Monday, May 31, 2010

MPPR: May

Well, I had about half of this baby typed out earlier - saved even which I don't always remember to do - and a brief power outage killed it and upon my return I find that the saved version is . . . quite a damned long way from what all I had done so, grudgingly, I start over. So I'm rather ill-inclined to do the bells and whistles here. Rather it's pretty just my comment on each guy rather than citations of stats and links to player pages and all the stuff I had intended. Pardon the typos, I'm not in the mood for proofreading.

Catcher:

JP Arencibia - was going through the floor with a massive slump that extended into mid-May, but since then he's turned it completely around. He's now on a pace to match his counting stat totals from 2009, save with more hits and more walks. obviously, though, such wild swings speak to the sample size caveat. We still don't know entierly what we have yet.

Brian Jeroloman - has had no significant slump, has gotten better as the season has gone on, and now has an OPS over 1.000, there's nothing more he can do to push for a promotion. Even if it means some difficulty in both of these guys getting at bats - for which I'd co-opt the DH at bats - it's going to have to happen at some point.

Travis d'Arnaud - a bit rusty in the 10 games since coming off the DL, he'll need some more time before the team can be confident about moving him up to AA. but the New Hampshire squad has a competent guy to start until that day comes. And it very likely will come by mid-season.

AJ Jimenez - Batter's box has a nice interview with Dunedin Manager Sal Fasano in which he raves about Jimenez. Here's the relevant part:

I think AJ is a very skilled individual, he is one of the most skilled guys I have seen at his age. He can throw like I have not seen a young kid do. What is also nice is that you don't get too many latins who can speak perfect English and Spanish and he has a good grasp of both so he can communicate with both types of pitchers. His work ethic is good, he is still young and I am not sure about his durability yet. That is my only questions about him. But I love him, if he ever makes it to the big leagues he is the type of kid that has a chance to win a world series. I think he is special.


That sort of talk has to excite you. Still, to be clear, I think Jimenez is likely to spend the whole season at Lansing consolidating his offensive game. Even though I expect Jeroloman and d'Arnaud to get promotions later in the season, the Jays have other options to start in Dunedin, namely . . .

Yan Gomes - He's under the radar a bit, because he's no better than the jays sixth best catching prospect - and he's having a slow May - but that doesn't mean he isn't a good prospect, and the Jays will want to give him an extended opportunity to call attention to himself if they can.

The other top catching prospect is Carlos Perez, who will begin play soon in Auburn. Recent signee Santiago Nessy will apparently start off in the DSL.

First Base:

Brett Wallace - still a stud, but in the midst of a mild slump right now which has resulted in his numbers coming down from their previous lofty levels. Overbay haters take note, this isn't the best time to call Wallace and no one should expect him in Toronto before the break, at the earliest.

David Cooper - Still unimpressive overall, but mentioned here because he's in the midst of his hottest streak since reaching AA. Far too early to say if he's turned the corner but we'll keep one eye on him.

Mike McDade - Big Mike is having a Massive May and if it's a new level of performance instead of a passing hot month, we'll have to say a lot more about him in the future.

2010 draftee KC Hobson will likely be in the Auburn lineup when the Doubledays start their season.

Second Base:


Jarret Hoffpauir - the non-prospect demands your attention. There's really no place for him in the Jays' future, but maybe at some point he does well enough to have some value to a team short on middle infield talent. Keep that in perspective though, a minor leaguer who's not considered a serious prospect only has a limited amount of trade value.

Brad Emaus - I've been listing his guy among third basemen, given that seems to me to be his clearest path to the majors, but between Jose Bautista's shenanigans and the emergence of Shawn Bowman at third in AA, I've shifted him back here for now. Emaus' may was not as impressive as his April, but he's still drawing a noteworthy number of walks. I'm still high on him.

Scott Campbell - still on the DL.

John Tolisano - at some point I'm going to stop mentioning him altogether. He's still not doing enough to make me thing you need a monthly report on what he's not doing. Still, I don't write anyone off altogether at 21.

Shortstops:


Adeiny Hechavarria - Yes it's true, the Jays don't have a shortstop worth talking about above A ball. Still, if you read the Bob Elliot piece printed Sunday, there's a LOT to say about Adeiny. The sample size is obviously too small for me to say much about his offensive performance to date, but the more that's said about this kid, the more exciting he sounds.

Tyler Pastornicky - Playing second while Adeiny is in town, Pastornicky shows some good signs but he's not setting the league on fire (not that a 20 year old should be expected to). I'm on record as being impressed with this guy but not as impressed as a lot of my fellow Jays prospect watchers. i think he's holding his own but he's definately a second tier prospect at best.

Justin Jackson - still on the DL

Ryan Goins - the most advanced hitter on the Lansing squad, Goins is nevertheless also blocked out by the backlog above him. He'll hopefully benefit from a full season in Lansing.

Gustavo Pierre will also be in short season ball, hopefully at Auburn. Though his future may now ultimately be at 3B.

Third Base:

Shawn Bowman - scooped up from the Mets in a little noticed waiver claim, Bowman has so far - sample size alert - been a revelation for the AA club. The Canadian righty has a .889 OPS and as many walks as strikeouts. He's also 25 years old and behind, well, no one of importance in AAA. My guess is that he'll be in AAA before the break so that Emaus can move back to 3B.

Kevin Ahrens - the less said the better.

Mark Sobolewski - One has to wonder why the Jays don't just recognize that he's two years older than Ahrens and swap the two of them. while his power has slacked off over the last couple of weeks, Sobo has done considerably more at Lansing than Ahrens ever did and there's a limit to what you can learn from having a 23 year old in Lo-A ball.

Outfield:

Chris Lubanski - the former high draft pick is doing his best to re-establish his prospect status. While it's difficult to see where he'd fit into the Jays future, and while one has to take PCL power with more than a grain of salt, his .939 OPS combined with his pedigree at least deserves mention.

Eric Thames - Just consistently rolling through the season. He leads the talented AA squad with 10 homers (and 49 strikeouts) and has been the #3 hitter for virtually every game. At 23, the Jays can afford to let him continue to build momentum for a couple more months.

