End of month Winter Leauge wrap-up: Rainer Nuñez leads the Dominican Winter League in home runs, Bowden Francis pitching well, and more!

It’s the end of November, so it’s time to look at how Blue Jays prospects are doing in their respective winter leagues!

So first things first, you’ve read the title and may be asking “who’s Rainer Nuñez?”. He was Blue Jays Nation’s 16th-ranked prospect in the mid-season ranking, and oh my is he ever coming into his own. More on that in the first section.
We’ll also look at several other prospects, such as Naswell Paulino, Bowden Francis, Otto López, and Adrián Hernández.
Rainer Nuñez:
As I had mentioned, the 21-year-old ranked as our 16th best Blue Jays prospect, and for good reason. He was the only Dunedin Blue Jay regular to have an exit velocity over 110 mph, which he did five times. In fact, in 2021 when exit velocity was tracked, he was one of only six batters with a ball hit over 110 mph, which he did the most despite being younger than most of his contemporaries.
Of course, exit velocity only matters so much, so what about his season totals?
Nuñez slashed .299/.328/.482 with 15 homers in 384 plate appearances with the Dunedin Blue Jays, eventually winning the Florida State League batting title. His BB% dropped from 13.7% in the FCL in 2021, to 3.6% with the baby Jays, but he only struck out 21.4% of the time, which isn’t bad in the slightest.

La puso del otro lado ¡HOMERUN de Rainer Núñez que pone a las @EOBASEBALLCLUB en la pizarra! #LIDOM #CopaBanreservas pic.twitter.com/9jiKntkx1J
— LIDOM (@LIDOMRD) November 30, 2022

He wa …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

The Blue Jays have some interesting homegrown talent who could help the bullpen in 2023 and beyond

The Blue Jays bullpen has become incredibly deep over the past few seasons.

Remember the 17 pitchers on the Blue Jays staff/taxi squad to start the 2021 season? If not, it featured pitchers such as Tanner Roark, T.J. Zeuch, Ryan Borucki, Tyler Chatwood, Rafael Dolis, Julian Merryweather, Joel Payamps, and Trent Thornton (who may start 2023 in Buffalo). The Jays also had Tommy Milone, A.J Cole, and Travis Bergen on the now-defunct Taxi Squad. Here’s an article for Blue Jays Nation’s Cam Lewis if you want to see how far the team has come.
Of course, the 2021 opening day roster still featured Tim Mayza, David Phelps, and Jordan Romano. However, they were the only three mainstays in the bullpen out of the fourteen names I listed.
The state of the present-day bullpen:
Fast-forward to the present day, and the Jays have added Anthony Bass (1.54 ERA, 3 FIP in 2022), Yimi García (3.10 ERA, 3.47 FIP), Adam Cimber (2.80 ERA, 3.47 FIP), Erik Swanson (1.68 ERA, 1.85 FIP) as mainstays. 
This doesn’t even mention adding Trevor Richards, who had a good 2021 and a pretty good second half to 2022, or Zach Pop, who may not be on the 2023 roster because he has options.
The bullpen is incredibly deep with players that have produced great results. Yes, they did trade Rowdy Tellez, Joe Panik, Jordan Groshans, and Tesocar Hernández to acquire many of these relievers, but as a whole, these were all pretty good trades.
One of the few aspects the front office has failed at in the eyes of some is that they haven’t developed any homegrown relievers. While that may be true for the 2021 and 2022 seasons, the …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Blue Jays’ Alek Manoah calls Gerrit Cole biggest cheater in MLB history

How hungry is Alek Manoah? The Toronto Blue Jays pitcher isn’t a fan of cricket tea, but he does enjoy giving it to the New York Yankees, especially Gerrit Cole, whenever possible.
Manoah appeared on the latest episode of Sportsnet’s “How Hungry are You?” with NBA star Serge Ibaka and was asked a series of questions by the former Toronto Raptor. And Mafuzzy Chef certainly didn’t hold back.
The 24-year-old first detailed the elements of baseball to Ibaka, explaining why a starting pitcher usually requires four days of rest between starts. But then the tea really started to spill – so to speak – when the Blue Jays hurler was asked, “Who’s the biggest cheater in baseball history?” Needing little time to respond, Manoah answered with Cole, who was heavily scrutinized for his previous use of foreign substances.

