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How are pitchers on our Top 20 doing? A look into pitching in the organization

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Brennan Delaney
9 months ago
Remember my “Top 20 Blue Jays prospects in the pre-season” articles I did in March and April? 
Well in this article, we’ll look to see how the pitchers on that list have done in the first month of Minor League action. Like the big league team, the bats in the minors haven’t really got going, but the pitching has been quite fantastic..  
We’ll be looking at other pitchers that have caught my eye who may appear on the mid-season version of the Top 20 list. We’ll start from #18 and work our way down. The “ones to keep an eye on” will be at the end of the article.

Hagen Danner (#18):

The 23-year-old former catcher has only pitched 3.2 innings before landing on the 7-day IL with the Fisher Cats. In that time frame, he posted a 4.91 ERA, 5.36 FIP and a K/9 of 2.45. A very small sample size for someone who’ll be a great reliever.
Hopefully he returns to good health soon and continues to dominate the minor leagues, because his fastball/slider combo is the real deal.

Kendry Rojas (#16):

Much like the other younger players on this list, the adjustment to Low A has been a struggle for the 19-year-old left hander. After only throwing 23 balls in 185 pitches last season, that number jumped to 109 balls in 264 pitches in 2022.
His season ERA sits at 4.50 with a FIP of 4.91. Rojas has a K/9 of 7.71 (down from 14.83 in 2021) while his BB/9 has risen from 1.9 to 6.43.
However, once you remove his debut game, where Rojas allowed 4 earned runs in a third of an inning, his numbers become much more respectable. In fact, his 1.98 in the past three games is even better than his 2.28 ERA in 2021.
However, even in those three games, he’s struggled with walks, as he’s allowed eight extra passes. Hopefully he can figure it out.

Kyle Johnston (#15):

He’s not quite a ground ball pitcher, he’s not a strikeout pitcher. Yes, FIP hates the 26-year-old righty, yet he continues to put up sparkling numbers since the move to the bullpen last season
After moving to the bullpen with the Fisher Cats in 2021, Johnston posted a 0.94 ERA in 28.2 innings pitched. After a promotion to the Bisons, Johnston had a 1.04 ERA in 17.1 innings pitched.
Sticking with the Bisons in 2022, he’s pitched 10.2 innings and has registered a 1.69 ERA. His K/9 sits at 6.75, which his BB/9 has elevated to 4.22 (up from 1.56 in the small sample size with Buffalo last season).
Despite not getting a high number of ground balls (only 48.4%), Johnston gets out, even if he may make it more difficult for himself with the walks.
Next to Jeremy Beasley and Bowden Francis, Johnston could be one of the next call ups if the Jays need more relievers.

Adrian Hernandez (#14):

Of course 22-year-old Adrian Hernandez has dominated the minors with his 70 grade changeup. In just 4 innings pitched with the Double A Fisher Cats, he posted a 2.25 ERA and 2.70 FIP while owning a K/9 of 13.50.
While his BB/9 of 6.75 in Double A looks bad, it started raining for two of those walks, meaning that the loss of command could be attributed to the wet ball. 
Hernandez was promoted to Buffalo and hasn’t allowed an earned run in his three innings pitched in Triple A. His K/9 is also at a great 15, however his BB/9 sits at 6.
It’s obviously a very small sample size, but it’s possible that we will probably see the 22-year-old righty at some point this season, as his changeup is ready for the big leagues.

Ricky Tiedemann (#12):

Had I told you that Ricky Tiedemann wasn’t originally going to rank on my Top 20 prospect list, what would you have said? Well, this was actually the case as I tend to wait and see what drafted players could do in the big leagues.
And my oh my, has the 19-year-old lefty ever dominated Low A. In his first professional season, he has a 0.90 ERA and a 1.54 FIP in 20 innings pitched.
 His K/9 is at a fantastic 14.85 while his BB/9 is at 4.50. I’m writing this on Monday, May 2nd, and since his debut on April 8th, he hasn’t allowed a run. In fact, since his start on April 15th, he hasn’t even allowed a damn hit, and he only allowed two in five innings.
He’s pitched 10 innings in his last two starts and he’s only walked four batters without allowing a single hit. His game on April 29th was his magnum opus, as he pitched 5 perfect innings with nine strikeouts.
 
