Friday, 27 February 2015

Stop me if you've heard this one

You hear about Saunders yet? Seen 45 different (yet somehow the same) overviews of what the potential alternatives now are? Darn skippy you have! Probably 8 or 10 different takes on not getting your hopes up about Johan Santana too!

These days it's pretty much impossible for the casual blogger to remotely keep up. Beyond the professionals who make their living at it, the semi-professionals who soon will, and the multi-writer blog sites with a lot of contributors, a little hole-in-the-wall outfit like this one is never going to break any news. Heck, even link-dump posts are everywhere now.

But I wouldn't be the opinionated sort that maintains a blog anyway if i didn't have an interest in posting them anyway. The trick is to avoid repetition if not inadvertent plagiarism, which can be tricky on days like this. For my money, the most salient observation about Saunders comes from Richard Griffin. He notes that Sal Perez had the same injury in march of 2013 and was back in a major league game almost exactly 3 months later - and he's a catcher. So, all variables in play of course, your time lost would range from 49 games (assuming his first games back are played on grass, at the end of May) to 81 games (same assumption, early July).

Here's my take on the various possibilities, many of which mentioned elsewhere.

1. A trade. The only one I've seen pointed out that seems to me to actually make some sense is David DeJesus(suggested on He's squeezed out of anything other than DH in TB, he's a LH hitter, he's quite solid against RHP and would provide a nice reserve option (albeit with less than desirable defense) once Saunders returns. He costs too many $$ but that means the cost in prospect would be negligible - or you could give a somewhat better prospect and split the contract with the Rays. The downside for me is that I like the idea of a wide open door for Pillar to prove himself which an acquired vet would close. Still, if this is a deal you make 4-6 weeks from now, Pillar get's the whole spring to make his case.

2. Gindl/Pillar - to repeat, I'd love to see Pillar get a full time shot and succeed, but if he struggles to be at least average vs RHP, I like what I see of Caleb Gindl. Now it's true I'm forced to base my opinion mostly from the stat sheet (what am I, a scout?) but there's something intriguing there.He debuted in he majors in 2013 at the age of 24, acquitting himself well with a .779 OPS and 112 OPS+ in 155 plate appearances, most strikingly walking almost as much as he struck out. Like Pillar, he was a productive hitter with an excellent eye at the plate all through the minors (although Gindal struggled during 2014) and ether or both men could seize the opportunity to prove themselves. 

3. Ezequiel Carrera - would have to use OBP, speed, and defense to make up for being a pure singles hitter. maybe the second coming of Otis Nixon. A much less appealing choice than the first two but not completely embarrassing.

4. Play the Navarro card - no, i don't mean putting Navarro out there, I mean changing your priority about what you want for Navarro. For example, take the obvious illustration of the D'Backs. They have an ugly squad most everywhere apart from 1B but teir OF is particularly weird. They have almost 10 mil committed to David Ross (who may or may not be too broken down to play), they have a DH playing LF that they expect a lot of power out of (Trumbo) and over $68 million invested in Yasmany Tomas which means he has to play somewhere at some point. Plus a couple of young center fielders with actual talent, one of which (AJ Pollock) will be the starter and 2nd best hitter on the team and the other a fine reserve player or the first option to be called up. They also have David Peralta, an unheralded (before last year) steal out of the Indy leagues. He pounded RHP in 2014 but was better at home so there's a grain of salt there. Plus he has al his options.

A smart GM would stash him at AAA but a smart GM wouldn't be heading into the season with Tuffy Gosewisch as there best option behind the plate. Navarro for Peralta (and maybe a throw in) might be workable at the trade table and would certainly work on the field.

5. Chris Dickerson.....HAHAHA...NO! With all due respect to Wilner, whom I agree with more often than not...NO. I'd as soon ask around to see what Corey Patterson is up to these days.

In other news of the day:

Johan Santana? Sure, why the heck not, right? I'm just going to go ahead and pencil him in on the 60 day DL now, but let's fantasize a bit about the idea that he does hold together and pitches better than average for a 5th Starter.  That makes it easier to put Sanchez in the bullpen, and Norris in AAA. And if Santana isn't quite up to speed by opening day, I'd bet Estrada would get the first few turns in the rotation giving them a chance to take a look at Drabek or one of those non-roster guys in that spot in the 'pen. (and speaking of non-roster guys, sure sounds like Wilton Lopez is a guy they'd really like to see make the cut, doesn't it?)


Finally, if you visit here sometime in the next month and something seems odd, bear with me. I've finally decided to go through the potential drudgery of reconciling my blogging activity.

When this blog started it was a tree-way partnership but over time my partners moved on, meanwhile, I'd started a personal blog elsewhere on Blogger. This one is still tied to the e-mail account set up to be shared, and the other blog to my everyday e-mail. As far as I can tell Blogger doesn't allow an easy fix to this so I'm likely going to move this blog to an account associated with my real identity. Which will mean presumably a new URL. I'm still working out the details. Also, this blog is no longer associated with Yardbarker but i can't figure out how to get rid of the banner at the top so that's another motivation to get something done.

When it's moved I'll probably play with the layout and such since it's been almost entirely unchanged for years now. In any case, if you are worried about being able to  find the new home, follow me on twitter to stay informed.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Watch This, Part 2

As we get into this discussion, the easy complaint would be that none of these guys matter because they aren't "proven" - but just because it's easy doesn't make it right. One year ago, for example, Todd Redmond was "unproven." In the 2013 - you remember the great bullpen in '13? - the Jays got almost 220 above average innings from unproven relievers, most notably Brett Cecil among them You know what Cecil has in common with Redmond, Aaron Loup, Casey Janssen, Jesse Carlson, Scott Downs, and that's just in the last decade or so? Unheralded and unproven before blossoming in the Jays 'pen. I trust I need not review the legacy of well paid "proven" relievers we've employed over that time period. There's definitely some possibilities here.

AAA bullpen and candidates for a surprise job in Toronto
I'm going to start with the basic assumption that guys with a history of starting will be candidates fr the Bisons rotation and are not germane to a discussion of their 'pen. For the moist part, I don't think they are prime candidates to fill an opening in the Jays rotation unless all the other options are sucking.
So I'm going to just stick with looking at all the guys who will be fighting both for a AAA assignment and to force the Blue Jays' hand regarding a major league role. First, the guys on the 40 man roster:

Rob Rasmussen - Very likely the go-to option for additional LH relief. He held his own last year in brief appearances and was excellent in Buffalo after having spent his entire previous career as a minor league starter. He'll turn 26 just before Opening Day, and if Cecil is the closer he could easily break camp with the Jays.
Matt West - converted 3B with only 113.2 IP on his 26 year old arm. Acquitted himself well climbing the Ranger's system, including a respectable showing in the PCL. May demand your attention
Ryan Tepera - another guy who pitched well after shifting to the 'pen in AAA, no accident he was added to the 40 last off-season.
Scott Barnes - the only other lefty reliever on the 40, if he can refine his control. Walk rate is an issue so far.
Preston Guilmet - absolutely dominant until last year when he was good-but-not-great.  Said to have a slow fastball.
Colt Hynes, Bo Schultz - Just guys. I'm mystified they are still on the 40.
Non-roster veterans-
Greg Infante - One-time hot prospect with a big heater, but little control. He found the strike zone last year and was excellent. If he doesn't forget where he left it, could be a dark horse and definitely one to watch.
Wilton Lopez - damned fine reliever in Houston for 3 years then got traded to hell, I mean Colorado. If he can get back to what he was before, he's the most likely non-roster guy to elbow his way in front of Jenkins and the most obvious choice if there's a spring injury..
Luis Perez - remember this guy? Yep. Same guy. If he can get healthy (less than 15 IP in last two seasons) he'd be worth watching.
The first three and the last three can't be ruled out as long-shot candidates to break camp with Toronto.

Noticed the issue yet? If you assume none break camp with the Blue Jays, then that's nine guys who might otherwise be assumed to be in the Bison's 'pen, plus Perez and John Stilson if/when healthy plus Bobby Korecky (old guy was dominant in AAA last year), Blake McFarland (kicked ass in the AFL after solid AA season), and Dustin Antolin (ready for promotion from AA) to consider. In other words, several of the lesser talents here (Schultz, Barnes?) are not long for the system.
And still there will be guys in AA who don't deserve to be.

The Jays will have at least one relief appearance by 20 or more relievers in every season (judging by recent years) so lets see if we're that deep: Sanchez, Cecil, Loup, Redmond, Estrada, Delabar, Jenkins, Drabek, Lopez, West, Infante, Rasmussen, Tepera, Perez, Hynes, Gulimet, Osuna, Castro, Stilson, Hendriks/Francis/Albers (

More Minor League questions...

Speaking of Dwight Smith...
LF? 2B? Signs are mixed. The AFL trial was before Travis was acquired, and DSJ says it as "just for versatility"....BUT...Travis or no, if he can field it well Smith's bat plays much better at 2B...BUT...Travis at AAA and Smith at AA squeezes out the well regarded (at least by the org) Jon Berti. My guess? Smith is n LF to open the season (less pressure as he adjusts to AA) then, assuming Travis is promoted, Berti is likely to follow and Smith moves to 2B - unless they decide he won't be able to field it.

