So here’s part two of the series that I’m going to do over the next week. So far I had some great discussions on Twitter about some of my theories. As usual, I’m going to be wrong about some of these guesses and I’ll be right about some others.
In many ways, this is pretty much just a thought exercise to figure out how the jigsaw puzzle of the Blue Jays’ minor league system will fit together in 2014. Here’s how I see the 2014 Dunedin Blue Jays roster shaking out.
The first question that I’ll address is that the reason that I think Osuna will pitch in Dunedin is because that’s where the Blue Jays have their rehab facilities. It’ll be easier to keep an eye on Osuna in his rehab once he starts getting into game situations. I see him making a few appearances with the GCL Blue Jays and then getting into FSL action by August hopefully.
Second, I have the asterisk by Avendano because I think he might go into the bullpen. It’s kind of a no-brainer for the guys who came up from Lansing at the end of the season (Cole, Boyd, Norris). They’ll certainly be back with Dunedin to start they year but I see no reason why at least two of them can’t move up to New Hampshire by mid-season.
Hernandez is still here because, in my mind, he’s the youngest of a group of three pitchers who are kind of organizational-type pitchers who had mostly very good seasons in Dunedin and I think the other two will get the promotion (one already saw time in Dunedin last year). Having not seen Hernandez in person, I’m not sure how his stuff will play in Double-A and he might not move up unless he gets a bump in his strikeout numbers.
As you can see, I think a big group of relievers moves up from Lansing for 2014. I think Justin Jackson starts the year in Dunedin but there’s a good chance, if his secondary pitches have improved enough over the span of the Fall Instructional League and Spring Training, that he gets a bump to Double-A. I think that Dustin Antolin could get another chance at Double-A but he’s not all that old and he had a very hard time in New Hampshire last year.
I also see Ben White assuming a role similar to the one he had last year. He was a swing man until some injuries accrued in the rotation and he stepped in full-time as a starter. While I don’t think he’s going to get a shot at that role right off the bat, he could certainly settle into it. The D-Jays will have a few options for spot starts in this bullpen with White, Kramer Champlin, Efrain Nieves and possibly Javier Avendano (if he isn’t in the rotation).
This is probably the first surprise for many of you out there who follow the Blue Jays minor leagues closely. My gut feeling is that Mike Reeves is going to be the primary catcher for the Dunedin Blue Jays. I think he’s more polished than Nessy and he’d be the most ready for a big jump in competition.
I also think that Aaron Munoz has the best bat of the other three to go along with the best defense and I see him starting the 2014 season as the primary backup in Dunedin. He’s already shown that he can hit a little bit and he’ll definitely be able to keep players from running too much (although with lefties Boyd and Norris in the rotation, that won’t be a huge problem). Neither of the other two catchers has much of a history in throwing runners and out and, while both have played a bit in Double-A, neither has really made his mark with the bat at any level. Rankin may be the better hitter going by career numbers. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Daniel Klein in Dunedin but I think he’ll start in Lansing.
Like the Lansing starting infield, I think it’s fairly clear cut to anticipate the starters for the Dunedin club. I think that you’re going to see Dantzler jumping over Lansing (I have some birdies whispering in my ear that this is going to happen) but it also makes sense. He’s already a much more polished product than someone like Jordan Leyland who I saw last year and who I think needs to make some mechanical adjustments before moving forward. I’d like to see the Jays challenge Dantzler and see what they can get out of him. I’m a big fan of his already and I think the 2013 Northwest League MVP can do some damage in Dunedin.
I think Christian Lopes, despite a poor second half to 2013, will move up to make some room in Lansing. I think that he’ll be able to work on some things but that the adjustment won’t be too difficult for him. I like his swing and I think that he’s still young enough to really break out although he’ll need to figure some things out and be able to adjust to the way pitchers are adjusting to him.
Both Pierre and Guerrero finished the season in Dunedin and are good bets to start there again while guys like Opitz and Leblebijian are good, solid backups. Slugging first baseman/DH Kevin Patterson had a horrible start to last season in Dunedin but I’m pretty confident that he’s going to get a chance to redeem himself in Florida this year after winding up 2013 leading the Lansing club in home runs. Peter Mooney could get a promotion or he could come back to Dunedin. I’m pretty much on the fence with him and I think he can go either way.
Which leaves us with Kellen Sweeney. He had his second consecutive horrible season which saw both an increase in his power as well as in increase in his strikeouts. His low BABIPs for the past couple of years have also contributed to some low batting averages and his patience at the plate could make him very useful even if he hits .230. My gut tells me that a promotion will be geared towards giving him a push. He’s a very good defender at multiple positions and he could spell Pierre at third if he gets too “errory” and could also give Lopes days off here and there at second base. He’s played a lot of first base too. I could see Sweeney playing three or four games a week at different positions just to get him the at bats he needs to figure things out at the plate.
I think Pompey and Smith are easy choices. Both had strong years in Lansing and both look like they’re ready for move upwards. Jonathan Jones was injured most of the year in 2013 and only had mediocre numbers in Dunedin before a late-season promotion to New Hampshire (which was likely necessitated by all of the injuries to the Blue Jays outfielders).
Nick Baligod had a good season but most people think that without much power and speed that he’s got quite limited upside. I can see the Jays holding him back in Dunedin to fill out the roster there if needed. Marcus Knecht is another tough decision. His numbers didn’t really improve in his second year in Dunedin and I think a lot of people are starting to wonder if the Toronto native has hit his ceiling. I could see the Jays sending him to Double-A just to see if it can light a charge under him. A good showing in Spring Training could make the difference for Knecht.
Finally, there are a few players I didn’t list here that wouldn’t surprise me if they started in Dunedin. Carlos Ramirez could definitely make the jump from Lansing if his skills start to show more polish while I could also see Matt Newman kept in Dunedin despite a very good season in 2013.
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