1.96 ERA and 0.91 WHIP, walking just 4.4% of batters and striking out 31.1%. Dillon will probably move up to full season ball next year, quite possibly in a starting role. Look for him in Lansing or Dunedin.
Zach Logue, 21, was the Jays’ ninth-round draft pick in 2017 out of Kentucky and showed a lot of potential at two levels. Logue started his professional career by making three appearances in Bluefield, giving up just two hits and no runs in five innings, striking out five and not walking anyone. He moved up to Vancouver and continued his dominance, tossing another 25 2/3 innings with a 1.75 ERA and 0.97 WHIP, striking out 28.6% of batters and walking 6.1%. Logue was throwing multiple innings per outings, leading me to believe that the organization views at him as a starter long term. I’d look for Logue to start 2018 in Lansing.
Travis Bergen had his busiest year as a pitcher since being drafted in 2015. Now 23, Bergen is a 6-foot-1 lefty out of Kennesaw State who was a former seventh-round pick who has struggled with injury for the last two years. In 2017, however, Logue put together something of a full season, starting in the GCL. He threw six times there, putting in nine innings with a 3.00 ERA and 1.11 WHIP, striking out eight and walking three. Moving up to Vancouver, he pitched 9 1/3 innings in three outings, with a 2.89 ERA and 1.39 WHIP, striking out 14 and walking five. Bergen could move up to Lansing next year but the Blue Jays are sure to be careful with his arm.
The Blue Jays drafted Matt Shannon in the 12th round of the 2017 draft out of Angelo State and the 22 year old only managed to get into three games before he was not seen from again (likely due to injury) after July 7. He tossed four innings, giving up just one hit with four strikeouts over three appearances. Shannon could end up in Lansing to start the year but the lack of information we have about him and his healthy limits our ability to prognosticate.
Righty Angel Alicea had a very strong debut season last year after he was drafted out of Alabama State. The 23-year-old Puerto Rican started his 2017 season injured, only making his season debut on July 20 with the GCL Blue Jays. In three games there, he allowed four runs on three hits, two hit batters and a walk over 3 2/3 innings but struck out nine batters. Moving up to Vancouver, he made two more appearances, allowing two runs on six hits with just one strikeout and one walk in four innings. Alicea, if healthy, could start in Lansing in his Age-23 season next year.
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