Jay Blue: Gulf Coast Blue Jays

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gulf coast

Juan Kelly earned Blue Jays from Away Player of the Year and Grayson Huffman Pitcher of the Year honours. ….

2014 Canadians in the Minors … Canadians in College
2015 Canadian draft list
Letters of Intent

The organizational ladder: … Dominican Summer League Jays.

By Jay Blue

Blue Jays From Away

The Gulf Coast Blue Jays were pretty bad under first year manager Kenny Graham (who was the hitting coach in Lansing last year) with a record of 18-41. The club had some very good young talent but, overall, they only really showed glimpses of their potential abilities or were moved up in the system sooner rather than later. This year’s club didn’t have any non-drafted Free Agents dominate in the league like Boomer Collins, Corey Gorman or Chris Rowley did last year.

Blue Jays from Away Player of the Game Champion
For those of you who followed the minor league reports here, you’ll know that I “awarded” Player of the Game (PotG) accolades on a game-by-game basis. It should comfort you to know that I’ve been keeping track of these daily awards and my rationale for the system is as follows.

The Player of the Game Awards were determined by a number of factors that included who I thought had the most impact on the game and who might have gone “above and beyond.” Most nights, there was just one Player of the Game. If there was, he earned one point. If I thought that either a) no one stood out enough to merit a single PotG, or b) two or more players were outstanding and deserved mention, I split the point up into two, three or four shares. If two players earned PotG mention, they each received 0.5 points and if three players earned mentions, they each received 0.3 points. There were occasions that I felt that no one merited the award and therefore, I did not give out any points.

The final standings for Blue Jays from Away Player of the Game for the DSL Blue Jays:
Juan Tejada 5.5
Grayson Huffman 4
Lane Thomas, Deiferson Barreto, Angel Perdomo 3.5
Conner Greene 3
Jake Brentz, Dave Pepe 2.8
Juan Kelly, Sean Reid-Foley 2.5
Freddy Rodriguez 2.3
Max Pentecost 2
Daniel Rodriguez, Angel Gomez, Trey Pascazi 1.5
Matt Morgan, Nathan DeSouza, Jonathon Wandling, Sean Nolin, Adam Lind, Bobby Wheatley 1
Nick Wells, Gunnar Heidt, Edwin Fuentes, Andres De Aza, Turner Lee, Kramer Champlin 0.5

Not what you expected, right? Juan Tejada wins the PotG Championship for the 2014 GCL Jays. I’ll talk about him more in the article on the hitters but he definitely accrued most of his points early on. The 20-year-old Dominican outfielder showed the most power on the team (his five home runs were the only number above two for anyone on the team) but when all was said and done, his .241 batting average and .293 OBP were not particularly great.

Blue Jays from Away Player of the Year
I’m going to be inconsistent here and call Juan Kelly the Player of the Year. The catcher/first baseman didn’t get my vote in my predictions for the Webster Awards but I think the fact that he played 54 games gives him the award over Lane Thomas who only played 34. Kelly came out on top when it came to better batting average although there was only a two point difference between the two players’ OPSs. The other thing that tips the scales in Kelly’s favour was the fact that his strikeout rate was almost 5% lower that Thomas’s.

Blue Jays from Away Pitcher of the Year
Again, with the lower levels of the minor leagues, distinguishing between starting pitchers and relievers is fairly difficult but I’m going to say that to qualify, a pitcher needs to make around half of his appearances as a starter. In that case, the best starting pitcher for the GCL Jays was 19-year-old lefty Grayson Huffman. Huffman, the Jays’ sixth-round pick in the 2014 draft, dominated at both the GCL level and in the Appalachian League, posting a 1.00 ERA in the GCL, allowing just seven hits over 27 innings while walking 13 and striking out 23.

Blue Jays from Away Reliever of the Year
By far the most reliable arm out of the pen was Angel Perdomo who made only three starts but threw 46 innings for the Blue Jays. After two seasons in the DSL, Perdomo, a 6-foot-6 lefty, came over to the US and posted a 2.54 ERA with 21 walks and 57 strikeouts through 46 innings.

Blue Jays from Away Most Improved Player
Lefty Jake Brentz came to the Jays highly-touted after being drafted in the 11th round of the 2013 draft but the raw youngster was always considered a work in progress due the fact that he started pitching late in his high school career. After posting a 10.57 ERA and walking 12 batters in 7 2/3 innings in 2013, Brentz started showing flashes of his capabilities in 2014, throwing 39 2/3 innings and striking out 34 batters with a 4.08 ERA. He still needs to work on his command and control with 26 walks but he’s well on the way to turning things around from a rocky start.

