Letters of Intent
Part 1: Blue Jays from Away Awards
By Jay Blue
Blue Jays From Away
Despite an outstanding first half that had them as one of the best teams in the minor leagues, the Dunedin Blue Jays fell off precipitously in the second half, culminating with a two-and-done playoff series. With several of their best first-half players like Dalton Pompey, Kendall Graveman and Daniel Norris on their way to the major leagues, the Blue Jays just didn’t have enough quality to compete with the Daytona Cubs who were stacked to finish the season.
Still, the D-Jays had a great season and many minor league teams in A-ball are envious of having had three MLB call ups in the same year. The Blue Jays also had seven mid-season All-Stars and three full-season All-Stars to go along with their first-half divisional title and a nice Florida State League Manager of the Year award for skipper Omar Malave. Without further ado, here are the Blue Jays from Away Awards for the 2014 Dunedin Blue Jays.
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 Dunedin Blue Jays:
Marcus Knecht 11.3
Matt Boyd 10.5
Dalton Pompey 10.35
Dwight Smith 8.3
Taylor Cole, Emilio Guerrero 7
Kendall Graveman 6.8
Christian Lopes 6.6
Nick Baligod, Jorge Saez 5.3
Ben White 4.8
Daniel Norris 4.6
Kevin Patterson 4.4
Derrick Chung 4
L.B. Dantzler 3.1
K.C. Hobson 3.05
Gustavo Pierre 3
Jesse Hernandez, Peter Mooney, Pierce Rankin 2.5
Chad Girodo, Efrain Nieves 2.3
Andy Fermin 2
Jorge Flores 1.25
Matt Newman 1.05
Shane Opitz 1
Kramer Champlin, Blake McFarland, Mike Reeves, Kamakani Usui, Danny Barnes, Kellen Sweeney, Tony Davis, Santiago Nessy, Griffing Murphy, Ian Parmley Mitch Nay 0.5
Justin Jackson, Cole Gillespie, Roberto Osuna 0.3
I bet you didn’t see that one coming, did you? It kind of surprised me when I sorted the spreadsheet to tell me who was the player with the most Player of the Game points but there it is in black and white (or light grey and dark grey): Marcus Knecht, the Toronto boy, is your Blue Jays from Away Player of the Game champion. Knecht didn’t have the most statistically eye-popping season but he did help the D-Jays win by providing a steady and solid presence in the outfield and at the plate.
Blue Jays from Away Player of the Year
This won’t be a surprise at all: Dwight Smith, Jr. wins the award for the Player of the Year, which he can put alongside his R. Howard Webster awards on his mantle. Smith’s consistent season that saw him significantly increase his power output while still maintaining a high batting average and on-base percentage (.284/.363/.453 slash line) gives him the award. He also had the advantage of compiling his numbers over the course of the full season where some others were moved up midway through the year.
Honourable mentions: You can’t not mention Dalton Pompey’s outstanding first half here. The 21-year-old Mississauga native hit .319/.397/.471 over 70 games with the D-Jays before beginning his meteoric rise all the way to Toronto.
Blue Jays from Away Pitcher of the Year
This was an extremely tough award to decide on because we’re evaluating players based on how long they spent with the team as well as their effectiveness overall. With that in mind, I’m giving it to Matt Boyd who was utterly dominant in the first half and very good in the second before running out of gas down the stretch. While he couldn’t duplicate his High-A success in Double-A, Boyd was absolutely dominant in Dunedin, putting up a 1.39 ERA, 0.94 WHIP with 103 strikeouts and only 20 walks in 90 2/3 innings.
Honourable mentions: There are a lot! First of all, Taylor Cole, the team’s leading pitcher when it comes to innings pitched (132), had a very solid 3.07 ERA and 1.16 WHIP with a minor-league leading 171 strikeouts and 39 walks. Kendall Graveman and Daniel Norris also merited consideration. Graveman for his 2.23 ERA over 96 2/3 innings with a 1.11 WHIP and Norris for his 1.22 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 76 Ks. In Graveman’s case, I would argue that Boyd was much more dominant at the same level (despite Graveman’s greater success at higher levels) and in Norris’s case, I’d argue that Boyd’s greater workload in Dunedin and better command gives him the edge. On the bright side, it’s fantastic to see so many great pitchers on the club.
