Friday, April 30, 2010

Monthly Prospect Review - April


It has been my custom (for at least one previous season but just go with me here...) to, in an effort to not over-react to small samples, refrain from too much prospect-porn and reserve my reactions for one monthly post.

I'll readily concede that the idea that there is some important difference made by the turning of the calendar in terms of dividing up stats is just goofy. It's one of my pet peeves that someone will say "Player X always hits good in May" as if he suddenly becomes better at the game in that particular month. But for the purposes of an exercise such as this one, it's a handy frame of reference - nothing more.

Last year I did these reviews by level, but I think this year I'll try doing them by position because really, in terms of looking to the future of the major league club, there's a greater relationship between JP Arencibia and Travis D'arnoud than there is between Arencibia and Brett Wallace who is his AAA teammate.

So, let's dive in:

Catchers

J.P. Arencibia - Arencibia frustrated prospect watchers last year as he struggled to consistently impress for the 51's. It was noted in this space that he was rushed (in my opinion) by opening the year at AAA, but it was also revealed after the season that JPA had been battling a kidney ailment all season, for which he had surgery after the season - and it was further revealed that he had LASIK eye surgery post-season as well.

So far this year, the results of either or both are promising. Last yer JPA had one walk for every 19 plate appearances. In the 2010 season, so far, he's essentially doubled his rate by lowering that figure to one every 9.4 plate appearances. His slugging percentage is up a bit as well, though more due to increased contact that dramatically higher power numbers. Still, the notion that JPA might push his way into a major league job in a few months is not nearly so far fetched now as it might have seemed a month ago.

Brian Jeroloman - Jeroloman is another guy who frustrated farm system observers last season only to have revealed after the season that he was having nagging health issues. Jeroloman's calling card coming into the 2009 season was that he was an eximplary defender who's primary offensive ability was an excellent eye at the plate that led to an impressive OBP, especially for a player who was otherwise not much of a threat. In 2009 the walk rate slipped a bit, but the batting average crashed to .217 and his strikeout rate zoomed to one ever three at bats.

None of that this year as Jeroloman is going nuts in the new season. His slash lines look like this - .330/.444/.566 as he's trying to get back in the conversation concerning the future ofthe Blue Jays behind the plate.

Travis D'Arnaud - The third man in the Halladay deal is holding up his part of the bargain. While he's on the 7 Day DL right now, D'Arnaud was rocking a .909 OPS when the (reportedly very minor) injury arose.

Yan Gomes - When Jon Lott touched base with Tony LaCava about the Jays' depth of catching prospects, Gomes' name didn't come up, but don't overlook the man who inherited JPA's job for the Tennessee Volunteers. Picking up playing time in Dunedin while D'Arnaud nurses his injury, Gomes is sporting a .385 batting average, and a 1.018 OPS (coning into tonight's action). Admittedly, it's in 12 games but he acquitted himself well last season in rookie ball as well. Should the seemingly inevitable string of promotions happen in a few months, Gomes is making the case to become the starter in Dunedin if/when D'Arnaud gets the call.

Jon Talley - Almost impossible for him to put himself on the radar, especially as a catcher, the big (6'3", 220) left-handed hitter might well end up as a 1B or DH. At this point, he's nothing more than a sleeper though.

Antonio Jimenez - Lott quotes LaCava as saying "We love this guy!" and this season he's giving them reason. In nine games since coming off the DL (where he opened the year) the 20 year old (as of May 1) catcher has a .351 BA and a .963 OPS, and has thrown in eight stolen bases for flavor. At his age and given the Jays new "go slow" philosophy, look for him to spend the whole season in Lansing unless he dominates to a ridiculous extent.

Sean Ochinko - Another player who didn't make Lott's list, Ochinko is a versatile guy who can play 3B and presumably 1B and thus would seem to be less than a lock to stick behind the plate, though most teams don't move a player off C or SS until they have to. The 22 year old isn't off to the offensive start of the other guys here, but is well regarded as a hitter and given their relative ages, might move up to Dunedin (if/as/when) before Jimenez does.

Carlos Perez - Scouts consider the 19 year old Perez to have perhaps the most upside of any player listed here. He'll begin play with Auburn when short-season teams start play in early June.

Santiago Nessy - A 17 year old Venezuelan power prospect, Nessy will suit up for the Gulf Coast League Jays in June.

First Base

Brett Wallace - Caveats about PCL stats aside, Wallace is rocking Las Vegas with eight homers and a 1.000 OPS through the first 21 games of the season. Those burning up the comments sections and call in shows with their desire for him to be recalled show simmer the hell down though, he also has a strikeout per game and could make a bit better contact. The Jays will likely promote him around mid-season if and when they find a trade partner for Lyle Overbay (and keep in mind there are not a lot of 1B openings around the majors).

Brian Dopirak - Historically Dopirak has been slow to impress when starting a season at a new level and that continues to be the case. There's no story here until and unless he heats up.

David Cooper - Picked up where he left off in 2009, which is to say, he continues to be a disappointment. Much more of this and the word "bust" will be more than whispered when his name comes up.

Mike McDade at Dunedin and Balbino Fuenmayor at Lansing are both struggling. 2009 draftee KC Hobson will likely begin play with Auburn when June rolls around and is probably already a better prospect than either of these two.

Second Basemen


Jarret Hoffpauir - A 26 year old non-prospect picked up in the off-season from the Cardinals, he's worth mentioning only in that (a) the upper level depth at this position is all but non-existant right now, and (b) he's the owner of a .890 OPS in Vegas right now, with 8 walks against only one strikeout in 19 games. Don't expect more than a Joe Inglett type though as a best case.

Scott Campbell - Nominally on the AA roster, he's been on the DL all year. His prospect status is tied to the extent of his injury and the effects of missing so much time.

John Tolisano - Also on the DL. Was on a mild hot streak over the seven previous games but the sample is too small. No news here yet.

Ryan Schimpf - owner of a .398 OBP in Lo-A Lansing. A bit old for the league though so adjust expectations accordingly.

Shortstops

Adeiny Hecheverria - Lott tweets that Alex Antholoulos says he's getting exciting reports from observers regarding Adeiny's work so far in Extended Spring Training. He's supposed to be assigned to the Hi-A team in a couple of weeks but look for him to move up pretty quickly if he lives up to the praise. My hunch is that he'll take over as the Jays' SS sometime around mid-season in 2011.

Justin Jackson - got off to a respectable start in Dunedin in five games (playing mostly 3B because of the crowding at SS) before going on the DL. Sample size is too small here to say much.

Tyler Pastornicky - Holding his own in Dunedin, with an (expected) lack of power but solid contact and an impressive walk rate and good speed.

Ryan Goins - Not doing too well for a 22 year old in Lo-A ball. Needs to pick it up.

Gustavo Pierre - Expected to be assigned to the Auburn team which will be a squad worth watching this year.

