Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Survey Time

A couple of quick questions, which I hope get more replies than the usual post or else I won't learn much.

1. If you could buy a 2012 Blue Jays pre-season preview e-book - say something on the order of 4-6,000 words - for something less than $5 sometime in the first half of march - would you? and do you think your fellow jays fans would?

This would have considerably more depth to it than the typical blog material.

2. In conjunction with that, if it happens, I'm considering a name change for this blog - I'm assuming no one has a particular attachment to the current name so if I'm wrong about that, now's the time to speak up!

Friday, 23 December 2011

The Trade Market

So, it seems clear at this point that Alex Anthopoulos is committed to improving the team through trade if possible rather than free agency. I'll note for the record the free agents options, if any, but the purpose of this post is to review the reasonable options to fill his stated goals via the trade route (with very little if any speculation about who might be traded in return as that gets very complex very quickly)

Alex has stated three things he'd like to do - strengthen the late-game bullpen options, look for a early-to-mid rotation starter, and try to find a middle of the order bat. I'll take these in reverse order for reasons that shall become apparent.

Middle of the order Bat:

A quick review of the roster construction makes it apparent that the only places to add a significant bat are, in order: first Base, DH, and LF

Ranking by OPS all hitters with at least 400 plate appearances who could reasonably be described as playing one of those positions, filtering out players we already have and players who are unavailable either because of prohibitive contracts or circumstances (such as being 5 & 10 players) or because of their value to the team (IMO) this is what I come up with (players with an OPS over .800 as befits a supposed "big bat"):

Mike Morse - his 2011 was an incredible outlier from the rest of his career. Although to be fair he showed some signs in 2010 in half as many plate appearances. Something is amiss because the Nationals GM called Adam LaRoche the presumptive 2012 first baseman, it may mean Morse sucks on defense. If true, one wonders if there's any place on the field they CAN hide him. He came essentially out of nowhere at 28, but that's a phenomena the Jays are not unacquainted with. Dude is 6'5" and 230, how it is he broke in as a SS I'll never know. If he can continue to hit like he has the last couple of years, he'd be conceivably a better DH than EE and a better (offensive) 1B than Lind if Lind doesn't rebound to his peak form. The Nats need outfield help.

Carlos Quintin - Had his career year, so far, at 25 and his three seasons since have been much less impressive. He has an .815 OPS over that span and frankly that's not much better than what one might reasonably expect of the in-house options. He'd have to be pretty cheap for me to be interested.

Seth Smith - pronounced home/road splits over his career.

Billy Butler - arguably best is yet to come, and has an .844 OPS over last three seasons. Only has 2 years of control left and will be trending towards costly to retain, but a legitimate target if the Royals think DH is easier to fill than the gaps in their rotation. Price uncertain.

Andrew McCutchen - Pirates have said they will listen, but will be wildly expensive i think. Might set up CF conflict.

I'm going to say McCutchen is too expensive and Quintin and smith are unimpressive. Either Morse or Butler would be intriguing, and Butler would better suit the time frame in terms of age if he can be reasonably extended. One might imagine the Royals would be interested in taking EE to stop-gap the DH position, or maybe they would see something of value in Cooper? Additionally they would surely be receiving a couple of interesting prospect and a filler or two. I'd try to start with Jimenez and see if they liked Jenkins, I wouldn't do the top shelf guys for a DH unless I thought he had David Ortiz ability.

Potential free agents that someone might see attractive (none for me thanks) are JD Drew, Magglio Ordonez, Johnny Damon, Luke Scott, Andruw Jones or Wilson Betimit.

Top-of-rotation SP:
(ranked by 2011 ERA)

James Shields - in division, won't happen.

Matt Cain - some speculate the Giants can't pay him and Lincicum too, but he's a free agent in one year which violate's Alex's "years of control"qualification. would be wildly expensive. Gose would have to be in the deal along with 2 or 3 other really good players, which I can't see doing for potentially just one season.

Matt Garza - everyone seems to recognize him as the most likely candidate, personally I'd liked the idea much better if we could have been trying to get him and Marshall in a package. There's more to like here but I'm not sure you sell the Cubs on lower level prospects which AA seems to be focused on dealing. Could you do it without giving up Gose or d'Arnaud? Because I'm thinking Alex wouldn't pay that price.

