We’re going to start our more in-depth look at the Vancouver Canadians by looking at starting pitchers. While there were some pitchers who took the ball regularly as part of the starting rotation, a couple were in a piggyback rotation and didn’t start every game but logged innings that were comparable to those who started all the time.
We begin with the pitchers who made the most starts and work our way downwards from there. 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.
Our 2019 Vancouver Pitcher of the Year, Adam Kloffenstein, who spent almost the entire season as an 18 year old, was the top starter for the Canadians in terms of starts made. He led the team with 13 starts and 64 1/3 innings, posting a stellar 2.24 ERA and 1.09 WHIP while putting up a 24.7% strikeout rate with an 8.9% walk rate and getting 60.1% of balls in play on the ground. It was a strong year for the youngster who didn’t pitch much in his draft year in 2018 and I’m sure he’ll be starting 2020 in Lansing as a 19 year old.
21-year-old Dominican lefty Juan Diaz placed second on the Canadians when it came to innings, logging 62 2/2 IP in 12 starts and having a solid season with a 4.31 ERA and 1.31 WHIP, while striking out 17.1% and walking 6.8%. He had a strong walk rate but saw a big drop in the strikeout rate but he did skip over Bluefield, jumping from the GCL to Vancouver in 2019. I think he’ll move up to Lansing in 2020 but he’ll need to find ways to keep his strikeout rate from dropping further as he progresses.
The Blue Jays selected 6-foot-3 righty Nick Fraze out of Texas State University in the 22nd round of the 2019 draft and sent him to Canada to start his pro career. Fraze made 12 appearances and started 10 of them, logging 34 innings with a 2.12 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. The 21 year old struck out 20.6% of batters and walked 7.6% for a solid ratio while also getting more grounders (46.2%) than fly balls (38.5%). I can see Fraze moving up to Lansing in 2020.
Another 2019 draftee, 20-year-old Gabriel Ponce, joined the Vancouver Canadians after he was drafted out of Arizona Western College in the 28th round. Ponce, a 6-foot-2 righty, threw 38 2/3 innings with the Canadians, posting 4.66 ERA and 1.55 WHIP, striking out 20.7% of batters while walking 9.2%. He tended to give up more fly balls (44.1%) than grounders (32.2%). If there’s a candidate among the college-age pitchers to be held back in Vancouver for another season, it just might be Ponce, who is younger and was hit harder than some of other pitchers on the staff.
22-year-old righty Grant Townsend was a 34th-round pick in 2018 and got to move up to Vancouver in 2019 after getting a start in Dunedin in May. In that outing, he allowed four runs on five hits and two walks with two strikeouts in five innings to get a win for the Dunedin Blue Jays. He subsequently made eight appearances (seven starts) with Vancouver, posting a 3.56 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over 30 1/3 innings, striking out an excellent 31.5% of batters while walking 10.5%. He didn’t get many ground balls (25.0%), allowing a lot of fly balls (44.1%) and especially a lot of line-drives (30.9%). Townsend didn’t pitch after August 10 and so may have had an injury prematurely end his season. I can see him in Lansing next year.
Coming in next on the starts list is the big fella, 6-foot-6, 260 pound Alek Manoah, the Blue Jays’ first-round pick in 2019. Manoah, 21, had a similar season to the debut that Nate Pearson had in 2017 as Manoah was used very sparingly after a long college season. Manoah was dominant in his 17 innings, posting a 2.65 ERA and 1.06 WHIP, striking out a whopping 39.7% of his opponents while only walking 7.4%. I can see Manoah exposed to the rigours of full-season baseball in Dunedin next year as the Blue Jays groom him to lead a further wave of minor leaguers to come the majors in about two to three years.
Canadian righty Alex Nolan tossed starters innings for the Vancouver Canadians, throwing 58 2/3 innings with a strong 3.22 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. Nolan, a Burlington native who attended Brock University, struck out 14.3% of batters while walking only 4.5%. I think he can move up to Lansing as he was pitching in 2019 in his Age-23 season.
While he only started five of his 13 appearances, 23-year-old Cuban William Gaston was often piggybacking behind Alek Manoah. At 6-foot-5, Gaston is another tall righty who logged 47 1/3 innings, posting a 3.23 ERA and 1.58 WHIP. Gaston struck out 18.5% of batters but walked a far-too-high 14.8% but got 45.3% of balls in play on the ground. I can see Gaston, at his more advanced age than other Canadians, moving up to Lansing next year.
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