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Canadians Starting Staff Shakeup

Reminiscing about years past, well, last year to be precise, it was about this time in the Vancouver Canadians season that I was getting a bit antsy for replacements, specifically ones we could call prospects, to come up and bolster the C’s.  This year, with three genuine prospects in the starting rotation and two positional players I thought I’d be happy.  Turns out I’m just greedy.

Part of the reason for said greediness was down to fact Alberto Tirado (probably the highest ranked Canadian during the off-season) was yanked from the starting rotation after he struggled through his first two starts.  The spot was filled, quite capably in fact, by a combination 2014 draftees Justin Shafer and Chase Mallard (8th and 14th rounds respectively).

With the other four spots filled by the C’s innings pitched leaders Zakery Wasilewski (41.1), Miguel Castro (39.1), Starlyn Suriel (37), and Jairo Labourt (34.2) it’s going to be status quo for the forseeable then?  Well, that’s the beauty of minor league baseball.

Suriel was promoted to Lansing yesterday which is a mild surprise.  As I said recently when breaking down the pitching stats, the Dominican righty’s inflated FIP is probably a harbinger of things to come.  Pitchers who have average-ish stuff in the Northwest League tend to get knocked around in the Midwest League.  See Chase DeJong and Jeremy Gabryswzskwi this season.

So why was Suriel promoted ahead of someone like Castro or Labourt?  Fact the move coincides with Shane Dawson‘s DL stint is probably a hint.  From what I can gather, Shane’s injury is related to the shoulder problems that shut him down late last season (see the off-season interview I did with Dawson for more information).  It sounds like they caught the problem in the early stages this time and are hoping a short break for precautionary reasons is all that he’ll need.  If that’s the case then it’s possible Suriel fills that rotation spot for the time being.

It also shields the more highly regarded Vancouver arms from the Midwest League before they are ready.

In Suriel’s absence, New Brunswick native Andrew Case was set to make a spot start Wednesday night.  Rain put paid to that but hopefully the 6’2″ 190 pound righty gets his opportunity tonight.  With Case averaging between one and two innings per appearance so far this season, there’s a good chance the C’s look to piggy-back this spot.  I have a feeling that Daniel Lietz is on his way back from Bluefield and he could be the guy to join Andrew in that role.

Lietz threw ok in a small Northwest League sample size earlier this year.  He walked five in seven innings, which is too many, but he seems to have gotten that under control in Bluefield.  Only issuing two free passes in just over 13 IPs.  He’s also struck out 15, for a very tidy 7.5 K/BB ratio.

There is no doubt that Lietz has earned a recall, but if it were up to me…….

Unlike recent years when Bluefield had a name or two that really stood out prospect wise, this year the B-Jays have a hand full of mid to upper-ish tier hurlers that would look pretty nice in Vancouver’s new duds.  For the sake of time, I won’t go into all four of the names I’d like to see, picking two instead.

Matt Smoral has the physical makeup to dream on.  A 6’8″ 220 pound lefty will inevitably draw comparisons (by Blue Jays fans at least) to a certain Seattle Mariner of years past.  Smoral is doing nothing to dispel those comps, putting up an incredible 15.9 K/9 ratio this season.  Most accounts have him finishing off the bulk of those 36 strike outs by way of a wipeout slider.  Mix in a low to mid 90s fastball that ‘looks like a BB coming out of his hand‘ and Smoral has two plus pitches to work with.  His change still needs some refining but hopefully that comes in time:

After missing a year due to a broken foot and growing something like 7 inches in his junior year of high school, the Ohio native will struggle with his mechanics.  This won’t be an easy fix.  But as Daniel Norris has proved, patience with big arms from the left side can pay big dividends.

Going by WHIP, Smoral’s 1.734 is actually one of the worst of Bluefield’s staff.  Delving a bit deeper though, the 5.5 BB/9 ratio, although not great, is almost half of what he put up in the GCL last season.  The 10.1 H/9 rate is high but if you look at the appearances, his line drive rate is low at 12.7% and most of those were from one start.  That suggests the defence hasn’t been sparkling behind him (and the .444 BABIP hasn’t helped), which is backed up by his 2.14 FIP, nearly three full runs better than his ERA.

I have a feeling, provided Smoral continues to improve, that he will start 2015 in full season Lansing.  Therefore, getting him to Vancouver as soon as possible this year is important.

My second choice is, again, based on statistics, maybe not the obvious one.  If you kept up with my Notes from Extended series though, you’ll know that Jesus Tinoco was getting rave reviews.  At 6’4″ the Venezualen native put on quite a bit of muscle this past off-season and came to camp throwing 92-94 mph ‘bowling balls’.

His 2.39 GO/FO ratio is decent but, based on the reports, not what was expected.  Nor are the three home runs allowed and 10.6 H/9.  This combined with the low 54.4% LOB suggests Tinoco is both struggling when working from the stretch and leaving balls up in the zone.

I haven’t been able to get much in the way of firsthand information from Bluefield but that hasn’t stopped me from pining for Tinoco to come to Vancouver.  Plus, another Venezualen on the team can only help countryman Franklin Barreto get over his nervousness and settle in.


(update: I finally received a first-hand(ish) report on Tinoco.  It’s not altogether that glowing — see below tweet.  I may need to write up another article on someone else soon. Speaking of which, Ryan Borucki was called up to the Canadians from Bluefield. Will be interesting to see how he fits in)

And just in case we don’t get to see Smoral? Some video from mlbprospectportal.com

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