Otto Lopez will be making the rounds on the diamond with the Lansing Lugnuts in 2019.
A clearer picture of who will not be in a Vancouver Canadians uniform in 2019 has emerged. The Lansing Lugnuts—the team just above the C’s in the Toronto Blue Jays minor league food chain—revealed its roster for the upcoming season.
2018 first-round pick Jordan Groshans will skip past Vancouver and begin the year with the Lansing Lugnuts. The 19 year-old shortstop split time last year between the Gulf Coast League and Bluefield. Fellow Bluef-Jays infielder John Aiello and catchers Alejandro Kirk and Hagen Danner will join Groshans in Lansing. Aiello was a 14th round pick of Toronto in 2018 while Kirk was a free-agent signing in the fall of 2016 from Mexico. The 5-foot-9 backstop batted .354 with 10 homers last year in the Appalachian League. Danner shared time behind the dish with Kirk and posted a .409 on-base percentage. He was the Jays’ second round pick in 2017 out of Huntington Beach High School.
Catcher Ryan Gold will be back in Lansing for a second straight year after making the jump from Bluefield and bypassing Vancouver in 2017. Gold was selected in the 27th round in 2016 out of high school in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Outfielders Dominic Abbadessa and D.J. Neal also make the jump from Bluefield. Abbadessa has been in the Jays system since 2016 after being taken in the 23rd round out of Huntington Beach High School. Neal joined the Jays as a 26th round selection from South Carolina-Sumter in 2017. He was taken in the 32nd round of the 2015 MLB draft by Atlanta and also spent time as a wide receiver for the South Carolina Gamecocks.
On the pitching side, Josh Hiatt will make his professional debut with the Lugnuts after being taken in the 16th round out of North Carolina, where he was a teammate of former C’s shortstop Logan Warmoth in 2017. The righthanded Hiatt was assigned to the Gulf Coast League after signing with the Jays but he never threw a pitch last season.
Righthanders Sean Rackoski and Mike Pascoe also make the jump from West Virginia to Michigan along with Jackson Rees, who also saw time in the GCL. Rackoski and Rees were free-agent signings from Kansas and Hawaii while Pascoe was taken in the 24th round out of last year’s draft from San Jacinto Community College.
Brazilian prospect Eric Pardinho—the number four prospect in Toronto’s system according to Baseball America—is on the Lansing roster but begins the year on the injured list. The 18 year-old righthander is sidelined with a sore elbow.
A few of these players could wind up in Vancouver at some point due to injury or slumping performances but as it stands, the likes of Groshans and Pardinho may not set foot in British Columbia.
2018 Northwest League Pitcher of the Year Josh Winckowski will pitch in the Midwest League in 2019.
2018 C’s Join 2019 Lugnuts
A total of 11 hurlers who tossed a pitch in Vancouver are on the Lansing roster. Northwest League Pitcher of the Year Josh Winckowski leads the way and will be joined by Joey Murray and Sean Wymer who will look to join the starting rotation after being tandem starters last year with Monty’s Mounties.
The bullpen features Northwest League All-Star Cobi Johnson and he will be joined by lefthander Marcus Reyes and righthanders Connor Law, Will McAffer (from North Vancouver), Joey Pulido and Fitz Stadler.
2018 C’s lefty Randy Pondler and righty Jose Espada are on the injured list along with 2016 Vancouver righthander Mike Ellenbest and 2017 northpaw Colton Laws. Ellenbest pitched for the Lugnuts in 2017 but missed all of 2018 due to injury.
The infield will feature a trio of 2018 Canadians in first baseman Jake Brodt, second baseman Nick Podkul and utilityman Otto Lopez, who was named to the Northwest League Post-Season All-Star Team.
The Lansing outfield has a pair of 2018 C’s outfielders in McGregory Contreras and Tanner Kirwer but Kirwer will begin the year on the injured list. The Sherwood Park, Alberta native gained a share of the Northwest League stolen base crown last year with 28 swipes.
2017 Canadians outfielder Reggie Pruitt will be back in Lansing for a second season. The man who scored the winning run in the Northwest League final endured a tough year in 2018 with three stints on the injured list but did manage to steal 37 bases in 89 games. Blue Jays brass are hoping this will be the year the 21 year-old from Kennesaw, Georgia can break through with the bat and improve upon his OPS which just cleared the .600 mark for the first time last year in his four-year career. Pruitt turned down a chance to go to Vanderbilt and signed with the Jays instead after being chosen in the 24th round of the 2015 draft.
Lansing will be managed by 2018 C’s skipper Dallas McPherson where he will join 2011-2017 C’s coach Dave Pano who is back again in Michigan as the position coach.
2018 C’s lefthander Nick Allgeyer will begin the upcoming season in Dunedin.
The Dunedin Blue Jays roster for 2019 will feature three players from last year’s Vancouver squad. Lefthander Nick Allgeyer—a 12th round pick from Iowa last season—recorded a 2.77 ERA as a starter/reliever with Vancouver in 2018. Catcher Chris Bec will also leap over Lansing after getting on base at a .351 rate with the C’s. Shortstop Vinny Capra also goes to Dunedin but he already sampled the cuisine of the Midwest League after a late-season promotion.
