Jays From the Couch rundown the 2016 Toronto Blue Jays minor league short stops options.
Starting with the big club in Toronto, the Blue Jays will field perennial All-Star Troy Tulowitzki, who will be backed up by Ryan Goins. The Jays appear to be pretty well set up the middle for the foreseeable future, which is good because the system doesn’t appear to have much in the way of options.
Buffalo Bisons (Triple-A)
The Buffalo Bisons fans will say their good byes to fan favorite Munenori Kawasaki and Jonathan Diaz and welcome Jio Mier.
Mier comes to the Bisons with 613 minor league games at short, posting a .950 fielding percentage. He’s spent his entire career with the Houston Astros organization, but only has 41 games at the Triple-A level. The Bisons will need to add another infielder that can play short or draw from New Hampshire if Mier struggles or is lost to injury, as Andy Burns is the only other Bison with experience at short stop.
New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Double-A)
The 5’5″24-yr-old Flores stands a good chance of starting the year in Buffalo after another successful season that saw him hit .276/.360/.347. Flores plays the field well with good range and a solid glove. He has good at-bats, but lacks power.
Taken in the 11th round of the 2010 draft Opitz plays all over the field, but has over 200 games at short. Shane played 108 games with NH in 2015 hitting .240 with 3 home runs, 15 doubles, 5 triples and 22/49 BB/K. Shane is a good org guy who has struggled to remain healthy prior to 2015. At 24-yrs-old, Opitz could still push his way out of the org tag into a solid bench role.
Dunedin Blue Jays (Advanced-A)
The D-Jays will have the Toronto Blue Jays most exciting short stop prospect in Richard Urena. The D-Jays backup SS will likely be Dickie Joe Thon, whose versatility allows him to play all over the field.
The 19-yr-old Urena strikes out too much, doesn’t walk enough, and shows potential plus power. However, there are whispers of decreased range and a possible position change in his future. We will need to keep an eye on his range. This writer hopes that it has more to do with fatigue after a long season, than his 6’1″ 170lb frame slowing him down.
For 2016, Urena will need to show more….well everything, in the Florida State League. He excelled in Lansing but struggled against better competition in Dunedin. He turns 20 in February.
Dickie Joe Thon turned 24 in November and spent his age 23 season with the D-Jays. He didn’t put up very impressive numbers in 83 games, hitting under .200 and hitting only 2 home runs, while striking out more than 80 times. Unless a switch goes off in Thon, he will remain an org guy in 2016 and will serve as Urena’s back up.
Lansing Lugnuts (Single-A)
Heidt will take another crack at A-Ball, after struggling during his time with the Lugnuts in 2015. Gunnar is a grinder. He plays the game the right way, has a good glove and arm, he has speed, and should hit. Unfortunately, he’s struggled to put it all together. For a guy like Gunnar, who doesn’t have any plus tools, not putting it together results in .180 batting average, which is what he had in 54 games with the Lugnuts.
JC Cardenas is a slick fielding short stop who hit .179 in 44 games in Vancouver. It is possible that the 21-yr-old Cuban remains in Vancouver, but this writer thinks not. Cardenas has the skills to be a slap hitter with decent speed, while providing an excellent glove and strong arm. Look for more in 2016.
Vancouver Canadians (Short Season Lo-A)
The Canadians will need to be content with getting good defense and no offence from who ever occupies short stop in 2016.
It is possible that the slick fielding Venezuelan short stop, Yeltsin Gudino, remains with Bluefield for more seasoning, after all he’s just turned 19 on January 17th. Gudino’s glove is ahead of his bat, but that’s not to say he hasn’t shown signs of being able to hit.
Gudino hit .185 in 56 games with Bluefield, but it is his ability to limit the strike outs and work a walk that makes him a good candidate to head to Vancouver in 2016.
If Gudino doesn’t start for the C’s, look for 21-yr-old Colombian Juandy Mendoza to start the year in Vancouver. Mendoza was a 23rd round pick of the Blue Jays in 2015 and hit .193 with 15 walks and 42K’s in 42 games with the GCL Blue Jays.
Bluefield /Gulf Coast Blue Jays (Rookie Ball)
The next two short stops could fill either Bluefield or the GCL because once you get past Vancouver, it becomes very difficult to predict which 18-yr-old or 19-yr-old will fill out the roster. Players between Bluefield and DSL are so young that repeating a level shouldn’t be viewed as a demotion, rather a necessity for their development. The organization may decide to hold back a 17-yr-old Dominican player for another year of development in the Dominican Summer League because they feel the kid isn’t ready to go state side yet.
Severino split his time between the DSL and GCL. He hit .354 with the DSL Blue Jays, but only managed to hit .198 with the GCL. The 6’1″ 175lb Severino turns 19 in June, and will be entering his 3rd season in the Blue Jays organization. He’s shown a good eye at the plate and some extra base power. Other than looking at his stats, there’s not much of a scouting report on him.
Kevin Vicuna turned 18 in mid-January and played the entire 2015 season with the DSL Blue Jays. He hit .268 with 3 doubles, 3 triples, and stole 10 bases. Kevin is said to be a smooth fielder with good foot work and quickness. Vicuna’s bat is a work in progress, but the Venezuelan has a projectable bat for a defensive minded short stop. Both Vicuna and Severino could end up in the GCL, allowing other young men to get reps in the DSL and providing one of the other short stops ahead of them to repeat in Bluefield.
The three short stops with the highest ceilings are all under 20-yrs-old which makes them a few years away. Jorge Flores may have already reached his ceiling, yet he has the best chance to contribute in Toronto for the Blue Jays in 2016. One thing is for certain, the Toronto Blue Jays will benefit from drafting a couple short stops in the 2016 draft.
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