The Dunedin Blue Jays are feeling the heat this summer, at least in July.
Toronto’s Advanced-A affiliate club went 14-13 last month. A far cry from the 46-23 record they posted to become the first-half division winner. At present, the club’s winning percentage for the second half of the season is .467, sitting fourth in the Florida State League’s North Division. Still, having won the first half guarantees them a spot in the playoffs, as they continue to sit on top of the overall league standings with 67 wins.
It’s not unusual for a minor league team to have ups and downs when there is constant change to their rosters, especially the D-Jays in recent weeks.
Players Out & In:
Many players moved up and down the minor league merry-go-round last month. Frank Viola was released in late July, after being assigned from Lansing earlier in the month. His ERA ballooned once arriving in Dunedin and not lasting in as many innings. Sean Nolin made a quick two-game stop in Florida before moving up to Buffalo. Both righty pitcher, Blake McFarland and third baseman, Andy Fermin were on their way to New Hampshire. Coming from New Hampshire: Matt Boyd, Pierce Rankin, and Jonathon Wandling. Coming from Lansing: Griffin Murphy, a lefty pitcher, and Ian Parmley, an outfielder.
Both the longest winning streak and losing streak were five games. The D-Jays were doing well off of their first-half victory by winning two games against Clearwater and three games against Tampa. Their biggest win was July 3rd with a 14-6 win against Clearwater. The trend tailed off, including four consecutive losses to Fort Myers and a game against Jupiter. The worst loss came in the July 27th game against Charlotte with a score of 9-2.
Starting Rotation & The Pen:
It may have happened on August 1st, but this could not wait for a month. Roberto Osuna, a native of Juan Jose Rios, Mexico, made his debut for Dunedin after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year. The righty starter threw 3.1 innings and gave up three runs on four hits and a walk, while striking out six Palm Beach Cardinals batters. The writers at MLB.com have clocked his “fastball in the low- to mid-90s with good movement. His slider is his best offspeed pitch, and his changeup shows promise…He has better command and more pitchability than most teenagers.” Look for this prospect to have more starts and more attention on him in the dog days of this summer.
At this point in the season, Dunedin’s pitchers have a collective 3.24 ERA (5th in the league) and are tied with Fort Myers for the lead with 12 shutouts. The D-Jays seem to be low on obvious bad pitching by giving up only 290 walks (2nd best) and are in the middle of the pack for serving up 57 homers, compared to Clearwater’s league-leading 76 home runs.
The trouble seems to be coming from losing close games by a few runs. Many of these runs are coming earlier in innings, whether they are losses or wins.
Many of the D-Jays’ saves have come from Arik Sikula, and it was no different in July. In his last ten games, the Chico, California native earned six saves in 9.2 innings, with ten strikeouts and giving up only three runs on eleven hits. The righty closer will need to continue to hold teams off if Dunedin wishes to win more close games.
Hitter To Watch – Dwight Smith Jr.
July was a good month for Smith, before going on the disabled list. Smith hit .356 with 3 home runs, 2 triples, and 7 doubles, scoring 17 RBIs and stealing 4 bases. He only struck out 11 times in 87 at-bats. This is pretty good production from the left fielder who has raised his batting average each time he has been moved up through Toronto’s minor system. Smith will need to continue to prove the Jays’ brass right to pick him in the first round of the 2011 draft if Dunedin wishes to push past this recent mediocre record.
Ian Parmley – he has platooned between Dunedin and the Lansing Lugnuts recently. For the D-Jays, Parmley played 14 games with 12 hits and 7 walks, but also struck out 7 times and only 1 RBI. He had some speed with three stolen bases.
Nick Baligod – In ten games, Baligod has been smiling a bit more with a .447 OBP and .350 batting average, but this performance has only raised his overall numbers to a .262 batting average.
Marcus Knecht – his .253 batting average in July is pretty consistent for his entire season to this point. The 15 walks he drew helped bring his OBP up to .379 for the month, which was an improvement from June’s output.
L.B. Dantzler – when you hit .237 and have almost as many strikeouts as RBIs, July may be the cruelest month, if it wasn’t for the fact that these are improved numbers from June. This first baseman seems to need to see the ball better in between cashing in runs to be more polished.
Kevin Patterson – after looking at Dantzler and Patterson, other potential D-Jays first basemen would want to exorcise the demons plaguing the position. Patterson hit .253 in July with 11 RBIs, which is incredible when you look at the .196, .152, and .186 he was hitting in April, May, and June respectively. He has been walked 14 times in the month as well, suggesting that he is finally looking at pitches a bit better and being more selective, that or being considered a “threat”. Will leave the choice to you.
Christian Lopes – with a .269 batting average in July, .237 overall, the second baseman from Huntington Beach, California will need to improve his plate approach if he wants a “bad boy” image to be a positive for him, and not just Tito Ortiz. He did hit 4 doubles in July and walked almost as many times as he struck out.
Gustavo Pierre – the third baseman hit incredibly better against left-handed pitching (.321) than he did against right-handers (.247), giving him a .280 batting average for July. With 4 doubles, a home run, and 2 stolen bases, Pierre seemed to be making something happen on the field; however, he will need to confirm that with a better RBI total, which dropped off from previous months with only 4 runs.
Emilio Guerrero – being another product of a long list of ballplayers from San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, Guerrero has a lot to prove. Striking out 33 times in the month of July are not the fireworks he could have been hoping for. Three stolen bases and five doubles are nice to show speed, and a home run shows some power. Nothing is more glaring though than this shortstop’s strikeouts, which has now shot up to 93 for the season.
Peter Mooney – has found a landscape change from New Hampshire to Dunedin to be a relatively better and more positive experience. The shortstop from Loxahatchee, Florida hit .214 in July and .234 overall for the D-Jays. Hopefully, he can get some more decent at-bats to raise this trend into an epidemic of hits for his career to flourish and get back up to Double-A.
Shane Optiz – has only played 13 games for the D-Jays this season and has hit pretty well for most of his five years in Toronto’s minor league system. The shortstop hit .309 for the D-Jays in 2013, with 20 RBIs in 60 games. This season’s .280 batting average, hitting both righty and lefty pitchers fairly equally, Optiz could put up some pretty good numbers with a bigger sample size.
The team is doing fairly well, but could be so much better with more consistency from their hitters in the positive direction. The pitching was there in July. The hitting wasn’t, at least not like in the first half of the season. You want your team peaking at the right time during the playoffs, so there will need to be some corrections made.