Thursday, December 31, 2009

The All-Decade Blue Jays

My good friend Lloyd the Barber aka Drew at Ghostrunner has given us a great post on just how good the 2006 Blue Jays were and named them the Jays team of the decade (rightfully so) and in reading it I got the idea to fill the slow days of winter by marking the new year with an All-Decade team of the best individual performances for the Jays in the decade which closes tonight.

First Base: Carlos Delgado/2000
Delgado posted an OPS+ of 181 in 2000, just a few points shy of the best season as measure by that statistic in team history (that would be Olerud/1993 FYI). Delgado had an incredible 99 XBH that year and an OPS of 1.134 for easily the best hitting season of the decade.

Second Base: Aaron Hill/2009
Before Hill came along, you have to go back to soon-to-be Hall of Famer Robbie Alomar to find really impressive offensive work at second base. Hill posted a 117 OPS+ last year while setting a club record for homers at his position with 37. According to Fangraphs he was at 4.2 WAR last year.

Shortstop: Marco Scutaro/2009
Another position at which good hitting has been entirely absent, I trust I don't need to recount for loyal fans the litany of offensive failure that has been the shortstop position for the Jays over the last decade. True, there have been good to great fielders, but no one who brought much of a stick.

Third Base: Troy Glaus/2006
Glaus pounded out 38 homers in 2006 and combined with competent defense he posted 3.9 WAR in a mostly healthy season. Enough to barely edge Scott Rolen/2009 who totaled 3.8 between Toronto and Cincinnati. The edge of course goes to Glaus, since that was over a full season but Rolen's amazing glove and better than many assume offense (his OPS+ as a Jay in 2009 is actually slightly higher than Glaus' 2006 total) easily grab the reserve spot.

Left Field: Shannon Stewart/2000
Back in his prime, Stewart was fun to watch whenever he was doing anything besides throwing a baseball. He posted a 118 OPS+ in 2000 and complimented his bat with 20 steals. One could argue Adam Lind here but the DH position is needy too so I'll hold him in reserve.

Center Field: Vernon Wells/2003
Vernon had a season of almost identical offensive value in 2006, but his 132 OPS+ in 2003 edges out the win. Other than non stealing a lot of bases (which was the team philosophy at the time) Wells brought the total package in those days and his recent struggles perhaps cloud our memories of just how very good he was then.

Right Field: Alexis Rios/2007
Rios played an above average RF, despite the occasional attention lapse, for the Jays while posting a 122 OPS+ in the best season in right for the Jays in the past decade. To be fair, his WAR for 2008 is even higher than in 2007 (5.6 to 4.8) due to playing insanely good defense despite having a down year with the bat in 2008. But I'll go with the better hitting performance for the purposes of this exercise.

Catcher: Greg Meyers/2003
The old man on the field, Meyers came out of nowhere to post the best year of his career at age 37 when his OPS+ reached 125 for the Jays. The fun thing (for the purpose of this team) about Meyers is that this is yet another position where a player originally developed by the Jays holds forth.

DH: Adam Lind/2009
Only 4 players in the history of the franchise have posted better offensive seasons for the Jays than Lind had in 2009 (three of them are McGriff, Olerud, and Delgado - without looking it up, can you name the other?) when his OPS+ reached 144. Everything came together for the young lefty and he easily outdistanced his only real competitor, Frank Thomas.


Bench:

Darrin Fletcher/2000 - a 115 OPS+ resulted from a season when he hit both for average and power.
Orlando Hudson/2004 - posted a 3.8 WAR despite just average offensive production.
John McDonald/2007 - Given that the alternative is Woodard, I'll take impeccable defense here.
Scott Rolen/2009 - His OPS+ while still with the Jays actually exceeded Glaus' 2006 figure, and his defense gave him a higher WAR on the year.
Jose Cruz/2001 - His best season as a Jay saw him post a 119 OPS+, while providing great speed and solid defense.


Starting Rotation:
Roy Halladay/2003
Doc's Cy Year was the more valuable because of his 266 IP. He was worth an astounding 8 WAR that year, though almost any season would have been a good choice. You could also make an argument for his shortened 2005 campaign - he was pitching even better that year than in 2003 before the broken leg.
A.J. Burnett/2008
Despite a somewhat elevated ERA, Burnett was worth 5.5 WAR in his last year as a Jay and posted a 125 OPS+. Both figures greatly enhanced by Burnett's staying healthy that year.
Shaun Marcum/2008
He posted a 125 ERA+ and that in only 25 starts.
David Wells/2000
A 123 ERA+ in his 20 win season in which everything clicked. I can't stand the guy but credit where due.
Jesse Litsch/2008
disrespected and unheralded, Litsch just goes out and pitches his big pink bum off in 2008 for a 118 ERA+ and 13 wins.

also worth noting - Josh Towers and Gus Chacin in 2005, Dave Bush in 2004 (in half a season), Ted Lilly in 2004 (virtually tied with Litsch above but since Litsch was almost as good in 2007 I used that to break the tie), Marc Rzepczynski in 2009 (a 118 ERA+ is nothing to sneeze at for 11 starts.

Bullpen:
BJ Ryan/2006
Say what you will about how his tenure here ended, his first year ranks among the best ever for a Jay reliever.
Jeremy Accardo/2007
The very next year unheralded Accardo posted his own outstanding season.
Scott Downs/2008
Everything you could ask for in a set-up man.
Jesse Carlson/2008
The definition of "out of nowhere" - Carlson was masterful in 2008.
Jason Frasor/2009
In and out of popularity with Jays managers, Frasor's new pitch led to his best season in 2009. If Frasor returns to the Jays next year he stands to reach fourth place on the games played list among Blue Jays pitchers.
Justin Speier/2005
Ask any Jays fan to name the best Jays relievers of the last decade and a lot of them will never consider Speier but he had three solid years here and 2005 was the best of those.

Also worth noting is Billy Koch in 2000, Casey Janssen in 2007, and Justin Speier in 2005.

Here are the traditional stats for this team-

(slash numbers, doubles, homers, RBI, SB)

Stewart - .319 - .363 - .518 - .882 - 43 - 21 - 69 - 20
Rios ----- .294 - .354 - .498 - .852 - 43 - 24 - 85 - 17
Delgado - .344 - .470 - .663 -1.134 - 57 - 41 - 137 - 0
Wells ---- .317 - .359 - .550 - .909 - 49 - 33 - 117 - 4
Lind ---- .305 - .370 - .562 - .932 - 46 - 35 - 114 - 1
Glaus --- .252 - .355 - .513 - .868 - 27 - 38 - 104 - 3
Hill ----- .286 - .330 - .499 - .829 - 37 - 36 - 108 - 6
Meyers - .307 - .374 - .502 - .876 - 19 - 15 - 52 - 0
Scutaro - .282 - .379 - .409 - .789 - 35 - 12 - 60 - 14

Halladay - 22-7, 3.25, 1.07
Burnett -- 18-10, 4.07, 1.34
Marcum - 9-7 , 3.39 , 1.16
Wells ---- 20-8, 4.11, 1.29
Litsch --- 13-9, 3.58, 1.23

Ryan ---- 2-2, 1.37, 0.86 (38)
Accardo - 4-4, 2.14, 1.11 (30)
Downs -- 0-3, 1.78, 1.15, (5)
Carlson - 7-2, 2.25, 1.03, (2)
Frasor -- 7-3, 2.50, 1.02 (11)
Speier -- 3-2, 2.56, 0.95

If you could put all those guys together that might be a 100 win team.


On an unrelated note, I understand some Hall of Fame voters actually voted for Jack Morris (at least one voted for Morris and NOT Blyleven) - about that I will only say, if you look at the stats which measure quality of work, Dave Stieb was easily a better pitcher than jack Morris. Anyone fool enough to vote Morris into the Hall ought to permanently lose his vote.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Makin' S**t Up: Vol. 1

Every blog has to have a unique name for when they just pull something completely out of their ass and throw it against the wall so that's mine.

For the inaugural edition of MSU I consider the Jays' twin needs of Lead-off hitter and Right fielder (or at least, someone to platoon in RF with Bautista). The reason I say these are twin needs is because the realistic candidates for every other spot in the line-up are all players who have one thing in common - they sure as hell AIN'T lead-off hitters.

Jose Bautista is the guy The Manager has designated and that's fine - if the opposition is kind enough to send a lefty to the hill. But what about the other 3/4 of the games the Jays will play in 2010?

After all, Bautista is the owner of a less-than-rhobust slash line of.202/.331/.333/.664 vs. RHP in 2009, and that was no fluke. His career OPS vs RHP is .681 and nothing would suggest a full time opportunity would help that.

Now, there are free agent options, if you want an older guy who may be in decline. I've probably mentioned here before that Ryan Church is probably the most obvious play, although you could go with Randy Winn who'd probably be slightly cheaper or gamble on Rick Ankiel having a bounce back year (as an aside, I saw one suggestion on MLBTR that Ankiel may be as cheap as $3 million for one year by now and if so, that's a nice price for a gamble on a guy who is only one year removed from a .843 OPS).

But if Ankiel is too pricey and Winn is too old and Church signs elsewhere, what's a GM to do? It is this question which forms the basis of the post you are now reading.

I propose the following:

Brian Tallet for Angel Pagan.

Why it works for the Jays -

The switch hitting Pagan gets on base at a reasonable clip, especially vs. RHP (.350 career, .356 in 2009 vs. RHP) and has the kind of speed you like at the top of the order (14 steals in 21 attempts in 2009, plus an astonishing 11 triples in only 88 games played). Certainly 2009 might have been a career year - in particular the triples were probably an outlier - but as a cheap(first year of arbitration) controllable (he'd be a free agent after 2012) outfielder who can shore up RF and competently lead off in 2010 and be a useful fourth outfielder should the Jays land another young outfield stud along the way, it would be hard to find a significantly better fit.

If you took their 2009 numbers and but he and Bautista into a strict RF platoon, you'd get a slash line of .308/.369/.504/.873 which is wonderful but admittedly too high because of those triples. So let me adjust, no over-adjust it by making all those triples into doubles and the slugging percentage drops to .475 which still leaves a nice shiny .844 OPS.

And, to re-state a key point - Pagan is a guy who, like Bautista, blocks no prospect. So if you go out later in the winter and snag - just to pull a name out of the air - Michael Saunders, then Pagan becomes a very good bench player.

