The Toronto Blue Jays AAA affiliate, Buffalo Bisons, look to field a rather impressive group in their 2018 outfield
The Toronto Blue Jays made a few moves that all but guarantee what the AAA, Buffalo Bisons, outfield will look like in 2018. Bringing in Curtis Granderson and Randal Grichuk to join the trio of Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera and Steve Pearce creates a logjam of sorts on the big league roster without even talking about other options that were previously assumed to be auditioning for major league time this spring.That means that Teoscar Hernandez and Anthony Alford are likely to head to Buffalo to start the season.
If the season were to start today, there simply would not be any room for these two. Throughout a season, anything can happen; injuries take place, performances don’t turn out as expected, etc. The Blue Jays have done a reasonable job of insulating themselves against these calamities, so it would take something drastic (or a trade over the next few weeks) for Hernandez or Alford to head north with the club to start the season.
So, for now, Alford and Hernandez will head to Buffalo to form quite the formidable outfield group. For now, we’ll set aside the fact that the Bisons very well could have the same logjam situation to deal with. Instead, let’s take a look at how the 2018 looks to begin for the AAA affiliate.
Teoscar Hernandez came over to Toronto in the Francisco Liriano deal and impressed everyone with his September tear. In fact, up until recently, it was thought that he would be competing for, and likely winning, the right field job in Toronto. The recent moves all but rule that out, though. Instead, he’ll take his game to Buffalo. He brings power in a corner outfield position. He put up a wRC+ of 118 and a .799 OPS in 26 Bisons games last year. That OPS was thanks to his .283 ISO and not his 27.5% strike out rate. His time with the big league club showed more of the same with lots of power and strike outs. He flashed 7.6 Spd in Buffalo with just 1 error in the outfield to show for his time with Toronto’s affiliate.
Anthony Alford will look to put his injuries behind him and build on a 2017 season that saw him make his major league debut. Again, until recently, it was thought that he had an outside chance of cracking the major league roster. Instead, he’ll head to Buffalo and try to put together a season that makes the decision to keep him there difficult for the organization’s front office. His speed and defense are what Bisons fans will appreciate most about Alford, but his ability to get on base is what could end up helping his team. In 2017, he put a AA OBP of .406 and continued the success with an OBP of .385 in Buffalo.
If you want to talk about speed, let’s talk about Roemon Fields. The 27 year old will pick up where he left off in Buffalo. He stole 43 bases (after stealing 7 in New Hampshire). He won’t hit for much power, but he can alter a game on both sides of the ball with those wheels. In AAA, he hit .291, which made up the bulk of his on base ability. In fact, his OBP (.355) was higher than his SLG (.352), yet he did put up a wRC+ of 100. He’ll look to improve his defense as he made 6 errors in center field. With his speed, getting to the ball won’t be the problem.
Another Bisons outfielder to have made his big league debut is Dwight Smith Jr. The corner outfielder had a rather successful taste of the big leagues in 2017, which has put his name on the map in the organization. He took a little longer to progress than some of his counterparts, but he is knocking on the door now. Hitting .273 in Buffalo last year shows an evolving game for Smith. He managed to walk at a rate of 10.5% and strike out at 15.8%. His .350 OBP led to an OPS of .742. He has some extra base pop and will steal himself a few bases along the way. He made a total of four errors in all of 2017, at two levels, in both corner outfield spots.
We also should not forget about Dalton Pompey, who will hopefully get to play for a full season this year. Injury after injury has derailed his return to the big leagues. Last season, it was his knee and a concussion. He now appears to be good to go health-wise and that could make things rather interesting in Buffalo. When healthy, Pompey brings speed, solid defense and an ability to get on base. He will also run into his share of home runs. Playing just 13 games in 2017 may put him at a disadvantage, but if he can show there is no rust, this crowded outfield becomes that much more full.
This doesn’t leave room for guys like Ian Parmley who hit .260 in Buffalo in 2017. The 28 year old could find himself pushed down to AA, or released.
Should the injury bug decide to rear its ugly head in 2018, the Blue Jays have options for their outfield. Depending on the length of time, any of the above could be called upon. Obviously, their individual performance will factor into the decision, but you have to think that the type of injury, and to whom it occurs will weigh into the decision. If it is a lengthy stint, it could tilt things in the favour of Hernandez or Alford since the organization would want them hitting every day. Having them come up and sit on the bench isn’t appealing. If it is one of those situations, it could be Fields or Smith Jr who get the call. Or, the Blue Jays could simply go with the hot hand, so to speak. The point is, there are options.
In the mean time, fans of the Buffalo Bisons – or those Blue Jays fans who want to travel down – are in for a real treat. This outfield group is sure to excite with their speed. They will make noise at the plate as well. The people in Buffalo have reason to get excited about this group. How things play out in Toronto will certainly impact things in Buffalo, but we’re all but guaranteed a great show in the outfield.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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