Third Basemen

Brad Emaus - In eleven games he has 11 walks and only two strikeouts. The 24 year old 3b/2b has a .479 OBP and a 1.047 OPS in AA New Hampshire. If he keeps up this pace he;s going to force the Jays to move him up to AAA. I wouldn't be stunned if the Jays have him at 3B for the major league club next Opening Day.

Kevin Aherns - Just three games since being activated off the DL, nothing relevant can be said so far.

Robert Sobolewski - The Miami product is much improved, so far, over last year's production. Sobo has a .924 OPS and, given their relative ages and experience, it's not inconceivable that if Emaus is promoted, Sobo might leap-frog Aherns to go to AA.

I'll take this opportunity to stop here and post Part II tomorrow, for the sake of length. Still to come - Outfielders and pitchers.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Change and Hope

Well, after last night's . . . interesting . . . game against the Red Sox, the Jays made a couple of roster moves, one of which received cheers from most and the other indifference for the most part. But as Marc Hulet at Fangraphs notes, neither major leaguer affected got a fair shake.

Hulet points out the obvious concerning Merkin Valdez and the perhaps not so obvious regarding Jeremy Accardo. In the case of designated-for-assignment Valdez, he's logged all of 1.1 IP in the Jays 20 games played this season. The report was that the Jays liked his arm a lot, but were worried about his control. It doesn't take a baseball genius to figure out that a pitcher who gets so little work is going to have wonky control. Most of us understand that but the impression I get is that most Jays fans have little interest in the fate of the seventh man in the 'pen.

When it comes to Accardo, most of the commentary I've seen has been along the lines of "About damned time!" as if Accardo pitched himself off the roster. While it IS true that Accardo has ben awful this year, particularly in allowing all six inherited runners to score, he also is a victim of sparatic usage. Accordo didn't pitch in a Jays game until April 12, going over a week without an appearance, then was riding another eight game stretch of non-appearances when he was called upon last night. Again, you can't expect a pitcher to be at his best in such a pattern of usage.

That said, I do not necessarily object to Accardo's demotion, if for no other reason than to get him regular work so that he can be fairly judged. But giving up on Valdez and risking losing him seems rash. It's true that there haven't been a lot of "safe" places to gamble on the man, but if you trust a guy enough to put him on the roster, trust him enough to put him in a game.

One of the things people throw out against Cito is that he doesn't use his hitters in the best possible way to give the team a chance to win. For instance, several pinch hitting opportunities in which he let's Ruiz rust in order to stick with Overbay. Cito has his reasons which, in short, go beyond winning that particular day's game. Ok, fair enough. If that is true, then, that "losing one today to win two tomorrow" is the operative philosophy, then does it not logically follow that using Accardo or Valdez in higher leverage situations (when no "safe" blowout games occur) is also dictated by that philosophy? Would that line of thinking not suggest that "I'll put Valdez out there in this one run game instead of Camp and even if he blows it he gets some good work in and he'll be a better option if I really need him a couple of days from now"?

It seems to me that Gaston has a noticeable different mindset when it comes to how he uses his pitchers as opposed to how he uses his hitters.

In any case, coming in from las Vegas to shore up the gassed bullpen are Josh Roenicke and Rommie Lewis. Lewis is a LHP who was the closer at Vegas. He's never pitched in the majors before and one presumes he's getting the call because Jesse Carlson is struggling still, in AAA (and Purcey hasn't gotten polished as a reliever yet). One would expect Lewis will hardly ever pitch so, like Ruiz, he should content himself with the perks and salary of being on a major league roster rather than expect to actually, ya know, get to play baseball.

Roenicke, on the other hand, provokes mixed emotions. On the one hand, he's been untouchable at Vegas and based on that small sample certainly deserves the call. There's some whispering about the 'net, which I can't find again now, that the reason he struggled with the Jays last year was that he was nursing a sore elbow, so it's a very good thing to see him get a chance to restablish his reputation with the team and the manager. However, if he gets the same neglect Accardo did, he might well produce the same results and THAT is decidedly NOT a good thing.

I'm hoping that things break right so that Roenicke gets a chance to shine.

On that note, there's a new report from FoxSports' Jon Paul Morosi (via MLBTR) which indicates the Jays continue to have discussions about trading Scott Downs and Jason Frasor. On the surface, one has to ask if the Jays wouldn't be selling low on either man, particularly on Frasor, but as Morosi notes, Downs has such a solid track record over the last few years that one bad week is hardly going to crash his value, and Frasor has an insanely high BABIP which indicates a large measure of bad luck is in play here. Certainly, the drop in velocity will hurt Frasor's value though.

I'm not sure we could expect anything soon (though sooner on Downs than on Frasor as the latter will have to re-establish his desireability for longer) but in a year when the Jays are re-tooling for the future, it would be desirable to have Roenicke (in particular) in more high leverage situations, such as setting up Kevin Gregg, rather than rusting away at the neglected end of Gaston's bullpen bench.

In that regard, I hope that we seen both pitchers dealt soon.

Another potential beneficiary is Brad Mills who's been dominating AAA this year. Mills has to be keeping one eye on Dana Eveland who's disaster last night followed on the heels of a mediocre previous outing. While it must be noted that the Red Sox own Eveland to an astounding extent (his career ERA is almost a full run lower if you take out his starts against Boston) it's still worth keeping an eye on him for a potential decline.

However, if Eveland holds on to the rotation spot until at least the time when one of the Jays injured pitchers (like Zep most likely) is ready to return, Mills will possibly be aced out of a chance to start in the majors this year desipte his dominance. If he's not up by mid-June, then he's gonna find himself no higher than seventh on the depth chart for the major league rotation. Thus, his ticket might be in the 'pen. And with Carlosn struggling, Purcey a work in progress, and Downs on the trade block, there is a legitimate opening for the left handed Mills to work out of the major league 'pen should Downs be packed off in the near future.

Here's one possible lineup for the Jays' pitching staff coming out of the All Star Break:

Starters - Marcum/Romero/Morrow/Cecil/Zep/Litsch (yeah, I know that's six...allows for potential injury)

Relievers - Gregg/Roenicke/Tallet/Janssen/Mills/Camp/one of Carlson, Purcey, Accardo, Lewis or even Valdez if he clears waivers.

And that's before we even address how quickly the Three Caballeros in New Hampshire come.

This is the year when every change is a chance to hope for good things, because it's likely more change is coming.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Pissin' On Unc....wait...

I know the official passtime of the Jays blogosphere is taking issue with Richard Griffin's (affectionately refereed to here as "Uncle Dick") commentary BUT I'm going to put a twist on that and ask WTF is up with Mike Rutsey of the Toronto Sun?

Help me out locals, is he always this far off base?

In his column posted last night he voices a couple of opinions I agree with, but also throws out some head scratching points.

