Monday, 27 December 2010

Forget What I Said

Or not, whatever.

One bit of housecleaining in line with the title - the rumor persists the Jays are about to sign Octavio Dotel. I was vocal in saying a few weeks ago that if the rumors said we were interested, we weren't. I dismissed the report out of hand. I'm still suspiscious but they seem very insistant so maybe I had that wrong. My take on it, if true, is "meh." Dude is too old to impress me, but I will refrain from negativity given that I was underwhelmed by Gregg, Buck, and Gonzalez a year ago as well. Also, I note in passing that the Brewers got my guy Saito (yes I know he's older than Dotel, shaddup) for less money - but maybe Saito didn't want any more of the AL East?

Now, the title actually refers to another thought, and that was my call for trading for Mike Gonzalez. Mind you, I stand by everything I said there - but there might be another option more than $5 million cheaper to close for the Jays in 2011 and surely it's worth going with that kind of savings.

One of the things I love about blogging is when you get in an exchange on a forum and in the course of discussing some particular thought, you discover fodder for a post, well, like this one. I had had an emotional interest in this happening since the middle of last year but I've not tried to make a case for it because I thought it was basically just me rooting for one of my "pet" players. However, a poster on a forum mentioned him in a mildly negative light tonight and I looked into the claim and found a lot more goodness than I expected.

What if I told you that the Jays already had a pitcher that:

1. Had a 2.67 ERA on the season if you take away 1/3 of an inning from his 2010 record?
2. Inherited 19 runners and allowed only 3 to score - and only 1 of the last 16?
3. Pitched in the 8th inning 16 times, accumulating 12.2 IP, and wasn't charged with a single run?
4. in 10 at bats n save situations, he allowed ONE BASERUNNER?
5. In his last 25 appearances, he gave up 11 earned runs - but 4 of them came in that one fateful 1/3 of an inning.
6. Take away his two worst appearances, and his ERA for the rest of the season was 1.93?

Furthermore, this is not some out-of-left-field flunky without a pedigree or clippings, this is a first round draft pick - this is David Purcey and absent an acquisition better than Dotel, deserves a clean shot at being the jays closer in 2011 and beyond.

If you look closely at Purcey's season, that 1/3 of an inning in which he put on 4 base-runners and gave up 4 earned runs throws off almost all of the bulk stat lines like "second half" stats and "in the ninth inning" stats. he had another 1 IP outing on September 8 in which he gave up 3 runs, again in the ninth. Outside those two appearances he pitched 9 innings in the ninth and gave up 2 earned runs. What was otherwise a wildly successful season (actually, more like 2/3 of a season since he wasn't called up until very late May) was disguised by two bad days.

It's true that for comparison you can do that to many good pitchers and get great results - take away Kevin Gregg's two worst outings and his 2010 ERA is 2.48, but then Gregg is considered a pretty good pitcher.

I've been criticized before for picking and choosing my number sets, and I fully agree this sort of thing can be over applied or mis-applied. But I also contend that there's a HUGE difference between a guy with a 4.00 ERA who gives up a run or two in more than half of his appearances, and a guy who holds the opposition scoreless night after night and once or twice or three teams a season get's totally waxed. Give me the latter pitcher every time.

In short, while I wouldn't cry about the acquisition of a "proven" closer, in the absence of such a player (and Dotel ain't it) my battle cry is "Free David Purcey!!"

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Making the Case for Adrian Beltre

Early in the off-season, I wrote off any potential signing which involved surrendering a first round pick so I hadn't given any real thought to any of them, Adrian Beltre included. As the off-season unfolded, and suitors for the third baseman developed, and rumors spread about his demands, I was content to know that the Jays really didn't even have to face the temptation to consider that price - a price at which I had bought into the popular opinion was too high.

But the moving pieces have shuffled around to the point where Beltre is sitting out there with only the Angels among the monied teams which have an obvious place for him. Earlier reports about wanting 5 years at 16 or 17 million a year are now in the rear view mirror without the Red Sox to bid against. It's time to take another look. Or a first look, in my case.

Now, let me clear up a couple of points on the front end:

1. If you are one of those folks for whom a first round pick is sacred and must never be surrendered, I don't think anything I'm going to say here will change your mind. I DO take the pick seriously, but I'm confident enough in AA's ability to find quality throughout the draft that I'm willing to consider it - particularly in a deep class.
2. I'm not interested in a bidding war, or in paying Beltre's (seemingly) ridiculous asking price (if the reports were true). The following case is a case for slipping in the back door and scooping the Angels on a deal which might seem expensive but is just enough to get the heist done.

With that said, let's dig in.

The common refrain against Beltre is that he only hit well in contract years. It is true that he had his two best year in contract years, but he also had one of his two worst years in a contract year. In fact, in his last 7 seasons he's had two monster years, and two abysmal years. These virtually balance each other out. Given that the two monster seasons were the year before and the year after his time in Seattle, and it's that period I want to take a closer look at first.

During the five years he spent in the Pacific Northwest, Beltre posted a collective OPS of .759 but he had dramatic home/road splits. I'd like to call this "little known" but I think everyone knows that Beltre didn't hit well in the huge home park the Mariners play in. But I don't think everybody - at least among those who downplay Beltre - really appreciate how much better he hit on the road.

Over those five years, Beltre's OPS at home was .717, and his OPS on the road was .799! For reference, in 2010 the road average would have ranked 8th in the majors among qualifying third basemen, the home average would have ranked 16th. And all that includes the two disaster years.

Here's a list of those five years, with the overall OPS, then the road OPS, then the road OPS+

'05 - .716 - .736 - 98
'06 - .792 - .805 - 113
'07 - .802 - .858 - 127
'08 - .784 - .862 - 134
'09 - .683 - .717 - 96

So. If we're speaking of the road Beltre as a true representation of the hitter you are buying now, then his road OPS would have ranked 15th, 8th, 5th, 6th, and 20th among qualifying major league 3B in the majors. One league average year, three excellent years (in relation to the league) and one abominable year.

Furthermore, if you take the road numbers in Seattle, and combine those with the two years which bookeneded that period, his slash lines look like this:


His overall line over the last seven years without alteration looks like this:


Seems to me, that's your reasonable range of expectations. True, he's older now than he was when he hit 48 homers, but his work in Boston last year exceeded the high end of this range. And we've already killed the contract-year myth. If Beltre is an .820 hitter, then he'd be a top 10 3rd baseman (in the majors) in any of the last 10 years. I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that for most of the next five years, Beltre can be easily in the top 10-12 hitters at his position, albeit no one can rule out an injury plagued season like 2009, or an inexplicable fluke year). In fact, I'd find it marginally unrealistic to suggest he won't be.

Combine that with what some argue is the best defense in the game (I've an irrational commitment to Scott Rolen in that regard) and you have a top shelf guy. But what's such a guy worth? Fangraphs valued him at $68 million over the five years n Seattle (admittedly, few are the occasions when a players actual pay matches well with Fangraphs calculations) over a period when he was paid about $13 million a year. If you were getting that player, without the monster years, then you'd be getting some marginal value if you paid him, say, $12 mil a year according to their system.

Comparing him to other third basemen really doesn't work. some of them are clearly overpaid (A-Rod, Michael Young, Aramis Ramirez) and others are young players on team friendly extensions (Longoria, Zimmerman). If you look at the most expensive long-term deals, in terms of AAV, you can eliminate several hitters either because they were signed at a much younger age, or because they do not profile as similar players.

One obvious comparison is Torii Hunter, who was going into his age 32 season when he was signed for 5yr/$18 per. He had a very similar offensive total over his previous 7 seasons (albeit without the extremes) and a sterling defensive reputation. In this sense, you can see why his agent set the goal he did. If you have a competitive market, that's the sort of thing you shoot for. and while I wouldn't bitch if AA spent Rogers' money so extravagantly (until and unless it was demonstrated to be a burden) I'm not really arguing that the Jays ought offer him a $16-18 million AAV.

Rather, I think this is a situation in which the concept of when our window to compete is works for us a bit. It would be pointless for the Jays to sign Beltre for three years. and it might be years that has the Angels hesitant. If the Jays were to sign Beltre, it ought to be five years. This would carry them deep into the years in which they expect to be a force. One thing you'd be sure to get over that time is impeccable defense. The very best defenders age well with the glove in most cases. This helps the pitching, and it helps all the other infielders including a potentially shaky 1B. As a hitter, you probably get a guy who declines over the life of the deal from an .850ish OPS to a .750ish OPS, but on a team in which - if things go well, young hitters take on more and more of the burden of offense.

Now, it's true Brett Lawrie needs a place to play if he pans out - but the answer to that is right in front of us. Jose Batista has one more season before free agency. If he repeats his previous success, he'll get a bigger annual pay than Beltre from someone else and leave us with a couple of picks (one to make up for what we lose on Beltre, in a sense). If he doesn't return anywhere close to that level, then whether he stays or goes, he's not an affront to Brett Lawrie playing RF if he is deemed ready. There's also the 2B option but that's more complex.

Bottom line: In studying the matter, I've convinced myself that if we can get Beltre for five years on a deal worth no more than $60-70 million, it will be good value and a quality move.

UPDATE: MLBTR had this, today, from a column by Buster Olney -

The Athletics would talk to free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre again if the player is willing. Beltre reportedly ignored Oakland's five-year, $64MM offer, which isn't much lower than the offer the Angels pulled yesterday. Beltre appears to crave $85-90MM over five years, or a sixth year.