Why it works for the Mets:
Tallet has been a solid reliever who's better than a LOOGY and had a run of impressive starts in 2009 to boot, and that in the AL East. He can only do better in the NL and his versatility would be highly valuable to a team like the Mets with a rotation in flux. Depending on who they yet sign this winter, the Mets are looking at Santana and four question marks in 2010. All the candidates except Oliver Perez young and unpredictable, and Perez the very definition of a wild card. Having a LHP who can both provide you solid everyday work in the pen AND serve as a guy who can step into the rotation for an extended period if the planned rotation goes south has to have more value to the Mets than a 4th outfielder (on their team).

Don't think Tallet works here? You could go David Purcey and make it work, or even Brad Mills. Or if the Mets are thinking further ahead than 2010, Luis Perez or Robert Bell.

Do I hear any objections?




Thursday, December 24, 2009

Focus on: Brandon Morrow

After reading Geoff Baker's blog article that contained Morrow's comments on how Seattle choose to use him (hat tip to eyebleaf) I decided to look over the game log of his work for the M's to see if it produced anything that correlated at all with the thesis that the Mariners mishandled Morrow.

You really should read the whole article thing for context but Morrow describes to Baker how circumstances and maybe bad choices (by both the team and himself) led to a failure to develop his starting potential.

In the mean time, It produced some interesting (to me) information and I will walk you through some of the highlights . . .



"I was never really allowed to develop as a starter the way I and a lot of other people thought I should be allowed to,'' Morrow said. "Hopefully, this new chance means I get to develop as a starter more. Changing roles has just been detrimental to me.''

Morrow is not the only one, of course, who believes that to be true. Though he has some history of injury as well*, he's clearly not been given an extended opportunity to develop beyond being a two pitch reliever.

With that in mind, here's a time-line of Morrow's career.

2007:

The Mariners gave Morrow a spot in the '07 bullpen out of spring training after less than 17 minor league innings in 2006 (almost all in the rookie league).

From Opening Day to Aug. 24 he pitched 51.2 innings in 47 games.

He gave up only 38 hits in that time but walked an incredible 42 batters (that's an astounding 7.32 BB/9!). Even so he managed a 2.61 ERA with a .211 BAA and a .642 opponents OPS.

When you can put that many runners on base and still keep them from scoring you are NASTY. He just turned 23 in late July that year..

Then he stumbled for 2 weeks - fatigue?

6 GP, 4.1 IP, 13 H, 12 ER, 6 BB, 2 K .520 BAA

Then he righted the ship and finished the last 7 appearances the same way he'd pitched most of the year.

Optimism was natural.

Baker describes what happened next:

But the biggest damage, he feels, came after his rookie 2007 season in the bullpen. Morrow had played winter ball in Venezuela and was transitioning to a starter role when the team traded for Erik Bedard and signed Carlos Silva. All of a sudden, Morrow was back in the bullpen the first half of 2008 . . . All the work he'd done honing his off-speed pitches in Venezuela now had gone out the window. Morrow barely used any as a reliever. Even the "show me" change-up he was told to occasionally flash hitters was just another way to set them up for a fastball strikeout.

2008:

So the M's put him back in the pen to start 2008 and, reminiscent of Phil Hughes for the '09 Yanks, he dominated.

From opening day to August 3 (after which he was sent down and stretched out to start) he posted the following results:

1.47 ERA, 40 G, 36.2 IP, 18 H, 6 ER, 15 BB, 47 K, .143 BAA, .504 OOPS

Even his walk rate was cut in half (3.78).

After being demoted, he had 5 starts (over 6 appearances) in AAA and his ERA was 5.01 to go with a BB/9 of 4.24

After returning to the majors as a September call up, he got 5 starts and three of them were good. He had a 5.79 ERA but a .212 BAA. The walk rate was back up to crazy levels though (6.10).

Still, for his age and lack of minor league experience, you's still have to think there was a bright future.

So why didn't the M's put him in their understaffed rotation in the spring of 2009?

This is what Baker says:

Of course, some of that flip-flopping was Morrow's fault this year when he switched back to a bullpen role in spring training after losing 12 pounds in a bout with the flu. He knew he'd never log enough innings to break camp in the rotation and wanted to remain in the big leagues so badly that he just reverted to relieving.

Two months later, he changed his mind again.


2009:

Morrow now admits he was wrong to ask to stay in the majors. Morrow struggled in the relief role, sitting on a 6.38 ERA on June 9. The Mariners then moved him back to the rotation (out of necessity? I'm not sure the motivation here) and he got six consecutive starts with a reasonable 4.55 ERA but he wasn't dominating and the walk rate was still nuts, though slightly better (5.53) than previous stints as a starter.

So he was demoted to AAA Tacoma where he logged 10 starts. He threw 55 innings and posted a 3.60 ERA and lowered the walk rate to 3.76/9

Again he was recalled in September and again he walked too many, but it was still down some (4.94) and more - he dominated batters allowing a .181 BAA and posting a 2.66 ERA (sample size and September batter caveats apply).

Here's a chart of all those stats for easier review (with two VERY small minor league samples omitted). I ommitted two VERY small samples in order to do this. It's seperated by years, and the stats used are GP, ERA, WHIP, IP, H, ER, HR, BB, K, BB/9, K/9 - and also BAA and OOPS for major league stints. I further created seperate lines for each epoch I've described above - that is, for instance, when he shifts from the pen to starting in the majors I creaded a new line. Stat's accumulated starting are bolded.

2006 : Rook. : 8 - 2.25 - 1.19 - 16 - 10 - 4 - 0 - 9 - 17 - 5.1 - 9.5

2007 : MLB : 47 - 2.61 - 1.55 - 51.2 - 38 - 15 - 1 - 42 - 56 - 7.3 - 9.8 (thrugh 8/24)
2007 : MLB : 6 - 24.92 - 4.38 - 4.1 -- 13 - 12 - 2 - 6 -- 2 - 12.5 - 4.2 (8/28 - 9/10)
2007 : MLB : 7 -- 2.45 - 0.95 -- 7.1 -- 5 -- 2 -- 0 -- 2 - 8 -- 2.5 - 9.8 (after 9/10)

2008 : MLB : 40 - 1.51 - 0.90 - 35.2 - 17 -- 6 -- 5 - 15 - 46 - 3.7 - 11.5 (through 7/28)
2008 : AAA : 6 -- 5.01 - 1.21 - 32.1 - 17 - 13 - 2 - 11 - 26 - 3.1 - 7.2 (as starter)
2008: MLB : 5 -- 5.79 - 1.46 - 28 -- 22 - 18 - 5 - 19 - 28 - 6.1 - 9.0 (September starts)

2009 : MLB : 16 - 6.38 - 1.85 - 18.1 - 20 - 13 - 3 - 14 - 20 - 6.9 - 9.8
2009 : MLB : 6 -- 4.55 - 1.73 - 27.2 - 31 - 14 - 6 - 17 - 25 - 5.5 - 8.1 (as starter)
2009 : AAA : 10 - 3.60 - 1.33 -- 55 - 50 - 22 - 2 - 23 - 40 - 3.8 - 6.5
2009 : MLB : 4 -- 2.66 - 1.18 - 23.2 - 15 -- 7 - 1 - 13 - 18 - 4.9 - 6.9

Relief innings in 2007 and 2008 with the terrible two weeks excerpted:
2.19 - 1.26 - 94.2 - 60 - 23 - 6 - 59 - 110 - 5.62 - 10.5

Call me crazy but I can see what Mariners fans liked about the guy. It's a shame the Mariners burned so many days of service time on this guy but if they hadn't mishandled him he wouldn't be a Blue Jay now so it's something I can live with.

If he can maintain a walk rate of 4.5/9 or less from now on, and stay reasonably healthy, he should reach his considerable potential. For comparison, Yovani Gallero walked 5.56 per nine while posting a 3.73 ERA and striking out 204 batters; Clayton Kershaw posted a 4.79 BB/9 and still managed a 2.79 ERA.

THAT is your potential upside guys. It's ok to get excited about this guy still. Especially if Bruce Walton has any of Arny's magic in his back pocket.


*A footnote about injuries. As a major leaguer, Morrow has been disabled in the following instances:

2008 (Spring training): missed two weeks with a sore shoulder, opened the season with a brief rehab in AA
2009: Disabled May 2 (retro to April 23) with bicep tendinitis. Activated by May 10.

Frankly, the label "oft-injured" commonly used to describe Morrow doesn't seem to apply unless I'm missing something. He has had other moments of discomfort but if it doesn't land you on the DL, it's hard to keep up with.


One other closing remark here - Fangraphs has now done a through analysis of Morrow also making the point that the Mariners criminally mishandled this guy. If you want to see those deeper metrics I actually wrote this post last night and had planned to post it as a thread starter at Batters Box but when the Fangraphs article went up it seems as if it would just be a copy-cat of their work so I went ahead and put it up here (I worked too long on it to just chunk it).

One thing they got wrong though, is this: they repeat the claim, also stated elsewhere, that Morrow is under team control through 2012. In fact, Morrow spent over 90 days between 2008 and 2009 in the minors on non-rehab demotion. He has roughly 2.5 years service time, and should therefore not be a free agent until after 2013.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Another Look

Just a quick expansion of a thought here concerning the Jays' starting pitching depth over the next half-decade or so.

What follows is a list of starting pitchers in our system, organized by years of control and ranked approximately taking into consideration factors like age, major league experience, injuries, and talent level. I've tried to present this as sort of a chart in order to give a visual representation of the situation.

This is name > age as of 4/1/10, and years of team control left (projected for players not yet in the majors)

Marcum (28) -- '10 - '11 - '12
McGowan (28) - '10 - '11 - '12
Morrow (25) --- '10 - '11 - '12 - '13
Litsch (25) ------ '10 - '11 - '12 - '13
Romero (25) ---- '10 - '11 - '12 - '13 - '14
Richmond (30) - '10 - '11 - '12 - '13 - '14
Rezepcyz' (24) - '10 - '11 - '12 - '13 - '14 - '15
Cecil (23) ------- '10 - '11 - '12 - '13 - '14 - '15
Drabek (22) --------- '11 - '12 - '13 - '14 - '15 - 16
Stewart (23) --------- '11 - '12 - '13 - '14 - '15 - 16
Jenkins (22) -------------- '12 - '13 - '14 - '15 - '16 - '17
Alverez (19) --------------------- '13 - '14 - '15 - '16 - '17 - '18

Unlisted because of the exceeding difficulty of projecting within the context of this rotation are David Purcey, Brad Mills, and Robert Ray who (along with Richmond) would seem to be trade chips or bullpen pitchers given the depth here.

