GCL Blue Jays 2017 Report, Part 2: Starting Pitchers

Felipe Castaneda

We’ll start our in-depth look at the pitching staff of the GCL Blue Jays by looking at starting pitchers. Our definition of a “starter” is a little more complicated for this club (and for the Bluefield Blue Jays and Vancouver Canadians) because the Blue Jays decided to control the innings of some of the club’s newly drafted players by having them start and only working an inning or two (or three). This creates a weird scenario wherein one pitcher in particular had six starts (tied for second place on the club) but only nine innings with the GCL Blue Jays (that pitcher threw slightly more innings in Vancouver anyways, so he won’t be discussed with the GCL Jays).

So, after much ado, here are the “starting” pitchers for the GCL Jays.

 

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18-year-old Joi Concepcion got his season off to a fantastic start in the DSL before moving over to the GCL upon the start of the season. The 6-foot-5 Dominican righty dominated in the month of June making four starts with the DSL Jays, posting a 1.06 ERA and miniscule 0.65 WHIP in 17 innings in the Dominican Republic, striking out a whopping 27.4% of batters and walking just 4.8%. The walk rates skyrocketed as Concepcion crossed into Florida, jumping to 18.2% while his strikeout rate fell to 18.8%. Still there were flashes of a strong pitcher to come as he had a 3.78 ERA overall in the GCL with a 1.56 WHIP, not bad for a pitcher making his pro debut this year while also moving to a foreign country. Look for Concepcion to either repeat in the GCL or move up to Bluefield as a 19 year old in 2018.

 

 

At 21, Maverik Buffo was our Pitcher of the Year for the GCL Jays. The Blue Jays’ 34th-round pick in 2017, Buffo was absolutely dominant in the lowest affiliated league in the US. A 6-foot-2 righty from Brigham Young University, Buffo threw in 11 games, starting six of them, and had a 0.53 ERA and 0.88 WHIP over 34 innings, walking just 1.5% of batters (two walks all year) and striking out 27.5%. Without having seen him, it’s not easy to figure out how Buffo will fare next year. May college-age pitchers are dominant in the GCL and the real test for Buffo will be how he comes back in 2018. At the very least, he’ll start the season in Vancouver, but could very well begin in Lansing, where he got a taste of the Midwest League flavour by pitching in the Crosstown Showdown against Michigan State University.

 

I saw 17-year-old righty Felipe Castaneda in spring training and was very interested to see how he’d do in his professional debut. Castaneda, a 6-foot-1 Mexican, put up some decent numbers with some of the usual growing pains experienced by many young pitchers. Castaneda tossed 35 1/3 innings in nine outings (six starts) with a 4.08 ERA and 1.75 WHIP, walking 11.1% of batters and striking out 18.1%. All the numbers indicate that he won’t be hurt by another year in the GCL but could move up to Bluefield based on a strong performance in the Fall Instructional League and extended spring training.

 

Alvery De Los Santos

Another 17-year-old, Alvery De Los Santos made his professional debut in the GCL, much like Felipe Castaneda. De Los Santos had some other issues rather than just simply his control. De Los Santos struggled with inconsistency early and then didn’t pitch again after an August 3 outing. Overall, De Los Santos threw 20 2/3 innings with a 6.53 ERA and 1.55 WHIP, striking out 16.0% and walking just 4.3%. While he didn’t appear to have trouble throwing strikes, he did seem to be very hittable, given the low-ish strikeout rate and the high number of hits (28) and home runs (5). Look for him to return to the GCL next year.

 

Another late-round pick of the Blue Jays who pitched in the GCL was Matt Gunter, a 22-year-old lefty out of Hawaii Pacific. Gunter was our runner up for Pitcher of the Year honours and had a sterling pro debut with a 0.94 ERA and 0.81 WHIP in 38 1/3 innings. Striking out 25.0% of batters and walking only 2.8%, Gunter was part of an outstanding one-two punch on the mound (along with Maverik Buffo). Like Buffo, it is expected that Gunter will skip at least one level next year and will probably start in Vancouver.

 

Roither Hernandez

Roither Hernandez came to the Jays as a fairly exciting international free agent but succumbed to injury after just three professional starts. Hernandez, a 19-year-old 6-foot-4 Dominican righty, was excellent in his 11 1/3 innings so far as a pro, giving up just one run and two walks to help him to a 0.79 ERA and 0.97 WHIP, striking out 19.6% and walking 4.4%. We’re certainly looking forward to what he can do next year when healthy but the fact that he was placed on the 60-day DL in the minor leagues is cause for concern.

 

While he didn’t make very many starts (just two), 20-year-old lefty Claudio Galva (who turns 21 in October) was certainly used like a starter, throwing anywhere between three and six innings in all of his appearances. In his second professional season, first in the US, Galva threw 38 innings in nine outings, posting a 3.08 ERA and very solid 1.13 WHIP, both improvements on his numbers in the DSL last year. He impressed with his command, hitting just one batter and walking three for a 2.0% walk rate while striking out 15.0% while inducing a 1.69 groundout-to-airout ratio. Galva appears to be a strike-throwing, ground ball machine who will probably jump up a level or two next year. Look for him in Vancouver or even Lansing to start the year.

 

18-year-old Elieser Medrano had a successful first professional season being used as a swingman, throwing multiple innings in all of his outings before being shut down at the end of July. A 6-foot-2 Dominican righty, Medrano threw 23 innings with a 3.52 ERA and 1.48 WHIP, struggling with his control, walking 15.7% and striking out 25.5%. He could repeat the level until he gets a better handle of his control and is certainly not too old to return to the GCL.

 

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