The Angels pulling their offer leaves him floating, on the other hand the A's offer would seem to constitute a floor if it's correct. Since this is Scott Boras we are speaking of, it's not like he's going to cave. The report suggests the Angels offer might have been for $70 million, and goes on to suggest that the $18 per that Werth got is the target (which is consistent with what I discussed above). If it's true that 5/70 is the current standing offer ("withdrawn" being just a negotiating ploy) then logically you are either going to have to add a sixth year, or more money per-year.

I think my reaction might be to put in a sixth year option with some reasonably attainable incentive clause which would guarantee it. Something that would end up being 6/85 if it vested or some such.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Tip 'o the hat

As soon as I finish this post, I'm going to add a new link to the sidebar - one that should no doubt have been there long before now but sometimes sites just escape my notice. But thanks to an item in a link dump post at Bluebird Banter, I'm reading and enjoying a great jays blog that is new to me but not new to the net: Jays Journal.

Writers Matt Germain and Jared MacDonald are currently in the midst of pumping out player profiles on their Top 50 Jays prospects which are so well done I want to go back and take my list down in shame. Opinions are opinions, of course, but each of these profiles features bullet points on pertinent facts right down to the uniform numbers. I won't say I'm going to agree with every slot in terms of relative ranking (and after all, every list is different) but you can only admire the amount of work that goes into each post. I'll no doubt be factoring in this new information when i write my spring Prospect list update. In the mean time, for sheer bulk of information, JJ is right up there with Bluebird Banter for the best Jays blog I've seen.

Other items:

Item 1: While I'm touching base let me just say that I congratulate the Brewers on dealing for Grienke and in relation to that, can we PLEASE stop dignifying Bob Elliot's SPECULATION about a Drabek/Snider combo as if it were an actual proposal between the Jays and Royals? Thank you.

Speaking of the Royals and Grienke, and the stupidity of the afre-mentioned speculation/non-rumor - here's an interesting bit of news about that whole drama from Jeff Blair:

Alex Anthopoulos will not be among the general managers recalibrating this week after Zack Greinke’s shocking trade to the Milwaukee Brewers, which is expected to be finalized Monday. Anthopoulos, the Toronto Blue Jays GM, asked the Kansas City Royals about Greinke’s availability early in the off-season, but was told the pitcher would not waive his no-trade clause to Toronto. End of story. Greinke agreed to go to Milwaukee, and sources suggest he believes he can do better statistically in the National League heading into free agency in two years.

So, again I plead - even though I know that Bob Elliot is as one of the gods to the Toronto sports media (I'm looking at you in particular Grif) - let's move on, eh?

Item 2: On the Jays' re-signing of Eddie Encarnacion, and their professed intent to play him mostly as a DH and reserve 1B - I'm down with it. Low cost, solid potential for lightning-in-a-bottle.

Item 3: Brett Lawrie insists he's gonna break camp with the Jays. I'm very sure that AA isn't done yet but in the mean time, I'm not convinced that he can't force their hand and make the drop him into RF (or at 3B, where I'd love to see him work out) on opening day.

Item 4: If the Royals are resigned to a couple of years of losing, I'm still more than a little interested in the idea of scooping up Alex Gordon on the (relative) cheap.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

My New Obsession

Here's what we know.

The Baltimore Orioles have committed over a million next year to Jeremy Accardo. Earlier in the year they re-upped the impressive Koji Uehara who finished 2010 as their closer (and has a 5:55 BB:K ratio) for a $3 mil deal with a 2012 option that should vest pretty easily. In addition, there are strong rumors they have a 2 year, $8-10 million offer out to Kevin Gregg.

NO ONE is talking about the relief pitcher the O's committed $12 million over 2010 and 2011 to LAST winter.

I want to talk about him. His name is Mike Gonzalez.

(See what I did there?)

Mike Gonzalez, you might recall, blew 2 of his first 3 save opportunities and was yanked from the closers job by the manager Dave Trombley and within a week found himself on the DL with a strained shoulder (which some had whispered he'd been trying to pitch through for much of spring training). While Gonzalez and his 18.00 ERA rotted on the DL until Mid-July, Alfredo Simon closed fairly well for three months (he had a 3.03 ERA on July 23) before falling apart over three weeks before finally losing the job.

But instead of giving the closing job back to the guy they were paying $6 million to do it, new manager Buck Showalter handed the ball to former starter Uehara, who, in fairness, did a fine job (after the All-Star break Uehara had a 2.57 ERA and 45 K's in 35 innings - to go with TWO WALKS!) and Gonzalez was regulated to a set up role.

The MLBTR blurb on Gregg says that the O's didn't promise the closer job to Uehara and that they could still give it to Gregg if he accepts there offer (that right there, if true, shows you the level of thinking we are dealing with here)

So - are the O's really going to pay Gonzalez $6 million to be a middle reliever? I sense opportunity here!

Let's consider Mike Gonzalez. Gonzalez is a 32 year old (33 in late May) LHP who arrived in Baltimore with a 2.57 career ERA pitching for Pittsburgh and Atlanta. He'd won the closer job in Pittsburgh before being dealt for Adam LaRoache and for the Braves he settled in as a set-up man to equally impressive Rafael Soriano. For those two teams he compiled a 168 ERA+ and posted a 1.22 whip over almost 300 IP. He was in many ways an 8th inning closer.

In Baltimore, after that injury impaired beginning, he managed to become a bit of a pariah with O's fans, who got a terrible first impression and those are often hard to overcome (witness the number of jays fans who are sure despite the stats that Jason Frasor can't handle pressure). Even after he was healthy and back in the majors, Showalter didn't seem to be interested in putting him back into the closer role (and with Uehara pitching like that, who can blame him really?).

The mythology, then, has been built up that Gonzolez sucked in 2010. that he can't handle the AL East. that turns out to be bullshit. Remember Gonzalez's career stats I mentioned above?

Here's what he did after he came off the DL last year for comparison:

2.57 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 10.58 K/9
July 22-end of season, 2010:
2.78 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 11.12 K/9 (oh, and .165 BAA, .512 OPSA)

In short, he had a perfectly excellent second half. He is EXACTLY what the Jays need. So much so that not only would I try to take advantage of the O's and deal for him but I'd see if i could get him to add some time to that contract. Six million might be at the upper edge of what a closer ought to be paid, but the Jays can afford it and he would be the lockdown guy that AA wants.

With Frasor and presumably Purcey setting him up, and Shawn Camp back, the back of the Jays 'pen would be one less thing for the team to worry about.

And don't think the Orioles don't have several ideas of where they could spend the money they would save in such a deal - if you think they wouldn't deal Gonzalez, ask yourself this question - why would a team with this guy, AND Uehara . . . still want to spend $10 million over the next two years on Kevin Gregg??!!?

Gonzalez is a better pitcher than any closer still on the free agent market except Soriano - and e won't cost us our first round pick (in fact, he might very well GET us one in 2012).


Monday, 13 December 2010

Random Thoughts

Not necessarily on the Jays. All items are IMO of course.

Item: whoever signs Brandon Webb will get much greater value over the life of the contract than whoever signs Carl Pavano.

Item: Is there any other team that can even be considered a reasonable player for Adrian Beltre but the Angels? if they give him an insane amount it will be bidding against themselves. (Yes the Jays need him but not at the price point he's lusting after).

Item: Someone tell me what's wrong with Jeremy Bonderman? There's another guy I'd commit to before I did Pavano. Don't get me wrong, he probably won't pitch as well, but in terms of the chance that he'll produce noticeably more value than his contract, he seems a decent project. He and San Diego needs to be talking.

Item: The Mariners ought to see if they can get Eric Chavez on a non-guaranteed deal of some sort and see if he has anything to offer (pending physical of course).

Item: It's said that Alex Anthopoulos gages the FA relief pitcher market to be full of similar guys, so he's waiting to get a bargain after the higher profile guys sign - don't be surprised if one of the late signings who turn out well (for the Jays or someone else) is Juan Cruz.

Item: a year from now articles will be written about what a great bargain the Brad Hawpe signing was. Can he play 1B? Might be just the guy the Jays need (albeit, he splits the wrong way).

Item: I'm not sure Derrek Lee will sign with the Jays without a full time defensive job but he's another guy some team will get excellent value on (provided they don't throw goofy money at him as was done with Carlos Pena).

Item: How sweet wold it be if Russel Martin would hit and run like 2007 and play 3B for the Jays? how do I already know he's gonna sign with Boston?

Why is no one talking about Brad Penny? it was a strained lat for cryin' out loud. Hey Milwaukee - that's three names I've mentioned you are not rumored to be in on, wake up already!

I'm tempted her to repeat some of the things i've said before about potential trade targets - Alex Gordon, Gordon Beckham, Pablo Sandoval, Killa Ka'aihue, et al - but I won't. except to mention that now there's a rumor the White sox will listen on Dayan Viciedo but I find it pretty hard to believe. the Qunentin rumor makes more sense.

Anyway, mostly not Jays stuff but I'm bored so . . . there ya go.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Bits and Pieces

Maybe it's just the nature of the event but Alex has given us JUST a bit more insight into his thinking at Winter Meting scrums than he normally does and it seems to me these are the takeaway facts so far . . .