Alford v. Davis
Anthony Alford needs game reps, so he needs to be on a full season roster. Logically, Lansing. BUT fellow Mississippian, Jays prospect and most of all center fielder DJ Davis played there last year and hit (and ran) so poorly it would be insane to promote him. So either you play one of them out of position half the time or one has to go somewhere else. Watch to see if Alford convinces them to try him at Dunedin.

Max Pentecost
Back up to speed enough to break camp with a full season club?
EDIT: News breaks today that he needed a second shoulder scope as the one last fall didn't achieve the intended outcome.  Projected to need three months before he begins throwing again, that puts him on a solid track to open with the Canadians in June. Good news for Dan Jansen.

Jeff Hoffman
Open with a full season club? If so my bet is on Dunedin. Better medical staff, closer to home base, and keeps recovering elbow out of the cold. If he starts there and does well, he'll move as fast as his performance allows next year.

John Stilson
Will he ever stay healthy enough to live up to the potential?

The former opens in Dunedin, does the latter? Or will the Blue Jays be more conservative with the latter and make him force them? Osuna will, if all goes well, spend more time in AA than A+ (I'd guess up no later than right after the A+ ASG) and they may just be thinking that open rotation spot is Castro's to lose.

Lansing rotation
If they start him in Lansing, he and Jario Labourt will have dibs but might be joined by Chase DeJong, Matt Smoral and Ryan Borucki which is a crazy good rotation if it comes together.

Matt Boyd/Taylor Cole
Regain their momentum at AA this year? If so they'd have to be considered sleeper candidates to slip into the major league 'pen at some point.

Sean Ochinko/Christian Lopes
Did their off-season success (the former in the AFL, the latter Down Under) revive their sagging status? Lopes particularly was well regarded when drafted - is there any there there?

I'll be watching (from, alas, afar)

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Watch This

So reporting days are looming, several layers are already in Dunedin and the Jays' press (and blogosphere) are awash with articles discussing unresolved questions that remain to be addressed in the six weeks or so ahead of us. This post represents an effort in a similar vein, but I will not necessarily restrict myself to questions of a major league nature. So here' my own list of things to watch between now and opening day, feeling obliged to at least notice the questions others are asking.

Unless Justin Smoak completely tanks, 7 of 9 lineup spots are essentially set, and those seven in some order being the top 7 in the batting order. One other - CF - has a strong favorite and the other - 2B - is presumed to be a spot you are going to have to carry.  But the reason i bring it up is that the commonly repeated assumption is that Russ Martin hits second and Michael Saunders hits sixth - I'm not so sure. The presumed seven has only 2 LH hitters, it seems kinda crazy to me to hit those two back-to-back. I'm gonna say keep an eye on the #2 spot in the order.

First Base
If Smoak does collapse, count on an import. EE can shift back to being the primary 1B of course, but someone will have to be imported to either play first or DH - at least able to hold up the strong half of a platoon with Valencia.

Kevin Pillar
Dalton Pompey has the inside track on the CF job - and I'm on record predicting wild success - but the Jays are going to have a real asset on their hands if Pillar continues to show improvement.  One of the big differences between the Jays and the similarly situated Red Sox is the depth of their rival's bench. If Pillar ends up being a quality 4th OF/PH it stands to make an important difference.

Dioner Navarro
Still possible he could be dealt but it's going to take real value in a near-term framework to get him at this point. The insurance behind the plate is important, and they will find ways to get value out of his role. That said, if AJ Jimenez blows minds in camp, and another team develops an injury that makes them more desperate to deal, this could change quickly. Watch this space.

Second Base
Obviously the most volatile non-pitching issue this spring, no one needs to tell you to watch it. However, very little of the commentary on the subject is complete. It's all "Izturus/Goins/Travis" - whither Steve Tolleson? Hell, Munenori Kawasaki even? Tolleson is a journeyman to be sure, but he pounded lefties last year and he underwent vision surgery over the off-season which greatly improved his sight in terms of picking up spin and movement on the ball. If he could get even up to replacement level vs. RHP he could be the best hitting veteran candidate. Kawasaki, for his part, is a believer in improved strength training his taken up to improve his lower half and while he's probably not going to turn into an above average player, he's also been slightly better over his last two years than Izturus has over his last three.Plus he's good for the clubhouse.
For my money, if there's anyone who case virtually no shot it's Ryan Goins. I do think Travis is actually the best player but my prediction is that the Blue Jays hope to have the luxury of letting him get six to eight weeks in Buffalo first, both to ease the transition and to buy a service-time year (which they will deny is a consideration.
Also, don't be shocked if Izturus is traded. It's true he's no great shakes as a hitter but he's a versatile veteran with a not-awful salary. There are a few teams thin enough on the infield to find that valuable.

You know about Norris, Sanchez and Pompey. And Devon Travis. You've heard the buzz about Miguel Castro but he'd have to be phenomenal to break camp in the majors. Look for him more along the lines of August maybe. If you pay any attention you know I love Roberto Osuna but he won't be interrupted for a bullpen stint. If he's up (not before the second half) it would be because he forced himself to the head of the line for emergency spot starter consideration. If Navarro is traded AJ Jimenez becomes a candidate. You'll hear raves about Anthony Alford but not this year for him. Probably a lot of buzz about Dwight Smith Jr but even if he were ready, there's no room and no rush.

Rotation Depth
This is the latest hot topic. So let's list them off. This is not so much a prediction of who's going o be the #5, or in what order pitchers may be filed  through in the event of emergency, but a list of options.
Buehrle, Dickey
Stroman, Hutchison
Sanchez, Norris
Estrada, Redmond
Jenkins, Drabek, Oramas*
Hendricks, Frances, Albers, Romero

And let's face it, if you make it as far as Hendricks it hardly matters anymore, right?

*What? You don't know who Juan Oramas is? He reached A+ and pitched well at the age of 20; pitched very well in AA at 21; lost most of his age 22 season to injury (TJ I believe); kicked ass again in AA at 23; struggled when he hit the PCL last year at 24. He'll be in the much friendlier IL this year at the age of 25 and you should WATCH this guy.

Bullpen options/Closer
John Gibbons mentioned Cecil and Sanchez as leading contenders for the closing job. This does not, of course, preclude a surprise candidate, but if everything develops the way the Jays would like, it's probably going to be Sanchez. Cecil may "deserve" it, and would be fine at it, but he's incredibly valuable as the guy who can put out the biggest fire at any time in the last three innings and locking him into the 9th constrains that weapon. I  could list the virtues of other candidates (Greg Infante is getting lots of blog-love lately) but who makes the impression in spring that changes Gibby's mind would be the epitome of a futile effort.

Moving beyond the closer role, let's look at the other  bullpen candidates - a list which will carry me over to the minor league portion of this entry. For the purpose of this exercise, I will assume Norris is the fifth starer and Sanchez the closer - watch how spring plays out to see if either assumption needs adjusting. 6-7 spots available (not counting the closer)

Set-up: Cecil, Delebar - yes, I have a hunch Delebar will be better than ever if healthy this year. Speaking of health, see today's article in the Post by John Lott.
Lefty specialist, middle relief: Aaron Loup
Middle relief: Todd Redmond
Middle/long relief: Marco Estrada.
Barring injury, that five are a VIRTUAL LOCK. A they are a quality crew. If Delebar does have the velo back, and Estrada pitches like he did in relief last year - and if Sanchez is the closer everyone thinks he can be (and don't fool yourself, you can list three such ifs about even the best of last year's bullpens) then that is a 'pen six deep and FINE. Yes Delebar is a fairly big "if" but the whole point in further discussion is how deep they are when it comes to addressing failed expectations.

Beyond that you need another solid guy and a limo/shuttle-rider who can be relied upon. Here's the issue though, the best guy to fill us out is Chad Jenkins - but he has options. Kyle Drabek doesn't. So if the front six are healthy and locked in and we are really down to only one spot, then watch to see if the Jays are impressed enough to do what they did with Jeremy Jefress last year (whom they were right about, he just waited until he was out of town to prove it) and carry a previously unsuccessful but talented arm and hope he puts it together when games count. Or will they look at the longer track record and trade/waive Drabek in favor of Jenkins?

If it's Drabek, then all eyes are on him to see if he refuses to follow Jefresses' example. Jenkins on the shuttle sucks for him in that he deserves better, but you're fine in terms of what he brings with him. If Drabek is gone and Jenkins is a full-timer, then you get into candidates for the shuttle which extends into a broader discussion of the Bisons' staff.

That and other minor league questions in part 2 tomorrow.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Prospects: Revision and Consensus

So, seven weeks since I published my personal idea of what a Blue Jays prospect list would look like, and a lot has been written about the crop since then and as my list is (by virtue of the fact that I'm not a scout obviously) reflective of what others are saying, it's only fair as camps are on the verge of opening that I revise that list a bit. For reference, the original post from December is here. After that I'll get to my main purpose, which is to discuss what the consensus of the prominent available lists look like.

Point 1: I've considered 16 sources for this post, eight of them professional and eight blogger-type lists. Each group has one potential contributor still outstanding (more on that later) and of the remaining list, only two ranked Sanchez over Norris at #1. I listed them essentially tied with Sanchez only the nominal 1a because of the major league success. While the growing whisper traffic leans towards the jays giving serious consideration to giving him a chance to win the closing job reinforces that, I have still decided to call it a full flat-footed tie.