Alek Manoah says Gerrit Cole is the biggest cheater in baseball history pic.twitter.com/XmQ1XewD4M
— Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) November 21, 2022

Before Major League Baseball began policing “sticky stuff” midway through the 2021 season, Cole was allegedly one of many pitchers using the illegal substance known as spider tack, which provides improved grip, allowing those same hurlers to increase the spin rates on their pitches.
Manoah also explained the confrontation involving Cole at Yankee Stadium from this past season, where the $324-million pitcher started yelling at his counterpart after Aaron Judge was hit by an inside fastball. Things never escalated any further between the two All-Stars, although that was because Cole didn’t cross the first-base foul line.
The 11th overall selection from 2019 made 31 starts i …

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Author: Thomas Hall / Blue Jays Nation

Blue Jays add Spencer Horwitz, Addison Barger, Yosver Zulueta, and Orelvis Martinez to the 40-man roster

The Blue Jays’ roster has officially been set ahead of the Rule 5 draft.

To no one’s surprise, right-handed pitcher Yosver Zulueta, third baseman/shortstop Orelvis Martinez,  first baseman Spencer Horwitz, and third baseman/shortstop Addison Barger have been added to the 40-man roster.
Update: To make room for Zulueta, Horwitz, Martinez, and Barger, Foster Griffin was released, while Bradley Zimmer and Raimel Tapia were designated for assignment.
Let’s look at the prospects added to the 40-man roster.
Yosver Zulueta:
The 24-year-old Zulueta had a combined 3.72 ERA in 55.2 innings pitched in all four “A” levels of the minors in 2022. He had a fantastic 33.9 K% but struggled with the walks as he had a 12.9 BB%, which increased with each level he pitched at. This is to be expected, as he’s missed the last two seasons due to injuries and the plague year.

Zulueta just fanned his first runner throwing…
100 mph!!!!!!#BlueJays #NextLevel pic.twitter.com/RjpNT5v6Jl
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) July 7, 2022

Aside from the high strikeout rate and solid results, Zulueta was added to the 40-man roster due to the tools and potential he has. The Cuban has an 80-grade fastball which often reaches 100 mph, a plus slider, and a plus changeup, as well as an average curveball.
It’s possible, potentially even likely, that we will see Zulueta on the Blue Jays in 2023.
Addison Barger:
No Jays system position player had a year like Addison Barger. The 23-year-old slashed .308/.378/.555 with 26 homers in 526 plate appearances in High A, Double A, and Triple A. 
Although he likely ran out of gas in the Arizona Fall League (slashed just .189/.318/.321 in 63 plate appearances), Barger has taken a tremendous step forward in his development. The biggest change was the approach at the plate, which saw his K% drop from 32.9% in 2021 to 24.9% in 2022 across the three levels.

Addison Barger (@AddisonBarger) with his ninth homer of the season with the Fisher Cats!#BlueJays #NextLevel pic.twitter.com/D4BFPLk7er
— Brennan Delaney (@Brennan_L_D) September 15, 2022

Prior to the Arizona Fall Lea …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

The Blue Jays are reportedly among the teams interested in RHP Kodai Senga

The Toronto Blue Jays are among the teams who have expressed interest in a free-agent pitcher. In other news, water is wet.

Jon Morosi appeared on MLB Network on Monday and reported that there are a number of different teams who are scouting Kodai Senga “very intensely.” The list of teams that Morosi mentioned are the Blue Jays, the Los Angeles Angels and Dodgers, the Texas Rangers, and the Seattle Mariners.

At least five teams are in on Japanese pitching sensation Kodai Senga @jonmorosi has the latest on the right-hander’s free agency market and where he could fit in a major league rotation. #MLBNHotStove pic.twitter.com/C2vYXx5akI
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) November 14, 2022

Senga is the top Japanese free agent on the market this winter, and perhaps the most hyped pitcher to come out of Japan since Shohei Ohtani came overseas back in 2017. He generated a lot of hype for himself with a strong performance for Japan at the World Baseball Classic in 2017 but hasn’t been made available to Major League clubs because his NPB team, the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, are philosophically opposed to using the posting system.
In 2022, Senga posted a 1.94 ERA over the course of 22 appearances. He struck out 9.8 batters per nine innings and walked 3.1 per nine. Senga relies on a four-pitch mix, with a fastball that averages 96 miles per hour but has apparently touched as high as 102. He also has an off-speed weapon that’s referred to as a “ghost fork.”

Kodai Senga has been up to 102 mph, throws a ghost forkball, slider, curve & cutter. 1.89 ERA in 148 innings this year.
Senga’s agent noted Kodai would like to play in a big market on a win now team and is versed in/wants to learn more about analytics.
— Michael Mayer (@mikemayer22) November 14, 2022

An interesting thing about Senga is that he isn’t a traditional Japanese free agent whom Maj …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

News and Notes: The Blue Jays again have interest in Andrew Heaney, Ronald Acuna Jr. trade speculation, and more!