He starts off well, voicing his(unaware) agreement with the point made previously here and on other blogs that Brian Tallet should not have been in the rotation to begin with and certainly shouldn't be back there upon his return. But in the course of making that point, he says this:

"Right-hander Jesse Litsch is on the mend and is expected to be ready for big-league duty in a month’s time."


Uh....what now?

Litsch hasn't thrown a single pitch in live action and may not even be throwing sides yet. When a pitcher comes through the rehab process (in minor league games) from Tommy John Surgery to get back to active status it takes more than a month to do and Litsch hasn't even begun that process. He won't be in a position to rejoin the Jays until after the All-Star break at best and with the wealth of options they have he may well not pitch in the majors at all this year.

My guess? Rutsey was thinking of Marc Rzepczynski, rather than Litsch. Zep by the way, if you were wondering, has been the subject of exactly NO reporting concerning his recovery status, even though he was said to have been sidelined for six weeks and more than three of them have passed. But it's much more logical for Rutsey to be speculating on his soon return.

Looking over the Jays' upcoming schedule, Cecil would get three more turns then that slot would fall on an off day. IF Cecil fails (which I for one don't think he will) then you go all the way to May 18 before you ask yourself if Cecil stays, Mills takes a shot, or if Zep is ready (he'd be seven weeks from his injury at that point). Of course, we should all be prepared to swallow the bitter pill as we watch Clarance give the spot back to Tallet on May 3.

Update: According to Rotoworld, Litsch faced live hitters today for the first time in Extended Spring Training and is expected to begin a rehab assignment in about two weeks if there are no setbacks. That would probably put him on a "best case" schedule of being ready for the majors in mid-June. But a lot of pitchers have at least one setback along the way.

Switching to the hitters, Rutsey comments on the Jays weak links in the batting order, making valid observations regarding Overbay and Snider and then slipping in this aside:

"DH Adam Lind (.290, 3, 11) has yet to heat up but it’s only a matter of time."


I'm not going to bag on him for this, it's true Lind had an OPS of .858 as of that writing and it should go up of course. BUT, just in terms of an old fashioned look at the counting stats he cites - those pro-rate to 30 HR and 110 RBI so that's fairly warm.

Anyway, moving on - Here's the next point I want to gripe about:

"The good news for the Jays, when they open a three-game set against the Rays in St. Petersburg Friday, will be the return of second baseman Aaron Hill and his bat.

Shortstop Alex Gonzalez has been hitting in Hill’s No. 2 spot to great success and should be rewarded by having him bat leadoff upon Hill’s return.

Newly acquired Fred Lewis is doing nothing in the leadoff spot, so why not give Gonzalez a shot while he’s hot?"

Yo Mike, couple of points:

1. Lewis has been starting at the lead off spot, at the time of your writing, for all of FOUR GAMES!!!!! Sample size much?

2. Alex Gonzalez hot? In the previous six games: .167/.200/.375/.575
In his previous ten games: .244/.295/.439/.734
In the 10 game homestand if you take out the April 15 game in which he went 4/5 with 2 doubles? .167/.211/.333/.544

Small sample? Heck yeah but twice the sample afforded to Lewis. At the time of the writing, it couldn't be argued that Gonzo was hot (admittedly, he had a solid game tonight - so far his home/road split is insane).

In any case, whatever one may say for Gonzalez, his success so far arises from unexpected power. Even if you think he's for real (even temporarily), his OBP is .320 and his slugging is .611 so in what world do you look at that and think "lead off hitter!"

Maybe it was a fluke . . . maybe this is what happens when a reporter blogs? Still, whatever. Might as well give Grif a break (after all, he lost his whipping boy so times are harder for him anyway).

Moving on:

If you want to get your schoolgirl giddiness on, check out this piece about the Golden Boy. It's real hard not to ruin my keyboard with the excess drool provoked by articles like that.

In tonight's action -

  • Don't let Brett Cecil's one bad pitch in the seventh make you forget the rest of his night.
  • Brett Wallace pounded his SEVENTH homer in his 16th at AAA las Vegas tonight. PCL adjustment caveats apply but . . . daaaaammmmn.
  • LHP Luis Perez, who's been getting a lot of buzz so far, had a rough outing tonight for AA New Hampshire thanks in no small part to issuing five walks against only one strikeout.
  • Travis D'arnoud is cooling a bit, having gone 0/4 for the second straight night but he's still having a very hot start overall.
  • As if the Jays didn't have a wealth of catching prospects to consider already, 19 year old Antonio Jimenez has been en fuego since coming off the DL, with a 1.409 OPS in his first four games back. It's a tiny sample but it's the first signs of life in the young man's bat in his professional career so it's encouraging.

Be looking for my Monthly Minor League Report next weekend.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Does this make me a bad person?

I sometimes get conflicted about that gray area between wishing ill on a live human being and wishing for a certain outcome relating to moving pieces on a metaphorical chess board called Major League Baseball.

And being in the midst of reading Dirk Hayhurst's wonderful treatise in that vein certainly doesn't help.

So let me qualify the upcoming callous remarks by saying that this is in the context of the chessboard - I do not wish to harbor hopes for any person's career to be damaged by injury.

With that said: The news of the day is that Edwin Encarnacion and Brian Tallet are off to the DL while Aaron Hill is re-activated and Brett Cecil gets the call from Vegas. Both will play Friday night against the Rays. Cecil steps into the rotation quickly because tonight (Thursday) was his regular turn in the rotation anyway so it keeps him on cycle better to start Friday rather than skip all the way to the next turn.

This is a good situation for the Jays in two ways, IMO. In regards to the pitching, Tallet was always logically a placeholder until one of Cecil, Mills, Zep, or McGowan came along and took his job. Eveland too, for that matter, but as long as Dana is rockin' it no one should complain. But Tallet not so much. The flaw in that assumption is Clarance, who gets unreasonably attached to some players, it seems. And he gives every impression of crushing on Tallet which, one could worry, would delay the date on which one of the young guns usurps him.

So in that regard, it's fortunate Tallet is hurt but will be much more fortunate if he's going to be on the shelf for at least a month. That gives Cecil a chance to make a solid impression, and by the by it gives Zep a chance to get back to health. In this building year, I'd rather see Cecil try and if he fails hand off to Zep and if he fails hand off to McGowan or Mills - to find out what we have right now in all those guys - than I had ever see Tallet get another start.

As I've said before - I LIKE Brian Tallet - as a reliever. That said, to digress a moment, with so many teams apparently hurting for and shopping for relief, I would be just fine with seeing 2 or 3 guys from the group which includes Tallet, Downs, Frasor, Gregg, and Accardo being sent on there way if the return was interesting. But back on point.

The other way that today is a kind of good news is this: EE being on the shelf means FLewis gets to lead off every day and show what he can do there. Having started just 4 games so far, the newest member of the Jays hasn't really had a full on chance to show The Manager what he can do. Now he gets to expand that audition to a full two weeks. No one can say for sure, of course, how he'll do. I'm hoping he runs with it. but at least there will have been SOME chance to audition.

