Projecting the Rotations: Dunedin

Dunedin pitching coach Drew Hayes needed a spreadsheet to keep track of all of his pitchers last year.

With the former High A Florida State League reincarnated as the Low A Southeast, there was a fairly continuous shuttle of arms from the minor league complex to TD Bank Ballpark, home of the Dunedin Blue Jays. By season’s end, 51 different pitchers had toed the rubber for the D-Jays at some point.

While there promises to be another steady stream of hurlers moving back and forth between the two sites this year, the list of candidates to open the season in Dunedin’s starting rotation seems fairly projectable.

RHP Dahian Santos was a key 2019 IFA signing, and after fanning 53 hitters in 35 Complex innings, made a pair of starts for the Low A club last season. He seems to be a safe bet to return. Brazilian righty Rafael Ohashi sizzled in his pro debut for Dunedin last May, fanning 4 in 3 no-hit innings. He came back to earth and spent some time in the Complex League, but he seems a safe bet to open the season with Dunedin.

Several pitchers making their return from injury would appear to have a shot at a rotation spot. Fireballer Yosver Zulueta was the talk of last spring’s camp, then ripped up his ACL three pitches in 2021. He began throwing early in the New Year, and reports suggest he’ll be ready for the season opener. The club will likely want to keep him close for his first few outings. First round pick Gunnar Hoglund had Tommy John surgery last May, so he’s still a few weeks away from ramping up in preparation for a return to competition. It’s safe to say when he does it will be with the D-Jays. And let’s not forget one-time phenom Eric Pardiño, whose own return from Tommy John has been challenging. Pardiño was limited to 3 Complex innings last year, and the club may be contemplating a relief role for him.

Two other 2021 draft picks, LHP Ricky Tiedemann, and RHP Irv Carter, might also be in the picture for a starter’s job in Dunedin, although possibly not to begin the season. RHP Jonatan Bernal made 9 starts in the Complex, and might have a shot at a back of the rotation spot. Between them, RHPs Eliander Alcalde, Darwin Cruz, and Sergio Caruci made 35 starts for the DSL Jays, and one might make the jump to Low A.

There are also several 2021 draft picks who may open the season with Dunedin. In the past, mid-round college picks made their way to Vancouver for short season ball. The C’s of course, are now a High A outfit. Several picks had been shut down for the season with the draft’s new date, so there are several arms the Jays selected who have yet to throw a professional pitch, including 4th rounder Chad Dallas, and 9th round pick Conor Larkin.

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