While the Big Jays start their season, the Baby Jays rosters begin to take shape.
The Toronto Blue Jays are 2-2. Prior to Saturday, they were just 0-2, but managed a couple solid games over the weekend (thanks, Justin Smoak) to split the Opening Series with the hated New York Yankees. Should they have lost one of the weekend’s games, much of the fan base’s attention likely would have shifted towards the playoff-bound Toronto Maple Leafs, but the true baseball die-hards likely would have looked to the Blue Jays minors for solace.
The Blue Jays farm has improved steadily since 2015’s jettisoning of top talent, and the roster in place in 2018 exhibit the front office’s recent bounty. Shi Davidi posted some projected rosters for the top-four affiliates on Monday morning, and the projected rosters look like so:
— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) April 2, 2018
It’s a bit difficult to see without clicking away from the site, so from here on we’ll go team-by-team to sort out a preview of what’s to come to start out the 2018 Blue Jays minor-league seasons.
Triple-A Buffalo Bisons
While some fans clamored for Teoscar Hernandez to start the season after two games of lackluster offense, he’ll start off the season in Triple-A Buffalo in an outfield assignment with Anthony Alford (who’s currently recovering from a wrist injury) and Roemon Fields. By early summer this will be a fun group to watch, but it will likely take a couple of injuries for any of them to make the Blue Jays roster.
At the MLB level, Luke Maile should consider himself on notice, as both Danny Jansen and Reese McGuire could threaten his job security rather quickly. While McGuire might be the first one to get the call, especially if the team is looking for more of a backup-type this summer, Jansen would likely be the man to fill in should anything happen to Russell Martin.
As for pitching, Ryan Borucki will be honing his craft at the highest minors level this season, having made just one start at Triple-A in 2017. Borucki likely won’t be the first to get the call though, as Joe Biagini and his considerable MLB experience will start out in Buffalo in order to get stretched out if he’s needed as an injury replacement.
Oh, and these Sunday Affiliate Alternate uniforms and hats in 2018:
— Buffalo Bisons (@BuffaloBisons) March 31, 2018
Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats
First, take a look at Shaun’s post from yesteray, which gives a tremendous rundown of how insanely entertaining this Fisher Cats will be in 2018. A typical lineup in New Hampshire this year will feature Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at third base, Bo Bichette at shortstop, Cavan Biggio at second base, Juan Kelley at first base and Max Pentecost catching.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. will patrol the field in a utility role and hopefully see some time in the outfield, and Conor Panas will likely get some time at first base and in the outfield.
Aside from what could be the best infield of the minor leagues, the Fisher Cats will feature repeaters Sean Reid-Foley and Jonathan Harris, who were very hitable in 2018 and will need to clean up their game this season in order to receive promotions.
Jordan Romano will make his Double-A debut in 2018, looking to improve on his excellent showing in Dunedin last season (3.39 ERA over 138 innings, striking out 138.)
High-A Dunedin Blue Jays
This year’s Fisher Cats were last year’s D-Jays, and the team should be equally interesting in 2018. Even without Bo and Vlad, the Dunedin Jays will feature three first-rounders in 2018, including TJ Zeuch, Nate Pearson and Logan Warmoth.
That pitching staff will be a force with Zeuch and Pearson, and Patrick Murphy is not one to scoff at, either. While Murphy will pitch to a lot of contact, Pearson will likely keep racking up the strikeouts in his first full professional season, like he did in 2017 (26 K in 20 IP.)
Catching them all will be Riley Adams, who posted a .374 OBP in his first pro season in 2017. Adams was drafted more as a platoon-type catcher, but his excellent showing in 2017 and his advanced feel behind the plate has some evaluators looking at him as a starting C at the MLB level.
Who to Follow: @DunedinBlueJays
Low-A Lansing Lugnuts
While in years past the rotation of the Lansing Lugnuts (remember The Lansing Three?) has been their prime draw, 2017 will be a continuation of a strong infield leading the Blue Jays Midwest league affiliate. After 2018 gave us Bo Bichette and Vlad Guerrero, 2017 will bring Kevin Smith, Samad Taylor, Cullen Large, Kevin Vicuna and Ryan Noda into the Blue Jays prospect picture. Speed (Vicuna), defense (Smith, Taylor) and power (Noda) will all be on display in Michigan this summer.
And that goes without mentioning the incredibly athletic, albeit light-hitting outfield of Reggie Pruitt, Chavez Young and Brock Lundquist. Noda will likely get some time in the vast greenery of the outfield as well.
Tune In to the 2018 Season
It should be an incredibly fun year to follow the Blue Jays minor leagues. Should the Jays fall out of contention early as they did in 2017 – I recommend a membership with MiLB.TV. Most of the upper minors teams are well-represented, and despite some sun-washed video footage and bizarre camera angles, there’s always something to watch for in a minor league game, especially on Blue Jays off days.
*Featured Image Credit: R Widrif- JFtC
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Roy’s earliest memories all involve baseball from the early 90’s and the Blue Jays dream teams. He became a Blue Jays fan while watching Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green evolve in Syracuse, NY at the run-down confines of MacArthur Stadium, nestled between highway and swamp. A lifelong baseball player, Roy still plays (P, C, 2B, 3B) in the 25+ Syracuse MSBL for the Liverpool Mets. He watches almost all games with his best buddy Sebastian, a five year old Pug, who could care less.