IL Preview: Buffalo Bisons
The Buffalo Bisons, Triple-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, finished the 2013 campaign with 74-70 record and third place finish in the North Division. After a promising 20-10 start to begin the season, the Bisons fell off and ended right above .500.
Buffalo was led by International League All-Stars Jim Negrych and Mauro Gomez in 2013. Negrych has moved on to play for fellow North Division rival, Lehigh Valley, while Gomez signed an International contract with the Hanshin Tigers of Nippon Professional Baseball.
Without two former all-stars in the fold, the Bisons will have a lot of work to do to compete for a North Division crown.
Pitching: Sean Nolin will anchor the staff. The 6-foot, 5-inch, Nolin had an impressive showing in 2013, making 17 starts for Double-A New Hampshire, three for Triple-A Buffalo and one for Toronto. His spot start at the big league level didn’t pan out, as he was roughed up for six runs on seven hits in 1.0 IP. However, he rebounded well, going 8-3 with a 3.01 ERA in Double- A and 1-1 with a 1.53 ERA with Buffalo. Nolin has four pitches that he uses on both sides of the plate. He works his 2-seam fastball along with his curve, slider and changeup, to keep batters off balance.
He may be joined by teammate Marcus Stroman. The first round pick out of Duke University in 2012, has emerged as the No. 2 prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays organization according to Baseball America. Stroman dazzled at the Double-A level, going 9-5 with a 3.30 ERA. He struck out 129 batters in 122.0 IP. Stroman’s ability to pound the plate is his strongest asset, as he has walked 36 hitters in 131 minor league innings. Featuring a mid-90’s fastball with late sink and a hard slider, Stroman gives the opposition fits.
Infield: The Bisons lost two all-stars in Negrych and Gomez, so they will have to rely on Triple-A veterans like Steve Tolleson, Chris Getz, Dan Johnson, Andy Laroche, Mike McDade and Erik Kratz. Tolleson had a solid season for Charlotte in 2013, hitting .288 (113-for-382) with 28 doubles, eight homers and 53 RBIs. Johnson, “The Great Pumpkin,” has played parts of seven seasons in the Major Leagues, tallying a .236 batting average, 53 homers and 194 RBIs in his career. He will have to work his way back to major league roster by starting the season with Buffalo. I
Outfield: The Bisons will have three jackrabbits in the outfield in Anthony Gose, Kenny Wilson and Kevin Pillar. Gose split the season between Triple-A Buffalo and Toronto in 2013, hitting a combined .244 (132-for-540) with 26 stolen bases. While, Gose was bouncing from Triple-A to the Majors, Pillar was making his unprecedented climb to the MLB. The former 32nd rounder out of Dominguez Hills University (Ca.) signed for $1,000 in 2011 and has become an asset for the Blue Jays’ organization. In three minor league seasons, he has accumulated a .321 (398-for-1240) batting average with 84 doubles, 15 triples, 22 homers, 185 RBIs and 82 stolen bases. He made his Major League debut in 2013, playing in 36 games for the Blue Jays. Wilson doesn’t have the accolades of Gose and Pillar, but he might be the best athlete of the three. In five seasons, he has swiped 194 bases and is a career .229 hitter.
Schedule: The Bisons will meet up with the G-Braves on May 5-8 at Coolray Field, while the G-Braves travel to New York on May 13-16.
Projected Depth Chart: