Bisons in the Outfield: How Have the Blue Jays AAA Players Performed When Called Upon?

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Spo

Almost everyone agrees that making the Buffalo Bisons the triple-A affiliate for the Blue Jays was an excellent idea, but how have those Bison's fared when donning big league uniforms?

Coming into this season there was a great deal of positively about the idea of Toronto's triple-A affiliate moving from Las Vegas to Buffalo and by and large the move has been a huge success. Las Vegas was incredibly far away and the team played in a joke park the made statistical evaluation difficult.It is absolutely no surprise that the Bisons are a preferable alternative as Toronto's top farm club. The partnership between the Jays and the Bisons has also been enormously beneficial to the minor league squad. Buffalo is accessible to Blue Jays fans and as a result the team is absolutely thriving with the influx of Canadian patrons. So far we are looking at an undeniable win-win situation. However, as the Blue Jays morph into the Buffalo Bisons due to a nightmarish run of injuries it's worth examining what the AAA team has provided in the way of depth for its MLB parent club. The fact that that this team could field an outfield of Kevin Pillar, Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra on any given night got me thinking about what kind of performances the Blue Jays have gotten from those they've called up from Buffalo in 2013. With the volume of injuries this team has sustained it is fair to say that Toronto is getting quantity from triple-A, especially at the moment, but what's the quality like?

Given how many Bisons are on the Blue Jays roster at the moment I thought I would examine what these players are producing at the big league level. For the purposes of this post I defined a Buffalo Bison as a player who either started 2013 on the Bisons has had more playing time with the Bisons than the Blue Jays this year. By that definition the Blue Jays currently have nine Bisons on the roster (Todd Redmond, Neil Wagner, Chad Jenkins, Josh Thole, Ryan Goins, Gose, Pillar, Munenori Kawasaki and Sierra) and many more have made appearances sporadically throughout the year. One would expect approximately replacement level performances from these players and for the most part that's what Toronto has gotten. To give an illustration of exactly what this has looked like I aggregated the performances of the pitchers and hitters and awarded the "best call up" and "worst call up" designation to players in each group based on WAR. Let's start with the position players:

Position Players

Total Production:

PA

BB%

K%

R

HR

RBI

AVG

OBP

SLG

WAR

475

8.6%

16.2%

41

3

38

.200

.286

.273

-0.4

That is absolutely, positively, ugly. The .273 slugging percentage in particular is pretty jarring. Munenori Kawasaki accounts from a great deal of this line but guys like Thole, Pillar and Gose have not helped matters so far. There isn't is a single positive to be drawn from this.

Best Call Up: Munenori Kawasaki

PA

BB%

K%

R

HR

RBI

AVG

OBP

SLG

WAR

237

11.4%

13.1%

21

1

22

.218

.317

.305

0.7

Even if he didn't have the best WAR you'd probably have to give it to him anyway. Probably the most GIF-able man on planet Earth, Kawasaki is an absolute treat to have around as a fan, and probably as a teammate. There is also the matter of the Blue Jays mysteriously good record while he is on the team, which is definitely a coincidence. However, if I were going to believe in the magic of chemistry Kawasaki would be the man to convince me.

Worst Call Up: Josh Thole

PA

BB%

K%

R

HR

RBI

AVG

OBP

SLG

WAR

99

11.1%

16.2%

8

1

6

.141

.247

.224

-0.5

When he was called up I figured that Thole would come up and have a chance to replace Arencibia as an option against right-handed pitchers. He looked good as a Bison and had a track record of getting on base at a solid clip with the Mets but he hasn't put anything together as a Blue Jay. This team has serious problems at the catcher position.

Now the pitchers:

Pitchers

Total Production:

IP

W

L

K/9

BB/9

ERA

FIP

WAR

241.2

8

18

6.87

3.88

5.18

5.55

-0.7

Considering how many darts the Blue Jays have thrown at the proverbial dartboard when it's come to pitchers this year, one would think a couple more would have stuck. Instead the result is this, which looks like a guy who was too drunk to hit the dartboard at all. It's scary that this group actually had a bit of good luck given the gap between the ERA and FIP. Believe it or not, things could have been worse.

Best Call Up: Todd Redmond

IP

W

L

K/9

BB/9

ERA

FIP

WAR

46.2

1

2

9.64

2.89

4.44

4.40

0.5

Todd Redmond has been a very surprising stabilizing force in this rotation in 2013. Redmond is an extreme fly ball pitcher, a dangerous proposition given his home park, but he has racked up the strikeouts. I don't think that he has legs with this franchise long term given his fly ball tendencies and the fact he is a two-pitch starter (fastballs and sliders account for 95% of his pitches) without plus velocity (90.8 mph average on his fastball) but he's had a nice little run of success this year.

Worst Call Up: Ramon Ortiz

IP

W

L

K/9

BB/9

ERA

FIP

WAR

46.2

1

2

2.84

3.91

6.04

7.41

-0.5

There's no need to pile on Ortiz, especially given his gruesome injury, but clearly he wasn't an MLB caliber pitcher this year. He was never great and everyone knew he was over the hill in 2013.

The contributions to from the Buffalo Bisons have been a little worse than one might expect this year. Buffalo doesn't control its own baseball operations, so this is an indictment of AA's ability to create quality organizational depth rather than any form of criticism of the Bisons. A franchise that does a Star Wars night is firmly in my good books. The Buffalo-Toronto partnership has the potential to be a fruitful and mutually beneficial partnership in the years to come, but in year one the triple-A squad didn't provide the pipeline of quality depth that Toronto has so badly needed. Someday Blue Jays fans will be able to make the road trip down to Buffalo to see the Bisons and then soon after see those players star for Toronto, that day just hasn't come yet. That has potential to be a pretty special concept, even if Mike McCoy loses his Aeroplan Elite status.

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