Blue Jays from Away Best Newcomer
This award goes to a player who was new to the Jays’ system who performed the best and this will have to go to Lane Thomas. The versatile player showed off his maturity at the plate as well as his capability to drive the ball to the gaps and steal bases. Sean Reid-Foley (2014 second round pick) was close behind but, although SRF has definitely shown some tantalizing flashes of his potential, his season had its ups and downs. I’m kind of disqualifying Huffman here after he already took home the Pitcher of the Year award.

Pitchers

As I mentioned, it’s hard to discern starters from relievers when the Blue Jays employ a piggy-back system. That said, I’m including pitchers who made around half of their appearances as starters in this category. I’ll use a similar structure to the pitchers’ post for the DSL Blue Jays: I’ll discuss pitchers starting with those who threw the most innings. There are also several pitchers who were promoted to Bluefield part way through the year and, going forward, I’ll include players with the team for which they played the most.

Who is Dalton Rodriguez and how in the world did he end up as the “starter” with the most innings with the GCL Blue Jays? Rodriguez was an international free agent signing out of Mexico and was 17 for most of the season with the Blue Jays. After tremendous success with the DSL Jays last year, Rodriguez made the jump to North America with very limited success, posting a 7.02 ERA and 1.88 WHIP over 41 innings. Some positive takeaways were the 12 walks that Rodriguez issued and his strikeout rate rose in his second year of pro ball. He also appeared to be bitten by the BABIP monster as hitters had a .425 BABIP, causing him to give up 65 hits. What to make of this? Rodriguez is just barely 18 and is still young enough to start 2015 in the GCL without being old for the level. Unless he improves enough by the end of extended spring training, he’ll likely return to Dunedin.

As mentioned, I thought that Jake Brentz was probably the most improved player for the GCL Blue Jays, leading me to believe that, after the fall instructional league and spring training next year, Brentz will be ready to start ascending through the organization a little bit more. While he saw more side work last year than actual game action, Brentz took on a full load in 2014, pitching in 12 games and starting six of them with an entirely respectable 4.08 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. His 26 walks in 39 2/3 innings is still very high but his numbers are far better than what they were a year ago and his strikeout rate was very solid at 19.3%, especially considering how raw Brentz is.

Despite only starting four games, lefty Nick Wells logged starter’s innings, throwing 34 2/3 innings. Drafted in the third round this year, Wells struggled in his first taste of pro ball, finishing the season with a 5.71 ERA and 1.59 WHIP. He only walked 11 batters but had a very low strikeout total of 18, which translates to an 11.3% rate. Again, it’s important to stress that the organization isn’t going to worry about the numbers too much, especially for a high-school player in his draft year. Wells will have a lot of time to work out any issues that might have plagued him and he’ll likely return to the GCL the start of 2015.

Another 2014 draft pick of the Jays, 26th rounder Bobby Wheatley, got plenty of time on the mound for the GCL Jays. A big, 6-foot-5 lefty who pitched for USC (Southern California, not South Carolina), I actually expected a lot more from the 22-year-old Wheatley than what he ended up doing, posting a 9.37 ERA and a 2.23 WHIP over 32 2/3 innings. He struggled with control (19 walks) and didn’t strike out a huge number of batters (24), which is particularly troubling considering that he was in his Age-22 season playing against a lot of younger players. The one caveat to Wheatley’s struggles is that, like a lot of college pitchers, he threw quite a few innings before he even got to the Blue Jays’ system, logging 58 1/3 with USC. I can see him in Vancouver next year, particularly if he has a solid time in extended spring training.

A high-school draftee in the seventh round of the 2013 draft by the Blue Jays, Conner Greene got his feet wet in pro ball last year with the GCL Jays. Starting there in 2014, Greene got out to a dominant start before the Jays decided to move him up to Bluefield to finish out the year. In Florida, Greene was outstanding, posting a 1.99 ERA and 0.98 WHIP over 31 2/3 innings, allowing just six walks and striking out 30. His numbers took a bit of a hit when he was promoted but were still solid, with a 4.23 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 12 walks and 21 strikeouts over 27 2/3 innings. Greene is a 6-foot-3 righty who will probably continue to stay under the radar as he goes into his Age-20 season in 2015. I could see him starting in Vancouver but an aggressive, Lansing assignment might not be out of the question if he has a good showing in spring training.