A familiar name has entered the Blue Jays Rumour Mill early in the off-season.

According to Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith, the Blue Jays have interest in signing left-handed pitcher Andrew Heaney…

As the #BlueJays seek pitching, a name on their radar is LHP Andrew Heaney per source.
Jays pursued him aggressively last year, but he signed with Dodgers & posted elite 35.5% K rate (MLB avg: 22.1%) with 6.1% walk rate & 3.10 ERA in 72.2 IP (14 starts).
— Ben Nicholson-Smith (@bnicholsonsmith) November 11, 2022

Heaney was among the names in the mix last winter to be Toronto’s next Robbie Ray when it became clear that the bargain-bin-arm-turned-Cy-Young-winner was going to secure a bag of cash elsewhere in free agency.
Heaney wound up inking a one-year, $8.5 million deal with the L.A. Dodgers and posted a 3.10 ERA over 72 2/3 innings while striking out a whopping 13.6 batters per nine innings. The Dodgers didn’t issue Heaney a qualifying offer so he’ll head to the open market without draft pick compensation attached to his name.
We’ve seen the Blue Jays carry interest in certain pitchers over multiple off-seasons in the past, which is why Toronto’s interest in Heaney is more notable than the usual ‘The Blue Jays Are In On This Guy’ rumours we’ll see in the coming weeks. They were in on Kevin Gausman back in the off-season following the 2019 season before he wound up signing a one-year deal with the San Fransisco Giants and they finally landed him two years later.
Heaney, who was selected No. 9 overall by the Miami Marlins in the 2012 draft, throws a fastball that averages 93 miles per hour and a wipeout slider that leads to his elite strikeo …

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Ten Blue Jays minor league players elect free agency, including Elvis Luciano

On Thursday, Blue Jays minor league players elected free agency.

Updated on the transaction page on Friday evening, there are 10 minor leaguers whose contracts weren’t extended/decided against signing with the Jays:
C Ryan Gold
RHP Jake Elliottt
RHP Elvis Luciano
RHP Brady Lail
LHP Trey Cumbie
RHP José De León
OF Yoshi Tsutsugo
RHP Eric Yardley
RHP Casey Lawrence
SS Eric Stamets
The most noticeable name is Elvis Luciano, who was a Rule 5 draft pick in 2019. The right-handed pitcher was the first player born in the 2000s to play in Major League Baseball. With the 2019 Jays, he had a 5.35 ERA and 5.56 FIP in 33.2 innings pitched, along with a 17 K% and 15.1 BB%, pitching in relief. 

At just 19 years old, Elvis Luciano has a scoreless @MLB debut in the books! #LetsGoBlueJays pic.twitter.com/N3zTPsFAtv
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) April 1, 2019

This looks bad, but Luciano was only 19 years old and wasn’t ready for the big leagues, but had to remain on the Jays’ 26-man roster.
Luciano spent most of the 2022 season on the minor league injured list, as he had a stress fracture in his pitching arm. Last season in New Hampshire, he had a 3.16 ERA and a 4.54 FIP in 37 innings.
Other former major leaguers that elected free agency/weren’t signed are Casey Lawrence, Eric Yardley, Yoshi Tsutsugo, José De León, and Brady Lail.
In the mid-10s, De León was regarded as a top prospect, but injuries have hampered his career. He has an 8.44 ERA and 5.98 FIP in 48 innings pitched with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tampa Bay Rays, and Cinncinati Reds. This season, the 30-year-old had a 4.35 ERA and 5.15 FIP, along with a 31.3 K% and 14.6 BB% in 10.1 innings with the Bisons.
Casey Lawrence is another name of note, as he was the only pitcher on the list that pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2022. While his 7.50 ERA and 6.34 FIP weren’t great, Lawrence was a guy who could eat innings in a pinch. He had a 2.79 ERA and 4.16 FIP in 126 innings pitched with the Buffalo Bisons.
We here at Blue Jays Nation wish nothing but the best for …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Casey Lawrence cleared outright waivers, Tayler Saucedo was claimed by the New York Mets

The Toronto Blue Jays are clearing room on their 40-man roster ahead of next Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft protection deadline.

The team placed pitchers Casey Lawrence and Tayler Saucedo on outright waivers to remove them from the 40-man roster. Lawrence cleared through and was assigned to Triple-A Buffalo while Saucedo was claimed by the New York Mets.

