Tuesday, March 30, 2010

That was fast

Figures. When I finally break down and get "in depth" they turn around and prove me wrong.

As you probably know by now the Jays optioned Reed, Purcey and Jesse Carlson to the AAA team today. Anthopoulos explains that Carlson simply needs more innings to be ready. While he obviously didn't give anything else away, my quick read on this is that it means one of Eveland or Tallet will be in the bullpen to open the season and one of the kids will be in the rotation. Assuming of course that they make a priority of having two lefties.

Update: Bastian tweets that Zep has a fractured finger. Thus he's out for at least six weeks. That leaves Eveland, Tallet, and Cecil for two spots. And if both the vets are in the rotation, then there's a chance the jays either go with only one LH reliever until Carlson is ready (good news for Accardo) or have to recal Purcey yo fill that role. personally, as much as I think the logic of having stopgap vets in the rotation is sound, I can't help but have an emotional interest in Cecil making the rotation now, with Tallet in the pen.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Brass Tacks

Well it's one week out now, and what do we know?

Not as much as you'd have expected but still, more than maybe you'd think. Let's review the safe assumptions about the major league roster, even though these conclusions are easily found elsewhere:

Catchers: John Buck and Jose Molina. given that Raul Chavez isn't playing with the major league team at all, it's a given he doesn't make the cut.

Infielders: Lyle Overbay, Aaron Hill, Alex Gonzalez, Edwin Encarnacion (if not on the DL) John McDonald, Randy Ruiz and Mike McCoy.

Outfielders: Vernon Wells, Travis Snider, Jose Bautista, and Adam Lind (really a DH but you get the idea).

If EE starts on the DL, add Jeremy Reed.

That's pretty much set, with the only minor question being the reversal of McCoy and Reed. It's on the pitching side that things get more uncertain. Let's look at the rotation first. Marcum at #1 and Romero at #2 is written in ink at this point. What comes after is less certain. For those three spots are at least five candidates:

Brandon Morrow - if he does well and makes it through five innings in Houston, he's in at #3. if he has a setback it's off to the DL;

Dana Eveland - has steadily pushed his way into consideration with an excellent spring;

Brian Tallet - Clarance's boy, hasn't had an impressive spring but veteran guys who have made the team often enjoy a lot of leeway on that, also a proven commodity in the bullpen;

Marc Rzep - Had an up and down spring, came into camp is a favorite of the manager but is also young enough to not be insulted by a AAA assignment to start the year;

Brett Cecil - came into camp with a presumptive future in Vegas to open the season but has impressed the right people;

Dustin McGowan - has been shut down for two week insuring he starts on the DL and won't see Toronto before May at the very earliest.

There are a number of ways one could look at this competition. First, lets concede the #3 spot to Morrow and note that the best of the guys we'd otherwise eliminate gets to step in if he has to hit the DL. For the other two spots you have several potential combinations.

Scenario A: Conclude that in terms of both the learning curve and service time, the future is best served by the kids being in Vegas and put Eveland and Tallet in the rotation.

Scenario B: Conclude that the kids learn best in the majors and send the older guys off to the bullpen.

Scenario C: go with the best spring performances, thus Eveland and Cecil. Zep goes to AAA and Tallet to the 'pen.

Scenario D: Entertain trade offers for one of the older guys from a team thin on pitching. Let the dominoes fall as they will thereafter.

We really don't have many clues here, but based on AA's seeming "build for the future" philosophy, and my conclusion that Tallet is probably a placeholder anyway, and the instinct that Eveland would build value by posting regular season success as a starter - I'll take a flier on Scenario A and base the rest of this projection on that event.

What we gain here is that we don't lose Eveland (since he's out of options) to waivers, and we reduce the bottleneck on the bullpen jobs which likewise helps maintain some depth - at least until someone pushes Tallet out of the rotation (which is bound to happen).

In the bullpen, we've been told from day one that Frasor, Gregg, and Downs are the only locks but as long as his knee is fine (which it seems to be) Carlson is pretty much a given as well. Shawn Camp did such good work for Clarence last year that he'd have had to pitch himself out of the pen and he hasn't. Those five are pretty easy calls. That leaves two jobs and the following competitors (assuming the aforementioned rotation):

Merkin Valdez - Reading the stat page gives us no real info about how well he's done this spring, a sample size of six innings has little relevance anyway. What we do know is that he's out of options, a fact to which which the Jays are paying attention. At the very least, he holds a tie-breaker;

Casey Janssen - Like all the relievers in camp, he's thrown very few innings (at least in games that "count" on the stat page), but the reviews have been universally favorable. His problem? He has an option left;

