Toronto Blue Jays Spring Training look at the 25 man roster Wannabes
As spring training arrives it is time to start getting excited again about Blue Jays baseball. We are coming out of an off-season that has seen Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins make moves that we hope will lead us to another playoff appearance. Many are skeptical that not enough has been done and they leave us with many questions still unanswered.
Will the offense from Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce overcome the loss of fan-favorite Edwin Encarnacion?
Will J.P. Howell and Joe Smith in the bullpen be better than Brett Cecil and Joaquin Benoit?
Will a full season with Francisco Liriano and any backup catcher not named Josh Thole be better than having R.A. Dickey in the rotation?
Will any one of Ezequiel Carrera, B.J. Upton, Steve Pearce, Dalton Pompey, Darrell Ceceliani and now Jose Tabata step up and take over as an everyday left fielder?
Will the 2017 version of Jose Bautista be closer to the declining right fielder from 2016 or the all-star we had the six previous seasons?
A long summer lies ahead to find out the answers to these and other questions, but first we need to start with a spring training look at the various players, some veterans and some prospects just hoping to head north with the team in April.
Non- Roster Invitees, The Veterans
Mike Bolsinger, SP/RP Age: 29 – Acquired in the trade for Jesse Chavez, Bolsinger provides some starting pitching depth but a strong camp and the fact the he is out of options could make him a choice to be the long reliever in the bullpen and allow the team to send Joe Biagini to Buffalo to stretch him out to be a future starter if needed.
MLB stats – 3 seasons (Ari/LAD) – 36 starts, 8-16, 4.61 ERA, 1.447 WHIP
Mat Latos, SP Age:29 – Signed just as camp was opening Latos is a guy with a lot of upside and a lot of issues. He is a former front of the rotation NL starter with the Padres who was 8th in NL Cy Young voting in 2010 at 22 yrs old. He was dealt to Cincinnati after the 2011 season for Edinson Volquez and 3 top prospects at the time (#3 Yonder Alonso, #4 Yosmani Grandal and #10 Brad Boxberger according to BA). After 3 solid seasons with the Reds he was traded to Miami and began a long list of transactions through 5 organizations over the past two years. There are numerous stories of clubhouse drama surrounding him dating all the way back to the reason he fell to the 11th round in his draft year being concerns over him being hard to handle. He could be a valuable extra starter ready when needed working at Buffalo or he could be moving on looking for his 9th team when they realize he doesn’t play well with others. MLB stats – 8 seasons (SD/Cin/Mia/LAD/LAA/CWS/Was) 71-58, 3.60 ERA, 1.202 WHIP
Gavin Floyd, SP/RP Age: 34 – Re-signed to a minor league contract, Floyd was one of the few trusted arms in the Blue Jays bullpen early in 2016 after competing in camp for the #5 starter job. His season ended in June with injury and if he can prove to be healthy he could find a spot in the bullpen again.MLB Stats – 13 seasons (Phi/CWS/Atl/Cle/Tor) – 74-76, 4.37 ERA, 7.1 K/9
Lucas Harrell, SP/RP Age: 31 – Veteran swingman will compete for long relief spot in camp but more likely to provide depth as a starter at AAA Buffalo.
MLB stats – 6 seasons (CWS/Hou/Atl/Tex) – 21-35, 4.77 ERA, 1.574 ERA
T.J. House, SP/RP Age: 27 – Left-handed groundball pitcher was a promising young starter in the Indians organization when he came up in 2014. Injuries stalled his big league career and he spent the majority of last season at AAA Columbus where he posted a 3.98 ERA. He should provide depth in the Buffalo rotation.
MLB stats – 3 seasons (CLE) 22 starts, 5-7, 4.44 ERA
Brett Oberholtzer, SP/RP Age 27 – Left-handed swing man will provide starting pitching depth at Buffalo who can be used as a lefty out of the pen when needed in Toronto.
MLB stats – 4 seasons (Hou/Phi/LAA) 44 starts, 38 relief app, 14-23, 1 SV, 4.36 ERA
Jeff Beliveau, RP Age: 30 – The left hander spent last season split between Frederick (High A) and Bowie (AA) in the Orioles system after returning from a shoulder injury. He had a 2.54 ERA with 66 K in 49.2 IP. He may work his way into the Blue Jays bullpen mix at some point this season.
MLB stats – 4 seasons (ChC/TB), 58 relief app, 4.00 ERA, 9.4 K/9
Jarrett Grube, SP/RP Age: 35 – 13 year minor league veteran made one relief appearance with LA Angels in 2014. Just organizational depth for Buffalo.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C Age: 31 – Salty, the former first rounder and now journeyman catcher is a switch hitter who despite signing minor league contract should now be the favourite to get the job as backup catcher now that they have DFA’d A.J. Jimenez. He hit .171 with 12HR, 38 RBI last season with Detroit.
