After yesterday’s hiatus (to get the Blake McFarland podcast up), we’re back with another projected roster: the New Hampshire Fisher Cats pitching staff. This post is the fifth part of an eight-part series that will be my attempt to predict the Opening Day rosters for the Blue Jays’ four full-season minor league teams which start their seasons on April 9.
Each post will have a complementary “Countdown to Baseball” profile of one of the players. You can see this post by becoming a registered member of Blue Jays from Away for free! Just click on the link and follow the simple instructions! Today’s featured player is Matt Boyd and you can read all about him by following the link.
In particular, the pitching staff for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats is the roster that I’ve struggled with most. The Jays just have too many pitchers in camp and some of them are going to end up in Toronto, some will end up in Buffalo and some will end up in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, due to the business of baseball, some will end up out of the organization. I try to keep things upbeat and positive here so we’ll just assume that everyone will find a job somewhere which will lead to a bloated roster (wait til you see what’s going on in my Buffalo prediction). Finally, the Double-A and Triple-A levels are really where we see players get stuck below where they might be if the Jays didn’t bring in veteran minor leaguers for depth at the major and minor league levels. A good year in Dunedin doesn’t automatically get you an assignment in New Hampshire the following spring. There are several players that may have to wait their turn to get to ManchVegas.
So, if this is the New Hampshire starting rotation, I think I’m going to rent an apartment there for the summer. I’ve written about Matt Boyd before and his numbers in Double-A last year weren’t nearly as bad as they seem on the surface. He was absolutely dominant in Dunedin last year, posting a strikeout to walk ratio in excess of 5.00 (5.15 to be exact) and despite a 6.96 ERA in New Hampshire, he was victimized by a very high BABIP and a very low Left-On-Base percentage, leaving his FIP at 3.94.
Taylor Cole is another Dunedin ace last year who didn’t have quite the success in New Hampshire. I saw him make a start for the Fisher Cats and, while he didn’t have his fastball command, he could still get batters out. Cole is also 25 and needs to be in Double-A.
Casey Lawrence was a stalwart of the Fisher Cats rotation last year, throwing a ton of innings and pitching well. Despite that, the perpetual underdog isn’t going to get the respect he may deserve. While he’s spent parts of three seasons with New Hampshire, he threw a combined 22 1/3 innings in two of them, making 2014 the only year that he spent a substantial part in Double-A.
Roberto Osuna is probably the most exciting pitcher of the bunch. The 20-year-old righty is poised to make a big breakthrough in his first full year after Tommy John surgery. His youth and the ability to make throwing hard look easy both could give him time to develop, but his maturity on the mound and his ability to mix his pitches and command his stuff makes the fans clamour for a quick rise through the organization
Other Possible Starting Pitchers
I think at least one of these guys will be in the New Hampshire rotation (or in the bullpen). Newly acquired Jayson Aquino is only 22 and only has 22 innings of Double-A experience and may start the season in Dunedin but my hunch is that he’ll be given a chance to pitch in Double-A despite some rough numbers in Advanced A-ball last year.
Bibens-Dirkx is the guys most likely to be in the bullpen. He’s gone anywhere and done whatever the Blue Jays have of him over the past two years and he’s just pitched well at every place and in every role. It’s a thankless job but Bibens-Dirkx is one of the most versatile organizational arms in the system.
Scott Copeland became a free agent but quickly re-signed with the Blue Jays. Having pitched a little bit in Buffalo last year, I think that he should be one of the pitchers in the Bisons’ rotation. That said, he may be one of the chief victims of the numbers game. He did get an invite to major league camp when he re-signed and I’m wondering if it came with a promise that he’d get a chance to start in Buffalo.
Of this group, I think Mike Lee could be the guy most likely to start 2015 in the New Hampshire ‘pen. Lee is 28 but has limited Triple-A experience and he was downright tremendous when pitching for New Hampshire last year after the Jays bought his contract from Arizona.
I’m actually pretty confident in this group of relievers starting the year in New Hampshire. John Anderson kicks things off after a solid season in New Hampshire that puts him yet another year way from his horrible litany of arm problems. Staying healthy the whole season, the lefty had his highest strikeout rate of his career (25.1%) with the Fisher Cats in 2014 and, while he probably could move up a level, he’s going to be a victim of the numbers game and will return to Double-A for a second year.
Antolin had a breakthrough last year after some tinkering with a pitch and posted some of the best numbers of his career. Too bad Buffalo is so packed. Sorry Dustin. Third season in New Hampshire for you.
Wil Browning needs a good year in Double-A to establish himself as more than just a ROOGY. He has been absolutely dominant at the A-ball levels since signing as an undrafted free agent in 2012 but in his first attempt at Double-A last year, he walked five batters and gave up five earned runs in 6 1/3 innings.
Rafael Cova was a minor league free agent signing of the Jays this offseason. He had only pitched in winter leagues over the past several seasons since he was last in affiliated ball in 2010 with the Richmond Flying Squirrels where he put up some great numbers. He last pitched in the Mexican Summer League last year with Veracruz. I figure he’ll be in New Hampshire.
Tiago da Silva is another older minor league free agent signing but he’s a Brazilian who has never played affiliated baseball. He played for several years in the Italian League before moving to Mexico last year for the summer season and he pitched extremely well in the Venezuelan Winter League. He’s apparently a soft tosser with some great offspeed stuff and I can see him starting in New Hampshire.
Chad Girodo is a guy who has little left to prove in A-ball. The ninth round pick in the 2013 draft, Girodo is probably a bit more than just a LOOGY, despite what his sidewinding mechanics may suggest. I want to see him tested in Double-A and I think that’s where he goes.
Blake McFarland had a very strong year in New Hampshire last year but is going to be another victim of the numbers game. The 27 year old righty still only has 35 1/3 innings under his belt at the level and, with the logjam projected for the Buffalo bullpen, I see McFarland back in New Hampshire.
Arik Sikula is another guy with experience at Double-A and he’s really proven that he deserves to have a shot to establish himself. He didn’t get as long of a look in Manchester as McFarland did but he was excellent everywhere he was last year and is a closer candidate for the Fisher Cats.
Other Possible Relief Pitchers
Danny Barnes has struggled with injuries throughout his minor league career and 2014 was no exception. Still, he pitched most last year, spending it in High-A Dunedin and had a tremendous strikeout-to-walk ratio as well as a K-rate approaching 30%. He could/should be in New Hampshire but probably will start the season back in Dunedin.
Griffin Murphy is likely to start in Dunedin but could certainly make the jump. A lefty who was dominant in Lansing last year but struggled more in Dunedin will almost certainly start the year in Dunedin but will need to start moving through the organization at some point this year, his Age-24 season.
Luis Perez is back in a Blue Jays uniform after a couple of years looking for work and trying to rehab an elbow that was surgically reconstructed. He was a really good lefty for the Jays back in 2011 and 2012 before blowing out his arm. He hasn’t pitched since 2013 but is trying to work his way back. A 30-year-old, I don’t see him starting below New Hampshire but could be a surprise addition to the Buffalo roster if he has a good showing in the spring.
I’ve written about Ben White in this series before and I think he could be a dark horse to make the New Hampshire squad but he’s more likely to start 2015 in Dunedin.
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