1. He's focused on adding established bullpen help. Hopefully that's not old marginal sorts like Dotel and Rauch, but clearly he'd like to bring in a couple of veteran relief arms;

2. He is more than a little interested in Adam Lind being the long term 1B, and said today that the ideal addition would be someone who's primary job was to DH but who could step in at 1B if the experiment with Lind goes south on the defensive side;

3. He's open to adding "the right player" at catcher, but he's committed to developing Arencibia which means whoever it is has to be amicable to a time-sharing arrangement, either by willingness to sit or willingness to move around the diamond;

4. Not a lot has been said about adding an established 3B, which leads to all sorts of speculation. There is a general feeling that the team would prefer to leave Hill and Bautista where they are, and that reinforced by AA allowing as to how he thought import Brett Lawrie's skill set played better at 3B (i.e. if you are going to pencil in Lawrie as the long term 3B you don't need to be moving other players there and then back out to their old position). Lawrie, for his part, is making no secret that he wants to break camp in the majors but I'd be stunned if the jays felt comfortable enough with his D at third by April 1 to do that. if so, Butter will have earned his pay for the year.

As I've noted before, speculation about what AA WILL do is a fool's errand. He'll do something you never saw coming. As to what seems logicale to do . . .

RE #1 - Some names that make some sense, given recent production and the Jays situation - Saito, Fuentes, Wood, Crain, Okajima, Feleciano, and Uehara. Kerry Wood has possibilities but, like Gregg, would be sort of an adventure. You might see if Kelvim Escobar would take a minor league deal and see if he can get any of his former stuff back. Frankly, there are so many variations here that speculations is all but useless.

RE#2 - The obvious veteran solution is Derrek Lee, assuming a man known for his glove is willing to take a back seat on playing in the field to Lind. He migh5t be enough of a bargain, though, that you postpone that experiment. Similar in potential production to Lee is Adam LaRoche. Past that it's nothing but question marks and intuition. Can Nick Johnson stay healthy, for instance? Try to patch in a journeyman type? See if Carlos Delgado wants to make a comeback?
(As an aside, I see no reason why the Jays wouldn't put their army of scouts to work on Delgado and see how he is physically. It wouldn't cost anything significant to see if there's anything there - though it's worth noting he's apparently not playing winter ball which you'd think you'd want to do if you wanted to prove your health)

RE#3 - Russel Martin. Really, there's not another freely available catcher who profiles as the sort of guy he means. It would be better if the word wasn't out that Martin still had strong feelings about catching. if he could be the primary 3B and the emergency option behind the plate it would be excellent. Don't see another player that this is relevant to. In the same vein, relating more to #2 perhaps, you might take a flyer on Eric Chavez as a rimary DH (for his health) and emergency corner IF but who knows if he has anything left?

RE #4 - Basically, a lot depends on whether they buy the idea of giving Lawrie a shot to make the team or not, and they aren't saying. there's Emaus, but if they didn't even put him on the 40, what are the odds that he will win their favor now? Externally, Beltre is too high, chavez is too fragile, Glaus ain't coming back to turf, and after that you are looking at the likes of Joe Crede or Pedro Feliz. Ugh. There's the martin option, of course, if he were willing. Otherwise you hope you can trade for someone. Alex Gordon remains intriguing. The White Sox discussed Beckham a couple of times but his price would be exorbinent. Otherwise, the pickings are slim.

Of course, there's the option of moving Bautista back to 3b, or Hill - but the team seems reluctant to do so unless a solid option presents itself that makes it worth while.

Speaking of -

Might be useless speculation, but Rosenthal suggesting the White Sox were running out of money and might dangle Carlos Quintin for bullpen help. if I could build something around Frasor I'd be all over that.

One other wild hair thought - everyone considers oakland's 1B prospect Chris Carter to be all-that, one wonders what it would take to get Daric Barton (you have to assume the Jays would be content for Lind to DH if Barton could be had - heck, there might be some logic in a trade of the two for each other if the jays are willing to swap the power for the defense and OBP.

Nothing but random speculation of course, but hey, it is the winter meetings so when better?

Rule 5 draft in the AM.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Pitch Like A Man - Wherever You Are

According to a multitude of published reports like this one, Shaun Marcum is on his way to Milwaukee. the most prevalent reporting is that Toronto will receive in return the Brewer's consensus #1 prospect, 2B Brett Lawrie.

The 20-year-old Lawrie was a target of the Blue Jays in the 2008 draft when the Brewers took him one pick ahead of the Jays' turn to select. He was a catcher then, he was playing 2B (poorly according to reports) for the Brewers AA club in 2010 (and reaching AA at 20 is no small feat) and is reportedly experienced at 3b, though many scouts suggest his future is in LF.

The good/bad about Lawrie, apart from his obviously prolific bat, is his attitude. Apparently he's the sort of guy you hate on the opposing team but love when he's your guy. Imagine Cano's bat, Uggla's D, and Pedroia's attitude.

Lawrie dd an interview with Marc Hulet of Baseball Analysts (and Batter's Box) and he compared himself directly to Pedroia as a "spark plug" type of high energy guy. As much as Jays fans don't care for Pedroia's personality, they will probably love having such a player on their own team.

On an instinctive level, my preference would be to see the Blue Jays try to polish him into a competent 3B since that's the immediate position in need of a long-term fix. alternately, the idea of shifting Hill to 3B and Lawrie playing 2B would be a dead issue but he's going to have to really bring up his defensive game.

There's also unsubstantiated speculation that this deal is a precursor to making a big run at KC's Zach Grienke. In theory Lowrie could be flipped (which seems unlikely given the strengths in the KC system) or Hechevarria could be dealt (since Lowrie in the infield would create perhaps room to deal there) along with probably Drabek and presumably others. the reports, however, suggest that Grienke is wildly overpriced and I, for one, am not at all sure that i think he's worth the price in players it takes to get him, or the contract extension he'll command in a couple of years.

More likely, AA is again focused on the long view more than 2011. I think the Blue Jays will be fine in 2011, but Alex isn't trying to "go for it" specifically next year, if that happens it's gravy. wherever he plays (though it really needs to be the infield unless the Jays are confident in Snider playing right) Lawrie just became another cog in the core of the next great Jays team. of course he could fail, just as any player could - but all you can do with a prospect is assume he will succeed until he doesn't.

Finally, Brewers fans seem to be bent out of shape about getting so "little" for Lowrie. Trust me guys, by mid-season you'll be calling Marcum your ace and one of the better pitchers in the NL (which he will be). Gallardo has better stuff, but Marcum - while pitching in the toughest division in baseball (by far) had a better ERA than Gallardo did. Consider this, in 2010 in all games against opponents other than the Big 3 in the AL East, his ERA was 2.76; that's not to disrespect Gallardo, he's talented - but Marcum is being seriously underestimated in some quarters.

Good luck, Shaun. Pitch like a man, wherever you go.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

As the winter games begin... seems to me that one bit of information that it's handy to have, going forward, is an idea of what the payroll currently looks like. Sure, Beeston and Anthopoulos are on record that no move that makes sese will be prevented by money, but since we don't know, looking in from the outside, how to define "makes sense" from Rogers' point of view, we can still kind of ballpark an idea of what might happen if we know where we are at now.

All the contract figures are per Cott's (and if you are using any other source for payroll info - what the hell is wrong with you?) the pre-arb players are all rounded to half a million dollars since the amount they would vary from that is so small as to be irrelevant (precise figures can't be guessed at because the previous minimum of $400k will be subject to a COLA adjustment - I know, right? - and we don't know yet what that will be), and easily swallowed up by the variation in the amount of my estimates for arb-eligible contracts and what the actual contracts turn out to be.

The arbitration players are my estimates, but i have been fairly accurate in predicting the total amount we spend on such players the last few years so I speak there with some confidence.

The signed contracts are bolded. Arb eligible in italics. There are more than 25 players here because there are players who will likely have a big league contract who won't be on the active roster (McGowan, for instance). All figures in million of dollars.

Starting Pitchers:

Romero - $0.75
Marcum - $2.0
Morrow - $1.1
Cecil - $0.5
Litsch - $0.9
Rzpczyinski - $0.5
McGowan* - $0.45

Relief Pitchers

Frasor - $3.75
Camp - $2.0
Janssen - $1.2
Villanueva - $1.25
Purcey - $0.5
Carlson - $0.5
Roenicke - $0.5
(or Richmond)

(current starting nine, which is actually eight)

Arencibia - $0.5
Lind - $5
Hill - $5
Escobar - $1.3
Bautista - $8
Wells - $23
Snider - $0.5
Davis - $1.8


Molina - $1
McDonald - $1.5

3 other hitters needed to finish the roster, and at least one of those pitchers won't be on the roster, although you might need all of ST to see how that plays out)

Also off roster:

Hechevarria - $2 mil

Total committed already: $38.7 mil
Total pre-arb players: $3.5 mil
Total arb estimates: $23.3 mil
Three more spots, minimum: $1.5 mil

Grand total: $67 mil

This wold obviously fluctuate if the Jays signed, for instance, Morrow or Marcum to a long term deal this winter, to say nothing of inevitable acquisitions. please don't nit-pick about - for instance - whether or not Carlson makes the team. Some low-pay guy will be there if not him unless we acquire someone from outside the organization and obviously no one can predict what, shall we way, Ryan Roland-Smith wold make because we don't know who that player will be yet.

This is more an idea of who would be at the head of the line if they broke camp today.

Certainly there's a potential for some fluctuation, but i'd stand by this prediction within about 5% variation in either direction.

Friday, 3 December 2010


Well, that was interesting.

I took a couple of weeks to catch my breath and wait for some roster manipulation deadlines to pass because, ya know, I hate to post short "news" posts telling you things you already learned elsewhere.

So, to review . . .

Zep finished up his domination of the AFL and put himself firmly back in the conversation for who breaks camp as the fifth starter next spring. also, he might well have moved to the front of the line (behind David Purcey) for consideration as a left-handed reliever;

Shawn Hill was removed from the roster and chose free agency. Regrettable to lose him, and fouls up one of my predictions, but understandable given the depth. I wouldn't be surprised to learn the Jays offerend him a minor-leage contract and a ST invite, but I'd be surprised if he didn't get a better opportunity (i.e. a less crowded depth chart) elsewhere.

