Overall, the GCL Jays finished the season 9.5 games back of the GCL Yankees in the North Division with a 27-32 record. Making his triumphant managerial return to the Gulf Coast League was former Blue Jays first base coach Omar Malave, who previously managed the club in his first seasons as a minor league manager in 1991 and 1992.
Under Malave — who has been in the Blue Jays organization for 26 years as a player/coach/manager — and pitching coach John Wesley, the GCL Jays finished second-last in the league with a 4.85 team ERA and ranked 11th out of 15 teams with an average of 5.27 runs allowed per game.
Here’s a look at the full-time relievers who suited up for the GCL Jays in 2011, including those who were previously starters in the Dominican Summer League in 2010.
Colby Broussard | RHP
How he was acquired: Selected by the Jays in the 44th round (1339th overall) of the 2011 Amateur Draft.
How he fared in 2011: While he certainly has his work cut out for him to make it all the way up to The Show as a closer, Broussard was dominant for the GCL Jays as their final-inning stopper. A closer at Faulkner College, Broussard went 1-2 with a 1.85 ERA with six saves in 18 games this past season, and all but two of those contests had him finishing the game. Though he struck out 17 and walked eight in 24.1 innings, what’s truly remarkable is that Broussard gave up only 12 hits over that span, so he’ll be worth keeping an eye on at least as he faces tougher competition.
Jorge Navarette | LHP
How he was acquired: Signed by the Jays as an undrafted free agent out of Monroe College in fall 2010.
How he fared in 2011: Though he didn’t actually start at all in his first year as a pro, Navarette could possibly be used a starter was able to rack up strikeouts, but opposing hitters were able to rack up hits and walks off of him as well, unfortunately. He whiffed 28 batters in 27 innings but also gave up 39 hits and allowed 16 earned runs for a 5.33 ERA. Navarette, like many prospects in the GCL, struggled to find the strike zone and allowed 16 walks, and the five home runs he allowed were second on the team only to Murphy.
"College coach Luis Melendez from a school article: “Scouts were looking at Jorge from the day he began playing baseball at Monroe. Without a doubt he has the arm and the talent. He has a dominant fastball as a lefthander and mixes it up well. If he works hard, there’s no limit to how high he can achieve.”"
Chris Roman | RHP
How he was acquired: Signed by the Jays as an undrafted free agent out of Nova Southeastern University in June 2011.
How he fared in 2011: Right behind Navarette in terms of relief innings pitched was 22-year-old Roman, who finished the year with a 6.12 ERA (4.76 FIP) in 25 frames. He struck out 23 and walked eight over that span, but ultimately a few of the 26 hits he allowed got away from him and contributed to the 17 earned runs that he allowed. He too will probably enjoy playing in front of a higher quality defense if he’s able to move up the minor league ladder.
"From NSU’s website: Roman, a former All-Osceola County pitcher in high school, pitched for three seasons at Newberry College before transferring to NSU as a senior. Roman made five starts and pitched in 31 innings for the Sharks. He held opposing batters to a .229 batting average and struck out a total of 29. Despite his five starts, Roman was most effective out of the bullpen where he looked unstoppable at times."
Brian Slover | RHP
How he was acquired: Selected by the Jays in the 8th round (250th overall) of the 2009 Amateur Draft, signed June 17, 2009.
How he fared in 2011: After spending all of the 2010 season with the Lansing Lugnuts and tossing 58.2 relief innings that year, Slover opened the year on the Lugnuts’ disabled list. When it came close to the
"From his Northridge bio: The best thing about being an athlete is “the excitement of the competition” and the toughest thing is “the hard work it takes to be successful.”"
Luis Mendez | RHP
How he was acquired: Started playing for the Jays’ Dominican Summer League affiliate in 2008.
How he fared in 2011: After struggling as a spot starter for the Jays Dominican Summer League affiliate in 2008 and 2009, Mendez became a reliever exclusively last season as a 20-year-old. His 3.06 ERA in 47 innings was enough to convince the Jays to promote him to the GCL this past season, where he ran into a bit of trouble. Mendez managed a 6.58 ERA in 19 games this year, with 24 hits and 13 walks allowed. He did, however post the best strikeout rate of his short career (7.3 K/9), but the 22-year-old has a lot to figure out and not a lot of time to do it.
To make room for the influx of recently signed 2011 draftees, the Jays released left-handers Leandro Mella and Kenllie Santana. Mella, 21, issued 11 walks in nine frames in what marked his third consecutive year playing for the GCL Jays while Santana, 22, gave up 15 earned runs and 20 walks in 8.2 innings for Bluefield earlier in the season before being demoted to the GCL Jays and throwing only 1.1 innings.
RP (SP in DOSL in 2010)
Alex Ramirez | RHP
How he was acquired: Started playing for the Jays’ Dominican Summer League affiliate in 2007.
How he fared in 2011: After spending four seasons as a starter with the Jays’ DOSL affiliate, Ramirez was perhaps the only mildly-intriguing pitcher to make the jump to the GCL this season. He led all relievers with 32.1 innings pitched and finished fourth on the team overall, striking out 34 as well (9.5 K/9). Like many of the other DOSL products this season, Ramirez had trouble finding the strike zone issuing 22 walks and hitting seven batters, and he finished the season with a 5.29 ERA in 20 appearances.
Julio Carmona | RHP
How he was acquired: Started playing for the Jays’ Dominican Summer League affiliate in 2010.
How he fared in 2011: After striking out 67 hitters in 58 innings and avoiding giving up a single home run for the Jays’ DOSL affiliate in 2010, Carmona seemed set to tackle baseball on American soil this year as a 20-year-old. He maintained his strikeout rate, fanning 30 in 26.2 frames, but he continued to have a hard time finding the strike zone, as he issued 22 walks over those 26.2 innings as well. He finished the year with a 6.41 ERA in 23 appearances but he does not give up a lot of hits, so if he’s able to considerably cut down on his wildness, there could be something there.
Check back on next week for a review of the position players from the Jays’ other (and newest) rookie ball team, the Bluefield Blue Jays.