Obviously this is a description of what happens if everyone pans out and it's never the case that everyone pans out - Just ask Dustin McGowan. Still, you have as many as eight reasonable candidates for 2010 and 10 for 2011-2012. If you dismiss McGowan as a lost cause and Richmond as not as good as the pack here, you still have eight very-good to great candidates for the 2012 rotation.

It's also worth noting that with the exception of Richmond, none of those listed pitchers go past their age 30 season on that chart.
As the Jays move forward, the starting rotation is NOT set to be a concern.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New Sheriff in Town?


Watching the story of the Does Brandons deal unfold last night on MLBTR was high comedy. Armchair Experts, confident that, Seattle's talented GM Jack Z-somethingorother could do no wrong and was, in fact, likely to fleece any team he dealt with, was about to steal anyone from Brett Wallace right up to Adam Lind himself from the Jays.

Whenever some negative nelly tried to present the possibility that Wallace - nor Drabek nor Snider nor Lind - was going to get anywhere close to being dealt in a trade for Brandon Marrow, they were shouted down as Blue Jays fans placing an unrealistically high value on their team's talent (something which, of course, Mariners fans would never do).

The counter-speculation included names like David Cooper, Brad Mills, Brian Jeroloman and, at the peak of this group, JP Arencibia. To which we were roundly assured, such dregs of the Jays' pathetically weak farm system were beneath the notice of a talent evaluator like Jack Z and his ever-well-informed followers.

Imagine then, my stunned surprise when Jordan Bastian informed us that the prospect that would be accompanying Brandon league to the Seattle organization was slugging Lo-A ball outfielder Johermyn Chavez! I had Chavez listed as the 14th best in the Jays system AD (After Doc) but he's been ranked both higher and lower. The Batter's Box crowd had him at 12, but that was before the Halladay trade. The Hardball Times ranked him #1 (again, before the trade) but they seem off the curve a bit.

In any case, he's a guy that attentive Jays fans knew about, and thought reasonably well of, but for whom Mariners fans could only say "Jo-WHO?"

So that left them in a precarious position - admit that there Golden Boy GM muffed a trade got schooled by the new sheriff in town - or admit that the pathetically empty Jays system might have a desirable prospect in it who didn't make their top 10. Tough choice. Here's my take: Jack Z IS a good talent evaluator and DOES have a short but impressive record of bringing in talented players to the Mariners; so the takeaway here, both for Mariners fans and for disheartened Blue Jays fans is this - Don't place too much faith in the "experts" that tell you that the Jays farm system is a train wreck devoid of talent (apart from the recently acquired). It hasn't been true in previous years and it's not true now.

***If you need another reminder of how smart the experts are, check out Will Hill's latest column in which he references Baseball America's Top 10 Jays list from 2002 - in a year in which they lavished heavy praise on the Jays' system. ***

So, while I like the deal for the Jays for various reasons, I do not believe we fleeced the Mariners. They get more certainty between the Brandons, we get a higher upside. Additionally, they get a guy with a very nice upside but who's raw enough to make it not a little uncertain if he'll reach it. Trades always look different in retrospect, so you can ask me again in four years (at least) but for now, no one should be ashamed here.

Now, beyond mocking self appointed experts who don't even know the basic facts of the players involved (such as the guy who was unhappy the M's dealt a thrice-injured pitcher for League who had, according to him, a "major shoulder problem" in 2007 - and if you don't know why that's funny then look it up) what else do I have to say here?

Brandon League

Well, for starters, Brandon League is a lot better than most folks outside Toronto fans think he is.

Casual fans (and armchair experts) glance at his 2009 ERA and see "mediocre reliever" but that's where they fail. League's FIP was actually half a run LOWER in 2009 than in 2008, despite his ERA being two runs higher. Other stats which got better include K/9, BB/9, K/BB, and WHIP. An unusually high (for him) BABIP is almost certainly to blame for his higher ERA.

A check of his 2009 game log reveals something even more fascinating. Look at three stretches with me:

April 12-17: 3 GP, 4 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 1 HR, 3 BB, 1K
June 12-18: 4 GP, 4.1 IP, 9, H, 9 ER, 3 HR, 1 BB, 7 K
Aug 16-21: 3 GP, 2 IP, 7 H, 7 ER, 2 HR, 1 BB, 3 K

Total:
16 days, 10 GP, 10.1 IP, 22 H, 22 ER, 6 HR, 5 BB, 11 K, 19.16 ERA, 2.61 WHIP

The rest of the season?

164 days, 57 GP, 64.1 IP, 50 H, 16 ER, 2 HR, 16 BB, 66 K, 2.24 ERA, 1.03 WHIP

Yes, admittedly your top-shelf closers don't have those sort of blow-ups so there's room for more consistency but if you give me a guy who mops the floor with the league all but two weeks or so (collectively) out of a six month season and I'm pretty happy with that guy.

Word to depressed Mariners fans (including Dave Cameron who's a lot smarter than me): Brandon League is GOOD.

If David Ardsma reverts to the pumpkin he's been the rest of his MLB career, you guys still have a ass-kicking closer.

What about Morrow?

Well, there's plenty of analysis out there so I won't be redundant and repeat it here, except to say this: Morrow has a power fastball (sits around 95, can get into the high-90's with ease) and a heck of a curve(reortedly gets into the low 90's). He has serious control issues (probably aggravated by the fact that the Mariners shamefully rushed him to the majors) but also the ability to dominate. He's also shown a propensity for the DL.

If you are thinking "Sounds like a young AJ Burnett" - you're not the first to make that comparison. That's what we are getting here, both in terms of talent and potential frustration. another (unfortunate) comparison - Dustin McGowan. If you want to know why M's fans are upset, remember what we thought we had in McGowan a couple of years ago. Marrow could be AJ, he could be Dusty....or something in between.

Pitching Depth

AA has done a really nice job here, relative talent aside, in managing the depth of the pitching staff, and no doubt there are more moves to come. by turning a good reliever who resided in an overstocked pen into a high upside starter, he made a classic deal-from-strength move. Here's how the 2010 depth chart stacks up right now (in my opinion of likelihood to make the Opening Day Roster):

Starters:

Shaun Marcum
Ricky Romero
Brandon Morrow (talent to be #1 if he breaks out)
Dustin McGowan (MAJOR health concern, this is if he is - surprisingly - healthy)
Marc Rzepczynski
Brett Cecil
Scott Richmond
David Purcey
Brad Mills
Kyle Drabek (most talent here but prob not quite ready)
Bobby Ray (if healthy)
Zach Stewart (better than many above him but needs to build up innings)
- Jesse Litsch returns in June at the earliest

You have to get to the eighth guy on this list before you start to worry someone is going to suck badly, and for a rebuilding team, you really don't have to worry unless you see them forced to call on Stewart too early. What's more, with Morrow on the team and Drabek on the horizon, by the time it matters there's a solid chance that the guys at the front of the rotation will have plenty of credibility in that role.

Bullpen:

Jason Frasor (looks like the closer for now)
Scott Downs
Jeremy Accardo (big winner in League deal if Cito will use him)
Jesse Carlson
Josh Roenicke (another potential beneficiary of this deal)
Brian Tallet (if not traded)
Shawn Camp (ditto - he'll make more than he should for this role. Really should be dealt)
Casey Janssen (needs some other guys here to move on)
Zech Zinicola (I don't see any room for the Rule 5 choice)
Scott Richmond (if/when he's squeezed out of rotation, he'll make a fine reliever - like Janssen, he needs some guys shipped out)
Bobby Ray (again, if healthy - similar ceiling to Richmond)
Dirk Hayhurst (I LOVE this guy but there's a lot in his way given his limited ceiling)

There you have, folks, an impressive list. If the Jays broke camp with almost any seven of the thirteen relievers mentioned here, they'd be just fine, especially for a re-building team.

The pitching, folks, is in good hands and signing anyone else would be in the way. The next issue on Anthopoulos' plate - as everyone and their ill-informed grandmother knows, is trying to move Lyle Overbay. when that happens we'll take a breath and try to figure out how Cito is going to mangle right field.

One last tidbit - I now estimate the Jays payroll for 2010 at $63 million (not counting the $6 mil going to Phily or the $10 mil going to Ryan for a grand total of $79 million). I expect dealing Overbay and another arbitration eligible reliever to take that down another $8+ million and it's possible a downs trade could save 4 more.


(note - edited to revise League's statistics)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Aftermath

Such is the stature of Roy Halladay in Toronto that his departure demands eloquent dirges about the grief that arises from his loss. One feels almost ashamed to publish anything one is actually capable of writing lest one fail to write anything worthy of the subject at hand.

That being the case, it is all the more remarkable that there are several fine tributes already at large on the web, including particularly fine work from Will Hill and the Ack.

I hesitate to attempt to add to that body of work and yet such a profound event MUST be remarked upon.

I have said before that Doc was our Brett, our Yount or Ripken or Gwynn - and I believe that to be true. Such was the enormity of the failures of the last three years that it creates a situation where the unthinkable becomes reality. This is not just a trade of the face of the franchise, this is a trade of the soul of the franchise.

To be crystal clear, I mean no disrespect at all to the young players acquired or the skill with which this deal was consummated - more on both subjects later - but this was more than just a question of one set of numbers for another set, this was the loss of a player who, more than any in the history of the Blue Jays and more than all but a few in the history of the game, was such a force of nature within the franchise and the city as to make this a turning point for us all that defies the power of the language to express.

I realize fans in Atlanta, or Chicago or wherever - even in Philadelphia - might roll there eyes and consider such comments melodramatic and wildly overstated. To them I can only say, you do not know what Jays fans know. This is something we will not, as a team or a fanbase, "get over." Everything is different now. I do not presume to speak for others but for me, a little piece - no a significant piece of what makes me a baseball fan just died. These sorts of things ought not happen. I don't suggest that I know what the solution is, or how it could have been avoided. but it's just not right.

To Phillies fans I will only say this, you don't have a clue yet, just how blessed you have been in the past 24 hours. Don't believe the ignorant who say "the Phillies got a slight upgrade." No sir. Trust me, the Phillies have been transformed. A giant walks among you now. Bask while you can.

To the Phillies organization, please, put some rings on that man's hand. If you don't, it sure as heck won't be his fault.

