As usual, we’re going to go around the horn and discuss the hitters of the 2014 Buffalo Bisons.
While writers no longer consider A.J. Jimenez the Blue Jays’ top catching prospect (Max Pentecost has taken over that mantle), Jimenez is the closest to the majors and the 24-year-old Puerto Rican is getting people less excited about his potential to be a major league hitter thanks to a mediocre offensive season, spent mostly in Triple-A. Jimenez hit better in Buffalo than in his 25 games in New Hampshire but even his better line is only .260/.295/.356. Obviously, if he’s going to be more than a backup at the major league level, Jimenez is going to need to do more with the bat but his tremendous 42% caught-stealing percentage in Buffalo with just two passed balls shows off his defensive potential. Jimenez will be back in Buffalo next year to prove two things: 1) he can hit and 2) he can stay healthy.
First baseman Dan Johnson made his presence felt in the Buffalo lineup and the 35-year-old veteran was one of the team’s top two hitters all season. While the Blue Jays let Johnson pick up a big league paycheque without getting much playing time in September, he was an offensive force in Buffalo, posting a .381 OBP and hitting 18 home runs, tops on the club. Johnson’s amazing strikeout to walk rate should be an example for any young players out there: he walked 18.7% of the time in Buffalo and struck out in just 17.6% of the times he came to the plate. His big league ratios didn’t taper off too much despite the limited playing time. Johnson must not have taken his bench time in Toronto too well: he elected free agency at his first opportunity and probably won’t be back with Toronto in 2015.
26-year-old Ryan Goins played 97 games for the Bisons, split almost evenly between second base and shortstop. He actually put up some of his best offensive numbers, hitting .284/.337/.353 with 21 doubles and two triples but it’s his defense that makes Goins a big leaguer. Goins hit only .188/.209/.271 with a home run and 15 RBI in 193 big league plate appearances, showing some regression from what he did last year. Unfortunately, if Goins continues to be unable to hit big league pitching, the Blue Jays will look for help elsewhere. 2015 will probably be a make or break season for Goins. He’ll be given some kind of chance (depending on offseason moves) but more time in Buffalo awaits unless there are big changes next season.
29-year-old Jared Goedert was 2014’s Jim Negrych. A career minor leaguer entering the last part of his 20s, the former ninth-round pick of the Cleveland Indians in 2006 was brought in to help bolster the Bisons’ infield after a solid year with Indianapolis last year. This year, Goedert actually had a better season, hitting .250/.340/.384 with 10 home runs in 98 games. Goedert had a very solid walk rate and strikeout rate, contributing to his 90 point bump in OBP over his batting average. Goedert hasn’t elected free agency yet but since he wasn’t sent outright to the minors after the major league season (like some of the others who chose to become free agents), he has to wait until just after the World Series. I don’t really see Goedert coming back with Ryan Schimpf and Andy Burns in the wings looking to get a chance to play in Buffalo.
Jonathan Diaz led the way at shortstop for the Bisons and, like Goins, is a light-hitting defensive wizard on the infield. Diaz got the most big league time in his career — 23 games — this season, but still only hit .205/.319/.295 in Triple-A. The best thing about Diaz’s offensive game is his ability to take walks and avoid strikeouts: his well above-average numbers of a 12.2% walk rate and 14.2% strikeout rate attest to that. Diaz has already elected free agency and it’s unlikely we’ll see him back in Buffalo next year although there is always a chance that he could re-sign.
Kevin Pillar obviously had a tremendous season in Triple-A Buffalo but the best sign of the season for him was that he showed the first signs of being able to hit at the major league level. Pillar, 25, has always put up huge offensive numbers in the minors; coming into this season, his lowest batting average for any segment of a season was .299 which he hit in 52 games in Buffalo last year. This year, he did even better, hitting .323/.359/.509 with 10 home runs and a whopping 39 doubles in just 100 games. Playing in Toronto from the end of August until the end of the season, Pillar played in another 25 games and hit .289/.333/.447 with six doubles and two home runs over that stretch. Pillar took a few more walks but still struck out a lot (21.0% of the time, which is around average in today’s MLB). He acquitted himself well enough to earn some mention as the right-handed hitting half of a platoon with Anthony Gose that would replace Colby Rasmus in 2015. Look for him to at least be in the big as a fourth outfielder thanks to his outstanding defense at any of the three outfield positions and the positive presence he brings to the field and the clubhouse.
In the big picture, the end result of a game of waiver wire musical chairs this season was that the Blue Jays got Darin Mastroianni, 29, and lost Kenny Wilson. From a statistical perspective, that was the right move as Mastroianni was a key part of a strong Buffalo Bisons season in 2014, hitting .267/.349/.369 with 20 stolen bases in 88 games in Buffalo (he also played four games for Rochester, the Twins’ Triple-A affiliate). Mastroianni has also chosen free agency and may not necessarily be back next year.