Brandon McCarthy - Oakland is clearing the decks, why not McCarthy too? Here again you are only getting one season, but the price should be much more affordable. Thing is, his 25 starts and 170 IP last year were career highs, which might mean he's made of glass but also might mean he hasn't had a chance to peak yet. Like Gio, his numbers were much more middle-of-the-pack away from that great home park and I'm not sure he's much if any better than the in-house options.

Felix Hernandez - I can't imagine he's actually available at any price.

Wandy Rodriguez - Would AA really commit to $36 million over the next two seasons? For age 33-35 years? My sources say no. if he wanted to do that he could just go on and sign Roy Oswalt to a deal just like it. and get a better value IMO, even before one considers the cost in prospects.

Zach Grienke - probably not available (why would they sign Ramirez if they are tearing it down) and would be very expensive in prospects for one year of service before free agency. An extension would be a massive contract.

IMO, the only POSSIBLE deal here, realistically, is Garza, and that only if Theo & Co. can be persuaded by a package of players below AA ball. Potential FA signings include Oswalt, Rich Harden, Edwin Jackason or Hiroki Kuroda.

Late Inning Relievers :
(grouped by team)

Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton - White Sox are shuffling the deck, Kenny Williams has already hooked up with AA twice on significant deals, Jays really need a late inning lefty (Thornton). Thornton is controlable for three years with the downside that the contract is a tad high and it's his age 35-37 seasons. Effectiveness slipped some in 2011 after three dominant years - start of a decline, or a blip? $12 mil is a lot for them to commit if they are not sure of the answer to that. Crain is signed for two more (age 30-31) at $4.5 each year which is certainly manageable. not sure the cost to get both, or the practicality of essentially buying the whole back-end of the White Sox 'pen, but if you got them both together it would theoretically solve the issue in one deal. (You could also look at bringing back Jason Frasor if better options failed)

Joakim Soria - (deserves separate listing) would set up a re-run of "this is our closer until we get another closer" routine from last year, but would theoretically set up a heck of an 8th/9th combo. Three years of control on the contract at manageable costs. Has turned down impressive offers before. Logically you wouldn't trade a position prospect like d'Arnaud or Gose for ANY reliever, but it might cost that. Rumor has it they like Rasmus but despite Colby's lost year, I'd be scared to death to trade a premium CF upside for a reliever, even a closer. And i doubt they would sweeten their end of the deal.

Greg Holland, Blake Wood, Tim Collins - Okay, Collins . . . I have no reason to think he's available, but given my emotional attachment I figure why not mention him? Holland has been mentioned as a potential target for the Jays, and Wood is another guy in a suddenly deep 'pen.
The royals had six good relievers last year and have added two free agent signings this off-season. someone will get pushed out. and while it's good to have depth, it also makes it possible the shop the guy or guys who're being underused. All these guys are pre-arb, cheap, and have years of control left.

Andrew Bailey - Very expensive, you'd be paying closer premium when you already have a closer (as with Soria above) - if you knew you were getting the guy from his rookie year . . . but are you? Still the very low walk rate is attractive. The very high asking price not so much.

Grant Balfour - No way Oakland hangs on to this guy, and he's much more affordable (in theory) prospect wise than Bailey. He'd fit right in to the back of the Jays 'pen.

Jeremy Affeldt - SF was rumored to be listening to offers for him in a cost cutting effort, would be the ideal 8th inning LH if you want a veteran back there. Can't pay too much for just one year though.

Sergio Romo - no reports that he's available, but would look very good in a Jays uniform.

Carlos Marmol - Cubs are rumored to be moving every valuable asset. Marmol has value but that walk rate worries me more than a little, even with all the strikeouts. it's trending in the right direction, but do you want to gamble that both he and Santos keep getting better in that department? Depends on the price in prospects I imagine.

There's enough fluidity in this market that I'd hate to make a prediction - but I'd be kinda surprised if one of these guys didn't end up on the Blue Jays roster by spring. Potential free agent alternatives include LH Mike Gonzalez, Darren Oliver and Damaso Marte, and RH David Ardsma, Taylor Buchholz (though not a proven late inning guy, his ratios were pretty good), Juan Cruz, and Dan Wheeler.


