Red hot Bisons give Buffalo winning team


Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News File Photo

The Buffalo Bisons started the season atop the International League in AAA baseball.

Randy King, Sports Reporter

Off to an International League best 14-8 record through its first 22 games, the Buffalo Bisons have given the people of Buffalo the winning team they have been craving for.  Although it is the AAA minor league affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, the team still offers a winning atmosphere that can be built upon.

The season is still young and a lot can change throughout the summer but so far, a few of these prospects have been playing stellar baseball.  These players look to continue their high level of play in the hopes of getting a call from the Blue Jays asking them to join them in Toronto.  Without further ado, here is an overview of the players performing well as of late.

Jason Leblebijian- Third Base

Leblebijian has started off hot, posting a .391 batting average through 15 games.  To go along with his hot start, he is tied for the team lead in home runs (4) with catcher Mike Ohlman and RBIs (13) with left fielder Dwight Smith Jr.  In his last four games, he has gone 7 for 14 with one home run and three RBIs.  When Leblebijian is seeing the ball well, his swing and pop he has coming off the bat is reminiscent of a major leaguer.  For him to receive a call-up to the majors he is going to need to keep up his high production in driving in runs and maintain his already high batting average.  He also must limit the defensive errors on the hot corner, with three errors already being committed so far this season.  He hit a combined .294 with both the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (AA) and the Dunedin Blue Jays (A) in 2016.  With that momentum carrying over into this season, the 25-year-old third baseman looks too give the managers at the big leagues something to think about, especially with major league starter Josh Donaldson’s recent battle with injuries.

Dwight Smith Jr. – Left Field

As mentioned above, Smith Jr. has found early success in hitting the long ball with three home runs as well as driving in runs (13) in the first 15 games.  Also, his ability to steal bases (3) has made him a valuable and necessary component to the team’s early success.  Smith Jr. has been a major key in the Bisons winning four of their last five, in those five games Smith Jr. has driven in seven runs while going 9-20 at the plate.  Hitting .333 this season, Smith Jr. has not missed one game for the Bisons, playing in all 15 games.  Smith Jr. provides the consistent production and a smart baseball IQ that many big league ball clubs look for.  Being a player that can bring that to a club, he may draw intrigue as the Blue Jays, who have had less than stellar play to start off the season as they currently sit at the bottom of the AL East with a 5-13 record.

TJ House – Pitcher

While the hitting may be a strong point for the Bisons thus far, the production from the pitching staff should not go unnoticed.  A good example of that would be, TJ House.  House is 3-0 in his first three starts this season while achieving a stellar 0.53 ERA.  House has combined to allow only one run and nine hits in those three starts.  A strikeout to walk ratio of 20:9 has led to him earning a WHIP of only 1.06.  Drafted in 2008 in the 15th round by the Cleveland Indians, House was able to get some action in the majors with the Indians in the 2014-2016 seasons.  During that time he appeared in 27 games with 117.2 innings pitched allowing 58 earned runs and striking out 89 batters.  However, in the 2016 season House pitched for the Indians in four games in a reliever role, where he only allowed one run on six hits.  House joined the Bisons over the off-season and has looked nothing short of dominate in his three starts for Buffalo.  With House having a recent major league appearance to go along with his 3-0 record and 0.53 ERA with the Bisons, it is safe to say that he is on track to make it back to the big leagues sooner rather than later, most likely in a reliever type role.

The Bisons look to continue this early success and get high levels of production all throughout their roster.  If the Blue Jays would like to possibly make a turnaround or shake things up in their season, we may get to see players like House, Smith Jr or even Leblebijian get called up to Toronto.  The Bisons will host Rochester for a double header on Wednesday. The first game begins at 4:15 p.m. with the second game to follow.