Point 2: while every list has idiosyncrasies, there wasn't that much info to convince me to drastically revise the  top 20-25 area of the list. Informally I'll acknowledge that I probably have Matt Dean (16) a little too high, and Alberto Tirado too low (21) so I'll make it simple and swap them.

Point 3: Here's my revised 31-40:
31. Jake Brentz; 32. Tom Robson, 33. Andy Burns; 34. Dan Jansen (arguably could have moved into the top 30); 35. Angel Perdomo (a couple of source were pretty high on him); 36. Yeltsin Gudino (like Perdomo, might leap into top 25 soon); 37. Juan Meza; 38. Adonys Cardona; 39. Evan Smith; 40. Daniel Lietz
Just missed: Rob Rasmussen; Chase Mallard; Christian Lopes; Jon Berti; Freddy Rodruigez. My spreadsheet has another 20+ names beyond that but I won't bore you further.

Now, with those on the record, let's get to the meat of this post. As mentioned, I considered eight sources that are either scouting related or may be presumed to be consulting scouting sources, all of which you'd instantly recognize. Of those, Fangraphs still hasn't published and I shall have to revise this post when they do (apparently the will include 8 Blue Jays in the Top 200 when Kiley McDaniel's Top 200 goes live. I'll revise based on that and then, again (if necessary) when the team specific list is published. This is done in traditional poll style with points awarded in reverse order. Of the seven lists factored in, five only go to 10 names (that I can access without subscription) so I can only do a consensus Top 10 here.

1. Norris - 68
2. Sanchez - 64
3. Pompey - 56
4. Hoffman - 46
5. Pentecost - 36
6. Travis - 26
7. Osuna - 24
8. Castro - 21
9. Urena - 9
10. Nay - 8
also receiving points: Labourt (7), Davis (7), Reid-Foley (6), Smith, Jr. (3), Tirado (3), and Smoral (1)

One further caveat - I'm pretty sure MLB hasn't revised the Jays list since the tweeked it after the Donaldson trade so that, too, might change the math here when they do.

Now to compare and contrast, the following list represents seven of 8 lists considered which originate from what I assume to be unpaid/blog sources. The one that's missing might be an exception, but my understanding is that is Charlie Caskey's private blog and not a paid extension of his newspaper work. This post is so late because I really wanted to include his list but I'm going to have to resign myself to future revision.

Because six of these seven lists go at least 20 names deep, there's a point total difference once  the short list drops out. Hopefully this doesn't unnecessarily skew the totals.

1. Norris 139.5
2. Sanchez 129.5
3. Pompey 129
4. Hoffman 116
5. Osuna 103
6. Pentecost 91
7. Castro 86
8. Smith 86 (Castro did not appear on the short list, seems reasonable to assume he was at least top 20 for that blogger)
9. Urena 73
10. Travis 61* (one of my source lists was made before the trade, if he would have been at least #13 on that list then he fits here)
11. Reid-Foley 69
12. Nay 65
13. Lugo 44
14. Labourt 34
14t. Smoral 34
16. Davis 32
17. Alford 30
18. Tirado 25
19. Tellez 24
20t. Jeminez11
20t. Borucki 11

also receiving points: Jansen (10); Thomas (7); DeJong (6); Dean (6); Boyd (5); Burns (4); Cole (3); Stilson (3)

Caveat: One contributing source, CapitalJays, used a point system which required an actual  reasonable sample of playing time to be ranked. Thus, Hoffman was unrankable and Alford took a massive hit. I have arbitrarily assigned Hoffman the 4th position on that list. This doesn't impact the order since it would be impossible for him to crack the top 3 and he'd have had to be 19th or lower (unreasonable) to have fallen on the master list.

There's considerable consensus between the two lists, with the pros generally ranking Travis higher. The one difference other than order is that one blogger had Smith Jr at #5 giving him the boost necessary to push Nay out of the top 10. Beyond that, as you can see, there are another 18 names mentioned.

So there works out to three tiers - Norris/Sanchez/Pompey/Hoffman in the first (guess who has the inside edge on #1 next year), Osuna/Castro/Pentacost/Urena/Travis in the next, and 21 others in the third tier. And of course you could make a fourth out of others who got mention outside the counted rankings.  However, in the two pro lists which go to 20 names, there is only one name not mentioned above. Likewise, the vast majority of the other names mentioned by the bloggers have already been mentioned in this post so there's a pretty clear separation.

A final thought, as a VERY long view ahead to next year, one might of the first two tiers, 4 will lose their eligibility, leaving 5 to carry over to next year's Top 10. I'll go ahead and pencil in VGJ and ask the question: who are the best candidates to fill the other four spots?

For my money - Labourt, Smoral, Ried-Foley, Alford (already in mine of course), Nay,  Tirado, Smith, Jr, DeJong and Tellez are a pretty obvious group, and I'll offer a wild card: Thomas. That said, as we know prospects don't progress leinerally so  there will surely be surprises.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

I Beg to Differ

With less than 3 weeks until the first spring game, it's time to start gearing up for more frequent activity around this place. I actually have a couple bigger projects in the pipeline but I'm held up waiting on a couple of sources.

In the mean time I was taking in all the discussion of projection systems and their limitations and looking primarily at the Steamer system at Fangraphs to try and wrap my mind around a baseline comparison between the Jays and their rivals. Andrew Stoeten covered all the basic caveats in his excellent article for the National Post discussing why the systems could well be undervaluing the Jays young trio of pitchers and if you haven't read it already, you should probably go do that before you continue here. The only thing I'd add to his specific comments is that the systems are ill-equipped to account for the distinct possibility that Sanchez s the closer and Norris is the full-time #5 which would further affect their potential contributions.

While Stoeten wisely makes reference to specific changes in approach which led to improvement, I'm going to engage in a much more base commentary - difference of opinion!

While I was perusing the Steamer projections, I kept coming back to the projection for Dalton Pompey. I'm prepared to accept the offensive projection, even though I think it's low because frankly, every partisan fan can pick out projections they are sure are too low. Rather, what offended my sensibilities were the OTHER projections for Pompey.

By all accounts, Pompey is a gifted fielder, perhaps not the very elite level (as in Anthony Gose, for example) but quite close. Moreover, he has a startling track record as a baserunner, having stolen 114 bases against only 20 caught stealing in his career (85.1%). Again contrast this with Gose: 316/114

Now consider the respective projections for these two by Steamer:

[key: PA - AVG-OBP-SLG - wOBA-Bat-BsR-Fld-WAR]

(only the line under CF)




See that?
Exact same PA, almost identical offense. Again, I disagree with that but fine.  But look what happens in the baseruning and fielding columns. By what sorcery does Gose get credit for 150% more baserunning contribution than Pompey? At the VERY worst they should be relative equals. Worse, how in the world do we justify a NEGATIVE number for Pompey on defense? Gose might, perhaps, rate a slight edge (depending on how much metrics disagree with eyes - I confess I know little about defensive metrics but i know it's highly sensitive to sample size) but the edge should be relatively modest.

In short, if Gose is an almost 1 WAR player than Pompey is at a minimum likewise.
On an entirely different note, I reiterate my previous dissent regarding the remaining available payroll. With the arb cases settled, the current outlay stands at about $125.7 million (pre-arb salaries estimated but that's easy to approximate). Thus, if we take Beeston at his word that the US$ payroll will be higher than last season, the available amount should be no less than $12m and realistically one or two million more at least. However that does not mean the Opening Day payroll will be and I would suggest it is just fine to stand relatively pat and hoard those dollars for potential mid-season acquisitions.
Continuing the teme of dissent, beyond the fact that I'm calling Pompey a potential ROY candidate, projection systems be damned. I'm fine with the stop-gaps at 2B until/unless Travis is ready for his debut, and ! don't think the bullpen is nearly the potential liability some expect. Particularly if, as I suspect, Sanchez is the closer.

Bullpens are, of course, notoriously volatile, but the narrative that the Jays have done nothing to improve the bullpen is misleading. For example, if you simply subtract all the innings thrown in relief by pitchers no longer in the organization, the bullpen ERA goes from 4.09 to 3.15. Another popular narrative is that the excellent 2013 bullpen (it was) went completely south in 2014 doesn't tell the whole story.

First, let's fire up the Arbitrary End Point Machine.
(and yes, the start of a new month is an arbitrary end point just as much as anything else not tied to an actual event which can be reasonably assumed to have impacted a player's performance)

Looking first at the Bullpen during the notorious August collapse...
Disregarding pitchers accumulating 3 innings or less, there were 7 relievers at work during August. Four of those, Cecil, Loup, Sanchez, and Jenkins, pitched as well or better individually and collectively (1.95) during August as they did the rest of the season (during which they collectively posted a 2.78 ERA). The other three, Janssen Redmond and McGowan, pitched collectively outside of August to a 2.90 ERA, while collectively in August they were 5.93.
Let's look closer.
Looking at the game log, McGowan was skewed by one bad outing on 8/5 so I'll dismiss him from the exercise. (by the way, twice McG gave up as many as three runs and between them he only got one out - take those away and his ERA in relief is 2.11 - someone tell me again why this guy isn't back in Blue yet?). Janssen got rocked twice, out of 11 appearances. (In fairness, the famous post-ASG food poisoning slump tells us more about Janssen than any AEP will). Redmond had one awful week. August 15-22 he gave up 8 ER in 3.2 IP, without which his season ERA would have been 2.40.
Those six games, though? All loses but only two directly a result of one of these pitchers failing.

