The Vancouver Canadians have enjoyed quite the campaign.
The C’s wrapped up the regular season with a third consecutive shutout of the Tri-City Dust Devils, increasing their streak of scoreless innings to 32 and finishing the year with the most wins in the Northwest League (43).
The Blue Jays’ single-A affiliate completed the biggest single-season turnaround in franchise history, winning 14 more games than in 2016 and earning bench boss Rich Miller NWL manager of the year honours.
Miller joined Baseball Central on Monday to discuss what has led the Canadians to such a solid season.
“I think the key to success is the way the drafted players, the new players from this year’s draft, have just moulded with the players we brought up from extended spring training,” Miller told Dan Riccio and Arden Zwelling on Sportsnet 590 The FAN. “I’ve never seen a group of players that really didn’t know each other just meld together so soon and they really get along very well for each other. They work hard, play hard every day, and they just every night root for each other.”
Miller broke down what he has seen from those aforementioned draftees.
On pitcher Nate Pearson, Blue Jays’ 2017 first-round pick (28th overall):
“What’s amazing about him, he’s a very tall, big guy and usually when you hear about a guy who throws 95 to 100 it’s going to be a very powerful, I’m-going-to-give-it-all-I-got delivery. It’s a very smooth delivery and he’s very quick to the plate from the stretch if some runners get on base. He does hit 100 at times. He knows it, he’s had it in his college career, he’s had it now in his pro career, and it doesn’t amaze him or anything. He just wants to go out, and one pitch at a time just get every hitter each time.
“He’s really been working with the slider and the change-up; he knows he’s going to need that to pitch at the higher level, and his last outing he did give up a run or two, which was his first runs he’s given up in the pro level but we really wanted to work more sliders and change-ups in because he knows he’s going to use it and the more he uses it, the better it’s going to get.”
On shortstop Logan Warmoth, Blue Jays’ 2017 first-round pick (22nd overall):
“He does not have a weakness. He runs pretty good, he’s got above-average speed, he’s got a good arm from shortstop, he’s got good hands. He’s learned the pro game, I think, quickly. One thing he used to do the first couple weeks we had him, some slow-hit ball or some chopper plays he was very aggressive to it but he was too aggressive through the balls, and he would bobble some. Now he knows to be aggressive and smooth through it, he’s made some very good plays. He’s been in the three hole since about the third or fourth game that he’s been with us. … Lately, this past week, he’s had some good RBIs with two outs and big, crucial RBIs to continue on our roll.
“When he gets his hits, they’re hit hard. Being around as long as I have, I’ve seen guys not really necessarily hit for power in games for a few years in their career and then all of a sudden, wow, there it is. He’ll show you that real good power in batting practice. He’s in my BP group so I throw to him everyday, and it’s there and the ballpark we’re leaving here, Tri Cities, that’s where he’s got his first pro home run and he smoked the heck out of it that night. It’s going to come; it will be there. He’s not just going to be a line-drive type hitter. He’s actually pulled the ball with a lot of authority; we’re trying to get him really to work the whole field, which he has been doing lately. And, who knows, there may be even in the long run he can have some output power. There’s a very solid bat at the big leagues, I could see him being a good three-hitter.”
On catcher Riley Adams, Blue Jays’ 2017 third-round pick (99th overall):
“Here’s a guy who just every day wants to be a better defensive catcher, and he’s going to be a good defensive catcher in the big leagues some day. He’s thrown very well. One thing I always take note of is when they’re starting they have to throw down to second base before the inning starts; he takes those nine throws every game very seriously. He’s thrown very well lately, his release times are in the 1.9s to a 2.0. Hitting wise, he’s hit four, he’s hit five. He’s hit some big RBIs for us also; he’ll step up with two outs when we need a hit late in the game. He’s a good time leader, he’s not necessarily a big vocal leader, he’s kind of a quiet guy but he leads by his actions. You want to say overlooked, in … the third round, absolutely. This guy’s going to be a good one.”
On first baseman Kacy Clemens, Blue Jays’ 2017 eighth-round pick (249th overall):
“I’ve had some players over the years who have had a father in the big leagues and some of them kind of act a little big-headed because of their dad and who he was in the big leagues. Obviously, Kacy with Roger, Roger was obviously a very, very, very good player at the major-league level. Kacy is Kacy. He wants to be his own type of player. Obviously he’s a position player, where his dad was a pitcher, but No. 1, this guy is a real good first baseman, he has picked some throws this year that I never thought was possible. I’m not even sure if he’s got an error this year, and if he does it’s only one, so he’s a very good first baseman.
“Talk about leaders, this guy’s a vocal leader: gets along with everybody, he’s got a great relationship with all the guys we had in extended. And then as a hitter, the thing I’ll remember the most about Kacy from this year is going to be two strikes: he’ll have some of the funkiest swings you’ll ever seen with two strikes because he’s battling, he’s fouling a pitch off here, fouling a pitch off there, waiting for that pitcher to make a mistake. We went into last night’s game, I think he was like second or third in the league in RBIs. He’s just a very, very tough out with two strikes.”