This four-part series looks at the Toronto Blue Jays Minor League levels from Single-A and up. We will highlight players that had great performances at each level (while they were at the level being discussed)
Triple A – Full Season – International League – Buffalo Bisons
The Buffalo Bisons had an odd, mixed season as they served a critical role in sending quality players to the Toronto Blue Jays all season. This position as the depth for the MLB team hurt the possible successes that the Bisons could have had. The team fought for first place in the division for much of the season. Trades and call-ups thinned out the team and caused their record to fall in the second half. There was a ton of talent on this team but the roster turmoil created led to their 66-78 record.
The Regulars – Hitters (over 70 games with Buffalo)
When the Blue Jays acquired Montero they might have been taking a shot in the dark, but they soon found out why he was a former top prospect. Montero was a main cog in the the Herd’s attack this season. Mainly serving as the teams DH he took the opportunity to mash, batting .317 over 126 games with the club. He was a leader in most of the teams offensive categories and was a consistent threat every at bat. Montero collected 24 doubles and 11 home runs with his 155 hits for the year (ranking him second in the International League). He scored 46 runs and drove in 60. The standout triple slash numbers lead some people to wonder where he will be come next season. He slashed a .317/ .349/ .438 for the year.
Dominguez continued to grow as a ball player this season with the Bisons. The now 27-year-old is dancing on the line of becoming a MLB contributor. This season in 127 games with the Bisons he batted .269 and led the team in RBI with 67. Dominguez also showed that his line drive stroke has some pop. He was able to rake in 18 doubles and 18 homers. His ability to get on base has translated into a solid amount of runs scored with 47 this past season. The versatile third baseman got a chance to play with the Jays this season in five games. He played solid defence but unfortunately was not able to get a hit during some sporadic plate appearances. Dominguez has hit through out his minor league career so look for him to catch on soon.
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No, the Blue Jays brass has not forgotten about their talented outfielder Dalton Pompey. Pompey got some much needed experience this season during 93 games with the Bisons and again put up some solid numbers. He had a slash line of .270/ .349/ .353, leading the Bisons in runs scored with 48 and stolen bases with 18. Pompey’s speed is a huge threat but some injuries slowed him down on the base paths this season temporarily. He is becoming more of a complete hitter at the plate as he is becoming more patient. This past season he walked 40 times and struck out 72 times. This has allowed him to be selective at the plate and get a solid pitch to hit. Pompey finished the year with 14 doubles, a triple, and four home runs.
The Regulars – Pitchers (over 75 innings pitched)
The now sent-to-Pittsburgh Drew Hutchison had a resurgent season with the Bisons. He tossed 102.0 innings for the Herd and went 6-5. Hutch posted a 3.36 ERA and a forced low opposing batting average at .210. This is what made him appealing to the Pirates when they traded him for Francisco Liriano. Hutch led the Bisons in strikeouts for the season with 138 in those 102.0 innings and should become a solid piece for the Pirates going forward.
LeBlanc had the best part of his 2016 campaign with the Bisons where he got off to a 7-2 start. LeBlanc was sent to Seattle where he was able to get into the rotation temporarily. With the Herd he was nearly unhittable. He posted a 1.71 ERA with a 1.17 WHIP during 89.2 innings. He was able to strike out 85 batters and walked just 21. LeBlanc pounded the strike zone with pinpoint control to earn his shot at the Majors with a pair of clubs during the second half of the season.
Casey Lawrence began the season in Double-A with the Fisher Cats but was thrust into Triple-A after trades depleted the pitching depth. Lawrence took the opportunity and ran with it and showed what he is capable of. He made 15 starts and threw 87.0 innings with the Herd. During those innings he posted a 3.83 ERA with a 1.28 WHIP. Lawrence struck out 58 batters and allowed just 24 walks. He appeared to have figured something out after getting called up to the Bisons from the Fisher Cats, and dropped his ERA and his WHIP in about the same amount of innings at each level. It will be interesting to see where he ends up come spring training.
Key Contributors – Hitters
Ceciliani bounced back and forth from the Blue Jays and the Bisons regularly this season and got all to familiar with bus rides. Ceciliani had a solid season and contributed a .266 batting average to the Herd attack. He also stole 11 bases and scored 40 runs. During the 82 games he played in he hit 17 doubles, 3 triples, and 10 home runs. This allowed him to knock in 40 RBIs. Ceciliani had an unclear role heading out of Spring Training where he put on a show. He fell into a crowded outfield situation between the big club and the Bisons. He was able to find his spot and produce at a good level.
Key Contributors – Pitchers
After returning from a brief stint in Korea, Copeland returned to the Blue Jays organization and picked up right where he left of with the Bisons. Throwing solid innings of work and keeping hitters off the bases, Copeland was red hot once he returned and helped to keep the Bisons from falling off to far. Copeland made nine starts as he stepped back into the rotation and solidified some innings for the Herd. He threw a total of 50.1 innings and went 3-4. The right-hander cooled down over the last few starts but still did not allow more then three runs in all but one start. His final ERA was 3.04 with a 1.39 WHIP and 33 strikeouts.
Tepera was the Bisons’ closer for much of the season where he notched 18 saves in 20 opportunities. He posted a 2.58 ERA as be mowed through batters in the International League. Through 45.1 innings he struck out 48 batters and allowed just a 1.08 WHIP. This earned him a few chances to go to the Majors where he struggled at times. Through 16.1 innings with the Blue Jays he has a 3.31 ERA and 15 strikeouts. He is looking to figure out the final pieces to pitching to hopefully stick with the big club. He appears to be figuring things out lately as he has been looking more consistent and refined.
In his first year at the Triple-A level Antolin impressed. He threw 53 innings and posted a 2.04 ERA. He got some work in as the Bisons closer and was 10 for 13 during his opportunities. Antolin missed plenty of bats with his excellent stuff and struck out 61 batters. He did walk 28 batters but was clearly able to limit the damage as he posted a 1.30 WHIP. If Antolin continues to impress look for him to possibly get an extended look with the Jays organization. He did get into one game with them this year where he allowed three runs during two innings of work.
Exciting future players – Buffalo debuts
Matt Dermody had the pedal to the metal this season as he ripped through four levels of the Blue Jays organization this season. He started the season with the Dunedin Blue Jays and made his Major League Debut just a few weeks ago. Dermody did not pitch more then 19.2 innings at any level but was excellent in each challenge. In Buffalo he threw 16.1 innings and allowed five earned runs. The Blue Jays late 2013 draft pick looks to be a steal if he can keep this up and translate into a solid bullpen arm for the club.