GCL Blue Jays 2016 Report, Part 3: Relief Pitchers

Juan Meza
Juan Meza

Like in the Dominican Summer League, the Gulf Coast League is a place where pitching roles can be fluid but we’ll look at the pitchers who were used mostly in relief roles for the GCL Blue Jays in 2016.

 

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Jared Carkuff was the Jays’ 35th-round pick in 2016 and dominated in the GCL, throwing 25 1/3 innings with a 1.42 ERA and 0.91 WHIP, walking just three batters and striking out 25 before getting a promotion to Vancouver where he gave up a run on three hits and a walk in 1 1/3 innings with two strikeouts. Carkuff is already 23 (having had his birthday on August 25) and will probably spend 2016 in Vancouver unless the Jays want to get him out of the short-season leagues quickly.

 

 

Venezuelan righty Juan Meza is still just 18 but has been disappointing since signing for $1.6 million in 2014. Meza had another uninspired season, spending all of it in the GCL and pitching mostly out of the bullpen, logging 23 innings. Meza posted an 8.61 ERA and 2.04 WHIP, despite a reasonable 11.1% walk rate (reasonable for an 18 year old). Meza allowed hitters to hit .340 (almost exactly the same figure as the BABIP he had), and left only 59.1% of batters on base. Meza’s low strikeout rate (8.6%), combined with his high batting average against, indicates that he’s not really fooling batters at this point in his career. He’ll probably be back in the GCL unless the Jays try to jump start his development with a Bluefield assignment.

 

Orlando Pascual, a 20-year-old Dominican righty, tied with Meza with 14 appearances but with much better success. Pascual started off the in the Dominican Summer League and threw 11 innings there with a 1.64 ERA and  1.09 WHIP, striking out 18.2% and walking 9.1%. Moving to the GCL, he threw another 26 1/3 innings with a 3.08 ERA and 1.14 WHIP and saw his walk rate drop to just 4.4% and his strikeout rate fall slightly to 16.5%. While Pascual was getting 2.83 ground outs to air outs in the Dominican Republic, GCL batters were able to get the ball in the air much better, giving him a 0.90 GO/AO ratio which is definitely low for a pitcher who doensn’t strike out a ton of batters. His solid control and age probably means that Pascual will pitch in the Appalachian League next year.

 

William Ouellette, 23, was a non-drafted free agent signed by the Blue Jays after this year’s draft. The Cal State San Bernadino product pitched in 13 games and converted all three save opportunities with which he was presented. He pitched 22 1/3 innings and had a 3.22 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP, a 16.0% strikeout rate and a 7.5% walk rate. All of these numbers are solid but should be taken with a grain of salt considering that Ouellette was 23 in a league where the average age is about 20. He’ll probably pitch in Bluefield or Vancouver next year.

 

Yonardo Herdenez, a 20-year-old Venezuelan righty who was our Reliever of the Year for the GCL Blue Jays this year, did just about everything you want from a pitcher who was a mult-inning reliever for the most part. Herdenez threw 42 1/3 innings, second on the team, despite making just two starts. He had a 1.06 ERA and miniscule 0.71 WHIP, walking only 3.9% of batters and striking out 17.0%. While the strikeout rate is on the low side, and his 0.83 GO/AO ratio is also not what you’d like to see from a pitcher who doesn’t miss a lot of bats, his ability to limit hits (.163 batting average) looks tantalizing. It will take a some time before we find out whether that is a repeatable skill or luck (with a .192 BABIP which is bound to regress). Look for him in Bluefield or Vancouver in 2017.

 

19-year-old Nicaraguan Randy Pondler made his professional debut this year, throwing 13 innings with the DSL Blue Jays before moving up to the GCL Jays. Pondler allowed just four runs (three earned) in the DSL, walking only two and striking out five while, in 30 2/3 innings, he had a 3.52 ERA, 1.66 WHIP with a 14.7% strikeout rate and 8.l8% walk rate. All of that is pretty decent for a first-year pro, finding his way in two different countries away from home. Let’s see how he does in 2017, likely in Bluefield.

 

20-year-old Mitch McKown came to the Blue Jays in the 21st round of the 2016 draft and struggled mightily in limited use in 2016. McKown’s 17.61 ERA and 3.52 WHIP were decimated by his 18 walks in 7 2/3 innings while he struck out six. The 6-foot-4 righty probably spent most of his time working in the bullpen on something mechanical with the coaching staff, explaining his limited game action. Look for him to return to the GCL next year to work things out.

 

Jake Fishman was selected in the 30th round out of Union College in New York and had decent numbers in 15 innings in the GCL at the age of 21. The 6-foot-3 righty had a 4.80 ERA and 1.67 WHIP (mostly due to the 21 hits allowed). Fishman walked only 5.7% of batters while striking out a decent 18.6%. He could probably handle a Vancouver assignment in 2017.

 

6-foot-4 Dominican righty Jairo Rosario finally made it to the GCL at the age of 22 but he only threw 9 1/3 innings and was shut down after July 23 because to injury. In the action he saw, he had a 3.86 ERA and 1.39 WHIP, striking out nine batters and walking six.

 

In mid-August, the Blue Jays signed lefty Ty Sterner to a contract and got him into four games. Sterner, who had been drafted by Cincinnati in 2014 and pitched in their organization until he was released early this season. Sterner threw 7 2/3 innings for the Jays, giving up just one earned run on nine hits and one walk with 11 strikeouts while pitching as a 23 year old. Look for Sterner to get back to the Midwest League next year (where he pitched in 2015 with the Dayton Dragons).

 

Travis Bergen
Travis Bergen

22-year-old lefty Travis Bergen has had trouble staying healthy. After just 5 1/3 innings with the Vancouver Canadians in 2015, Bergen threw just five innings combined in 2016 with three in the GCL and two in Vancouver. He only gave up two hits and walked two while striking out seven but will need to stay healthy in order to make an impact with the Jays’ organization.

 

The Blue Jays acquired several pitchers late in the season including Gregor Mora (21 y/o, 3 2/3 IP, 7.36 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, 2 BB, 2 K), Richard Reina (21 y/o, 4 1/3 IP, 6.23 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 0 BB, 2 K) and Daniel Moritz (2 1/3 IP, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K). Bobby Eveld (also known as Mark Eveld) is a 24 year old, 6-foot-5 righty who threw 1 1/3 innings before getting injured and allowed two runs on four hits and a walk with one strikeout before being shut down.

 

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