The Jays dealt two minor league relievers for Raji Davis, upon which I've already commented.

They left Brad Emaus and Adam Loewen off the 40 man roster, the reaction abroad is that no one will risk Loewen (who's out of options anyway) but that Emaus might be taken - i'd have kept him over some of the fringy pitchers (hiya Rommie Lewis!) but that's just me. Henderson Alvarez, thanks to some obtuse machinations of the rules, didn't need to be protected, the other guys on the list in my last post were added to the 40.

The Jays offered arbitration to all the Type A and B free agents in their "possession" and all rejected (as expected) save Jason Frasor who returns as the nominal (for now) closer for 2011 until his better comes along. bit of trivia - if Frasor isn't traded or hurt, he's very likely going to take over the franchise lead in games pitched next year - amazin', ain't it? I Like Frasor better than most. You might be unaware that from Mid-June until the end of the season in 2010, he had an ERA of just 2.52 and opponents hit a measly .205 off him. Having him back is a plus (even if getting the picks would have been nice). on the other hand, given the options available in free agency, and the fact that 34 teams were sniffing round Frasor, don't be stunned if he is traded before spring.

Because of the foregoing, the Jays stand to gain one compensation pick (Scott Downs) and four supplemental round picks in next year's draft;

The team announced their minor league coaching roster and there were several notable items: Sal Fasano to coach at AA; Tom Signore who was the AA pitching coach last year moves up to AAA, and that Vegas team will be managed by Marty Brown who has a history with John Farrell in the Cleveland organization and got a strong recommendation from the big league boss; Mike Redmond steps off he diamond (playing for the Indians in 2010) and into the Lansing manager's office. John Schnider was promoted from the GCL job to Vancouver and Omar malve will become the GCL manager. Rick Langford remains with the organization in a newly created position. is it odd that i find myself real pleased with these hires? why should I care?

Tonight the Jays re-signed Dustin McGowan for 2011 for $450,000. I believe he, too, is out of options, but given his injury there's no real chance he's claimed on waivers;

Also tonight, the Blue Jays non-tendered Jeremy Accardo (no surprise there) and Fred Lewis (not as much a given but hardly a shocker). Neither are a significant loss, one reporter tweets that Lewis didn't fit into the clubhouse well. By the way, the A's non-tendered Edwin Encarnacion as well so there's that. The Jays roster now stands at 37.

Speaking of the non-tenders, here are some names dropped tonight that caught my eye:

Russel Martin - C
given his pedigree, most Jays fans are well aware of Martin. He seems to have suffered greatly from the oppressive work load the Dodgers piled on him a few years ago, but that might make him just the sort of player you want to split time with a promising rookie so that he can be treated a bit more gently. also, there was once a line of thinking about moving him to 3B. Have to hope his offense rebounds though - he's still young. And there's always the homecoming twist if they need a selling point.

Lastings Milladge - CF
What can I say, I'm a sucker for a big name reclamation project - and the last OF we got through
Pirate negligence worked out well, eh?

Bobby Jenks - Closer
not that I necessarily like him better - or worse - than some of the others I've proposed in this offseason, but he was solid from the first week of June until injuries ended his season, with a 40:7 K:BB ration in 35.2 IP (and a 3.53 ERA) - kind of Gregg without the adventuresome walks.

Taylor Buchholz - RHP
We obviously thought enough of him to claim him last summer, perhaps if we can swing a minor league contract we might yet get to be the beneficiaries if he can get his former skills back.

Jack Cust - 1B/DH
Has some good points (notably a great OBP record) but would continue the imbalance against LHP.

Josh Fields - 3B
Broke out for the White Sox in 2007 posting a solid average hitting performance at age (though he didn't bring his excellent AAA OBP with him) then lost a couple of years to injury and ineffectivness. Was hurt most of 2010 as well but did solid work in a brief stretch in K.C. If healthy, there are worse ways to gamble a ST invite and a minor league contract.

Ryan Roland-Smith - LHP
A younger, possibly better Brian Tallet - no, I mean Tallet when he was good. RR-S posted very solid numbers as a LH reliever until the mariners pressed him into service - and possibly overextended him - as a starter. Might not be anything there, he's not a world-beater of course, but I'd give the scouts a survey about him.

Gotta admit, even though I'm a long way from Canadian, I'm pretty smitten with the idea of getting Martin because I'm so infatuated with what he produced when he was hitting. I'd also look VERY hard at Milladge and try to bring back Buchholz if a minor league contract gets it done (and surely it will).

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Important Days

A few things on my mind tonight.

Tomorrow at midnight, 40 man rosters have to be set to protect young players frm the Rule 5 draft. Among those who need to be protected if the jays don't want to risk losing them are the following (It's possible I don't have everyone, particularly among non-drafteee signings):

Adam Loewen
Brian Jeroloman
Alan Farina
Brad Emaus
Darin Mastroianni
Moises Sierra
Joel Carreno
Henderson Alvarez

That's eight candidates (that I've identified) and there are eight open spots on the 40 man roster. If you are wondering why someone like Shawn Hill was dropped, there's your answer. also, given that there's always the potential for free agent signings or trades to go down, some current roster members are still potential cuts (looking at you Luis Perez).

We'll find out soon which of these guys, if any, will be exposed (My guess is they will gamble on Jeroloman and Farina and protect the rest).

On another subject, there's much speculation about Justin Upton. I won't wax verbose about the idea except to say that very much approve of pursuing that possibility. Of course it's possible to overpay, but within reason - you have to try.

One final note: I don't wish to make a habit of cross-pollinating my blogs, but this being a special occasion - I'm go9ing to make an exception tonight. If you only ever read one example of my other blog - make it this one.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


By now you know - Farquhar and Magnuson for Rajai Davis.

This sort of thing is easy to over-analyze because we are so early in the off-season that the music is still playing and we don't begin to know who will end up in what seats. on the most basic level, we dealt a couple of guys who were, at best, n the fringes of the top 30 on anyone's list. I find Farquhar intriguing but he's not a rare talent. Mags is a fungible part, even if he hits his ceiling. So there's no real loss, per se. On the other hand Davis is 30 years old, and other than being a very fast and very efficient baserunner, he doesn't impress you with his offense. He a competent to good defender in CF, and can play all three positions. He's an almost ideal 4th outfielder, which will likely be his role. if he starts, he's gonna provoke Otis Nixon flashbacks.

There are other side points to note - does this make Lewis a sure bet to be out of town within the next couple of weeks? - would Davis have been non-tendered by the A's? could he be non-tendered by the Jays? - Would they seriously consider moving Wells out of CF for a gy like this (answer: very doubtful)? and does that mean Bautista goes to 3B if he does (answer: almost certainly)?

But honestly, it's useless to get to strident right now. When mid-February rolls around we can look at all the moves as a set ad have a better idea. in the mean-time, Davis gives us some assurance against being caught with our pants on the ground in a few different ways.

Meanwhile, we could address a lot of this if we'd just go out and get Justin Upton!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Obligatory Comments

I've long since abandoned the illusion that you are likely to get your NEWS from this site when something happens. If you are an aware Jays fan you know who to follow on Twitter, you know about MLBTR, and so forth. So I do not rush to the keyboard to comment on every roster move. Often, I can speak to a point better with a day or two to reflect and digest a number of other reactions and opinions and most of all, to hear what the team personnel have to say about it.

After a couple of days though, there's been no real new information coming from the team regarding the roster moves this week. So, before the story gets too cold, or trumped by a newer one, my reactions are these-

No one really is worried about Wise, right? He did reasonable work as a fourth outfielder but there are so many options for that job it would be exhausting to discuss them all. As for Brian Tallet, YES he was aces against LH hitting, and yes, contrary to some comments I've seen, the $2 mil-ish he'd be due to make if he'd stayed is not out of line for that skill set, BUT . . .

There are a number of ways to fill that need, from in-house options like Carlson, Mills, and Zep to trades to free agents to even bringing Tallet back at a lower price. A lot of people have a low opinion of Tallet right now but that has much more to do with his having been pushed beyond his competency level the last couple of years than it does his not having any value at all.

As for Encarnacion, one must admit up front that we don't have all the information available to Alex & Co. It has been hinted at in the media and inferred by what we can observe that there are . . . personality issues involved. The sort of things that are sometimes referred to as "difficult to coach." Such things are not spoken of by wise front office people in public but they no doubt factor into decision making. That's not to say that EE is a "cancer" or any such thing, just maybe stubborn. Jose Bautista has admitted in interviews that he took a long time to accept that his swing needed to change. It happens.

More crucial was the problem of where he plays defensively. If he had stayed with the Jays, he'd have pretty much had to have been the DH. the $6 mil or so he would have made to do that might not have been too much, but the dent he puts in the team's flexibility if you put him down for that role is huge.The Jays can get similar offense from a new player, almost certainly for less money, and they don't have to have their hands tied before even the GM meetings to do that.

It's too tempting, when addressing this subject, speculate about the future of 3B. I can't pass up the opportunity.

Stating the obvious - Bautista or Hill might end up there, depending on the potential to import an outfielder or second baseman - preferably one with top-of-the-order offensive skills. This I've discussed before and will again, but laying that aside . . .

The field of potential acquisitions at 3B is not deep, but is possessed of some intriguing names, of which I submit these four names for consideration (all rumored as potentially available according to MLBTR)

4. Dan Uggla: Oldest player on this list, most reliable, and most expensive to acquire and to pay. Down side is that he's only under team control for one more season, and he's nothing like a lead-off option (but none of these suggestions are). You'd have to be REAL confident you could extend him if you were going to make a run at him.
EDIT: I made a comment here about his OBP but it was in error - looked at the wrong column or something.