Blue Jays from Away Reliever of the Year
While the competition for Pitcher of the Year was fierce for the D-Jays, the competition was very clear for the honour of Reliever of the Year as Arik Sikula, the D-Jays’ closer, was probably the simplest choice. Sikula notched 31 saves with a 1.66 ERA and 0.90 WHIP over 43 1/3 innings, walking only eight and striking out 60.
Honourable mention: Sidewinding lefties Chad Girodo and Efrain Nieves had a lot in common this year. They both ate up innings for the Blue Jays and both posted sub-2.50 ERAs with WHIPs around 1.17. Girodo shows much more swing-and-miss stuff, striking out 81 over 76 2/3 innings but the two of them made for a miserable life for left-handed batters in the late innings.
Blue Jays from Away Most Improved Player
For me, there was no D-Jay who improved more than Kendall Graveman. Graveman, considered to be more of an organizational pitcher last year with the Lansing Lugnuts after having been drafted in the eighth round in 2013. His numbers were solid but fairly pedestrian and didn’t hint much at what he would be capable of this year. The discovery of a cutter and the refinement of his sinking fastball made Graveman the organization’s fastest riser, reaching the major leagues after starting in Class-A Lansing.
Honourable mention: Taylor Cole also had fairly pedestrian numbers last year, spent mostly in Lansing. He rebounded by jacking up his strikeout rate at a higher level than he played at last year and recaptured the form he had in 2012 when he was one of the most devastating pitchers in the Short-Season-A Northwest League with the Vancouver Canadians.
Part 2: Starting Pitchers
As you probably read, the Dunedin Blue Jays’ starting pitching staff was stocked with talented pitchers who excelled in the Florida State League. Some used the High-A level as a spring board for an eventual major league call up while others struggled when given the opportunity to pitch at a higher level. While 16 pitchers started for the Blue Jays, there were only seven were really integral parts of the starting rotation which is a testament to the team’s health and ability of the pitchers to get things done.
Taylor Cole made some waves this season by racking up prodigious strike out totals. The 25-year-old righty from Las Vegas was recapturing the form that saw him win multiple awards in 2012 as one of the best pitchers in the Northwest League with the Vancouver Canadians. This year, Cole finished the season with 181 strikeouts, leading all of the minor leagues. While his 12 1/3 audition in New Hampshire wasn’t pretty (more on that later), Cole had a 3.07 ERA and 1.16 WHIP with 171 strikeouts and 39 walks in 132 innings with the Blue Jays.
I saw Cole’s first Double-A start and while he was hit for eight runs (seven earned), I could see significant improvement over what I saw last year when he was with the Lansing Lugnuts. Cole’s fastball was in the 90-91 mph range and touched 93 mph while his changeup was excellent and his slider was pretty good. Unfortunately, in the game I saw, Cole didn’t have much fastball command and needed to pitch backwards. His second start was better as he threw seven innings and allowed only three runs. My gut feeling is that Cole could have stayed in Double-A but the Blue Jays wanted him back in Dunedin for the playoff run. I can see Cole back in Double-A to start 2015 and, if he starts off well, he could see Triple-A, particularly if he manages to find his fastball command.
Soft-tossing righty Jesse Hernandez spent his Age-25 season with the Dunedin Blue Jays for the second year, regressing despite eating up 129 innings for the Blue Jays over 23 starts (and 27 appearances). Hernandez had a 4.67 ERA and 1.49 WHIP, showing improved control over last year (4.8% walk rate) but a reduced strikeout rate (down to 10.4% in 2014). While Hernandez had a very good ERA and FIP last year (3.49 ERA, 3.77 FIP), this year, his FIP was 5.26 which says that the he was probably still pretty lucky. When I’ve seen Hernandez, he’s been throwing in the 84-86 mph range with some sink on his fastball and decent offspeed stuff.
Another 25 year old was a stalwart of the Dunedin rotation with Ben White making 23 of his 25 starts with the club, posting a 5.03 ERA and 1.53 WHIP while striking out 79 and walking 32 over 125 1/3 innings. He made two starts with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and had excellent peripherals despite giving up two home runs over his 11 innings.
Lefty Matt Boyd, 23, made the fourth-most starts for the Dunedin Blue Jays, throwing 90 2/3 utterly dominant innings with a 1.39 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and a strikeout to walk ratio of over five to one (103 Ks, 20 BBs). Boyd didn’t fare nearly as well in 10 starts in Double-A, with an ERA approaching 7.00 but a 1.59 WHIP (which isn’t horrible). His 44 strikeouts to 13 walks were excellent and the 6-foot-3 lefty had solid strikeout rates at both levels.