To Roy Halladay, no player I've ever seen play the game as been your better, on and off the field, in my opinion. May you earn five rings in the next five years, and may you hopefully find your way back to Toronto to finish your career in the city that loves you. In any case, thank you - it was a helluva ride.

Now....deep breath....to other matters.

First, let me say something no one else is saying: the Jays did NOT in fact take less because they didn't do the deal in July. When compared to the Lee deal, which is a fair representation of what they could have gotten then, Drabek is better than Carrasco, d'Arnoud is at least as good and likely better than Marson, and Wallace is way better than Donald and Knapp isn't enough to make up the difference.
Furthermore, they got at least one and likely two guys that the Phillies didn't want to part with then and that goes directly, I think, to the skill of the new GM. Whether or not you think this was enough for Doc (what could possibly have been enough, after all?) it was, by the general consensus, the best package possible and it's an excellent sign for the evaluation of what kind of GM we have now.

As for the players we received, there's so much info out there that it's extraneous for me to even comment but the consensus is that Drabek is a top 20 prospect in all the majors and Lisa Winston reports that the Phillies people thought that when he came back from the injury he'd taken a quantum leap forward towards being a guy who could front a rotation, in terms of all those unmeasurable things that you look for in an ace. A lot of the talk still is that he's probably a #2 but with the good coaching available in the Jays system, I'm going to be optimistic and say he's going to be our #1 in a couple of years.

The debate rages on about whether the Jays should have kept Michael Taylor or dealt for Brett Wallace. There are skeptics among Jays fans and there are fans of the move, notably Kieth Law. For me, its a sideways move as far as I can tell but it becomes a premium move if in fact Brian Butterfield can upgrade Wallace's defense to the point he can stick at 3B for several years.

Conversely, if Taylor turned out to be an above average RF (as opposed to having to play LF) then that's an argument in his favor. The problem the Jays have (and it's identical to the one the A's foresaw) was the crowding of similar players. IF in fact Taylor was destined for left, and the Jays are not sold on Snider in RF, then things begin to jam up. The same is similarly true if Wallace ends up at 1B. With Lind not being the best left fielder and Snider potentially moving to left permanently, there is the potential of crowding.

I'll dismiss Overbay at this point because he's going to be dealt, I'm sure, before the season. If not, he only has one more year and would be a July trade candidate too so the worst case would have Wallace spending one more season in AAA which won't hurt him. I'll also dismiss Ruiz as a stopgap not blocking anyone. Now, if it is true that Wallace will just go right on over to 1B immediately, how do things shake out?

Here are the possibilities:

1B - Wallace, DH - Lind, LF - Snider, RF - acquisition (or Bautista/acquisition)
1B - Wallace, DH - Dopirak (eventually), LF - Lind, RF - Snider
1B - Lind, DH - Wallace, LF - Snider

The upshot is that if Wallace doesn't stick at 3B the guy who loses is pretty much Dopirak (and Cooper if he pulls it together) who a lot of observers are still skeptical about. It DOES still leave the necessity of finding a long term right fielder with defense but if we'd kept Taylor we'd have had the problem of a long term 3B with defense so the thinking might be that gambling on Wallace at 3B was a worthy risk because an impact outfielder would be easier to find. Plus, there's a lot more hope for Seirra to be here in a couple of years than for any of our other 3b, and on top of that is the reality apparent to everyone but the Jays that Wells is going to have to move over to RF at some point.

So I, for one, am not that worried about the Taylor/Wallace swap. If we have a GM who's calling card is player evaluation and scouting, I might as well relax and see how that plays out before I presume to know better than he (the defense of Wells in CF notwithstanding).

The third player is Travis d'Arnaud who is a highly regarded catcher who, some would suggest, is a better prospect than JP Arencibia (I won't go that far just yet but I can see the argument). Law suggests he'll be challenging for the Jays starting job as early as 2013. He's said to have solid defensive tools which simply need good coaching (an area in which the Jays system is strong) and a very projectable bat.

So I suppose the obvious question is how do I revise my rankings in light of three new prospects in the system?

Well, I did it like this:

1. Drabek
2. Wallace
3. Alverez
4. Stewart
5. Jenkins
6. Seirra
7. Arencibia
8. d'Arnoud
9. Mills
10. Jackosn

That's a preliminary revision, though. Yes, that's a slight modification regarding Jackson and Cooper but I have a perhaps irrational insistence on keeping Jackson in the top 10 and the acquisition of Wallace potentially hurts Cooper's chances.

For comparison (and so I can comment on it) here's the Baseball America top 10 that came out today:

1. Zach Stewart

2. JP Arencibia

3. Chad Jenkins

4. David Cooper

5. Henderson Alvarez

6. Jake Marisnick

7. Josh Roenicke

8. Brad Mills

9. Justin Jackson

10. Carlos Perez

My thoughts: Pleasantly surprised to see JPA ranked so high after was was ostensibly a regression; Thoroughly puzzled to see Cooper that high; Very pleased to see my faith in Marisnick was justified; Had no idea Roenicke still qualified for prospect lists; Glad they still like Jackson as much as I do; Pleased to see that out Carlos Perez fixation among bloggers isn't unjustified.

I expect that I'll hold off until after John Sickels posts his rankings but at some point I will revise and repost my Top 40 list and there will probably be more changes than just adding the new guys. also, it'll pay me to hold out and see if there are any more newcomers when Overbay and possibly others are yet dealt.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Love me Tenders

Here are my Reactions:
(I'm assuming if you pay attention you already know about these moves)

McGowan at 500K = Solid. It's easily worth this price to see if he can get it back.

Chavez = Getting him off the 40 for flexibility at the position is of even more value than the money saved by the move. if Chavez were willing to resign on a minor league deal then he was never going to arb anyway so there's no real money saved here but procedurally, it was a valuable play.

Buck = given the patheticness of the market, it was acceptable. The only concern I have here is if the Halladay deal (or some other trade) brings in a better catcher and you end up spending $2 mil on a reserve. It would be great if it was a non-guaranteed deal. He also is weak enough that if JP Arencibia comes quickly this year they don't have to feel like he's blocked by a guy who can't be regulated to reserve.

Gathright = meh. Darn good thing it's a minor league deal. I know some of my friends (including Mike Wilner) really like this signing but to me he's simply an older, faster, better known Buck Coats. i think it will take injuries to get him much time in Toronto, I look at this as a las Vegas signing.

Bautista = I think he's marginally overpaid (roughly a million) but tendering him with an agreement in place was ok by me. As helples as he is vs. RHP, he does have defensive value in his tremendous flexibility and he pounds lefties.
To maximize him though, you find a solid platoon mate for him, particularly one who can lead off That might be Ryan Church or Randy Winn if you get them cheap, although I have another thought which I'll go into detail on below. But it would be a steady though unimpressive stopgap in RF if you got the right man to platoon with JB and yet one that could be easily pushed aside by Snider if need be.

Tendering the rest of the pitchers = a no-branier, IMO. there are enough team out there who are nervous about a big money closer but need someone with experience in the role that moving Accardo should be easy enough. And Tallet would have value in a deal too. None of them are gonna make a huge amount of money anyway, it's quite likely only Frasor even gets close to the amount Bautista signed for.

Edit - with a hat-tip to Mike Green at Batters Box, I must amend this comment. Shawn Camp could have easily been, and IMO should have been, non-tendered. There's too many RHRP on the market for a trade to be likely, and there are too many moving parts in the Jays 'pen to have a spot tied up on Camp. When you consider that the list of potential relievers for the 2010 Jays includes Frasor, Downs, League, Tallet, Accardo, Carlson, Camp, Janssen, Roenicke, Richmond, Ray, Zinicola, and Hayhurst - 13 players for at most seven spots - tying up a million dollars or so and more importantly one of those seven spots on Camp seems . . . curious.
/edit

Now, getting back to the platoon mate for Bautista, there's one guy on the market that really jumps out at me as a good fit - Rick Ankiel. Now, I'll admit up front that UZR isn't real kind to him as a defensive RF, if that's your standard of measure, and you want a solid defender in this platoon, then Church or Winn is a superior choice.

But Ankiel is the one of the three who might actually have an excellent offensive year (he might suck too). the problem with Ankiel is that he's represented by Scott Boras and that means the cost to sign him might be too high for a "buy-low" gamble.

Until I checked the UZR, I was excited about gambling on Ankiel . . . but now I'm not so sure I wouldn't just hope Ryan Church can squeeze out another good season for much less money.

Right now I make the Jays payroll at just over $86 million, by the way, if you include Ryan's $10 mil. So there's not a lot of cash until you understand that Doc's 15.75 million will be dealt, and possibly Overbay's $7 million. So there's potentially going to be room to take some on.

While I'm talking about outfielders, let me chase one more rabbit.

The most intriguing rumor/speculation out there is the continued insistence that the Philles are actually the lead team for Doc and that they are trying to trade some of the players already on their team (Blanton, surely, and Rosenthal speculated even Cliff Lee) in order to obtain the proper payoff the Jays require.

I'm not sure how reliable that is but it's the kind of fascinating creative move I'd like to see more of in major league baseball. It's useless to speculate how that might play out (although it would certainly be fun - for instance, if they could get Starlin Castro out of the Cubs) but the connection here to the outfield picture is this: if they came up with prospects that they would sent to Toronto and one of them wasn't a RF capable outfielder, then perhaps you might get Ben Francisco thrown into the deal (maybe we send Tallet or Downs in the deal as well?) and that would be a reasonable solution to the RF question as well.

It should be interesting to see how that works out. If they could somehow come up with a good package, I think I'd rather see Doc play for the Phillies than any of the other major contenders. not just because it takes him out of the AL, but also for one other very important reason: Philadelphia has all the cards in terms of making it attractive to Doc to sign long term. And if he signs an extension with the Phillies then he's not going to play for the Yankees for many years to come, hopefully never.

But . . . I digress . . .

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Top 40 List

Overblown? Yup.

Excessive? Sure.

Unnecessary? Weeeeeeelllll....

What's more necessary to this winter of austerity then overdosing ourselves on prospect porn....even if they maybe aren't all actual prospects?

Let me be perfectly clear - no team EVER had 40 legitimate prospects in their system. What this really is could be more accurately described as about 20 "prospects" and another 20 interesting minor leaguers who might become prospects.

(Plus as a bonus I'll throw in another 10 names to know just for the heck of it)

The individual ranking isn't that important so much as the area of the list they are in. As a general rule of thumb, each ranking should be read with an implied +/-2 places.

