The Bluefield Jays of the Appalachian League start play tonight.
The Jays have been a Toronto affiliate since 2011. Even though it’s near the bottom of the minor league ladder, playing in Bluefield is a big jump from the complex leagues. For many players, particularly high schoolers, it’s their first extended experience with travel, and “under the lights” play.
Leading the list of prospects on the Bluefield roster is RHP Eric Pardinho, last summer’s prize IFA signing. Assistant GM Andrew Tinnish, who oversees international operations for the club, compares Pardinho favourable with Marcus Stroman, saying last fall that he’s never seen such athleticism, or feel for pitching from a sixteen-year-old.
C Hagen Danner, a 2nd round pick last year, will likely form a battery with Pardinho. A storied youth player, Danner struggled in his debut with the GCL Jays last year, but indications are he had a tremendous spring with the bat in Extended.
Bluefield’s Outfield will likely be its strength, featuring last year’s GCL batting champ Dom Abbadessa, toolsy but raw OFs DJ Daniels and DJ Neal, and Hunter Steinmetz, who was taken in the 11th round of this year’s draft.
2017 draftees 1B Pat Morris and 3B Davis Schneider should man the corners of Bluefield’s Infield, joined by sparkplug 2B Otto Lopez.
A couple of surprises are on the Pitching roster: former OF Josh Almonte, who began the conversion to Pitching at Instructs last fall, and has hit the high 90s with his fastball, and former 1B/3B Emilio Guerrero, who has played over 500 games in the system, and has reached as high as AA. Guerrero’s switch has been recent, as he was still a position player in spring training.
Veteran Blue Jays staffer Dennis Holmberg returns to Manage Bluefield. A skipper in the system since 1979, it was announced las week that Holmberg will be inducted into the Florida State League Hall of Fame in November.