Having seen Boyd before (although not this year), I think that he’s going to be just fine in Double-A New Hampshire next year. His .379 BABIP was very high while his .270 BABIP in Dunedin wasn’t much lower than league average. That, combined with his solid peripherals lead me to believe that he’s going to be just fine with his three good pitches and excellent control.
Making his major league debut at the age of 23, Kendall Graveman completed a meteoric rise through the Blue Jays’ organization that started in Class-A Lansing. Graveman, the 2013 eighth-round draft pick spent the most time with the Lugnuts this season, starting 16 games, pitching 96 2/3 innings and posting a 2.23 ERA, 1.11 WHIP with 18 walks and 64 strikeouts. Overall those numbers were a 1.83 ERA and 1.03 WHIP over 167 1/3 innings up to Triple-A Buffalo. With a 3.86 ERA over 4 2/3 innings in the majors, Graveman’s 64.3% ground ball percentage is the most impressive of all and he reminds me of a Marcus Walden with a little better stuff. His development of a cutter has also helped him and I can see Graveman in the Buffalo rotation waiting for a chance to pitch in the majors again next year.
Daniel Norris was another Dunedin Blue Jays pitcher who made the major leagues this year although Norris wasn’t nearly as successful in the big leagues. That’s okay because the 21-year-old lefty from Tennessee was just showing us glimpses of what he can do. In the minors, Norris made 13 starts with Dunedin, throwing 66 1/3 innings (on a fairly strict pitch limit), taking huge strides by reining in his control, posting a 1.22 ERA and walking only 18 batters with 76 strikeouts (an outstanding 4.22 ratio). In Double-A New Hampshire, where I saw him pitch, Norris threw 35 2/3 innings with 17 strikeouts and five home runs against, ballooning his ERA to 4.54 despite striking out 49 batters in 35 2/3 innings. Those numbers settled down in Triple-A Buffalo where he struck out an incredible 44.7% of batters faced (38 Ks in 22 2/3 innings) and walked eight. Over his first three starts in Triple-A, Norris faced little resistance, striking out 32 over 16 1/3 innings but a strong Pawtucket club got to him in his last start for Buffalo, giving up six runs over four innings.
I saw Norris pitch in Double-A last season and I was impressed by him even though he was somewhat of a slow starter, struggling to find his release point and command in the first inning. The fastball was sitting in the 91-93 mph range (touching 95) while he relied mostly on his curve and changeup as his primary offspeed pitches. His high three-quarters delivery gives his curve a sharp downward bite but it was the slider that really impressed me when he threw it. Both the curve and change are solid, major-league calibre pitches but the slider could be plus. Norris will likely start the season in Buffalo and will be ready to become a full-time major leaguer when the opportunity arises.
Roberto Osuna is still only 19. Coming back from Tommy John surgery, Osuna put up some ugly numbers in Dunedin but people who saw him said that he stuff was back and that he was just refining things and getting his feel back. Osuna had a 6.55 ERA with a 1.68 WHIP over 22 innings for Dunedin, walking nine but striking out a whopping 30 batters in his limited work. The mature young Mexican righty is headed to the Arizona Fall League to pick up some more innings before before he’ll be back on the radar next year. If his recovery goes well and he impresses in spring training, look out for him to be in New Hampshire before long in his Age-20 season.
Part 3: Relief Pitchers
While the starting rotation for the Dunedin Blue Jays featured some tremendous performances, the bullpen was just as effective. With several pitchers having great years, the D-Jays pitching staff was probably the deepest in the Jays’ organization this year.
Getting into a team-high 47 games was lefty Chad Girodo who was incredibly impressive throughout the season. Throwing 76 2/3 innings, Girodo posted a 2.47 ERA and 1.17 WHIP with just 20 walks and 81 strikeouts, giving him almost exactly the same strikeout and walk percentages that he had last year in Lansing. The 2013 ninth-round draft pick is a side-arming lefty who gets a ton of ground balls (2.09 Ground Out to Air Out ratio) with his heavy fastball that features a ton of movement. I also saw an increase in velocity during spring training for Girodo over what he was doing at the end of last year which gets him into the low 90s and gives him a better chance of being effective and, significantly, righties didn’t hit much better against him than lefties did. I see Girodo moving up to New Hampshire in 2015.
