Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Blue Jays Winter League Update – Sierra, Gose, Pillar, Rogers


As the world, or at least the world of Toronto Blue Jays fans, waits on Jays’ GM Alex Anthopoulos to make a move (that will hopefully upgrade his roster) it’s sometimes easy to forget that there is still baseball being played in climates that are much warmer than Canada.

The MLB winter baseball season is quickly drawing to a close and several members of the Blue Jays organization have been honing their skills in places such as the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Australia. Playoff round-robins have started for the Latin clubs, with the Caribbean Series scheduled to begin February 1st in Mexico.

The last time I counted there were approximately 20 players from the Blue Jays organization playing winter ball. Rather than providing an update on each and every one, I’m going to focus on four players who will likely spend at least some time with the 2014 MLB Toronto Blue Jays.

 

Moises Sierra
Team: Gigantes del Cibao
League: Liga de Beisbol Dominicano (Dominican Republic)

AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS OBP SLG OPS
.331 42 154 23 51 4 0 4 21 16 33 6 3 .401 .435 .836

 

Sierra, who is a native of DR, had an excellent winter season and was one of the most impressive players in Liga de Beisbol Dominicano. He had the league’s third highest batting average and on-base percentage as well as the fifth highest OPS. Anthopoulos mentioned they had him taking ground balls at first base back in December but the random box scores I cross-referenced listed his defensive position as a corner outfielder. That’s not to say he didn’t get any live reps at first base but I’m assuming Anthopoulos was referring to practice time when he talked about Sierra’s preparation as a possible platoon partner for Adam Lind next season.

The young right-handed hitter didn’t get much practice against lefties and struggled in 30 plate appearances, striking out ten times and walking not once. He mashed righties to the tune of .437/.476/.912 and had similar reverse splits with Toronto in 2013 (134 wRC+ vs. RHP, 107 wRC+ vs. LHP). It’s probably just a case of small sample size but may be enough to make the Blue Jays think twice before they consider him Lind’s platoon. However, his noticeable improvement against righties leads me to believe there’s a slightly better chance that he evolves into an everyday MLB bat.

Sierra has returned to Gigantes for their playoff round-robin and was 1 for 4 with a run scored and a strikeout yesterday. He’s batting .273 in seven playoff games.

 

Anthony Gose
Team: Tiburones de La Guaira
League: Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional (Venezuela)

Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS OBP SLG OPS
.160 7 25 5 4 1 0 0 2 4 8 2 0 .323 .200 .523

 

Gose was a late addition to the Venezuelan League and hadn’t done much at the plate before he was removed from the team’s roster on December 20th. He wore the collar in his final game, going 0 for 5 with three strikeouts before taking a break for the holidays. I’m not sure if he will be back but it appears the number 20 jersey he was wearing has been taken over by another player. I’m not sure what the purpose of sending Gose to Venezuela for a week was but his poor play doesn’t inspire much confidence that the Blue Jays have a competent replacement in place in amidst the recent Colby Rasmus trade rumors.

 

Kevin Pillar
Team: Leones del Escogido
League: Liga de Beisbol Dominicano (Dominican Republic)

kevin pillar

Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

AVG G AB R H 2B
3B
HR RBI BB SO SB CS OBP SLG OPS
.227 15 66 5 15 2 0 0 2 1 9 4 1 0.239 .258 .496

 

Pillar was another late addition to winter ball and had a tough time getting on track in the Dominican. In 15 games, he only walked once after tallying a grand total of four base on balls in 36 games with the Blue Jays in 2013. Despite his low batting average, the free swinger didn’t strike out much and has an innate ability to put the barrel on the ball but needs to become more patient at the plate to succeed at the game’s highest level. He showed his typical sneaky approach on the base paths with four steals in five attempts and had at least one hit in seven of his last eight games.

 

Esmil Rogers
Team: Tigres del Licey
League: Liga de Beisbol Dominicano (Dominican Republic)

esmil rogers

Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO GO/AO AVG
1 0 2.08 3 3 13 15 3 3 1 3 11 1.07 .273

 

Rogers, who also hails from the DR, had already thrown 137.2 innings for the Blue Jays at the MLB level this year so wasn’t expected to get much work when was sent to Licey. He made three sporadic starts and only had one bad inning; all three of his earned runs came in the same frame. He was hit at times and gave up 10.4 H/9 and his WHIP of 1.385 wasn’t great but he showed the ability to bear down to generate ground balls to help get out of trouble. Ideally, the Blue Jays won’t be forced to roll the dice with Rogers as a starter but if he continues to build on the success he found with his 2-seamer/sinker he could be a dark horse for the rotation in 2014.

All stats are courtesy of MiLB.com.

Hat tip to Blue Jays From Away for the help with navigating players sent to Winter League. Make sure to check out BlueJaysFromAway.com for updates on all of the players from the Blue Jays organization playing minor league baseball.

Tags: Anthony Gose Esmil Rogers Kevin Pillar Moises Sierra Toronto Blue Jays

  • JaysHopeful

    Very informative overview. Great news about Moises Sierra. As he’s out of minor league options his success in the DR bodes well for his year with the Jays. .401 OBP!

  • Quincy-Sam

    Pillar is the one I expect to see the most from from with his rapid rise through the system and high BA prior to reaching Toronto. A good winter season prior to spring training might affect when he makes the 25 man roster. Short of Melky having a great year and being healthy, likely Pillar will be the everyday LF in 2015. But he has to earn the spot. So what he does between now and then important. His winter results are disappointing, though a small sample.