Josh Roenicke - generally listed as a candidate, in reality having the least major league experience and the most options, he'd have had to have been a monster to be a real candidate;

David Purcey - seems to be destined for a bullpen role, but still raw in that capacity. Purcey might conceivably evolve into an intimidating late-inning lefty, maybe even a closer (for someone) but for now, his newness to the role and his remaining option puts him in the role of long-shot. this would change in a hurry if Downs were traded since he'd then benefit from his left-handedness;

Jeremy Accardo - has an option, and had a so-so spring, which also puts him in a dis-favorable position for making the team. if I may digress a bit here, for all the talk of teams looking at Frasor and Downs (quality acquisitions to be sure) I have to wonder if the guy most likely to be traded is Accardo. If you are the Twins, for instance, and looking to increase your resources in terms of the closers role, but were unwilling to pony up a real prospect for Frasor or Downs, who wouldn't you take a long look at a guy like Accardo?

Granted, he had a limited opportunity last year and some control problems in his limited major league appearances but he was also pretty thoroughly jerked around. Barring some health or "stuff" issue (of which none are reported) this is still the guy who was astonishingly good as a full time closer in 2007. That isn't worth anything to the Twins? or the Cubs? Maybe I'm letting sentiment cloud my vision here but I, for one, would hate to see Accardo become the forgotten man again.

Realistically, I think the Jays will gamble that Valdez gives them something and hang on to him out of camp, given the likelihood of losing him. Out of the other four, the buzz is all about Janssen.

So - to this point I've pretty much repeated that which you could have already gotten (and probably have) from Jordan Bastian and a number of others, but here's the next step - how do these decisions impact the minor league rosters?

Here's my guess:

Las Vegas-
Catchers: JP Arencibia, Raul Chavez
First: Brett Wallace, Brian Dopirack(DH)
Second: Jarrett Hoffpauir, Calix Crabbe (no idea who starts)
Short: Jesus Merchan
Third: Brad Emaus (I've seen suggestions he'd go back to third this year - which I think is a VERY good idea...I've also seen suggestions he'd start at New Hampshire but I'm hoping not. If he does, I make Phillips the starting 3B)
Outfield: Chris Lubanski, Jeremy Reed, Aaron Matthews, Jorge Padilla
Utility: Kyle Phillips (C, 3B, DH, 1B)
SP: Cecil, Zep, Brad Mills, Zach Stewart, Robert Ray
RP: Roenicke, Accardo (if not dealt), Purcey, Randy Boone, Sean Henn, Zach Jackson and one more from three or four competitors, the rest of whom will probably be cut)

New Hampshire (just starters for the hitters from here on) -
C: Brian Jeroloman
1B: David Cooper
2B: Scott Campbell
SS: Adenis Hechevarria (not at first, it's so late he'll need extended ST first but when he's ready to play)
3B: Bryan Kervin?
OF: Eric Thames, Darin Mastorianni, Moises Sierra, Adam Loewen (one of these doing being a DH most days)
SP: Kyle Drabek, Luis Perez, Andrew Liebel, Ray Gonzalez, Kenny Rodriguez
RP: Danny Farquhar, Tim Collins, Trystan Magnuson, Celson Polanco, couple of other unimportant filler types

Dunedin -
C - Travis d'Arnoud
1B: Jon Talley (playing a hunch here, given the catching depth)
2B: John Tolisano
SS: Justin Jackson
3B: Kevin Aherns
OF: Wellinton Ramirez, Brian Van Kirk, Brad McElroy
SP: Chad Jenkins, Henderson Alverez, Bobby Bell, Chuck Huggins, Joel Cerano?
RP: anyone's guess, really, there's too little info.

I'm sure folks are asking themselves "Where's Pastornicky?" - my guess is he goes back to Lansing until the SS bottleneck clears up. He didn't exactly own the Midwest league, he's young, and he needs to be playing his natural position every day. Most of the other better prospects are not really in a position to be at Dunedin yet so beyond the SS issue, there's not too much conflict on that. Predicting the rosters below Hi-A is a fools errand, there's just too much I don't know.

I know this - I'm as excited about these minor league teams as I am about the Jays. the word for the year is "youth" and each of those three rosters features at least eight guys I'll be watching from afar this year.