I normally don't do the backwards list but I think I will this time just for variety's sake.
Each player is listed with his position and age as of May 2010

40. Kyle Ginley (RHP/23) - Would love to see him healthy one year to see if he's got a future;
39. Antonio Jimminez (C/20) - Personally, I'm skeptical the bat will come around;
38. Ryan Schimpf (2B/22) - ceiling is maybe a Ryan Freel, or Craig Counsell type, but a lot more likely a AAA journeyman;
37. Mike McDade (1B/21) - Hard to see someone this size making it but he does have some pop;
36. Yan Gomes (C/22) - Not sure what I think of this guy yet;
35. Ryan Goins (ss/22) - like Schempf and Gomes, it's really a bit early to say;
34. Trystan Magnuson (RP/24) - This is one of those lower ceiling, but more likely to reach it guys;
33. Robert Sobolewski (3B/23) - this is the last year the draft class praise will carry him, time to impress;
32. Kenny Rodriguez (SP/25) - will either move up next year or be dropped altogether;
31. Brian Jeroloman (C/25) - he's not supposed to be a hitter but there is a minimum requirement;

30. Sean Ochinko (C-1B/22) - Impressive start, sample size caution applies, sticking behind the plate would increase his value;
29. Jose Vargas (LHP/19) - A lot of promise, can't wait to see him in full-season ball;
28. KC Hobson (1B/19) - This is one of the players I'll be watching really closely this year;
27. Luis Perez (LHP/25) - I'm a skeptic on this one, but I'll respect the reports of others;
26. Andrew Liebel (RHP/24) - Ditto.
25. Robert Ray (RHP/26) - if his health holds up, a steady unspectacular swing man;
24. John Tolisano (2B/21) - He has his fans, but I think he needs to step up;
23. Kevin Aherns (3B/21) - I hate to rank this guy so low but he's just showing nothing so far;
22. Adam Loewen (OF/26) - I really wanted to put him in the Top 20, I still believe, but others are more certain at this point;
21. Darin Mastorianni (CF/24) - a variation on the Reed Johnson model probably, should be a fan fave if he makes it;

20. Gustavo Perrie (SS/18) - Ranking still mostly based on praise from scouts, but have to respect the upside;

19. Danny Farquhar (RHRP/23) - Can't really ask for much more, but I can't really rank a true reliever much higher than the upper teens either;

18. Tim Collins (LHRP/20) - Ditto. but people will love this guy if he makes it;

17. Scott Campbell (2B/25) - give him a mulligan on 2009, but please lets stop the farce that he's going to be a 3B in the majors;

16. Brad Emaus (2B/24) - I'm a believer in this guy. He's Probably not a future all-star but I think he'll contribute a good bit in the majors;

15. Brian Dopirak (1B-DH/26) - I'm trying to bridge the gap between reading the numbers and the teams apparent lack of faith in him. It's odd that no one with the team gives him the praise he seems to have coming;

14. Robert Bell (RHSP/24) - I have to respect him until he falters;

13. Jake Marisnick (CF/19) - Maybe I'm a sucker but I buy into the "first round talent" praise he received;

12. Tyler Pastornicky (SS/20) - not as high on him as some others are but I can see him riding his skills to the majors;

11. Eric Thames (LF/23) - Can his body hold together? Maybe a Shannon Stewart (or more) if it does;

10. Johermyn Chavez (RF/21) - development is back on track, fairly high ceiling but one of those guys who has maybe less certainty about reaching it;

9. Justin Jackson (SS/21) - call me a fool, I still believe. If he goes in with a healthy body next year and flops then maybe I'll be more skeptical;

8. Carlos Perez (C/19) - difficult to evaluate at such a low level but I'll buy in for now;

7. David Cooper (1B-DH/23) - more a function of the shallow pool of premium guys in the system than anything else that he's this high. I think this system has a good pool of moderate talent but few studs. That leaves a guy like Cooper higher than he'd be in many systems;

6. Brad Mills (LHSP/25) - Another guy who gets a pass on 2009, this is a big season for him to succeed at the higher levels;

5. JP Arencibia (C/24) - The team is still quite high on him, and the more sophisticated stats are kinder to him than the simple ones are in evaluating his 2009 - but he HAS to figure out how to get a walk once in a while;

4. Mosies Seirra (RF/21) - the early word is that BA thought he was "a long way from being the Jays best prospect" but I, and a lot of others, don't understand why he shouldn't be near the top;

3. Chad Jenkins (RHSP/22) - it is my custom to default the top draft pick into the top 10 prospects, but quite apart from that, I like what I hear about Jenkins;

2. Zach Stewart (RHSP/23) - Only reservation I have is the small remaining doubt about whether he'll be a reliever (or more specifically, a reliever who doesn't close). As a starter or a top-shelf closer, he could arguably be #1;

1. Henderson Alverez (RHSP/20) - there's some risk in ranking the guy who's further away at the very top but his ratios REALLY impresses me.

I bolded the age on those players 21 and under because a player that young highly ranked is usually a potentially special guy, and one that young that's of a lower rank perhaps deserves a bit more patience than his older peers.

Here's another 10 players that might sneak onto the list next year: Chuck Huggins, Daniel Webb, Balbino Fyenmayor, Egan Smith, Joel Cerrano, Deviy Estrada, Reider Gonzalez, Jon Talley, Marcus Brisker, Kenny Wilson.

Since the Jays are supposedly looking ahead to contending in a few years, I'll steal a gmmick from BA and guess at what the 2013 team might look like (assuming no acquisitions which is a silly assumption):

C - Arencibia, 1B - Lind, 2B - Emaus, SS - Jackson (rookie), 3B - Hill, LF - Wells, CF - Marisnick (rookie), RF - Seirra, DH - Snider

SP - Romero/Jenkins/Zep/Cecil/Alverez (rookie)
(basically, five guys who are all about the same quality at this point, which is to say roughly average #2 or very good #3 quality - Kind of like the Rays current group)

CP - Stewart (good enough to start but no room)
Bullpen - Roenicke, Carlson, Ray, Mills, Bell, Farquhar

Of course, that doesn't count whoever we get for Halladay or in any other trade, or any impressive fast mover we might draft next year.

So, there ya go. I understand why our system is not highly rated, because there's not that much that grades out as premium at the moment. But there are some interesting players here too, in my opinion.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Dear Mr. Gammons: WTF?????

I hardly ever do these hit and run posts but this demanded I comment and Twitter just doesn't allow enough characters to do it justice.

Reading MLBTR and came across a post highlighting several comments from the venerated Peter Gammons on WEEI. This is the one that left me agog:

I don’t think they go Halladay because I think it would be a disaster to give up Buccholz and Kelly and then try to pay a guy with his medical history $18 million a year through the age of 38.

Medical History?

MEDICAL HISTORY????!!?!!?!

ROY Halladay? the guy who plays for the Blue Jays, THAT Roy Halladay?

Lets review boys and girls.

Halladay has missed significant time with a throwing arm issue exactly ONE year in his career.

That was 2004.

In the five years since, he has a leg broken by a line drive in 2005, and he averaged 233 innings a year in the 4 years since.

THIS is a "medical history"?

Or is Gammons thinking the man's going to have chronic broken legs? Maybe he's afraid ANOTHER appendix will have to come out?

This is a guy who's had 30 or more starts in six of the last eight seasons (and one of the two he didn't was the broken leg in 2005) and has four consecutive seasons of 220 or more innings pitched.

Don't get me wrong - if Gammons wants to say "you don't guarantee ANY pitcher big money until he's 38" that's a legitimate point of view. but questioning Doc's medical history is like questioning the Yanks for being cheapskates.

Insert double facepalm here.


***

On a totally unrelated note - Rob Neyer referenced in his blog this article regarding a case the NFL has taken to the Supreme Court which, the author argues, will revolutionize the sports labor landscape if the league wins.

I am not expert enough in the sports labor scene to attempt to debate whether or not Munson is correct in his conclusions but it seems to me that if he is, laws can be passed to remedy the implications but, all that aside, here's the quote that caught my eye:

In a single sentence on Page 14 of their argument in the brief, the owners describe their idea of their league and its role in the economy: "A sports league produces a single entertainment product, a structured series of athletic competitions leading to a championship, that no member club could produce on its own and it competes as a unit against other entertainment producers."

Instead of 32 teams competing for coaches, players, sponsors and fans, the NFL is, in the owners' dream world, a single producer of a "product" that competes with television, movies and concerts.

Regardless of the implications for the labor unions that might ultimately be regretable, I would argue that the owners claim here is correct. Later in the peice Munson says, in so many words "Tell that to Al Davis" but the fact remains, the Oakland Raiders can't have a footbal game by themselves.

I bring this up here because I have long argued that the fundamental logic behind profit sharing in the Major Leagues is flawed because it ignores the principle described above. the Red Sox compete with the Yankees for a chamionship, true enough. but the Red Sox do NOT compete with the Yankees for profit. They compete with other entertainment venues in Boston which are unrelated to baseball.

To say that the Red Sox and Yankees are business competitors is the same as saying the McDonalds on Main Street is a competitor with the McDonalds on Elm Street. That's obvious nonsense. McDonalds is competing with Burger King and Wendy's and verious other unrelated companies.

Now, is this an inconvenient truth for player unions or others who'd like to challenge sports leagues on anti-trust grounds? Possibly. If so, too damned bad. Reality is what it is, if the current law doesn't address the reality then go to Congress and try to get some new ones. don't blind yourself to an obvious truth just because you want to use anti-trust laws as a weapon to increase your economic power and leverage.



Farm Report 2009: The Relievers

Finishing up on the position by position look at the Jays' farm system, I give you the relief pitchers - with two qualifiers:
A. ANY failed starter at the upper levels is a potential relief prospect. Even guys who have started in the majors (Ray, Mills, even Richmond) who are not necessarily "failures" but who are squeezed out of the major league rotation are potentially valuable major league relievers.
B. I'm going with guys who were in the system last year. I'll mention the Rule 5 pick since he's a reliever but I haven't had time to assess how he fits into the rankings if at all.

1. Tim Collins: 8 - 29 - 1989 / 5'7", 155 / Signed as undrafted free agent

By now the descriptions of Collins and the allusions to his lack of size are taking on both a bit of a mythical nature and, at the same time, becoming a bit redundant. I mean how many times can a writer think he's being clever calling the lefty "The Little Giant" as I did last year or whatever?

