Monday, July 1, 2013

Mid-season Farm Report

With the major league team back in contention (despite a less than pleasing 7 game road trip this week) and the All Star game approaching, to be followed by the trade deadline - let's take time out to look at the Farm and see how it's going.

And the truth is, it's not been great so far. Part of that is that the preponderance of the Jays more interesting players are young enough to be on the short-season teams who've only been playing for, at most, a couple of weeks. The sample size is just not there to get real excited (or disappointed) about anyone, although I am going to note some interesting early trends. also, a few of the higher profile guys have lost significant time to injury.

But among the players at the upper levels who have accumulated significant work, the list of guys who've advanced their status is pretty short. There's another group who should be doing better but are not sucking, and then there are guys who are gambling with their right to even be called "prospect" (I'm looking at you, Deck).

Reviewing my Top 50 list from January, I find that...

  • 19 of them are assigned to short season teams
  • 10 missed significant time to injury or suspension
  • 1 is out of the organization (and another has probably lost his rookie status but I included him anyway, one last time)
  • 7 have been significant disappointments
  • Of those not counted above, only 3 have significantly boosted their status
Here's the mid season revision, with very brief notations:
(previous ranking in Parenthesis)

1. Aaron Sanchez [SP] (1)  - lost some time to DL, shows improved control
2. Roberto Osuna [SP] (2) - ditto, continues to impress, injury is concerning
3. Marcus Stroman [SP] (3) - as advertised. 13 ER in 8 outings, 7 of them in one game. Expect to see him in Buffalo before August.
4. DJ Davis [CF] (4) - Raw, 4 triples in first 10 games, good start in small sample
5. Daniel Norris [SP] (5) - was sinking but found aggressiveness; 1.59 ERA in last six appearances, then injured.
6. AJ Jimenez [C] (8) - Some injury trouble but has absolutely RAKED when healthy. Currently sporting a .400 BA in NH  in 75 AB
7. Sean Nolin [SP] (5) - started on DL, has been fine since, save for one very bad start for Toronto. 
 8. Matt Smoral [SP] (7) - injury hampered, only one appearance so far.
9. Alberto Tirado [SP] (9) - insignificant sample
10. Anthony Alford [CF] (10) - insignificant sample, BUT, 6 walks in first 6 games in noticeable
11. John Stilson [RHRP] (11) - still need the walks to go down, but at his age in AAA...
12. Franklin Barreto [SS] (14) - insignificant sample, good early returns
13. Santiago Nessy [C] (13) - too many injuries for fair eval.
14. Christian Lopes [2B] (12) - good average, lacking some in OBP; advanced level for age
15. Kevin Pillar [CF] (21) -the most productive hitting prospect in the system this year, beating out AJJ only because of the latter's injuries. Since moving up to Buffalo (10 games) Pillar's stepped up his game sporting a 1.156 OPS
16. Chase DeJong [SP] (16)- off to a very nice start; Insignificant sample size (ISS)
17. Mitch Nay [3B] (20) - ISS, but nice start while others fell short.
18. Dewal Lugo [SS] (19) - ditto
19. Andrew Burns [3B] (44) - the third member of the club (with Pillar and Jimenez). Struggled in tiny sample since being promoted to AA. But has made a LOT of progress
20. Matt Dean [1B] (18) - slow start again, ISS
21. Dwight Smith [CF] (17) - good but not great so far.
22. Yefry Del Rosario [SP] (23) - ISS
23. Chad Jenkins [RHP] (25) - one for the road, Chad. I choose to ignore the suckage since his demotion for now. He did okay in Toronto.
24. Dalton Pompey [CF](27) - didn't earn the climb, but others slipped further
25. Adonys Cardona [SP] (15) - has really struggled so far.

Others of note not on the list:

* Joel Carreno [RHRP]- somewhat the pitching equivalent of Pillar, except he's back from flirting with obscurity. Has taken his results to the next level.
* Tyler Ybarra [LHRP]- well overdue for promotion from Dunedin
* Gustovo Pierre [3B] - like burns, he has struggleds for footing since promotion, unlike Burns he wasn't unstoppable before the promotion, but he did everything well on offense except take a walk (he had but 2 in 61 games, against 62 K's)
* Shane Dawson [SP]- Paired with the more heralded DeJong in Bluefield, he's matched him pitch for pitch.
* DJ Thon [SS] - started slow again, but has caught fire the last 10 games in a way he hasn't before as a pro. might yet be something there.
* More relievers making waves: Tony Davis and Ajay Meyers dominating in Dunedin; Will Browning and Ian Kadish owning the Midwest League for Lansing, with Kramer Champlin and Arik Sikula a mere half-step behind.

Finally, in non-prospect news:
* Buffalo 1B Mauro Gomez is hammering the IL, he has 24 homers so far.
* Sentimental favorite Adam Loewen has a 1.072 OPS for June
* Former SS Justin Jackson may yet turn into a reliever prospect, he lades the impressive Lansing 'pen with a 1.21 ERA in 22.1 innings.
* Eric Brown has dominated atthe front of the Vancouver rotation so far


We'll know more a couple of months from now.

Go Jays.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Hard Charging

For a team so very unfamiliar with long winning streaks (they haven't won more than six in a row since 2008) the current seven gamer must be very satisfying for the Toronto Blue Jays. Not only that, but they've posted a combine score of 41-11 in those games. Indeed, these are heady days for the Jays. Of course, it behooves us to heed Mike Wilner's oft-repeated observation: a team is never as good as it looks at it's best, nor as bad as it looks at it's worst. Still, in may ways this team is preforming now in a manner consistent with pre-season expectations (shaddup Adam!) and they are finally seeing the results.

Since May 5, when the team inexplicably found it's footing, the Blue Jays are 24-15 (a .615 winning %) for the second best record in the AL in that span (one game behind Oakland and WTF is up out there anyhow?) which is a pace which, were it maintained the rest of the season, would result in 91 wins  - that puts you right in the thick of the wild-card race. On the other hand, it's a pace that over a full season would get you 100 wins and certainly it's debatable whether this team is of that caliber. On the third hand, Jose Reyes is imminently ready to return, one assumes Brett Lawrie will be back at some point and step up his game, and Josh Thole is already an upgrade on Henry Blanco (and more besides, if Gibby will give him some of JP's mostly empty at-bats). And the best part is that, apart from Adam Lind, the horses of the offense are not performing at an unsustainable rate.

Here are the teams top six offensive producers over the last 38 games (and the rest have been no great shakes):

  1. Cabrera - .312 - .356 - .446 - .802
  2. Bautista - .285 - .370 - .487 - .857
  3. Encarnacion - .297 - .387 - .561 - .948
  4. Lind - .388 - .417 - .642 - 1.059
  5. Rasmus - .250 - .320 - .508 - .827
  6. DeRosa - .266 - .329 - .484 - .813

Yes, DeRosa is doing more than he's done since his peak years five years ago, but it's not insane and it's in half as many at bats as the others so it's not like the team is being driven by it. Lind is the obvious outlier but going forward, a regression is easily balanced by the presence of Reyes. It's reasonable to assume the offense IS this good.

On the mound, the bullpen has been, frankly, insanely good.

Janssen - 3.55, 1.11
Cecil - 1.40, 0.52
Delenbar - 1.50, 1.11
Loup - 0.90, 0.65
Oliver - 2.25, 1.13
Perez - 0.00, 0.50
Wagner - 0.96, 0.96 (when does THAT ever happen?)

The Starters?

Dickey - 4.53, 1.45
Buehrle - 3.46, 1.19
Johnson - 1.86, 1.14 (only 3 starts)
Rogers - (as Starter)  1.77, 0.98 (4 starts)
Wang - (tiny sample) 3.14, 1.53 (2 starts)
Morrow - 6.14, 1.36  (4 starts)
Jenkins - 3.60, 1.47 (3 starts)
Ortiz - 3.77, 1.60 (3 starts)
Happ - one start, irrelevant
Romero - ditto

Ortiz is probably gone for the duration, Jenkins has been flailing at Buffalo for some unknown reason, so lets ignore them looking forward. Over the last 13 games the staff as a whole has an ERA of 1.98 and they have piled up a 10-3 record in a not unrelated result. obviously that won't last but it's this kind of run that playoff teams occasionally have.

Morrow was reported today to have suffered a setback last night and it seems clear he'll not be back before the ASB. IF he gets and stays healthy, those numbers surely get better and one would think that Rogers would regress some, but the two should balance out (in theory, anything could happen in real time). Buehrle is back consistent with his career numbers, and Dickey while disappointingly inconsistent, is in a range where it's reasonable to assume he is more likely to improve than to regress further. That means that in a rough-and-dirty look ahead, your rotation success largely turns on whether Josh Johnson is finally in his groove or not. This is still a group that can be above average enough to support the offense, particularly as long as the bullpen is so VERY good.

In terms of the playoffs, at the end of play on May 4, the Jays were 8.5 back of the wild card with nine teams to overcome in order to qualify. Now, 38 games later, it's 4.5 and there are "only"four teams in their way. And two of those are Cleveland and the crashing (18-25 since May 5) Royals. Ultimately it comes down to the lesser between the Rangers and A's, and the ultra competitive AL East contenders. On that score, here's the WC standings looking at only those games since the Jays turned it around:

Toronto: 23-15
Baltimore: 23-18 - 1.5 games back
Tampa Bay: 23-19 - 2
New York: 20-20 - 4
Texas: 20-21 - 4.5

Bottom line, as long as they continue to play as they have for the last (almost) quarter-season, they are in a position to be big factors in the WC race and not completely unrealistic to chase down the Red Sox. The odds are still kind of long, but certainly not crazy.

