Jays From the Couch takes a look at some key players from the lowly 2018 Buffalo Bisons season
I didn’t expect the Buffalo Bisons season to go south the way it did. When the 2018 roster started to take shape, it looked very promising. The rotation looked decent with a bunch of homegrown talent and some interesting arms. The position players also filled me with the hope that this would be the year the Bisons put together a winning season.
The Herd finished 16 games below .500, 22 games back of 1st place, and the worse winning percentage in the entire International League with a record of 61-77 (.442).
A Bisons rotation of Joe Biagini, Ryan Borucki, Deck McGuire, Chris Rowley, and Sam Gaviglio were quickly dismantled. The promotion of Gaviglio, Biagini, and McGuire left the rotation in shambles which resulted in a way too many bullpen days. Chris Rowley was lost to a waiver claim, McGuire was DFA’ed, Gaviglio stuck in Toronto’s rotation, and Biagini was returned to a bullpen role with the Blue Jays. The Bisons had 19 pitchers make at least 2 starts in 2018.
In the field, the Bisons were a little more stable. The team a few players come and go, players like Gift Ngoepe, Gio Urshela, and Danny Espinosa. Dwight Smith Jr. (4x) and Richard Urena (5x) were the only position players to bounced between Toronto’s roster and Buffalo’s roster.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Herd’s fanbase. The Bisons announced they will remain the Triple-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays through the 2020 season. They got to see the rise of Ryan Borucki, Danny Jansen, Sean Reid-Foley, and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Buffalo fans were treated with super-prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. playing in a Bisons uniform through the final month of the season.
All-Stars and Awards
Jason Leblebijian was named to his third straight All-Star team, the second straight IL All-Star team. Leb was joined by C Danny Jansen.
Leblebijian batted .234 with 6 doubles, 10 HR, 37 RBI, and a .706 OPS in 70 games pre All-Star break. Leb only played in 14 games after the break, spending most of the 2nd half on the DL.
Danny Jansen played 64 games pre All-Star break, batting .288 with 17 doubles, a triple, 7 HR, 44 RBI, and a .885 OPS. Jansen was also named to the Post-Season All-Star team and team MVP.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. received player of the week honors on August 12 after hitting a home run in 4 straight games, batting .458 with a double and driving in 5 RBI.
Starting pitchers Ryan Borucki (June 25th) and Sean Reid-Foley (July 22nd) took turns receiving Pitcher of the Week honors. SRF took home Buffalo’s Most Valuable Pitcher award.
The Bisons’ offense was not great. The club finished in the bottom half of the league (14 teams) in all but 3 categories. With above average team speed, the Herd lead the league with 124 SB but was also caught 59 times (worse). They also used their speed to leg out 30 triples (5th) but finished 2nd last (13th) with 217 doubles.
The Bisons did a good job of getting on-base with 435 walks (5th) and .321 OBP (7th). The club’s power was middle of the pack with 105 HR (7th) and .702 OPS (8th). They struck out 1091 times (9th) and owned a sad .380 slugging percentage (11th).
The Bisons finished 10th with a .249 batting average, 573 runs scored, and 533 RBI. They finished 12th with 1119 hits and only 1707 total bases.
The Bisons pitching staff wasn’t much better, finishing with the league 9th best ERA (3.94). The only stats that finished in the top half of the league were complete games (4, 2nd), hits batters (48, 3rd), walks (410, 4th), and runs allowed (590, 6th)
The Herd’s arms finished 7th with 1169 hits, 10th with 31 saves and a 1.34 WHIP, 11th with 121 HRA, and dead last with 5 shutouts, only 953 strikeouts, and only 29 holds.
There weren’t many Bison batters to finish Top-10 offensive category in the IL. Billy McKinney (1st, 7) and Darnell Sweeney (4th, 4) hit a bunch of triples. McKinney also made an appearance of the home run leaderboard with 16 (7th). Roemon Fields (3rd, 25), Tim Lopes (5th, 18), and Anthony Alford (6th, 17) paced the Bisons to top of the league in stolen bases.
Tim Lopes (9th) finished with a club-leading .277 batting average. Vladdy didn’t qualify but did bat .336 in 30 GP while Gurriel Jr. batted .293 in 37 GP. Anthony Alford finished with the team lead with 52 runs scored and the second most strikeouts with 112.
Rowdy Tellez played the most games for Buffalo (112) and picked up the most hits (106). Dwight Smith Jr.’s 25 doubles and 44 walks (tie with Jansen) lead the club. speaking of Danny Jansen, the talented young catcher lead all qualified batters with a .863 OPS, .390 OBP, and 58 RBI. He finished 2nd, behind Billy McKinney (.486), with a .473 SLG%.
Just because….VGJ finished with a .978 OPS, .564 SLG%, and .414 OBP.
Justin Shafer‘s 15 saves were the 3rd highest in the IL. That was the only Bison to crack any pitching Top-10 category. Chris Rowley lead all Buffalo pitchers with 101.0IP, 98 hits allowed, 48 runs allowed, 42 walks, and 17 games started.
SRF won 7 games while Tim Mayza and Ryan Borucki registered 6 each. Jake Petricka posted a 0.78 ERA in 23 IP and Justin Dillon posted a 0.79 ERA in 22.2 IP. SRF finished with 98 K’s in 16 starts across 85.1IP.
Being a Triple-A manager has to be THE most frustrating job in baseball. Every time you think you’ve got a set lineup or rotation, Every time you’ve established roles on your bench or in the bullpen somebody gets promoted.
While it is unclear which players will be back in a Bisons uniform for the 2019 season, one thing is certain, the Bisons will be even more talented. It seems likely that Rowdy Tellez will return for a 3rd season. VGJ will return for at least two months. It’s possible that Urena, Jansen, DSJ, Jonathan Davis, Anthony Alford, and maybe even Billy McKinney could start the year in Buffalo. There will be an influx of talent from the Eastern League champion New Hampshire Fisher Cats lead by Bo Bichette and Harold Ramirez.
It is safe to say that Ryan Borucki won’t be back in Buffalo to start the year. Thomas Pannone and Sean Reid-Foley are 50/50 right now. That leaves guys like Jacob Waguespack and Shawn Morimando to compete with Double-A pitchers Jon Harris, T.J. Zeuch, and Jordan Romano….and, of course, an assortment of MiLB free-agent signees.
Lastly, Tim Lopes is a guy I think is worth mentioning. He might leave this offseason like his brother did the last offseason, but he had a decent year in Buffalo. The 24-yr-old Lopes stepped up when 3rd baseman Jason Leblebijian landed on the DL. He filled in at 2nd when Urena or Gurriel spent time in Toronto. Lopes struggled in June (.229 BA) but was pretty consistent all season, finishing with a .277 BA, 19 doubles, 3 triples, 2-HR, and 29 RBI in 104 games.
The influx of talent may not result in more wins, it should result in more butts in the seats.
Thank you for your service: Ian Parmley (released on June 25th), Chad Girodo (released on April 25th), Carlos Ramirez (DFA on May 13th), Chris Rowley (waiver claim on July 23rd), Deck McGuire (DFA on June 9th), Danny Espinosa (released on April 29th), Gift Ngoepe (released on August 13th), Al Alburquerque (released on July 2nd), and Nick Tepesch (traded for cash money on August 9th).
Feature photo credit: Roy JFtC
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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.