3. Alex Gordon: Often discussed on Jays blogs and forums, and opinions are sharply divided. I confess I've been obsessed with Gordon since his college days so my objectivity suffers. It is rightly observed his last two season have been a mess, but there's also a solid possibility that the Royals created that mess. The upside is that Gordon is a hitting version of Brandon Morrow, the downside is that he's just another of those high draft picks who failed to live up to the clippings.

He did have a very solid season in 2008 at age 24, so the foundation is or was there. In my opinion, the potential upside in acquiring him for what would be presumably a reasonable price (Mills and Sierra, for instance?) and hoping that a change of scenery and coaching unlocks his former talent is worthwhile.

2. Gordon Beckham: I'm a bit shocked to hear that the White Sox might listen here, and in no position to speculate as to the cost to acquire him, but the availability can't be ignored. He was a more-or-less competent 3B in 2009 with above average offense at age 22 - and that after less than half a season in the minors. At first glance, it would appear he slumped badly in his sophomore year - but a closer examination reveals something quite interesting: From July 9 through the end of the season, his OPS was .911 in 1/3 of a season's worth of at-bats. I cannot say, of course, with any authority whether or not there is a big negative we can't see. But given what I can see, I'd pay and pay pretty handsomely to install Beckham at 3B for the Jays for the next 4 or more years. Kenny Williams loves to deal, hopefully the Jays can find something he finds irresistible. Also here, if you think the D would be better with Hill at 3B and Beckham at 2B, you could do that too.

1. Pablo Sandoval: One of the best hitters in the NL in 2009, he dropped off massively in 2010 while surounded by questions about his conditioning and work ethic. He was lightly used in the playoffs as a result and while it's unclear whether he is actually available, the dilligent GM (and Alex is nothing if not that) will certainly seek to take advantage of the reversals to see if he can be obtained. it's not without risk - you'd have to be convinced you could get him back to his 2009 levels. but there's obviously something there for which to strive.

One other thought, if you really want to light it up - trade for Sandoval for 1B and Beckham for 3B. That will take a big bite out of the farm system but you'd potentially make a huge improvement in the major league club

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

A modest proposal

We all know the Free Agent class is weak, particularly in terms of the thing the Jays need most - on base percentage. It is true that Alex has indicated he thinks the trade market might be more inviting but, alas, we can't begin to presume what he might pull out of his hat in that regard.

So let me suggest something that is a bit outside that box - Go after Tsuyoshi Nishioka. According to Tim Kurkjian, the 26 year old middle infielder from Japan will be posted this week.

Nishioka won the Pacific League batting title this year with a .346 average. He scored 121 runs, stole 22 bases and had 206 hits, the most by a player in that league since Ichiro Suzuki in 1994. Nishioka, a switch-hitter, batted leadoff for the Marines and his team recently won the Japan Series.

"He is a good player, he is a talented kid," said ESPN analyst Bobby Valentine, who managed Nishioka in Japan. "If he had been a college kid four or five years ago, he would have been a first-round pick. He runs faster than a lot of people. He can get a hit. He can steal a base. He can bunt. He is still developing physically and mentally. And this year, he stayed healthy all year. He has style issues, positive and negative: he likes to be noticed. How he develops will depend on what team signs him."

Now, I'll go ahead and acknowledge that Fangraphs is only mildly impressed, but i think this might be a good place for AA to throw Rogers' financial muscle around and address a need. There's not a history of Japanese imports losing their batting eye in the U.S., just of seeing their power moderate. But we don't need power, we need a lead off hitter. Here we have a guy who's an excellent defender, with tremendous range (and a 2B arm) who gets on base at a high rate (.366 career, .423 in 2010) and has good speed and a taste for the spotlight. Sounds like an ideal top-of-the-order spark to me.

Newman (at Fangraphs) says he might be a "Ryan Theriot/Chine Figgins" type which is weird since Figgins is a wildly better player. But if you could get a 26 year old Figgins at a reasonable price, that's a fine acquisition.

Do this, and move Aaron Hill to 3B which in turn allows you to go Snider/Wells/Bautista in the OF and you have a better lineup and a noticeably better defense as well.

What's not to like?


On an unrelated note, I want to take advantage of the chance to nod in the direction of the coaching hires. I have to say that the announcment brought a big smile to my face - the only thing I can think of that would be better is word that Rick Langford will stay in the organization, either at Vegas or roving. Having Pat Hentgen on the major league staff is very happy-making. Wakamatsu bringing experience to the bench, and a great reputation to his special assignment as a coach to JPA is very good news, and Tory Louvello brings a great reputation as well. I venture to say we may now have the finest collection of coaches in the majors.


Also there was chatter today that a Boston writer includes the Blue Jays on a list of teams looking at Victor Martinez. My thoughts? First, not gonna happen - there's no way the jays pay what it will take to sign him AND give up a first round draft pick, the report is either wrong or AA is just doing due diligence. Second, I agree with that outcome. Martinez is a player primed to decline in value, IMO, and he's hoping to get a contract for 4 or more years. While it is true that he fits into an open spot on our roster (1B) and brings some value (the ability to catch if JPA flops horribly) that's a short term situat8ion and doesn't warrant a long term deal. Pass.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Baseball America's Top 10

By now, those of you paying attention have seen BA's Top 10 list, but here it is if you haven't:

1. Kyle Drabek, rhp
2. Deck McGuire, rhp
3. Anthony Gose, of
4. Travis D'Arnaud, c
5. Zach Stewart, rhp
6. Asher Wojciechowski, rhp
7. J.P. Arencibia, c
8. Carlos Perez, c
9. Aaron Sanchez, rhp
10. Jake Marisnick, of

My initial reactions . . .

McGuire at #2 surprises me - not sure if they think he's really good, or if it's just a deference to his draft position. Possibly some combination.

Stewart at #5 (instead of #2) is a mild surprise but reasonable.

Wojciechowski in the top 10, instead of Alvarez was totally unexpected.

Otherwise, It's probably much like most every top 10 that comes out this winter will look. The obvious questions all flow from the names not there: "what about Thames? What about Adeiny?" but I could tell you, and the BA writers said as much during the chat, that this isn't an illustration that the missing players are lacking, but that the system is deep enough to have more than 10 worthy prospects.

BA's write-up is jealously guarded for subscribers, as is the chat, but in very general terms here's what Nathan Rode had to say: they are really impressed with Drabek's curve and their 2014 projection lists him as a #1 starter ahead of Romero and Morrow; they really like McGuire's slider, he has a good change and his curve is his rawest pitch; Gose is described as the best defensive outfielder, and fasted baserunner but Marisnick is called the best athlete.

Travis d'Arnaud is described as the long-term answer at catcher, due to excellence on both side of the game which would presumably dictate position switches (or trades) for the other highly ranked catchers; Stewart was rated as having the best fastball, and though they agree with his continued development as a SP, they also project that they Jays will have enough better options by 2014 that he'll be the closer; Woj was said to have similar stuff to Stewart.

Sanchez was described as having a steadily improving fastball (touching 95 in instructionals) and the Jays are said to be even more excited about his ceiling now than when they drafted him.

Other players mentioned but not on the list include Brad Emaus being described as having the best strike-zone discipline I the system, and Drew Hutchison has the best control among the pitchers (on a side note, Pat Hentgen, in an interview at BluebirdBanter, spoke very highly of Hutch). Hechavarria was described as JUST missing the cut; Eric Thames also was a near miss, he was called very strong and expected to be an average LF (I wonder if there will be George Bell comparisons?).

When asked about Jenkins, Rode didn't respond with negatives - no reason to be concerned; he was asked about Sam Dyson and said he'd just had TJ surgery and would miss all of 2011 - I can't find a report of this elsewhere; Henderson Alvarez, he said, didn't miss as many bats as you'd like to see but given his age and level, that's likely part of the process - projects as mid-rotation starter still. Kellen Sweeney was highly praised ("really really good") but missed the top 10 because of system depth (my guess is he's in their top 20).

Rode also said on a couple of occasions that the Jays had arguably a Top 10 system, and that there was a lot of talent in the low minors which would stand them in good stead even when they graduated Drabek and JPA. The implication was that the system would be near the best in the majors for the next few years at least. In terms of looking at my own list, every player in my Top 20 got some kind of praise except AJ Jiminez, and the two top 10's had 8 players in common.

Speaking of prospects, John Sickels' Prospect list for the Jays should fall sometime in the next week, and he mentioned briefly yesterday that he saw Eric Thames in Arizona and had glowing praise for him (as has everyone except Kieth Law). Good days to be a prospect junkie!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Major Announcment

To me it's major anyway, and no I'm not talking about Kevin Gregg's option.

This is, at a minimum, the most unexpected entry you'll ever read on this blog. I have debated for well over a year now whether or not I should ever write it, but the time has come to get off the fence and either do, or not do – so I've chosen to write it.

Many, if not all of you, are aware that early this year I was giving very serious consideration to closing up shop here. After the main part of the off-season activities were past, it seemed a reasonable time to make the break – especially given the end of the Halladay Era was an obvious transition point. In retrospect, I'm glad I didn't because the results of the 2010 season have re-energized my enthusiasm for the Blue Jays' future. Nevertheless, the issue I had then remains, and so either that solution must still be applied, or another one instead.