Coming out of a Texas community college (coincidentally named Grayson County CC), Grayson Huffman had an outstanding first year with the Blue Jays’ organization after being selected in the sixth round of the 2014 draft. At the time of the draft, I compared him with Daniel Lietz, who the Jays drafted in the fifth round the year before and although Lietz wasn’t as dominant in his first year, both were 6-foot-2 lefties drafted after a year of community college ball. Huffman threw 27 innings over seven starts (eight games) with the GCL Blue Jays and had a 1.00 ERA and 0.74 WHIP, only allowing seven hits but walking 13 and striking out 23. His control issues followed him in Bluefield as he walked seven batters in 11 innings but struck out 11 batters and posted a 0.82 ERA despite the 1.64 WHIP. I can see Huffman starting the season back in Bluefield or even jumping to Vancouver next year.

Sean Reid-Foley came to the Blue Jays organization as a well regarded prep arm coming out of Florida. SRF had flashes of brilliance in his debut professional season but also had rookie moments as well but put together some solid numbers with a 4.76 ERA and 1.37 WHIP, walking 10 and striking out 25 over 22 2/3 innings. Reid-Foley was used in short stints of three innings or less, reaching the four-inning mark only once (allowing only two hits and striking out six on August 5). While he had a couple of small hiccups, walking three in a game twice, the overall body of work for an 18-year-old pitcher is very impressive. Look for Reid-Foley to pitch for Bluefield, logging 50-70 innings 2015.

Hansel Rodriguez was the other 17-year-old pitcher on the GCL Jays’ pitching staff (along with Daniel Rodriguez) and Hansel made some headlines when the Jays signed him over the winter, using some money that they got from the Angels’ international signing bonus pool when the Jays selected Brian Moran in the Rule 5 Draft and traded  him to LA. Rodriguez skipped the DSL and logged 19 innings in Florida, pitching to a 7.11 ERA and 1.58 WHIP. He walked 12 and struck out 13 but it’s important to remember that Rodriguez is still very young and will likely repeat in the GCL in 2015.

Relief pitchers

Leading the pack with 16 appearances was 20-year-old Dominican Francis Eduardo. The righty had an undistinguished season, throwing 26 innings and posting a 4.85 ERA with a 1.46 WHIP, but had a solid walk to strikeout rate, walking 12 and striking out 27.

Brandon Hinkle, a 34th round pick, made his pro debut this year as a 23-year-old in the GCL, finishing with a 4.58 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in 19 2/3 innings, striking out 18 and walking nine. For me, this is an unimpressive pro debut for a seasoned, over-age collegiate pitcher playing in a young league. I see him in Vancouver next year.

Francisco Diaz has been around the Jays’ organization since last year and the 6-foot-5 righty had mixed results compared to his 2013 season spent mostly at the same level in the GCL. While Diaz, 21, dropped his ERA by almost two runs in 2014, he regressed in both walks and strikeouts, showing far more wildness in fewer innings than last year. His 2.57 ERA is nice but the 32 walks and 18 strikeouts in 28 innings are disappointing and only the fact that he gave up 16 hits saved his already bloated 1.71 WHIP. Of most concern is the increase in HBP to 5 and wild pitches to a whopping 16 on the season. At 21, Diaz may not have much more time to turn things around.

Turner Lee, a 6-foot-3 college lefty, came to the Blue Jays as a non-drafted free agent after this year’s draft. Lee was another over-age, collegiate pitcher who didn’t do much to really impress as he got lit up to the tune of a 7.89 ERA and 1.82 WHIP. His strikeout to walk ratio was pretty decent, walking 11 and striking out 23 over 29 2/3 innings but the 43 hits he allowed bloated all of his stats. That could be due to a .404 BABIP and Lee could certainly see some regression on that stat next year in a Vancouver or Bluefield assignment.

Joe Claver was another college pitcher to sign as a non-drafted free agent. His GCL season was certainly not the pro debut he was looking for as he posted an 11.95 ERA and 2.36 WHIP, walking 15 and striking out 11 over the course of 20 1/3 innings.

Angel Perdomo, a 20-year-old Dominican made his North American debut and earned the Blue Jays from Away Reliever of the Year award with a strong performance that outpaced many of the club’s starters. Making 13 appearances, Perdomo, a 6-foot-6 lefty, averaged over three innings per outing and posted a 2.54 ERA with a 1.24 WHIP over 46 innings, walking 21 and striking out 57. Judging by his strikeout numbers alone, Perdomo has electric stuff, striking out almost 30% (29.1% to be exact) of the batters he faced. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in A-ball next year after extended spring training.