So let's look elsewhere. I mentioned the impact of pitchers no longer on the team, but for a finer focus, let's take McGowan (who may yet return - I hope) and Janssen (identifiable extenuating circumstances) out of the picture.In that scenario, the bullpen ERA drops to 3.26..and 55% of those deleted innings went to Santos and Rogers.

So let's review. The five best relievers from 2014 are back (and a sixth ought to be, winkwink) and the ones causing failure - apart from Delebar - are gone. Estrada (2.89 last year as a reliever) and you ave a perfectly solid core. If Delebar regains his groove they're even better. Plus a solid smattering of low-risk high upside flyers. I'd still bring back McGowan (a shocking revelation, I know) but otherwise, I think we're fine.

(assuming health of course)

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Money, Logic and Shields

I keep reading that the Blue Jays will still meet or exceed last year's $137m payroll even as measured in American dollars and presuming that to mean ~$140m it is generally reported that means the team has $5-7m to spend. That math doesn't work based on commonly available figures. That would put current commitments at around $132m. By my calculations that's about 5 million too high.

All these figures are per Cotts where a figure is set.

The players under contract total $104m for 2015 for 12 players.
Taking the high side of the two arbitration deals, figure another $7.425 million.
That leaves 11 spots but I calculated 12 assuming they won't carry 3 catchers. Rounding upward from the always odd figures the teams assign to those players, I think approximately $5.66m is a good figure.
I did not include Romero above, as his contract and buyout amount to a presumably sunk cost of $8.1m
Finally, the recently noised about assumption that you must include presumed buyouts. I don't believe there is any reason to assume there will be a need to buy out Bautista or Encarnacion. That leaves Dickey and Izturus at $1 million apiece.

That's a total of $127.185

So I make it at $10-$13m at least.

Which brings me to James Shields. MLBTR point to rumors that Shields would sign within the next week and there is considerable buzz that not only is his opportunity for $100 million is past but so is the chance to sign for even five years. The price has dropped and the remaining question is how much.

Too more data points of interest: AA said on the radio that the Jays were not going to be signing someone for $20 million, NOT that they were not going to sign Shields; Tuesday, Paul Beeston said on the same program that what the team didn't have was that one dominant starter who'd go out and win 18-19 games and specifically "which we need to get this year"

Assuming he's not dreaming big on one of the young guys doing that, it has to mean that either he's just babbling or they are in on Shields. Now obviously they are not the only ones and the lower the price goes the more teams might find money but obviously, other than the bottomless pockets of the Yankees, hardly anyone is prepared to make a big signing in February. Moreover, the Jays HAVE to still have a bitter taste in their mouth over Santana last year.

So, here's what I'm thinking: If the price for Sheilds gets down to an AAV of $17 or less for 4 years or less, that AA and Beest will go to Rogers and ask for an extra $10m to make it happen. In so doing they not only get another 200+ inning workhorse at the front of the rotation but as good a candidate for 8th/9th inning quality as they are likely to find in the person of Sanchez which adds to to total value of the acquisition.

I've not been a fan of the Shields lust when the price was $10m but this idea I'd be all in on.

4 weeks until the first games people, it's time for all parties to get serious.

ETA: MLBTR relays a report from Bob Nightingale suggesting Shields strongly prefers the West coast  and it's know San Diego is interested in adding a top starter so that's an issue for the Jays.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Caviar Wishes?

I've waited 3 weeks for the team to do something mildly interesting to warrant some sort of post.  And I've resisted touching on the Rogers/Beeston/Douquette mess since the ground seems to shift almost hourly under our feet. Until now. Certain sources continue to insist against all reason and sanity that the Jays will be convinced to pay a king's ransom - now reported to possibly rise to the level of Jeff Hoffman - in order to seal the deal for....reasons?

Much has been written by those closer to the situation than me, so there's no real reason for me to wax verbose on the subject except to relay to you the one best and most helpful bit of commentary I've seen. If you feel the need to make productive use of your quite understandable outrage that this might remotely be a thing, please direct you views to the following:

( H/T to the commenter who posted this in reply to Elliot's post from Thursday that I now can't get to load for some mysterious reason)

Why do we even have to have this conversation?

On an unrelated note, here's a well conceived and well executed system for quantifying Blue Jays' prospect rankings from a new blog we'll need to keep an eye on:

There's one shockingly low ranking which I won't spoil for you, but other than that, about the only quibble I have is the ceiling grade for Osuna seems one notch too low (which would only move him up one spot on the list). Also, I mentally penciled in Hoffman at #4 but you'll understand why he couldn't be ranked when the system is explained.

Props for a job well done.

Monday, 29 December 2014

The Countdown.

In the past I've tried various creative formats to write up top prospect posts, hoping to distinguish my opinions from the plethora of other lists out there, many of which are offered by those far more qualified to express their views. But ultimately, someone else is always going to have a better resume, more stats, a first hand view, or something. Me, ll I've got is having read all those articles that I could and tried to synthesize them into an informed opinion flavored with intuition and maybe seasoned with a tiny pinch of wishcasting. Also, I love my extra long lists, I'll limit myself to 30 for the extended comments though, as the post will already be massive.

Obligatory disclaimer: far more of these will fail than succeed. I mentioned sixty names in 2011, 27 of those have at least appeared in a major league game (7 actual plus contributors, another 6-7 still with upside) and 4 others still well regarded prospects. Anyway, here's my Top 40 countdown:

[player (age as of  6/30/15) position - level]
*level reflects projected 2015 level

40. Dan Jansen (20) - C - Vancouver - New to catching, but has natural aptitude
39. Evan Smith (19) - LHP - Bluefield - 6'5" lefty, not injured. Waiting on an opening in packed Vancouver rotation.
38. Chase Mallard (23) - RHP - Lansing - great results, a bit old for the level. We'll see.
37. Juan Meza (16) - RHP - GCL - Jays' international top signing in 2014.
36. Yeltsin Gudino (17) - SS - GCL - '13 IFA struggled in first North American action, still great upside
35. Rob Rasmussen (26) - LHP - Buffalo - seemed to take a step up after move to 'pen, if Cecil closes he could break camp with Jays
34. Adonys Cardona (21) RHP - Lansing - I still believe. But he has to stay healthy to have a shot.
33. Andy Burns (24) 3B - Buffalo - stumbled after late start last year, but from May 30 on he went .286/.332/.502/.834
32. Tom Robson (22) RHP - Vancouver - won't be ready to break camp in April after TJ last spring.
31. Jake Brentz (20) LHP - Bluefield - only dropped due to signability

30. Jesus Tinoco (20) RHP - Bluefield - His fastball has been described as reminiscent of Henderson Alvarez's for the combination of impressive velocity and groundball-inducing sink. However, his mechanics are still quite raw and his control is a long way from where it will have to be for him to advance.

29. Taylor Cole (25) RHP - NH - Still the best story in the system, Cole has climbed back to the point where he's fully on the radar. Cole, you will recall, gave up all athletics for 2 years to preform a tour as a Mormon missionary. He came back lighter, due to lost muscle mass, and with a fringy fastball.  The Blue Jays took him in the 26th round of the 2011 draft. Three years later, with some help from the weighted-ball program, his plus fastball is back and his pitching savvy is nicely developed, as evidenced by his leading the minors in strikeouts. While he's old for the level and the list, the two years off can't be discounted. Cole may very well challenge for AAA if an opening arises.

28. Matt Boyd (24) LHP - NH - Like Cole, it can be argued he's too old for this list, but he was so very dominate at Dunedin in his first full pro season that he can't be ignored. Still, if he's as good as that implies, he'll be banging on the door of AAA by mid-season.

27. Clint Hollon (20) RHP - Bluefield - Missed all of 2014 after TJ surgery, so he only has 17.1 innings of pro experience. His tiny sample in the GCL after being taken in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft was exceptional, but his future is closely tied to whether the organization can clean up the mechanical issues that many suspect let to the injury, while not losing effectiveness.

26. John Stilson (24) RHP - Buffalo - by now you now the pedigree (first round talent before labrum surgery) and caveat (had to have a second labrum surgery last August). If healthy he'd have been squarely in the mix for the late inning jobs this spring. He's been throwing for almost three weeks now, but may not be fully recovered by opening day. Even if he is, probably looking at a couple months at least to re-establish his command in AAA

25. Nick Wells (19) LHP - Bluefield - He's a 6'5" and a lefty so that's a start. The Jays took him in the 3rd round in '14 so he's a legit prospect. But we don't have much more experience to judge. Coming into the draft he was reported to have a high ceiling but also to be somewhat raw. He already possess an impressive curve and a solid fastball. Refinement of a seldom used change will be key to developing to his potential.

24. Chase DeJong (21) RHP - Lansing - Coming off a dominate performance in Bluefield in 2013, the Jays jumped him to full season play at Lansing but they may have been too aggressive. DeJong had a wildly inconsistent season in '14. No doubt he'll repeat the level and try to get his grove back.

23. AJ Jimenez (25) C - Buffalo - He's ready, and then some, defensively. He'll probably never hit enough to start regularly but can likely be better than Thole has been for the Jays. His only problem is two veterans in front of him.

