We’re going to start our more in-depth look at the Vancouver Canadians by looking at starting pitchers. We’re going to include anyone who made 50% of his appearances as a starter, or logged enough innings to gain consideration. If a player played for more than one team over the course of the season, he’ll be grouped according to the club he played the most with.
We begin with the pitchers who made the most starts and work our way downwards from there.
Jose Espada, 21, tied for the Vancouver Canadians’ lead in starts, taking the ball 13 times and logged 59 innings in his second go-round with the Cs. Espada, a Puerto Rican righty, showed improvements in some areas but regressed in others as he posted a 4.88 ERA with a 1.29 WHIP, striking out 27.5% of batters (up 3.1% from 2017) but also walked 10.2% of batters (up 3.0% from 2017). He also saw his ground ball rate drop considerably year over year and his line drive rate doubled from 12.6% to 25.2%. Espada will likely be in Lansing next year after four short seasons.
Now 23, Venezuelan lefty Elio Silva continued his string of solid seasons on the mound as he pitched his Age-20 season with the Vancouver Canadians, making 13 starts in his 14 appearances and logging 66 innings for the Cs. He had a 3.82 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, both very strong, but his strikeout rate, which had previously sat above the 20% mark, fell to career-low 14.8% while his walk rate rose to a career-high 7.4%. Silva will likely move to Lansing next year after four years of short-season ball.
Josh Winckowski, 20, had a stellar season as he continued his climb through the Blue Jays’ organization since being a 15th-round pick in 2016. Winckowski led the club with 68 innings and had a 2.78 ERA and 1.22 WHIP, striking out 24.6% of batters and walking only 5.2%, a career low. He also generated 54.4% ground balls and gave up just two home runs on the season. He accomplished all that with a .339 BABIP that kept his FIP at 2.77. Winckowski will almost certainly start 2019 in Lansing and could jump to Dunedin if he is able to pitch effectively in Michigan to start the season.
I had originally thought that Randy Pondler, the 2017 Appalachian League Pitcher of the Year, would pitch mostly for the Lansing Lugnuts in 2018 but he actually started his season, making an appearances with the Dunedin Blue Jays on May 24, throwing 4 2/3 strong innings, allowing a run on six hits with two walks and six strikeouts. He returned to extended spring training and emerged again with the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats but got stung against the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, allowing three runs on five hits and three walks with two strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings on June 3. Pondler, a 21-year-old Panamanian lefty, reemerged with the Vancouver Canadians and made 12 starts, posting a strong 2.90 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, striking out 17.2% of batters while walking only 6.2% and getting 47.2% ground balls. Pondler will almost certainly start 2019 in Lansing but I could also seen him starting in Dunedin.
The Blue Jays selected righty Sean Wymer out of Texas Christian University in the fourth round of the 2018 draft and they sent him to Vancouver where they monitored his workload carefully. The 6-foot-1 righty made seven starts in 13 appearances, tossing 35 1/3 innings with a 4.84 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, striking out 23.3% of batters while walking only 4.8%. He should head to Lansing next year with the training wheels off.
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