Other notes:

ITEM: Jose Reyes had his first rehab start on Monday night, and while Morrow got bad news, Reyes did not. My guess? The Jays will duck the Tampa turf and let Reyes fly out to Boston with the team to re-join the Jays' lineup on June 27. That will give him 4 games on grass before it's back to Skydome (yes, damnit, Skydome). 

ITEM: JA Happ is throwing bullpens and my guess is he might be 10 days or so away from getting in a game with the D-Jays (they are on the road, but play across the bay in Tampa on June 29 which keeps the big-leaguer off the bus...but whaddoIknow?) If all goes well for him, you might pencil him in for one start before the break. but if Rogers and Wang continue to patch well, the jays might be cautious and hold Happ back until after the break. it will be an interesting decision if neither rogers or Wang give ground how the Jays would handle the sudden surplus. Of the three, only Happ has options.

ITEM: Many fans speculate that when Reyes comes back, and the Jays have another roster-crowding decision to make (Kawasaki though lacking power has been a sparkplug and a fan favorite but he's the logical cut) that the team might opt to finally give Cabrera the much needed DL trip he's been avoiding. It makes sense to DL him after the Boston series and bring him back, presumably rested and healed, after the break.

ITEM: The jays have hired Jamie Evans as a pitching consultant. "Who?" you may be asking. He's the guy who developed the weighted ball routine that rescued Steve Delebar from obscurity and arguably re-energized Brett Cecil's career. Casey Janssen has begun working with him as well and while one should avoid assuming that it's a "magic bullet" one might fondly hope that fading prospects like Chad Jenkins and Deck McGuire might decide to give it a go while they still have time.

Let's have a moment of silence for the pessimists who were certain the season was over already  by May 1 ...............................okay, enough of that. go Blue Jays!


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The clock ticks...

As of the end of the month of May, the Jays can be fairly confident they have recovered their footing, in terms of the inexplicable awfulness which was April. But it is only the first layer of the foundation necessary to contend and much more needs to be built upon it. They can take comfort in the fact that they ran off a 13-9 stretch (.591, good enough for 95 wins over a full season) with only one start from Happ, none from Johnson, and really only one veteran starter being reasonably consistent in giving his team a good performance.

Logically that, and the hoped for return from injury of several important players should portend better days at some point but..."should"and reality seem to not be on speaking terms in Toronto. One things is for sure: they need to play about .650 ball the rest of the year and that's a VERY tall order.

Who's been carrying them the past (almost) four weeks?

  • Mark Buehrle has a 3.12 ERA over his last four starts
  • Melky Cabrera had a .979 OPS during that 13-9 stretch.
  • Over the same period, Jose Bautista posted a 1.140 OPS
  • May 5 (the start of the run) through the end of the month for Lind: 1.044
  • Same period for Edwin? .951    
That covers a LOT of failure - but it can't continue  so the failure needs to not continue as well. Turning to the monthly prospect report, let's peruse the farm system.

Hitters:

Gustavo Pierre - he seems like he's been around forever but he's still just 21 and maybe, just maybe, he's coming into his potential a bit. His OPS for may was a robust .930 for Lansing, a team without a ton of productive hitters to complement him.

Nick Bailgod - Not strictly a prospect, but had a heck of a month for Dunedin and deserves a nod.

Andy Burn and Kevin Pillar continue their steady production, but both were off from their April production, the former more than the latter. Truth is, among the players young enough to be considered any sort of prospect, very little has been happening in May that would be considered noteworthy

Pitchers:

Sean Nolin - overlook the distraction of the possibly unwise detour to Toronto, and the kid has nothing to be ashamed of. Take away one bad inning in his last start (technically June 2, but I'm slow, deal with it) in which he gave up five hits - three of them to the DH playing LF - and his AA ERA stands at 1.48 with a better than 3:1 K:BB ratio.

Daniel Norris - seems to have figured something out. Control still needs a lot of work but since April 26, he has a 3.21 ERA with 39 K's in 26.1 IP

Marcus Stroman - ended May with a horrific 1 inning outing (which, one assumes, would have ended quicker if he didn't have a pitch count specification to reach) and he's been fine otherwise. That one outing is a bit inexplicable, but one assumes an outlier of that magnitude has an explanation of which we're not aware.  Still on the semi-fast track.

Joel Carreno - finally got the long overdue promotion to Buffalo after posting an insane 14.5 K/9 rate over 27.1 IP (over against a 2.6 BB/9 rate) in New Hampshire. He gave up a mere 12 hits over that stretch. Let's see how he fares at AAA.

John Stilson - control was a little shakey when he was bumped to AAA shortly after coming off the DL, but I get the impression he could push his way into the majors by September unless the team decides to save an option and send him to the AFL. Always assuming he stays healthy of course.

 Ajay Meyer - not routinely discussed as a"prospect, he is routinely kicking opposition-asses the closer in Dunedin while Danny Barnes struggles to stay off the DL. Dude was a non-drafted free agent, and at 25 he's way too old for the level, but he also sports at 12:1 K:BB ratio so they need to challenge him with two promotions this season unless they already know he can't handle it.


HM: Not"prospects" but let's not forget Josh Thole, who has to be chafing as he watches Henry Blanco be a black hole in Toronto while he (Thole) posts a .900+ OPS in Buffalo, and forever-hoped-for Dustin McGowan, who's had two missteps since moving up to Buffalo (in 7 outings) and seems to be working on a set schedule. The Jays have until June 12 to recall him.

also, on the farm side, one must sadly note for the record that Rickey Romero still hasn't gotten his head straight. There may be nothing sadder than watching a guy simply "lose it" despite no physical or age related source. It's no way for a career to end and I hope, on that basis alone, that Romero defies history and finds the handle.

Upcoming on Thursday, the 2013 draft which I've really had a hard time getting a  handle on. The guy I really want, and the guy we cold have had if we'd had the foresight to give the money we gave to DJ Thon to him instead, is Kris Bryant but there's NO WAY he falls to 10. There are a handful of other guys, any of whom I'd be content with at that spot (Fraizer, Medows, etc) but the other guy who both intrigues me and terrifies me is Austin Wilson. I drool over his ceiling, but am terrified of his potential to be an absolute bust. It will take me some time to digest the results before I'm willing to weigh in.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Signs of Life?

Well, it's been a pretty sweet 10 day run, eh? Obviously the sample is pretty tiny but the feeling was always (with the saner folks at least) that there was no way that guys who were established successful guys would not ALL simply go over the cliff collectively at once. As I noted in the last entry, they HAD to be better than what they were playing, whether or not they were ever actually a playoff quality team.

Still waiting on the collection of scrubs in New York to revert to their true selves though.

In any case, let's acknowledge that no, this is not a .700 team for the rest of the year (they do need to play about .611 the rest of the year to reach 90 wins) and yes, you can't assume Ramon Ortiz and Chad Jenkins are going to be this good for very long (albeit Jenkins might end up being better than I had thought he was) but much of this success has been driven by several of the known quantity guys finding their groove. I'm willing to feel some confidence that this is not a mirage and the team is indeed coalescing into something resembling what we expected coming into the year.

I continue to be impatient for Lawrie to really get rolling, I continue to be frustrated that the best Rasmus can muster is "okay" and obviously my heart cries out for Jose Reyes every night; on the flip side, dig Adam Lind, eh? The strict platoon is certainly a factor but so far he's looking rejuvenated in his production and his approach. Among the pitchers, it was a total mystery what was going on with Buehrle, and as always I await Brandon Morrow stepping up to the elite level permanently, but I'm glad to see Dickey beginning to put the discomfort behind him, and like everyone else, I'm blown away by the continued ascension of Casey Janssen to elite status.  Brett Cecil is living up to my hopes and dreams too.

Some other tibbits you are probably aware of but I'll throw out there anyway...

  • Marcus Stroman will get his first start this weekend for New Hampshire. Some, notably Rich Griffin, have speculated that the Jays thin depth may open the door for Stroman to get some starts for the Jays relatively soon.
  • Dustin McGowan pitched a dominant inning for Dunedin in relief last night. if he continues to do well with his recovery (after each appearance) he could be relatively fast tracked to the major league pen when some oft he other guys start to wear down or prove themselves incapable (I'm looking at you, Brad Lincoln. What the hell, dude? Also, Esmil, don't think I haven't noticed your failings).
  • Sergio Santos is going for minor clean up surgery, estimated time-table for return is six weeks. It's only eight weeks until the ASB so I wouldn't be stunned if you didn't see him until after the break.
  • Daniel Norris finally had a good start.About damn time. McGuire pitched well tonight but I've seen that occasional success before - get back to me when it's five or six games in a row. John Stilson made a (quality) relief appearance last night, if indeed he is a reliever from now on, he's another guy you could easily see push his way into the Jays pen this season. Honestly, with Janssen closing and Cecil proving himself capeable of the Downs/Oliver type role next year, you might have Santos, McGowan, Stroman, and Stilson forming the core of the balance of the bullpen in 2014and beyond and all of those are potentially dominant guys as relievers. 
  • Whither Ricky Romero? Historically I'm the last person to too-quickly write a guy off but at this point I'm damned worried that he's lost his mojo for good.He needs to get going.