What does NOT get old is watching Collins dominate his older and bigger opponents. At Dunedin he struck out 13.8 batters per 9, while holding opponents to a .199 BA and giving up only 2 homers. In a brief (nine appearances) look at AA in late August Collins took a bit to adjust and posted an uncharacteristically high ERA (5.68) but beyond the obvious sample size caveat one must also point out that an undrafted guy even ARRIVING at AA while still 19 years old is remarkable.
It's also fun to notice that in his next to last appearance for new Hampshire, he recorded eight outs - seven of them via the strikeout.

There's still some question how well his stuff will play against higher level competition, but how can you NOT be a huge fan of this guy?

2. Danny Farquhar: 2 - 17 - 1987 / 5'10", 170 / 10th round, 2008

Farquhar is, himself, not a huge guy, but the 22 year old RHP is certainly producing big results. After owning the FSL for most of the first two months of the season (0.53 ERA, .164 BAA) Farquhar was promoted to AA and barely missed a step. In fact, from the time of his promotion until August 22, Farquhar had an ERA of 1.47 before running out of gas a bit in the last two weeks of the season (6 earned runs in nine innings over that stretch). Overall, his AA opponents batting average was only .193 and he averaged a K per inning. All that said, he is yet a bit wild but it's hard to complain given the results.

Farquhar is a fairly unique guy who throws equally well from a number of different arm angles while still being able to confuse the hitter as to which pitch is coming. that deception no doubt has contributed to his success so far and his ability to keep that up will play a big role in how well he does at higher levels. The Jays are pretty deep in bullpen options right now, but it's not inconceivable Farquhar could force his way into the major league pitcher by late summer, and certainly he's likely to be in the mix a year from now.

3. Trystan Magnuson: 6 - 6- 1985 / 6'8", 210 / 1st round (supplemental) 2007 draft

How cool would it be to stand Collins next to this guy in the team photo, eh? The huge RHP would automatically make you think "power stuff" but, as often happens with the taller guys - not so much. Magnuson is always going to have to overcome skepticism. the only really glowing report I remember from the 2007 draft concerning this guy was from Kieth law who really praised the pick, most others called it a "signability" move. He was an old draftee who'd just turned 22 then, and after the Jays wasted a season trying to convert him to a starter, he's now even further behind the age curve for his level (arriving in AA after his 24th birthday).

Still, he's not entirely without results. He posted a 2.77 ERA in Dunedin and didn't give up a run in five AA appearance. On the other side of the discussion, his K rate is not as high as it should be for a truly gifted reliever in the low-to-mid minors, and (as often happens with really tall guys) he has to be on guard against mechanical issues leading to too many walks (although his BB rate this year was ok, it just looks bad because his K rate should be higher).

My guess is that this guy isn't going to be an impact guy, but he might well have a few years as a serviceable middle reliever in the mold of someone like one time Jays "prospect" Gary Glover.

4. Kyle Ginley: 9 - 1 - 1986 / 6'2", 210 / 17th round, 2006 draft

Ginley is one of THOSE guys. The guy with the tantalizing arm who can never stay on the field long enough for you to get a solid idea of what he can do with it. In 2008, Ginley got 23 starts around a couple of injuries. As a 21 year old, he started the year at Lansing and dominated for six starts. He had a 6:1 K:BB ratio and gave up only one homer in his six starts, posting a 1.24 ERA (albeit with a not-so-pretty BAA of .280). Upon being promoted to Dunedin, he had 16 starts where none of his stats impressed, but he spent time on the DL more than once so it was difficult to figure exactly how much if his difficulties were due to injury.

So 2009 should have been a big year in terms of finding an answer to that question, right? Right. Problem is he only pitched 7.1 innings in 2009. So...ya know...unanswered questions still. Now, it's possible the Jays will keep trying to get him out there as a starter, if for no other reason than to build up the innings of work he gets in. But with his growing injury history, a switch to the 'pen seems like a possibility so I'm taking a leap of faith and listing him here.

Other names to pay some attention to:
Zech Zinicola - Drafted from the Nationals in the Rule 5 draft today. Put up pretty ugly numbers over there but Jays assistant GM Dana Brown (hired from Washington) thinks well of him;
Josh Roenicke - technically not a prospect and part of the Scott Rolen deal, has closer stuff and makeup, but might get squeezed off opening day roster depending on impending events;
Reider Gonzalez - has been a starter to this point, but he's another little guy (5'9") in a very deep field of starter prospects so I'm thinking if he makes the majors for the Jays it will be in relief;
Zach Dials - I'm not high on this guy but he racked up a lot of saves in 2008 and some observers mention his name as a fringy prospect.

Within the next week I'll publish my Top 40 list and include a link in the sidebar, then I'll see where things go from there.

Farm Report 2009: The Starting Pitchers

I need to be a bit faster about wrapping these up. The Baseball America Top 10 list for the Blue Jays comes out December 14 and I'd like to have all the positional lists done before that time. Actually, in an ideal world my Top 40 list would have gone up before then but the delays associated with the host switch might have killed that chance.

In any case, here's my ranking of the Jays' SP prospects.

(see the 2008 list here)

1. Henderson Alverez: 4 - 18 - 1990 / 6'0", 190 / Free agent signing out of Venezuela

It's hard to overstate the team's opinion of the 19 year old right hander. Alex Anthopoulos has already referred to him as "maybe our #1 prospect" and he's not being hyperbolic when he says that. Alverez came into the season with outstanding ability to get the ball over the plate (1.17 BB per 9IP in 2008 in the GCL) and this year, in Lo-A Lansing, he added the ability to miss bats along the way. His ERA dropped from 5.63 to 3.47, his BAA dropped from .310 to .251 and if that wasn't enough, he dropped from 3 HR allowed in 46.1 IP in 2008 to ONE homer allowed in 124.1 IP in 2009. On top of that, his K rate improved as the season wore on. there's no facet of his game that should give us pause.

While the Jays are expressing new found caution when it comes to rushing prospects, Alverez is clearly ready for Dunedin and barring a setback Alverez could be knocking on the door by 2013 if not before.

2. Zach Stewart: 9 - 28 - 1986 / 6'2", 205 / 3rd round, 2008 draft

The prize return from July's Scott Rolen trade and, some argue, the guy who instantly became the Jays top prospect, Stewart has done nothing but impress during his brief pro career. The catch is, Stewart's inning ceiling is still relatively low, which seems to cause some confusion among commentators regarding his future role in the majors. count me as one who firmly believes the Jays will develop Stewart as a starter.

Stewart was used primarily as a reliever in college given that he featured a dominating fastball and a solid slider and little else. Some questioned the Reds' selection of a college reliever with ordinary stats in the third round but scouts were impressed with his physical ability. The problem is that being used in relief limited the innings he's accumulated in a given season. In 2008, between Texas Tech and the Reds minor league system, he pitched a mere 70 innings. At that point, there were questions about his control as he'd walked 35 hitters in those 70 innings.

In 2009, Stewart opened the season in the Sarasota (Hi-A) rotation where he posted seven dominating starts, featuring not only solid hit, HR and K rates, but greatly improved control (8 walks in 42.1 IP). The Reds promoted him to AA where he got another seven starts and continued to impress. The Reds then were forced to exercise caution lest Stewart accumulate too many innings. He was promoted to AAA and shifted to the bullpen where he accumulated another 12.1 innings before the trade. In other words, a man who came into the season with a ceiling of 100 IP at most, came to the Jays with 91 of those already in the bank. Thus the Jays wisely chose to leave Stewart in the bullpen to finish out the year.

Across the four team he pitched for in 2009, Stewart posted a 3:1 k:BB ratio in 105 IP and gave up only three homers. Look for the 23 year old righty to be a mainstay in the Las Vegas rotation in 2010. however, don't expect him to be forced into the majors as a starter. He'll be capped at roughly 140 innings this year and its unlikely the Jays will try to manage his innings in the majors. To say nothing of starting his service time clock when they have so many other options. With a solid season he could be a candidate for a major league job in 2011, however. All that said, the Jays have so much upper level SP depth that it isn't inconceivable he might end up as a closer candidate at some point.

3. Chad Jenkins: 12 -22 - 1987 / 6'4", 225 / 1st round, 2009 draft

Jenkins is approaching his 22nd birthday and, thanks to protracted contract negotiations, he has yet to give us any professional innings upon which to remark. Pitching at Kennesaw State in 2009, Jenkins posted 98 Ks and only 15 walks in 92 innings pitched, all as a starter. Jenkins is a highly intelligent and physically gifted pitcher who some scouts thought was very close to being major league ready on draft day. One report suggested he could hold his on in the majors by the middle of 2010.

Jenkins features two plus fastballs - a two-seamer and a four-seamer - and major league quality pitches in his slider and his change up. He has the build of a workhorse type pitcher and room for more improvement in his already considerable skills. the caveat of course is that the level of competition he's faced to this point has been questionable. Jenkins could start his pro career as high as Dunedin and move as fast as his results merit. If things go well, one might anticipate the Jays having a top-rated starter prospect knocking on the door of the majors in each of 2011, 2012, and 2013.

4. Brad Mills: 3 - 5 - 1985 / 5'11", 185 / 4th round, 2007 draft

Funny thing about Mills, he was the third ranked starter on my list last year, and both the starters ranked ahead of him lost their rookie status in 2009 and he's ranked 4th this year. It's not so much for lack of performance on his part, albeit he had a bit of a lost season, but the fact that the three mentioned above simply have a higher ceiling than Mills.

Last spring the reportage on the Jays training camp featured many stories about how the team was very impressed with Mills' make-up and intelligence. while he's a player of back-of-the rotation tools, he gets the most out of his abilities and is a smart competitor. The circumstances of the spring competition left Mills on his way to AAA Las Vegas and Ricky Romero coming from the back of the pack to break camp with the major league squad. April saw Mills, who had entered the season with less than 33 innings pitched above A ball, struggle with his control and have serious difficulty striking out batters. The thinking was beginning to grow that he would perhaps be well served to return to AA. But he turned those numbers around in May and June (55 Ks in 55.1 IP) to the extent that he got a call from the injury plagued major league club in mid-June.

That's where things really went off the rails for Mills. The young lefty got knocked around in two starts for the Jays and was promptly shipped back to the 51's where he got all of one more start (an impressive one) before succumbing to an injury that would cost him the rest of the season. I've just wasted the last hour trying to confirm WHAT was injured, with no luck. I THINK it was his back, but I'm uncertain. At one point it was announced he was heading to the AFL then that was changed. I've heard nothing to suggest that Mills will not be ready to throw in the spring but the landscape has changed radically.The major challenge for Mills, from a scouting perspective, is keeping the ball down and avoiding the long ball. From an organization point of view, it's something else altogether.