Let's get started, eh?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Days of Our Clarance

I've exercised considerable restraint in not commenting on the machinations of our manager from day to day by reminding myself "it's just spring training" but as we draw ever nearer to Opening Day (less than two weeks out!) the accumulation of observations is such that I feel I'm neglecting my duties to not make at least passing reference to them. So, here are a few highlights:

1. Brian Tallet as starter. Maybe no one in the Jays fanbase is any more appreciative of the value of Brian Tallet as a reliever. but using him in the rotation when you don't have to is bad on several counts.
First, he's simply not a very good pitcher as a starter, at least not here. If he were in San Diego maybe, or Washington, he might carve out himself a nice little Doug Davis type career.
Second, he's not part of the future and thus, for potential trade situations, his value ought be maximized by being used in his best role.
Third, this is a season for seeing what we have among the kids. That means not falling in love with someone the way Clarance is apparently fawning over Tallet for no real reason. Sure, one can argue that none of Cecil or Mills or whoever is ready for that spot - and that McGowan clearly isn't up to full speed. If The Manager had said "Tallet will hold down that spot until one of the kids pushes for it or McGowan is right" then fine. But even then, Dana Eveland is just as able, is more expendable when that day comes, and Tallet can continue to build value in a role he does well.

2. He's Apparently developing the same fascination with John Buck. Don't get me wrong, I don't presume to have a negative opinion of Buck as a defender but come on - how senile do you have to be to think he's a good hitter. Yet have you noticed how high Buck's been showing up in the ST lineups? Yesterday vs the Tigers he hit sixth - ahead of Randy Ruiz (whom Clarance lavishes praise on) and Travis Snider. Fluke? Nope. Only once in the last two weeks has Buck appeared in a game hitting behind Ruiz and never behind Snider. I know Snider apparently pissed in Clarance's morning Metamucil or something but do we really have to witness the spectacle of such a weak hitter supplanting him? Heck, there have been games this spring when Alex-freakin-Gonzalez hit ahead of Snider but that's kind of a different point.

3. Speaking of Snider. What is it with The Manager anyway? One of my fellow bloggers (can't remember for sure and too lazy to look) rightly pointed out recently just how VERY badly Clarance screwed over Shawn Green in favor of crotchety veterans in decline back in '97 and he seems determined to do a re-make this year with Snider. Does it even need pointing out that there is no long term value in protecting snider from lefties, hitting him ninth, or playing him in left this year?
Sure, maybe it's true that Lind can't play the outfield at all and Snider isn't a good RF - but what do we have to lose that we would otherwise have won in 2010 to FIND OUT? So what if we have the worst OF defense in the majors - at least we will KNOW with complete certainty next winter that we can't plan on doing that again when the team is expected to be good. There's no downside to finding that out.
Likewise, there is nothing at all to be gained by hitting Snider behind guys who are well known to be offensive black holes. It does nothing for his confidence, his ability to adjust, his ability to adapt to higher pressure situation, or his ability to hit situationally with people on base (which if you want that you don't want Buck and Gonzo in front of him).

4. The fascination with Gathright. Thankfully, on this point, he seems to have a growing affection for Mike McCoy (who is increasingly becoming a player I have an irrational attraction to myself) and Jeremy Reed (who sucks pretty much as much as Gathright but Clarance doesn't seem to have a crush on him so in that he's to be preferred) is outhitting JG by a wide margin. Still, it shouldn't take this much to dissuade someone from an interest in Gathright.
It IS true that if I had my way and Snider was in RF, we'd have some difficulty with the lead-off spot. but if I had my way, McCoy would be the starting shortstop until he proved himself incapable offensively or defensively and HE would be the lead-off hitter. Here's another situation in which in a developmental season, there's no reason not to think outside the box. Unless it is clearly obvious to Jays managment that McCoy is so defficent defensively as to do damage to our ground ball pitchers, then how can it possibly be a ba thing to run him out there and see if he can handle it?

5. The unanswered question at closer. I'm sorry, anyone who looks at Frasor's work and Gregg's work and has trouble deciding which should close (when both are healthy) automatically disqualifies themselves from making any baseball decisions. I can't see how anything more needs saying on that point.

How many of these issues are an issue when the regular season rolls around, I can't say - but I could no longer refrain.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Something to consider?

According to MLBTR the Nats have unconditionally released Elijah Dukes. He's experienced (if not great) in RF a and he's only 25. At first blush, it seems a slam dunk that Dukes would be a superior option to Gathright and Reed.

What am I missing here?

In 2008, ostensibly his breakout season, he was a 2.8 WAR player, making positive contributions on both offense and defense. Further, he hit well vs both RH and LH pitching, and had a high enough OBP that he could fit not unreasonably as a lead-off hitter.

If the Jays are committed to the idea that Snider will end up in LF, the chance to grab a guy who might turn into the RF solution until Sierra or some other prospect comes along would seem a no-brainer.