22. DJ Davis (20) CF - Lansing - on raw physical tools, he belongs in the top 10 of the system, but "raw" is a word that really doesn't capture the gap between his physical abilities and his baseball skills. Depending on how much he closes that gap, he could be spectacular - or a total flame-out.

21. Alberto Tirado (20) RHP - Lansing - Like many young live-armed Latin pitchers, his control still needs a lot of work, but the tools are very promising. He pitched mostly out of the 'pen last year but the Jays still see him primarily as a starter. If he shows good command in ST he might break camp with Lansing (as he did last year) or may hold back in extended for a month to avoid the cold.

20. Lane Thomas (19) (3B/2B/CF) -Vancouver - Drafted as a SS, he played CF in his first pro season but word now is that the Jays will play him at 3B in '15, which some in the organization consider his best suited position. He could also end up at 2B eventually. These moves are not because he lacks talent but because he has so much. Short might be too much for him but he looks to be a plus defender wherever else he might settle. And signs suggest his batwill play. Could be one of the breakout players in the system next year.

19. Ryan Borucki (21) LHP - Vancouver - some may overlook after e was drafted in the 15th round and then missed all of 2013, but he was dominate in '14  and is one to watch. He's walked NINE and struck out 62 in 63 pro innings. And he's a lefty. And he's 6'4". Got your attention yet?

18. Dwight Smith Jr. (22) LF/2B? - NH - Spent his entire pro career so far in the outfield, but the word last fall was that he'd begin the process of learning 2B in the AFL. He doesn't really show the arm for CF, nor the power typically expected for left. However, the acquisition of Devon Travis may have changed the plans. Another factor is that there's only one OF in the system that projects as belonging in AA other than Smith. Spring well decide much. One thing he's shown, his bat is ready for AA.

17. Dewal Lugo (20) SS - Lansing - He's not over-matched at SS, but give his size and below-average first-step quickness, some scouts figure him for a move to 3B (which, if Urena develops, becomes an easier decision). Offensively, he has good hitting instincts and above-average raw power, but he's yet to completely tap in to either. He ran out of gas last year and had an awful August which depressed his stat line, but even before that he wasn't on fire. Of all the talented prospects in the system, this is the one I'm most willing to trade.

16. Mat Dean (22) 3B/1B - Dunedin - This guy was one of my favorites from the day he was drafted. He's a very god hitter who's beginning to find his power potential. When his doubles start going over the fence, he'll jump up the list. He's at 1B because of Mitch Nay, but likely could still be a solid 3B and either of them might make the majors in the outfield depending on the available opening. He's not at first because of any lack of athleticism.

15. Jario Labourt (21) LHP - Lansing - The big (6'4") Dominican lefty has been remarkably under-the-radar given the upside he possesses. He shows a live fastball with good natural movement and a developing change but he's going to need to find a solid off-speed offering to remain a starter at the upper levels. Still, two pitches thrown well is enough to be an important reliever at a minimum.

14. Rowdy Tellez (20) 1B - Lansing - Like Dean, this is a guy I had a crush on from the day he was drafted. I remember when the Blue Jays drafted Kris Bryant out of high school and failed to sign him - only to watch him go at the top of the draft a few years later. I'm not going to predict Rowdy will end up being the best prospect in baseball but I do think that there's a sense in which the situations parallel. Tellez only fell out of the upper rounds on signability and is, in my view, one of the players most likely to explode this year.

13. Matt Smoral (21) LHP - Lansing - The advancement to full season ball is aggressive and will need to be justified in spring training, but there's a bit of a logjam for the Vancouver staff and that will work in his favor if he seizes the moment. He posted impressive ratios in Bluefield but the control still needs a lot of work. They can afford to advance him slowly.

12. Devon Travis (24) 2B - Buffalo - after a massive 2013 (.936 OPS  over two level of A ball), he started a bit slow in 2014 thanks to an oblique injury that cost him a month of playing time and saw him only 5/39 on the morning of May 26. His line for the rest of the season was .317/.379/.496/.875 so we can assume his bat plays. Opinions are mixed about his glove, but if the Jays don't make an acquisition,  there's every chance he has the job in Toronto by June.

11. Richard Urena (19) SS - Vancouver - He's a good-to-excellent fielder, a high-contact hitter without over-the-fence power. He displays a good eye at the plate, especially given that young Latin players often are free swingers. With Baretto out of the system, he has a much clearer path to the major league job.

10. Mitch Nay (21) 3B - Dunedin - there are a lot of similarities between Nay and Dean. Both have plus hit tools and big raw power that has yet to push some of the prolific doubles over the fence. Nay is apparently better regarded as a defensive 3B, though between fringy range and Josh Donaldson, he might not play their in the majors unless traded. Scouts are sold on his power bat either way.

9. Anthony Alford (20) CF - Lansing - if he impresses in ST, he may very well break camp with Dunedin so that both he and Davis can play CF everyday. On the other hand, the two are great friends and the organization may decide he'll be good for the younger player's development. In any case, Alford s arguably the most fascinating player in the Blue Jays' minor league system.  It's difficult to quantify just how good he can be until he gets sufficient reps. Despite a couple of 5 or 6 games slumps, he's shown very well for a player with so little pro experience in Australia this winter, particularly in the crucial skill (which Davis lacks) of pate discipline.

8. Sean Reid-Foley (19) RHP - Bluefield - Ranks solidly with the Blue Jays other recent HS starter picks. He has four solid pitches with a fastball that sits in the low nineties. He has a repeatable delivery and controls both sides of the plate. With his polish, he could move quickly. I predict he'll get at least a cup of coffee in Lansing in late August.

7. Miguel Castro (20) RHP - Dunedin - That's a slightly aggressive placement, but Alex is already name-dropping him as a guy who could come fast, and for good reason. The big (6'5") righty has gotten stronger and can now run his FB into the high 90's. Like Labourt, he has a change up that serves as an effective second pitch but hasn't yet mastered a quality off-speed offering. The Jays can continue to work on that, or decide that with the available SP depth they can move him into relief where he will likely dominate. If they do, he could be the second half-boost that Sanchez was last year.

6. Max Pentacost (22) C -Vancouver - Said to need refinement on defense, but he's already regarded as one of the best catching prospects in the game. There was talk before the Martin signing that he'd move fast through the system, now they can afford a much more leisurely pace. Still, ideally he'd be up in time to learn from Martin towards the end of the latter's contract.

5. Jeff Hoffman (22) RHP -Vancouver - But for his 2014 surgery, he might have debuted in Lansing and will likely arrive there by mid-season. If fully recovered he's regarded by many as the highest ceiling pitcher in the Blue Jays' system. Already he features a plus-plus fastball, a monster curve and a solid improving change.

4. Dalton Pompey (22) CF -Toronto - some fear he's not ready to be the everyday CF in Toronto. I'm not one of them. There were no hint last year as he blazed through the system that he had serious holes in his game. That's not to say he's a finished product, but he has a firm foundation and thrives on being challenged. Often overlooked is his tremendous speed and base-running skills. Him hitting just in front of (or eventually behind) Jose Reyes should be a helluva lot of fun to watch.

3. Roberto Osuna (20) RHP -Dunedin - No need to revisit the track record n this guy, he's been on my radar from the jump. Even having lost a year to TJ, he's till going to be among the youngest players in the upper majors. There's a lot of speculation he'll open in AA but I'm inclined to think he may get 4-6 weeks in Dunedin until things warm up in the Northeast. But I agree he'll be in NH by mid-season.

1b. Derrick Norris (22) LHP - Buffalo - OTOH, there's a slightly better argument for Norris consolidating his gains at AAA while he waits for a clear opening in Toronto. Not that he showed any weaknesses sprinting through the system last year. In fact, most people chose him in the contest with Sanchez for the #1 spot. I copped out a bit by essentially declaring a tie, but there's really very little to serve as a tie-breaker. The major argument in Norris' favor is that he showed excellent command and control in '14, something Sanchez still can have trouble with.

1a. Aaron Sanchez (22) RHP - Toronto - I gave him the tiniest of edges here for one reason - the remaining possibility the Jays will decide to let him close in '15. The fact that he's had major league success already gives him the edge, in my mind, but it's impossible to predict which will ultimately have a better career. You already know everything you need to know about Sanchez, but remember: if you are ever feeling down about the Jays, think about a Jays rotation which will include the best five of Hoffman, Sanchez, Norris, Stroman, Osuna, Hutchison, and Castro to say nothing of the talent a bit further away.

And there are still other names worth mentioning (don't scoff, I once ranked Yan Gomes #42, Pompey #59, Ryan Goins #78) so here is a sampling:
Ryan Tepera, Christian Lopes, Sean Ochinko, Derrick Chung, Ryan McBroom, Patrick Murphy, Roemon Fields, Matt Morgan, Freddy Rodriguez, Yefry Del Rosario, Grayson Huffman, Chase Welbrock, Gunner Heidt, Daniel Lietz, Eziquel Carrera, Bake get the idea.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Bullpen Imports?

It's beginning to look like the Jays' view that Dusty McGowan's $4mm option was too much for a set-up reliever may have been a misreading of the market. Jason Motte - who missed almost all of the last two seasons - Just got $4.5mm for one year from the Cubs and a lot of middling players are getting pretty nice money.