Adam Loewen - Continues to build results in an upward direction. Loewen, 26, had a .695 OPS at Dunedin last year, though it was almost .200 points higher in the second half than in the first half. This year, pushed ahead to AA, his April mark was .721 and in May it's been .858. I'd be shocked if there wasn't a mid-season promotion in his future if he keeps this up.

Darin Mastorianni - a .781 OPS in May, 20 steals v. 2 caught on the season, almost as many walks as strikeouts t AA new Hampshire this year - I'm still getting a Scott Podsednick vibe off this guy. I'm not sure he's a fit for the Jays future but I'll bet he knocks around the bigs for several years before he's done.

Moises Sierra - still on the DL.

Wellinton Ramirez - The Dunedin RF has been pretty much under the radar among Jays' prospects until this month when he posted a .923 OPS. He's one of those guys who was signed raw and young out of the Dominican (in 2003 actually) who has taken a while to put things together. He still strikes out too much, but keep an eye on him.

Jake Marisnick is also slated for the Auburn squad.

Starting pitchers:

Marc Rzepczyinxki - has lost his rookie eligibility but, in my opinion, if you haven't established yourself for good in the majors, you are a prospect. Zep has had a though time getting his mechanics back after his injury. Reports (which have admittedly been sparse) seem to indicate he's seen a drop in fastball velocity and his location is elevated. Don't lose faith though, he's still a guy with very good potential.

Brad Mills - Mills burned through April like a house afaire, and has pitched in May like his ass was what was burning. His control deserted him, his K rate plummeted, and the hits piled up at an alarming rate. But a closer examination reveals that all that damage came in 2 of the last three starts. It's unclear what's gone wrong for Mills but there's far too much competition for the Jays' rotation for him to be having such setbacks and remain a viable alternative.

Bobby Ray - the injury prone Ray seemed to be finding his grove before finding himself back on the DL.

Kyle Drabek - Hasn't been dominating, but hasn't embarrassed himself like certain others. Jays can afford to leave him until he forces their hand.

Zach Stewart - In and out of the rotation as the Jays try to figure out what's wrong with his mechanics. it;s unclear if the poor results derive from the jays asking him to work at mastering a particular pitch, or correct some other mechanical issue, or whether he's just plain old having a bad year. He did have two effective starts previous to his last start so perhaps there's progress. Nevertheless, he's nowehre close to being promoted.

Bobby Bell - On the DL. Was giving up too many hits before he was hurt, despite solid, nay excellent BB:K ratios.

Randy Boone - quietly leading the AA staff. I expect he might be the first among these to reach AAA this year.

Luis Perez - control has fallen apart. His ERA in May is over 6.

Henderson Alvarez - Got absolutely PASTED in his last outing and saw his ERA skyrocket all the way to . . . 2.42 - this guy might be kinda good. He's given up 13 earned runs in nine starts, six of them in that one bad outing. Still looking for the strikeouts a bit but it's a minor quibble. Another thing to note, in over 245 minor league innings he's given up only eight homers - and four of them came in that last game.

Joel Cerrano - has an ERA of exactly 3 over his last eight appearances, and a BB:K ratio of 16:72 in 54.2 IP - it's time we started paying some attention to this guy.

Chuck Huggins - the 24 year old lefty doesn't ever really get mentioned among the Jays better prospects but he dominated in Dunedin (2.08 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP) before being called to NH to start one half of Saturday's double-header. Guys like this typically find life more difficult as they climb the ladder, but not always.

Chad Jenkins - tossed six shutout innings to finish May with a bang. Jays' personnel say the 2009 draftee still has some things to learn about pro ball, and his pitching coach says he'd like to see him stay in Lansing a while yet but, that said, the 55:11 K:BB ration makes you sit up and take notice.

Evan Crawford - had a 2.75 ERA after his May 18 start, but has taken his lumps in the last two starts.

Relief pitchers:

Trystan Magnuson - has five walks and 28 strikeouts in 30 IP in AA, and with his 25th birthday looming, he's overdue to try his hand at AAA hitters.

Tim Collins - doesn't have the sparkeling ERA that Magnuson has, but 3.70 isnt shameful when you have his supporting stats. Since he's just 20 though, he likely has a coupel more months at AA.

Danny Farquhar - has had a miserable May. The month can't end soon enough for him.

Frank Gailey - You've (likely) never heard of him. 30 K's and 2 walks says maybe you should. Flip side is he's old for the league (24) and really ought to be replacing some of the deadwood in New Hampshire.

Alan Farina - a 23 year old RHP, Farina's stats are almost as good as the left handed Gailey's, and arguably better. Farina matches him in strikeouts, in seven fewer innings. He's walked nine, but he's also given up only 13 hits. They do have this in common - both are due for promotion.

Matt Wright - in general, relieving at Lo-A ball is a pretty good sign you're not a real prospect, but Wright, and teammate Dustin Antolin, have solid impressive work so far.

I'll forgo updating the prospect list this month, look for a mid-season list as we near the break.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Who's doing what?

So, we're almost to the 1/3 mark in the MLB season (and well past the 1/3 mark in the minors) so there's a lot to talk about, in terms of statistics. while it's not quite the end of May yet, I'm going to go ahead and fudge that and take a look at the Monthly Positional Prospect Review (MPPR) for the farm system today, but first I'm going to engage in a bunch of totally useless observations on the Major league roster.

Among the hitters, if you did a simple pro-rate, then you get seasons that look like this (counting stats):

Bautista: 34 doubles, 6 triples, 50 HR, 128 RBI, 9 steals
Wells: 57 - 3 - 41 - 114 - 6
Buck: 43 - 0 - 28 - 93 - 0
Gonzalez: 51 - 3 - 35 - 101 - 3
Encarnacion: 20 - 0 - 44 - 112 - 6
Overbay: 33 - 2 - 22 - 76 - 0
Hill: 20 - 0 - 32 - 68 - 4
Lind: 28 - 0 - 22 - 82 - 0

Now, of course, it's insanely unlikely that such pace's continue, and there will be variation all around. For instance, Alex Gonzalez's homer this afternoon was his first since May 8. Coming into today, his OPS for may was .647 and his OPS since April 16 is .696 which is much more what we might expect from him from here on out. Still, he'll quite possibly reach the mid-20's in homers.

