Toronto Blue Jays – Organizational Filler (In) – Lansing Pitching Change


At the start of the minor league full seasons, I was pretty high on the Lansing Lugnuts.  The lineup was littered with young, high-upside talent, that I truly hoped would make big strides this year.  Despite some encouraging signs, and some very positive performances, you can’t truly say that the hitters have taken a step forward.  If you look at the players who have had over one hundred plate appearances, not one has an OPS over .800.  Not great.

Still, as I said, there has been some days where you can be quite positive about the hitters.  The pitchers?  Well, I think that’s a different story.  Let’s do a bit of a ‘where are they now?’

The first five games of the Lugs season gave us a good look at who would make up the starting rotation.  It was exciting.  As I’ve

Taylor Cole warms up on May 5, 2013. Photo: Jay Blue

mentioned numerous times, I write about the Vancouver Canadians over at so had seen three of the five names on the list.  Some more than others.  Both Taylor Cole and Javier Avendano dominated the Northwest League in 2012, taking up two of the top three spots in most statistical categories.  Roberto Osuna and Daniel Norris were called up to Vancouver later in the 2012 season, so sample size was smaller.  Osuna was brilliant, Norris not so much.  Both were still highly regarded prospects in the Jays system coming into to 2013, and the ones to truly keep an eye on for Lansing and hopefully even Dunedin.  The final piece of the puzzle was a big 6’5″ power throwing lefty, somebody, who physically at least, let you dream.

So, now that we’re a good two thirds of the way through the season, how have these starters fared:

Avendano and Cole have been the stalwarts of the rotation, leading the team in games started.  Unfortunately, however, their success of 2012 hasn’t really translated:

Taylor Cole:

Provided by View Original Table

Javier Avendano:

Provided by View Original Table

It’s not tough to see where the problem lies with these two.  They are both walking more and getting hit harder.  Resulting in a near double WHIP for Cole and an extra half runner for Avendano.  Both are control pitchers who obviously don’t have the stuff to overpower hitters at this level.  It worked in rookie ball, but they are seemingly being found out now.  If they don’t adjust then they won’t go much further.

On a side note, this doesn’t bode well for current C’s standout Jeremy Gabryszwski.  He’s putting up very similar (ie good) numbers currently in the Northwest League, but his stuff, especially his fastball, don’t really allow him to challenge hitters.  He needs to work downhill and rely both on the umpires and his defense.  Seeing how Cole and Avendano are now struggling, I can’t see Jeremy’s stuff translating all that differently.

Roberto Osuna – I wrote about him over at yourvancs.  He’s done for the season.  Only question remains, why is the TJ surgery taking so long to be booked in?

Alonzo Gonzalez – is currently pitching for Vancouver.  He started out in the ‘pen with some success before making his first start on Wednesday.  He was on a pretty tight pitch count, and obviously tired, resulting in wildness, as he got near.  He’s still exhibiting the same issues that got him demoted in the first place in that he’s not finishing his pitches, leaving balls off to the arm side.  And despite the fact he didn’t give up a hit, there was a lot of loud contact.  Will take a wait and see approach.

Daniel Norris – I really don’t know what to say about this kid.  You always read how electric his stuff is, but he gets hit hard and often.  He also walks a ton.  His strikeout rates are good, sitting at 10.2/9 and his 3.93 FIP is respectable, but I’m getting a bit weary of combing the peripherals for positive things to write.  Just once you’d like to see a dominant run of games at this level before being able to say he’ll move on and be the impact arm the Jays thought they were getting when taking him in the second round (and paying first round money).

The Replacements:

With Osuna missing quite a bit of time, Ben White has stepped in to fill the void, and is actually second on the team in innings pitched.

I saw White pitch quite a bit last year, in fact, it became a running joke that every time I went to Nat Bailey stadium, the Parkesburg, Pennsylvania native was on the hill.  In my review of the C’s pitchers, I said ‘A fastball that sits in the mid 80′s and a decent curve won’t get the job done the higher he progresses, if in fact he does.’

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Turns out I got that one a bit wrong.  Unlike Cole and Avendano, White has actually improved his numbers in the Midwest league.  Most impressively, the K/BB ratio is up to 2.29.  Still not overly impressive, but admittedly far better than what I would have thought.  At twenty-four, he needs to get a move on though.  Dunedin may be calling in 2014, but would have thought that may be his ceiling.

Javier Avendano went on the DL as of Tuesday, which means there has been two other hurlers that have made starts as of late.  Both are 2013 draft picks.

Matt Boyd was the Jays 6th rounder this year, and although he was a college senior, I’ve read that he is a ‘legit 6th rounder’ and was paid as such with a 75k bonus.  I’ve got this brief scouting report, a nice read about him here,  and a tweet below from Chad, who lives in Lansing:

The Oregon State graduate threw 132.2 innings over eighteen starts for the Beavers this past season, so am guessing the Jays are going to cover him in bubble wrap.  Any starts he makes will be quite short I would have thought.

Drafted just behind Boyd at eight overall, Kendall Gravemen was a college senior drafted to save money, and he did, only receiving 5,000 bucks.  He has also been on a tight pitch count.  His four starts have only gone for eleven and a third innings.  Not a large sample size to make any stats based assumptions.  Nor should I just assume he is organizational, but don’t think we can tag him as a prospect either.

Jay Blue did a write up at his other site, so will defer to him until we can get a current scouting report.

Definitely seems like I’ve only written negative pieces of late.  But with the season the Jays are having, it’s hard to talk sunshine and happiness.  The same goes for the Lugnuts rotation.  At the beginning of the season, you were looking at five kids who you felt sure would throw well in the Midwest League, earning promotions to Dunedin at some point, with two of them genuine prospects.  Now what do we have?  Two that may repeat in Lansing, one that may get back up there after being demoted, a left-hander whose ‘electric stuff’ gets pounded, and a torn UCL.