He is one of only two players that will rise on my midseason list, he’s been insane.

Adam Kloffenstein (#11):

If not for some trades, I likely wouldn’t have included Kloffenstein on this list. The 21-year-old struggled in High A last season, posting a 6.22 ERA in 101.1 innings pitched. However, he has shown quite the improvement in 2022.
While his ERA still sits at a high 5.29, his FIP has decreased to 4.43 (with an xFIP of 3.35). However, the sign that points in the right direction is his BB/9 of 2.65. Last season, Kloffenstein struggled with command, as he had a 5.42 BB/9. It’s nice to see that drop.
Furthermore, his K/9 has elevated to 11.12, which is up from 9.50 last season. This has had an effect on his ground ball percentage, as that dropped from 53% to 36.7%. Teams love strikeouts, so to see that rise is a good thing.
Another good sign is the fact his left on base percentage has jumped from 58.7% to 71.4%. Last season, if a runner reached, they scored 41.3% of the time. Now they’re only scoring 28.6% of the time. With fewer walks, fewer would-be-scorers get on base.
One more good sign for Kloffenstein is from the last time on the rubber. He pitched 5 innings and only allowed a single run. Furthermore, he only walked one batter while striking out six. In my opinion, it was his best High A start to date, and hopefully the “large adult son” can build off that performance.

Sem Robberse (#6):

The last pitcher that ranked on my Top 20, Sem Robberse has fully adjusted to High A. The 20-year-old has a 2.65 ERA and 2.84 FIP in 17 innings pitched.
When he made the jump to Vancouver last season, he posted a 5.23 BB/9 in 31 innings, which is alarming. However, this season his BB/9 has dropped to an insane 0.53. In fact, upon doing research, “ball” four shouldn’t have even been a ball, as it was clearly caught at the bottom of the zone. You can watch the entire at bat below.
Sem’s K/9 has dropped to 7.41, but even with less strikeouts, he has clearly shown that he’s adapted to High A, so really it’s only a matter of time before the 20-year-old finds himself with New Hampshire.

Keep an eye on these pitchers:

We’ll look at stats from pitchers in Low A, High A and Double A, and Triple A. I have excluded Thomas Hatch and Nick Allgeyer from the Triple A section.

Low A:

Yosver Zulueta: The 24-year-old righty is on rehab, after missing the past two seasons with Tommy John and ACL surgery. He’s only pitched in four innings, but he absolutely dominated, pitching for a line of 4 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K. He’s one to keep an eye on as he easily hits 100 mph with his 4-seam fastball.
Conor Larkin: The 23-year-old was the Jays 9th round pick last season. In 8 innings pitched as a reliever, he has a 2.25 ERA and 2.22 FIP with two saves. His K/9 stands at 13.50 while his BB/9 is 5.63, which is on the high side. It’s likely he’ll see a promotion at some point this season.
Dahian Santos: The 19-year-old righty has pitched in a long man role in 2022. His ERA sits at 2.25 while his FIP sits at an impressive 3.26 (xFIP at 1.76). More impressive is his 24 strikeouts in 12 innings pitched, good enough for an 18 K/9. He also has a BB/9 of 4.50. He is certainly one to keep an eye on.
Matt Svanson: We’ll stick with 2021 draftees. Svanson was drafted in the 13th round last season. The 23-year-old “large adult son” has a 3.09 ERA and 3.69 FIP. He also has a K/9 of 10.8 and a BB/9 of 1.54, meaning that I think it’s likely he sees some time in Vancouver this season.
Rafael Ohashi: The 19-year-old righty has posted a 3.63 ERA and 2.71 FIP in his 17.1 innings pitched. His K/9 sits at an impressive 12.46 while his BB/9 is also relatively low at 3.63. Tiedemann is the only other qualified pitcher for the Baby Jays, but Ohashi is one to keep an eye on as well.
Connor Cooke: Ignoring his high ERA of 6.55, Cooke was drafted in the 10th round last draft. The 22-year-old Cooke has a 2.98 FIP and has a high K/9 of 13.09. His BB/9 is also pretty low at 2.45, but he has to show more against younger batters.
Trenton Wallace: Unlike Cooke, Wallace’s ERA of 7.36 is paired with a high FIP as well, as that stands at 6.89. The 23-year-old has only pitched 3.2 innings, but will need to turn it around quickly.  He makes this list as he was an 11th rounder in 2021.