Looking out at the increasingly unimpressive assortment of free agent relievers, more and more I'm hearing the music from Back to the Future in my head. I'm sitting here looking at Fangraphs ranking of Steamer projections for free agent relievers and it inexplicably doesn't include the one guy guy who's still out there that I have higher expectations for than anyone who is on the list. And that man (obviously) heads my list of potential signings:

1. Casey Janssen - If you consider Gregerson/Neshak the floor, and Miller/Robertson the ceiling, then Janssen should make between 6.5 and 9.5 AAV on his next deal for at least three seasons. If the Jays could get him to agree to 3/24 they ought just go ahead and do it unless they think they can do better by trading mid-to-low minors prospects.

2. Sergio Romo - I've seen commentators express lukewarm enthusiasm for Romo, noting his numbers went backwards last year and he lost the closer job at mid-season. His results DID go backwards. For two weeks. Between June 13 and June 28 he had tree bad outings in five appearances, giving up 9 runs in a collective 4.1 IP. Outside that stretch, his ERA was 2.52 and there was no good reason for him to have lost the closer job. In fact, take out June 13 alone and (5 ER in 1/3 IP) and his ERA drops from 3.72 to 2.97.

Like Janssen, I'd be happy to go ahead and sign him for a similar number, only preferring Janssen under the "devil you know" rubric. OTOH, that might be the very reason they'd prefer Romo for all I know. Less than a week ago Benny Fresh tweeted the Jays apparently hadn't checked in on him and AA is quoted as saying he's looking more to trades but I remind you how long it took after "I can't envision trading a starter" to turn into "We traded JA Happ."

3. Francisco Rodriguez* - talent wise, you might even prefer his stuff to Janssen's but he comes with a lot of off-field baggage the Jays presumably want little part of.

4. Rafiel Soriano -  slightly older than K-Rod, ratios not quite as good, but tends toward fly balls fairly heavily, which tends to make him a less attractive fit for Skydome. OTOH, he doesn't beat his wife apparently.

5. Jason Grilli - entering his age 38 season, which means you don't have to guarantee three years or even two in order to have a shot. Four good years in a row, excepting the portion of last season which occurred before the trade to the Angels.

6. Dustin McGowan - I don't think last year necessarily indicated the start of a downward spiral, but if you could get him for a year and an option, at around $3mm for the first year, he's probably gonna be better than the rest of the scraps left on the market.

7. Carlos Villianueva - Remember this guy? Turns out he's much better out of the 'pen than starting, pitches best in high leverage situations, and has consistently good rates  until he approaches 50 pitches then he goes south in a hurry. Used correctly, the Jays would do well to have him back.

8. Tim Stauffer- If you get the 2013 guy, great, if you get the 2014 guy, that's trouble. The former had fine home/road splits and pitched well in pressure situations, the latter...didn't.

9. Burke Badenhop - Steady, unspectacular RH who has good control, ordinary K rates but  an unusually high GB rate.

10. Jesse Crain - if healthy, would be a solid pick-up and true asset, whether he'll be healthy I can't say.  Not to mention the passport skill ;) - oh, but he is flyball prone so there's that too.

Also out there: Alexi Ogando(health?), Joba Chamberlain (perpetual under-achiever),Tom Grozalanny (best LH left), John Axford (He used to be a closer?), Scott Downs (minor league deal with invite just to see if he's done or not)

To me, if you can get Crain and Downs into camp ad see what they got, it's a no-brainer, whatever else you do.

Trades? Sure, but who the hell can predict trades? Start with this: Norris is only available if he brings an Ace SP with multiple years of control. Basically, Hammels. So if you take him out of the equation, is there someone with a closer you can reasonably expect to trust that you can get without dealing Norris? I dunno. I droll over Chapman but...I just don't know. Navarro might get you something, but there's only so man teams he works for. White Sox, D'Backs, Pirates, Dodgers? Braves? Rays? At least we can look them over I guess.

Tampa - Come up with a couple of enticing prospects to go with and try to pry lose Jake McGee?
Atlanta - David Carpenter? Yes, one we let get away.
LA - they are dying to trade Brandon League, JP Howell had a better year. But if you couldn't get better elsewhere, and they would kick in $5mm or so...
Pittsburgh - Melancon and Watson both look like closers (one already is of course) but either would need an infusion of good prospects to pry away.
Arizona - Evan Marshall or Randall Delgado would be a promising acquisition.
Chicago - If they had a closer, he'd have taken the job from those who attempted it in '14 (you ca see why they wanted Robertson!) - if there's any pitcher here to ask for, you might try getting still-young Daniel Webb back and see if you could teach him to command the zone. He would be in the majors ar 24 with that walk rate unless he had a live arm.

Looking ahead. . .

I still owe y'all a prospect list in some form, and I have unexpressed views about the moves so far.

Friday, 12 December 2014

The Bullpen and other Meeting thoughts

So, while I await whether or not there's any fire to the smoke leaking out regarding the Blue Jays and SS(potential 2B) Takashi Toritani it seems the subject on everyone's lips and keyboards is the bullpen. So let me see if I can reel off one of my old school omnibus posts looking over the possibilities.

Lately there's a sudden wave of chatter that the Blue Jays don't have nearly as much to spend as previously estimated. My take on that is (obviously) ill-informed since I'm not privy to how much they react to exchange rates and such, but the whole conversation strikes me as a bit of an over-correction. I don't think that the very-recent trend towards not acting is as much a function of money as it is a wise estimation of the level to which signees are being overvalued, either in AAV or number of years.

This is a team, remember, that declined to bring back Janssen and McGowan for around the same cost next year as Andrew Miller got (and Janssen's track record over the last 4-5 years completely annihilates Miller's - the last half season notwithstanding). There's more in play here than a payroll ceiling. That said, they are sitting a tic over $124mm by my estimation, and it's pretty clear Navarro and his $5mm are going somewhere - more on that later. It's true, as Stoten and others have mentioned, that there are $5mm in pending buyouts at the end of the year, but there's only 1 or 2 mil tat even remotely likely to be paid out. I'm still sticking with ~$20mm to go (assuming Navarro), at least, which would be a paltry 3.6% raise over 2014.

So, taking a long look at the situation, what do we find? First, let's note well: If they wanted Janssen on the team as a person or a ballplayer, they should have picked him up. The cost compared to his track record was good value. Either they saw troubling issues with his abilities, or there was some clubhouse red flag we don't know about. Laying those aside, there are still FAR worse plays than bringing him and McGowan back, although that will cost more now than it would have to have picked up the options. (As an aside, wouldn't it have made sense to pick up Janssens and traded him like they did Lind if they didn't want him? Seems ike an opportunity lost...)

Second, the internal options are not as depleted as has been portrayed. There IS a distinct hole at closer (albeit not without untested internal options) and one would like an import there and perhaps a more high-powered RH for the 8th, but it's worth a closer look at what's here.

1. Brett Cecil - damn skippy set-up man (and not just against lefties) and the leading (depending on how you use Sanchez) internal candidate to close. He'd be a pretty good option at the latter but would leave a significant hole at the former.

2. Aaron Sanchez - few doubt he could be a star as a closer assuming he could muster the "closer mentality". As things stand, he is (rightly) penciled in as the 5th starter but if the ays hit march without a closer option, and with a reasonable alternative (Norris, Estrada, someone else?) for that spot, they may decide to go a year with Sanchez and re-evaluate next winter.

3. Aaron Loup - Anyone remember that Loup wasn't high on anyone's top prospect lists in 2012? Or before? Coming into 2012 he'd been mentioned just a little as a guy with good upside who was probably a couple of years away. By mid-season he'd been promoted from AA and would never see the minors again. Just goes to show that good bullpens are not just made up of big money free agents or costly trades. Like Cecil, he's a home-grown mainstay.

4. Todd Redmond - very under-appreciated by the fans after last year's fine job. A waiver claim from the Orioles in March of 2013, Redmond demonstrates another road to quality bullpen acquisitions. Redmond played a crucial role in '14 as a middle/long reliever and sported a 1.98 ERA on August 14 before his worst outing of the year. He gave up runs in 7 of his last 9 outings and either he was running
out of gas or maybe hiding some mild injury. In any case, he's a key part of the '15 bullpen.

5. Marco Estrada - Above average Starter in '12-'13, and quality reliever in the second half of '14. Much has been said about the 29 homers he allowed last season - but he only allowed TWO of those after the break. The first half seems to be a rather obvious outlier.

Laying aside the possibility Daniel Norris can't be denied, either Estrada or Sanchez will be in the rotation and the other in the 'pen - so other than the occurance of injury, you have 4 spots filled. You need three more in the majors, lus depth.

6. Steve Delebar - the Jays got him at the 2012 trade deadline for a guy they were done with (full disclosure, I really thought Eric Thames was better than that) and who hasn't played in the majors for two years. He was consistently good until May 23 of last season. Then his control went sideways and he found himself back in AAA 4 weeks later. There he did excellent work in all respects except that the walk rate was still too high. There is every possibility he becomes the RH set-up man we need. We just can't afford to presume he will.

7. Chad Jenkins - another Rodney Dangerfield, cursed with too many options (he still has one remaining). Demonstrating the third alternate method to filling a 'pen - the minor league starter who's not good enough to start in the majors. Not possessed of great strikeout ability, all he does is get outs. If not for the option he'd be a lock to break camp in the Jays bullpen.