Another facet of this is that it gives the Jays an everyday look at Jose Bautista at 3B. Give that I'm a member of the League of Bautista Skeptics, my instinct is that this will serve the team by exposing him. Of course, it's obvious that if he butchers the position for 2 weeks and goes 0-for-RHP the whole time, Clarance will write it off as a slump and keep running him out there, so the value will be limited. But I'd still like it if we got more evidence of just what Bautista is. The membership of the BAS would argue that he's worthy of playing every day. We in the LBS counter that as a platoon player against LHP he has considerable value but will be exposed playing every day. I'm curious to see how he holds up over this "too brief to mean anything" sample.

That said, over the course of the year I fervently hope that Encarnacion gets the bulk of playing time at 3B (unless he's traded) and that Lewis gets the lead-off at bats v. RHP. If that limits Bautista's role, so be it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Jays land a solid Lead-off man!!!

. . . And Clarance announces his intention to rot him on the bench.

*Heavy SIGH*

The Jays acquired Fred Lewis for, essentially, nothing tonight, which is a great move. All huzzahs to Alex Anthopoulos for another excellent move. The man can't seem to miss when it comes to player acquisition (it's too early for me to eat crow on Kevin Gregg yet but there's a dish heating in the microwave).

Lewis is a solid hitter, with - according to Giants fans - much unfulfilled potential. He's speady, he gets on base well and splits somewhat better vs RHP. He'd be a fine full time outfielder, particularly in left and an outstanding platoon partner with Jose Bautista. The problem of course, is that Mr. Loyalty Clarance Gaston can't be moved to insult that keystone of the franchise by platooning him. Gaston's first comment was "he'll be a bench player" and Alex, demonstrating perhaps his only flaw as a GM, fell into lockstep with Gaston and backed his position. Ok, let me rephrase - it's not a flaw to decline to publicly undermine your manager - but if he ACTUALLY agrees with Gaston or is deferring to him when he knows better, THAT I take issue with.

Is Lewis part of "The Plan"? Probably not. But he's under team control through2013 and that's plenty of time to bridge over to the better prospects. and he's a far better player than you should be able to get for this price.

More specifically, he's a considerably better offensive player than Bautista.

One can only hope he'll find his way into the the inscrutable affections of the Manager so his abilities are not wasted while JB is exposed.

Update:

Did some digging and this is what I came up with. last year the Lead-off hitters for the Jays accumulated 782 plate appearances. Let's round that up to 800 for ease of calculation and since about 1/4 of plate apperances come against LHP, let's give 200 to Bautista and 600 to lewis and watch what happens.

If we take the two player's splits over the last three years vs the pitchers they hit best (Bautista v. LH and Lewis v. RH) and pro-rate the results to the number of plate appearances mentioned above then Frose Lewtista would give you counting totals of 43 doubles, 10 triples, 20 home runs, 25 steals and 89 base on balls. The slash lines look like this: .280/.361/.455/.816

Hands up everyone who thinks Bautista will do that alone.

Does this argument sound familiar?

If you recall, I made a similar case for platooning Bautista and Overbay last year (with Lind at 1B if JB couldn't handle it). Had this been done, Mr. Overtista would have had the following line (pro-rated to the number af plate apperances for all Jays 1B last year):

.285/.396/.515/.911

Think we could have stood a bit of a defensive downgrade to get that? Of course this impacts the rest of the roster a bit. Before Rios was waived, it's simply a matter of Bautista getting all of Millar's wasted appearances. If he can't handle 1B, then play Lind there, DH Snider and put Bautista in LF. After Rios was gone, Bautista got all the RF at bats.

Simple solution? Platoon him still. when Overbay plays, Lind is in LF, Snider is in RF, and Ruiz is the DH. when Bautista plays instead of Overbay, Ruiz is at 1B and Lind is the DH with JB in LF (to avoid flipping Snider back and forth). The only bat you lose here is Millar. and however bad Snider does vs LHP playing full time, it wouldn't have been worse than Millar was after April.

Again, Gaston would likely cite defense, but I don't think the defensive loss here is close to what's gained at the plate.

Sadly, it looks like we're in for Act II.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mamma Said Punch You Out

Yes, Ian, I totally stole your Tweet there. Sorry man, had to do it.

In case you were out of touch tonight, as I was for the first five innings, RR Cool J (i.e. Ricky Romero) carried a no hitter into the 8th inning tonight in what was far and away the best game of his young career. He punched out 12 White Sox batters in the first seven innings of tonight's game as well. With only 90 pitches thrown, in a crisp quick game in which the Jays were leading 4-0, Romero seemed on track to make his mark in the Jays' record books.

Then, in what is always an assholish move but is particularly annoying tonight given the situation, the White Sox catcher - who's name I won't mention in an impotent attempt to spit on him - managed to convince home plate umpire Tim McClellan that a pitch in the dirt hit his foot (it didn't, according to all accounts) to put on the White Sox' second runner of the night. That brought to the plate Alex Rios.

You remember Rios, right? the perennial disappointment in a Jays uniform? The supposed unmotivated unconcerned lackadaisical under-achiever, who was showered in boos last night?

Yeah, that guy.

He hit a homer.

I have no idea what the post game reporting will be and I never get to actually WATCH the games but my guess is Romero was momentarily distracted by the phantom HBP, which is ultimately on him but still, fuck that guy (and I don't mean Rios).

Romero finished the eighth and got the win, and given the groove the Sox hitters were in last night it's impressive as hell to pitch eight innings of one hit ball. But ah, what might have been . . .

In other news today, the Jays finalized the Adeiny Hechavarria signing. The soon to be 21 year old (as of Thursday) became Blue Jays' property officially by way of a 4 year $10 million contract (don't panic, he won't be a free agent at the end of the deal, though there is a somewhat complex condition in his contract which requires him to begin his major league options in 2013).

Hear Alex Anthopoulos discuss him on the Fan 590 here. Alex seems real excited about the guy. Apparently he's going to EST (as I predicted) for a month or so and AA suggested he might get at least a few weeks in Dunedin before moving up. But he also mentioned that some scouts thought he could step right into AAA and be in the majors by the end of the year so there's room for that plan to be modified in favor of a faster track. Apparently how fast he acclimates to the North American culture is perhaps more of a factor than the baseball skills.

Nothing here mitigates the growing sense that AH! (How's that for a nickname?) will be in contention to break camp with the Jays next spring.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Explaining Myself

Rather than repeat the same observations regarding the last couple of wins that most all the other major blogs (wait, did I just imply I was "major"? Well, you know what I mean...) let me take occasion here to explain at more length a comment I've made a few places.

