Toronto Blue Jays: 2015 Top Performing Minor League Starters

Which minor league starting pitcher posted the best FIP in the Toronto Blue Jays farm system in 2015?

The evolution of Saber-metrics has changed the way fans, coaches, scouts and managers value the traditional stats, such as, win/loss record, ERA, strike outs and walks. Stat geeks now look at the rate at which a pitcher gives up home runs, batting average of ball in play (BABIP), the rate a pitcher strands base runners, and more.

One such stat is FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) which Fangraphs does a wonderful job of explaining here. For those that want a dumbed down version, FIP removes everything a pitcher can’t control (defensive errors or a poor defensive team) and focus’ what the pitcher can control (innings pitched, walks, hit batters, strike outs, and home runs).

The Toronto Blue Jays purged the farm system of many highly regarded pitchers, more specifically, highly regarded left-handed pitchers. In the David Price trade, Toronto sent LHP Matt Boyd, Daniel Norris, and Jairo Labourt to Detroit. Many agree Daniel Norris was the key piece for the Detroit Tigers. As far as ‘ceilings’, yes Norris continues to hold the greatest potential of the LHPs sent to Detroit. Here’s a look at the FIP each pitch posted prior to the trade:

Daniel Norris- 3.54 FIP with Buffalo Bisons

Matt Boyd- 2.67 FIP with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and 3.46 FIP in Buffalo Bisons

Jairo Labourt- 4.15 FIP with Dunedin Blue Jays

I combed through the Blue Jays system to find pitchers with 1.) a number of starts 2.) high number of innings pitched 3.) currently in the system. I collected their FIP, and in cases averaged their FIP between levels, and ranked in order of lowest to highest. Below is a list containing the Blue Jays Top 10 FIP for starting pitchers.

  1. RHP Justin Maese– 2.75
  2. LHP Wilfri Aleton– 2.81
  3. RHP Guadalupe Chavez- 2.85
  4. RHP Yonardo Herdenez– 3.06
  5. RHP Tayler Saucedo– 3.07
  6. RHP Conner Greene– 3.24
  7. RHP Francisco Rios– 3.28
  8. RHP Jeremy Gabryszwski– 3.30
  9. LHP Shane Dawson– 3.47
  10. LHP Jose Nova– 3.47

Conner Greene is the most highly regarded pitcher on the FIP list, coming in at number 6. Greene flew three levels in 2015, landing in New Hampshire. Baseball America ranked Conner as the Toronto Blue Jays 2nd ranked prospect on their 2016 Top 10 list for Toronto. The 2013 7th round pick, posted a 3.22 FIP with Lansing, a 2.34 FIP with Dunedin and 4.32 FIP in Double-A, while averaging 7.32K/9 and 2.89BB/9 across those levels.

Justin Maese showed up on Pipeline at number 15 after a strong season with the Gulf Coast Blue Jays. Justin’s above average feel for pitching and control allowed him to dominate in 35.2IP with 4.79K/9 and 1.51BB/9 while posting an impressive 1.07 WHIP. The 19-yr-old has a chance to start the year with the Vancouver Canadians in short-season A-ball.

The biggest surprise on the FIP list is Jeremy Gabryszwski’s 3.30FIP. The 22-yr-old posts low strike outs, and low walks, while giving up more hits than innings pitched. FIP actually helps Jeremy’s stock. Typically, team defense improves as a player moves up the system, which should help Gabryszwski’s numbers; however, players also get stronger at the higher levels, so being a flyball pitcher could result in more home runs. Gabryszwski will take his 3.30FIP to New Hampshire in 2016.

Conner Greene went from posting 4.05FIP in 2013 to posting 3.24FIP in 2015, so pitchers such as Sean Reid-Foley and Jonathan Harris can rest assured that their  3.63 and 4.02 FIP are not indicative of what is yet to come.

FIP does not measure a pitchers potential, nor is it able to forecast the future success of a pitcher; however, it is an excellent way to measure where a pitcher is in their development.

Side note: Toronto’s 2015 Rule V pick of Joseph Biagini posted a 3.35FIP for the San Francisco Giant’s Double-A affiliate, which would have placed in one slot behind Gabryszwski.

*Featured photo: Mandatory Credit: Buck Davidson

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Shaun Doyle

Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.