Like all teams, the Toronto Blue Jays have to re-stock their upper-minors rosters this off-season
The Blue Jays have more pressing needs than filling out the rosters of the double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats and triple-A Buffalo Bisons. It must done, however, and when it’s done well, these minor-league signings often add value to the MLB roster throughout the season.
Many new faces will enter the Blue Jays’ system over the next three months, but here are a handful of players that are worth keeping around after spending 2016 in the organization:
RHP Ben Rowen – Rowen was claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers in early August and was rocked in a handful of appearances at the MLB level, but the submarine-throwing righty has been excellent in the minors.
Over parts of four seasons at the triple-A level, Rowen owns a 2.22 ERA with just three home runs allowed over 174.0 innings pitched. The 28-year-old doesn’t blow anyone away with velocity or raw tools, but he churns out ground balls and has been very consistent.
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LHP Scott Diamond – The Canadian lefty surfaced with the Blue Jays for just one inning in 2016, but gave the organization some modest value in the Bisons’ rotation. He finished the triple-A season with a 4.50 ERA over 166.0 innings, beginning the season very strong before finding trouble in the latter half.
With several of the Blue Jays’ top pitching prospects on the cusp of pushing for double-A and triple-A rotation spots, having a veteran like Diamond to chew through innings around them is worthwhile.
1B Casey Kotchman – With the possibility that Rowdy Tellez starts the season in Buffalo, who better to mentor him than Kotchman? The 33-year-old put up a .726 OPS in triple-A last season, and while he doesn’t bring the pop that team’s want from a 1B/DH, he walked more than he struck out and made just one error in 699.0 innings at first.
Given his career .998 fielding percentage at the MLB level, Kotchman’s presence would only benefit Tellez (who spoke very highly of watching Kotchman work defensively last spring). This depends on whether Kotchman wishes to continue his playing career, but he does like how close to home the Blue Jays’ spring training facility is.
OF Junior Lake – Lake made it into 22 games at the MLB last season, but with little success. The ceiling of his talent is immense, but inconsistencies in Lake’s game kept him to a .667 OPS over 82 games with Buffalo last season. Still just 26, he still holds far more upside than the average minor-league free agent outfielder.
RHP Murphy Smith – The 29-year-old right-hander isn’t a big name, but he was quietly one of the system’s most effective relievers last season. Smith put up a 2.47 ERA between double-A and triple-A (1.0 IP with Buffalo). Typically, he would be easy to breeze over as a “career minor-leaguer”, but 2016 was Smith’s first full season coming out of the bullpen. Perhaps there is a little something extra there.