Lind, on the other hand, will almost certainly pick up the pace. I still think that the "non-homer" offense will pick up enough to offset the inevitable slacking off of Buck, Gonzo, EE, and to a lesser extent Overbay, Bautista, and Wells. But the Jays have hit 53 homers in May (so far!) and that's an unsustainable pace.

This entry is already going to skew towards massive so I won't take time to break down every Jays hitter but I do want to make a few other quick points: First, Wells may very well stay this good all year. He DOES have the ability to do this well and his longest slump so far this year was only six games.

Second, the ever enigmatic Jose Bautista. It is VERY easy to be a sucker for post-hoc reasoning. Bautista explained in a recent interview about how Cito and Dewayne Murphy "fixed" him by teaching him to start his bat earlier, and that he was able to really apply that after Alex Rios departed and he (Baustista) took over as the full time right fielder. No one in baseball has hit more homers than JB since September 1, 2009 - a span which now totals exactly 1/2 season worth of games. He has a .951 OPS over that span and, most indecipherable, he's doing it by pounding RHP.
I'm loath to "buy in" to the idea that this is the new normal for Bautista, but while I recently predicted he'd cool considerably, I'm warming to the idea that this is quite possibly our Brady Anderson moment. It may very well be that he has a completely off-the-curve year this year. But more importantly, long term, is whether or not the actual "new normal" is good enough that the Jays need to start thinking about a multi-year contract which installs Bautista as the Jays 3B for the next few years (after EE is presumably gone). The new normal doesn't have to be 40+ homers in order for him to be a better offensive option at 3B than will be easily obtained in the next year or two.

It's interesting to note, in passing, that the much maligned Overbay is on pace to match his career high in home runs. The reason it's interesting is that Overbay is being described as being sucky this year at the plate (most of the time he has been) and yet in other years he's maligned for not showing "typical" corner infielder power. I'm thinking we'd all be happy to see the old "get on base" Overbay back. Also, Overbay now has a 1.000 OPS over the last 17 games.

About Encarnacion, I'll simply invoke the sample size caveat. while I DO think he's going to be a valuable hitter this year, and quite possibly our most valuable trade chip in July, I DON'T think he'll remotely threaten 40 homers. Best case I'd guess 30-32 depending on number of at bats.

Finally, I'll note that Hill, even at his worst, still shows the power he had last year, and assert that both he and Lind will step up the pace in a huge way as the season wears on.

Turning to the pitching side of the ledger . . .

Rickey Romero's complete game effort lowered his ERA to 3.14, made hin the third Jays starter to have 5 wins, and installed him as the AL leader in strikeouts (one behind Tim Lincicum for the major league lead);

Shawn Marcum is now 4th in the AL in ERA, and among the league leaders in WHIP and some other catagories as well;

Brett Cecil has a 1.66 ERA over his last three starts, and a 2.45 ERA in all games beside that unfortunate 2 innings in Texas.

To engage in a bit of homerism, I have a lot more faith that those three will be almost that good throughout the season. It's still unclear, however, when or if Morrow is going to harness his stuff, and whether Jesse Litsch (or someone) can step in to the other spot and be effective. We have the makings of a rotation as good as Tampa's if we can pull together the 4 and 5 spots.

There's little to say about the bullpen, except to speculate that Josh Roenicke will be the guy who's dropped for Brian Tallet. Did I mention that the Jays are going to give that Tuesday start to Tallet?

Looking ahead, I'll repeat what every other observer has said about the Jays' June - YIKES! 33 of the 37 games between now and the All-Star break are against good to very good teams. I'm already going to prepare myself mentally for the potential that the Jays might be back around .500 by the break (12 out of 16 out of the break are easy opponents too, btw) but if they play even .500 ball over this stretch they'll announce their presence with authority.

For the sake of length, I'll separate the major league discussion from the MPPR, which will be up shortly.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Perfection! (and stuff)

No need for me to get all slobbery about Doc's Perfecto tonight. it's not like we didn't all know it was coming at some point. I'll just say consider the hat tipped, Mr. Halladay, you are the best at what you do.

In other news...

ITEM: Kendry Morales broke his leg in the process of celebrating his grand slam homer tonight (can you say freak injury?) and will be out 10-12 weeks (can you say "Overbay to the Angels"? I knew you could!)

ITEM: With Tuesday's unannounced start looming for the Jays, speculation is difficult regarding whom they will choose. Eveland is out, Ray is injured, Litsch can't be activated yet, Tallet is listed as tomorrow's starter at AAA, Zep got rocked again tonight and doesn't look like himself at all so far, and that leaves Mills, who's coming off his worst stretch of the season. He was rocked in two of his last three starts.
Even though Cito denied it a couple of days ago, my hunch is a start-by-committee. Possibly with Camp getting the start (though sentimentally, I'd like to see it be Janssen). Reportedly the Jays brass talked it over today and plan to make an announcement probably Monday.

ITEM: Jim Callas at Baseball America has the honor of putting out the first mock draft I've seen that has the Jays taking my favorite target in the upcoming draft - Austin Wilson. It's true Wilson is somewhat raw but he's said to have outstanding toold and off the chart makeup. Think Alex Rios with passion. He's also said to be a very difficult sign but, here's my logic: this is called a fairly weak draft, with next year's crop expected to be noticeably better; so what better time to gamble on a hard sign with the #11 pick, knowing you'll get the pick back in a stronger draft next year if you fail?
The counterargument, of course, is that you'd be forced to take a safer signing with that pick next year but still, having two first rounders in a strong draft mitigates that, in my opinion. My second choice, tentatively, is now between Michael Choice and Nick Castellanos. Not to disrespect the several HS pitchers the Jays have been linked to, I just have less of a feel for which of those stands above the rest.