That comment being, of course, my assertion that on paper, this is a team which might be expected to finish at or near .500 this year. Of course, that claim stands in stark contrast to the gloomy predictions of 60-something wins.

I admit on the face of it that I'm no statistician or sabermatician. The basis for my claim is simply a look at the runs scored and allowed last year, and how one might reasonably expect the offense and pitching to preform this year in terms of improving upon those totals (or not).

You might remember that the 2009 squad scored more runs than it allowed, for a pythag record of 84-78 (an expectation which they under-preformed by nine wins, by the way, as the Jays are wont to do). That team scored 798 runs, and allowed 771. So how does the new roster shape up in comparison to that one? Let's take a closer look. I'll be using OPS+ and ERA for this "quick and dirty" comparison.

Catcher:

2009 - Barajas (73), Chavez (67)
2010 - Buck (103 in '09; career 84); Molina (51; 60)

Jays catchers combined for averages of .230/.259/.374/.633

Despite the obvious absence of offense from Molina, there's no reason to expect the combined output from these two to be less than the team total last year, and might conceivably me marginally higher.

First Base:

2009 - Overbay (122)

Jays first basemen combined for a line of .263/.363/.447/.810

Overbay has a career 111 OPS+, weighed down by a couple of years which were hampered by a hand injury. But the "standard issue" Overbay is pretty much what we saw last year and, other than a marginal downgrade for age, there's no reason to not assume this position will account for that level of production again. Let's not forget that Ruiz, on the rare occasion he gets to play, should exceed what we got from Millar last year.

Second Base:

2009 - Hill (117)

Jays second basemen combined for a line of .289/.335/.504/.839

It pays to remember here that while everyone expects Hills' HR power to slack off this year, he saw a significant drop in his doubles last year and those homers that he (theoretically) would lose in 2010 turn back into doubles. In 2007 Hill doubled once every 12.9 at bats, and homered once every 35.8 at bats. If we applied those rates to 2009, when he got far more appearances, then he'd have had 53 doubles and 19 homers. So if he simply reverted back to 2007, with a 2009 total of at bats, his OPS+ would be in the 110-112 range. And that's assuming all other factors are equal.
I'm willing to suggest that there's no reason to assume other than a marginal decrease in Hill's production at the plate.

Shortstop:

2009 - Scutaro (111)
2010 - Gonzalez (64, 79)

Jays' shortstops - .280/.367/.407/.774

While one can only concede there's a big offensive drop off here, it's also worth noting that in2007, prior to an injury that cost him a full season, Gonzo posted a 99 OPS, albeit in Cincinnati's bandbox. Then, during his comeback season in 2009, he struggled early in the year for the Reds but after being dealt to Boston is OPS+ was 95. Point being, it's not a given that Gonzalez won't meet or exceed his career figure, even though he's now 33. So we'll assume a drop here of approximately 30 points.

Third base:

2009 - Rolen (as a Jay 124) Encarnacion (as a Jay, 97)
2010 - Encarnacion (92, 101)

Jays' third basemen - .285/.349/.439/.788

EE's best year so far was 108, he struggled last year to an overall 92, so that's the range we are looking at. Split the difference and he's at around 100, same as his career mark. Let's give him the benefit of a small doubt and also note that Rolen missed a lot of days that EE probably won't and conclude a 20 point drop at this position.

Left Field:

2009 - Travis Snider - (98, 101)

Jays' left fielders: .270/.349/.461/.810

2010 should see Snider's figure go up, if for no other reason than increased playing time. He might yet have some stumbles at his young age, but it's not wildly unlikely that his totals would match the production from Jays' LF last year, with the possible exception of fewer walks. There's enough here to call LF a wash, at worst.

Center field:

2009 Vernon Wells (88, 108)

Jays' CF in 2009: .258/.312/.396/.709

Alright, seriously, does anyone think Vernon is going to be THAT bad again? Even close? Coming into 2007 Wells had a 112 OPS+, and his figure for 2006 was 129. In 2008 it was 122. The odds are, even though he's older, that he'll more likely exceed his career figure, but I'll be modest and suggest perhaps 115? I think there's enough improvement here to offset the 30 points we lost on the shortstops.

Right field:

2009 - Rios (96 as a Jay)
201- Bautista (101, 91)

Jays right fielders: .253/.323/.442/.765

Thing is, as much as I think JB will be overexposed as a full timer, Rios under-preformed so greatly last year that there's not really an obvious drop off between his number and Bautista's demonstrated abilities. I have my beef with Bautista as a full time player, let alone lead off hitter, but Rios set the bar really low last year.

DH:

2009 - Lind (144, 119)

Jays' DH in 2009 - .275/.343/.506/.849

I'm going to suggest the team gains some ground here. Not because I'm saying Lind will be better (though he might be) but because of the at bats the team gave to Kevin Millar last year. True, not all of them were at DH, but the slash totals above show you the kind of impact DH's-other-than-Lind had on the total...at bats that will go to Lind this year one assumes.

Still, the bump here would be marginal I'm sure. Maybe something quite similar to Hill's margial decrease.

Sum total here is this is an offense that is down about 20 points in OPS+ among all starters - that being the lost ground at 3B. How many net runs is that worth? and how many runs do we lose on the defensive drop at 3B? Well, according to Fangraphs, the difference in Rolen and Encarnacion for all of 2009 was about 29 runs above replacement last year. So that makes this team, on paper, a roughly 770 run team.

Ah, but you say, the difference is the pitching! Doc is gone and that's huge!

Well, yeah, it is and it isn't. But let's pause here so you can grab a cup of Earl Grey (hot!) before we go on with this tome.

Got it?

Ok.

The pitching is harder to break down year to year as i did with the hitters above, so let me break the starting rotation down like this:

2009 Romero = 2010 Romero

29 starts at 4.30 ERA last year to maybe as many as 32 this year. Natural progression would assume a slightly better outcome but we won't be gready here. his ERA+ last year was 101 and I'll give it a marginal increase to 105.

2009 Doc = 2010 Marcum.

Doc's 2009 was 32 starts at an ERA of 2.79, over 239 innings.
Marcum's last year, 2008, was 25 starts, and a 3.39 ERA over 151 IP.

Doc averaged 7.47 IP per start, while Marcum averaged 6.04 so a surface comparison is difficult. But I'll start by applying Marcum's average innings to 32 starts and that gets us over 193 IP so giving him a bit of credit that his average tics up just a bit - say 1/3 of an inning (203 IP) .I'll credit 36 of Doc's innings to the bullpen. That would work out to Marcum surrendering about 76 runs this year - assuming a performance consistent with he most recent year) which is 2 runs more than Doc gave up.
The bullpen last year had a collective ERA of 4.o8. that implies that we give up about 16 more runs in those 36 innings Doc kept out of the pen (if the pen were neither better or worse).

So we are down 18 runs.

