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Five takeaways from the Buffalo Bisons homestand

1. New editions are making a good impression. Catcher Danny Jansen has been on fire since earning his first Triple-A promotion this month. Of the 10 games he's played in first two weeks with the Bisons, he has a hit in nine of them, including four multi-hit games. He's batting .438 (12 for 28) with the Herd and has 34 extra base hits over three levels this season.

But as much as his offense has been impressive, he's also been showing his skill behind the plate. Jansen has caught pitchers at three levels this year – Class A Dunedin, Double-A New Hampshire, Triple-A Buffalo.

"My main focus is to be better at pitch calling and helping my pitcher get through whatever is the obstacle in front of them," Jansen said. "That's what I really take pride in. With the pitching coaches, every step of the way and the pitchers I've had, I've learned from each guy and I'm still striving to be better at it. It's been really good getting the feedback from players. It's been a fun ride."

Working with the Bisons staff has allowed Jansen to grow even more as a catcher. The pitchers are more experienced and, like starter Brett Oberholtzer, have different strengths.

"These guys have so much experience, I kind of pick their brains before their start and we go over what they like to do," Jansen said. "Like an Oberholtzer guy, he doesn't throw the hardest but he's crafty. And I want to be on the same page with him. And I think we have been lately. It makes the game fun when you're doing the pitch calling and the chess game of it."

Also catching eyes is outfielder Teoscar Hernandez.  Acquired at the trade deadline from Houston, Hernandez is the fifth-ranked prospect in the Blue Jays organization by MLB.com. After going just 3 for 34 after the trade, he hit .320 (8 for 25) in his last six games with a double, triple and home run while driving in seven runs.

2. Tellez has found a groove in August. The expectations were high when Rowdy Tellez hit Triple-A. The first baseman and 13th ranked prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays organization had a stellar 2016 in Double-A New Hampshire. With the Fisher Cats last year, Tellez hit .297, drove in 81 runs and belted 23 homers.

The transition to Buffalo has not been as explosive.

After a slow April, it looked like Tellez had busted out with a solid May, but as the team slid in June and July, so, too, did Tellez. Through the first four months of the season, he batted .199.

In August, Tellez has enjoyed a resurgence. Even after going 0 for 4 on Sunday, he is still batting a robust .323 for the month.

Are we finally seeing the full capabilities of Tellez?

"Oh, he's capable of a lot more,"said Bisons manager Bobby Meacham, placing an emphasis on "lot."  Meacham was the manager in Double-A New Hampshire where Tellez spent most of 2016.

"I saw a lot more last year than even now. He's starting to pick up on some things that he did last and it's starting to look like he's a little closer to what he was last year. But he's got more. I saw too much last year to let him settle on what he's doing now."

3. The attitude remains positive. The record is what it is. The Herd is 57-69 this year. Their place in the standings and missing the playoffs for the 12th-straight year is a reality.

But the staff and players have been focused on what goals they can achieve. While player development is always the minor league focus, the culture continues to look toward winning. Even in late August. Even with the playoffs long-ago written off.

"Hopefully we can sneak a little closer to respectability in the standings and with our record," Meacham said. "I'm fired up to see how we come out and do."

What excites Meacham is the way the players continue to show up for the daily work – batting practice, fielding drills, even pitchers' fielding practice.

"When we're finished with our (pregame) work and the other team's not out there, it sends a signal to our players that we're going to keep working to the end to get better," Meacham said. "It's not about the season being almost over. It's about, well the season's almost over but I still need to get better every day. And it shows a lot that these guys show it. It doesn't even feel like they're just going through the motions or checking boxes with a couple weeks to go. It feels like they're getting better every day and it shows in the games now."

4. Roemon Fields is fast. Full disclosure: We already knew Fields was fast. But the outfielder is proving it daily, not just in some of his remarkable catches while roaming centerfield at Coca-Cola Field but in the way he runs the bases.

Fields leads the International League with 38 stolen bases making him just one of four players in the Bisons' modern era with 38 or more steals. It's the most stolen bases since Dave Roberts stole 39 in back-to-back seasons (1999 and 2000). The modern day record of 41 was set by Tony Womack in 1994.

But Fields is just part of a speedy Bisons team that leads the league with 127 stolen bases with five players having 10 or more steals.

5. Attendance continues to be strong. The Bisons had 10,438 in the stands Sunday afternoon, the fifth straight game at Coca-Cola Field with 10,000 or more. That brings their season average over 61 dates to 7,853.

The Herd ranks fifth in average attendance in the 14-team International League. The Charlotte Knights lead the league, averaging 9,103 followed by Indianapolis, Columbus, and Lehigh Valley.

 

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