With 44 appearances, Puerto Rican side-winding lefty Efrain Nieves, acquired by the Blue Jays in the 2012 Rule 5 draft, actually logged more innings for the D-Jays than Girodo did thanks to his four starts. Nieves had a 2.29 ERA and 1.17 WHIP with a solid 5.9% walk rate. The downside is that Nieves only struck out 16.1% of batters against, but he showed a huge increase in ground balls (3.15 GO/AO ratio) which leads me to believe that he’s been working on a sinker to help him get those outs. Nieves is another pitcher who could very well end up in Double-A next year.
Righty Arik Sikula, 25, was our reliever of the year thanks to an outstanding season with the Dunedin Blue Jays, spent as the team’s closer. The Marshall University product, taken in the 36th round of the 2011 draft, racked up 31 saves in 44 games for the D-Jays, posting a 1.66 ERA and 0.90 WHIP in 43 1/3 innings while walking just eight batters and striking out 60. Moving up for a 12-game promotion to New Hampshire mid-season, Sikula threw another 15 innings, allowing five runs, walking four and striking out 20, showing that his stuff played at the higher level too. Look for Sikula to start the year with the Fisher Cats in New Hampshire.
Wil Browning had another dominant year in A-ball after being signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2012. Browning reached Double-A in his Age-25 season, but didn’t do nearly as well there, walking far too many batters over a six-game trial. In Dunedin, however, Browning had a 1.65 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP over 43 2/3 innings with 17 walks and 57 strikeouts. I think Browning gets another shot at Double-A next season to see if he can repeat his success when given a longer rope.
Justin Jackson, the 25-year-old former infielder-turned-pitcher, got roughed up in his second year as a pitcher. Pitching in Dunedin and a little bit in New Hampshire, Jackson posted a 4.38 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP to go along with 22 walks and 40 strikeouts in 49 1/3 innings with Dunedin before throwing up an ERA over 6.00 and a WHIP over 2.00 in 8 2/3 innings in New Hampshire. Jackson’s future in the organization is unclear. He’s already eligible to leave as a minor league free agent and I don’t know what the club’s scouts and minor league staff think of him as a pitcher. I’ll definitely be following what happens with Jackson very carefully.
After pitching just three innings in 2013 due to injury, Danny Barnes had a comeback year but couldn’t stay healthy the whole season, missing all of July this year. In 38 2/3 innings with the D-Jays, Barnes had a 4.19 ERA, 1.24 WHIP to go with a very good ratio of 4.08 strikeouts for every walk, striking out 49 batters. The peripheral numbers suggest that Barnes, who will be 25 this month, will get a shot to see what he can do in Double-A.
The Blue Jays allowed several of the Dunedin Blue Jays pitchers to test their mettle against better competition with the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats, including lefty Tony Davis. Davis posted similar numbers to last year as a 26 year old in the Florida State League with a 3.53 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 53 strikeouts and 16 walks in 43 1/3 innings. Davis actually started the season in Double-A but struggled, getting lit up for a 5.70 ERA, 1.90 WHIP and more walks than strikeouts (and almost as many walks as innings pitched) with 22 free passes in 23 2/3 innings.
6-foot-6 righty Kramer Champlin was one of the pleasant surprises after a solid season in Lansing last year. In his Age-24 season in Dunedin, Champlin put up some very good numbers despite injuries that kept his campaign to just 30 innings (not counting the five innings in the GCL on rehab). Champlin’s 2.70 ERA and 1.13 WHIP were very strong and his strikeout numbers fell from his Lansing percentage (22.7%) last year to 15.1%. Is the pitcher who relied on the strikeout less in 2014 the real Kramer Champlin or did the injury take its toll on the 2011 33rd-round draftee? We’ll see next year when I think he could start in either Dunedin or New Hampshire.
In his Age-25 season, Hunter Carnevale was picked up by the Blue Jays as a minor league free agent after he was released by the New York Mets. Carnevale threw only 4 1/3 innings for Dunedin before the end of the season.
Ajay Meyer was off to a great start to his season after three previous excellent years as a pro. Meyer, now 27, had 7 1/3 innings under his belt, allowing just two runs before he decided to call it quits, retiring before April had finished.
Part 4: Hitters
The core of the Dunedin Blue Jays was a group of players with full-season experience. At the start of the season, there was actually a mix of players who had been in Dunedin last year with some new faces although the most successful new face was shipped up to New Hampshire (and eventually Toronto) before long. As usual, we start behind the plate.