Finally, I'll amen the sentiment that I think is pretty commonplace in Jays fandom - can anyone do anything about the over-optimistic reporting on injuries? Everyone is always "just days away" exceptthat he doesn't ever actually return on time. Look at Brandon Morrow, who's now been pushed back to Saturday (he says and AA affirms that has a lot to do with him facing the Yankees instead of Ortiz which is a reasonable construction in a vacuum) - how many times have they "just pushed him back a couple of days" now? He's missed enough turns now he could have just been on the 15 Day DL in the first place.  I am a total cynic about when Johnson will be back simply because of the track record at this point. Hopefully things will turn around on that front too.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Month

Yes, that's right- the Jays are a month into the season, with several angles worth talking about, and I couldn't be bothered to post about any of them. Why? Well, lots of reasons. There's the simple matter of available time of course, but there's also lack of interest.Simply put, I write to be read - and I don't get the impression hardly anyone was reading. Yes, there are 150-200 pageviews most every day, but how many of them are bots or whatever? I have no way of knowing.

As for interest, I can't tell from the comments (which were never heavy), I can't tell from the linkage from other blogs (as far as I can tell, non-existent), I can't tell that I'm not simply talking to myself.  Don't mistake this as a plea for attention or back-patting, I understand that I did this to myself with inactivity, and it's okay. Truth is, the"market" for Jays bloggage is so saturated I was never able to break into the top ranks. I'll readily admit that those which have are the result of far more effort. Better looking site, more pics, even graphics, more writers. All I traded on was on gals opinion.

So the cycle feeds on itself, less posts lead to less readers leads to less posts lead to less readers.

Still, from time to time I want a platform to contribute something so I'll keep plugging along intermittently until the fire rekindles, assuming it does at some point. Tonight i have two things on my mind which, were I more motivated, would have been two separate posts.

First, regarding the major league squad. It's all too easy to get down on the team and think that all that which we percived as win in the off-season was, in fact, more fail. But consider this. The Blue Jays played seven of
 their last eleven games against the Yankees and lost six of those.

Looking at Baseball Reference, here's the busiest starting nine forthe team that manhandled our boys, with OPS+:

Francisco Cervalli - 138
Lyle Overbay - 85
Robinson Cano - 165
Eduardo Nunez - 29
Jayson Nix - 46
Vernon Wells - 151
Brett Gardner - 104
Ichero Suzuki - 68
Travis Hafner - 189

Except for Cano and Hafner (who hasn't been this good in SEVEN YEARS) that's basically a AAA team. How many of those guys would you gladly have plugged in on April 4 in place of their Jays equivalent and happily considered it an upgrade? Yet they are 6.5 games ahead of Toronto. The cliche "you can't predict baseball" was never more true than it is right now. I'd be much more philosophical about the team taking a while to gel if I wasn't flabbergasted at the Yankee's luck.

Blech. Enough of that.

On to the minor leagues.

One of my traditions is a monthly review of the better news from the minors, in the form of a "hot list" - why not continue that? I'll confine myself to those generally regarded as actual prospects, with a nod later towards the journeymen who started off hot.

Hitters:

1. Andy Burns - The Dunedin 3B is dominating his team and is right there among the top 3 or4 best hitters in the FSL. Most interesting, he has 15 walks and only 10 strikeouts.

2. Kevin Pillar - A somewhat slow start has gone en fuego. - Pillar sports a steadily climbing OPS of .880 and he also has the walk/strikeout thing under control. He's an OF in New Hampshire and it's anyone's guess whether the team will make room for Pillar at Buffalo if he keeps this up.

3. Ryan Schimpf - a marginal prospect who plays the IF but without a true defensive home, you have to tip your hat, though, to leading the EL in homers and the runner up spot (by a margin of ONE) in the walks column.

4. Moises Sierra - I've never been a big believer here but he's raking to start the year,with an average that flirts with .400 as the stand out stat. On the other hand, the strikeout-to-walk ration is still not impressive.

Names of note: Josh Thole is raking, Anthony Gose is not in a grove, Mauro Gomez is earning his keep, Mike Crouse started well but it's only4 games, The three top prospect in the Lansing lineup - Dalton Pompey, Christian Lopes, and Santiago Nessy - are just "okay"at this point.

Meanwhile, Jim Negrych sports a .429 BA in Buffalo with solid supporting stats.

Pitchers:

1. Roberto Osuna - ignore the slightly elevated (but still quite good) ERA andlook at the ratios.22.1 IP, 31 K, and a mere4 BB. This kid might be some good.

2. Aaron Sanchez - not dominating the way Osuna has but beginning to show more control, which is the main thing he's working on.

Also, take not of Joel Carreno and Chad Beck protesting their assignment to AA by dominating the opposition.

There have been flashes of brilliance elsewhere but these are the deserving.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Gettin' Down on the Farm

After all the deals this winter, there's admittedly less to get wound up about among the prospects, but I  have confidence that there will be a number of interesting stories this summer. Now that the full season rosters are officially set, let's take a brief tour shall we?

Here's thirty plus guys on the full season roster for you to watch.

Buffalo

The active  Buffalo squad has an average age of 29.68 (the Blue Jays average 30.35) and this is mostly a veteran squad. I could list off the names but few there be that would interest you from the standpoint of potential major league contributions. So I'm just going to stick with those.

Anthony Gose - Has his instructions concerning those parts of his game he needs to polish. many think he's going to break out this year. Manager Marty Brown, who had Grady Sizemore in AAA said "Grady was a manager's dream, Gose is better than Grady."

Moises Sierra - I remain convinced that Sierra is ultimately a flawed, marginal guy as a major leaguer. But  he's also clearly the second best prospect among the hitters here and he may well change my mind someday.

Ryan Goins - His ceiling might be as a Mark DeRosa type bench guy, not that there's anything wrong with that. What he's trying to avoid is becoming a slower version of Mike McCoy.

Josh Thole - not really a prospect, of course, with his major league experience, but he does represent a player on this team that may be called upon to make a difference in Toronto. I think that his pre-injury self was pretty impressive and hope he gets that form back.

Brad Lincoln - again, not a "prospect" but a guy that by all rights is too good to be in AAA.

Sleepers: Out of ST, there was good buzz at one time or another around Mickey Storey, Justin Germano,Niel Wagner, and old-timer David Bush. Also, Todd Redmond also has major league experience, as does Michael Schwimmer (who's on the major league DL but figures to land here when he comes off).

New Hampshire

AJ Jimenez - on the DL with a "tender shoulder" (IIRC), if the trip is not too long he should climb right back onto the prospect radar as the season wears on.

Sean Ochinko - slightly different skill set, but has a chance to be a Yan Gomes level guy or a tick better.

Kevin Pillar - Will need to build on his great 2012 and prove he deserves to be well regarded. Still quite reminiscent of Reed Johnson in many ways (which is a compliment).

Kenny Wilson - has underwhelmed to this point, but he must have shown them something in ST to break camp this high. Definitely his year to shine if he's going to.

Deck McGuire - You know his story. Can he right the ship?

Chad Jenkins - Opens on the DL, the depth chart in front of him as a reliever got much deeper this winter so he surely motivated to try to prove he deserves to start. Both these guys will be eyeing a chance to move up to Buffalo with a strong first half.

Sean Nolin - also starts out on the DL. I'm not sure of the seriousness of the situation, I believe it to be minor. This is the guy Alex has HIS eyes on in New Hampshire.

Jon Stilson - same song third verse. Wants to jump off the DL and get lined up for a promotion. Any or all of these guys may well make a difference in AAA this year.

Danny Barnes - sensing a pattern? also on the DL. One to watch if he proves healthy.

Sleepers: Matt Wright, Evan Crawford, Trystan Magnuson,. Joel Carreno, Marcus Walden (whom I expect to go back to Dunedin once the DL starts clearing up).

Dunedin

Things look to pick up on the lower levels but this is a thin roster. Besides Ricky Romero trying to get right and presumably the beginning of Dustin McGowans's next trip towards the majors, there are a few names to note...

Aaron Sanchez - Jays #1 prospect looks to polish his already impressive game.

Michael Crouse - had a wasted year in 2012, needs to get back in the 2011 groove.

Marcus Knecht - ditto.

Andy Burns - Put himself on the map last year before being injured. Converted shortstop has the chance to open eyes further as this line-up will need him.

(Roster note - the roster lists Egan Smith as restricted, and Alan Farina as active. but Farina got a drug suspension (substance of abuse) and he might be the one who's actually suspended)

Lansing

Now we're talking.

Roberto Osuna - all eyes are on the very young and very talented Mexican.

Daniel Norris - reportedly his ugly numbers last season hid some moments of excellence. He'll need to have more of the latter and less of the former this time (and his first appearance wasn't encouraging).

Santiago Nessy - the young catcher got a ton of praise this winter, both for his plate skills and his intangibles. The Jays think they really have something here.

Christian Lopes - one of my personal favorites, I expected him to be closing in on the 2B job in Toronto by the time Izturus' contract expires.

