While chicks love the long ball, pitchers do not. The Blue Jays minor league system didn’t do a very good job preventing home runs in 2017
The Toronto Blue Jays minor league system, as a whole, allowed 564 home runs. While 7 other systems allowed more home runs, the Blue Jays can’t be happy with placing 8th in balls over the fence. Just in case you’re wondering the Colorado Rockies finished with the worst/most home runs allowed with 709.
For this exercise, I’ve decided to focus on the top 4 levels of Toronto’s minor league system (Buffalo, New Hampshire, Dunedin, and Lansing), ignoring the lower 4 levels (Vancouver, Bluefield, GCL, and DSL). We are going go level-by-level to uncover the which teams were hurt the most by the long ball and which pitchers were victimized the most by allowing home runs in 2017.
To find our Top 5 victimized pitchers for each affiliate (30 IP minimum), I am using Fangraphs.com. I used HR/9 to find my Top 5 instead of just looking up Top 5 HRA. This made it fair for starters and relievers alike. Once I had my Top 5, I filled in the blanks, which were: HRA (home runs allowed), FB% (percentage of fly ball when the ball is put in play), and HR/FB% (percentage of fly balls which go for home runs).
It’s important to know many flyball pitchers will have a lower HR/FB% than a pitcher with groundball tendencies. A flyball pitcher, per outing, will produce more flyballs which don’t go for home runs. Spoiler alert, check out Matt Dermody‘s FB% and HR/FB% and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Toronto’s Triple-A team did a great job of limiting home runs. As a team, they finished the year tied for 2nd in the International League with 102 HRA. From the chart below, we can see that Luis Santos allowed the most home runs, but reliever Matt Dermody posted the worst HR/FB while posting the lowest FB% of the group. It’s clear Dermody’s mistakes were hit a long way.
Bisons starter T.J. House, not on the list, allowed the 2nd most home runs on the team with 11 HR but a 0.74 HR/9 helped House stay off the list.
New Hampshire Fisher Cats
Unlike the Bisons, Toronto’s Double-A team did not do a ‘great job’ of keeping the ball in the yard in 2017. The Fisher Cats finished with the 3rd most HRA in the Eastern League with 133 HRA.
The Fisher Cats had three starting pitchers with 20 or more HRA. Jon Harris managed to avoid the list by posting a 1.26 HR/9. Harris allowed 20 HR, a 36.6 FB%, and an 11.8 HR/FB%. Obviously, his exclusion further exemplifies the Fisher Cats struggles to limit the longball in 2017.
I am not sure what got into Thomas Pannone upon joining the Blue Jays organization from Cleveland. Prior to the trade, Pannone allowed 5 HRA, 0.55 HR/9, 42.2 FB%, and 6.0% HR/FB.
Dunedin Blue Jays
The Florida State Co-Champs were middle of the pack when it came to allowing the home run. As a team they allowed 74 batters to go yard in 2017. This is the lowest HRA total of the four highlighted affiliates.
D-Jays starter, Jordan Romano, finished with an FB% of 44.0, allowing just 2 home runs over 138 IP. This allowed the Markham native to post a very impressive 1.2 HR/FB% for a flyball pitcher.
Toronto’s full season A-Ball affiliate finished with the Midwest’s worse HRA total. The Lugnuts pitchers allowed 127 home runs in 2017.
A pair of breakout relievers posted 0.0 HR/FB during their time in Lansing. Jackson McClelland posted a 52.9 FB% but didn’t allow an HR in 20.0 IP, while Kirby Snead posted a 30.4 FB% and also didn’t allow an HR in 22.1 IP.
Extreme groundball pitcher, Justin Mease, posted a healthy 5.2 % HR/FB, allowing 3 HR in 70.2 IP and just 26.7 FB%.
Before anyone starts calling for heads to roll, let’s consider the MLB Top 5 HR/FB leaders.
Masahiro Tanaka– 21.3%
Clayton Richard– 19.3%
John Lackey– 18.9%
Marcus Stroman– 17.4%
Carlos Martinez– 16.4%
I don’t know about you, but I’d be over the moon with that rotation.
Despite posting a 2.49 HR/9 and 17.1% HR/FB during his time in Toronto, Matt Dermody has produced decent MiLB numbers. The same sentiment can be expressed for Luis Santos and Tim Mayza (to a lesser extent).
My concern with the above data is the Blue Jays top pitching prospect which was mentioned. With the Rogers Center being a home run haven, it scary to see Sean Reid-Foley, Jon Harris, and Thomas Pannone names above. This trio is be expected to challenge for rotation spot in Toronto as soon as the middle of 2018 but they’ll need to figure out how to keep the ball in the park before that can happen.
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