Move over New Hampshire Fisher Cats and your Vlad/Bo travelling Boy Band road show; take your twenty games over .500 despite shipping out your top prospect every few weeks, Lansing Lugnuts, and have a seat. Canada has a new favourite minor league team – the Appalachian League’s Bluefield Blue Jays.
A solid 2017 draft, a decent 2016 international free agent group, and the top IFA from 2017 have all converged on Bluefield to create a team that is laying waste to Appy League pitching, and sits atop the East Division with a 15-4 record.
We asked Zach Helton (@z_helton on Twitter) to describe the players who have stood out so far to him:
Hitting – Dom Abbadessa continuing to swing a hot bat all while playing tremendous defense in Center Field. Thru 19 games he’s hitting .385, slugging .477, 3 doubles and 1 HR.
DJ Neal also another outfielder who continues to rake and make all faciets of the game look easy. .359 Avg. 10 extra base hits including 3 Triples, and 15 RBIs here in the early going.
Alejandro Kirk has been splitting time between Catcher and DH but has found a spot in the cleanup spot in the order. .333 Avg, among the Appalachian League leaders in RBI with 19 along with 5 Doubles and a HR.
Davis Schneider .327 Avg, has split time at 2B and 3B, great glove, great bat. 7 extra base hits so far, 4 Doubles, 1 Triple, 2 HRs, and 9 RBIs.
Luis De Los Santos Finally the SS has shined in the field making everything look smooth and effortless. Hitting .313 as well with 4 Triples (Leads League), 4 HRs (in Top 10 in League), and 13 RBIs (Also in Top 10 of League).
Bluefield has outscored every Appy League team to this point, and their .299 team mark is second-best. They’ve also drawn more walks and stolen more bases than any other team.
But it’s just not the bats that are worth noting, according to Helton:
Pitching – Sean Racokoski out of the pen has come in and shut the door on everyone face so far. 3 and 0, 4 Saves leading the Appalachian League in both categories. In 8 IP, only allowed 2 runs, on 7 hits with a 1.38 WHIP to go along with 10 Ks.
Eric Pardinho the face of Brazilian baseball has not disappointed so far this summer. Despite the 1 and 2 record, he has had 3 tremendous outing. 1.38 ERA, 0.54 WHIP, among the League Leaders in Strikeouts with 19, while walking only 2 in 13 IP.
Claudio Galva is another solid starter in Bluefield. 2 and 0 in 3 starts, 2.40 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 12 Ks, 4 BB, in 15 IP.
Cre Finfrock is 2 and 0 out of the bullpen. 3.00 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 10 Ks, 1 BB, 9 IP.
It may be early in the Appalachian League schedule, but this has been a great experience for Helton, as you might expect:
Such a fun team to watch! Only one bad loss on the year (16-3 loss to Kingsport July, 8th.) This team has the tools to not only compete for an Appalachian League title but feed the Toronto Farm for years to come.
Players toiling for Bluefield this summer are still several years away from even approaching the big leagues. For all of them, this is their first extended taste of “under the lights,” play, and dealing with the travel that accompanies this level. That this team is off to such as good start is a testament to the drafting and development the Blue Jays have done as an organization over the past two years.