That said, the report suggested that the Nats tried to trade him to pretty much anyone and came up short. You can't help but wonder why a team like the Jays wouldn't have spared a marginal reliever or some such just to get a first shot at seeing what he's got. If all it costs us is Steve Stifole or something, where's the harm?

Again, what am I missing here?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

More Alphabet Soup!

As I suggested in this space almost three weeks ago, Alex Anthopoulos made his play for coveted Cuban defector shortstop Adenis Hechavarria, and if reports are true, he has apparently been successful, and not only that - successful in signing a player the Yankees wanted pretty intently.

I can't tell you how pleased I am about the signing, but the fact that he picked the Jays over the Yankees is like a warm sweet syrup poured all over the top.

He's been compared to such Luminaries as Alphonso Soriano and Ichero Suzuki. His defense is said to be better than former teammate and current Red sox prospect Jose Iglesias who has been described as a world class defender.

The only fly in this story is that apparently Hec (gotta have a nickname for a name that hard to spell!) is 21, not 19 as was previously reported. But even that might not be so bad, theoretically it might mean he's closer to the bigs. the problem we have is that ideally you'd start a guy like this at Dunedin. Both the level of competition and the weather works for you there.

but the Jays already have two of their three best SS prospects tentatively at the High A level, and Farm Director Tony LaCava says the Jays will put a guy where he belongs, not push him because he's "supposed" to be promoted.

So what to do? Well, bumping Tyler Pastornicky back to Lansing is a relatively easy call. He's just turned 20 and while he did reach Dunedin last year, it was for a mere 63 at bats. It's not like he owned Lo-A either. At Lansing his BA was .266 and his OBP (hes no slugger so we won't speak of that) was only .331, so let's dispense with the illusion he is somehow entitled to a promotion.

the other presumptive Dunedin shortstop is personal favorite Justin Jackson. Jackson was sidelined most of the second half of last season by a shoulder injury. the same injury which possibly contributed to his horrendous stat line for the Hi-A Jays last year. My thought here is that you hold Jackson in extended Spring Training in order to see if he's all the way back from the injury and work on his mechanics. Let Hec start the year in Dunedin with an eye towards promoting him to AA in Early May at which time Jackson gets activated.

This is just my speculation, I have no idea how it will play out.

In fact, it's probably time I admitted that the reports are as yet unconfirmed that he will in fact sign with the Jays, but hey, you know what I mean.

Looking ahead a few years you could see a 2013 lineup that included Hill, Lind, Snider, Wallace, Hec, and one or both of D'Arnoud and Arencibia (one wonders who might be shifted to 3B in the upcoming years if Alex doesn't make a trade for one). that's a pretty solid (potentially) offensive core to go along with considerable depth of talent on the mound.

What's not to like!?

Going Young

Probably no writer connected to the Jays swings as wildly from good sense to "WTF!?!" as Richard Griffin, and he catches his share of grief for the latter. But this time he does pretty well - well enough I want to steal the idea in order to modify it a bit.

Griffin proposes to look at what the Jays future roster would look like made up only of players born after January 1, 1984 but honestly, that's really just kind of a gimicky way to tie into a well known number. It has no specific baseball related relevance. So even though it's an interesting thought, he still kind of screwed it up looking for the hook.

So here's my modification: Lets agree that Aaron Hill is the new heartbeat of the team. with all due respect to Vernon, the burden of his contract undermines the idea this is "Wells' team" plus, he's old enough that the exercise is kind of silly if you set his age as the cutoff.

So, while noting that there's no way to move Wells for at least the next three seasons, let's say that he's the only guy on the team older than Hil (who is just about to turn 28).

So you'd lose, off the current group, the following -

Jose Bautista
Lyle Overbay
John McDonald
Mike McCoy
Alex Gonzalez
John Buck
Jose Molina
Merkin Valdez
Brian Tallet
Scott Richmond
Shaun Marcum
Casey Janssen
Dirk Hayhurst
Kevin Gregg
Jason Frasor
Scott Downs
Jesse Carlson
Shawn Camp
Jeremy Accardo

Okay hold it - let's make an exception for Marcum, he's about 3 months older than Hill so he can be the "senior" man on the pitching staff.

Otherwise, what you have there is a list of players who, no matter how good they are, are placeholders, or bridge players to the players who'll make up the next Jays contender. I have no problem, of course, letting some of the older guys stopgap - I'm not saying waive the lot of them. I'm just illustrating the idea that none of these guys are integral to the Jays' medium range future. Even though some of them were late enough getting to the majors they might well still be here in 2012 (such as Jesse Carlson).