Leading the club in games behind the plate is the outstanding 26-year-old catcher Derrick Chung. Chung’s strong performance last year in Dunedin and in the Arizona Fall League put him on many people’s radar and he followed it up hitting .320/.395/.438 in 49 games with the D-Jays in the first half, throwing out 38% of potential base stealers. He earned his promotion to New Hampshire where his numbers fell off to .240/.275/.275 in 47 games but his caught-stealing percentage actually improved to 44%. Chung doesn’t strike out much and usually takes quite a few walks (although that didn’t translate to the New Hampshire call up) but his real value to any team is his defense and leadership. For an organizational catcher, Chung will probably provide excellent value in the high minor leagues and will likely return to New Hampshire next year.
K.C. Hobson had the most time at first base, playing 52 games there and DHing in nine more. Over 262 plate appearances, he hit .238/.317/.388 with 13 doubles and seven homers. After his promotion to New Hampshire, Hobson regressed despite a small boost to his BABIP and he hit .215/.276/.345 with another five home runs. In his Age-23 season, Hobson (who could win a Jack Murphy look-a-like contest), Hobson took a step back to where he was in the two prior seasons in his walk rate and his strikeout rate fell precipitously in Dunedin (although it shot back up to 21.4% in New Hampshire). I wrote a long article at Jays Journal this offseason that said that because of such a low BABIP in 2013, I thought Hobson would be a great candidate for a breakout season. I was left wanting. I saw his power first hand in New Hampshire but his inability to translate his power and good contact into OBP over the past two seasons is troubling. Still, Hobson is only 24 and should be back in New Hampshire next year.
Christian Lopes, 2011 seventh rounder just turned 22, and he had an interesting season with the Dunedin Blue Jays. Lopes had an up-and-down year and while he had a solid May, Lopes hit just .230/.315/.331 over the first three months of the season. There were certainly concerns with the young second baseman, mainly because he faded last year with Lansing in his first full season as a pro. Lopes put those concerns to rest, however, hitting .254/.342/.367 over the last two months of the season, allowing him to finish with better numbers overall than last year (a .321 wOBA and a 98 wRC+). Lopes is heading to the Australian Baseball League to get some extra time in and should be either in New Hampshire or back in Dunedin in 2015.
Gustavo Pierre was the third baseman for most of the season for Dunedin in 2014. The 22-year-old Dominican, who had a walk rate of under 1% last year, saw some big improvements in that category while also cutting down on his strikeouts. In 437 plate appearances between Dunedin and New Hampshire (only 30 PAs in NH), Pierre went from four walks and 128 strikeouts in 439 plate appearances last year to 13 walks and 112 strikeouts this year. Additionally, Pierre, who was known for his poor defense in Lansing from 2011-2013 cut his error total down from 34 in 2013 to 26 (although one was made at shortstop) in 2014 showing progress on the defensive side of the ball. With a solid bat, Pierre had a pretty good season with Dunedin, hitting .263/.285/.390 over 107 games but I’ll see the season as a positive one. With Mitch Nay slated to man the hot corner in Dunedin next year, I’d put Pierre in New Hampshire and hope to see an even bigger increase in his walk rate.
Another player from whom I was hoping for a breakout season was Emilio Guerrero. The lanky, 22-year-old Dominican shortstop saw a little bit of regression from his numbers last year, mostly attributed to a significantly lower walk rate and higher strikeout rate. Guerrero’s walk rate was cut in half as he was promoted to Dunedin, going from 10% with the Lansing Lugnuts last year to 5% with Dunedin this year. His strikeout rate also jumped from 14.8% in Lansing to 25.2%. Guerrero was definitely continuing to hit with some pop in his bat, hitting nine home runs and 21 doubles over 105 games. Guerrero is probably the first player that the Blue Jays are moving around the ball diamond to accommodate the hard-charging shortstops coming up through the organization. With Dawel Lugo, Franklin Barreto and Richard Urena coming off good (or better) seasons, something will have to give and Guerrero saw some time in center field (20 games) as well as third base. I can see Guerrero back in Dunedin, particularly if the move to the outfield is going to be permanent in 2015.
I’ve already discussed Dwight Smith, Jr.’s excellent season when I awarded him the Player of the Year for the Dunedin Blue Jays. He hit .284/.363/.453, showing off an increase in power that saw his ISO jump 65 points from last year. With good speed and baserunning skills to go along with his developing power, the 21-year-old outfielder who was a supplemental-round pick in 2011 is really going to be increasing his prospect potential despite staying in Dunedin all season (unlike another player we’ll get to shortly). I think we can all see Smith moving up to New Hampshire next year where, in a more hitter-friendly league, he could really get people talking.
