The Blue Jays don’t exactly have a roster crunch coming up with the selection of their full season minor league rosters, but they do have some decisions to make, starting with their Midwest League affiliate, the Lansing Lugnuts.
By our count, there will be at least 19 Pitchers who merit a chance to start at Lansing, given past performance. The one name missing from the list, of course, is 2019 first round pick Alek Manoah, who, in all likelihood, will skip Lansing for Dunedin after making his pro debut in the Northwest League last year. And the team’s 2nd round pick, Kendall Williams, will probably start in Vancouver. But the Lugs’ should have a pretty decent pitching staff just the same. If we had to guess, their rotation to open the season would look like:
Coming off an impressive 2019, Kloff could move to Dunedin before the season is out if he continues that upward trajectory. Pardiño had a decent stint in Lansing after arriving in late May, but there was a feeling that his performance fell a little short of lofty expectations that had been set for him, so it’s reasonable to see him back in the Midwest for at least another half season. Fraze and Diaz were decent mid-rotation guys in Vancouver, and Paulino and Concepcion, who both lost all of 2018 due to positive PED suspensions, made up for lost development time in a hurry last year.
In the bullpen, Gillingham and Huffman have both travelled long and winding roads, but were solid for Vancouver last year. Brock University UFA Nolan gave the C’s a lot of innings in a swingman role last year. Quinones was the second best reliever (behind Jackson Rees) in the system last year, but will miss the first 80 games of the season due to a failed PED result. Havekost was highly regarded in his draft year, but lost all of 2018 to Tommy John surgery. Healthy again in 2019, he pitched well at two levels, and should move up.
There is some thought that Jordan Groshans, who showed so much in what turned out to be a brief 2019 season for him, might return for at least the first half of the season, but the feeling we get is that he’s Dunedin bound. The backlog of up-the-middle guys, the higher level of competition and access to the club’s medical staff (in the event his foot acts up again) likely mean that he begins in High A.
Danner, a much-heralded 2017 2nd round pick, has struggled at the plate throughout his minor league career, and his feast (12 HRs in just under 300 PAs, many of them of the laser-beam variety) and famine (96 Ks) pattern continued in full season ball. Another half season in the hitter friendly confines of Cooley Law School Stadium would benefit him. To make room behind the plate, it would not be surprising to see Clarke start at Dunedin, although rumours of a position switch for him have been heard this off season. After a disappointing senior year, Sloniger’s draft stock tumbled, but he impressed in Vancouver and Bluefield, and is a dark horse candidate to be the Lugs’ primary Catcher.
Jimenez and Hiraldo should highlight a solid infield that likely will included the hard-hitting Horwitz, and the versatile Schweke. Brito, acquired from the Dodgers in the Russell Martin deal, did not hit as had been as expected at Vancouver, but will likely move up. Robertson’s bat may slot right into the middle of the Lugs’ batting order, but the Outfield is not a position of strength for Lansing. Neal showed some promise last year, but will likely start in Michigan again, and the toolsy Contreras started with the Lugnuts last season, but finished back in Vancouver. Rivera is one of those speedy, get-on-base guys who might crack the Lugs’ lineup as a leadoff hitter.
All in all, pitching should be the strength of this club.