Blue Jays Pitching Prospect Update Week 4: Gustavo Pierre takes the mound

Gustavo Pierre throws an afternoon bullpen session at the Bobby Mattick Training Center in Dunedin, Florida. Photo by Braydon Holmyard.
Gustavo Pierre throws an afternoon bullpen session at the Bobby Mattick Training Center in Dunedin, Florida. Photo by Braydon Holmyard. /

This weekly series will feature Toronto Blue Jays pitching prospects and provide weekly updates on whose stock is rising, and whose is falling at all minor-league levels

Lansing Lugnuts, Class-A

It can’t all be good news for the Lugnuts. With tremendous starts from Sean Reid-Foley, Angel Perdomo, and Francisco Rios, and with Harris making his return from the inactive list, the baseball Gods sent Reid-Foley to the 7-day-DL. He obviously missed his start last week, but all signs show he should be back soon. If the Lugnuts have these four guys firing on all cylinders, the rest of the Midwest League will have its work cut out for it.

Jon Harris (1-0, 1.98 ERA)

The young right hander made his return to the Lugnuts lineup after a disappointing start to his season and a brief stint on the inactive list. He came back with a vengeance. Harris must have been eager to prove those who had already written him off as overrated wrong, because he pitched nine scoreless innings over two starts this week.

He went four innings in his return to the mound and allowed just two hits and a walk while striking out four. In his second start he improved to five shutout innings and gave up just six hits and a walk. The low walk rate is a good sign for the Missouri-native, who walked six batters in 4.2 innings in his first two starts. While it’s still much too early to draw conclusions, Harris is starting to show what made him an exciting pick for the Blue Jays in the first round last season. He has always had the projectability to be a successful starter with his long frame and running fastball, now he just needs to find some consistency to put it all together.

Tayler Saucedo (1-3, 5.57 ERA)

Only in the minor leagues will you see a guy come out of the bullpen and pitch six innings of shutout baseball in relief. After stumbling out of the pen in his first four long relief appearances, the 22-year-old out of Honolulu appears to have sorted things out.

On April 24, Saucedo got a start and lasted 2.1 innings, giving up a whopping 11 runs (eight of them earned) on eight hits, including a couple of home runs with three walks and a hit batter. Upon his return to the bullpen this week, the 2015 draft pick has pitched nine consecutive shutout innings in just two games, picking up his first win of the year and leaving with only five hits and a pair of walks against him.

Saucedo was drafted in Round 21 last year and had a 2.52 ERA in seven starts with the Vancouver Canadians. The next step for him is to once again grab a spot in a crowded Lugnuts rotation and do a better job of hanging on to it.

Angel Perdomo (2-0, 1.59 ERA)

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Perdomo has been lowering his glistening earned run average in each of his last three starts and the trend continued this week against the Cedar Rapids Kernals. Perdomo pitched five clean innings with just one unearned run to pick up his second win of the year and crack the sub-2 ERA mark. He struck out another seven batters and walked two and now holds a 31/9 strikeout to walk ratio in 22.2 innings this year.

Francisco Rios (1-0, 1.48)

Rios and Perdomo must be enjoying the Midwest League because they are cruising through the first four weeks of the season. Rios finally picked up a win in another strong start this week to keep his string of five starts with two or fewer earned runs against alive. The six innings was his longest outing of the season as he surrendered just five hits and struck out five Wisconsin Timber Rattlers hitters.

On Friday, Rios took it one step further. The right-hander pitched five and two-thirds shutout innings against the Quad Cities River Bandits, striking out 10 batters to bring his ERA to 1.20. He’s now struck out 43 batters and walked just eight in 30 innings pitched.

Gustavo Pierre (1-0, 0.00 ERA)

The infielder turned pitcher made his debut at the end of last week and since then has made two more relief appearances. Pierre played 53 games at SS for the Lugnuts in 2011 and 75 games at 3B in 2012 and the native of the Domincan Republic showed he had a unique pop and speed combination. But he struggled to get on base, and after playing 62 games at 3B for the Philadelphia Phillies Double-A squad last season, the 24-year-old has moved to the mound.

Pierre is starting to find his role in the Lugnuts bullpen, having pitched four innings in three games since he was assigned to Lansing on April 26. He has given up three hits, three walks, a hit batter and registered one strikeout so far, but has stranded all seven runners on base. Pierre needs to throw more strikes, which should come with more time and experience on the mound. If he hasn’t already, he will find out soon enough it’s not fun pitching around a couple of free passes in an inning. Pierre has potential and is an interesting player to keep an eye on over the next few weeks.

Dunedin Blue Jays, Advanced-A

An off day and a rain-out left the young Blue Jays with a short week where they struggled all across the board, with Conner Greene being the only exception. Juliandry Higuera was assigned to the Blue Jays Spring Training Facility in Dunedin for the second time this season, while Ryan Borucki hopes he won’t have to join him.

Ryan Borucki (1-3, 12.50 ERA)

For the third start in a row, Borucki allowed at least five runs and could not pitch past the third inning. He is struggling mightily and could find himself on a leave of absence to get some work in at the Bobby Mattick Training Center if this keeps up. If there are any positives to take away from his three innings, five earned runs, seven hits, and two walks, it would be he avoided the long ball for just the second time this season.

Conner Greene (2-2, 3.41 ERA)

Greene battled back after getting hit hard last week by picking up his second win of the season in six solid innings. He struck out four batters and allowed four hits, one walk, and two earned runs against the Daytona Tortugas. Greene has now gone at least five innings in five of his six starts this season and allowed more than two runs in a game just one time. A mid-season promotion to New Hampshire remains more than likely.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Double-A

Shane Dawson was placed on the 7-day-DL and missed his start this week. He has been the Fisher Cats best starter up to this point. A couple of youngsters filled the void and made it a solid week for the New Hampshire pitching staff.

Jeremy Gabryszwski (0-1, 3.41 ERA)

Gabryszwski had a big bounce back week and pitched well in two starts for the Fisher Cats. He started against the Binghampton Mets and hit the six inning mark for the fourth consecutive start, allowing two earned runs on six hits and a walk. He followed that up with 4.1 innings against the Reading Fightin Phils giving up just one earned run on five hits and a walk. He only struck out four batters in those 10.1 innings, but keeping the walks down has helped balance out the contact he is giving up.

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Luis Santos (2-0, 4.56 ERA)

After finding early season success in Dunedin, Santos got a promotion to Double-A and has started four games thus far. Last week’s start was his best by far as he gave up just one run in six innings of work, striking out seven batters and surrendering four hits. He ran into some trouble last night, though, allowing three earned runs in just one inning of bullpen work. Santos was signed as a free agent a season ago and has potential to continue moving up the pitching prospect ranks. He has always had a great strikeout to walk ratio but the 25-year-old’s inconsistency has held him back from getting a sniff at the major leagues.