LHP Tayler Saucedo has been claimed off outright waivers by the Mets
RHP Casey Lawrence has cleared outright waivers and been assigned to Triple-A pic.twitter.com/eaMpKlTiBt
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) November 9, 2022

Saucedo was selected by the Blue Jays in the 21st round of the 2015 MLB Draft. After a couple of unsuccessful seasons in the minors as a starting pitcher, Saucedo was moved to the bullpen while pitching for Double-A New Hampshire in 2019.
He put up good results with the Fisher Cats and Bisons and was called up to the Blue Jays for the first time in June of 2021. Saucedo pitched 25 2/3 innings for the Blue Jays that season and posted a 4.56 ERA. In 2022, Saucedo threw only 20 innings between the big leagues and minors as his season was largely derailed due to a left shoulder issue.
The Blue Jays now have 36 players on their 40-man roster with two spots needing to be allocated to Hyun Jin Ryu and Vinny Capra, who finished the season on the 60-day Injured List and need to either be rostered or let go. More spots could be opened up in the coming days through the Blue Jays outrighting fringe players (Capra, Anthony Kay, Foster Griffin, Trent Thornton) or declining to tender offers to those who are eligible for arbitration (Bradley Zimmer, Raimel Tapia).

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Author: Cam Lewis / Blue Jays Nation

Alek Manoah is an American League Cy Young finalist

The ace of the Blue Jays’ staff is a Cy Young nominee… Again

It was announced Monday evening that 24-year-old Alek Manoah is a nominee for the 2022 American League Cy Young award, along with Justin Verlander and Dylan Cease.
Manoah had a 2.24 ERA and 3.35 FIP in 196.2 innings pitched this season. The 24-year-old righty had a 22.9 K%, which is on the rather low side, but he had a solid 6.5 BB% with the Jays. The Big Puma also put up a 0.88 ERA and 3.09 FIP in September, which helped the Jays clinch home-field advantage for the Wild Card Series. Let’s see how he measures up compared to the competition.
Dylan Cease also had a great season, posting a 2.20 ERA and 3.10 FIP in 184 innings pitched. Out of these three pitchers, he had the highest K% of 30.4% and the highest BB% of 10.4%. If he had a competent team behind him, perhaps the White Sox would’ve made the playoffs.

The 300th K of @Alek_Manoah6’s career pic.twitter.com/tHV6rNRQc4
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) September 24, 2022

Finally, we have a two-time World Series winner in Justin Verlander who had an incredible season with the Houston Astros. The righty had an amazing 1.75 ERA and 2.49 FIP in 175 pitches. This included a 27.8 K% and a 4.4 BB% with the Astros. He’d be my pick to win the AL Cy Young award… Oh, and he was also 39 years old this season. Incredible.
The Jays have a chance to have back-to-back winners in the Cy Young category, as former Blue Jay Robert Ray won the 2021 Cy Young winner. It’s unlikely that Manoah will win it, but it’d sure be awesome if he did!
The winner will be announced on November 16th.
As always, you can …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation

Blue Jays, Position by Position: Outfielders, and decisions the Jays must make for 2023

The Toronto Blue Jays outfield is the most interesting position as they head into the off-season.

Unlike the catching position and the infield, the outfield is where the Jays may be able to sign a free agent. Just like with both the backstop and the infield (namely second base) the Jays could conceivably trade on an outfielder for a position of need.
Like the other two articles, we’ll also look at a few prospects that could impact the Jays’ roster in a few seasons. There are of course infielders who also play outfield positions, such as Otto Lopez, Davis Schneider, Tanner Morris, Zach Britton and Spencer Horwitz, but they were mentioned in the last article.
This isn’t to say that the 2022 Jays had a bad outfield, in fact, it was actually pretty good (at least in terms of with the bat). Let’s look into how the Jays’ outfielders did in 2022.
How did the Blue Jays outfielders do in 2022:
Just a quick note: I won’t be including Cavan Biggio or Whit Merrifield, as they are natural second basemen. I will include both Bradley Zimmer and Jackie Bradley Jr.
Teoscar Hernandez:
After each season, there are some people that believe that the year Hernandez had just had was a fluke, but time and time again, he produces. It was a slow start for Herandez, mainly because of injury (a trend that we’ll see often here), but overall the 30-year-old right fielder had a great season.
He slashed .267/.316/.491 with 25 homers in 535 plate appearances. As to be expected, Hernandez had a high K% of 28.4% and a low BB% of 6.4%, but he finished with a 129 wRC+. 
This was the third straight season that Hernandez had performed well, as h …

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Author: Brennan Delaney / Blue Jays Nation