8. Kyle Drabek - out of options, this is his make or break spring. Take out one bad outing (the next-last of the season) and he posted a 2.45 ERA over the last two months pitching in relief. He recorded 4 walks and 14 K in 18.1 IP. Despite the fact that the Jays inexplicably left him off the September roster, this might be your best dark horse candidate to play a key role.

For all the hand-wringing about the '14 'pen, that's a solid group. It's true the bullpen collectively ranked poorly in the last season, BUT that figure include the Santos implosion (take him out alone and the bullpen ERA drops from 4.09 to 3.88) and several others no longer in the picture. The collective ERA of the players still in the Jays' possession (along with Estrada's relief work and minus Stroman's) is 2.73!

But depth, you say? Much more untested. But here we go:
1. Rob Rasmussen - Lefty looked good in tiny major league sample. Quite good in AAA, solid minor league history. Legitimately goodd enough to fill in in the majors at least.
2. Liam Hendricks - dominant at AAA, still only 25. There ought to be a way to translate that to at lest a replacement level reliever.
3. Ryan Tepera - did good work after being shifted from starting to the bullpen for 2014.
4. Cory Burns - got hittable when he hit the PCL (for the Rangers) but his track record in previous organizations looks excellent. A serious dark horse candidate.
5/6. Bo Schultz/Colt Hymes - I dunno. The Jays thought enough of them to carry them on the 40 so they will be in the major league camp at ST. Can't see the attraction myself.
7. Blake McFarland - no pedigree (a lot of good major league relievers don't bring one with them) but he dominated in the AFL after a fine season split between Dunedin and New Hampshire. He's put himself on the radar.
8. Tyler Ybarra - pegged by some observers as a breakout candidate, the LH pitcher dominated Hi-A ball in 2013 and took a step back in '14 at AA. Said to be the sort that could put it together at any time.
9. Ricky Romero - yeah I know, but he did finally get the knee fixed and it would be a helluva story wouldn't it?
10. John Stilson - recovering from shoulder surgery, probably a lost season ahead but his name ought to appear here somewhere.

Potential second half stories?

Alex has mentioned Miguel Castro more than once. Like most young hard-throwers, his control needs continued refinement, but he will start the season in A Ball and if the Jays think he can help the bullpen this year - as Alex seems to - then they may fast-track him ala Norris/Graveman so long as he isn't overwhelmed. Others who might come fast include Roberto Osuna, who will be far enough removed from his TJ to be back to his old self. He may begin the year in the warmth of Florida but should arrive in AA in early-to-mid may at the latest. Speaking of Graveman, Matt Boyd and Taylor Cole are both lower profile prospects who dominated at Dunedin a stumbled in brief tries at AA. They should open in NH this time and fit the profile of starters who might better serve the team in relief (particularly in that there are so many very good young starters higher on the list than they. For a much longer shot, lefty Jario Labourt might be your sleeper.

In a few days I'll take a look outside the organization to see what, in my estimation, makes sense. But don't despair too much. There's a solid core here.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Ins and Outs

I had decided that, barring some action in between, I'd wait until after the tender deadline to comment again, reacting to whatever the Jays decided to do last night. Of course, it being Alex, what he decided to do today was more interesting. Alex waits for no (wo)man or meeting. So we have another full plate of implications to sort through.

As you might have heard, the Jays shipped JA Happ off to Seattle a few hours ago for Michael Saunders. A mere two days after mentioning on live radio that he didn't envision trading any member of his rotation. At first blush, as I tweeted to Andrew Stoten, I didn't like it - I figured Happ was worth more than that. But upon further consideration, several factors jumped out.

  • The market is skewed.  There's an abundance of mid-rotation SP options, a dearth of OF options. That makes the former less valuable, relative to the market, and  the latter more so.
  • The financial savings are significant.Saunders makes $3.8m less than Happ in 2015 (and has an extra year of control Combined with the fact that it also takes them out of the picture on Melky Cabrera - whom they had already reportedly offered 3/39 without success and the swing is over $14m.
  • the defensive upgrade is significant. Saunders actually projects to a HIGHER WAR than Cabrera in 2015, thanks largely to the glove. That's before any rivision for home park.
  • Speaking of home park, that stands to make a not inconsiderable difference in theoretical offensive expectations. While my initial lack of enthusiasm was based on the fear that 2014 was the offensive outlier of his career, Mike Wilner points out that Saunders' road OPS over the last three seasons is .780 - and in a depressed offensive environment, that'll play.  Among qualifying AL left fielders, that would have come in at #4 last year.
  • Kevin Pillar stands ready to protect him from LH pitching if need be.  AA anointed him the "everyday left fielder" but his splits show weakness versus lefties so it would behoove the Jays to keep that in mind. 
  • Saunders just passed his 28th birthday and most observers feel he hasn't yet approached his talent level. Cabrera will be 30 next year and we know what he is
  • In 62 plate appearances at Skydome (yeah, I said it!) his OPS is .888 (SS caveat of course)
So...yeah...a Saunders/Pillar set in LF (not  strictly a platoon maybe but...) projects to- defense included - every bit the value Cabrera would give and at around 1/4 the price. All that before we discuss the opening in the rotation that now presumably falls to Sanchez or Norris - unless AA surprises us again.

In other news...

The Blue Jays shaved $6.5m off their projected payroll next year by non-tendering Justin Smoak, Andy Dirks, and John Mayberry, Jr. last night.  Then spent one of those to bring Smoak back with an apparent intent to commit to him as the most-days first baseman in 2015. I'm not prepared to argue that the Jays can release the hitter that scouts saw when he was one of the 10 or 15 best prospects in baseball, but apparently they think the see something. AA says his analytics people think they can get a lot of offensive upside out of him. Let's hope they are right.

Looking ahead towards potential lineups, there's a couple of obvious options:

1. Reyes
2. Martin
3. Bautista
4. Encarnacion
5. Donaldson
6. Smoak
7. Saunders/Pillar
8. Izturus/Tolison (Travis?)
9. Pompey

or plan B

1. Reyes
2. Saunders/Pillar
3. Bautista
4. Encarnacion
5. Donaldson
6. Smoak
7. Martin
8. Izturus/Tolison (Travis?)
9. Pompey

The latter in the situation in which Saunders shows himself maximizing his OB skills while Martin goes back to hitting more like a catcher, OR if Gibby decides he wants the best use out of Saunder's speed.

As always, of course, so far...

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Oh My!

By now you know what happened and have gotten fairly acquainted with the basic details. I waited a day to post on the subject in order to ear all the comments from AA and the players come out to get the whole context.  I've also, of course, heard a lot of commentary from folks who get paid to do that sort of thing and those who don't. Therefore, let me distill all that noise into  those facts which seem to me to be most salient.

First, let's notice what Oakland gets:

Brett Lawrie - Honestly, I had MASSIVE expectations for him. In my mind, he'd spend 15-20 years in a Jays uniform and would be our George Brett/Cal Ripkin type cornerstone. Probably no Blue Jays fan had a higher view of him than me. But due to injuries and some lingering issues with swing mechanics, he's not that guy yet. Of course, he may never be though, and that's the sole reason he was expendable. In essence, the A's got a guy who may end up better than Donaldson or may always be a great glove with a frustrating offensive game. The Jays paid the other guys to the A's in order to shift that bit of risk in exchange for more certainty.

And the thing is, he's only three years from free agency so there's every possibility he'll be dealt again in a couple of years. Maybe we could get him back to play 2B?

Franklin Barreto - He is, to use one of Wilner's favorite terms, a lottery ticket. But in this case the prize if you win is rich indeed. He currently plays SS to mixed reviews - LaCava says the jays were very impressed with his improvement over the course of the season - but whether he ends up there, or 2B, or CF, that bat plays. He's likely to be a consensus top 100 prospect this off-season and if he continues that sort of hitting he'll shoot up that list. No one is calling him a replacement for Addison Russel yet, but there's a decent chance the will in a year or two.

Sean Nolin - the most under the radar guy in the deal and...
Kendell Gravemen - considered together...

Here are the Blue Jays starting pitchers already ahead of these two:

These are other Jays SP prospects with higher ceilings:
arguably Smoral, Labourt, Tirado, and Borucki

Other SP prospects similar to, but further away, than those two:

Then there are swing guys who can spot start:

So while they are both good pitchers they are, in the long term, unlikely to be part of the starting five (even eliminating the veterans, they are no higher on the list than 7 and 8) and in the near term, they have 7 good options and five emergency options - and Ricky Romero, technically. Nolin was on track to be another Brett Cecil (because of the depth, not his talent level) and Graveman could have been a reliable middle reliever getting tons of ground ball outs, in a role similar to what Redmond had this year. That has value but not as muc as they do to Oakland.

For the A's, these are guys who have a legit shot at winning rotation spots for the A's - and preforming well. Particularly Nolin who has constantly been in the shadow of sexier prospects in our system. BA slots them in as Top 10 prospects in their system and the two BEST pitcher prospects.

On my ongoing (as yet unpublished) list, I had Barreto at #4, Nolin at #13 (7th pitcher) and Graveman at #23 (11th among pitchers) which is lower than most have him. 

The Blue Jays get, in return, the certainty Lawrie could not (yet?) provide. Seen in the context of the overall off-season, this is widely described as a complete culture change. To some it might look like AA is constantly changing direction but it seems to me to be a perfectly straight-forward program, adjusted for circumstances that didn't work out.

