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Putting Together the 2019 D-Jays

Shall we have another go at economy of words?
Same format as before, hitters first where there’s less competition and fewer conflicts that on the pitching side.

Catchers: As with Pentecost at AA, the holdover here improved late in the year but it’s reasonable to think the organization would want to see a bit of consolidation of that progress. Still, year over year one might also speculate that a college player like Riley Adams would be assigned to New Hampshire, after all he turned his season around in early July. Best guess is that both he and Pentecost return to their previous team and if either or both play well for eight weeks or so they’ll be discussed for promotions. My guess as the primary back-up is 2018 draftee Christopher Bec who’s actually older than Adams (and who also had a very nice August). Last year’s reserve Alberto Mineo, who did well in the role, will also likely be here (at this level and below three catchers are typical).

First Base: Kacey Clemens, who’s said to have greatly improved his physical conditioning, will certainly be back and try to find his bat in the process since he was horrible after being promoted from Lansing last summer. Christian Williams had his season shortened to 32 games by injury in Lansing last year, but hit pretty well when he played and entering his age 24 season, needs to move.

Second Base: Samad Taylor (34, 33) defense and speed and a bat that the organization feels is not yet realized will almost surely get this job. He could have done better in Lansing (IIRC he had an abnormally low BABiP) but his prospect status and talent will get him here.

Shortstop: Logan Warmoth (27, 26) gets a second go and will be looking to live up to his first rounder status. He was reportedly hampered by nagging injuries but his selection came with detractors and he has something to prove this year. Backing the middle infield positions will likely go to Kevin Vicuna. He has a highly regarded glove but hasn’t been pounding the ball in Lansing. Still scouts like him a great deal more than the batting line would indicate.

Third Base: While his season was severely shortened by injury last year (27 games), Cullen Large hit quite well in those appearances (.979 OPS) and though that might be a sample-size mirage, he’s going into his age 23 season so ideally he’s ready for Florida. Coming along with him is likely Brandon Grudzelanek. He didn’t kick down the door but he’s the logical candidate to fill out the bench.

Outfield: This has the potential to be the key to the offense. In right field, mostly, you will find Ryan Noda (23,23) who brings good power, a top shelf OBP and way too many strikeouts from Lansing. He’ll need to change the correct one item out of that set to continue to progress. The other two spots will see the most at bats go to players who both ought to be the everyday CF. Chavez Young (25, 19) from Lansing who, like Samad Taylor, is a very fast guy (both stole 44 bases) with solid doubles power that might have room to grow – but Young found his way to first much more often is one. Joining him, I expect, will be Cal Stevenson (32, 36) who was a hitting machine in Bluefield and is already older than Young. Also look for Demi Orimoloye, the raw specimen acquired from the Brewers for Curtis Granderson to get his first reps as a Blue Jay prospect for this team.  Further down the road is Griffin Conine (15, 20). While some speculate about Lansing I’m guessing when he’s served his 50 games it will be this roster he joins.

Starting Rotation: The top of the rotation will feature the Jays #1 pitching prospect, Nate Pearson (4, 4). Healthy and impressing everyone this spring, he needs to build innings so he’ll be tightly monitored for a while and may not really be turned lose until next year. Joining him if healthy would be Justin Maese. Having lost all of last season to a shoulder issue, it’s much more uncertain whether he is ready to break camp (injury news from minor league camp – or teams – is very hard to obtain) but if he is, he’d be the second most notable prospect on the staff. Minor League Rule 5 selection Willy Ortiz pitched in the FSL last year and did a pretty good job. I haven’t been able to find the specific rules about what you’re supposed to do in terms of assigning such a draftee – there’s not really room for another pitcher at the higher levels – but if he lands here he’ll be a real asset to the rotation. Holdover Maverik Buffo had looked good in Lansing in early 2018, but once moving up he was roughed up pretty good. He’ll get a chance to get back on his feet more than likely.  The most logical candidate in Lansing for a promotion to ti rotation is Graham Spraker.  He had two games late in the season in which he completely lost the zone but otherwise, he pitched well enough to get the job. If there’s a sixth starter the best guess is Turner Larkins who pitched about as well as Spraker but missed most of the second half with injury.

Bullpen: As at higher levels, there are a lot more bodies here than there are openings. The successful guy among the holdovers is undersized righty Ty Tice. Brayden Bouchey is a sure-thing promotion from Lansing along with Dany Jimenez. There are four other veteran holdovers, one of whom were pretty bad last year (Andy Ravel) two others were mediocre (Nick Hartman who had a good K rate, and William Ouellette) and the fourth, Kelyn Jose, missed the year with injury. Any or all of these guys could be out of the system in a couple of weeks. The balance of the ‘pen will more likely come from the short-season teams. Three college draftees from 2018 produced very good results for the Vancouver team last summer. Nick Allgyer, Cobi Johnson, and Joey Pulido all seem capable of leapfrogging Lansing to play here. Also, 2017 late-round selection Justin Watts was dominant and deserves to land here, as does lefty Marcus Reyes from the same draft. Then there’s Connor Law who was less impressive but is going into his age 25 season so he’ll need to show something here or be crowded out. Barring health, I think the active guys on opening day are Tice, Bouchey, Jimenez, Allgeyer, Johnson, Pulido and Watts. Everyone else is seriously on the bubble.

On Friday, barring unforeseen circumstances, I’ll review the potential Lugnuts to complete this series.