First base coach and hitting coach Jon Nunnally greets Brad Glenn at first base in Buffalo in 2013
2014 was a big year for Brad Glenn. The 27-year-old made his big league debut on June 27 this season but it was not the debut that Glenn wants to remember as he went one for 15, and struck out five times with just one walk. Glenn’s season was very different at every level he played at. Hitting .231/.311/.445 with nine home runs in New Hampshire, Glenn had a solid time there but really hit much better in Buffalo (albeit with a little less power), hitting .303/.360/.452 with six home runs in 61 games. It’s not a bad season for Glenn who was removed from the 40-man roster and passed through waivers to get back to the minor leagues, which means that he’s not assured of a big league spring training roster spot. With Dalton Pompey moving ahead of him on the depth chart, I’d bet on seeing Glenn back in Buffalo in 2015.
While he didn’t play the most games at any single position, Ryan Schimpf played in the seventh-most games of any Buffalo Bisons position player at 67. Schimpf has become somewhat of a utility man with some pop in his bat despite standing at only 5-foot-9. The 26 year old split his season this year with New Hampshire and Buffalo and tore apart the Eastern League before settling into his usual low-average, high-OBP, high-slugging pattern. While his .189 batting average in Buffalo was even low for Schimpf (thanks to a monumentally low .212 BABIP), he posted an OBP over 100 points higher (.290) and slugged .358 with nine home runs. Obviously these numbers were much better in his Double-A time with a .270/.370/.616 slash line with 17 doubles and 15 home runs in only 50 games. Schimpf’s ability to play second base, third base and left field will serve him well going into next year, the final year of his initial, seven-year professional contract.
Andy LaRoche probably had the quietest 60-game run in Buffalo this season, hitting .248/.309/.396 with only five home runs in 60 games. Hindered by injuries, LaRoche is now 31 and I can’t see him playing a regular role in the organization next year.
Hands up if you remember Matt Tuiasosopo! The 28-year-old outfielder and third baseman with the long name wasn’t hitting much with Buffalo after the Jays claimed him on waivers before the start of the season. His slash line of .206/.289/.271 over 59 games was just not very good although he did play much better for the White Sox’ Triple-A affiliate in Charlotte after he was traded to Chicago for cash in June.
Anthony Gose had his third straight up-and-down season between the Blue Jays and Triple-A this year, playing in 51 games in BUffalo and hitting .244/.305/.346 with 21 stolen bases. His decrease in times caught stealing percentage was encouraging (as was his increase in attempts) but he still didn’t blow anyone’s mind with his offense in Buffalo. In the big leagues, Gose didn’t do too much better although the improved OBP of .311 in 94 major league games was at least some improvement, as was his better stolen base percentage (75%). Gose’s value will likely come from his defense and if he’s a .226/.311/.293 player as a major leaguer, Dalton Pompey could be sneaking up behind him very quickly.
Backup catcher Mike Nickeas is the type of player who knows his role. Thanks to his years in the New York Mets’ system, the 31 year old has now spent parts of five seasons in Buffalo and this year, in 177 plate appearances, he broke through the Mendoza Line, hitting .207/.285/.280. Nickeas is the type of player every minor league team needs: a great defensive catcher who can lead on the diamond and in the clubhouse. He’s not going to wow you with his bat, nor are you going to expect him to. Can Nickeas make it six years in Buffalo?
Before being sent to the Kansas City Royals, Erik Kratz was the best option for catchers in Buffalo. The 34-year-old veteran hit .299/.354/.517 with three home runs and ten doubles in 100 plate appearances before hitting .276/.290/.517 in a back-up role in KC (in 31 plate appearances). I would have liked to have seen Kratz in Toronto all season rather than Josh Thole but I’m not in charge, am I?
In 44 games, Munenori Kawasaki was pretty good in Buffalo, hitting .276/.320/.388 with 11 doubles. A fan favourite everywhere he goes, I’m sure the Blue Jays will try to bring him back to the organization in some capacity.
The Blue Jays picked up several players mid-season including Brett Wallace who absolutely mashed in Buffalo, hitting .323/.404/.519 with seven home runs in 38 games, Cole Gillespie who played 26 games and hit .354/.423/.500 and Adron Chambers (.286/.347/.407 in 25 games). Matt Hague was also a late-season pickup and hit .377/.411/.566 in just 13 games while catcher George Kottaras hit .262/.367/.500 in 13 games.
Two players started the season with the Bisons but ended up with Toronto for most of the year. Steven Tolleson hit .236/.345/.333 in 19 games with the Bisons while Juan Francisco pounded the ball at the start of the season, hitting .341/.420/.568 in 12 games.
Brett Carroll played only 19 games for the Bisons, hitting .179/.242/.196 before getting released while Chris Getz voluntarily retired after 18 games with the Bisons (.309/.382/.338) and 10 unproductive games in the majors. Other players who played with the Bisons were Hector Gimenez (.286/.400/.286, three games) and Ricardo Nanita (.118/.118/.176 in six games).
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.