Dalton Pompey - highly regarded hometown prospect, needs to stay healthy and have an impressive season to really open up eyes outside the organization.

Chris Hawkins - star faded a lot last year. Seriously needs a break out.

Kellen Sweeney/Gus Perrie - two guys at 3B, both having progressed after a lot of early struggles diminished their prospect status. I'm a bit surprised to seethe Jays create an awkward situation with both on the same roster.

Taylor Cole/Jaaviar Avendano - the twin pillars of last year's championship Vancouver rotation, Cole is somewhat old to be a prospect at this level, though that's mitigated some by his time away from the game on a Mormon mission. And Avendano will have to overcome the reality that minor league Rule 5 picks are almost never considered legit prospects. I wouldn't be stunned to see Cole challenged with a promotion if he starts off well.

Griffin Murphy - be interesting to see if he ever gets back into the rotation. It seems awfully early to consign such a well regarded draftee to the 'pen.

The obvious missing guy - Marcus Stroman. He's listed on the NH roster but his comments suggest when he's activated (third week of May) he'll begin his year in Dunedin. The expectations are that he'll move fast though. If he does well look for him to split 10-12 starts between the two teams and go to Buffalo for the second half. As one possibility, if he pitches in Dunedin through the FSL all star break, then gets promoted to AA and pitches there until the EL all-star break, then to Buffalo, his record would have 5 A-ball starts, 6 AA starts, and 9-10 in AAA. Then either Toronto for September or, more likely, off to Arizona. Which is not to say the team won't give in to the temptation to call him faster under the right circumstances.

It's far too early to form up the short-season rosters but Vancouver could be fascinating. consider the guys who might be on that team:

Giant hard-throwing lefty Matt Smoral, the Latin trio of Alberto Tirado, Yefry Del Rosario and Jario Labourt.Tom Robson or Mark Biggs or maybe even Tyler Gonzales would finish out an all-prospect rotation.

DJ Thon might well be here trying to finally show his promise at SS, Matt Dean will likely have a chance to earn the 3B job here. The outfield, too, might be "all prospect" with lightning fast DJ Davis flanked by Jacob Anderson and Dwight Smith Jr. That would potentially be the most interesting team in the system.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Awesomesauce!

Opening Day at last! (After everyone else has there's)

All the previewing and prognosticating and hand-wringing and gushing has been done for now, it's time to see what we actually have. There's not really any new news to write about today - well, the minor league rosters were set but I'm not going to sully opening day by extensively discussing the minors, but you can't let opening day go by without comment.

So here's my rundown of expectations:

Dickey will be excellent early on as the league get's their first look at him, and mildly less so (but still quite good) as the season wears on.

Morrow will, if healthy, be a very strong Cy Young candidate, both because he's that damn good and because he'll enjoy the bump that comes from following Dickey against the same team in many of his starts.

Buehrle will be quite similar to what he was last year, he's a rock.

Johnson might well match up with Morrow and give the Jays two legit Cy contenders into the late summer, again, there's some injury risk.

Happ is in an unenviable situation in that he'd have to be outstanding to be secure. I think he'll be a very nice little pitcher, better than most of the #5 guys in the league...but I don't think he will finish the year in the rotation.

Santos will be "Closer A" at some point just because he'll gain momentum during the early season as the Jays be cautions with Janssen. Janssen will be "Closer B" and my guess is you'll see something like 25-30 saves for Santos and 15-20 for Janssen.

Oliver and Delebar will be the main 8th inning guys and the latter will put himself on the radar in a big way as a known-name around the league.

Cecil will be a pleasant surprise and improve as the season goes on. He'll position himself to take over Oliver's role next year. Loup will be good overall but have occasional adjustment periods. Rogers will end up being the goat who's okay but not as good as the rest. Jefress will be headed to Buffalo within a week or so.


Jose Reyes will have maybe his best year ever, certainly one that would be in the conversation.

Cabrera will be above average, and quite consistent, but not on a level with his career year last year. More like 2011.

Bautista will, I think, press early on and not be completely "in the groove" but will heat up with the weather.

Encarnacion, in my view, will probably regress some but still be the most obvious candidate to hit 4th.

Lind...uh....who the hell knows?

 Lawrie I have irrationally high hopes for. If he can stay on the field I look for him in Longoria country.

Rasmus. i don't think can stay irrationally bad. He may never hit as i am convinced his talents would warrant for his habit of getting in his own head, but I figure he'll still be above average for the position.

 Arencibia should progress a bit, on the margins, but is more or less what he is. AJ Pierzinski is the ceiling.

 Izturus/Bonfacio - I expect the latter to "run away with" the majority of the at bats (See what i did there?) eventually. Having he and Reyes both gunning for 50 steals in the same lineup should be a lot of fun to watch


I KNOW this sounds like unbridled optimism, but heck, is it not true that injuries are largely unpredictable, and that freak bad years can come out of the blue for almost any player? It's a mugs game to try to predict who's going to be the unlucky soul. We just have to hope that we don't have too many ugly surprises.


 Bonus prophecy: Dustin McGowan might be the guy who takes Happ's job before Romero gets his chance.



Wednesday, March 27, 2013

On the clock...

And as I write this I learn that time has run out for Ricky Ro to right his ship and break with the Jays. In anticipation of Opening Day one week from tonight, and with most rosters pretty close to settled, I wanted to take a look at how the AL East rivals match up.

Clearly, I'm not generally the go-to girl for in depth statistical analysis of player quality, but I'll still offer my impressions and if nothing else, provide a handy reference for what these teams intend to go to war with next week. I used the recently published Fangraphs positional rankings, which uses a projected WAR figure which I won't explain (find out the details at the link) as the sole source (other than my own opinions) but for simplicity sake I've separated the starters from the bench.  also, I totaled each player's WAR across all positions for which they were projected to contribute, again for simplicity. My goal here is total projected WAR, while there's was specific to positional strength. Finally, I disregarded those bench players beyond the 4 I listed on each team. The extent to which this affects the overall rankings should be marginal.

Commentary after each list will note if there's some obvious concern (i.e., for instance, the 2012 figure is strikingly different from their previous 2-3years of work)

(Note: projections were published before Vernon Wells was traded - you be the judge of how much that deal affects the rankings)

-------

Catcher

1. Matt Weiters - 4.1 
2. JP Arencibia - 2.2
3. Jarrod Salalamacchia - 1.6
4. Jose Molina - 1.0
5. Francisco Cervelli - 0.8

Of note here is who actually wins the full time job in New York. but since they project the same WAR for both Cervelli and Stewart, it doesn't really matter. 

First Base

1. Edwin Encarnacion - 3.3
2. Mark Texeria - 2.9*
3. Mike Napoli - 2.2
4. Chris Davis - 1.6
5. James Loney - 0.9

The obvious caveat here is how long Texeria is out. The author (in this case Matt Klassen) factors in projected playing time but I'm not sure the projected 525 PA is a solid prediction or not. As it goes down (potentially) then so, too, do the Yankees projection (unless you put a lot of stock in Wells' contribution).

Second Base

1. Robinson Cano - 5.1
2. Ben Zobrist -5.1
3. Dustin Pedroia - 4.9
4. Macir Izturus - 1.8
5. Brian Roberts - 0.4

Note well that Zobrist's high total derives from the ability to play multiple valuable positions. Izturus gains from that too, of course, but he's far from being the hitter Zobrist is. also of note here is the impossibility of projecting Brian Roberts because no one can say how much he'll be able to play or how well.

Shortstop

1. Jose Reyes - 3.2
2. JJ Hardy - 3.0
3. Yunel Escobar - 2.8
4. Derek Jeter - 1.7
5. Stephen Drew - 1.7

Over his last six seasons in which he exceeded 500 PA, Reyes averaged 5.2 WAR - over the last three since the injury that cost him most of a season, he's averaged 4.4 and that includes the only season of the six in which he fell below 4.5 (2010, coming off the injury season). With all due respect to the projection systems, I cannot let such a low projection for him go unchallenged. It's at least 1.0 too low given his age and recent health.

Third Base

1. Evan Longoria -6.4
2. Brett Lawrie - 4.2
3. Kevin Youklis - 3.4
4. Will Middlebrooks - 2.8
5. Manny Machado - 2.5

The author rightly notes the potential for Lawrie to take a quantum leap, I'll go ahead and make the assertion that he could easily be in the top 3-5 at his position in baseball in 2013.I'll also concede that both Middlebrooks and Machado have more helium than lead in their potential futures.

Left Field

1. Brett Gardner - 3.5
2. Matt Joyce - 2.4
3. Melky Cabrera - 2.1
4. Nolan Reimold - 1.3
5. Johnny Gomes - 0.9


Projecting Cabrera to regress to the level of his Yankees days seems a bit much, in my view. Gardner gets a big boost from the projected time in CF while Granderson recovers, and Joyce a smaller bump from the projection that he'll open in RF until Myers is recalled. 

Center Field 

1. Adam Jones - 3.3
2. Desmond Jennings - 3.2
3. Jacoby Elsbury - 2.9
4. Curtis Granderson - 2.2
5. Colby Rasmus - 1.8 

Elsbury suffers from playing time concerns due to injury history, Granderson likewise.While I don't share the pessimism on Rasmus, I'm not in a position to dispute it.  I will note, though, that he only need to improve by 1.0 WAR to land right in the thick of this list. It doesn't take an All-Star year to do that.