The emergence of Romero, Cecil, and Marc Rzepczynski in 2009, along with the recovery or potential recovery of Marcum, McGowan, and Litsch, creates an intimidating depth chart above him, and the approach of the three righties listed above creates a pretty narrow window for the 24 year old lefty to make his mark.

5. Robert Bell: 8 - 26 - 1985 / 6'3", 190 / 18th round, 2008 draft

I think I can confidently say that I've got Bell ranked higher than anyone else, and it's possible that I'm giving him too much credit for dominating the Florida Stat league as a 23 yer old but it's also possible that Bell turns out to be a late round steal. Bell was moved by the Jays out of the bullpen and into the starting rotation in July, and he only has 10 starts as a pro. But the thing is, he got even better as a starter than he'd been in the pen. How good had he been?

Well consider, in 2008 he pitched 30.2 innings of relief, striking out 43 and walking . . . none. Zero. Nada. in 2009 he started off in the Dunedin bullpen and 40.1 innings over 32 appearances, pitching in the shadows of more notorious relievers Tim Collins and Trystan Magnuson. In that time he gave up a stingy .200 BAA and struck out 56 while walking 10. After moving to the rotation, he threw another 56 innings and had a better ratio of hits allowed, walks allowed and homers allowed (only one as a starter) while lowering his BAA and posting a strikeout per inning. It's uncertain if the Jays' depth chart can accommodate him as a starter all the way to the majors, but he deserves the chance to remain in that role until it's proven he can't handle it.

Bell has also been referred to in some quarters as a potential closer. But that was before his remarkable performance in the rotation. At a bare minimum he's going to be either a nice trade chip or a potentially solid RH set-up man.

6. Bobby Ray: 1 - 21 - 1984 / 6'5", 195 / 7th round, 2005 draft

Ray is a dead ringer for A.J. Burnett except for the fact that he doesn't have AJ's arm. Still, the soon to be 26 year old RHP is not without talent. After being beset with injuries in 2006 and 2007, Ray re-established his credentials with a solid but unspectacular season in 2008. Early on in 2009, he was the beneficiary of other people's injuries, but after pitching 24 innings for the Jays, the injury bug returned, this time in the form of dreaded shoulder issues. Ray was back rehabbing in Dunedin late in the year and got to pitch in the AFL where he got another 24 innings over seven starts, with mixed results.

With the "injury prone" label now firmly attached, and the Jays expansive high-minors depth chart, Ray needs to stay healthy and effective in 2010. This ranking is possibly generous, since there is much than can go wrong here given the nature of his latest injury. But he's either better or closer than anyone else that might have been listed here, in my opinion. If he can stay healthy, he has a chance to at least be a solid relief pitcher in the majors.

7. Andrew Liebel: 3 - 22 - 1986 / 6'0", 195 / 3rd round, 208

Liebel is an interesting case. He's one of those guys who can throw all his pitches for strikes, but none of them are outstanding pitches. He is, in a sense, the right handed version of Brad Mills, but that kind of ability doesn't get you as much traction when you aren't left handed. On the other hand, Liebel was regarded as one of those guys with a very good makeup and a solid "baseball IQ" that should allow him to make the most of his limited abilities. Last year I mentioned that he's the sort of guys that Dave Bush or Shaun Marcum were expected to be when they were in A-ball and that still applies, in the most general sense. But Marcum's ratio's were much much better all through the minors and he actually got a cup of coffee in the bigs at 23, so Liebel isn't remotely in his class, ability and more importantly performance wise, at this point.

In a weaker field, Liebel is the sort of guy who might bounce back and fourth trying to break into a major league rotation he's not quite good enough for. In the Jays' system, I tend to think he's never going to be high enough on the depth chart to be a major leaguer, short of a rash of injuries leaving them no alternative. I think his ceiling is not unlike that of one-time Jays minor leaguer Josh Banks, albeit with a somewhat different skill set.

8. Luis Perez: 1 - 20 - 1985 / 6'0", 205 / FA signed out of the Dominican Republic

Honestly, Perez is listed here almost entirely just because he's on the 40 man roster. His walk rate was high, and his K rate low for my tastes to be a 24 year old pitcher at AA. On the other hand, his BAA against was pretty good and his HR rate was above average, and he did skip Dunedin to get here so it's possible the Jays coaches see something that doesn't come through in the numbers. Still, the backlog of prospects is going to make it tough for Perez to advance in the Jays' system if everyone is healthy (like that ever happens).

9. Jose Vargas: 7 - 19 - 1990 / 6'0", 166 / FA signed out of Panama

Vargas started the season at the tender age of 18. He pitched in the Dominican Summer League which is a very low level of competition but he was outstanding in that role for the second straight year. The lean lefty posted a minuscule 1.34 ERA in 16 games, though only 6 were starts. He did pitch just as well as a starter as a reliever, averaging over 5 IP a start and posting a WHIP right around 1.00 while holding opposing hitters to a .225 BA (as a starter, .211 overall). Vargas could be next year's Alverez in terms of bursting onto the Jays' prospect charts if he gets a chance to play in Auburn at least..

Other names to notice in 2010:

Rieder Gonzalez, Kenny Rodriguez, Chuck Huggins, Kyle Ginley, Daniel Webb, Egan Smith, Randy Boone, Deivy Estrada (Estrada rocked the DSL to the tune of an 2.66 ERA pitching almost the entire season at age 16)

Now, I wouldn't be doing justice to this position if I didn't note that while technically no longer prospects, Brett Cecil and Marc Rzepczynski while technically no longer prospects or even rookies are still not locked-in major leaguers either. The odds are pretty strong that one or both could pitch in the minors for a significant portion of 2010.

Here, for your edification, is a depth chart of Jays starters, ranked on the major league level by career innings pitched (injured players marked with *):

Roy Halladay, Shaun Marcum, Dustin McGowan*, Jesse Litsch*, Ricky Romero, Scott Richmond, David Purcey, Brett Cecil, Marc Rzepczynski, Bobby Ray, Brad Mills. It's not hard to see how some of these guys, even those who have graduated from prospect lists, could spend a lot of time in Vegas this year.

Farm Report 2009: The Catchers

Again here, as with so many positions for the Jays in 2009, the top of the pre-season list disappointed.
(see the 2008 list here)

1. J.P. Arencibia: 1-5-1986 / 6', 215 / 1st round, 2007

After establishing him self as one of the Blue Jays' most anticipated prospects in 2008, Arencibia was rushed (IMO) to AAA Las Vegas in 2009 and promptly gave back most of the excitement he had earned the previous year.

I said in the report on the catcher position list year that the promotion of a young player who's one outstanding offensive tool was power hitting to the PCL before he had consolidated his others skills at the plate was a mistake and the results seem to support that. JPA hit for power in 2009, with the usual caveat about it being the PCL, but even then his performance was wildly inconsistent. He hit eight homers in May, and eight in August - yet only 21 in all.

The interesting thing to note about his stat breakdowns is that there's a direct correlation between his walk rate and his power production. In his three worst months (April, June and July) he recorded only 4 of his 26 total walks.

Arencibia is still one of the Jays' better prospects. it's not inconsiderable that he spent his age 23 season at AAA. But he's going to have to solve the problem of drawing a walk, at least to a manageable degree, before he is a full time big leaguer.

2. Carlos Perez: 10-27-1990 / 6', 193 / Free Agent signed from Venezuela

Playing at age 18 for the Gulf Coast League Jays, Perez burst onto the teams prospect scene with a very solid season. Perez got a late start and only got into 43 games for the GCL team but he impressed team coaches and scouts with his defense and his bat. And that on the heels of posting a 50:27 BB:K ration in the Dominican league in 2008.

It's always difficult to say too much about rookie league players, but there's a lot of positive buzz around Perez.

3. Brian Jeroloman: 5 - 10 - 1985 / 5'11", 200 / 6th round, 2006

Jeroloman was always a guy who, while a gifted receiver, had a pretty low offensive ceiling. His calling card at the plate was an excellent eye which led to an impressive BB:K ratio. there was no secret, of course, that higher level pitchers would be less inclined to give a free pass to a guy with so few other offensive skills, but the hope was that he would be capable of at least fringy offense in the majors because he so very good on defense.

In 2009, though, Jeroloman's stock took a big dive. He returned to AA so that both he and Arencibia could play every day and he had his worst year with the bat. His walk rate dropped a couple of points but his strikeout rate shot up from 16.5% in 2008 to 27.8% in 2009. If that had accompanied a corresponding increase in power production it might have been mitigated but Jeroloman had exactly the same number of homers and extra base hits in 2009 as in 2008.

Worse still, he got worse as the season progressed. It's uncertain if the Jays tried to rework his swing or something or if he simply had a bad year, but at this point a guy who once drew comparisons to the likes of Brian Schneider is now looking more like Kevin Cash.

4. Sean Ochinko: 10 - 21 - 1987 / 5'11", 205 / 11th round, 2009

Amid the uproar over the 2009 draft picks the Jays didn't sign, and the fact that the two highest picks who did sign didn't play professionally in 2009, little attention was paid to the players who did get significant pro playing time. Of those who did, none got off to a better start than Ochinko. So good, in fact, that I came very close to ranking him ahead of Jeroloman - hesitating only in that we have a much smaller sample of work upon which to judge Ochinko.

Playing his age 21 season at Auburn, the versatile Ochinko posted a .909 OPS and had a sterling .412 wOBA in August before running out of gas at the end (he hit under .200 over his last seven games). His offensive game was solid all around, with the caveat that his walk rate could stand improvement. I've found no reviews on his defense as a pro and there is some speculation afoot that he could end up at first base because he got significant time there at LSU. I'm uncertain how much weight to give to that, though, because that may have been a function of there being a superior defensive catcher on that college team more so than any inability on Ochinko's part.

That said, look for the Jays to give him every opportunity to climb the ladder as a catcher, since the conversion to first is a relatively easy move down the line if it needs to be done. Also, and this is raw speculation on my part, it seems logical that if they give up on him as a catcher there's some possibility that trying him at 3B would make sense.

All in all, Ochinko, who could leap over Lo-A to play in Dunedin in 2010, joins Perez and fellow 2009 draftees Marisnick and Hobson on my list of players I'll be watching closely in 2010.