ITEM: The Jays broke the team record for homers in a month today, with two days to go. The reached 50 homers for May by way of two from Lyle Overbay (!) and the second in two games from Aaron Hill (PLEASE be out of that slump!) as well as Vernon Wells' 13th of the year. Wells, by the way, has now passed Joe Carter for second place on the all time lsit for home runs in a Blue Jays uniform. Wells has more milestones upcoming: 57 at bats to pass Lloyd Mosbey for second place, 268 to pass Tony Fernandez for first; 26 runs to pass Mosbey for second place on that list; he's also 31 doubles behind Delgado but that would be hard to reach this year.

ITEM: Monthly minor league position reviews coming up in the next couple of days.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Up, Down, in, out?

David Purcey is back.

I kind of expected when the Jays announced Dana Eveland was to be designated for assignment that Purcey was the logical guy to get the call, and Richard Griffin has some words with Mr. Purcey and Cito on the subject here.

Griffin speculates, not without basis, that Purcey's stay might be short. The dispatching of Eveland (not remotely unexpected) means the Jays will need to spot in a fifth starter on June 1, and that person is very likely to be Brian Tallet. So when Tallet is activated, one of the Blue Jays' eight relievers will have to ship out (barring an injury in the mean time) - that will almost certainly be Purcey or Josh Roenicke. If Purcey impresses well enough to get the selection there - more on that in a sec - then the next potential date with destiny is June 10, which is the next time the Jays will need a #5.

It is possible that the Jays will pitch Tallet each time they need a #5 in July (6/1, 6/10, 6/15, 6/26) but I have a not insignificant hunch that Jesse Litsch will start at TB on 6/10 and the jays will go with the standard five man rotation thereafter.

As for the call between Purcey and Roenicke, it's not clear cut because both have only one issue - lack of control. Roenicke seemed to have been in a grove in Vegas, walking only one in his first eight IP, while Purcey - who was otherwise showing a lot of promise - was still walking too many. But when Roenicke was recalled a month ago, he left whatever progress he'd made in Vegas - nine walks in nine IP. If Purcey can bring better results in his trial, he might move ahead of Roenicke (for now) on the depth chart. The reality is that the Jays have more major league worthy relievers than they do spots in the majors.

Speaking (as we were a moment ago) of Eveland, there's no news so far of anyone sniffing around claiming him (not surprising given how thoroughly the wheels came off) and he's already said he'll accept the demotion to Vegas if he clears waivers. The rule is the Jays have 10 days to wait while he clears, which would mean he could be shipped to Vegas on June 3 . . . which just so happens to be the day Litsch is eligible to be activated. Right now I don't read too much into that because if my guess is right, the Jays will let Litsch start in Vegas on 6/5 (at least) but it's worth making passing note of.

On the hitting side, the speculation is already aflame about how the Jays will handle the return of Travis Snider. If he comes back on schedule, he'll arrive on the eve of a month in which the Jays have 4 off days in the first three weeks so there's no obvious need to rest players. Nonetheless, there will be 10 quality hitters (yes, I'm still counting Hill and will continue to) for 9 spots.

Let's start the discussion by laying aside the SS and C positions. Whatever is done with the excess hitters won't affect either.

Among the others:
Lyle Overbay - Hitting .313 with an .874 OPS over his last 12 games, equaling his longest good stretch of the year. If he goes back to struggling over the next week, he invites reduced playing time but right now he's doing what he gets paid to do;

Aaron Hill - the .150ish BBiP is well reported by now and Hill is clearly mired in one of the worst slumps in his career, due partly, no doubt, to pressing and partly to bad luck. but he's not going to be permenantly benched;

Edwin Encarnacion - In seven games since coming off the DL he has an (unsustainable) OPS of 1.614 but sustainable or not, you don't interrupt that groove lightly. I do think, however, that with health he'll prove himself a slugger capable of reaching the mid-to-hgh 20's at least;

Fred Lewis - The newcomer has a .320 BA and an .886 OPS in the month of May, plus he's the fastest guy on a fairly slow team.;

Vernon Wells - V-Dub has cooled from his insane May but let's not entertain any illusions he'll lose real playing time no matter what;

Travis Snider - Over the two weeks prior to his injury, Snider hit .385 (1.187) and everyone will want to see where he picks up from that;

Jose Bautista - the International Man of Mystery (so-called because no one on Earth can figure out where THIS shit came from) keeps on spitting in the metaphorical eye of skeptics like myself. He has 10 home runs and a 1.125 OPS in May, he was already a favorite of Cito and he could never get another single hit this year and it would take Cito until the break to consider pulling him.

So what's to do?

I propose that each man get one day in seven off until and unless someone else is hurt. when Lind is off, EE can play 3B as well as when EE is off. it might be tricky to play Bautista at 2B or 1B, but he has experience there. Spelling all outfielders is obvious. One assumes someone, if not more than one, will be dealt in late July and if so, then ech player will miss about 7 games over the next two months (again, assuming health). I like that solution better than sitting one guy most of the time. Of course, if it worries you that he play poorly at 2B or 1B then the plan can be modified, but the upshot is, i think "who sits?" is kind of the wrong question.

Six Days until the real tests come - but at least they are beating who they are supposed to for a change.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sayonara, Randy

The story is easily found everywhere, of course, that the Jays waived Randy Ruiz who then hooked up with a Japanese team. but there's more to it than a simple pair of unrelated transactions. According to the lovely and talented Erika Gilbert, writing in the National Post, there's much more.

It seems that Alex Anthopoulos (and/or his staff) not only allowed Ruiz to peruse a more profitable option (and while figures aren't released, you can bet Ruiz probably quadrupled his MLB salary if not more) but, in point of fact, facilitated the deal. Gilbert writes that the Jays were approached about selling Ruiz over the off-season and while, at the time, the roster was too uncertain for the team to part with the slugger, they kept the possibility alive. This spring, as the roster was shaping up in a way unfavorable to Ruiz getting a lot of at-bats, the Jays picked up that thread. The two teams have been working out the details since the end of Spring Training (and it's a reasonable speculation that Ruiz's "personal days" a little while back are connected to the deal, perhaps for a physical and other procedural matters) and today Ruiz gets a chance to cash in with not only the blessing but the assist of the Toronto Blue Jays.

