Blue Jays MiLB: Vancouver Canadians off to a sputtering start

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FORT BRAGG, NC - JULY 03: A detailed view of baseballs prior to the game between the Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves on July 3, 2016 in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The Fort Bragg Game marks the first regular season MLB game ever to be played on an active military base. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
FORT BRAGG, NC - JULY 03: A detailed view of baseballs prior to the game between the Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves on July 3, 2016 in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The Fort Bragg Game marks the first regular season MLB game ever to be played on an active military base. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /
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The Blue jays single-A affiliate, the Vancouver Canadians are at the three-week mark of their season, nearly halfway through the first half of their 2019 northwest league campaign.

The team headlined by pitching prospects has been sub-par this season, sitting well out of the playoff picture at this point. Poor performances have been followed by promising outings, unfortunately, there have been far more lackluster performances from the Canadians than there have been good ones.

After 15 games, at the time of writing- the C’s record sits at a disappointing 3-12.  The team has been half decent on the mound, however, their batting has been nothing short of atrocious.

The roster boasts some highly touted prospects within the Blue Jays system, most notably 18-year-old RHP Adam Kloffenstein, who is ranked 6th in the Blue Jays prospect rankings. Kloffenstein has appeared three times for the C’s, and his pitch counts have been fairly limited. In his short time, he has shown good control and has gotten positive reviews from those within the organization.

His best outing came on June 20th against the Eugene Emeralds (Cubs) where he pitched three and two-thirds innings of one-hit baseball, before hitting his pitch limit in the fourth inning. Despite his outstanding performance, he did not get any run support as the C’s were shutout that day- falling 3-0 to the Emeralds.

Other than that appearance, Kloffenstein also pitched opening day, and away at the Everett Aquasox (Mariners). Opening day was a disaster for the whole team, losing 9-1, and in his Everett outing he allowed three earned runs. As the youngest player on the roster, it was always going to be tough for Kloffenstein, although he has shown very well despite not getting any run support.

Other than the 18 year old, the Canadians have been treated to some more excellent pitching- most notably from 2018 34th rounder Grant Townsend. He has put in some very exciting efforts from the mound, and there was no better performance from a Canadian than the one he put in through six innings against the Hillsboro Hops (Diamondbacks) on June 21st.

Through six innings, Townsend threw eight strikouts and allowed only a single hit. That performance was by far the best  from a Vancouver player this season. While he may not be the most exciting of prospects, and many did not know his name before this year- it is always nice to see prospects work they way up through the system, especially when they aren’t expected to do so, as is the case with Townsend.

The Lake Tapps native has one of the best ERA’s on the team at 2.70, and could be in the conversation when it comes to all-star voting.

Those two pitchers have been the brightest spots on the team so far this season, although the contributions of sidearmer Andy McGuire,  and the Ontario born Alex Nolan cannot be discounted. By far, the pitching has been the best part of 2019 for the Canadians, meanwhile the batting has been dismal at best.

As I’ve hinted at, the batting for the C’s has been truly forgettable. Only twice has Vancouver put up five runs, and when that happens their record is only .500. It took 13 games for the team to hit their first home run of the season, and even in that game they still failed to find the victory.

At the time of writing the team has six players batting at a clip of .200 or lower, not exactly the recipe for offensive success. Getting on base is one issue for the C’s, but it is not the only thing that is holding them back from putting runs up on the board.

The Canadians lead the league in leaving players stranded, and it has become an epidemic that has swept through the  entire roster. In a game against Hillsboro on June 23 the C’s left 13 runners stranded and saw their record slip to a league-worst 3-7. That was the worst performance when it comes to putting away their chances, however it has been a common theme throughout the year thus far.

On the individual side of things, there are a few players who have shown well in their plate appearances. Third-year Vancouver Canadian Yorman Rodriguez is second in the league with a .378 batting average, and also leads the team in that category.

He has yet to hit a home run, but has been the most consistent offensive performer on the team. The C’s lone home run this season came off the bat of last years home run leader McGregory Contreras, who has been the definition of mediocre so far this year.

Other contributors include Luis De Los Santos, and Cameron Eden, although neither has done enough to truly move the  needle on the Canadians invisible offense.

Like the rest of the minor leagues, the Northwest League (NWL) is split into two halves, with the winner of each getting a playoff spot. On Sportsnet 650’s Canadians Game Day, C’s broadcaster Rob Fai explained how teams in the NWL are in tough to win the half if they fall more than five games back at any point. If that proves to be true this time around, the first half is well out of reach for Vancouver who sit seven games back of the north division lead.

While the season has not been what anyone had hoped for so far, there is always the second half. The Canadians will need to keep their heads held high, sort things out in the end of the first half and make their best run for it once the standings recent for the second half.

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