If you’re anything like me (and you probably are, if you’re reading this), the return of minor league baseball is a welcome sight. Usually we get notification of the Opening Day minor league rosters a little earlier than the day before the season starts, but at this point, after close to two years without minor league baseball, I’ll take it!
So here we go with our annual preview of the Opening Day rosters for our Toronto Blue Jays minor league affiliates, continuing with the Vancouver Canadians, now playing in High-A.
Vancouver’s Opening Day roster announcement article doesn’t give us as much detail as to who might be a starting pitcher and who might be a reliever but there are a few roles that we can infer. First of all, Adam Kloffenstein, the third round pick in 2018 and Jordan Groshans’s Magnolia High teammate will certainly start for Vancouver (returning after starring for them in 2019. In 2020, he got some valuable experience pitching in the Constellation Energy independent league for Texas and Sugar Land. He’ll also be joined by the Jays’ second-round pick in 2020, CJ Van Eyck. The rest of the rotation has some question marks but Nick Fraze was outstanding in the starter role in Vancouver in his draft year of 2019 and Justin Maese, who appears to finally be returning healthy with just five innings under his belt since 2017. Also candidates for the starting rotation are Troy Miller, Troy Watson and Sean Wymer, although I’d give the edge to Wymer, who led the Lansing Lugnuts in innings in 2019.
In relief, we’re going to get a first look at Hagen Danner, who will make his professional pitching debut after spending the three years of ball he had since his draft in 2017 as a catcher. He was highly touted as pitcher coming out of high school, so this may let us see the potential he had back then. We’ll also have Canadian Will McAffer while lefty Marcus Reyes was outstanding in Lansing in 2019. Sam Ryan and Parker Caracci were both in the 2019 draft class and Luke Gillingham continues his pro career since getting out of the Navy. Cobi Johnson moves up from Lansing in 2019 and Andrew McInvale jumps from Bluefield in 2019.
The three-headed catching monster for Vancouver will have Phil Clarke getting the bulk of the playing time. The 2019 pick out of Vanderbilt was another 2019 member of the Vancouver Canadians and will look to improve on his numbers (and a .693 OPS). Gold has been a solid backup with a good bat since being drafted in 2016 while Guerra is the lone Venezuelan on the roster, jumping up to his first full-season league.
Luis De Los Santos
There may be a sleeper or two in the infield for the Vancouver Canadians but it may be a group that struggles to put runs up on the board. Brito was acquired in the Russell Martin trade and struggled with the bat in 2019, playing mostly in Vancouver. De Los Santos also spent the bulk of 2019 in Vancouver, posting a .549 OPS in 59 games. Horwitz was a big bat for Bluefield two years ago, posting an .866 OPS but struggled in nine games in Vancouver at the end of the season. Lantigua is one of two players with full-season experience, playing with Lansing in 2019 and was known as a sparkplug while also getting into 17 games over the past two seasons in the Dominican Winter League. Morris was one of the better offensive infielders for Vancouver in 2019 but still had only a .730 OPS but had an outstanding walk rate while Talley spent his draft year of 2019 with Lansing, hitting for a .599 OPS.
Like the infielders, there isn’t a strong track record of outstanding hitting in this group of outfielders. Will Robertson is probably the best known of the bunch, ranked as the club’s #22 prospect by MLB.com, and he had a solid debut season with the Canadians in 2019, hitting for a .769 OPS in 61 games. Eden also has some potential from his college track record but he struggled in 56 games in his 2019 draft year, posting a .576 OPS. Alberta-native Tanner Kirwer had an injury-riddled 2019 but got the bulk of his playing time in Lansing, hitting for a decent .679 OPS. He’s got speed, heart and plays great defense. Neal is a former football player who’s built like a linebacker with a ton of raw power. That said, he has seen diminishing results as he’s moved up the minor league ladder, posting just a .601 OPS in 84 games with Lansing in 2019.
Let us know who you’re excited about on the 2021 Opening Day roster for the Vancouver Canadians!
If you like us here, like us on Facebook!
All photos are copyright Blue Jays from Away (2013-2020) and may not be used without permission.