The Dunedin pitching staff features a number of 2017 C’s hurlers in Justin Dillon, Dany Jimenez, William Ouellette, Matt Shannon, Graham Spraker and Kyle Weatherly. Also from the 2017 C’s crew is fireballer Nate Pearson who hopes to enjoy a healthy 2019 after taking a line drive off the right forearm in his Dunedin debut last year.
Nate Pearson will be back in Dunedin for 2019.
Pearson’s fellow first round draft mate Logan Warmoth is hoping for a reversal of fortunes in his second time around with Dunedin. The former North Carolina Tar Heel batted just .248 and was placed on the injured list twice but a .359 batting average in his last 10 contests could be a sign of better things to come in 2019.
Warmoth will team up with a trio of 2017 Canadians in the infield with Cullen Large, Samad Taylor and Kevin Vicuna. 2016 Vancouver first baseman Christian Williams will get his first crack at Florida State League pitching. He was with Lansing for the last two seasons but his 2018 campaign was cut short after an injury in May.
The only member of the Dunedin outfield to spend time in Vancouver is Chavez Young. The 2017 outfielder (who had 50 extra-base hits and 57 RBI for Lansing) is joined by Demi Ormoloye (Ontario-raised prospect picked up from Milwaukee for Curtis Granderson) and on-base machine Cal Stevenson. The Arizona State product will bypass Vancouver and Lansing after a .511 on-base percentage with Bluefield. Ryan Noda—whose .507 OBP allowed him to forego a visit to Vancouver in 2017—rounds out the Dunedin outfield patrol after a .905 on-base-plus-slugging mark with the Lugnuts in 2018.
Pitching-wise, rightander Brad Wilson—taken three rounds after Stevenson from Ohio Dominican—also moves three spots up the minor league ladder after a 3-0 record, a 1.63 earned run average and seven saves with Bluefield in 2018. Also on the Dunedin roster are Emerson Jimenez, Maximo Castillo, Jonathan Cheshire and Turner Larkins. None of the four have thrown a pitch at Nat Bailey Stadium. Overseeing the Dunedin pitchers will be long-time C’s pitching coach Jim Czajkowski.
The Dunedin injured list has 2016 Vancouver hurlers Justin Maese and Andy Ravel and the 2017 duo of Brody Rodning and Donnie Sellers. 2017 outfielder Norberto Obeso is also on the sidelines. The only non-Vancouver Canadian nursing an injury for Dunedin is pitcher Maverik Buffo.
Zach Logue will be a member of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in 2019.
New Hampshire Roster
Seven pitchers with Vancouver ties are on the roster of the defending Eastern League champion New Hampshire Fisher cats. Canadian Andrew Case (2014-2015), Jackson McClelland (2015-2016), Francisco Rios (2015), Tayler Saucedo (2015) and Patrick Murphy (2016) get another kick at the can in Manchester. 2017 lefties Zach Logue and Jake Fishman will get their first shot at Eastern League hitters. Logue compiled a 12-4 record with a 3.51 ERA with Lansing and Dunedin combined while Fishman struck out 56 batters in 57 innings with a 2.68 ERA. He also earned a promotion to Buffalo where he pitched 1-1/3 scoreless innings with a strikeout.
2015 C’s catcher Ryan Hissey will be behind the dish for a second full season with New Hampshire. First baseman Kacy Clemens (2017) gets his first Double-A exposure after surging in Lansing but struggling in Dunedin.
Three Fisher Cats outfielders also saw time in the big grass at Nat Bailey Stadium in Brock Lundquist (2017), Josh Palacios (2016) and Rodrigo Orozco (2015-2016). Lundquist racked up 41 extra-base hits and slugged .470 between Lansing and Dunedin in 2018.
Former C’s infielder Andy Fermin (2013) will be the position coach for the Fisher Cats.
Zach Jackson finds himself one step away from reaching the major leagues.
2016 Canadians reliever Zach Jackson will get his first taste of Triple-A after a 2.46 ERA with New Hampshire last year. He struck out 75 but walked 51 in 62 innings. Lefty Danny Young (2015) is also set to make his Buffalo debut after inducing ground balls at a nearly-65 percent rate with the Fisher Cats in 2018.
Conor Fisk (2015) will get more seasoning in Buffalo after finishing with a 2.81 ERA in his 34 appearances with the Herd. Justin Shafer (2014)—after putting up a 3.24 ERA over appearances with Toronto—is also back with Buffalo but could very well return to the Blue Jays given the recent rash of injuries to the pitching staff.
2014 Canadians catcher Michael De La Cruz will battle Reese McGuire and Patrick Cantwell for time behind the dish.
Cavan Biggio could find himself in Toronto if he can replicate his 2018 season with New Hampshire.
Cavan Biggio—who manned second base for Vancouver in 2016—will be a member of the Bisons infield after hitting 26 home runs, driving in 99 runs and walking 100 times with New Hampshire. Gunnar Heidt (2015-2016) will return to Buffalo where he batted .286 in 18 games with the Herd as compared to just .229 over 85 games with New Hampshire. Andy Burns (2011)—who enjoyed a 10-game stint with Toronto in 2016—is back in the Blue Jays nest after hitting .303 with Lotte in the Korean Baseball Organization.
Roemon Fields (2014) will be back in Buffalo for the fourth straight year after stealing 25 bases for the Herd in 2018, less than half of what he swiped the year before. Joining Fields in the Herd outfielder is Andrew Guillotte (2015) who has spent parts of the previous two years in Western New York.