Dunedin Blue Jays 2017 Report, Part 4: Hitters

Juan Kelly

The Dunedin Blue Jays’ hitters weren’t impressive for the first half of the season, only taking flight in the second half, once prospects like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette bolstered the ranks. But since the Wondertwins spent most of their time in Lansing, we won’t be discussing them here. Read on to find out more about the players who spent most of their time with the Advanced-A Dunedin Blue Jays.

 

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Catchers

 

Michael De La Cruz

For the catchers, Michael De La Cruz led the way in terms of games played, catching 48 games among 58 played for Dunedin. For the D-Jays, De La Cruz, 24, hit .246/.308/.332 with 11 doubles and two home runs in 199 at bats. De La Cruz walked in 8.6% of his plate appearances and struck out in 21.2%, a career-high figure (outside of a 23.5% rate in 13 games with the GCL in 2013).  “De La” did bounce around a bit, starting his season in Lansing and hitting .200/.288/.244 in 13 games there, and he had a seven-game stint in New Hampshire, hitting .500/.477/.773 with three doubles and a home run in just 22 at bats. De La Cruz threw out 30% of potential base stealers in Dunedin and he could begin in Dunedin or New Hampshire next year, likely in a backup role.

 

Mike Reeves

At the Age of 27, Peterborough-native Mike Reeves played in 27 games for the Dunedin Blue Jays and another seven with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats before retiring. Reeves, a 21st-round draft pick in 2013, reached his highest level (Double-A) in 2017 before deciding to call it a career. Reeves struggled with the bat, hitting .192/.315/.288 with four doubles and two home runs in 83 at bats while hitting .286/.375/.381 with two doubles in 21 at bats in Double-A.

 

Max Pentecost

While 2014 first-round draft pick Max Pentecost was active behind the plate and in the lineup regularly, he only caught 19 games for the D-Jays, getting into 71 games overall with mid-season and late-season stints on the DL. Pentecost hit a very solid .291/.355/.495 with eight doubles, a triple and nine home runs until his first stint on the DL but didn’t hit a home run after he returned, hitting .250/.291/.327 with six doubles and a triple. Overall, it was a very solid season for Pentecost, with a .276/.332/.434 slash line but his numbers from July and early August put a real damper on a phenomenal first half despite the fact that Pentecost was both a mid-season and post-season All-Star in the Florida State League. His walk rate of 7.3% was solid and his strikeout rate of 19.7% was quite acceptable, especially when compared with his 32.7% K rate that he had in 12 games with Dunedin at the end of 2016. Look for Pentecost to possibly start back in Dunedin next year, getting some more duties behind the plate (where he threw out 47% of the potential base stealers in 2017) or else he could start the year in New Hampshire.

 

 

Infielders

 

In his sixth year in the Blue Jays’ organization, infielder Juan Kelly (who also caught a few games) continues to be a steady presence in the lineup for whichever team he plays for. Spending all of 2017 in Dunedin, Kelly hit a very solid .272/.342/.412 with 29 doubles, four triples and 10 home runs. Kelly walked in 9.4% of his plate appearances while striking out in 20.4%, both numbers around the same as he had last year in Lansing (10.4% walk rate and 20.6% strikeout rate) and while his power numbers fell a bit (.175 ISO in 2016 and .139 ISO in 2017), the Florida State League tends to suppress offense. One concern is Kelly’s ability to hit from the right side of the plate. He had an .846 OPS from the left side, but just a .530 OPS from the right side with only three extra-base hits (a double, a triple and a home run). The 23-year-old played 85 games at first and another 29 at third, committing a high number of errors at first (16) and at third (six). I’d expect Kelly, heading into his final year of his original contract, to be in New Hampshire.

 

Cavan Biggio

22-year-old Cavan Biggio also spent the whole year in Dunedin, making himself one of the D-Jays’ most consistent contributors. He hit .233/.342/.363 overall, hitting 17 doubles, five triples and 11 home runs (second on the club), stealing 11 bases in 18 attempts. He struck out in a rather high 25.2% of his plate appearances but had a very healthy walk rate of 13.3% while posting a career-high .130 ISO. Biggio was sure-handed at second base, committing just 13 errors in 116 games. In the playoffs, Biggio hit .167/.286/.417 with a home run in three games. I’d expect to see Biggio get a shot at second base in New Hampshire but his way there could be blocked. He’ll only be 23 shortly after the 2018 season starts and his relative youth could have him repeating Dunedin to start the year.

 

J.C. Cardenas

J.C. Cardenas was a versatile infielder for the Dunedin Blue Jays playing 53 games at shortstop while adding another 12 at second base and two at third. Not known for his bat, Cardenas hit .206/.262/.263 in 252 plate appearances, hitting six doubles, two triples and a home run but walked only 6.7% of the time and struck out 30.6%. When he played in New Hampshire for nine games, hitting .200/.250/.200, he walked in 6.1% of his plate appearances and struck out in 30.3%. Obviously, the strikeouts need to come down for Cardenas, especially if he’s going to play more often. I can see the 23-year-old infielder who was born in Cuba and drafted in the sixth round of the 2015 draft out of Barry University in Florida staying in Dunedin for another year.