MLB stats – 10 seasons (Atl/Tex/Bos/Mia/Ari/Det) – 110 HR, 381 RBI, .234/.309/.413
Gregorio Petit, MI Age: 32 – Utility infielder can play multiple positions and will be organizational depth at Buffalo.
MLB stats, 5 seasons, 171 games (Oak/Hou/NYY/LAA) – 4 HR, 32 RBI, .249/.291/.353
Jake Elmore, MI Age: 29 – Recently signed to a minor league contract, he is known mostly as the guy who plays all over the diamond, with experience at all positions including twice coming in to pitch in MLB games.
MLB stats, 5 seasons, 197 games (Ari/Hou/Cin/TB/Mil) – 4 HR, 33 RBI, .215/.297/.280
Jose Tabata, OF Age: 28 – Was a top 50 overall prospect early in his career and was the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year. He sort of fell off the map after failing to live up to his contract extension in 2014 and a trade from to Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015. He finished last season playing in Mexico. There are a few guys ahead of him on the LF depth chart but he is still only 28 and will be a good experienced outfielder to have in Buffalo in case the others fail to produce.
MLB stats, 6 seasons, 509 games (Pit) – 17 HR, 126 RBI, .275/.336/.377
Non Roster Invitees, the prospects
Rowdy Tellez, 1B Age: 21 (#4 on my top 50)
Conner Greene, SP Age: 21 (#11 on my top 50)
Reese McGuire, C Age: 21 (#12 on my top 50)
Dwight Smith, OF Age: 24 (#18 on my top 50)
Mike Ohlman, C Age: 26 (#25 on my top 50)
Tim Mayza, RP Age: 25 (DOB: 01/15/92)
As pointed out in the comments section on my top 50 rankings, I missed on Tim Mayza. After taking a closer look at him, I would rank him somewhere in the 30-35 range. 2016 was a breakout season for Mayza with a strong start and an FSL all-star appearance while at Dunedin (High A). He had a 1.66 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 48.2 IP before struggling a little after being promoted to New Hampshire (AA). Mayza is a left-handed relief pitcher who is very tough on left handed batters holding them to a .203 AVG. He has strikeout potential with a career rate of 8.9 K/9. He could be on the verge of joining the Toronto bullpen in the near future.
Wil Browning, RP Age: 28 (DOB: 09/08/88)
Browning was an undrafted free agent in 2012 who has spent parts of the past three seasons at New Hampshire (AA). He is a sidearm throwing right-hander who is extremely tough on right-handed batters as they hit only .156 against him last season. He had 10 saves in 2016 at New Hampshire and 25 saves split between Dunedin (High A)/New Hampshire in 2015. He will probably open with Buffalo (AAA) but will be part of the next wave of relief pitchers to debut in Toronto.
Jon Berti, 2B Age: 27 (DOB: 01/22/90)
If Berti ever makes it to the big leagues his grind-it-out work ethic style will surely win over the Toronto sports fans and make him a fan favourite. He is a speedster who has 161 stolen bases over the past four seasons. A concussion last season had him miss two months stalling his progression slightly. He should begin at Buffalo (AAA) continuing to play multiple positions preparing himself for a future super-utility role.
Casey Lawrence, SP Age: 29 (DOB: 10/28/87)
2016 stats – 3-6, 4.55 ERA, 13 starts at New Hampshire (AA), 5-6, 3.83 ERA at Buffalo (AAA). Career .500 pitcher will be in the Buffalo rotation again.
Players on the 40 man roster with options
Dalton Pompey, CF Age: 24 – Pompey started the 2015 season as the opening day centre fielder but struggled with that opportunity. The team would love for him to take a step forward this spring and force them to pencil him in as the everyday left-fielder.
MLB stats – 3 seasons, 59 games, 3 HR, 11 RBI, .222/.291/.385
Darrell Ceciliani, OF Age: 26 – Left-handed hitter will be in the mix with the others for the left field job but will most likely return for another year at Buffalo. He played 13 games in Toronto last season when Jose Bautista was on the DL but only managed 3 hits. He is a more of a AAA player.
MLB stats -2 seasons, 52 games (NYM/Tor) 1 HR, 4 RBI, .179/.243/.253
Juan Graterol, C Age: 27 – Graterol was claimed off waivers 4 times this off-season. Like following the bouncing ball, he went from the Angels to the Reds to the Diamondbacks back to the Angels and then finally to the Blue Jays in late January. He will compete with Saltalamacchia for the backup catcher role. He is the better defensive option of the two. He has thrown out baserunners at a 38% rate over his minor league career. He has a respectable slash line of .274/.306/.338 over 3 seasons at the AAA level.