In my opinion, this reflects pretty darned well on the team. And yes, it is a no-brainer for Ruiz. He's 32 and three years away from arbitration. He'd almost certainly never break out of the minimum salary bracket in the major leagues. Ruiz told Richard Griffin he was "set for life" and I don't doubt it. It's as good a feel-good ending to the Ruiz story as we could have hoped for.

One other brief note here, don't turn your lonely eyes to Dopirak. First, he's still struggling in AAA which has been his career pattern (long slow adjustment to new level) and second, even if the Jays shockingly promoted him before September, he'd get even less chance than Ruiz got this year. Presuming health, the combination of Bautista, Snider, and EE will easily fill the few at bats Ruiz might have gotten.

***

The Beest has spoken again, this time with 590's Mike Hogan this morning. He had some interesting things to say (albeit elaborating on previous points rather than giving really new information) about the Jays and money. For instance:

Hogan: Paul, is there an opportunity to expand the budget, if this team remains close into August?
Beeston: Absolutely. . . . I think it's fair to say we had to talk them into reducing the salaries . . . if we go to them and say 'things are going a bit differently'...that wouldn't be a problem.

Now, one can argue that they might should have spent some of that money this last off-season but honestly, IMO, there were not any "obvious targets" this last winter that fit the potential openings on this team, with the lone exception of Johnny Damon. but when Hogan asked a similar question this was Beeston's reply:

Look I don't mean to categorize free agents as "A" free agents and "B" free agents but we're looking to go after "A" free agents. What we're looking to go after using two from the past couple of years is Sabathia and Texeria. You know, those type of free agents. the ones that are going to put you over the top. but those aren't going to come here right now . . . they tend to go where they think they have a (immediate) chance to win.

I find that idea very enticing, albeit I sometimes think that the Jays have a guy i want to see succeed at every position on the way except perhaps 3B. I'm not sure who they would sign, but then prospects often fail so we'll see in a year or two.

Anyway, if he's to be believed it's hard not to be giddy about the upcoming years. also towards the end, he commented on the "game experience" but he seldom seems to show a connection to the oft-voiced complaints about that. Still, not being an area resident I'll leave discussion of that to those who actually get to go to SkyDome (yes, I know, I said SkyDome - deal with it)

***

All yall Overbay haters, just a bit of a heads up here - over his last seven he's hitting .346/.393/.731/1.124 so might be a chance to step back and see if he's really turning the corner this time (he had another run like this, eight games long, in April but just because that one cooled quickly doesn't mean this one will). In any case, kinda stupid to be booing a guy who's actually hitting well at the moment (and yes I know, eight games on the road no home fans are booing him but the drumbeat goes on on-line). In a similar vein, I actually saw some comments which implied that Brett Cecil might be on thin ice after ONE bad start. Some of you folks need to simmer the fuck down. Cecil informed you of this tonight, in case you didn't get the message. Anyone who can so quickly forget May 3 needs a slap upside their head anyway.

***

Notes from the Farm-
Travis d'Arnaud is finally back from the DL;
Adeiny has seven games under his belt. All his hits so far are singles;
Don't look now but Adam Loewen is sneaking up on you. It's now too close to call between he and Eric Thames on who's making the better case for promotion;
Kyle Drabek's last five starts make up an impressive run, particularly in terms of improved control;
David Purcey has shown good control over his last 10 appearances, and may well have moved to the top of the "who's next?" list for bullpen help;

***

According to Baseball Prospectus' Adjusted Standings, the Jays came into tonight's play with the second best record according to Third ROrder wins in all of baseball (behind only the Rays). I'm under no illusions that the Jays are not still a pretty long shot to contend for the post-season but I don't expect a collapse like last season. After the next 10 relatively soft games (which i expect them to win as many as seven of) 33 of the remaining 37 games before the break are going to be against teams who are quite good (or at least have good records) and I wouldn't be surprised to see a relatively sharp drop off in winning percentage over that stretch but it's not that difficult to imagine them reaching the break with a +.500 record. They them come out of the break with 16 winnable games. This makes for some interesting decisions come late July.

As NuKirk says, "Buckle up!"


Monday, May 17, 2010

All You Zombies...

(props to anyone who gets that reference without the aid of Google)

So, how about a six man rotation? Seven? Eight? Soon the Jays might be addressing the sticky wicket of "too much pitching."

After Brandon Morrow redeemed himself tonight from the Boston Massacre, we are back to a place where we have apparently four rotation spots locked in and the fifth not exactly begging to be replaced. It is a given that Marcum and Romero are untouchable, and it seems at this point pretty unlikely that Cecil or Morrow are going to be pushed aside. Eveland, though he seems certain to be the fall guy, has a 2.23 ERA this year against all teams not based in Boston.

Still, that only opens up one spot. The problem is we need at least two and that's assuming Uncle Clarance can get over his man-crush on Brian Tallet.

Here's the scenario:

Jesse Litsch completed his second rehab start at Dunedin today and will move up to AA for his next apperance likely on May 21. If he gets two starts there and moves up for at least one in Vegas, then he'll be potentially ready to be activated soon after he's eligible on June 3. The Jays have a series against Litsch's home-town Rays in Tampa on June 8-10, and if he started twice in Vegas his next turn would fall in that getaway game on June 10.

But wait! There's more!

LH Marc Rzepcyznski will get his first rehab start in Las Vegas Tuesday night, according to the National Post's John Lott. This comes per Alex A who adds that Brian Tallet will also get a rehab start in Vegas near the end of the week. If Zep gets two Vegas starts, he'd be in line to return to the Blue Jays rotation as early as May 28 vs. Baltimore. But if Zep bumps Eveland, then whiter Jesse Litsch?

For the sake of this discussion we have to assume Tallet returns as a reliever because if not, we're going to have to delve into quantum physics or something to solve this equation.

What to expect? Well, given the Jays' history over the last few seasons, expect more injuries to solve the problem. But barring that, my hunch is that when the Jays activate Zep he'll remain in the AAA rotation until something happens to change the situation (and thus they will prefer to have Litsch return to the rotation for now).