I am not, at this point, really willing to just shut it down and walk away – although the eventual fallout might lead to that (I'm not expecting that but it's possible). I do not want to make assumptions about my friends and readers that would have been wrong and unfair to make. However, this is a tremendously difficult thing to do. It is something which seems, on the surface, to be antithetical to the whole culture of sports fandom.

You might ask why I feel it's important to do – without drifting too far afield from the theme and purpose of this blog, I can't even begin to answer that question – all I can say to it is that unless you have gone through this situation, you don't have a frame of reference to properly appreciate why it's important.

So – I beg your indulgence to humor me a bit as I take care of a bit of business which has nothing to do with the Jays, or with baseball, but which for my personal state of mind needs to be done.

I've been writing this blog for, if memory serves, some four seasons now (with some partners in the first year) and been a fixture around various Jays related message boards for some years before that. The subject I'm discussing tonight predates all that by decades, in fact, it predates the first time I ever saw a baseball game. But for various reasons which it would serve no purpose to go into here, I felt it necessary to repress and conceal that matter. Just over two years ago, I ceased to do that.


I am transsexual. For one full year now I have been living full time as a female and I have adopted the name Tammy.

I hope that I may continue to be a part of the ongoing virtual conversation about the Blue Jays (though I do understand that it is difficult for any acquaintance, no matter how “virtual” to make the mental adjustment) but even if I find that's no longer possible, I had to speak up. One of the things that comes from spending so much of your life hiding your true face is that you develop an obsessive distaste for masks of any sort. I'd rather risk rejection than be false in any sense – even a mostly anonymous on-line persona. It is my hope that my worries in that regard are unfounded.

We'll see how it goes.

(One note – if anyone wishes to offer comments or questions they'd rather not post in public, write me at and if you want to know more, ask for the address to my transition blog)

Saturday, 30 October 2010

60 Names to Know for 2011

Wrapping up my pontifications on the Jays Farm System (for now) I conclude with The Massive overkill Top Prospect list. This will be a Top 60 List, but before I do it let me explain something – I KNOW that NO team ACTUALLY has 60 PROSPECTS. So I decided to call it “60 Names to Know” but for all intents and purposes, it's my Top Prospect list supplemented with a lot of other players I consider worthy of at least some degree of interest. 
I further remind you that after the top 10 or 15, relative positions are not that important – being 21 or 23 doesn't matter much . . . being 21 instead of 31 does. Also, I'm constantly adjusting my list at this time of year and if you find that a couple of guys are reversed from where they were on the positional list, that's not a mistake but a reflection of an updated opinion. Because I commented so extensively on the Positional Lists, I'll try to keep my remarks here brief. The parenthesis indicate a guess at ETA under an “all things being equal” assumption (i.e. assuming no injuries, trades, etc which might alter the timeline)

  1. Kyle Drabek - RHP - (2010 – ready now, may not arrive for good 'til mid-season) – Could very easily break camp with Jays, depth of choices might push that back. Ace potential.
  2. Zach Stewart – RHP - (2011) – results last year very similar to Drabek, maybe not quite the ceiling but a lot closer than many think.
  3. J.P. Arencibia – C - (2010) – nothing left to prove in AAA. Opening day starter, barring a trade or injury. Looks very much like Buck 2.0 though maybe not in first year.
  4. Carlos Perez – C – (2015) – Probably better than JPA, Jays have luxury of taking time. Might switch positions depending. Might be #1 on this list a year from now.
  5. Adeiny Hechevarria – SS – (mid/late-2012) – Escobar gives Jays chance to be patient. Might end up a similar player in the majors.
  6. Anthony Gose – CF – (2014) – conservative schedule since he's said to be raw. Crawford type?
  7. Henderson Alvarez – RHP – (mid-2014) - Rough season, still quite young. As above, depth gives him plenty of time, but he's the kind of guy who could “click” and come faster.
  8. Aaron Sanchez – RHP – (mid-2015) – A LOT of positive buzz about the kid.
  9. Jake Marisnick – CF – (2015) – Very positive reports, May slide to RF if Gose develops as projected.
  10. Deck McGuire – RHP – (2014) – seems to be somewhat better regarded than Jenkins.
  11. Travis d'Arnaud – C – (late 2013) – Dropped some, more because of the nature of the injury (back) than because of the on field results of being hurt.
  12. Eric Thames – LF – (late 2011) – last three could be in any order – I'm a believer in his offensive potential.
  13. Chad Jenkins – RHP – (2014) – I think the late season fade was fatigue, but scouting reports have an unenthusiastic tone sometimes.
  14. Asher Wojciechowski – RHP – (2015) – might come faster but a lot of bodies to sift through in front of him. Physically a clone of Jenkins.
  15. Antonio Jimenez – C – (2014) – I like him, not a level below the three catchers in front of him – higher potential to bust.
  16. Adonis Cardona – RHP – (2017) – Paid like a first rounder, I'll rank him like one for now.
  17. Dicke Joe Thon – SS – (2016) – similar thinking, first round talent and pay. Henceforth I shall call him “DJ” just because I wish it.
  18. Noah Syndergaard – RHP – (2016) – I'm kind of skeptical of the sudden senior explosion but open minded.
  19. Drew Hutchenson – RHP – (2015) – Under some radars, and a lot of higher profile folks on the depth chart, but has a chance.
  20. Brad Emaus – 2B/3B – (2011) – Emaus is this low only because the ceiling is lower. I have a lot of confidence he'll reach it.
  21. Gustavo Pierre – SS – (late 2015) – Still very raw, but excellent tools
  22. Mosies Sierra – RF – (2014) – Might develop faster, but depth allows caution.
  23. Darin Mastroianni – CF – (late 2011) – might be 2012 before a roster spot opens, Brett Gardner type.
  24. Kevin Ahrens – 3B – (2014) – One last benefit of the doubt, based on good results after he stopped switch hitting.
  25. Griffin Murphy – LHP – (mid 2015) – Well regarded draftee, ranking based on reports.
  26. Kellen Sweeney – 3B – (2015) – same as Murphy, good results in small pro sample
  27. Adam Loewen – RF – (2012) – Team execs still speak highly, some possibility of move to 1B.
  28. Joel Carreno – RHP – (late 2012) – might be reliever in the majors.
  29. Sam Dyson – RHP – (2015) – great stuff, fragile. Potential as late inning reliever, as well as starter.
  30. David Cooper – 1B – (mid/late 2012) – much better in second half – illusion?
  31. Daniel Webb – RHP – (2016) – good stuff, raw. Likely to move slowly.
  32. Brian Jeroloman – C – (2012) – would be higher if he projected to hit at all in the majors.
  33. Marcus Kenect – RF – (2015) – well regarded hitter
  34. Brad Mills – LHP – (2011) – trade bait? That or the bullpen.
  35. Danny Farquhar – RHP – (late 2011) – this low because of his position. He's good.
  36. Trystan Magnuson – RHP – (late 2011) – Same comment as Farquhar.
  37. Alan Farina – RHP – (2012) – Ditto. Just a half year or so behind those two.
  38. Mike McDade – 1B – (maybe 2014 if at all) – More likely Calvin Pickering than Cecil Fielder
  39. Michael Crouse – RF – (2016) – Might take big jump up list if results continue.
  40. KC Hobson – 1B – (mid 2015) – well regarded by scouts and team.
  41. Justin Jackson – SS/2B – (maybe never, not before 2015) – might be running out of chances.
  42. Justin Nicolino – LHP – (2016) based on draft reports.
  43. Chris Hawkins – 3B – (2016) – less strike zone control than Sweeney.
  44. John Tolisano – IF/OF – (never) – lack of defensive home hurts.
  45. Mark Sobolewski – 3B – hasn't lived up to post-draft praise, but not a failure either.
  46. Gabriel Cenas – 3B – too young to predict outcome, bonus babies often fail.
  47. Devy Estrada – RHP – results might be an illusion, doesn't come up when system is praised.
  48. Bobby Bell – RHP (2013) – eventually a reliever, even if he starts now for the innings.
  49. Scott Campbell – 2B – can he get his health back?
  50. Casey Lawrence – RHP – non-drafted steal, or mirage?
  51. Ryan Goins – SS – didn't handle promotion to Dunedin well.
  52. Santiago Nessey – C – another very young bonus baby.
  53. Egan Smith – LHP – a lot of good results but unheralded.
  54. Sean Ochinko – C/3B – versitility, organizational awards, not a high ceiling.
  55. Yan Gomes – C – fringy major league guy at best unless he takes a leap.
  56. Nestor Molina – RHP – sleeper
  57. Mitchell Taylor – LHP – considered good draft choice
  58. Sean Nolin – LHP – Ditto.
  59. Myles Jaye – RHP – a few reports considered him a good value where he was drafted.
  60. Luis Perez – LHP – fringy lefty might sneak into bullpen role.

Also worth notice: Bobby Ray, Frank Gailey, Kyle Ginley, Dustin Antolin, Lance Durham. Include all the non-rookies who might be on the major league roster at some point next year and you have almost 100 players who might be worthy of the interest of a die-hard Jays-junkie. Please forgive any names misspelled. It's too late for me to cross-reference and proof them all.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Options, we got options.

Not quite two weeks ago, The Man With the Golden Arm blogged his opinion (controversial in some quarters) over at 1Blue Jays Way that the Blue Jays needed to make it a top priority to sign a top shelf closer. He recommended either surrendering a first round pick to go after Rafiel Soriano (who IS very good) or trade for a similarly talented guy.

After having spent some time this fine evening looking over the list of free agent relief pitchers with a little help from Baseball Reference, I'm moved to argue that we can find a closer better than the one who is (hopefully) walking away and not do either of those things.

