Projected Rosters #3: Dunedin Blue Jays Pitchers
By Jay Blue
Blue Jays From Away
This post is the third part of an eight-part series that will be my attempt to predict the Opening Day rosters for the Blue Jays’ four full-season minor league teams which start their seasons on April 9.
Each post will have a complementary “Countdown to Baseball” profile of one of the players. You can see this post by becoming a registered member of Blue Jays from Away for free! Just click on the link and follow the simple instructions!
Stay tuned for today’s potential Dunedin Blue Jays profile in our Premium Content section. It belongs one of the lesser known pitchers in the Blue Jays’ system but one who I think is poised to have a good year: Francisco Gracesqui.
I’ve usually found that the Dunedin Blue Jays’ roster is one of the easier ones to predict. Generally, players who were successful in Lansing the previous year, combined with players who may have gotten their feet wet in Dunedin a bit will make up the bulk of the roster. There are certainly a few question marks but we’ll get to those shortly.
I’ll preface this post by saying that I’ve been having a tough time putting all of the puzzle pieces into place for the Buffalo and New Hampshire pitching staffs. I’m expecting to see some pitchers assigned to Dunedin who are probably ready for Double-A thanks to a “trickle-down” effect from the big league club. Consider that there are 23 pitchers on the Jays’ 40-man roster and 10 non-roster invitees. Accounting for three pitchers who I’m not expecting to be in either Buffalo or Toronto (Jayson Aquino, Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna), that gives us 30 pitchers fighting for 12 or 13 spots in Toronto and another 12-14 spots in Buffalo. Not all of those 30 pitchers will be in the system at the end of spring training but the fact that there are so many will result in pushing some pitchers who would otherwise have started the season in Triple-A down to Double-A and even some pitchers who would have started the season in Double-A down to High-A Dunedin.
As usual, there’s no way I’ll get everything right. There are also going to be surprises; there’s always at least one player who skips Lansing and goes straight to Dunedin.
Allen was excellent in Lansing last year, with pitching coach Vince Horsman looking after him. An unsung hero, he was my Pitcher of the Year for the Lugnuts and was able to neutralize hitters in the Midwest League. He’ll be in Dunedin, reunited with Horsman in 2015.
Castro is a guy that just about everyone has their eye on. The tall, lanky, hard-throwing Dominican has everyone abuzz with his 97 mph heat but he still has a few things to work on and, while he could end the season in Toronto, he’ll be in Dunedin for at least the first half.
De Jong had some ups and downs in Lansing last year and was shut down early with a shoulder injury. He’s highly regarded by the club’s staff and will probably get moved up to Dunedin after 97 innings in Lansing.
Gabryszwski was the Lugnuts’ workhorse in 2014, throwing 141 1/3 innings in Lansing and getting a short taste of Dunedin. He doesn’t really have anything left to prove and will move up to High-A.
Dawson was injured last year in Lansing but still managed to get 56 quality innings in the Midwest League. That said, he’s still just 21 and could head back to Lansing a for a while to start the season although I definitely see him in Dunedin by the time the season is out. The other factor is that he could move into the bullpen. He’s not a hard thrower (I’ve seen him top out at 90 mph but works more in the 86-88 mph range) and could gain some velo in short stints out of the bullpen. Combine that with the fact that he’s missed time due to injury for the past two seasons and you could have a bullpen lefty.
Gracesqui is an interesting case. I think he’ll be in Dunedin for sure since gaining some velocity and refining a breaking ball to go along with his good, lively fastball and excellent changeup and dominating hitters in Vancouver and Lansing last year. I have a feeling that with a third quality pitch in his slider, he might be starter material and get stretched out a bit throughout the season. He may not start the season in the rotation but he could finish there.
Hoffman is well known to Blue Jays fans as being the Jays’ top draft pick in 2014. Having already had Tommy John surgery, he’ll be out for the first part of the year. My gut feeling is that he’ll get his first taste of the pros in Dunedin having a little more experience pitching in high level college ball with ECU.
Robson is another Tommy John survivor who put in some time (without much success) in Lansing last year. I’m choosing to believe that he struggled in Lansing because he wasn’t healthy and that when he comes back, he’ll join the D-Jays.
Suriel could head back to Lansing but he could also move up to Dunedin. He threw 42 innings in Lansing after coming out of nowhere to be one of the organization’s better starters last year. I think the odds are at least 40% that he goes to Dunedin, especially if a lot of the players coming up from Vancouver and Bluefield make the Lansing roster. If that happens, Suriel’s one of my top candidates to move up to make room.
White’s position is also going to depend on how the rosters on other teams shake out. His numbers weren’t fantastic with Dunedin and he got a taste of Double-A but I think that as the Buffalo roster fills and other pitchers filter down to New Hampshire, White ends up back in Dunedin in his Age-26 season.
This is pretty much the Lansing bullpen from 2014 and I think that most of these guys end up in Dunedin. The one qualifier is that when you look at this group as a whole, there are a LOT of lefties. Of this group, Dermody, Gonzalez, Gracesqui, Murphy and Silverstein are all lefties. I can see one or two righties jumping up from a projected Lansing roster spot or maybe moving White into the bullpen in order to balance things out a bit.
You’ve probably heard of Cordero by now. He’s a fireballer who’s hit 102 on the radar gun but is still trying to find his control and his slider (which can get into the 90s).
Dermody had a solid year both starting and relieving (which gives the bullpen a spot starter if necessary) in Lansing but was much better out of the bullpen.
Dragmire was our Reliever of the Year in Lansing and is most definitely ready for a higher level after logging 77 excellent innings in which he walked only nine batters.