Right Field

1. Jose Bautista - 4.6
2. Shane Victorino -2.7
3. Nick Markakis - 2.3
4. Will Myers - 1.4
5. Ichero Suzuki - 0.9

Bautista's 2012 pro-rates to about 6.0 WAR, which is pretty much in line with the two previous years.  I'll say the projections are selling him short here. Victorino is so high because they project him to play CF in the presumed absence of the likely-to-be injured Elsbury.

Designated Hitter

1. David Ortiz - 2.6
2. Adam Lind -1.1
3.Travis Hafner - 1.0
4. Luke Scott - 0.8
5. Wilson Betimit - 0.5

Lind edges out Hafner on the basis of his potential to play 1B on occasion, which hafner won't likely be doing.

Bench

1. Rays (Lobotan, Johnson, Rodriguez, Fuld) - 2.5
2. Red Sox (Ross, Carp, Ciriaco, Nava)- 1.9
3. Blue Jays (Blanco, Bonifacio, DeRosa, Davis) - 1.8
4. Yankees (Stewart, Rivera, Nunez, Boesch) - 1.5
5. Orioles (Teagarden, Canzler, Flaherty, McLouth) 1.1

My observations here is that possibly Bonifacio's playing time was under-projected, and that I would have assumed Teagarden had more value. On the other hand, the Rays get perhaps a bit more credit here than they otherwise would because of the assumption that Johnson will gain some noticeable at-bats in the period while the Rays wait on the clock to tick on Will Myers. The Rays do use their bench morethan any of their rivals here though.

Totals so far, offense only:

1. Rays - 25.7
2. Blue Jays - 25.0
3. Yankees - 22.0
4. Red Sox - 21.6
5. Orioles - 19.6

Am I the only one here who thinks the undervaluing of Bautista, Reyes, and possibly Cabrera - to say nothing of the potential progress of Lawrie and/or Rasmus - ought to be more than sufficient to account for 0.7 WAR? I am biased of course but I don't see anything close to a similar undervaluing of the Rays hitters, and in fact I might contend that both Zobrist and Jennings are a bit high.

-------
On to the pitching...

#1 Starter

1. CC Sabathia - 5.2
2. David Price - 4.8
3. Jon Lester - 3.9
4. Jason Hammel - 3.2
5. RA Dickey - 3.1

SERIOUSLY? The models make Dickey out as a slightly worse bet than Jason HAMMEL? You're kidding me, right? The author notes that dickey seems to be undervalued and encourages an upgrade in yur mental adjustments. No s***. Add one full WAR here, on my authority.

#2 Starter

1. Hiroki Kuroda - 3.1
2. Ryan Dempster - 2.9
3. Brandon Morrow - 2.5
4. Wie-Yen Chen - 2.0
5. Jeremy Hellickson - 1.4

Again...huh? Hands up everyone in baseball who'd rather have Ryan Dempster in 2013 as Brandon Morrow? anyone/ Anyone at all? Buhller? also, by the way, I'll take Hellickson over Chen, and I'm not a huge Hellickson fan.

#3 Starter

1. Andy Petitte - 3.3
2. Matt Moore - 2.7
3. Mark Buehrle - 2.3
4. Clay Buchholtz - 2.3
5. Chris Tillman - 1.6

Sensing a pattern? FORTY year old Andy Petitte is a full win better than Mark Buehrle? while throwing (projected) 40 fewer innings?The seven years younger Beuhrle has had exactly two season in his career under 3.3 - I'd also project Moore to best Petitte and, if healthy (a big if) Buchholtz as well. Petitte's numbers did pro-rate to 3.4 last year over a similar number of innings, but we're to accept that the models saw no age-related decline? He only put up 2.1 in his last year before "retirement."
 
#4 Starter
1. Josh Johnson - 2.9
2. Alex Cobb - 2.4
3. Ivan Nova - 2.1
4. John Lackey - 1.7
5.  Miguel Gonzalez - 1.4

Pop quiz - Josh Johnson or Ivan Nova? if you even paused to consider Nova, go away - you don't know what a baseball looks like. Johnson, in far from classic form for a significant portion of 2012, still put up 0.9 more than this.

#5 Starter

1. Feliz Doubront - 2.1
2. Rickey Romero* - 1.6
3. Phil Hughes -1.3
4. Jake Arrieta - 1.3
5. Jeff Neimann - 1.0

Obviously, you have to adjust for the Romero situation here, but he's only projected for 137 IP in this model so it seems as if that's been done already.

Other projected starters in total

1. Yankees - 1.5
2. Red Sox - 1.1
3. Orioles - 1.1
4. Jays - 0.9
5. Rays - 0.9

Sigh. Not going to sweat half a win.

 Totals for rotations: 

1. Yankees - 16.3
2. Red Sox - 14.0
3. Jays - 13.3
4. Rays - 13.2
5. Orioles - 10.6

Highly disputable in my view. I could argue that any or all of four different Jays starters are projected at least 1.0 too low. Two of them workhorse guys for whom injuries are not an issue. The writer points out that a lot of Tampa's run preventions success comes from excellent fielding results, which is why they appear to be somewhat undervalued and mentally I adjust their totals accordingly. Petitte is as much as a full win too high. In reality, I'd suggest all of the top four fall somewhere between 14 and 15 total.

Closer

1. Rivera - 1.4
2. Santos - 1.4
3. Hanarahan - 1.0
4. Rodney - 1.0
5. Johnson - 0.9

Yes, Janssen is ostensibly the closer but since they are so tightly bunched, i decided to use the guy with the higher projection here. Let's also pause to note here that WAR, as a rule, doesn't much care for relievers in general.

Set-up

1. Yankees (Robertson/Logan) - 2.2
2. Red Sox (Bailey/Uehara) - 2.1
3. Blue Jays (Janssen/Oliver) - 2.0
4. Rays (Peralta/McGee) - 1.5
5.  Orioles (Stroup/O'Day) - 1.2


Not much to complain about here, other than perhaps wondering whether Bailey is ready to give 65 innings this year.

Other relievers

1. Yankees - 0.7
2. Blue Jays - 0.7
3. Red Sox - 0.5
4. Rays - 0.4
5. Orioles - 0.4

You should have expected something like this - it's usually inconsequential who the "other relievers" are unless they are horribly bad.

Bullpen totals

1. Yankees- 4.3
2. Blue Jays - 4.1
3. Red Sox - 3.6
4. Rays - 2.9
5. Orioles - 2.5

Pitching staff totals

1. Yankees - 20.6
2. Red Sox - 17.6
3. Blue Jays - 17.3
4. Rays - 16.1
5. Orioles - 13.1

Obviously based on my previous remarks you know I question this. off the Cuff I'd make it more like

Jays - 20.3
Yanks - 20.1
Red Sox - 17.6
Rays - 17.6

But...I'll lay that aside and go with the opinion of the cold numbers and the objective evaluators of those numbers. So with that said, here's the overall WAR totals:

1. Yankees - 42.6
2. Blue Jays - 42.3
3. Rays - 41.8
4. Red Sox - 39.2
5. Orioles - 32.7

So if you've been makingthe AL East a 3-way dead heat, well, the projections agree.  You'll forgive me if I assert that a reasonable intuition regarding the numbers presented here make the Rays and Yanks virtually even and the Blue Jays 2-4 games better.

If we assume, just for ease of discussion, that replacement level is a team that would win 50 games (I know, it's not that simple and I may have that total wrong - so sue me) then this would produce standings like this:

Yankees: 93-69
Blue Jays 92-70
Rays 92-70
Red Sox 89-73
Orioles: 83-79

I'm not going to take time to work out whether that would even be realistically possible given the intra-division schedule - but just adjusting it for my own views (i.e. that Reyes, Bautista, Morrow, Dickey, Buehrle, Johnson and maybe Cabrera are a full win short - and giving them credit for only half that much...and docking the Yanks for Petitte and too much optimism re Tex and Granderson...and bumping the Rays for the defense notation regarding their run-prevention ability....

Blue Jays: 95-67
Rays: 93-69
Yankees: 91-71
Red Sox: 89-73
Orioles: 83-79

But that's 31 wins more than the division accumulated last year., 16 more than their best year in the
last five....so....I'll do a little intuitive adjustment to get my final prediction

Blue Jays: 94 - 68
Rays: 89-72
Yankees: 87-75
Red Sox: 84-78
Orioles: 79-83

I'll go with Detroit to win the AL Central (shocker I know) and Texas to re-bound slightly (and benefit from Oakland coming back to earth a bit) and win the AL West. Just for fun I'll call the angels the other Wild Card. Jays\ and Rangers in the ALCS. I'll go with the Nats to represent the NL.

 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Dunedin Dispatches: Week 5

A quiet week, for the most part, and one in which I've worked too many hours leads to a late and short entry this week. With two weeks (less now) to go until opening day, the fucus has narrowed to a few key concerns:

1. Whither Ricky Romero? In the wake of yesterdays first game-action trial of his mechanical adjustment, questions abound. Given AA's response to questions I think it's reasonable to assume that if he "clicks" as Alex hopes, he'll break camp with the Jays and if he shows no progress over his next two starts, then their hand will be forced and they will have to let him continue to seek the handle in Buffalo to start the year.