Sean Ratcliffe, a 19-year-old Pickering native, saw a little more action with the GCL Blue Jays in 2014 but was also allowed to go play with the Canadian Junior National team during the season. His overall numbers weren’t good in a small sample of 14 1/3 innings with an 8.16 ERA, 2.58 WHIP, 17 walks and seven strikeouts. Ratcliffe is still fairly new to pitching, having been mostly a catcher before being drafted and could take a couple more years to find himself on the mound.

Jonathan Torres, 6-foot-4 Venezuelan lefty, made his GCL debut this year after 10 innings with the DSL Jays. He only threw 5 1/3 innings in Florida and the 19 year old walked 15 and struck out six. His numbers were much better in the DSL, striking out 11, walking four and posting a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings.

Jonathon Wandling moved around this season, making appearances with three clubs but he logged the most innings in the GCL. The 22-year-old, non-drafted free agent righty posted a 3.34 ERA overall this season through 29 2/3 innings split between the GCL Jays, the Vancouver Canadians and the Dunedin Blue Jays. In the GCL, he threw 12 1/3 of those innings, allowing just nine hits and three walks while striking out nine. In Dunedin, he didn’t allow an earned run (but four unearned runs) over 5 2/3 innings on ten hits with two walks and four strikeouts while he walked five in 11 2/3 innings closing out the regular season with the Vancouver Canadians. I don’t like to read too much into the numbers for collegiate pitchers in their draft year, particularly with Wandling who threw 99 1/3 innings with the University of Southern Indiana. I can see Wandling in full-season ball in 2015 easily.

Patrick Murphy, a 6-foot-4 righty, was just getting his feet wet in pro ball this summer after recovering from Tommy John surgery all of last year. In just three appearances, Murphy threw just four innings before being shut down again in mid-July. Time will tell on this 19-year-old former third round pick (2013).

Hitters

Matt Morgan, a 2014 draftee, led the club in games behind the plate with 34 but had an uninspiring beginning to his professional career. Jumping out is the big 42.1% strikeout rate through 133 plate appearances that shows that he’s going to need a lot of work at the plate. Morgan didn’t do much in his time in Florida, hitting .092/.188/.322 but the 10.5% walk rate is very healthy. Defensively, it appears that Morgan will also need to do a lot of work, throwing out 18% of potential base stealers but with inexperienced pitchers holding on runners, the GCL CS% numbers can’t be seen as too reliable. If Morgan’s going to make up some ground in an organization that has several strong young catchers, the fourth-round pick is going to have to bring his A game in 2015, likely returning to the GCL unless he has a strong extended spring training.

Juan Kelly played the most games at first base but also split some of the catching duties for the Blue Jays and had a strong first season in the GCL. Kelly, who had played in the DSL over the last two years, hit for a healthy .287/.363/.383 slash line with 10 doubles and four triples. He didn’t steal many bases but was one of the most consistent contributors to the team. Kelly just turned 20 so you can bet that he’ll be in Rookie ball next year.

The every day second baseman was 19 year old Venezuelan Deiferson Barreto (who is not Franklin’s brother). This Barreto can also play shortstop and third base but got the bulk of his playing time at second thanks to the presence of Yeltsin Gudino on the club. Barreto had a very solid season in his first year in the US, hitting .288/.309/.314 with 15 doubles and two home runs. Obviously, his walk numbers will need to come up as Barreto only took five walks in 51 games but he rarely struck out, going down on strikes just 14 times. Either way, Barreto will probably move up a level to Advanced-Rookie ball next year.

Earning the most playing time at third base was 2012 draftee Trey Pascazi who was in his third year in the GCL. Pascazi continues to be ineffective at the plate, hitting .141/.239/.179 through 88 plate appearances. Unfortunately, this may be the end of the road for Pascazi with the Blue Jays as a 21 year old with three seasons of sub-.200 hitting in the Gulf Coast League and only one extra-base hit is not going to stick around long.

Yeltsin Gudino, a 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop, is obviously going to be a work in progress. I think the Blue Jays were hoping they could catch lightning in a bottle again by skipping him over the DSL the way they did with Franklin Barreto last year. Things didn’t work out nearly as well with Gudino posting a .145/.219/.167 slash line over 155 plate appearances. From the limited amound that I saw Gudino in spring training, he really wasn’t hitting the ball very hard as can be seen from his lack of extra-base hits (only two doubles). That said, his walk rate (8.4%) and strikeout rate (18.1%) show some plate discipline and suggest that he’s not being completely overmatched. Look for Gudino to get another shot in 2014 as an 18 year old.

