The 2020 Buffalo Bisons expect to give significant at-bats to four veteran minor leaguer infielders, maybe for the Toronto Blue Jays as well
The 2019 season marked the 1st season where the Buffalo Bisons finished over .500 since 2014 (77-66). Buffalo finished 3rd after finishing 5th in 2016 and 2017, with a 6th place finish in 2018 (61-77). Since becoming the Toronto Blue Jays Triple-A affiliate in 2013, the Buffalo Bisons have not finished higher than 3rd place. The Herd has not made the playoffs since 2005 as Cleveland’s Triple-A affiliate.
I felt very strongly about the 2019 Bisons’ chances of snapping the decade and a half playoff drought. I expected the rotation to be somewhat decent but I was really counting on some solid offensive production. After all, I was expecting a solid month or so of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and a couple of strong months with Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio. I was counting on Anthony Alford and Dalton Pompeyhaving bounce-back/healthy seasons. Lastly, I really hoped once Vlad, Bo, and Biggio moved up to Major leagues, guys like Kevin Smith and Santiago Espinal would seamlessly slide onto Buffalo’s roster.
Unfortunately, Vlad started on the IL, Bo broke his hand, and Biggio (fortunately) was called up much sooner than I anticipated. Kevin Smith struggled in AA. Alford was okay but not what he should be. Dalton Pompey lost yet another season to concussions.
Buffalo’s offense finished in the lower end of the middle of the pack. Despite playing with major league juiced balls, Buffalo finished a few spots ahead of last-place Indianapolis (133HR) with 156 home runs. The offense wasn’t terrible, they did lead the league with 40 triples and 3rd with 120 stolen bases. They also didn’t strike out much, finishing 3rd with 1153 strikeouts.
2019 Buffalo Bisons lead by:
- Socrates Brito– .282BA, .838OPS, 28 2B, 7 3B, 16HR, and 67RBI
- Andy Burns– .275BA, .833OPS, 17 2B, 3 3B, 19HR, and 63RBI
- Patrick Kivlehan– .247BA, .870OPS, 13 2B, 3 3B, 25HR, and 66RBI
- Jonathan Davis– .262BA, .831OPS, 19 2B, 3 3B, 10HR, 36RBI, and 13SB
Looking Forward to the Vets in 2020
Two and a half months is still a long way off and so much can change. One thing is certain, the 2020 Buffalo Bisons will not have Guerrero Jr., Bichette (.275BA and .806OPS in 56GP), Biggio (.312BA and .963OPS in 43GP), or Brito.
The Bisons will look to minor league veterans with major league experience. Andy Burns, Patrick Kivlehan, Patrick Cantwell, and Roemon Fields resigned. The Blue Jays signed Joe Panik, Ruben Tejada, and Caleb Joseph.
Joe Panik could push his way on the major league roster with a good spring or an injury or two. Joe spent 2019 with the San Francisco Giants (.235BA and .627OPS in 103GP) and New York Mets (.277BA and .738OPS in 39GP). All his MLB games (220GP) have been played at 2nd base. Panik split time between SS (220GP) and 2B (188GP) during his time in the minors; therefore, Panik may see time at SS if he spends time in Triple-A in 2020.
Rubén Tejada only appeared in 6 major league games in 2020, none in 2018. He played 41 games with the Baltimore Orioles in 2017, batting just .230 with a .576OPS. The 30-yr-old put up solid Triple-A numbers in 2019 batting .326 with 20 doubles, a triple, six home runs, and a .875OPS with the Syracuse Mets (73GP). In 449 Triple-A games, Rubén Tejada owns a career .275 batting average with a .713OPS. Primarily a SS, he’s played some 2B (113GP) and 3B (85GP).
Andy Burns put up some strong numbers in his return from Korea. The 29-yr-old set career highs in home runs and showed a much-improved approach at the plate which resulted in solid .364OBP. Burns spent most of 2019 playing 3rd base (62GP) but also played 1B (13GP) and 2B (27GP).
Patrick Kivlehan played for three teams in 2019, 24 games played for Indianapolis, 11 games for New Hampshire, and 90 games for Buffalo. The 30-yr-old hit 25 bombs with the Bisons while playing 28 games at 1st base and 32 games at 3rd base.
Patrick Cantwell appeared in 22 games with the Bisons in 2019, spending too much time on the IL once again. If healthy, Cantwell will provide organizational depth as a backup.
Caleb Joseph has 422 major league games on his resume. He played 20 games with the Arizona Diamondback and 48 games at Triple-A. He batted a respectable .265 with .806OPS and 7HR at Triple-A while batting .211 and .513OPS with the D-Backs. I am hoping he is on the roster to provide tutelage for Riley Adams.
Roemon Fields is set to play his 4th year in Buffalo. In 307 games with Buffalo, Fields owns a .261BA with a .654OPS, 86 stolen bases. Fields should be expected to be the Herd’s 4th outfielder.
New Blood in 2020
We can expect Santiago Espinal, Joshua Palacios, Forrest Wall, and Riley Adams to play a significant role for the Buffalo Bisons.
Espinal played 28 games for the Herd. He should get regular Triple-A at-bats at 2nd base and SS. He played 12 games in CF for the Double-A Fisher Cats, maybe Espinal will see some time in the Bisons’ outfield in 2020.
Wall finished 2019 with 14 games in Triple-A. Along with Palacios, they could form 2/3 of the Bisons’ everyday outfield. I believe that Billy McKinney will be the 3rd outfielder and Jonathan Davis has a chance to push Palacios or Wall back to AA or Fields out of a job.
Catcher- Riley Adams
1st Base- Patrick Kivlehan
2nd Base- Santiago Espinal
SS- Rubén Tejada
3rd Base- Andy Burns
DH- Joe Panik
OF- Billy McKinney, Jonathan Davis, Forrest Wall, and Josh Palacios
Clear the fences will once again be a challenge for the Buffalo Bisons. There doesn’t appear to be much power coming from the outfielders. Some decent OBP and some decent speed but not many HR. Billy McKinney could be a 30HR guy but that level of success would have him in the Majors fairly quickly. Davis, Wall, and Palacios all show 15 HR potential with the possibility of hitting between .250 and .270.
Beyond Kivlehan and Burns, who should be good for 20-ish HR, the infield won’t be producing many longballs. Tejada, Panik, and Espinal shouldn’t be counted on to hit more than 10 if they manage to hit double-digit home runs. I am hoping that Riley Adams builds off the 14HR he hit in 2019 to provide another power source for the Herd.
There is also a possibility that Rowdy Tellez is a Bison on Opening Day. He should be good for 20-ish HR. That should help.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of Ryan Mueller
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Lover of all things Toronto Blue Jays. Blue Jays MiLB fanatic. I strive for average while stumbling onto above average. Rogers isn’t cheap. Baseball is a business. Your right, but I’m more right.