 

Matt Dean

24-year-old infielder Matt Dean had a tough season in 2017, struggling with injury. In the sixth year of his initial contract, Dean played 40 games with Dunedin and 33 with New Hampshire, hitting .247/.325/.342 with six doubles, a triple and two home runs in 146 at bats with Dunedin, walking in 9.6% of plate appearances and striking out in 30.7%. Moving up to Dunedin, he hit .196/.282/.351 with four home runs over 111 plate appearances, walking 10.8% of the time and striking out a whopping 35.1% of the time. Heading into his final year on his initial contract, Dean is likely to get another shot at Double-A but will need to strike out less and hit more to stick around.

 

Carl Wise

Carl Wise, 23, had injuries hamper his 2017 season. He didn’t start his year until May 10, getting things under way with the Dunedin Blue Jays and hitting a lacklustre .172/.198/.207 with a paltry 3.3% walk rate and high 29.7% strikeout rate. Thigns did not look good for Wise in his 91 plate appearances but that was it for his year, 24 games and 91 plate appearances, as he was done before the calendar turned to July. Wise will probably start back in Dunedin if he’s healthy.

 

Outfielders

 

DJ Davis

The Blue Jays’ first-round pick of the 2012 draft, drafted ahead of even Marcus Stroman, was D.J. Davis, who has had an up and down professional career. The 23-year-old from Wiggins, Mississippi repeated the Advanced-A level in 2017, playing the outfield (mostly left field) with the Dunedin Blue Jays. Compared to his 2016 stats at the same level, there’s a lot to like with Davis’s numbers as he hit .258/.331/.324 with nine doubles, four triples and two home runs, stealing 32 bases in 43 attempts. He looks like he’s using his speed much more effectively on the bases and his the 37-point rise in BABIP from year to year doesn’t completely account for his 61-point batting average increase, showing that he’s just hitting better. In addition, while his walk rate dropped to 8.8% (from 11.3% in 2016), Davis got his strikeout rate under control, down to 23.2% (from 31.1% in 2016). The biggest thing that can make us hopeful about Davis’s season is that from the beginning of July to the end of the season, Davis’s slash line was .293/.371/.378 with 16 stolen bases in 20 attempts and almost all of his extra-base hits come from the final two months of the season. This bodes well for the future and hopefully he’ll be able to make an adjustment when he gets a chance to play in Double-A, probably next year at some point.

 

Lane Thomas

Lane Thomas, 22, started the season with some solid numbers in Dunedin, hitting .252/.319/.383 with 12 doubles, six triples and four home runs in 274 at bats before he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals on July 2. He spent much of the rest of the year on the DL.

 

Connor Panas

Like D.J. Davis, 24-year-old Torontonian Connor Panas turned things on at the end of the season. A ninth-round draft pick out of Canisius College in 2015, Panas slugged his way to a league home run title, hitting 18 home runs with a .276/.364/.475 slash line with 20 doubles and three triples, walking in 8.9% of his plate appearances and striking out in 21.6%, a career-low. Panas was named to the Post-Season All-Star Team for the FSL, showing how well he ended his season, hitting .315/.388/.590 with 14 of his home runs after July 1. Panas could very easily start his 2018 season in New Hampshire but it will interesting to see how the rosters line up.

 

Josh Almonte

23-year-old outfielder Josh Almonte got into 49 games in an injury plagued season, hitting .221/.271/.286 with three doubles, two triples and a home run, stealing five bases in six attempts. Almonte did increase his walk rate to 6.0% while lowering his strikeout rate to 26.9% but it will be interesting to see where he fits in the Blue Jays’ minor league matrix next season.

 

When the Blue Jays traded Jason Grilli to the Texas Rangers, they got Eduard Pinto back. Pinto, 22, is a Venezuelan lefthanded-hitting outfielder who only played 15 games with the Blue Jays before getting hurt. While he hit .311/.358/.446 with 10 doubles, a triple and four home runs with the Rangers’ Advanced-A club in the Carolina League, he hit only .149/.208/.170 with the Blue Jays in only 47 at bats. Pinto could be back in Dunedin next year to show what he can do, but it’s most certainly better than what he did in 2017.

 

Dalton Pompey

And we come to Dalton Pompey. The 24-year-old Torontonian actually played more in Dunedin than at any other level in a disappointing season that involved a concussion in spring training and then a knee injury when he was trying to come back. Pompey hit .259/.375/.370 in Dunedin and .118/.118/.176 in five games with Buffalo before he went back on the DL, staying there until the season ended. Pompey’s position in 2018 is a big question mark. If he can return healthy, he could challenge for a big-league roster spot. If not, he should have one more option year to play with.

 

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