Now, here's where things get interesting:
The following pitchers got starts for the Jays last year, beyond Doc and Romero:

Tallet - 25 starts, 5.41 ERA as a starter
Richmond - 24, 5.59
Cecil - 17, 5.34
Zep - 11, 3.67
Purcey - 9, 6.19
Janssen - 5, 6.23
Ray - 4, 4.44
Litsch - 2, 9.00
Mills - 2, 14.09
Burres - 2, 14.21

That's 101 starts (three full time starters) and a combined ERA of 5.54, which presents the question thusly: will the collection of pitchers likely to fill those three slots in 2010 be able to meet or exceed that benchmark?

The candidates are Brandon Morrow (Career ERA as starter = 4.70), Tallet, Dana Eveland (4.34 ERA in 29 starts in 2008), Cecil and Zep (like Tallet, represented above), possibly McGowan or even Litsch in the second half, and potentially Mills, Drabek or other less obvious choices.

I don't think it's a stretch AT ALL to suggest that the last three spots in the rotation will, collectively, be AT LEAST as good as last year, if not marginally better.

Turning to the bullpen, returning pitchers include Frasor, Downs, Camp, and soon, Carlson. Will they be as good collectively as last year? I think so. the righties will likely regress a bit, and both lefties should do better.
Beyond the core returnees, there's Janssen , Accardo (for now), Gregg and Valdez. Gregg steps into Brandon League's old job, and should be able to match or closely simulate League's 4.58 ERA and number of innings. If we are asking Valdez to give us what Dirk Hayhurst did last year, that's reasonable. Janssen should be better than last year, in terms of ERA (5.14 as a reliever) and Accardo somewhat worse (as measured by ERA). So far I think we have a wash.

Going into call ups, will Roenicke be at least as good as his 7+ last year? Sure, likely better. Will Purcey the reliever do better than Ran did last year? almost certainly. We're now 10 men deep into the relief core. and it's still pretty unlikely this group is worse.

So if we lost 18 runs prevented by losing Doc, then we stand to allow roughly 790 runs in 2010.


That's giving up about 20 runs more than you score, or a pythag of 79-83.

Am I making a ton of assumptions? Sure. EVERY projection for this year's final record does. Health is assumed, of course. Regression towards the mean in several cases, the natural progression of youth . . . none of which is assured. but you have to make SOME assumptions and it's no more valid to assume Snider stumbles his way back to AAA than it is to assume he becomes somewhat better than he's been to this point. Ditto for a number of other points here.

Besides, doesn't this team have a little karma in the bank after the number of times in recent years they have under-preformed their expected record? It's definitely not a GOOD team, as currently constructed, but it's not as bad as many suggest either.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Geez Louise

I assume this will turn up in a blog post and if/when it does I'll try to remember to come back and link it but the current source is a series of tweets from Jordan Bastian...:

Cito: "Let me tell you this right now, Overbay is going to play against left-handers. So, why would I pinch hit for him?"

Cito, asked if he recalled ever pinch hit for as a player: "It's tough when you're sitting on the bench."

... and John Lott:

Long story short re: Gaston's pre-game talk about using pinch-hitters: Overbay will bat against everybody. "So that ends that."

That ends that, at least until Oby shows he's "not able to put some numbers up later on in the year,;maybe [then] you have to do something."

Cito: "It’s just something we want to do for him. He’s a free agent this year. We want to make sure he has a good shot out there (more)

Ok, look - I'm NOT down on Clarance about not pinch-hitting Ruiz for O'bay Monday, there's a solid argument for holding on to the good D in a close game (Buck hitting is another story though) BUT the very idea that The Manager thinks it's his job to do what he can to make sure Overbay gets a better contract next year is . . . is . . . hell I don't even have a word for how insane that is.

Word to Mr. Gaston, with all due respect to your hoary head of wisdom, your job here is to win fuckingballgames! And short of that to develop players into winners.

It is most assuredly NOT to make sure departing free agents do well for themselves on the market next winter. If you can do the latter while doing the former, bully for you - but is it too late to ask you to get your damned priorities in order, please?

Geez.


***

On a more upbeat note, Vernon Wells is now on a pace to hit 243 homers! PLAYOFFS!!!

Big News and Important Stuff

Big news:

Behold this tweet concerning a certain Cuban moments ago:

Agent Bart Hernandez says SS Hechavarria's visa has been approved and he should be traveling to US this week to take physical with Jays

Halle-friggin-lujah. About damn time and all that stuff. In a recent interview, Alex Anthopoulos inferred that "if" they signed a Cuban player the first step would be to get him acclimated to the U.S. first, before throwing him into a more pressurized situation. I certainly am not privy to how they expect that to play out but my guess is that he'll go to extended Spring Training until the short season teams start playing and at that point, depending on how well he is adapting, and how well other shortstops in the system are progressing, they will have the choice of starting him anywhere from the GCL team to as high as AA. As much as I'd like to see him on the fast track to Toronto, I doubt anyone will know for sure where he'll play the bulk of the year until probably June.

Important stuff:

John Lott does fine work (again) giving us insight into how Vernon Wells spends that too-much money he makes. It's a fine read. More importantly it's a reflection of what's really important when it comes to Vernon Wells. I'm not going to say I'll never discuss whether or not he ought be hitting sixth instead of fourth or playing Right instead of Center - but I think I'm pretty much done with the issue of how much me makes until and unless it keeps the Jays from spending elsewhere. As long as Rogers is willing to spend whatever AA and Beeston ask for, Wells contract is a non-issue to me.
Because I know this much - what he makes will be well spent and will make a lot more difference than anything he does on the baseball diamond, even if he's an MVP. Maybe if the guy can't be a Hall of Fame baseball player, he can be a Hall of Fame human being and, as the Garfoose reminds us, isn't that a lot more valuable?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

And So It Begins

This is obviously a season in which one must get there satisfaction in ways other than accumulation of wins and dreams of contention, still, you can't help but get that oh-so-familiar bitter taste in your mouth when you see a game in which you have so much to chear about for six innings go south at the end.

Still, while the taste is nasty, it's not unfamiliar so like taking medicine, you choke it down and take it in stride. In the mean time, we tip our collective hats to Shaun Marcum, who performed just as I expected (albeit i wasn't calling 6 no-hit innings), Adam Lind who surprised none of us with his 3 for 3 and a homer, and Vernon Wells whom we'd had varying degrees of hope for to be sure, but maybe few were optimistic enough to expect the day he had.

I'll pass along an negative and a positive on Wells that i picked up elsewhere -

The Negative: Wells actually hit very well on the road last year, so take this with a grain of salt;

The Positive: More impressive than Wells' homer was the single that drove in the go ahead run after the Rangers intentionally walked Lind to bring him to the plate. That's the sort of situation that Wells struggled with last year.

Of more concern to me, the rest of the offense was almost totally absent today. While I think Snider will come along fine and Overbay will be Overbay and so forth but . . . there are going to be a lot of days when I rage against our lead-off "hitter."

