CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Jose Bautista and Marcus Stroman are thriving in the World Baseball Classic. Kevin Pillar is enjoying the best spring of his career. We know which of the prominent Blue Jays players are thriving in Florida, but what about the ones who are flying a little bit under
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Jose Bautista and Marcus Stroman are thriving in the World Baseball Classic. Kevin Pillar is enjoying the best spring of his career. We know which of the prominent Blue Jays players are thriving in Florida, but what about the ones who are flying a little bit under the radar?
There will never be any shortage of attention for players such as Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki and Aaron Sanchez, but every good team needs a solid foundation. That usually requires depth, and while dozens of players will be cut at the end of camp, a select few will eventually return to prominent roles.
Here's a closer look at some of the players who haven't received much attention but could become factors in 2017:
LHP Tim Mayza: During a recent appearance on a Toronto sports radio station, Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro identified Mayza as one of the club's biggest surprises this spring. Mayza likely isn't going to make the Opening Day roster but the 25-year-old's opportunity might be coming a lot sooner than expected. He has mid-90s velocity and a wipeout slider that is ideal for high-leverage situations. Mayza did allow an inherited runner to score during his last appearance, but he has surrendered just four hits over 5 1/3 scoreless innings.
LHP Matt Dermody: Dermody has yet to allow a run in five appearances. He struck out four, allowed three hits and didn't walk a batter over those four innings. Dermody is competing alongside Aaron Loup for a spot in the bullpen, and he's done nothing but impress so far in camp. Dermody advanced through all three levels of the Minors last season before joining Toronto as a September call-up. He'll be back, the only question is when.
RHP Chris Smith: Smith was another of Toronto's September call-ups last year. His chances of making the Opening Day roster aren't good, but a lot of that is out of his control. There are several pitchers in the mix for the final spot and most of them don't have options. Smith is one of the guys who can be sent down without passing through waivers and that will hurt his case. The 28-year-old has allowed two earned runs on five hits over 4 2/3 innings and his biggest assets are a mid-90s fastball and above-average slider.
IF Jon Berti: Berti has been one of the biggest surprises with a .308 average and .823 OPS in 16 spring games. He's set to begin the year in Triple-A Buffalo, but his path to the big leagues is rather apparent. Once Devon Travis is healthy, back-up infielder Ryan Goins will have to be put through waivers. That could eventually clear the way for Berti, who posted a .722 OPS in Double-A New Hampshire last season and has 212 stolen bases over six Minor League seasons.
SS Richard Urena: Rowdy Tellez, Anthony Alford and Conner Greene seemed to get most of the attention, but there's another prominent prospect who shouldn't be overlooked. Ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the Blue Jays' No. 4 prospect, Urena is off to a hot start this spring with a .320 average and .753 OPS in 13 games. He's still likely not the first line of defense for a Tulowitzki injury, but Urena is rapidly approaching that point. One area to watch: Urena hit just .242 as a righty last year compared to .313 as a lefty. This spring, Urena has three hits in eight at-bats against lefties and that trend will have to continue.
Honorable mentions: RHP Wil Browning (4 2/3 IP, 4 H, 5 K), LHP Ryan Borucki (4 IP, 4 H, 3 K), RHP Casey Lawrence (9 IP, 6 H, 6 K) and IF Jake Elmore (8-for- 26, 2 RBIs).
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.