When Litsch and Tallet are back on the team, it's my hope that the Jays find a trade partner who'll be interested in making a small investment in Dana Eveland (presumably an NL team that doesn't have to play Boston). Doing so makes for a clearer path to the rotation for Zep and rewards Eveland for the progress he made this year. (on a similar but unrelated note, I'd like to see the Blue Jays try to place Ruiz with an offensively challenged club like Seattle when EE comes back, rather than just toss him aside - not that I'm under any illusion that he has trade value - just think it would be nice if they give him a little boost)

Mind you, I'm not arguing for or against the idea of Litsch taking precedent over Zep - I'm just pointing out that it seems the most likely outcome.

One thing that might be well observed here though - last year's surprise start fizzled in large part because of injuries in the rotation (from the high point of the early surge down to the all-star game, a stretch of 50 games, 12 of them were started by youngsters who were not ready or recovering injured pitchers - and 11 were started by Brian Tallet who posted a 5.14 ERA over that stretch). If the Jays find themselves plagued by injuries again, having Zep backed up at AAA (to say nothing of Mills and other options) is a much better situation.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Quick Tour of the Farm

Inspired by this insightful interview with Top Prospect Kyle Drabek, here's an off-day tour of the farm system and some players to keep your eye on:

2009 First Rounder Chad Jenkins, pitching for Lansing, has a 3.04 ERA over his last 4 starts with only 4 walks against 25 strikeouts over those 26.2 innings; Reliever Matt Wright has 23 strikeouts in 13 innings, but keep in mind he's 23 years old;

Lansing 3B Mark Sobolewski is hitting .359 over the last 10 games, shortstop (and 2009 draftee) Ryan Goins has a .316 BA over those same games with seven walks to boot;

At Dunedin, big 1B Mike McDade is schorching a .421 batting average in his last 10 games; one time first rounder Kevin Ahrens is showing some signs of life, hitting .261 in his last 6 games, but he has a lot more proving to do;

2007 Alan Farina is showing his first signs of life as a pro, striking out 19 in 14 2010 innings with a 2.57 ERA - like Wright he's a bit old for the level but not extremely so;

My man Brad Emaus homered and walked twice tonight and his OPS for the year is still an impressive .956; Pitcher-turned-outfielder Adam Loewen has found a groove over the last 10, hitting .294 with a .959 OPS;

The aforementioned Kyle Drabek has found a groove in his last 4 starts, posting a 2.59 ERA and striking out 7 in each game;

Non-prospect Jarret Hoffpauir (playing second earlier and now third in Las Vegas) has cooled a bit over his last 10 (striking out 7 times after not striking out once in the first 22) but I'll tip my hat here since I didn't mention him before; David Purcey is still learning but he has an 18/8 K/BB rate in the last 11.2 innings (over his last 10 games) so there's hope despite his 5.4 ERA over that span; and to end on a not-so-encouraging update: Jesse Carlson gave up SEVEN runs in 2/3 of an inning in his last outing, thankfully for his ERA only one of those was earned - still, it's odd in that he has only walked one (while striking out 14) in 16.1 innings, but he's also given up 26 hits and 10 earned runs. The original assumption that he'd be along shortly has gone by the wayside.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Is there a draft in here?


There will be in just about a month.

Discussion of potential draft results has been pretty quiet if you don't hold a subscription to ESPN or BA. I'm sure there are lesser sites out there who are kicking it around (feel free to throw me links to any favorites you have) - one such is My MLB Draft (linked in the sidebar) which I like for the up-to-date reporting of the draft order and other logistical matters, but I have no idea how solid the info behind their projected draft is. They have the Jays taking HS outfielder Josh Sale, by the way, who seems a solid enough pick.

But what occasions this writing is that the well-regarded John Sickels (also linked in the sidebar) has just posted a mock draft for the First Round and First Round Supplemental which gives me at least SOME material to mull over.

Rather than hijack any of his content (other than Jays' specific stuff) I'll just tell you that you can hit the link to find out who he has off the board by the time the Jays pick at #11. But the player he has the Jays taking there is Cal State Fullerton SS Christian Colon, who's a well regarded player that should make Jays' fans relatively happy. I say relatively because we've all set our hearts on Adeniy, and a college SS might not be as enticing as it would have been six months ago.

Yes, I know (and agree with) the thesis "best available player" but hear me out first.

Sickels says this of Colon:
Good tools, good bat, good makeup. Main issue is possible bonus demands, but after last year's debacle the Jays may be looking for a different course from previous conservative drafting.

There is a key component there that I want to bring out - Beeston swears to us that money will be no object in taking the best possible guy (either as a draftee or a free agent) , that it's only a matter of whether they place the player's value at the same level the player is willing to sign for.

If it's true, and I think it is, that the Jays might well take a guy who's thought to be a "tough sign" with some of their many picks, then my eyes drift to another guy: High School Outfielder Austin Wilson.

Sickels referred to him thusly (while mocking him to the Red Sox at #20):

Mega-tools with excellent makeup, which the Red Sox like. He also has a large price tag to buy him away from Stanford, but the Red Sox could afford that more than most clubs.

That certainly SOUNDS to me like a better player than Colon. And if the thesis is that the Jays will pay for premium talent, then I don't see why they would pass on Wilson because of money.

Here's what I'm saying, regarding the BAP Rule - if Wilson is at least Colon's equal in talent and makeup, and both are going to be at least somewhat hard to sign, the path to the majors is more open for an outfielder in the Jays system than it is for a shortstop right now. If either could be considered the BAP, then take the outfielder (to say nothing of the fact that he's three years younger).

Now, I asked the question on Sickel's thread about whether Wilson was, in fact, Colon's equal or better. And if there's any other source out there who can answer that for me to add to the consensus then let me know. But for now, while I wouldn't be unhappy with Colon, I'm rooting for Wilson with that first pick. For the record, that other linked site up there has Wilson at 13 and Colon at 16.

Another interesting thing about Sickel's projections comes up in the Supplemental round where the Jays have three picks.

Here's his selections for the Jays with their respective comment:

34) Toronto Blue Jays: Todd Cunningham, OF, Jacksonville State University Has decent tools but should be affordable, important for the Jays with multiple picks following last year. 38) Toronto Blue Jays: Micah Gibbs, C, Louisiana State University He won't need a lot of time in the minors, provides defense with a decent bat, and will be attractive to a team with multiple picks and a budget.