2. Reintegrating the WBC veterans. These last two weeks will be used to let players from the classic attempt to "gel" with those who didn't. In particular, JP Arencibia who got only two starts in the tournament will get a lot of reps.

3. Bullpen showdown: As of now, Brett Cecil has pulled into the clear lead for the final spot available. That assumes that the current wisdom that Aaron Loup will make the team is true. If he doesn't, or if Casey Janssen isn't quite ready, Jefress might yet stick - otherwise he's the most likely to be traded at this point.

4. Second base: the jays seem to have decided not to decide, tentatively planning to use both of them situationally. Which is not a biad idea in my view..

5. Backup catcher: whispers are that, unsurprisingly, Blanco still has the inside track.


also, the Jays have added a couple of more arms to the Buffalo crowd - Guillermo Moscoso and Todd Redmond.


All for now.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Dunedin Dispatches: Week 4

Now with loads of Alex Anthopoulos content,given the Thursday interview on PTS:

Item: AA expressed confidence that both Janssen and Santos will be ready for the opening day roster, and noted that if both are healthy Janssen is still the presumptive closer.

Item: He said that Brett Lawrie is two weeks away probably, from getting into games and that puts him on a tight schedule to be dialed up by opening day. Don't be too stunned if he opened the season with a brief DL stint for rehab.

Item: Alex discussed the bullpen competition at some length. He noted that being "out of options" could serve as a tie-breaker in a close competition. He noted that pitchers who were excellent last year have a solid leg up as long as they are having a good camp, and mentioned by name Delebar and Loup. He then answered a question about Jefress and sang his praises but voiced caution and wanted to see whether he would keep it going. He spoke glowingly of McGowan, that he seems to be completely healthy and anxious to get into games - and used the expression "if healthy he has the best stuff in the organization."He did strongly imply thatitwas quite late to have him break camp with the Jays. the easy decision is to open theyear on the DL for a 30 day re-hap stint and hope that an opening develops on the big league roster before they haveto make a decision on him.
 I'll discuss the bullpen situation more further down.

Item: He clarified the situation with David Cooper. Without going into the gory details, the release was a function of CBA rules and the Jays hope to sign him to a minor league deal and give him a chance to recover.

Item: They discussed #1 prospect Aaron Sanchez and Alex refers to hm as "our Matt Moore" and quoted the well known Mel Queen comment that Sanchez was aheadof Chris Carpenter or Roy Halladay coming out of high school.

Item: Anthony Gose is much better this spring (Alex is not the only one to make this observation) but he also said he wants to see the spring success carry over to to the regular season. He said "offensively hestill has work to do."

Item: Plenty of confidence that they opportunity exists to sign Josh Johnson to an extension if theywish to.

Item: During a discussion of Romero he said basically that Ricky is the guy but that was open to adjustment, but tellingly he noted that in a season when you are going for it, you can't lose games protecting someone's feelings.

Item: he finished with an acknowledgement that trade talks heat up at the end of ST and pretty much flat out stated that if the out of options guys are not going to make it they will  be discussed in trades. Don't look for the team to lose anyone good without any compensation. 

Early on, Alex was highly praising what he saw from Jose Reyes, and every report concerning Reyes is glowing. this guy could be THE big acquisition in terms of intangibles, even more so than all the imported pitching.

In other items...

Item: the Jayshave signed, to a minor league contract, former Mariner Munenori Kawasaki He'll likely be the starting SS in Buffalo and serve as a depth option. 

Item: Adam Lind is having a great spring. Worth remembering, Lind regularly has a great spring. Stay tuned.

Item: Gibbons says the 2B job will "go down to the wire"

Item:

Item: Brett Cecil had a solid outing today.-his best of the spring. The news cycle doesn't buzz much about Esmil Rogers, who's been assumed to be a lock, and Brad Lincoln, who's assumed to not be likely to make it, but if i may indulge in another round of speculation...
Seven spots.

Mortal locks if healthy: Janssen, Santos, Oliver - the only waiver here is if one of the closers need a few days on the DL to catch up.

That leaves four.

Rogers has been presumed to be in, and it's hard to conceive that Delebar isn't likewise a lock. Today Alex added loup by name as a presumptive guy.

That would leave only one. Jefress and Cecil are both out of options, as you know, so if one doesn't make the team he's almost certain to be traded. Lincoln and Hall do have options, as Michael Schwimmer, Justin Germano, and anyone else you've heard called a candidate. I can't seeany of them forcing the Jays to get rid of two big league pitchers.

McGowan, of course, will almost certainly get 30 days in the minors to establish some momentum and catch up to the others, and he'll be hoping that roster machinations will open a role for him by May 1.

All this leads me to believe that it would not be stunning to think that Janssen might spend at least the first week on the DL and thus give Alex room to maneuver a few more days.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Dunedin Dispatches: Week 3

The Dusty Edition! Now with no lambchops (thank the gods, I much prefer the new look).

Yes as you might imagine, THE big story for me this week is the rekindling of the elusive dream of watching a healthy Dustin McGowan take baseball by storm. Yes, I know I know the odds have to be astronomical, but as long as HE believes, I believe. The Jays are saying, obviously, that his opportunity for now is in the bullpen, and that's new territory for McGowan in terms of the physical demands. But, while I'm assuming there will be a 15-day stint on the DL to open the season (to give him time to catch up AND to see who in the bullpen proves himself unworthy (I'm looking at you, Jefress) I'm going to go ahead and pencil McGowan in as the long man and theoretical #7 starter.

This means that Jefress, options or no, has an uphill battle (I hope I don't have to explain why the Jays would rather lose HIM on waivers as McGowan). It also means Brad Lincoln is that much more likely to be the Bison's closer rather than be in the majors on opening day. What has not yet been said, but which I believe to be true, is that if the jays had relatively long term injuries in the rotation, McGowan would be no worse than the second option (behind JA Happ) to step in, even if it meant he had to be stretched out "on the job."

In other news - cue the Chicken Little crowd, Sergio Santos has mild tricep soreness. Keep calm for now.

Item: Colby Rasmus is a complex dude. He offered a negative review of  John Farrell's choices; he noted that he tried too hard to get out of the slump (understandable, and part of the maturation process to recognize the error of that); and he notes that he's probably more comfortable being "just another guy" out of the spotlight instead of a high-profile cog (which given what we've learned of his personality makes perfect sense). Along with Morrow and Lawrie, he's the guy i expect to really step up to the next level this year.

Item: there as a minor kerkuffle ofmedia noise about Bautista's supposed anger issues at the plate. meh. i don't careto give that any thought.

Item: a bit more buzz around Aaron Loup than seems warranted given the crowded situation for middle relievers.  Loup is pitching very well so far, but combine AA's "I've learned not to make decisions based on ST" with the reality that you have to find a way to deal with an out of options guy if he sticks, combined with his relative age and inexperience, combined with the potential that McGowan might somehow hold together...I just don't see it.

Speaking of relief pitchers, the common cliche is that if Jeremy Jefress (for example) doesn't make the team, they would likely lose him on waivers since he's out of options. But i don't think so. My guess is that by the third week of March Alex will have fielded multiple offers on the three OOO guy sand be prepare to pull the trigger on whomever doesn't make the cut.None of them will be "lost" to a simple waiver claim, IMO.

Item: more and more you see the stories praising both DeRosa and Blanco as Magical Mystery Players who bring serendipity and success to those around them even when they don't contribute much at the plate. I guess we'll find out.

Item: making an exception to the "why bother with links?" principle again - it's worth your time to check out this update at DJF because it includes a section on the Centennial college writers who are doing features on interesting Jays prospects. That's refreshingly different.

Item: in the ex-Jay department, Shi Davidi has a nice piece on Aaron hill that reinforces what we all should know but sometimes forget - there's so very much mental about the game that you simply can't assume that any statistical based projection system is going to give you a definitive idea of how good a player will be this year. It's the best we've got, but there's so much it can't adjust for. I remember many a conversation in 2011 about how Hill was clearly done, one of the worst 2B in the game, and Kelly Johnson was far superior.
Even though I was a Hill supporter in that conversation, the experience taught me to try and not be so adamant about my views. There's so much more the team knows than what we know that to assume you KNOW the team made a mistake is irrationally foolish.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dunedin Dispatches: Week 2

Following the same format, not bothering with a link dump since that's done better elsewhereby guys getting paid to do it.

Item: Get ready for the Fasano Flop! Apparently Sal Fasano has come up with a technique to both block the plate and avoid massive home-plate collisions. How cool would it be to add something new to the grand old game that no one ever thought of before?

Item: as the paid press is wont to do, there are several very similar stories today about the role mark DeRosa is trying to play in refining Mr. Incredible, aka Brett Lawrie. At one point DeRosa is quoted making a comparison between Lawrie and The National's Bryce Harper(!)

Item: Brandon Morrow employs on-line site to demonstrate to Ricky Romero one of the places where he went wrong last year. It seems Romero lost confidence in, and almost stopped using, the sinker which had been possibly his most effective pitch in 2011. Morrow found data which showed that Romero's use of that pitch had dropped by half from 2011 to 2012. This is cool not only in that it motivated Romero to go out today and focus on regaining the polish he once had on his sinker, but also as an insight into how at least one member of the staff is looking for not-so-obvious information in an effort to make himself and his team better. The only question in my mind is - why don't the Jays have someone in their employee looking for just this sort of data?