Let me give you a brief list of options, prefaced with Soriano's stat line for comparison.

Rafael Soriano: 1.73 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 62.1 IP, 36 H, 14 BB, 57 K (age 31 next year)

Pretty damn good, right? Consider these:

1. Joaquin Benoit: 1.34 / 0.68 / 60.1 / 30 / 11 / 75 (33) - How do you like them apples? Benoit outpitched Soriano in each and every one of those categories. He won't cost you a first round pick and he almost certainly won't cost as many dollars.

2. Koji Uehara: 2.86 / 0.96 / 44 / 37 / 5 / 55 (36) - Hands up everyone who, upon reading that name, said "Who the hell?" Hands up everyone who already knew about that 11:1 K:BB ratio. right. I didn't either until after the season ended. This guy is WAY below the radar and if you want to scoop a guy up on the cheap, you have to look at him. This is the sort of guys the Yankees will want to grap for set up men, but one of them should respond well to the chance to close.

3. Takashi Saito: 2.83 / 1.07 / 54 / 41 / 17 / 59 (41) Speaking of Japanese imports, here's a slightly bigger gamble. First, he's going to be 41. Second, he hasn't closed in a few years, and his walk rate went up a bit in the one year in the AL East. BUT on the other hand, John Farrell has coached him before and if they had a good relationship, and if Farrell thinks he can do the job . . . Keep an eye on this one.

4. JJ Putz: 2.83 / 1.04 / 54 / 41 / 15 / 65 (34) - Putz was, in terms of results, basically Duane Ward in Seattle in '06 and '07. then injuries slowed him in '08 and crippled him in '09. Unlike Ward, however, injuries didn't kill his career and he was back to quality work this last season. like Saito, he has the experience of having been a closer and a good one.

5. Frank Francisco: 3.76 / 1.27 / 52.2 / 49 / 18 / 60 (31) - The Rangers closer before the phenomenal Feliz arrived, Francisco didn't really do anything to lose the job except not be a freak of nature. He's probably never going to be on the level of someone like Soriano, but he's noticeably better than Kevin Gregg.

It's a buyers market for closers. The Yankees pretty much HAVE to bring back Rivera, and Soriano has the name to command the big contract - maybe a return to the Braves, since they have the Wagner money to spend?

Beyond that, for the record, the other guys who will want to find a closer's job and might reasonably get one include Gregg, Kerry Wood, Brian Fuentes, Jon Rauch, Grant Balfour, Jason Frasor, Octavio Dotel, and maybe even Scott Downs. That's 14 options (assuming Rivera re-signs and Hoffman is done) in a market that has, at most, eight or nine closer openings.

Add to that, most of the well-heeled teams have no real opening for a closer. The Yanks will try to sell some of these guys on set-up roles perhaps, and a younger guy might take that with the idea of trying to be Rivera's eventual successor. Honestly,they might talk Soriano into that, but other than the Yankees, the lure will be the chance to close - that combined with the fact that the Jays HAVE money to spend means there's no reason we can't get the guy we want.

For my dollars, it'd be tempting to sign both Benoit and Saito - the former to a 3 year deal (probably can't get him for less) ad the latter with one and a series of options (kinda like how the
Red Sox have been working Wakefield the last several years).

Heck, maybe get Randy Choate in here too just so he can stop killing the Jays.

I say all that with the stipulation that I think the in-house crew isn't nearly as worrisome as many like to describe it, but none of them are reliably going to be remotely as good as Benoit so let's get THAT done at least. if you go whole hog, you have something like this for your bullpen depth chart:

Closer: Benoit
Set Up: Saito and Choate
Middle Camp, Janssen, Purcey (Carlson, Buchholz, Roenicke)
Long: Zep (Richmond, Mills, Ray, Tallet if he's tendered)

I'd go to war with that crew.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Say Hello to the New Boss . . .

NOT the same as the old boss.

I admit that I knew precious little about what the selling points were on John Farrell when word came out he was on Alex Anthopoulos' short list. Oh I knew that his name had come up for different teams in previous seasons, and that for various reasons things never got serious - but I really had no idea what his professional history was and until he became a candidate for the Jays, I had no reason to know.

When I started answering for myself the question "What do I think about Farrell?" (and by extension the other finalists) my bias was towards Brian Butterfield (Told y'all he wasn't gonna leave bitches!) and so my approach was "Is this guy good enough to overcome my bias?" and it was a slow process - but the first big factor was finding out about Farrell's front office experience. It seemed to me that Alex's style lent itself very well to having a manager who was more than a manager without being an egomaniac (Hiya Buck S!). The growing impression of Farrell was that he was a guy who'd contribute solid input on the entire system and that matched up very well with AA's stated and established philosophy of collecting as much good input as possible.

Part of my hesitation was the question of whether or not we'd lose Butterfield if he wasn't promoted but ultimately, if Alex thought he was getting the right guy then maybe that price was acceptable. More to the point, it seemed clear to me that Alex has to know how valuable Butter is and anyone he hired would share that view, so they would likely pull out every stop to retain him and that's all you can ask. Still, given the lack of willingness on Anthopoulos' part to have these decisions discussed in public, right up until word leaked out about who the choice was, I really couldn't decide between the two.

Now that the cone of silence has been lifted, I have to say - WOW.

It's hard to specifically define why, but the feel of today's discussion is that this guy is the manager version of all the things which have impressed me/us so far about Alex as a GM. And just so I'm clear, I can't imagine there's anything I'd have said about him that would be higher praise. I am more excited about the future now than I was a week ago by several orders of magnitude (and I was excited before). It's also very impressive that Farrell apparently not only was interested in this job but perused it.

One remark that I picked up on Twitter that I thought was perhaps the best one-sentence summary I've seen today was this:

AndrewStoeten If we needed a last year of Cito for this guy to become available, maybe it was worth it. Difference between the two is striking as hell.

The point there, if you missed it, is that Farrell was contractually forbidden from seeking a managerial job last winter. I'll do Stoeten one better and drop the maybe. If (knowing what I know now) you'd have said to me "You can have Farrell next winter but that means you'll have to watch Cito totally screw it up for a year" (to be clear, I'm NOT saying Cito screwed everything or even most things up in 2010 - just saying IF that was the price) I'd find that a tremendously cheap price to pay. At least, based on my perceptions from today.

Some related notes - the discussion today included confirmation that Bruce Walton and Brian Butterfield WILL return in 2011. I can't overstate the value of that, in my view. The other members of the staff, even Murphy, are fungible (although the indications were that Farrell was interested in and attempting to retain Murphy). It's widely reported that Farrell will probably want to bring good friend Torey Louvello (currently the Red Sox AAA manager) on board, which would presumably cost Nick Leyva his slot if the reports are true. Beyond that, it's so much speculation.

Second - Manny Ramirez wasted no time in speaking up and saying he'd love to play for the Jays and for Farrell. My impression is that if you can say to Manny "We're willing to pay X for your services, give me a shout if you want to play for that price" and not get caught in a bidding war (maybe one of those phantom bidding wars against a non-existent competitor which Scott Boras is famous for) then it's intriguing. Farrell was ask about the idea and his initial response was that he was very impressed with Manny on the field and in the clubhouse. He seemed not at all to feel any caution concerning the "troublemaker" image that has grown up around Manny. Also, they have to be convinced they can handle Adam Lind as the every day first baseman (or be willing to make the very bold move of trading him and signing or trading for a solid defensive 1B).

Third - I think most of my fellow bloggers have already noted this but I'll say it anyway: You old school baseball writers need to get the hell over wondering where team personnel live in the off season. Seriously. If Farrell delivers playoff baseball in Toronto, he can live in Samoa in the off-season and it won't matter. Get your gorram priorities straight.

Fourth - With all due respect to John Gibbons who I did and do like, here's another place where I give Alex credit as having done better than his predecessors. You couldn't possibly have had the sense of impending greatness regarding Gibbons, or Carlos Tosca, or Tim Johnson, or Buck Martinez (to name a few) that you get from Farrell.

There have been so many competing thoughts today that i might remember something later that I forgot to mention so don't be surprised if this one is edited and amended at some point.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

2010 Positional Review: Outfielders

As we wait for official confirmation on the Toronto Blue Jays new manager (and coaching staff), I come to the last of the positional rankings for this off-season. Before I begin, let me take a moment to mention that my rankings are constantly changing and you shouldn't be shocked if my Top Prospect List has, for instance, a reversal in the order of a couple of starting pitchers from the order they were in on the Starting Pitcher list. The further down a list you get, the more that the act of ranking player "a" ahead of player "b" is entirely subjective. One guy being 13 while another is 23 means something - one being 22 while another is 23 means almost nothing.

1. Anthony Gose (20) - When you are not a scout, or a professional in any way, and you presume to comment on your team's prospects, you are necessarily stuck with basing your views on the published opinions of those who are more in a position to know along with what you can infer from stats. This is most prominent with younger players who have less professional experience. With all that as a preface, I can tell you that by all accounts, Anthony Gose is a very talented player. Acquired by the Jays from the Astros (who had gotten him from the Phillies) for Bret Wallace, Gose split the season between the Phillies Hi-A affiliate in Clearwater and the Dunedin Blue Jays.

Gose was ranked 8th in the league in Baseball America's end of season rankings (higher than highly touted Jays' SS Adeiny Hechevarria) and, while sample size caveats apply, his numbers increased noticeably after coming over to the Jays organization. His OBP for Dunedin was .786 which, over a full season, would have ranked 3rd highest among hitters under the age of 23 (remember that he played almost the full season at 19). Gose is said to be an outstanding defender with excellent raw talent at all the offensive skills, but with emphasis on the "raw."

