Mar 21, 2014; Port Charlotte, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez (41) throws a pitch in the first inning of the spring training exhibition game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
With a just a few days remaining until Opening Day, the Toronto Blue Jays continued their roster cuts on Saturday morning. According to Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star, the latest players getting their tickets punched for Minor League Camp were top prospect Aaron Sanchez, outfielder Kevin Pillar, and non-roster invitee Dan Johnson.
All three players were likely to begin the season in the minor leagues, with Sanchez expected to begin his season at Double-A New Hamshire and a start in Triple-A Buffalo for both Johnson and Pillar.
There has been some debate in regards to Aaron Sanchez and his ability to make the leap to the Major Leagues, most notably by Buck Martinez who argued that the Blue Jays’ top prospect was ready to be the team’s fifth starter. And while his spring statistics are certainly encouraging, as seen below, there was never any chance that Sanchez would make the Opening Day roster.
There is certainly a lot of good to take away from Aaron Sanchez’s spring, especially considering he was generally facing stronger competition this spring than he has faced at any level to date. However, control continues to be an issue, with Sanchez still walking 6 batters in 12.1 innings of work in camp. There’s also the fact that he has yet to pitch about High-A or thrown more than 90.1 innings in a single season. The Blue Jays are doing the right thing by committing him to another season of minor league ball with advanced competition in order to further his development.
Kevin Pillar was always slated to begin the season in Buffalo and then serve as outfield depth if needed. A fan favorite a year ago, Pillar raked his way through the Blue Jays system last season (.307/.353/.461 between Double-A and Triple-A), earning himself a late-season call-up. However, in 110 plate appearances with the Blue Jays in 2013, Pillar looked over-matched, as evidenced by his .206/.250/.333 slash-line and horrendous 4 walks against 29 strike-outs. He’ll return to the Buffalo Bisons to refine a swing that had holes on breaking pitches and hope to improve his pitch recognition skills.
As noted on Friday, Dan Johnson has enjoyed a tremendous Spring Training with the Blue Jays. However, he is somewhat of a redundant bat with Adam Lind already on the roster and with the Blue Jays carrying an 8-man bullpen to start the season, he becomes a victim of the numbers crunch. He’ll start the season at Triple-A Buffalo and provide roster depth if an injury were to occur or a trade to be made.