The Vancouver Canadians had another very good year and a lot of that can go down to the quality starting pitching that the team got in 2014. By the time the short season rolled around, there were several candidates who were expected to perform well in Vancouver and others who stepped up from almost nowhere to be extremely valuable contributors to the club’s success.
We’ll start with our Pitcher of the Year for the Vancouver Canadians, Dominican lefty Jairo Labourt. After a strong season in 2013 with the Bluefield Blue Jays, Labourt, 20, and Alberto Tirado were poised to break out in full-season ball with the Lansing Lugnuts. Things didn’t go their way and neither ended up succeeding in A-ball and both required a step back to Vancouver. Labourt was having control issues, walking 20 batters in only 14 innings in Lansing before getting sent to extended spring training. It looks like whatever he did with the coaches in Dunedin worked because Labourt came out of the gate in Vancouver like a man on fire, posting a 1.77 ERA, a 1.18 WHIP to go along with very strong strikeout rate of 27.5%. His 12.4% walk rate is still very high but Labourt was able to be successful in Vancouver despite it.
Making the second-most starts for the Vancouver Canadians is a guy who pitched very well in Bluefield last year. 6-foot-1 lefty Zakery Wasilewski was not nearly as effective in Vancouver this year, with an ERA ballooned to 7.32 and a WHIP of 1.82. Wasilewski didn’t impress me when I saw him in spring training, with a fastball in the 84-mph range and a changeup that was staying up high without any real movement to it. Obviously one spring training outing is not indicative of what a pitcher will do once the season starts but what I saw wasn’t a great starting point either. Other big takeaways from Wasilewski’s 2014 season was that his walk rate only went down from 13.6% to 11.6% so it’s still well above average and his strikeout rate plummeted from 21.4% (about average) to 13.0%. Wasilewski will need to rebound next year. he’s 25 and could be headed to extended spring training unless he sees a jump in velocity or development of his secondary pitches.
19-year-old Dominican Miguel Castro made some waves last year, starting his season in the Dominican Summer League but reaching the Appalachian League by season’s end. The 6-foot-5, fireballing righty did the same thing this year, spending most of the season in Vancouver before starting a lightning journey through A-ball, making stops in Lansing and Dunedin. Castro was dominant in Vancouver, posting a 2.15 ERA, 1.11 WHIP with 53 strikeouts and 20 walks in 50 1/3 innings before striking out 20 with seven walks in 21 2/3 innings in four starts in Lansing. He continued to excel in his two outings in Dunedin, allowing only four hits with three walks in 8 2/3 innings. Castro showed an ability to throw the ball 98 mph with some life on it as well as a solid slider and changeup. While he’s still refining his command and consistency (especially with the offspeed stuff), the way the Jays have been promoting their players, he could reach the big leagues as soon as 2015 if he starts in Dunedin as I expect he will.
The only really “new” starting pitcher in the Vancouver rotation was Chase Mallard, the Jays’ 14th round pick in the 2014 draft. Mallard, a 6-foot-2 righty, started his pro career with the Bluefield Blue Jays but was promoted after three appearances to help out the Canadians at a higher level of baseball. Mallard ended up logging 52 1/3 innings with an excellent 2.75 ERA and 1.11 WHIP, allowing 11 walks and striking out 48 batters. He was definitely one of the important pieces to the Canadians’ success in 2014 and should be in Lansing in 2015.
20-year-old Daniel Lietz started the season with the Bluefield Blue Jays and dominated over his 13 1/3 innings there before getting the call up to Vancouver. The 6-foot-2 lefty who was the Jays’ fifth-round pick in the 2013 draft struggled a bit more in the Northwest League, walking 22 batters in 33 innings while striking out 27. He posted a 5.73 ERA and 1.79 WHIP. Lietz is still young and could still move up to Lansing next year, however, without a really strong performance in Vancouver under his belt, he could be back there to start 2015.
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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