Toronto-born Marcus Knecht returned to Dunedin for the third time as a 24 year old in 2014 and was one of the most solid contributors to the club even though his .250/.328/.388 slash line isn’t the most impressive. He did improve over his two previous seasons and, most impressively, cut down his strikeouts considerably from 28.3% in 2012, to 23.1% last year to 19.3% this year. His walk rate was also back up to 9.1% after dipping to a career low 5.9% in 2013. With a wOBA of .333 and a wRC+ of 106, Knecht was finally an above-average offensive contributor after his huge 2011 season in Lansing. Knecht could finally get a chance to show what he can do in Double-A New Hampshire next season.
A happy birthday goes out to Nick Baligod who just turned 27. The elder statesman for the Dunedin Blue Jays played 95 games for the club and hit .249/.317/.339, a significant step back from his very solid .733-OPS season a year ago. A 40th-round draftee in 2011, Baligod has been a solid contributor making excellent contact: he has only struck out 59 times in 695 plate appearances over two years with Dunedin. While Baligod set a new career high for home runs in 2014 (six), he also hit nine fewer doubles, leading to an ISO that was actually lower than in 2013.
Rising like a rocket through the Blue Jays’ organization in 2014 was Mississauga-born center fielder Dalton Pompey. Pompey’s 70-game first half added considerable flash and honours to his already exciting young career. Pompey was named a mid-season All-Star as well as named to the Futures Game. Pompey hit .319/.397/.471 over the first half of the season with Dunedin, stealing 29 bases and getting caught twice. He lowered his strikeout rate from Lansing last year while maintaining a high (11%) walk rate. Pompey has also started to show power, hitting 12 doubles to go with six triples and six home runs in just the first 70 games of the season (matching his 2013 home run total in the first half-year). Slowed down a bit with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats due to an injury, he hit only .295/.378/.473 with five doubles, three triples and three home runs over 127 plate appearances, earning his penultimate call up to the Buffalo Bisons where he went on a tear, hitting .358 over 12 games. Getting to the Show in September (he would have had to go on the 40-man roster anyways at the end of the year in order to protect him in the Rule 5 draft), he held his own with the big boys, hitting .231/.302/.436 with a double, two triples and a home run in 43 plate appearances and impressing with his outstanding defense. While Pompey is headed to the Arizona Fall League, he could very well get himself into the conversation to be in the Blue Jays’ outfield next season, particularly if Melky Cabrera doesn’t return.
The two other first basemen who split time in the second half of the season were L.B. Dantzler and Kevin Patterson. As a 25-year-old in Dunedin, Kevin Patterson did very similar things to what he did last year in Lansing. He hit .196/.293/.368 with 11 home runs and 14 doubles in 328 plate appearances. Dantzler missed quite a bit of time due to injury, played on 91 games including 48 with Dunedin. He wasn’t very impressive and it’s likely that his oblique injury is what really sucked the life out of his bat. He hit only .245/.328/.361 combined, showing similar numbers between the two levels although Dantzler’s walk and strikeout rates worsened in Dunedin. I’m looking forward to seeing Dantzler healthy in 2014 and he could return to Lansing to start 2014 and split time with Matt Dean at first base/DH after a stint in the Australian Baseball League this winter. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Dantzler in New Hampshire, particularly if he comes to camp healthy and hitting the ball hard in March.
At 22, Shane Opitz didn’t have the best year, missing all but 32 games of the season thanks to injuries. Opitz hit when he had the chance, hitting .305/.342/.333 in 111 plate appearances for Dunedin. Considered a utility infielder, Opitz will be in Dunedin or New Hampshire next year.
Peter Mooney, another shortstop/utility infielder played in 54 games with Dunedin (and another nine with New Hampshire), hitting .234/.336/.277 in High-A ball. After missing all of 2012 due to injury, it’s good to see Mooney back and he’ll likely be another guy like Opitz who goes where needed in 2015.
Unfortunately, 2014 was the end of Kellen Sweeney’s career with the Blue Jays’ organization. Drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft, Sweeney’s .222/.282/.333 line after 10 games didn’t impress the brass enough to keep him around after two consecutive years of poor showings.
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!
All photos are copyright Blue Jays from Away (2013-2014) and may not be used without permission.