First, acquire a ton of minor league talent via a well thought out acquisition plan taking advantage of "exploits" in the system. When those were patched, use that talent to acquire veteran talent while modifying the acquisition process. Realize the first year might have been a "gelling" issue but after the second year, identify problems and re-mediate them. The trope afield online is that many of the exiting players were either complacent, or somewhat immature and it's hard for the fans to be certain what to believe.

BUT we do know that Martin is considered the king of clubhouse leadership and Donaldson has also got a very strong "winning atmosphere" reputation. Expect that pursuit to continue. Oh, and by the way, Donaldson will cost ~$3m more than Lawrie this year, and significantly more over the following three years of control - but the revenue from playoff baseball helps  with that kind of investment, no?

One other point-
Wilner commented on the Blue Jays This Week podcast that with two big subtractions (actually 3 if you count Rasmus) and two big additions they are short of last years offense, however...what does the WAR projection (via Steamer) say now about the Jays in 2015 vs. those who've left?

CA: Martin: 3.9
1B: Encarnacion: 3.7
2B: Izturus/Tollison: 0.6
3B: Donaldson: 5.6
SS: Reyes: 3.0
LF: Pillar: 1.4
CF: Pompey: 0.4
RF: Bautista: 5.4
DH: Dirks: 1.5
(Pompey, Dirks and 2B pro-rated to full season)\

Cabrera (LF) - 1.7
Lawrie (3B) - 4.0
Lind (DH) - 1.6
Gose or Rasmus (CF) 1.4 (Both have same projection)
Kawasaki (2B) - 0.0
Navarro (C, presumably gone) - 0.6

So comaring those cone to those replacing them, the total is 9.3 gone and 12.8 in and it's safe to say Dirks won't be the everyday DH. Not that projects like this are a guarantee, but at least they are objective.
Less objectively but not completely homerish:
Martin is pretty clearly the best catcher in the AL as it stands (w/respect to potential McCann rebound)
Encarnacion is no less than top 3 in the league
Reyes is the best SS in the AL (even with shaky D)
Donaldson in no worse than top 2, depending on how much you like Beltre
Bautista is clearly the best RF
And of the players who could contest these claims, no two of them play on the same team.

Looking ahead: The winter meetings begin a week from tomorrow and the Jays are not yet complete (even though they are arguably as good as any team in baseball already) - so I'm not going to invest the time in a prospect list until after the dust settles.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Money, Roster, and Juan Gone

I'll refrain from crowing over predicting Francisco's departure because, well, who didn't? Amiright?

I will casually note that I have repeatedly mentioned (mostly in other places obviously that DickeyThole was a tradable commodity which seem to be growing into a potential thing but to clarify, I do not mean "dump" - he has real marketable value. My suggestion was a re-allocation of resources concept.

In previous years I'd have gone 3,000 words or so refining the details of the presumed roster but those details are so much mainstream part of the conversation anymore that it would be redundant. Cotts Baseball Contracts, linked in the sidebar, is the go-to reference for salary commitments and it shows$108.55 million in guaranteed contracts (10 on the roster plus Ricky Ro) for 2015 (not including any buyout clauses except for Romero's). Likewise, MLBTR has scooped up what has become te accepted standard model for projecting arbitration-eligible player salaries (not that I don't reserve the right to quibble). The current total there is $17.3mm for 7 Blue Jays. That leaves room for 8 pre-arb guys who will collectively earn between $4 and $4.5mm. Pending future roster moves which begin, potentially, tomorrow (more on that in a sec). That totals just ever so slightly more than $130 million (notwithstanding every DL trip of course adds to the actual payroll)

That put them $7mm from last year's total, 13 from the widely assumed 150 working budget, and with theorized but unconfirmed room beyond that. My suggestion to deal Dickey for a good offensive player (one year of Justin Upton? five years of Matt Kemp?) presumes there is, in fact, a ceiling this year and it's better to fill one of the remaining holes via trade than free agency.

About that potential roster movement, here's my guess at the top 5 players mst likely to leave the Jays' 40 man roster tomorrow:

1. Bo Schultz (RHP) - most fungible
2. Matt Hague (1B/3B) - should go unclaimed
3. Cory Burns (RHP)- great control, but good day to sneak a guy through
4. Colt Hynes (LHP) - ditto, except he's also a lefty
5. Liam Hendricks (RHP) - Again, they want him, but with teams setting rosters you might sneak him through.

And the top 5 that need to be protected:

1. John Stilson (RHP) - he's coming off injury so drafting team would have flexibility; has highest upside; is closest to major league ready
2. Taylor Cole (RHP) - assuming Jays don't think his breakout was low-minors illusion
3. Blake McFarland (RFP) - AFL work put him on rival teams' radar, relievers are easier to carry through the first year.
4. Andy Burns (3B) - best position player in need of protection.
5. Sean Ochinko (C) - like McFarland, AFL raised profile. Threshold for catcher's bats are lower. Ghost of Yan Gomes looms.

As Ben Balder tweeted, it's sort of a baseball geek holiday.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Here. We. Go.

Talk about timing, eh?

As you surely know by now the Jays have, this morning, announced their presence with authority. They've sign catcher Russel Martin to what, assuming reports are accurate, the longest and richest free agent deal they've ever given to a non-incumbent. Moreover, despite Martin being only an average offensive player (which is above average for catchers) before last season, the deal has been initially met with almost universal praise from the "experts."

The reports say 5/82 which is, in a vacuum, something of an overpay. Ideally probably something like 4/52 cor 5/65 is more sensible BUT in a game flush with money driving up salaries around the game, and for a team with no previous commitments in the last two years of the contract, an extra 3 mil in overpay is NOTHING. As for 2015, the projected payroll - full breakdown coming soon - stands at just about $131 million which is about $6m short of last years payroll. That's before any other moves which seem certain to come, such as non-tenders and trades (I already assumed Francisco is gone).

As others have noted, Martin's value is more when he doesn't have a bat in his hand. He's regarded as a master pitch framer (one report has him bringing +1.4 wins in that regard compared to Navarro bringing a -1.4 figure), a master at handling the staff which can't be overstated with the wave of young pitching that will roll in over the next five seasons, and one of the best clubhouse leaders in the game - key for a team constantly whispered about in terms of clubhouse chemistry.

Martin may be fairly described as the best possible target for the Jays in this years off-season market.

The consensus, with which I concur, is that this is the first in what is likely to be a series of moves.. The discussion off Navarro getting at bats as a DH is pretty silly, because an average starting catcher in a thin market at a mere $5 mil salary has plenty of trade value and they still have 2-3 holes in the lineup and a closer job to suss out. I still think, even though the Braves having dealt Hayward kind of ruins my Upton idea, that Dickey/Thole (NOT Buehrle) are on the market for a player than can fill one of their holes. Navarro for Luis Valbuena for example? You get the idea.

An unequivocally positive move and positive indicator for the balance of the off-season.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

This may not end well

I swore I was done. After 2013, my highest expectations having been well and truly crushed, I quit. Walked away. I had plenty to do and other things to write about and baseball was just too damned irrational for me to write about. Even this summer when things looked good for a while, I was prevented by having been too severely injured to type more than a couple hundred characters at a time (I'm still constrained to 2-finger typing or a Psychotic Dragon program).

Still, I allowed myself to pay attention. Then I paid attention to the (very good) draft. Then to Pompey and Norris and Barreto.God help me to the playoff chase. So here I am. Once again so enamored with my own opinion that I have to put it on the internet in quantities larger than 140 characters.

Be advised: my typing is worse and my desire to proofread has not improved. I waste entirely too much time online plus I've a passion for debating about equality issues that are actually important so content may (or may not) be sporadic. I'm not ever going to be breaking the latest news, nor plowing into the shadowy depths of sabermatics and beyond. Mostly, it will just be my opinion with a bit of rational for why I hold it. Oh, and the sidebar is hopelessly out of date.

There was a time I imagined myself to one day take my rightful place next to Tao and DJF and the other Jays bloggers of the first rank. But frankly I never worked hard enough to earn that and I have no business in that company. Still, a few dozen of you kept reading (plus, if you believe the stats on the dashboard, a sizable number of bots) so we'll see how it goes.

Here, then, to kick it off, are some random snippits of baseball content:

1. I have an entirely irrational degree of hope that martin is signed, even if the contract isn't sensible (the 5/72.5 mentioned at MLBTR? I'd totally do that)

2. Love the Gose deal because I love Pompey and really like Kevin "Reed Johnson" Pillar.

3. Fine with losing Melky, fine with the 3/39 rumored. But have a better - IMO - idea (see below)

4. Wonder if Travis won't start in AAA for a couple of months unless he ius crazy good in ST so they can go through motions of not stepping on Izturus? Or are they past such posturing? (Fun fact: From May 27 until end of his season, Travis hit .321/.385/.506/.891)

5. reports are Braves need pitching, might trade OF. Proposed - Dickey/Thole for Justin Upton. Salaries almost wash, Jays fully replace Melky without long-term commitment, Braves get quality guy who'll probably do better in NL plus an option on him for 2016, Dickey gets close to home. In fact, I'd probably try to get them to kick in one of those relievers they can spare in consideration of that second year.


Ready to rock and enough salary left to sign K-Rod to close. What's not to like?