5. Yan Gomes: 7 - 19 - 1987 / 6'2", 215 / 10th round 2009

I have edited and revised this list based on new information. Originally I had Gomes listed in the "other players to note" section below and explained that choice thusly:

Gomes is a potential sleeper in this group, he could arguably have been listed even above Jimenez. I refrained for two reasons. first, I THINK I have heard negative comments on his defensive ability, though I can't verify that. Second, he turned 22 this year while playing in the rookie league so his impressive offensive numbers have a big caveat.

Just a couple of days later, Lisa Winston gives us an article on the Jays' 2009 draft crop which contains, among other salient quotes, this one relevant to my assertion:

When one caught, the other would DH (or in Ochinko's case, play some first base). Gomes is the better defensive catcher, however.

I sit corrected.

So I revised the list accordingly. Still, while both players had impressive offensive debuts, Ochinko's was enough better that I'll give him the slight edge this time around.

6. Antonio Jimenez: 5 - 1 - 1990 / 5'11", 200 / 9th round, 2008

Potentially Jimenez is following a similar path to Jeroloman except that he lacks even the one offensive talent Jeroloman had displayed. Said to be a solid to potentially superior defender, Jimenez has struggled to tap into any offensive potential. Scouting reports suggest that there might be some there, but his 2009 walk rate was a minuscule 2.4% and he struck out 10 times as often as he drew the walk. His batting average was decent but there wasn't a significant display of power to offset the poor ratios. Still, he's only 19 and he has a couple of years yet to perhaps catch fire.

Other players to note behind the plate include Jon Talley, Matt Luizza, and Kyle Phillips.

The 20 year old Talley is big for the position (6'3" - which suggests a potential move to 1B or DH at some point) but he was expected to capitalize on a nice 2008 by displaying a promising power bat but 2009 was a lost year for the big left handed hitter. He did double his BB% but otherwise he declined across the board. Also worth noting is that his 2008 BABIP was unnaturally high, so some regression was to be expected. The coming season is an important one for the Jays to see what they really have with Talley.

Liuzza is another LSU product, who was playing his age 25 season at Dunedin so any excitement about his .848 OBP has to be seriously tempered. He is, however, considered to be a gifted defender, and he's the sort of player that often gets leap-frogged to AAA when injuries set off a chain reaction in the system. If he gets a chance at the higher levels and runs with it (offensively) then he could put himself on the map as a potentially useful fringe major leaguer. I could see him having a relatively long career as a AAA journeyman at least.

That outcome - non-prospect who does well enough to put himself in a position to be useful - is somewhat reminiscent of another player in the Jays system: Kyle Phillips. Phillips has enough service time to have been a minor league free agent this winter before the Jays resigned him. The 25 year old had registered three consecutive years of solid wOBA numbers as he climbed the ladder in the Jays system, which offsets the temptation to note the PCL effect on his 2009 numbers. The 51's got him into a lot of games at 3B in 2009, which either speaks to potential defensive issues or, more likely, is a recognition of the fact that Arencibia took priority as the "catcher of the future" yet then manager Mike Basso wanted to get Phillips' bat into the lineup.

While he is an entirely unheralded player as a prospect, who's name pretty much never comes up when someone is discussing the future of the Jays behind the plate, I've got a good feeling about Phillips. The remarkable consistency in his production since coming into the Jays' organization - spread over three years and three levels - leads me to believe that he's found an offensive level he can duplicate. Add to that the value of being able to play third and (presumably) first and you have a potentially useful role player in the majors. The Jays could do a lot worse than breaking camp with Phillips as their reserve catcher in 2010.

There's a potential issue for the Jays in where they place these guys in order to get the maximum number of reps. Arencibia and Jeroloman have the top two levels tied up for now. Luizza played at Dunedin last year but at his age, he might be assigned to a higher level next year permanently, or the guy who's moved about as injuries warrant. Below that level it gets really hairy, with one full season team and two short season teams in play, for 5 players. The older guys, Ochinko and Gomes, should logically play at a higher level given their offensive production, and Talley had already advanced to Lansing last year. so for my money, you have to move Liuzza up to one of the higher levels, even if that means he loses some at bats, and go with Ochinko in Dunedin.

I'd then put Gomes and Talley splitting time at Lansing, despite both presumptively needing reps behind the plate, and I'd move Perez up to Auburn even if that meant bumping Jimenez back to the GCL until the log jam sorted itself out some. but anytime you have a guy you consider a prospect not assuming his defensive position most every day, it's not ideal.

Farm Report 2009: The Outfielders

Short on preliminaries this week, since the list is longer - I'll get right to it.
(see the 2008 list here)

1. Mosies Seirra: 9-24-1988 / 6'0", 225 / signed as free agent out of Dominican Republic

Like some other positions, this is a list with a very close choice for the top spot. Unlike the other positions, the choice here is between two candidates who did well in 2009. the margin between 1 and 2 is very slim. So what's to like about Seirra?

Well, he held his own in the FSL at age 20, which is no mean feat and something that other Jays' 20 year old prospects didn't do - in fact, Seirra got into 8 games in AA. He has good control of the strike zone for his age (he had a .360 OPS to go along with his .286 BA) and is a highly praised defender with an arm that draws comparisons to Jesse Barfield. He has solid doubles power which should develop as he progresses up the chain. It's also well known that the FSL is a league which strongly favors pitching and suppresses home run power too.

He's not a speedster, but he also doesn't seem to take foolish risks on the basepaths. Jays management is sending signals that perhaps they'll be slowing down the aggressive promotion schedule of the previous team, but even so, it's not inconceivable Seirra could be ready for RF in Toronto by 2012.

2. Johermyn Chavez: 1-26-1989 / 6'3", 220 / Free Agent signed out of Venezuela

Four months younger than Seirra, Chavez also had a breakout season in 2009, though he did so for Lo-A Lansing. The difference in the two is that Chavez displayed both significant power and also much less strike zone discipline, racking up 21 homers over against 137 strikeouts. Chavez is not reported to be a sub-standard defender, but he possibly behind Seirra in that regard primarily because of throwing ability. It would be wonderful for the Jays if one of them was at least an average CF but I've seen nothing to suggest that is the case. of course, Chavez is likely at least 3 years away if not more and by the Travis Snider might fit best as a DH.

3. Eric Thames: 11-10-1986 / 6'0", 205 / 7th Round, 2008

Thames is an interesting case. He apparently has an impressive set of tools and when he is on the field he makes things look easy with the bat. The problem is staying on the field. The Jays snagged him so late in the draft because he had a major leg injury as a senior in college. He didn't get into a professional game in 2009 as he recuperated. Starting off 2009 at Hi-A Dunedin - an aggressive placement - he roared through the first month of games as if he was under-matched (.340 - .412 - .462 - .884). Then, before the middle of May, he was on the DL again.

He got into 14 games in June, then went back to the DL. He somehow managed to drag himself back for the last 10 games of the season and posted a 1.033 OPS over those 10 games. That kind of record throws up all kinds of sample size alerts, but it also makes one drool over the possibilities if he could ever play through a full season. Thames is fairly fast, but not stealing a lot of bases yet (possibly protecting the previously injured leg) and is a solid defender with the exception of having a weak arm. Here again, if he could make passable throws from CF the anticipation level would be that much greater. but it remains to be seen if his body will let him reach the majors at all.

4. Jake Marisnick: 3-30-1991/ 6'4, 200 / 4th round, 2009

Now here's your center fielder.

Marisnick was rated #42 overall by Keith Law and not a few mock drafts had him as a first round talent. the Jays flat out stole him in the 4th round and he has not only all the physical tools you'd want but a tremendous attitude. he's already talking about championships and being the best prospect in the organization and in a year or two he might very well be just that.

Expect AlexA and company to take it slower with prospects than JP did, but Marisnick might just be the exceptional guy who moves fairly quickly. Admittedly though, it's just speculation until he plays some pro ball.

4. Adam Loewen: 4-9-1984 / 6'6" 235 / signed as minor league free agent

Normally a guy who spent his age 25 season at Hi-A ball wouldn't be on anyone's list, especially with an OPS of .695 - but this isn't a normal situation. Informed fans know Loewen was a very high draft pick for the Orioles as a pitcher, but not so many know that - like Rick Ankiel - he was considered almost as good a hitting prospect out of high school as he was a pitching prospect. After arm issues pushed him from the mound, Loewen picked up a bat after some six years or so of disuse. 2009 was his first year back in the role of hitter/fielder.

Thanks to MiLB.com's maddening tendency to let fall league stats trump full season stats, I can't give you the details that I'd like but the story on Loewen is that in the first half he was totally lost at the plate, except for showing a decent ability to take a walk. as July rolled around he found a grove and roared (comparatively speaking) through most of the second half before fading in the last couple of weeks. the Jays sent him to the AFL where he floundered, striking out almost 2 times a game.

This ranking may well be too high, but so much good has been said about Loewen's natural hitting ability that I'm inclined to not give up my optimism just yet. The Jays signed him to a two year contract so he needs to show them something next year. He'll likely have to start back in Dunedin but he'll advance as fast as his bat will allow, he's on a different clock that the rest of the system.

5. Darin Mastorianni: 8-26-1985 / 5'11", 190 / 18th round, 2007

If you've been missing the days when the Jays featured a speed merchant at the top of the lineup, you have to be rooting for Matorianni. The speedy CF racked up a total of 70 stolen bases between Dunedin and AA New Hampshire in 2009. Beginning the season in A ball, he posted an .816 OPS through 61 games and accumulating 32 steals. After his promotion to AA, he took a few weeks to find his groove at the plate (again, stat breakdowns are impossible to find at the moment) but his speed didn't slump and he accumulated another 38 steals in 70 games. He adjusted with the bat and he was a capable hitter down the stretch.

Mastorianni probably doesn't have the tools to be a full time starter in the bigs, but it wouldn't be at all inconceivable to see him turn out like Scott Podsednick, for instance.

Other names of note:

Kenny Wilson - young, fast, raw. showed some sparks but needs to establish himself

Marcus Brisker - Like Wilson, only more unsuccessful in 2009

Eric Eiland - like Brisker, only more unsuccessful - to the point of being written off if he doesn't show something in 2010.

Its also worth noting that some of the other players in the system might wind up in the outfield. Gustavo Perrie, for instance, is expected by some to outgrow SS; KC Hobson has played as much OF as 1B though the scouting reports suggest he doesn't have the tools to handle the OF as a pro; John Tolisano and Scott Campbell are both second basemen who have enough defensive questions to provoke questions about moving to the outfield.