MLB stats – 1 season, 9 games (LAA) 3 RBI, .286/.286/.429
Ryan Tepera, RP Age: 29 – Hard-throwing right hander will continue trying to find his way as he bounces back and forth from Toronto to Buffalo again.
MLB stats – 2 seasons, 52 relief app, 1 SV, 3.16 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 7.0 K/9
Dominic Leone, RP, Age: 25 – Leone was claimed off waivers early in the off-season. He moved quickly through the Mariners organization after being drafted in 2012, working the entire 2104 season in the Seattle bullpen going 8-2, 2.17 ERA. He has bounced back and forth from AAA since then though.
MLB stats – 3 seasons, 95 relief app (Sea/Ari) 4.07 ERA, 1.495 WHIP, 8.5 K/9
Danny Barnes, RP Age: 27 (DOB: 10/21/89) rookie status still intact
Drafted in the 35th round in 2010, Barnes was far from a top prospect but he has been a strikeout machine throughout his minor league career with 422 K’s over 320.1 IP. He had a 0.35 ERA, 13.0 K/9 and 5 saves at Buffalo last season along with 2 callups to Toronto. With options he will likely bounce between Buffalo and Toronto all season.
MLB stats – 1 season, 12 relief app, 3.95 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 9.2 K/9
Matt Dermody, RP Age: 26 (DOB: 07/04/90) rookie status still intact
Last Season was a breakout year for Dermody as he moved through three minor league levels earning him a September call up where he got into 5 games with the Blue Jays down the stretch. The 6’5” southpaw is viewed as a future lefty specialist. For what it is worth, he will forever be able to tell the story of being the guy who struck out Big Papi in his last plate appearance at the Rogers Centre.
MLB stats – 1 season, 5 relief app, 5 K, 3 IP
Chad Girodo, RP Age: 26 (DOB 02/06/91) rookie status still intact
He was DFA’d on Feb. 9 to make room on the roster for free agent signings J.P. Howell and Joe Smith. He is an MLB- ready left handed sinkerball reliever who is effective against left handers. He got into 14 games with a 4.35 ERA over three stints in the Toronto bullpen in 2016. Should he clear waivers, a year in the Buffalo bullpen is likely.
MLB stats – 1 season, 14 relief app, 4.35 ERA, 1.258 WHIP
Chris Smith, RP Age: 28 (DOB: 08/19/88)
Smith is about as much of an unknown as you will find in baseball. Undrafted out of college he worked his way from the Frontier League to the Pecos League to the Australian League to being out of baseball in 2013 before signing as a 25 year old with the Yankees. Since joining the Blue Jays midway through 2015 with his 96 MPH fastball he has put up impressive numbers, 103 K over 77 innings along with a 1.89 ERA and 15 Saves at New Hampshire last season. I don’t know if we’ll ever see him in Toronto but if we do it will surely be a nice story of hard work and determination.
Players on the 40 man roster, Out of Options
Bo Schultz, RP Age: 31 – Hard-throwing right hander has a 96 MPH fastball but has had trouble being a consistent reliever over the past couple seasons. He will once again be in the mix for a bullpen spot.
MLB stats – 3 seasons, 51 relief app, 1 SV, 4.54 ERA, 1.188 ERA, 6.1 K/9
Glenn Sparkman, SP/RP, Age: 24 (#39 on my top 50) – Rule V selection from Kansas City. He will need to make the 25 man roster or be offered back to the Royals.
A.J. Jimenez, C – Age: 26 (#30 on my top 50) – He was DFA’d on Feb. 9. and subsequently released. We wish him good look as he looks to hook on with another organization after so many years here in the Blue Jays organization.
Ryan Goins, MI – Age: 29 – 4 year veteran Blue Jays infielder. Should he not beat out Darwin Barney for the utility infielder job and is lost on waivers when they designate him for assignment, it will be a sad day at least in my household. My wife may have to consider changing his picture as her laptop wallpaper and retiring her #17 T-shirt.
TOP 50 rankings update
With the release of Clinton Hollon (#23) and A.J. Jimenez (#30) having been DFA’d, two spots open up on my Blue Jays top 50 rankings . Tim Mayza as mentioned earlier would slot in at #32 and another oversight on my part (Jordan Romano) would slot in at #36 between pitchers Patrick Murphy and Tom Robson.
Jordan Romano, SP
Age: 23 (DOB: 04/21/93)
Romano is a 6’4” – 200 lb. Canadian pitcher drafted in the 10th round in 2014. He dominated the low minors in 2014 before suffering an elbow injury requiring TJS early in 2015. He returned to Lansing (Low A) in 2016 and pitched above expectations posting a 2.11 ERA, 1.046 WHIP and 8.9 K/9 in 14 starts. Look for him to be a fast riser who starts 2017 at Dunedin (High A).
Featured Image Credit: Keith Allison from Flickr