Once again, I’ll reiterate how difficult it is to project anything from box scores coming from the Dominican Summer League. There are so many inconsistencies with team defense, scoring and umpiring that anything resembling a strong understanding of who these players are will have to wait until they establish themselves at a higher level. That said, let’s look at the pitchers for the DSL Blue Jays and see how they did.
Defining “starting” pitchers in the low minors is very difficult and 14 of the Blue Jays’ 22 pitchers this year made at least one start. I’m going to organize this list in descending order by innings pitched and that way, we’ll at least talk about the pitchers who threw more innings while I’m still fresh!
Dominican righty Luis Sanchez led the club in innings pitched with 56. He’s already 20 years old and showed some solid numbers this season with a 3.38 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP. He struck out 48 and walked 17 and had a very solid season all around.
Denis Diaz, my pitcher of the year, is a 6-foot-1, Honduran righty who also ate up innings, this time as a 19-year-old in his second go-round in the league. He improved in every category and actually walked just one more batter (16) this year while throwing more than three times as many innings. His K/BB ratio was over 3 and he struck out 49 and walked 16 in 53 innings with a 3.91 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.
Yonardo Herdenez, a 6-foot-1 righty from Venezuela turns 19 on September 20 and posted some solid numbers in his second year with the DSL Jays. Another player who showed significant improvement over his previous year, Herdenez drastically lowered his walk rate, issuing 10 free passes over 50 innings while striking out 34. He really did well in the control categories as he didn’t hit a batter and threw only two wild pitches. His 4.14 ERA and 1.40 WHIP indicate that he’s probably not the hardest guy to hit as he surrendered 6 home runs and 60 hits.
Jose Nova, another 19-year-old Dominican is the first lefty that we’ve come across on this roster. Nova had a 3.97 ERA with a 1.45 WHIP, striking out 42 and walking 16 over 47 2/3 innings. Notably, he didn’t give up a home run but hit seven batters and had seven wild pitches.
In his third year with the DSL Blue Jays, 19-year-old Osman Gutierrez is one of the more imposing pitchers on this staff, standing at 6-foot-4 but weighing only 185 pounds. He throws from the right side and posted a solid strikeout ratio of 8.0/9 IP but also walked 25 batters over his 47 innings. The wildness also manifested itself with nine hit batters and five wild pitches. That said, it looks like Gutierrez is becoming a ground ball pitcher as he allowed 66 ground balls this year with just 52 other kinds of batted balls (fly balls, line drives and pop ups) combined. (Note: This information comes from mlbfarm.com and has different inning totals than Baseball Reference does).
Another 19 year old, 6-foot-1 Venezuelan lefty Juliandry Higuera (who actually just turned 20 a few days ago), actually regressed in his second year with the DSL Jays. Posting a 4.00 strikeout to walk rate in 2013, Higuera’s stats ballooned this year, seeing his ERA jump almost a point and his WHIP jumped 23 points. He did increase his strikeout rate but walked nine more batters in about the same number of innings. I’m not sure what to make of Mr. Higuera going forward.
6-foot-3 Dominican righty Luis Gomez is already 21 but made his professional debut with the DSL Jays and was one of the better pitchers on the staff with a 1.77 ERA, 1.18 WHIP to go with a 3.60 K/BB ratio over 40 2/3 innings.
The Blue Jays signed Dominican Erick Hurtado over the offseason and still hope that he’ll cash in on the promise he showed when he signed with the Astros, Cardinals and Yankees previously. He had signed with the Cardinals in February of 2012 but was suspended for steroids just a few weeks later. He must have had his contract annulled because he never pitched with the Cardinals organization but signed on with the Astros and made six appearances in 2012 and one appearance with the Yankees in 2013. This year, however, Hurtado finally got a full season at the age of 19 but threw well for the Blue Jays with a 2.87 ERA, but walked 20 over 37 2/3 innings which contributed to a 1.51 WHIP. He struck out 37 and could be interesting going forward; the willingness of teams to give him chances must reflect highly on his arm.
Another 20 year old serving a second stint in the DSL was Jairo Rosario who showed some regression despite improving a very poor walk rate. He had a 3.93 ERA with a 1.48 WHIP and 19 walks and 29 strikeouts through 34 1/3 innings.
One of the younger members of the pitching staff was 18-year-old Dominican lefty Wilfri Aleton who improved considerably in his second year with the DSL Jays. He threw 34 innings, walking 17 and striking out 27 and posted a 3.97 ERA and 1.35 WHIP.
Venezuelan righty Pedro Diaz logged 30 innings at the age of 19 and saw a huge spike in his strikeout numbers over his first year (last year) in the DSL. In 2013, he struck batters out at a rate of 5.3 K/9 IP but that number went up to 9.3 K/9 with only 13 walks. His solid 2.70 ERA and 1.17 WHIP round out the picture for someone who might be coming to North America next year.
Guillermo De La Cruz was the youngest member of the staff and the Dominican lefty doesn’t turn 18 until May. Cruz pitched relatively well for the Jays, throwing 21 2/3 innings with a 4.57 ERA, 13 walks and 17 strikeouts, essentially at the age of a high school senior.
Among the teenagers in this crop of pitchers, only lefty Jonathan Torres (19) pitched particularly well but he only made it into four games, striking out 11 and walking only four in 10 innings. With a 1.80 ERA and 1.00 WHIP, he was one of the best of the bunch but in small doses. Kelyn Jose (19), Manuel Cordova (19), Juan Nunez (18) and Luis Dominguez rounded out this group and none did much that was worthy of comment.
There were several remaining players who are all 20 years old or older: Wilmin Lara (20), Jose Diaz (21), William Zambrano (20), Jeffry Martinez (20) and Thony Vinicio (20). Lara missed all of last season and struggled with his control, walking 24 batters in 25 2/3 innings. Vinicio and Martinez both made their pro debuts with the Jays but weren’t particularly effective over 4 2/3 innings and 8 1/3 innings respectively. Zambrano made 13 appearances but posted an ERA over 10 in 10 2/3 innings, walking 13 but striking out 13. Finally, Diaz pitched 21 1/3 innings but walked almost as many as he struck out (16 BB, 18 K).
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!
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