With few exceptions, if any, there's a clear picture here of guys who are only keeping a spot warm for younger players to come (Accardo and Camp give way to Collins and Farquhar for instance, or Buck and Molina holding a spot for Arencibia)

Like many others, I'm really excited about how that team stands to come together. It should be an easy team for which to root. If I can just grit my teeth and make it through one more year of The Manager's . . . creativity.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What's All This Then?

There's an opinion that seems to have a lot of currency in the Jays blogosphere to the effect that the Jays don't need a fifth starter that much in April. to that I say: "Huh?"

Notably of late, Mop Up Duty elaborates on the point here, but in truth, they have to send guys out on short rest four times to get that (including the recovering McGowan TWICE!) effect. Now, I'll refrain from involving myself in the "Morrow to the minors" theme which the post is actually about (I disagree but no matter) and just concentrate on the scheduling.

Jordan Bastian has discerned, rightly so in my opinion, that the Jays seem to be targeting an opening day rotation of Marcum/Romero/Morrow/Zep/Tallet, with all of us more or less assuming Tallet is a placeholder for better pitchers to come.

Now I am perfectly fine with the idea that you start McGowan out on the DL to get his stamina built up and then slot him in for Tallet, but one hopes Clarance doesn't fall in love with him. In any case, I project the pitching schedule like this:
(x=off day)

4/5 - Marcum
4/6 - x
4/7 - Romero
4/8 - Morrow
4/9 - Zep
4/10- Marcum
4/11- Romero
4/12- Tallet
4/13- Morrow
4/14- Zep
4/15- Marcum
4/16- Romero
4/17- Tallet
4/18- Morrow
4/19- Zep
4/20- Marcum
4/21- Romero
4/22- x
4/23- Morrow
4/24- Zep
4/25- Marcum
4/26- Romero
4/27- McGowan
4/28- Morrow
4/29- Zep


See what I did there? IF I send Romero on three days rest on 4/11, then I can get it down (if they are slotted properly) to three appearances for the "fifth" pitcher in April. but if no one goes on short rest then Tallet would get three starts by 4/21. and if we assume McGowan joins the rotation on 4/26 that's 4 starts in the month for the "fifth" starter. But that's not really that remarkable since a couple of starters will only get five starts in any given month.

Maybe it's just me but I'm not overly impressed with the number of off days in April or the convenience of them.

But to reiterate, that's not to say I'm against the idea of using Tallet to get two (or three) early starts as long as we understand it's not anything more than that.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Obligatory Spring Post

Is it just me or is it getting more and more difficult to contribute something unique and original to the Jays' blogosphere?

Whatever it is one might propose to discuss, someone somewhere has probably already exhaustively covered the subject (as in the Tao's fine look at the rotation candidates).

So being at a loss for some transcendent truth to impart, let me settle instead for some which reactions to the spring events so far:

1. I'm just as frustrated with Cito's - check that, Clarance's - semi-regular "WTF?" moment as the rest of you - just completely tired of cataloging the events;

2. I am irrationally enthused with Arencibia's hot start, and am anxious to believe he'll join the Jays for good sometime in the second half of the season (hopefully after we score a prospect from some sucker for John Buck);

3. I'm kind of buying into the "Molina will be a great teacher for the young pitchers" meme, albeit I suppose Chavez would be a pretty good teacher himself;

4. Feeling real good about Marcum this year, despite those who would have me believe i should be concerned because he's coming off TJ . . . I'm also giddyly watching the progress of McGowan but much more in tune with the long odds against him being all the way back;

5. All the Zep-love is fun to hear ain't it?

6. Is it just me or does anyone else get the vibe that Clarance has a serious chip on his shoulder regarding Snider? part of me had almost rather see Snider in Vegas all year as to see him get yanked around by his Manager;

7. I'm sorry - I may eat my words down the line but I'm going to have to SEE JB hit RHP in a regular season game - in a LOT of regular season games - before I join the BAS. I'm a hard core skeptic of the Bautista at lead-off idea;

8. I'd be a lot more enthused about Ruiz if I thought it meant Lind in LF and Snider in RF most days for the jays....but then I'd have to wonder who the hell was going to lead off right? Sigh. Well, maybe he'll at least get to platoon with Overbay anyway;

9. Ruiz's success kind of makes me take a sad glance over at Dopirak but I don't really think the Jays have any intention of actually considering Dopirak for the April roster anyway - they would have promoted him faster last year if that were the case;

10. Am I the only one that wants to see Jason Frasor have a MONSTER year this year? Just, ya know, to get in the face of his detractors;

That's pretty much all I got right now...