Oh well - Ill let that go for now in the spirit of opening day. Play ball, y'all.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Smiling Through the Pain: the Hitters

On the occasion of Adam Lind's new long term deal, of which I heartily approve and have no reservations at all about, I'll go ahead and get around to giving you my quick take on the hitters going north with the Jays, with the starters listed by Friday night's batting order since Clarance says it will be Monday's as well:


Jose Bautista (RF) - *Sigh* What can be said that has not already been said? Dude can't hit right handed pitching. Oh sure, buy into that hot 100 at bats at the end of 2009 if you want. Believe him when he says he "made an adjustment" and ignore the previous 1900+ plate appearances. But just remember that Rod Barajas had a 100 at bat stretch when his OPS was almost 1.000 last year, too.

Aaron Hill (2B) - I've been going on the assumption that Hill's power outburst last year was a career outlier and that long term he was a guy who'd homer in the low 20's and give you 40ish doubles, too. I figured he'd offset that small regression by walking a bit more this year. But he leads the team in spring homers so, while spring stats don't matter much, maybe I and everyone else was too quick to reach that conclusion.

Adam Lind (DH) - the straw that stirs the drink, I fully expect him to do as well or better than in 2009.

Vernon Wells (CF) - I'm not really that worried that he'll recover offensively. My guess would be something like an .830 OPS (which is pretty much the career number he brought into 2007 when he got on the insane roller coaster of the last three years). It's whether or not he can at least be passable on defense since the Jays seem adamant about not moving him out of that position. On that point, I'm not optimistic.

Lyle Overbay (1B) - If he plays every day, as The Manager has said, he'll be a huge liability vs LHP. If Ruiz platoons with him, he'll be a great asset here.

Edwin Encarnacion (3B) - Hand injury and recovery aside, EE gets far too much disrespect from Jays fans. He's clearly not likely to be a star, but he's produced considerably more offense in his career than Bautista and those who speak of ditching him and installing JB at 3B are . . . not rational.
Defensively, he enjoys a very bad reputation but a closer analysis indicates that he's a perfectly capeble, maybe even above average fielder when it comes to getting to and catching the ball - he makes almost all his errors on throws. It certainly behooves the Jays to see if Brian Butterfield can work his magic and clean up EE's footwork to solve that problem. Admittedly, he could be a disaster this year - but he could also be a very pleasant surprise for those of you who have very low expectations.

John Buck (C) - Is what he is. A somewhat younger and slightly better version of Barajas, at least offensively. It's difficult to asses where he stands defensively, I've seen wildly varying reports. If we are blessed, he'll give way to Arencibia before August begins.

Alex Gonzalez (SS) - has random episodes where he gets his offensive contribution up to league average or so - interspersed with other episodes where he's horrid. no way to know what we'll get from his bat. He'll likely be an above average fielder again, though he's not what he was at his peak.

Travis Snider (LF) - If you, like me, are wondering why I listed eight names before his, then you understand the reference to pain in the title. Everything about Clarance's handling of Snider pisses me off and is wrong, in my opinion. Yes I know, he's the respected baseball professional and I'm the guy who writes about it for free on the internet. Normally I try to show some restraint in assuming I'm smarter than the guy who's getting paid to decide but . . . just damn. Everyone in the baseball world can see this, it's not just me.
For starters, hitting a guy like Snider behind John Buck is foolishness but maybe, just maybe, that could be overlooked, at least initially. You'd just assume The Manager was sucked in by Buck's homer total last year. But hitting behind Gonzalez? There's simply no sanity to a move like that. it's hard to rant about it because it feels like trying to explain to you that the sky really is blue after all.
Secondly, I've heard all the giggles about how bad a Lind-Wells-Snider outfield would be, and possibly they are right. but isn't this write-off developmental season precisely the time when you settle the question of whether or not Snider can play a credible RF once and for all? Yeah, if we were trying to prove something in the win column, then by all means those marginal wins are to be taken seriously. but we're not, are we? I've seen the argument that it hurts the young pitching, but I don't think that, with proper coaching and communication, it has to. I'm of the opinion that a solid ground ball defense is what's key. We don't want our pitchers inducing a lot of fly outs anyway.

Bench:

John McDonald - Another verse, same as the first. Essentially a player-coach at this point
Jose Molina - Pitchers rave about throwing to him, should be good mentor for JPA eventually.
Randy Ruiz - I'm not totally sucked into the feel-good story, at least partly because I figure Clarance is going to screw it up anyway.
Mike McCoy - if all goes well, Joe Inglett 2.0, now with speed. Which is not a bad thing.

I won't extend this post to go into detail right now, but my quick & dirty analysis of this team, in terms of the potential for runs scored and allowed, makes it a slightly below .500 team on paper (irrespective of the multitude of forecasters openly speculating about 90+ loses) and I'm going to extend that a bit and suggest perhaps a bit of karma for all the years the under-preformed their expected results. I usually make my predictions with the understanding of +/- 3 wins, but I'll say up front that this prediction is at the top of that range. My usual prediction would be 80 wins (i.e. anywhere from 77 to 83) but I'm gonna call it 83 wins this time - with the caveat that that's my high-end guess.

I'll glance over the key minor leaguers in the next few days, as time permits.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Smiling Through the Pain

On the eve of the new season, a time in which o0ne ought to be full of joy that real baseball will soon by afoot, it seems that many Jays fans, including your humble host, find themselves squinting hard to look at the happy things and screen out the unpleasantness.

Already it has become a cliche and a byword to note the irrationality of Clarance Gaston, and yet, like Dick Griffin contemplating JP, we just can't turn away from so tempting a target.

But rather than throw off another short forgettable rant in a serious of rants about where i find fault, let me expand this post into something a bit more meaningful. Here's my review and preview of each member of the 25 man roster, plus a few bonus players who are relevant (such as those on the DL). Now that I think of it, I'll probably follow this post within a week with a similar look at key minor league prospects.

Shaun Marcum - There's little I can say here in some regards because I've been pretty clear I'm a believer. Maybe it's irrational optimism but I, for one, do not forsee him being hindered at all by his late surgery and recovery. I'm looking for him to be a staff leader, even without the "Ace" pedigree. A season something like what Jered Weaver had last year, if not better, is what I expect.

Brian Tallet - After a Twitter exchange with Jordan Bastian, and then reading his tweeted quote from Clarance, I find myself depressed/incensed about Tallet as the #2 more than any other issue save one. The Manager says that among the reasons Tallet is #2 is that they wanted the veterans at the front. Bastian tells me that contrary to what I though was an obvious conclusion, Tallet will not in fact be skipped on 4/6 and that means we're going to have a glorified long reliever starting the Home Opener. How depressing is THAT? Has no one considered that when you have the one guaranteed sellout of the year that you MIGHT want someone who's potentially a big part of the future starting instead of a stopgap makeshift starter? Jeez Louise.

