Jackson Lowery was 5-for-5 in save opportunites with Vancouver in 2016.
Five members of the 2016 Vancouver Canadians received their walking papers from the Toronto Blue Jays over the last week. The released are righthanded pitchers Jackson Lowery and Luis Sanchez, lefty Stuart Holmes, outfielder D.J. McKnight and catcher Brett Wellman.
The most surprising of the five to get a pink slip was Jackson Lowery, who was signed by the Jays as a free agent in 2015 after two seasons with the Arkansas Razorbacks. The native of Little Rock dominated with the rock in his short time with the C’s in 2016 by posting five saves in as many opportunities along with a 1-0 record, a 0.86 earned run average and a 12-1 K/BB total in 10-1/3 innings.
Lowery was promoted to Lansing and was unscored upon in 10 of his first eleven appearances before hitting a rough patch in late August that caused his ERA to rise to 4.03. His K/BB total wasn’t quite as good with the Lugnuts with 21 strikeouts and seven walks in 22-1/3 innings.
The 24 year-old Lowery pitched in Australia over the winter for the Canberra Cavalry where he won both of his decisions and struck out 21 batters in 14-1/3 innings. However, the 6-foot tall hurler walked 16 batters and had a WHIP of just over two and an ERA of 7.53.
Stuart Holmes earned his first Vancouver victory in Hillsboro August 16, 2015.
Another member of the C’s bullpen who was released was Stuart Holmes, who spent parts of the last two seasons with Vancouver. The southpaw from Vancleave, Mississippi was drafted by the Jays in the 35th round in 2015 out of Nicholls State and was promoted to the C’s after a brief stint in Bluefield. His C’s debut came July 10 at Nat Bailey Stadium where he struck out four in 2-1/3 shutout innings of two-hit ball against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. His lone win came on August 16 on the road against the defending Northwest League champion Hillsboro Hops when he put together three scoreless frames with one walk and one strikeout. The 6-foot-1 lefty would finish 2016 with a flourish by recording three scoreless appearances of two innings apiece to knock his ERA down to 3.91, striking out 24 batters in 25-1/3 innings.
The 2016 season wasn’t as kind to Holmes as he gave up at least one run in 10 of his 12 appearances with the C’s before he was demoted to Bluefield. His best outing was also his longest as he soaked up five innings of relief, limiting the eventual champion Eugene Emeralds to one run at the Nat July 23. That appearance shaved nearly five runs off his ERA, which would settle in at 9.60. Holmes finished up strong with Bluefield by posting a 1.93 ERA in eight outings.
Luis Sanchez posted a 3.29 earned run average at Nat Bailey Stadium in 2016.
The third C’s pitcher released by the Blue Jays was Luis Sanchez, a right-handed starter who was a free-agent pick by Toronto out of the Dominican Republic in 2014. The Puerto Plata native began his pro career that year with the Dominican Summer League Blue Jays, winning five of eight decisions with a 3.38 ERA and a 48-17 K/BB total in 56 innings. He went stateside in 2015 where he split the year with the Gulf Coast League and Bluefield Blue Jays. His GCL stint saw him go 1-0 with a 2.97 ERA but he went 1-4 with a 7.08 ERA and a 1.87 WHIP in his five starts in West Virginia.
Sanchez would make a career-high 12 starts with the C’s in 2016 where he had his moments, including 4-2/3 innings of shutout ball on Canada Day and four more goose eggs July 19 in victories over the Spokane Indians. He had a 3.28 ERA after earning his only win of the season at home against the Tri-City Dust Devils July 31. The then 22-year old endured an ugly August in which his ERA for the month was 7.41. He preferred the mound at Nat Bailey Stadium with a home ERA of 3.29 and that does not include 2-1/3 innings of shutout ball he had going before the rains came September 1. As it turned out, Sanchez threw the last pitch of the season in Vancouver with the home finale also being rained out the next day.
D.J. McKnight was tied for second in the Northwest League in triples with five.
Outfielder D.J. McKnight was taken by the Blue Jays in the 12th round of the 2015 draft out of Tallahassee Community College. The 5-foot-10 left-handed hitter showed a good eye at the plate with the Bluefield Blue Jays in his debut season with a .367 on-base percentage. His first two pro home runs came on back-to-back games July 12 and July 16 but his slugging percentage was just .354 with three homers and seven doubles.
McKnight’s debut with Vancouver was a good one as he singled, doubled and walked twice in a perfect day at the plate to help the C’s defeat Spokane on the road on Opening Day. He singled in his first at-bat at the Nat and scored the home team’s first run in a 6-5 win over the Everett AquaSox June 21. The Madison, Florida native’s best game with Vancouver came in Idaho against the Boise Hawks July 16 when he went 3-for-5 with a double and two triples. He had a 10-game on-base streak in August that included his lone home run of the season in Everett August 28 and a career-tying three hits at home the next day against Salem-Keizer. Seeing time in all three outfield spots, the then 22-year-old finished 2016 with a batting line of .228/.310/.409 and placed second in the Northwest League in triples with five.
Brett Wellman got on base in his final three plate appearances with Vancouver in 2016.
Also being let go from the 2016 Canadians roster by the Jays was catcher Brett Wellman, who wound up seeing more time in the first base coach’s box than he would have liked. Signed as a free agent in 2014 out of Auburn University at Montgomery, the Bulverde, Texas native started his career with the Gulf Coast League Jays with just three hits in 26 at-bats. He played just three games in Vancouver to start the 2015 season where he went 0-for-4 before heading down to Bluefield, where he had four hits and four walks in 14 at-bats.
Wellman’s 2016 playing time began with a walk in his lone plate appearance with the GCL Jays June 27 before being called up to Vancouver. He finally escaped the first-base coach’s box by drawing a pinch-hit walk in his first at-bat against Salem-Keizer at home August 29. He got the start at designated hitter the next day but went 0-for-4. His last three plate appearances would result in him getting on base with his first C’s hit September 4 on the road against Tri-City along with two walks to give him an OBP of .444.
All the best to these five players in their future endeavors, baseball or otherwise.