(Scotiabank Field at Nat Bailey Stadium - Vancouver, B.C.) - Baseball is a 12-month a year job. Gone are the days when the season comes to an end and you get the luxury of having a couple months to yourself to rest up, take it easy and maybe saunter back into the gym in late January.
For many of our now 'former' Vancouver Canadians, the rest has been had and now they are already into off-season workout programs in hopes of stepping a little bit closer toward the bright lights of the Major Leagues.
While names like Kevin Pillar, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna take but a few weeks off to get away from the past several months of service, our guys in the Minors are already looking for extra at-bats, workout partners and ways to get ahead.
25 former Canadians found their ways onto the Blue Jays (by invitation) Instructional League Roster which gives many key Minor Leaguers the chance to get a few more weeks of baseball in before the winter descends on much of North America. This camp, held at the Bobby Mattick Spring Training Facility in Dunedin, Florida will be much quieter than the ballparks played in during the summer months, but the players will all have the chance to compare notes on their experiences in Vancouver and many will reflect with a smile.
Names like Angel Perdomo, Lane Thomas and Cavan Biggio are all down in Florida with the hopes of showing the Blue Jays Minor League Instructors that despite being tired from the past season, that they have made strides toward becoming that much more of a prospect.
Some will impress and show an extra gear, while others will simply rest up, heal and hope for a clean slate come Spring Training in just a few months time.
Many of these players will be presented with off-season work out programs where the Blue Jays will tell them how to lift weights, eat better and get ready for the rigors of another season in the double blue uniforms.
Absent from this year's Instructional League roster is former Canadians RHP Jon Harris, who struck out 99 in 129.2 innings of work this season between Lansing and Dunedin. Harris, the Blue Jays 2015 1st Round Draft Pick went 8-2 with Lansing sporting an impressive 2.23 ERA in 16 outings before his promotion to the Florida State League.
Another noted absense is RHP Patrick Murphy who was named Vancouver Canadians Pitcher of the Year after going 4-5 with a 2.84 ERA, the best mark in the Northwest League.
The Canadians big three from this season all made the trip south with Cavan Biggio, J.B. Woodman and Joshua Palacios all getting a little extra work in. Biggio was named to the NWL All-Star Team this season.
With Biggio, Palacios and Murphy all likely to have played their final games in Vancouver, one might look ahead to next season to see which Bluefield Blue Jays stood out and were worthy of a promotion to Vancouver in the spring. One glaring name is 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. who lit up the Appalachian League hitting .271 with eight (8) home runs and 46 RBI. Another name is Bradley Jones who shortly after getting in the 18th round of the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft hit a whopping 16 home runs in 61 games and hit .488 (20-for-41) in the final 10 games of the season for Bluefield. Either player who give the Canadians something it did not have in the line-up at any point of the season last year, a bonafide power threat. Guerrero and Jones hit a combined 24 home runs for the Bluefield Blue Jays, which was the same amount that the entire Canadians roster managed last season.
Some player will go up, and the future looks bright for the Canadians in 2017 as Bluefield was 37-31 in the second half of the Appalachian League season. Let's hope for brighter days out at The Nat, and wish all of the Blue Jays minor leaguers the best of the off-season and for even a little rest before the machine gets started up all over again.
To see the full Blue Jays Instructional League roster, click HERE.