I have a longstanding habit on this blog of comparing the production of toolsy but raw young outfielders to Alex Rios at a similar stage. While not physically similar (Rios is 5 inches taller, and a RH hitter) there is still a sense in which one can be reminded not to assume that a lack of eye-popping production means a low ceiling. Rios didn't reach Dunedin until his age 21 season, and that year he posted both a lower OPS and a lower SLG than Gose did in 2010 with Gose being two years younger. At 19 Rios split the year between short season and Lo-A (the same level as another 2010 prospect, Jake Marisnick played this year) and posted a combined OPS of .631 so one should recognize that being raw at the lower levels doesn't necessarily tell us to be cautious about a player's ceiling. If Gose replicates Rios' peak production, as a CF, the Jays and their fans will be well pleased. There's plenty of reason to think he can do so.

2. Jake Marisnick (20) - Six months younger than Gose, Marisnick was more than a full level behind him, primarily because Gose signed quickly enough to get some games in during his draft year and Marisnick didn't. A rough comparison between the two players' history shows that Marisnick had better results (in about 3 times the reps) in the GCL, while Gose was marginally better (in about 4 times the work) in Lo-A. Statistically, it's easy to think they are pretty close in terms of talent and ceiling (except that Gose is MUCH faster).

Marisnick, by the way, is much more physically comparable to Rios, although he's listed 20 pounds heavier at almost the same height. He played at roughly the same levels in his age 19 season as Rios did and preformed marginally better. He's a center fielder, and a good one, by trade but one assumes he'll shift to RF when the time comes to share the field with Gose. I, for one, am excited about the potential they will do just that in Toronto around 2015 or so.

3. Eric Thames (24) - Thames would, at first blush, would seem just a bit old for the elite prospect list (and this may have contributed to his disrespect on BA's Top 20 list for the Eastern League) but to do so overlooks how many professional at-bats he's lost to injury. Regarded as perhaps fragile before 2010, having missed over half of 2009 and much of his last year in college to injury, Thames had only 216 pro at bats before making the big jump to AA to open this season. To have responded as he did is worthy of considerably more praise than he gets outside the Jays organization.

Thames was the best hitter in the Eastern League, and - laying aside a couple of older journeymen - led the league in OPS, as well as RBI (he set a team record for New Hampshire) and finishing tied for second in home runs. Offensively his biggest issue, like many sluggers his age, is plate discipline. He draws a healthy amount of walks (his OBP was .370) but he could stand to reduce the strikeouts some. He also was much better vs. RHP than vs. LHP but that seems to be inconsistent with his previous career and might be an outlier. It is a factor to watch though.

He's not a great defensive outfielder, but the reports are that he's more raw than untalented on that front. Here again, staying healthy and beuilding up repetitions will matter greatly. If he can bring his abilities there up to at least an average level for left field, he gives the Jays flexibility. Depending on how roster construction goes heading into next season (particularly in terms of who hits at the top of the order) it's not impossible that Thames could make his debut in Toronto as early as next August. in terms of a reasonable projection for his peak years . . . my guess would be something like what Nick Swisher does most years.

4. Moises Sierra (22) - A lot of prospect reviews seem to be punishing Sierra pretty hard for missing almost all of 2010 to injury. Part of that is the influx of new talent into the system - in my current prejected list, 8 of the 20+ players ahead of him were not in the system this time last year - but part of it seems to be that it's just easy to forget what impressed you about a guy before when he hasn't played much in so long. Seirra, who has a RF arm among the best scouts have ever seen, figured this time last year to be set to open the 2010 season in New Hampshire after having preformed solidly in Dunedin for most of the season and acquitting himself well in a eight game AA audition. That would have been an impressive accomplishment for a 21 year old player.

Sierra was, and is, a classic example of the raw Latin player who's tools are the engine which drives his promotions, even when the stats do not blow you away. That 2009 season in Dunedin was the first in which he began to consolidate his offensive skill set. He was (and is) still waiting for the projected power to develop, but he showed good plate discipline, solid doubles power, and fair-to-good speed on the basepaths to go with his defensive tools. An argument can be made for the Jays to, in their continued effort to reverse the over-aggressive promotion patter of the previous administration, let Sierra get his feet under him back in Dunedin as the 2011 season begins. But the door would also be open for him to convince the organization to go ahead with the advancement to AA. I suspect what they see over the winter and particularly at spring training will go a long way in that decision.

5. Darin Mastroianni (25) - With all the makings of a fan-favorite, Mastroianni continues to play himself into the conversation regarding the future of the Blue Jays outfield. A non-discript 16th round pick in the lauded 2007 draft class, you would have been forgiven for considering him nothing more than organizational filler. Most likely, Jays' brass did as well. After a solid debut at Auburn, Mastro regressed in 2008 at Lansing and while coaches and trainers might have recognized some reason for that, outsiders would have assumed it was a sign of mediocrity to come.
However, in 2009 he announced his presence with authority. In a season split between Dunedin and New Hampshire he accumulated 70 SB (against 15 caught) as well as an impressive .398 OBP combined (this despite a 50 point drop in BA after moving to the higher level). In 2010 he consolidated those gains, though his walk and steal rate both dropped marginally. Looking ahead, he still finds himself without an obvious open door in the Toronto outfield (as it stands, he looks to compete with Thames a year from now as the potential left fielder of the near future) but certainly with an opportunity to lay claim to the old Reed Johnson role of fiercely-competitive-fourth-outfielder-slash-fan-favorite. I have often made the comparison to Scott Podsednik and I still think that's solid but if you want a higher profile name - Mastorianni's potential ceiling probably looks a lot like the Yankees' Brett Gardner looks right now.

Look at how the third-rounder Gardner compares to Mastroianni at the same minor league levels:

BG - 21 - A- - .377 - .376 - 19
DM - 22 - A- - .302 - .311 - 30

BG - 22 - A+/AA - .395 - .370 - 58
DM - 23 - A+/AA - .398 - .364 - 70

BG - 23 - AA/AAA - .369 - .378 - 39
DM - 24 - AA - .390 - .398 - 46

BG - 24 - AAA - .414 - .422 - 37
DM - 25 - AAA - ???

While one should note that Gardner was one year younger at each level (he's almost exactly two years older than Mastroianni) there's enough similarity in production to make comparisons worth noting. Gardner is said to be an outstanding fielder, but I've heard nothing but good reports about Mastroianni's play in CF as well.

6. Adam Loewen (27) - When Adam Loewen was signed away from Baltimore, JP told us it would take at least 1,000 at bats before the team would have a clear idea what they had as a hitter. Loewen now has 794 and the impression is forming that there's something there. The third member of the NH outfield had an inconsistent season in 2010. I can't give you specific details thanks to MiLB's infuriating trait of only showing you the break downs on the players most recent level (which means that for player in the AFL like Loewen and Thames, all you see is their Arizona numbers) but in general terms, Loewen peaked around the All-Star break and slipped thereafter, particularly struggling through most of August. Still, his final results for 2010 are notably better than for 2009, particularly in the area of power hitting.

It was his longest season as an every-day player, and the first in which he was actively trying to refine his swing rather than just getting back the feel of being a hitter and a fielder, so perhaps fatigue was at issue. We know that he would have been a minor league free agent this off-season and the Jays have already re-signed him, and Jays' coaches and scouts who have gone on record give him lots of praise - so the team seems to think that despite the aberration of his age, there's value there. 2011 is, however, a year in which he'd do well to take another big step forward.

Also worth noting, his AFL assignment listed him as a first baseman. I've said since he signed that his fastest route to the majors might well be at first, despite there not being any bad reviews of his play in right field. I reached that conclusion because I thought Sierra was going to be in RF at AA in 2010 (obviously he wasn't) and I liked the idea of a 6'6" target for infielders to throw to. Obviously Sierra lost a year but I still think that with the departure of Wallace, Loewen has a cleaner path to starting in the majors at 1B than in the outfield.

7. Marcus Kenect (20) - Kenect, a native of the Toronto area, was a third round pick in the 2010 draft and was one of the first hitters that signed after the draft. The Jays challeneged him with an assignment to Auburn (as opposed to the GCL where most high school prospects start) and Kenect responded with a fine season and got better as the season wore on. He's said to have a RF skill set but he spent a lot of time at DH due to the lingering effects of an injury. Long term, as he potentially shares an outfield with Gose and Marisnick while climbing the ladder, he may well find himself in left field instead.

8. Michael Crouse (20) - Another lower round draft choice who's elevating his status with on-field results, the 2008 a6th rounder was, much like Mastroianni, a marginal player in the system early on, posting a .649 OPS in his first full season in the GCL. But in 2010 he took a quantum leap forward on his second tour of that league. Through 28 games in the GCL his OPS was a robust .998 and he earned himself an advancement to Lo-A Lansing with that performance where he held his own for another 28 games. Crouse is said to still be pretty raw, he has good power but strikes out way too much, he has good speed but not yet a lot of baseruning instincts. There is reason for caution, simply because players get taken in the 16th round for a reason, and because the sample size of professional work is still small. But his 2010 season compels us to pay attention. He may well join Marisnick and Kenect to for an impressive set of outfielders in Lansing next spring.

Beyond those, the quality level drops of precipitously. the only other players which might be mentioned are the handful of toolsy high schoolers drafted in the last few years who have so far done virtually nothing with those tools - Kenny Wilson, Eric Eiland, and Marcus Brisker. At this point, it would be remarkable if any of those turned their situation around and re-established prospect status.

Coming next week - My Top Prospect list which will include no less that 60 ranked players (just for the sheer verboseness of it donchaknow?)