Now, color me unimpressed with spending the #34 on a guy with "decent tools" who's main selling point is that he's "affordable." Then, even worse, he gives a team with half a dozen legitimate catching prospects a choice at #38 of a catcher who "won't need a lot of time in the minors." Huh?

Here's what's wrong with that, IMO: take a look at the projected pick at #39:

39) Boston Red Sox: James Paxton, LHP, Grand Prairie Hard to know how he ranks until we get to see him pitch when the independent leagues start up, but I can see the Red Sox being attracted to the marvelous K/IP and K/BB marks he posted in college as much as his lively arm from the left side.

Um, far be it for me to disagree with a well regarded expert but, ya know, fuck that. If the Jays are thinking affordability, who's more affordable than the guy with a train-wrecked college career who has ZERO leverage? It only helps that he's a guy they thought enough of to draft last year and a guy the team admits it misplayed at the negotiating table.

In my not so humble opinion, if Paxton is still on the board at #34 and they can take him or Cunningham, that's an easy slam dunk for Paxton. if they pass there and he's still available at 38 it's a mortal lock that Paxton is the choice.

Which, by the way, would please the stuffing out of me.

If the Jays were to insanely pass on him twice and he did go to the Red Sox (of all teams) there would be rending of garments, and not just in my own household.

By the way, for the third Jays pick in the round this was Sickel's guess:

41) Toronto Blue Jays: Addison Reed, RHP, San Diego State University He's polished, affordable, throws hard, and won't take long to reach a major league bullpen.

I admit I don't know enough about Reed, Gibbs, or Cunningham to disrespect them, but the description of the latter two does nothing to convince me that they are preferable to Paxton, even if Paxton has issues from his layoff.

Who else do you like for any of the Jays' multitude of picks? i'm starving for some draft discussion!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Prospect List Update for April

Kinda quick and dirty here, not very scientific. I tried not to push anyone down on account of being injured unless other players forced their way in front. I also tried to remember relative sample size (i.e. if a good prospect did GREAT it mattered more than if a non-prospect did great because it's only a month). If a player didn't do dramatically better or worse than his ranking deserved I tried to leave him alone.

1. Kyle Drabek - looked like he'd slip but he pulled it together.
2. Brett Wallace - pushing for #1
3. Henderson Alverez - Ditto
4. Adeiny Hechevarria - this is where I put him initially.
5. Zach Stewart - had another bad outing today
6. JP Arencibia - solidifying his status.
7. Travis d'Arnaud - ditto.
8. Chad Jenkins - doing ok.
9. Brad Mills - Demands your attention.
10. Jake Marisnicjk - no disrespect, Mills earned it.
11. Mosies Seirra - no games yet
12. Justin Jackson - very small sample, but looked good.
13. Carlos Perez - no games yet.
14. Josh Roenicke - looks good so far.
15. Brad Emaus - will force his way further up if he keeps up this pace.
16. Gustavo Pierre - no games yet.
17. Eric Thames - Like Emaus, pushing hard to move up.
18. Robert Bell - also has a bit of helium about him I think.
19. Tim Collins - May hasn't been kind but this is based on April.
20. Danny Farquhar - needs to refine control
21. Tyler Pastornicky - a third player that would move up if I had anyone moving down.
22. Scott Campbell - still on DL
23. Kevin Ahrens - only active for a few games yet.
24. Brian Dopirak - the big drop in the top 25, he was 18 pre-season.
25. Brian Jeroloman - Moved up all the way from 35.
26. Darin Mastorianni - mixed results, gotta love the speed though.
27. David Cooper - Down from 16.
28. Trystan Magnuson - has been very good so far
29. Antonio Jimenez - on fire.
30. Yan Gomes - sleeper of the catcher prospects.
31. Luis Perez - not as impressed as some were, control is an issue.
32. KC Hobson - no games yet.
33. Joe Vargas - no games yet.
34. Sean Ochinko - mixed results.
35. Adam Loewen - slipping behind others who are doing better right now.
36. John Tolisano- injured at the moment but wasn't stepping up even before.
37. Robert Sobolewski - heating up.
38. Bobby Ray - got to get his control in order.
39. Chuck Huggins - bumps Liebel from the list.
40. Ryan Goins - tenuous grip on the list.

I know I know it's very superficial to shift players around based on a months at-bats, but it can be considered something like "Power Rankings" that get shifted weekly.

****
While I'm doing this, let me stop a moment and take some credit for a Wild-hair idea before it gets so widely circulated that I lose my claim to being first with the thought. I mentioned something on Batter's Box a few nights ago and it came up in another thread this afternoon and I want to get in front of the idea and put it in a place of it's own (although if I really want to do that i'll probably need to do a whole special post on the thought in a few days). The thought is this:

Kansas City is apparently losing patience with one-time Golden Boy Alex Gordon. There's probably not a worse run organization in the game right now than the Royals (with the possible exception of the Astros) and it seems to me that, if Alex Anthopoulos' scout tell him there is still potential for him to realize his promise, it's a situation ripe for the picking. I want to be on record as being the first person, as far as I know, to come out strongly in favor of trying to pick up Gordon on the cheap and turn him around.

Now, yes, "cheap" is a relative term here. it's not going to be without cost. but it's also not going to be at the price one normally associates with a player of his former pedigree. Think maybe Mills and Jeroloman and a low-level throw in, for instance. You'd have to figure out what to do with EE, of course. Send him over in the deal (while eating a couple mil of his contract)? find some other trade partner (tough to do - Twins maybe?) I'm not sure. But I am sure that I'd love to gamble on Gordon finding the magic again, unless the scouts tell us he's lost a lot of bat speed or some such.

I might well elaborate on the idea in a future post but there it is, at least.

I'm on the record.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

April Prospect Report - Part II


For those of you who read both this blog (both of you) and the excellent Bluebird Banter, I want to assure you that I had no idea they were doing positional reports over there starting last night as well. Hopefully I add some value in my greater verbosity.

Picking up where I left off last night . . .