As our Player of the Game Champion, Juan Tejada, a 6-foot-3 Dominican outfielder appears to be the player on the GCL Jays with the most power. After two seasons in the DSL, Tejada, 20, came to the US to lead the GCL Blue Jays in slugging percentage (.420) and home runs (five). Tejada’s .241/.293/.420 slash line shows that he’s not nearly patient enough at the plate and his 31.9% strikeout rate shows that he may have some holes in his swing that need plugging. He could go a number of way but will likely get out of the GCL and move up next year.

Just a couple of months older than Yeltsin Gudino, outfielder Freddy Rodriguez fared better in his professional debut. Like Gudino, Rodriguez was coming over the GCL after never having played in the Dominican Summer League but still managed to hit .239/.306/.336 with four doubles, three triples and a home run over 129 plate appearances. His strikeout rate (23.3%) and walk rate (7.8%) are both very acceptable for a very young player who has more than just baseball related issues to deal with in coming to the US to play. Rodriguez probably starts the season back in the DSL unless he shows some big strides in the fall instructional league and spring training/extended spring training.

Seeing as how versatile Lane Thomas was, he doesn’t show up as having had played the most number of games at any single position. That’s also because the fifth-round pick of the 2014 draft also was impressive enough to get a late-season promotion to Bluefield after 34 games. Just turned 19 in August, Thomas hit .260/.362/.382 with eight doubles and four triples in the GCL while stealing seven bases (out of 10 attempts) before moving up to Bluefield and decimating the opposition with a .323/.384/.431 line over 18 more games. Playing center field and third base, Thomas is an athletic player who seems to have an advanced approach at the plate and could make the jump to Vancouver next year.

Edwin Fuentes, an infielder, also managed to get into quite a few games this season. In his second season with the GCL Jays, Fuentes, who just turned 20, hit only .203/.251/.285 in 175 plate appearances. While versatile, Fuentes will probably need to show more with the bat to keep a job in the Jays’ system.

Angel Gomez, 6-foot-2 Puerto Rican, played for the Blue Jays’ organization for the first time since 2011 and really rewarded the Blue Jays’ faith in him. He played in 30 games, going .320/.411/.412 and striking out only 16 times in 113 plate appearances. It’ll likely be sink or swim for the 22 year old outfielder who will probably be given a chance to move up through the system at a quicker pace next year.

Dave Pepe, a 31st round pick of the Blue Jays in 2014, gets my vote for being this year’s Boomer Collins, a character guy coming out of college who is just too good for the GCL but didn’t have anywhere else to go. As a 22-year-old, Pepe’s .304/.430/.362 slash line shouldn’t be given too much weight but it’s nice to see a college guy come right in a play well despite limited opportunity throughout the year. Pepe will probably be with Vancouver next year as a fourth outfielder.

Other outfielders for the Blue Jays included 19-year-old Dominican outfielder Andres De Aza who regressed in his second year in the GCL, hitting .193/.244/.253 over 90 plate appearances. Cliff Brantley, on the other hand, was a 19th round pick this year and the 21-year-old with big league bloodlines put up some mediocre numbers, hitting .232/.284/.293 in 89 plate appearances. Canadian Nathan DeSouza, 20, finally started to hit, slashing .263/.344/.368 in his limited opportunities (64 plate appearances).

John Silviano, Dean Bell and Andrew Florides all subbed in on the infield. Silviano, who was released this season after hitting .154/.214/.154 in seven games, all at first base. Bell, 21, hit .191/.225/.206 in 21 games (71 PAs), playing second and third base. Florides, 19, had only one hit in 15 plate appearances.

Brett Wellman was the club’s third catcher after signing as a non-drafted free agent this year. Wellman got into nine games behind the plate, didn’t throw out either of the runners who tried to steal and hit .077/.294/.077 in 35 plate appearances.

Who are these players? Find out in The 2014 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook, now available as an ebook at Smashwords.com for $7.99 US. It’s coming soon to Amazon, Apple iBooks, Kobo and other fine retailers. You can purchase and preview the book at our Smashwords.com page! If you like us here,“like” us on Facebook!

The All-Star Break Supplement to the Minor League Handbook is also available at Smashwords.com for only $2 US! Get an update on how your favourite players have been doing this season as well as a report on the 2014 draft!

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