Gonzalez had a bounce-back year and while his numbers weren’t fantastic, the big lefty added some velocity and consistency to his control and offspeed pitches in 2014.
Kish is another guy who people in the organization are high on. He gets a lot of sink out of his pitches and could very well be a sleeper thanks to a great changeup and a decent slider.
Murphy really impressed me last year in Lansing and he got a call up to Dunedin halfway through the year. I think he’ll benefit from being reunited with Vince Horsman but his ability to throw strikes with all of his pitches should benefit him. That said, Murphy is already 24 and could start the year in New Hampshire.
Silverstein was a solid lefty out of the pen for Lansing last year, leading the Lugnuts with 11 wins while throwing 64 innings and finishing 25 games while striking out over a batter per inning. He’s another pitcher who has nothing left to prove in Lansing and will be 25 in May.
I’ll write about this a little bit more in my articles on the position players for New Hampshire and Buffalo but, unless there’s a trade at the major league level, I think Saez will get 65% of the everyday catching load in Dunedin. He was successful there in half a season last year and has been excellent defensively. While he might thrive if put in a situation to start in New Hampshire, I think that the system is just too clogged at the moment for that to happen.
Reeves was a 2013 draft pick who comes from Peterborough, Ontario who showed some promise with the bat in his draft year. In his second professional year, he took a step back, hitting just .213/.312/.257. Solid defensively, I think Reeves will return to Dunedin to be a backup but could be fairly mobile as catchers are needed.
Rankin and Klein have been back up catchers in the Jays system for a little while now. Rankin hasn’t been able to do much with the bat and could be a fill in guy who goes where he’s needed. Klein, on the other hand, has shown a little more potential with the bat and has some pop but isn’t necessarily as good with the glove by some of the reports I’ve gotten.
Finally, Atkinson could certainly move up to Dunedin, considering the season he had last year at the plate. He makes solid contact and is probably working on driving the ball more but he’ll be new to catching in 2015. That alone could mean that he gets held back in extended spring training to work on some defensive skills that will, no doubt, be fairly raw.
Dean was one of the best hitters for the Lansing Lugnuts last season and, while he didn’t get a late-season call up, he’ll almost certainly start 2015 in Dunedin.
Dantzler, a 14th-round pick in 2013, had a tremendous first pro season with Vancouver in 2013 but put up decent, but not eye-popping, numbers in 2014 while struggling through injuries. I can see him back in Dunedin to start 2015 as a DH/1B and will try to recapture the power that he showed in 2013.
Thon also had another solid season in Lansing, hitting .265/.314/.359 although his 117 strikeouts were were more than you’d like to see. Thon tended to be streaky as well and will look to address that. He could very well end up in the outfield in Dunedin after getting some looks there in Lansing last year, but I’ll leave him here for now.
After going back and forth on whether I was going to include Lopes, I decided that, in my heart of hearts, I think he’s starting in Dunedin. While he was incredible down in Australia, he wasn’t bad in Dunedin last year and showed a little more consistency than in the previous year in Lansing. I think it’s a numbers game in New Hampshire and that he’s going to be stuck repeating High-A, at least to start the season.
Nay has already shown some pop in 2015, hitting a home run in the intrasquad game. I’ll write more about him in the profile but after finishing 2014 with the D-Jays, he’ll be back for at least half a season.
Lugo has been somewhat enigmatic for the Blue Jays but the raw tools are there. I can see him moving up to Dunedin just to clear room for Richard Urena to play every day in Lansing. Lugo has the tools to hit in Dunedin but will have to make significant adjustments to his approach. Defensively, he’ll probably stick at shortstop for at least one more year before the Blue Jays make a decision about where he’s going to end up.
These two guys, for me, are no brainers. I think Harris has a ton of potential with strong wrists and a powerful swing that get the most out of his size. Defensively he’s played quite a bit both at third base and in the outfield and so I can see him being a really valuable player.
Leblebijian has shown that he can hit a bit and is probably one of the best defenders that I’ve had a chance to see over a longer period of time (I’ve only seen Urena a little bit). Leblebijian has great range, outstanding instincts and a plus arm and he can play second, short and third. If Lugo can model Leblebijian’s work ethic and approach to the game, he’d be a star.
Here’s where I think things can get interesting. I think either Locastro or Heidt could jump up and start 2015 in Dunedin. Atkinson will also play the infield if he does get a full-season assignment.
I think that Davis gets a Dunedin assignment. To my mind, it’s extremely tough to make a first-round pick like Davis repeat a level and go back to Lansing. Could they send him back to Lansing and send him a message? Absolutely. I still think that he shows a little bit of improvement over the fall instructional league and spring training and gives the team the confidence that he can hold his own in Dunedin.
Frank is another utility-type outfielder who will be an extra either in Dunedin or Lansing but I’m leaning more towards Dunedin. He has a way of working walks and is a solid on-base guy who can play anywhere in the outfield.
Loveless was probably the most consistent Lansing Lugnut last year. He has the ability to make solid contact and was really starting to tap into some of the power in his big, strong frame. He’ll be Dunedin’s starting right fielder.
Parmley was up and down and spent some time in Dunedin showing some decent ability to get on base. He runs well and can play all three outfield positions and should be on the club as a back up.
The Dark Horse
With so many outfielders, I really am not entirely sure where Anthony Alford is going to end up. He could very well start the season in Lansing (and probably will) but, as I wrote in the column on the Lansing position players, I think that it’s already going to be a crowded outfield. Anthony Alford will definitely play every day wherever he goes and he’s only played center field (at least in competitive games). It’s going to be one of the things that I look for when minor league spring training games start (on the 17th of March): where is Alford playing and with whom.
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