I'd been hoping that Tallet would be out of the rotation by no later than mid-May but every time I think to myself "Be patient, it's only temporary" they go out and defy all logic.

Ricky Romero - One of my trademarks is to call people on the habit of writing off Jays players in a sort of pre-emptive negativist mentality, and I did that throughout Romero's minor league career while the legion was saying "we coulda had Tulo!"

Nevertheless, I have been trying all winter to remain rational about Romero's 2010 and had taken it as a base assumption that he'd need to work through some of his second half issues from last year before really being established. But there are a lot of reports saying that Romero took the winter to clear up that bit of business and that he looks primed for a big year. I'm a sucker for that sort of talk and so I've got one foot on the Romero bandwagon.

Brandon Morrow - when ask in a recent survey about which Jays would have a "breakout season" I had a two-word answer: Brandon Morrow. I would almost end this paragraph with "Nuf Said" but I will say one thing more - my only reservation here is whether or not the Jays will shut him down early because he doesn't have a history of a lot of innings in a year, or whether they will ride him out and hope it doesn't come back on them. My feeling is it will probably be the latter, but if it's the former, it might hinder the preception that Morrow has "leveled up" this year.

Dana Eveland - I'm treating him with basically zero expectations. We might luck out and get a "Towers '05" season out of him, or we might see him implode and be replaced by Cecil/Zep/McG by the end of May at the latest. A surprise season would be nice but we have enough potential alternatives that it matters very little if we get an implosion instead.

Jason Frasor - I'm gonna guess that we're going to see a big contract year push here. Frasor will make himself a fan favorite this year.

Scott Downs - Will do what he always does when healthy, and be very valuable doing it. Either of these too might get dealt in July though.

Kevin Gregg - While not possessed of the same sort of stuff, I think Gregg will make us all think of Billy Koch (and not in a good way) when and if he handles a save situation. I'm very pessimistic here, with the only hope I cling to being that Walton can show him how to maximize his best tendencies.

Jesse Carlson - opens the year on the DL simply because he needs a couple of weeks to build up some innings. I expect he'll do very well this year (he really wasn't as bad as most think last year - 3 or 4 VERY bad outings skewed the final line) as long as The Manager doesn't abuse him.

Casey Janssen - I look for big things here, if we didn'thave so much young pitching coming I'd be raising hell that he wasn't the one in the rotation instead of Tallet, but I figure the tide of youth is gonna displace a couple of guys anyway so Janssen might as well stake out some turf here. Hopefully he can regulate Gregg to the mop-up innings if Clarance will give him the chance.

Shawn Camp - smarter analysts than me have pointed out just how much Camp has improved as a Blue Jay as opposed to his previous work. Last spring I dismissed Camp as a player who should have been non-tendered, and I will not be so disrespectful again given his work in 2009. But that said, I can't be irrational enough to suggest that no one in the bullpen will regress. I don't think Camp will be as good as 2009, but he'll provide fine yeoman's work out of the bullpen in the shadow of other higher profile pitchers.

Merkin Valdez - I have no clue. The Jays seem to really like his arm. But whether he'll run with the chance or flounder in an "undefined role" is anyone's guess.

Jeremy Accardo - Won a reprieve, despite not really running with any opportunities in the spring. I'm on record as believing he's a good pitcher and an asset, but whether or not he gets a chance to be one for the Jays is a matter of grave doubt. I'm pretty convinced his days in our organization are coming quickly to an end. I'd go so far as to suggest that the main reason for his non-demotion had to do with maintaining some small trade value. Still, he's on a very short clock because he's the obvious potential victim of Carlson's impending recall.

David Purcey - Reports from Jays' bigwigs are that all the right people are mightily impressed by Purcey the Reliever (as opposed to Purcey the failed starter). Someone reported that JP had concluded that Purcey didn't have what it took to be a starter "between the ears" and apparently he's not alone in that opinion. On the other hand, a few whispers are beginning to circulate that his two-pitch reliever incarnation might even be good enough to invoke the word "closer." not that the Jays don't have a few alternatives, but don't be shocked if it's Purcey who inherits that job when Frasor is gone.

Brett Cecil - Did everything right done the stretch in ST, and deserved to make the rotation. No one has invoked the "service time" issue here, but it might be in play. Reportedly Cecil was told that he'd be the first starter called wen the Jays needed someone. My bet is when he arrives next time, it will be to stay. Mike Wilner, for one, says that he was commanding late in the spring and looked like a top of the rotation guy, not just a plug in.

Marc Rzepzynski - His injury will keep him out six weeks, my guess is that Cecil is up before that time and Zep might spent a few weeks beyond his recovery date biding his time in AAA. That kind of depends on how well Eveland fares, and on how quickly McGowan progresses. He also has to look over his shoulder a bit at Drabek. I like Zep a lot, even though he's the "trendy" pick this spring. But even so, his window of opportunity is limited. The injury could be career altering, even though it's not real serious.

Dustin McGowan - no way to predict. Still might very well be done if his velocity doesn't come back (think about the perennial failed attempts to come back by Mark Mulder), still might yet step up and be a giant among men, however briefly (think Chris Carpenter). It's anyone's guess.

Scott Richmond - might be the forgotten man by the time he recovers.

Jesse Litsch - Jays can afford to go real slow with him. Will be difficult for him to get back into the mix if others play up to their potential. Might be more convenient to give him the whole season off even if he doesn't really need it.

Josh Roenicke - like Cecil, promised he'd be the first man called should there be a bullpen need. A presumptive future closer, the best thing he can do is just kick AAA ass and not worry about the depth in front of him. It's a pretty good problem to have if you have a guy as good as Roenicke is pushed back to Las Vegas because you are so deep.

Due to length, I'm going to make a snap decision to put the hitters in a separate post. Maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Update to the Update

According to Morgan Campbell, via Twitter, Cecil and Roenicke are being dispatched to Vegas.

That means Eveland and Tallet in the rotation and Accardo and Valdez in the bullpen (until Carlson get's his innings in - two weeks at most).

A lot of popular sentiment had been that Cecil had pitched well enough to earn a spot. His job now is to maintain a positive attitude and not get pissed and distracted by the demotion. He can go down to Vegas and force the team's hand if he stays focused. He's on the clock too. He needs to make that case BEFORE Zep (and McGowan) get's healthy and ready to pitch. But then, my guess is that Tallet and possibly Eveland as well will help make the case for the kids in time. They might start off well, but I think they will be exposed over time.

The other thing here is Accardo. As much as I'm ready to watch Cecil grow, I'm happy Accardo avoided the "options" shaft for now. Of course, Clarance can still let him sit out there and rust so that being in the majors will do him little good, but hopefully he can focus (without trying TOO hard) and at least make himself more attractive to teams looking for bullpen help when he does get out there.