Item: Casey Janssen is taking it slow. So slowly that no one seems to speak with confidence about him opening the season on the active roster. No one is  really worried about the long term recovery, but given the number of out-of-options players they have to manage, and the awkward situation concerning who will actually be the closer, a couple of weeks on the DL might be just what the management could use right now. Ultimately, it would give them a couple of more weeks to decide about fence-sitting guys like Jefress and Cecil, and it would also allow them to more naturally flow into a "co-closer" situation with Janssen and Santos. I'd guess that the Jays would ultimately be stronger if Santos got the bulk of the classic save situations, while Janssen got both the 4-inning-or-more save situations and was also available for the very pivotal 7th and8th inning situations. You might end up with Santos having 30 saves and Janssen having 10 or 12, but with the latter every bit as crucial to the success of the pen as the former. The flip side being that Santos probably would NOT be as effective in those more-than-an-inning tasks as Janssen would. The problem, as always, is whether or not they can see past the baseball cliches associated with being the "capital C" closer, and the resulting worries about hurt feelings and such like.

Item: Some are not convinced Mekly Cabrera might not face further punishment. I'd be pretty stunned by that but, also, seeing Bonafacio getting a chance to run wild would be kinda cool. Pro-rate his steal numbers from last year and imagine him following Reyes in the batting order.

Item: Jays acquire another big high-strikeout reliever for bargain basement prices. Michael Schwimmer might be, say, Jeremy Accardo...or he might be Jeremy Accorado, (if you don't know what that means, check out his career stats) but either way, if you can get a guy who might in theory contribute something to the major league team for Art Charles, you do that all day and all night. Charles is never going to suit up for a major league game.

Item: John Farrel sets new standard. For a long time, the classic "in-joke" around the Jays was "it's not a lie if we know the truth" but that meme may now have been supplanted when John Farrel said in an interview yesterday "if I recall correctly, I was traded." Right. Came as a complete shock to ya, eh? If I'd had any cle that the Jays would bring back Gibby, I'd have founded "firejohnfarrell.com a year ago.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Duneiden Dispatches

As the paid media ramps up their detailing of all things Blue Jays in this most optimistic of springs, it seems to me that the link dumps have already been done elsewhere (DJF is very through, and you can follow Blue Jays Aggregator on Twitter for another fine source) s rather than do that, I think I'll just do a player-by-player rundown on the items that have caught my eye and contribute a fresh spin, if I have one.
Starting from the outfield wall and moving inwards...

Melky Cabrera - has said "stop asking me about the PEDs" and I think that's fair. The question of how much of his past 2 years production was "enhanced" is a fair one (I say this as one who is not convinced that PEDs actually produce much in the way of enhanced results, except in the recovery time from injury and I don't see why I should object to that effect). But let's confine the discussion of the subject to "what are our reasonable expectations for LF production in 2013?' m'kay.?

Colby Rasmus - Richard Griffin, among others, writes that this is Rasmus' "make or break year" which, realistically, it is. If he is going to hold off Anthony Gose in Toronto, he must step up his game this year. Otherwise he'll find himself starting over again next year. Some suggestions, though it is very early, about his approach seem to be hopeful. I'm one of those who's irrationally optimistic about a big year for him.

Jose Bautista - the question has been asked whether his wrist will still hamper his production this year, but the strong buzz in Dunedin is that he's swinging with authority and shows no sign of ill effect.

Brett Lawrie - there's a story out that Mark DeRosa has assumed the mentor role with Lawrie, and while I'm a skeptic about DeRosa's contributions at the plate, if indeed his vaunted leadership skills leverage maximum production for Lawrie, it more than justifies his spot on the roster.  I've seen one article which suggests that there's still a solid chance he could step to the next level this year. I, for one, believe that Lawrie will very soon insert him into the discussion "who's the best 3B in baseball?" and wouldn't be shocked if he did so in 2013.

Jose Reyes- Much is being made of the enthusiasm Reyes brings to the clubhouse and the field. While there's a limit to how much that translates into actual wins, if these reports are accurate, Reyes stands to become as big a fan favorite as Lawrie and Joey Bats.

Macir Izturs/Emilio Bonifacio - the well know "only competition among batters in camp" meme is being played out hard. I started out, after the trade, assuming that Bonifacio would win the job, but the article soften mentioned that Izturus is rated a better defender and i'm moving to the view that the team might work betters with Izturus the primary 2B, and Bonifacio available to provide spot starts and flexibility all over the left side of the field. I don't think there's a wrong answer here.

Edwin Encarnacion - one of the things no one is writing about that's on my mind is how much EE is now considered the first baseman, as opposed to the DH. My guess is that he'll spend a lot of time their during ST and lay claim to the position, if for no other reason than the guy who's performing ought to get preference when it comes to being on the field (which every hitter prefers to being a DH) when all other things (health, defense, etc) are equal.

Adam Lind - famously put his foot in his mouth concerning the departed coaches. Chad Mottola, the new batting coach, is confident he can get Lind back to being productive. Most think the leash is pretty short. If things go poorly, you'll see an import before the break. If Jim Thome finds himself unemployed on April 1, don't be surprised if the Jays stay in contact with him as long as Lind's production is in doubt. David Cooper is, however, not breathing down his neck this spring. Cooper has serious back issues and his potential to ever be a regular major leaguer may be in doubt.

JP Arencibia - the only storyline here is his determination to be a viable option for catching RA Dickey (and thereby being in the Opening Day lineup. Of course, there's also the ongoing competition behind the plate among potential back-ups Josh Thole and the aging Henry Blanco. I still can't wrap my head around the idea that Blanco is the favorite here, unless Thole is still nursing some injury, but you have to file it under "the team knows more than I do."

The rotation - Dickey's knuclker is impressing already; Johnson is talking about how his improvement over the course of 2012 had to do with bringing back and refining his curve;  Romero reports the injuries he had cleaned up over the winter to be feeling very good and hopefully his mental state is much improved,given he's no longer expected to carry the staff on his own shoulders; Mark Behrlie is being discussed more for the dog issue than anything else; and all is quite regarding Brandon Morrow - but let us pause for a sec and contemplate the times opposing teams will have to deal with his heat after having faced Dickey the night before.

Casey Janssen/Sergio Santos - the former is the presumptive closer, but going at a reduced speed while he recovers from minor off-season surgery. In theory this opens the door for Santos, who's reportedly fully healthy, but short relievers don't need much ST to be ready so it's a month too early for this speculation. 

Other pitchers...

Dustin McGowan - had been throwing since December, experienced mild shoulder pain (which he blames on too-long long toss) - obviously I can't express optimism but i still have hope.
JA Happ - the theme remains that he's potentially ticketed for Buffalo, more on that in a sec.
Brad Lincoln - Like Happ, he has options and those may land him in the Buffalo rotation, but...
Darren Oliver - all quiet
Steve Delenbar - all discussion presumes he's set to be a key player in Toronto, even though he does have an option or two.
Esmil Rogers, Brett Cecil, Jeremy Jefress - all out of options and thus all assumed to have something of an edge in making the team. AA even mentioned at the SOTF meeting that rogers was assured a job on that basis. But today John Gibbons said that he would take the best team north, options aside.If that's true, all three of these will have to fight for their job. McGowan is out of options too and should he end the spring healthy, something has to give.
In theory, Happ, Lincoln, and younger guys like Chad Jenkins, Aaron Loup, and Evan Crawford would be part of such a competition. Some writers suggest that minor league free agent signings like Justin Germano and David Bush would also be candidates but I have a very hard time believing THAT.

Still, Gibbons' claim enlivens what is already probably the most interesting roster-construction discussion of the spring.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Tick tock

Like you, I grow increasingly frustrated with the long delays between posts. I'm going to have to break away from my love for long elaborate high-content posts because they never get finished. I have, on my spreadsheet, most of the data for a mega-post featuring a player by player comparison of all the teams in the AL East.  And yet, it seems sort of silly to do that much work demonstrating the Jays are the on-paper favorites when las Vegas has already told us as much.

So i may or may not ever get THAT post up, but in the mean time, Spring Training opens in less than a week and I'm going to have to find a rhythm reacting to the news of the day. Which should be much more frequent in the coming weeks. So rather than  do a numbers post, let me wander through the virtual clubhouse in light of the rash of stories on the SotF event this week. (and yes, I know, 900 other Jays blogs have already plowed that ground in some fashion).

Item: Starting pitchers - As you've no doubt read, John Gibbons showed his cards on the rotation order, listing them Dickey > Morrow > Buehrle > Johnson > Romero. That's as solid a set as you will find. Dickey, as the defending Cy, enjoys a presumptive entitlement to the first spot, no matter how managers might pooh-pooh that idea. Morrow and Johnson are interchangeable, and going with the returning player instead of the import is smart, plus the hard-thrower who follows Dickey probably gets an edge vs the same team, and you might as well not give that to the guy who's playing for a mega deal (Johnson). Eleven times in the first half alone, Morrow will follow dickey against the same opponent.

Splitting up the hard-throwing righties with the finesse lefties is as "Baseball 101" as it gets, and given Romero's 2012, it would be hard to put him over Buehrle.  That said, a lot of speculation revolves around Romero having put too much pressure on himself to carry the staff last year. The pressure will be completely off this year, in that regard, so don't be shocked if he has a huge rebound. also, as I've done the last two years, so say I again: like for Morrow to be the best pitcher on the team and a Cy contender.