High A:

Trent Palmer: Recency bias? Perhaps, as he just pitched six perfect innings on Sunday. However, in 16 innings pitched in 2022, Palmer has a 1.69 ERA and 2.86 FIP. His BB/9 has dropped from 6 in 2021 to 3.94 this season. He’s also increased his K/9 from 11.86 to 13.50. He’s making a big case to rerank on most prospect sites.
Hunter Gregory: The 23-year-old righty was drafted in the 8th round of the 2021 draft. In 11.1 innings this season, he has posted a 2.38 ERA and 1.78 FIP. His K/9 sits at 10.32 while his BB/9 sits at 0.79. It’s possible we will see him pitch for the Fisher Cats this season.
Chad Dallas: Drafted in the 4th round (20th pick that round), Dallas has had a nice start to his pro career. The 22-year-old has pitched 12.2 innings with a 2.84 ERA and 4.50 FIP. Furthermore, his K/9 sits at 11.37 while his BB/9 sits at 2.84. He needs to limit the homers, as he’s given up 1.42 per nine innings.
Jimmy Burnette: Drafted in the 18th round, Burnette has had a solid start to his High A career. In 11 innings pitched, he has posted a 4.09 ERA and 3.18 FIP. However, his xFIP sits at 1.76, meaning he’s giving up an abnormal amount of homers. His K/9 sits at 19.64, which yeah. It’s possible we see the reliever with New Hampshire.
Naswell Paulino: The 22-year-old has pitched 11.1 innings and has registered a 4.76 ERA and 4.43 FIP. His K/9 sits at 9.53 while his BB/9 sits at 5.56. I include him here because his fastball has a TON of movement (over 2700 RPM). He’s just trying to be too fine with the fastball, just barely missing the zone, which leads to walks.

Double A:

Nick Fraze: The 24-year-old has really settled into Double A, positing a 2.84 ERA and 3.29 FIP in 19 innings pitched. His K/9 stands at 8.05 while his BB/9 sits at 1.89. All four stats are much better than what he produced in his 19.2 innings pitched at this level in 2021. It’s possible he sees Triple A, and his ceiling is a 4 or 5 in the rotation.
Max Castillo: The 22-year-old has had a good start to his second season at the Double A level. In 20 innings pitched, he has posted a 3.15 ERA and 3.60 FIP. His K/9 sits at 12.60, by far the highest in his career, while his BB/9 is at a rather high 4.95. His ground ball percentage as also increased to 51.2%, the highest in his career.
Hayden Juenger: The 21-year-old righty has started his 2022 as a bulk inning guy. He’s pitched in 13.1 innings and has posted a 4.73 ERA and 4.88 FIP (xFIP of 2.77). However, he was blown up in two games (or 4.1 innings pitched), while allowing just one hit in three games (or 9 innings pitched). Furthermore, his K/9 sits at 14.18 while his BB/9 sits at 2.03.

Triple A:

Jeremy Beasley: Is Jeremy Beasley a prospect? No really, however, I want to include him here. In 13.1 innings pitched, he has a 1.35 ERA and 2.90 FIP. However, he only recently allowed his first two earned runs on Saturday. He also dropped his BB/9 from 7.23 in 2021 to 3.38 this season. His K/9 stands at 12.15. I think he has a shot at the Majors this season.
Brandon Eisert: A little talked about reliever, he has posted a 4.22 ERA and 5.37 FIP (3.27 xFIP) in 10.2 innings pitched this season. His K/9 sits at 11.81 while his BB/9 is at a fairly low 2.53. He’s a long shot to make the bullpen this season, but keep an eye out on the 24-year-old.
Bowden Francis: The 26-year-old “large adult son” has pitched 15.1 innings with Buffalo this season, posting a 4.11 ERA and 6.50 FIP. He has a 9.98 K/9 and a 2.93 BB/9. Furthermore, he recorded his first career strikeout in the majors this past week. He could be the first starter recalled if the Jays run into issues.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D. Definitely keep an eye on a few of the “ones to watch” because I believe we may have a gem or two that could develop into a real good pitcher in the future.

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