Outfielders

Chris Lubanski - perhaps not a proper prospect, in the most formal sense, but this is not some Chad Mottola situation either. Lubanski just turned 25 (and is thus younger than everyone's favorite dark horse, Brian Dopirak) and was a #5 overall draft selection. Lubanski failed to master AAA in three attempts for the Royals but this year, in the early going, his OPS is .953 so this year might be different. Obviously we need a lot larger sample to suggest he's back on the radar but it's not unwise to keep an eye on him.

Eric Thames - Jays prospect watchers (especially me!) have been drooling over Thames potential for a couple of years now, and been frustrated by his constant injuries. It's obviously still too early to be sure he won't get hurt again any day now, but so far, he's been justifying the excitement.

Thames has hit five - check that, SIX homers on the season as of this writing (he hit two this afternoon), with the game still ongoing in AA, his OPS is over .860 and he's stolen a few bases. He's said to do everything well except throw, and he's still just 23. If he can stay healthy he could be one who'd come fast.

Darin Mastorianni - The second coming of Scott Podsednik? Certainly looks like it. Good on-base skills, and flies on the basepaths. He has 12 steals (without being caught even once) in his first 20 games. Reportedly a solid defensive CF as well.

Adam Loewen - Showing surprising speed, and a solid walk rate, but the contact and the power stroke are still absent. That said, he was challenged by a promotion despite not impressing in A ball last season so we'll see how he develops over this important (for him) season.

Moises Sierra - On the DL still. No news.

Kenny Wilson - the speedy second round pick in 2008 is beginning to re-establish a bit of his promise at Lansing so far this year. He's still very young so he was far from a failure even though he struggled a lot in 2009.

Eric Eiland - had been practically written off by most observers because of two completely ineffective seasons and he's not setting the league on fire this year. But there's a pulse so the 21 year old might yet re-assert himself. Not likely, but maybe.

Starting Pitchers
(note that some of these guys will likely end up in the 'pen when they reach the majors but I'll list then as starters as long as they are starting in the minors)

Brad Mills - Mills had a bit of a setback in his last game but he still has a 3.03 ERA over his first five starts and, more impressively, a huge 38/9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in just under 30 IP. Mills has the problem of being presumptively behind the rehabbing Marc Rzepczynski as well as Brett Cecil for the two major league spots which are apparently "in play" so barring injury, it's hard to see where he goes from here but he's making a case for himself.

Bobby Ray - struggling so far. He's never been a top shelf prospect, but the problem here is that BB/K ratio has slipped into very unimpressive territory.

Ray Gonzalez - being exposed, so far, in the early going at AAA, but he's still only 24 so he might yet right himself. Still, a 7.40 ERA can't be spun as anything other than bad news.

Kyle Drabek - Struggled a bit in his first couple of starts but coming on fairly strongly of late. Seems to be making the expected progress but has plenty of time to push for a promotion.

Zach Stewart - Skipped a start, after a particularly bad outing, so that coaches could make a mechanical adjustment. The results since, while a VERY small sample, are encouraging.

Luis Perez - Started off dominating, but lack of control has caught up with him in the last two starts, both pretty ugly. Still has a nice ERA but but 13 walks (and only 15 K's) in 26.2 IP illustrates there's a lot of progress remaining to be made.

Bobby Bell - First two starts were very ugly, last two have been good. Sort of the opposite to Perez in that the ERA is deceptively high but the trend is good.

Henderson Alverez - Dominating. Absolutely dominating the Florida State League. His ERA is 0.37 and that's not deceptive.


Andrew Liebel - Just mediocre so far, which is all I really expected (It's on record I'm not a fan). Still, for his age at that level, he should put up relatively decent numbers before the year is out. I don't think he'll survive well when he reaches AA though.

Joel Cerrano - inconsistent so far, flashes of promise but no trend line.

Chad Jenkins - Like Drabek, he struggled in the first few games but he seems to be gaining some momentum. As a college grad, it is't unreasonable to expect him to preform well enough to reach Dunedin before the season is over and would be a mild disappointment if he didn't.

There are a few other guys - 2009 draftees Daniel Webb and Drew Hutchenson, DSL star Devy Estrada - who will be playing in the rookie leagues when they start up. It's pretty praise-worthy that the Jays can point to half a dozen guys (including Zep, but not including rookie league players) not in the current major league rotation who have an excellent prospect of being solid major league starters.

Relief Pitchers


David Purcey - not technically a prospect, but in a sense he is since he's starting over as a reliever. That project is a work in progress, with mixed results. mostly arising from (you guessed it) control issues. Still, if he can manage to consistently spot the two pitches they want him to throw, he could be an impressive late inning option.

Danny Farquhar - Closing in Hew Hampshire with mixed results. He's getting outs (only one earned run so far in nine innings) but also, six walks. likely to be a plus in the Jays pen in a couple of years but needs to refine the control.

Tim Collins - No longer a novelty act, Collins is a legit prospect. He got roughed up in his last outing, but that only drove his ERA to 2.70 and he has 16 K's in 10 innings so far. He's still just 20 so the Jays can afford to give him a full season in AA if they like, but I'm pretty confident we won't get through 2011 without seeing him in the majors.

Trystan Magnuson - the oldest of the AA "three amigos," Magnuson is doing everything right. No homers allowed, only one walk and 12 strikeout in 12 IP. At 24 years old, it's not unreasonable to expect he'l be the first real prospect to move up from the New Hampshire pen to Las Vegas. That could be as early as June.

While there will always be exceptions, those who are relievers at the lower levels probably don't make it. Good things have been said about Dustin Antolin (who got pounded in his last appearance)and Lansing manager Sal Fasano is impressed with Steve Turnbull.


While there will always be exceptions, those who are relievers at the lower levels probably don't make it. Good things have been said about Dustin Antolin (who got pounded in his last appearance) and Lansing manager Sal Fasano is impressed with Steve Turnbull. Again keep in mind that excess starters often end up in the bullpen at the major league level. guys like Bobby Ray and Joel Cerrano are obvious examples. Bobby Bell is, in my opinion, good enough to be a legitimate starting prospect but if he stayed in our system he might also end up being a very impressive late inning set up man too.

As a suplemental (and largely self-indulgent excess) to this set, I'll throw out a quick update to my list tomorrow.