Item: Bullpen - Janssen as the presumptive closer is only fair, but they say a bit more about Santos when the question is asked than I would like. I really really like Santos and am not worried on the health issue, but when you do as good as Janssen did you have proven you are up to the job. Don't mess with that. Listing those two and Oliver as the only locks makes sense to me...but why does Esmil Rogers keep making that list? AA always says "since he's out of options" BUT Brett Cecil and Jeremy Jefress are also out of options and they are not listed as likely locks. If options really do serve as major factors in who breaks camp with the Jays, then you have already accounted for six spots unless someone blows up well and truly. That would leave only one spot which you have to assume Delenbar is far ahead of the pack
on.

So. I'm going to pencil in Janssen > Santos > Oliver forthe 8th and 9th, Delenbar for the key 7th inning guy (Frasor's old job, really) and fill it out with Rogers, Jefresss, and Cecil, pending failure. I've a hunch that Cecil comes into his own as a poor man's Scott downs this year and goes on to have an impressive career.   JA Happ and Brad Lincoln lead the Buffalo rotation and wait for a chance in Toronto. Followed by Chad Jenkins and some retreads. Pending, of course, the health of Dustin McGowan.  Relief wise, the Jays are well stocked with options, having Aaron Loup, Evan Crawford, on the doorstep and a few others, besides those already mentioned, with some skills.

One of the noticeable things when it comes to comparing WAR totals between the AL East competitors is that you don't really know what to do with the WAR accumulated by guys like Happ that have been crowded off the roster.

Item: Catchers - The Jays acknowledge the existence of a competition between Henry Blanco and Josh Thole. Personally, short of a health issue I can't conceive of Blanco winning that but all the reports say he has the presumptive edge going in.

Item: Second - as Alex has previously noted, Izturus has the presumption as camp opens. Gibbons added that he's the one with the better Glove. I'm anxious to see Bonifacio in the lineup a lot. But I'm much more understanding on this point than i am the catcher question.

Item: Whither Colby Rasmus? John Gibbons articulated my own view - that Rasmus is on the verge of putting it all together. Like Romero, he probably thinks too much for his own good and now here he is surrounded by team-carrying talent all around the diamond. he doesn't HAVE to be a star and sometimes, that's just the environment where such a player blossoms. I wouldn't be at all shocked if he stepped up to the level of players Like Curtis Granderson, and he could be even better than that. Keep in mind he had an .823 OPS in the first half last year, and that's with a slow start. What remains is for him to put together a whole season as he did at his best.

And finally, for tonight, let me take a moment to acknowledge the elephant. YES, we will have to worry, for a while, about Bautista's hand. It MIGHT screw up his whole year. But before early season panic sets in, let's remember that last year, he was sitting on May 10, 2012, he was hitting .177 - and until his hand was hurt returned  it around pretty darn nicely. So don't look for me to dwell on that possibility much.

With all that said, I'm ready to get this party started!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Oliver, Odds and ends

I'm just going to take a moment to review some of the transactions, reports, interviews and rumors that have floated over the wire in the last month or so where I have some thought or comment.

NEW item: Darren Oliver WILL return for 2013 for his 20th season in pursuit of his first ring. Following items edited to reflect new info.

Item: Colby Rasmus avoids arbitration, signed for one year at $4.675 mil. That brings the total of guaranteed contracts to $112.575 million for 17 players, including Dustin McGowan.. There are three other players still arb eligible (Thole, Bonifacio, Happ) and my estimate is that they will combine to make about 7.5 million. We'll assume for the purpose of this exercise that McGowan will be on the DL, since we need one more hitter for the proper ratio. Among the 12 non-pitchers who can confidently be assumed to the major league roster, only two - Lawrie and Arencibia - are pre-arb. Among the pitchers, you have the rotation set and under contract, and potentially 3 pre-arb players - Delenbar, Cecil, and one from among Lincoln, Rogers (out of options) and Jefress (ditto) - filing out the bullpen. Five pre-arb players at no more than half a mil apiece adds another $2.5 mil to the total. Plus the unknown 13th hitter who will make at least half a mil.

NEW item the second: All arbitration cases settled. Thole signs for 2 years, 1.25 mil per; Bonifacio comes in at 2.6; Happ at 3.7 - for a total, in 2013, of $7.55 mil. See my estimate above.

s here's the latest revision:

Under contract: $120.125 (20 players out of 26 - given McGowan)
Six pre-arb spots: $3 mil at least
Three injured players who will be on 60 day DL (whom i neglected to include before): $1.5 mil (roughly)

That adds up to right around $124.625 million.

(subject to the potential salary of the unknown "13th hitter"



Item: The Oliver announcement likely puts an end to the whole "I wouldn't mind adding one more reliever" meme from Alex. In the highly unlikely event that it doesn't, i move they sign Brandon Lyon already.  The market has been stone silent in terms of rumors about Brandon Lyon. He was here last year, pitched well here, apparently likes it, surely can see that he's dealing with a contender...and if the Jays are going to sign some veteran guy, I can't see a good argument for looking elsewhere.

Item: Henry Blanco? lest you be confused - Blanco is insurance. There's a reason his contract is non-guaranteed. He's a Plan B if Thole has injury issues (or JP for that matter) and that particularly in Spring Training. Odds are that he'll serve as a sort of player coach in the spring helping school JP and others in the fine art of catching the knuckler. Then he'll shuffle off to Buffalo and be ready in  case of an in-season emergency. Yes technically he can walk away if they try to send him down, but the odds of a 41 year old catcher finding work on the first of April would not be promising.

 Item: Minor league maneuvers and the Buffalo roster.While there are still likely more signings, waiver claims, and such like to come, a preliminary look won't hurt. We learned yesterday that Adam Loewen is back in the system and while I no longer harbor high hopes of his eventually making his way to a regular major league job, I still have a soft spot for him and his story. So  with that in mind I'll look at the hitters in AAA since there's less maneuvering there anyway. So barring further acquisitions:

If Blanco accepts a demotion, he and Mike Nicaks are easily identifiable as the catching crew. Neither ofthe guys on the prospect list needs to be here yet. David Cooper, unless he takes Lind's job from him in the Spring, will be at 1B, Ryan Goins will certainly move up to take over at SS, and the rest of the infield will be populated with  journeyman and filler, no better than Mike McCoy (who may be the default third baseman).. In the outfield, Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra own CF and RF respectively, while LF will be a competition between Keenen Bailli, Richardo Nanita, and Loewen, with one of those likely being the primary DH as well. Ryan Langerhans will surely make the team as a valuable backup as well.

Among the pitchers, the story is much more complex. Starting with the rotation, some assumptions are in order about who makes the cut for the Blue Jays.For the purpose of this exercise, I'm going to assume that in Oliver's absence, that Cecil (who's out of options) and JA Happ (who's not) are the bullpen lefties. There's a non-zero possibility that Happ is sent to Buffalo to stay stretched out in the rotation but he would be rightfully very unhappy about that. Beyond that, I assume Janssen, Santos, Delenbar, Lincoln, and Rogers (also out of options) make it in the absence of any additions. That means the Buffalo staff begins to shape up like this:

Starters - Chad Jenkins (will surely start in the minors no matter his major league future; Jeremy Jefress (in the unlikely event that he clears waivers, he's out of options too); John Stilson (speculative, he might go back to New Hampshire); Brad Lincoln (if he doesn't make the major league bullpen, he'd likely start in the minors just to provide an emergency alternative);David Bush, Greg Smith. Justin Germano and Ramon Ortiz are the fallbacks for Jefress departing or any other setback, as well as being bullpen candidates.
Relievers - prospects Evan Crawford and Aaron Loup, assuming they are not in Toronto, head this group. Sam Dyson might be here, or might get started at AA in April. Alan Farina has an outside shot. The balance will be made up from the following group, in rough order of quality: Tommy Hottovy, Mickey Storey, Chad Beck, Trystan Magnuson, Justin Germano (needed as an emergency starter at least) Rich Thompson,

That's 8-10 possibilities, other, less qualified IMO, sgniees include Niel Wagner, Alex Hinshaw, Juan Perez, Claudio Vargas, Mike Banaka, Bobby Korecky, and Buddy Carlyle. Some of the overflow will go to AA, a lot of it will be released. By necessity, there's no point in trying to project whether, in August, Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison and/or Luis Perez push some of these guys aside.

Item: Justin Jackson, pitcher. According to a tweet from the no-hit shortstop (nee center fielder) the player and team have decided he's never going to hit and they are going to see if he can learn to pitch. He's always had a heckuva arm so don't rule it out.

 Item: World Baseball Classic. RA Dickey and JP Arencibia  are on the U.S. squad and may not be the only ones. The should get valuable bonding time out of the experience. Brett Lawrie will play for the Canadian squad. Encarnacion and Jose Reyes will suit up for the Dominican. All this takes place in March so there will be some interesting adjustments necessary for the Blue Jays. One thing you can count on, guys like Coper and Gose will get a lot of playing time, and with Izturus at SS on many occasions, Bonifacio should get a lot of work too. We must hope that this team, which needs time to "gel" won't get off to a slower start than they would like to because of the disruption.