2020 Envisioning: The Lugnuts' Next Pitching Corps
Part I of the 2020 previews focused on potential Blue Jays Top 30 prospects coming to Lansing.Part II previewed the potential Lugnuts catchers and infield.Part III previewed the potential Lugnuts outfield.Just to warn you: This is going to be the most difficult of the previews just because of the sheer volume
Part I of the 2020 previews focused on potential Blue Jays Top 30 prospects coming to Lansing.
Part II previewed the potential Lugnuts catchers and infield.
Part III previewed the potential Lugnuts outfield.
Just to warn you: This is going to be the most difficult of the previews just because of the sheer volume of the competition. 60 or so pitchers, going for 13 spots to start next year on the Lugnuts' pitching staff. There may be holdovers from the 2019 squad, there may be pitchers returning from injury who missed all of this past season, and there may be pitchers skipping up from Vancouver, Bluefield, or, unlikely as it might be, the Gulf Coast League.
To take a lesson from the past: The 2019 Lugnuts Opening Day staff was composed of nine pitchers coming up from Vancouver, two from Bluefield, one (Juan De Paula) from the Giants organization after being acquired via trade, and one (Josh Hiatt) making his professional debut after missing 2018 due to injury. Some of these pitchers seemed like obvious choices, like
And then there was Jackson Rees. In 2018, Jackson allowed 18 runs in 21 1/3 innings combined between the Gulf Coast League and Appy League. Does that sound like a candidate to jump up to Lansing to start the year? He turned out to be the Lugnuts' best reliever (1 ER in 25 1/3 innings), a breakout star in the system, and one of the select players invited to the Arizona Fall League.
Rees is our warning. We're going to get the Winckowski-esque pitchers right, but we'll miss the Rees-ish pieces.
With that caveat in mind, let's find some 2020 Lugnuts among these dozens of candidates.
We're working off of MLB Pipeline and Fangraphs rankings. All right-handers here, three of them listed at 6 feet, 6 inches tall:
° Kendall Williams, taken in the second round in 2019, comes in at No. 11 for Pipeline, No. 17 for Fangraphs. 6-foot-6 Williams made six appearances down in the Gulf Coast League and struck out 19 batters in 16 innings while putting up a 1.13 ERA.
In the order of likelihood, ranked from most likely to least likely to show up in Lansing in April 2020: Kloff, Pardinho, Manoah, Williams. (Williams is probably going to follow Kloffenstein's path and pitch in Vancouver next year, coming to Lansing in 2021.)
Alongside Manoah and Kloffenstein, the 2019 Vancouver Canadians received starts from
° Diaz, the sole left-hander, finished second on the team in starts and innings to Kloffenstein.
° DiCesare, drafted in June in 17th round (George Mason), made two starts among seven appearances: 23/5 K/BB ratio in 27 inn.
° Fraze, drafted in June in the 22nd round (Texas State), posted an excellent 2.12 ERA in 34 innings.
° Gaston, an international free agent from Cuba, began the year in the rotation before moving to the bullpen.
° Nolan, an undrafted free agent from Ontario, was one of the C's most reliable starters and most welcome surprises.
° Ponce, taken in the 28th round in 2019 (Arizona Western), made 13 appearances, 10 starts, and showed strikeout stuff.
° Townsend, drafted in 2018, was the early staff ace thanks to a vicious slider and is an excellent under-the-radar breakout candidate.
Out of all the 2019 Lugnuts arms who could be back, the most obvious choice is starter
On July 28th, 2019, the Blue Jays traded
Gonzalez will be 20 years old next year. He spent 2019 with the Short-Season A Hudson Valley Renegades, the equivalent of Vancouver, where he was terrific: 77 strikeouts compared to 13 walks in 62 1/3 innings, with a .228 batting average allowed and a 2.45 ERA.
He's likely ticketed for Lansing's rotation.
The 2019 Opening Day Nuts roster included eight 2018 draftees, including
Looking at the 2019 draft, round by round, and pulling out the pitchers to see who might come to Lansing in 2020:
° 1st round -
° 2nd round - Kendall Williams.
° 12th round -
° 15th round -
° 16th round -
° 17th round -
° 18th round - Brandon Eisert: Oregon State; southpaw injured in 2019, the Beavers' Friday starter, yet to make his pro debut.
° 20th round -
° 21st round -
° 22nd round -
° 23rd round - Anders Tolhurst: Grossmont College; yet to make pro debut due to injury.
° 28th round -
° 31st round -
° 34th round -
° 37th round -
It's difficult to judge pro debuts because of the sheer fatigue college players bring into that first pro season. Once they've had a full winter to regroup, work, and recharge their battery, that's a good amount of college aces who will be looking to prove themselves in 2020. Ryan, Sanderson and McInvale are all far better than what they showed.
To spotlight one player: The Blue Jays have seen recent minor league success from left-handers from big college programs who feature pitchability without overwhelming stuff, with Zach Logue excelling in New Hampshire and Nick Allgeyer working well in Dunedin this past year. That fits 18th-rounder Eisert, who was originally a reliever at Oregon State before transitioning to starting -- where he became the best starting pitcher on a loaded Oregon State team. If he opens the 2020 season in the Lugnuts' starting rotation, expect him to have a breakout year. But he needs to be healthy, so patience is required.
Stock away Luis Quiñones's name. When his suspension ends, he should provide a valuable mid-season boost.
Among the Lugnuts' 2019 relievers, there are candidates to return. (
Other relievers of note:
Lastly, a few Bluefield Blue Jays pitchers, just so you're aware of their names:
° High-ceiling starter
So after all of that, where are we? Crowded, but promising. Somewhere in all of those names above will be the next Winckowski or Rees -- or he might be nowhere to be found, someone entirely off the radar ready to introduce himself. Someone like, oh,
The fun of the Minor League offseason is the anticipation. Welcome to it!
Well done at realizing something was hidden here! To throw out a reasonable 13 pitchers to be 2020 Lugnuts: Pardinho. Kloffenstein. Edisson. Townsend. De Paula. Juan Diaz. DiCesare. Fraze. Nolan. Ponce. Caracci. Havekost. Paulino. (In this hypothetical, we're promoting Manoah and Gillingham to Dunedin.)
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