Continuing our prediction of opening day rosters throughout the Blue Jays’ system with low A Lansing
Northwards to Michigan for the next rung down the ladder. The Lansing Lugnuts play in the Midwest League, which is at the low-single A level. Lansing is the lowest full season league in MLB’s affiliate system. It can be a jolt to prospects used to playing seasons half as long.
General notes: Bullpen crowding worsens, almost 20 relievers either have been pushed out of higher levels or are ready to play A ball; strong outfield and rotation
Predicted opening day roster hitters:
C: Ryan Hissey — At 23, and with a solid season in Lansing, Hissey is ready for a new challenge. He’ll have to wait as Danny Jansen and Mike Reeves are entrenched at Dunedin. It won’t be a bad thing for Hissey as there is still some room for him to grow in Lansing
1B: Justin Atkinson — Appears a bit stuck. He has been in Lansing for parts of the past three seasons and was demoted to A- last year. It’s his age 23 season and he needs to show some upward potential. Also plays some catcher and a few other infield positions occasionally (UPDATE: Released. David Jacob or Bradley Jones could replace Atkinson here)
2B: Cavan Biggio — He comes with a famous name and opened eyes in his first professional last year. He cracked Lansing for a 9 game stint. He is ready for progression and there’s no other second basemen to stand in his way
3B: Vladimir Guerrero Jr — 18 years old and the consensus #1 Blue Jays’ prospect. Third might not his permanent position but that’s where they’ll see if it sticks. Posted a .808 OPS as a 17 year old in rookie ball last year. [Corrected]
SS: J.C. Cardenas —Spent all of 2016 in Lansing. Little offence and sub-par defence
LF: Lane Thomas — Spent 2015 as a second baseman but returned to the outfield in 2016 and saw improvements in all aspects of his game
CF Joshua Palacios — Rose through 3 levels in his first pro season and ended with a .824 OPS and didn’t commit an error. Could continue rising quickly
RF Connor Panas — This will be Connor’s age 24 season and he is ready for Dunedin but his path is currently blocked
DH Christian Williams — Had a .681 OPS with Vancouver last season but his .341 OBP shows he’s on the right track. Plays first and a bit of third.
C Michael de la Cruz — I have Michael starting this season in Lansing even though he spent 2016 a level higher at Dunedin. It’s a crowded catching picture and there will be some victims
2B/3B Ryan Metzler — Possessing a .506 OPS last year, Metzler saw his solid OBP tool disappear. He’ll backup 2B and 3B (Update: Could replace the recently released Attaway in Dunedin. Then Nash Knight could move up to slot in here)
OF Josh Almonte — It’s been struggle offensively for Josh’s entire professional career. He’s been in Lansing for parts of a few seasons now with no progress
OF Jake Thomas — With Lansing last season. Needs more time there
SP Justin Maese — Real solid season with Lansing last year. Still quite young. A top pitching prospect
SP Jordan Romano — The Canadian could challenge for a spot in Dunedin’s rotation after a breakout 2016 in Lansing
SP T.J. Zeuch — The towering righty cracked Lansing last year for two starts. The long season could be taxing for him. A top pitching prospect
SP Justin Shafer — Spent 2016 in Dunedin but after his 5.23 ERA showing, has been surpassed and is in danger of demotion
SP Josh deGraaf — 3.43 ERA in a swingman role for Lansing last year
RP Starlyn Suriel — Had an appearance in AA last year but the reliever logjam strikes again (UPDATE: Released. Tom Robson could slot in or one of the older relievers listed on the A- prediction)
RP Ryan Cook — Ditto. Mainly a swingman in Lansing last season.
RP Philip Walby — New to the organization, taken in minor league rule 5 draft. Played at A+ level last year
RP Geno Encina — 1.91 ERA over three levels in 2016
RP Kirby Snead — 3.91 ERA with Lansing last year
RP Andrew Case — Recently played with Canada’s WBC team. 2.10 ERA in a suspension-marred 2016
RP Dan Lietz — 4.00 ERA over two levels in 2016
Short season A ball predictions tomorrow!