Tuesday, 20 December 2011

I'm Over Yu

So, there's that then.

It will be interesting when word comes out how much the jays bid on Darvish. The report indicates that the Ranger's winning bid was $51.7 million. The amount of the jays bid will tell us much about the whole thesis that they were willing to make an exception to”they plan” for a special player. One thing is for sure, you should make NO mistake about this: neither Prince Fielder or Carlos Beltran will be wearing a Blue Jays uniform in 2012.

Just to go on the record – any narrative riffing on “Rogers is too cheap to play with the big boys” is under-informed until we find out what the Blue Jays bid actually was (assuming it leaks out). If they bid $49m it means something completely different than if they bid $19m.

There does, however, remain a distinct possibility that there is a big trade or two yet to be made. While it's true that the team has mentioned the need to acquire a big middle of the order bat, very very few of the hitters who'd be thus described are available (by my estimation, among qualifying hitters who were .825+ in OPS in 2011, only Paul Kenerko might be available) but Alex is hardly predictable. On the other hand, there are a number of candidates which might be targeted under the category of “mid-to-upper rotation starter” although personally, there are very few of these guys I'd pay the price for if it were me – I list them only to be complete.

1.Felix Hernandez – not reportedly available, but between the Angels and Rangers recent upgrades, the M's are insane if they believe they can be competitive within the years of control they have on king Felix. Unless they have made up their minds to pay nay price to extend him, then the smart play is to reap the biggest haul ever to move him. Of course, if that buyer is Toronto then they have to believe that they will be in the hunt within the next three years as well, because the price will be exceedingly high. Start with d'Arnaud and one of the CF prospects (Gose or Marisnick) and throw in ant least two of the young stud pitcher plus a couple of more marginal guys. Think something like d'Arnaud/Gose/Hutchson/Nicolino/Jenkins.
2.James Shields – simply won't be dealt in-division.
3.Gio Gonzalez – control issues are worrisome, price said to be exorbitant. Four years of control left. Probably the most likely target on this list.
4.Matt Garza – Two years of control means more manageable price, but less likelihood he fits the long term plan. If you could get Sean Marshall in the deal with him, this gets more interesting.
5.Wandy Rodriguez – not a fan of the idea, much older than the others and not a cheap contract.
6.John Danks – only one year of control is big negative.

The thing is, the more I look at that list, the more I like the guys we've got. The only deal I'd enthusiastically make her is for Felix. As for the rest, I'd be very happy to send out a rotation of -

(with Drabek, McGuire, and Hutchison on the farm, and Villianueva, Litsch, Carreno and Perez for emergencies) and wait and see if they need to upgrade in July.

Stick to the plan, IMO. Richard Griffin tweeted the Jays NEED to send this money on a pitcher like those listed above, and Beltran. I couldn't disagree more. Darvish was the exception that proves the rule – NOT an indication there's $50m lying around that you can spend like it's shore leave. Besides, if you are wrong about the internal options, just look at this list of pitchers, all free agents a year from now.

Cole Hamels
Zach Grienke
Matt Cain
Francisco Liriano

Am I disappointed? Oh hell yeah. I'll be more so if word comes out the Jays' bid wasn't serious. But I'm not crying. The Plan continues, the future is bright. It's just not going to come to fruition in 2012.

On another note, Baseball America released their Blue Jays Top 10 prospects list today, it looks like this:
(number in parenthesis reflects my ranking)

1. Travis d'Arnaud (1)
2. Anthony Gose (3)
3. Jake Marisnick (2)
4. Daniel Norris (8)
5. Justin Nicolino (7)
6. Aaron Sanchez (9)
7. Noah Syndergaard (6)
8. Deck McGuire (11)
9. Drew Hutchison (4)
10. Asher Wojciechowski (20)

The obvious difference is Woj, who I really do like by the way, it's a depth thing. It's kind of remarkable to see seven consecutive pitching prospects in the Top 10. In the post-list chat, it was revealed that:

*Nestor Molina wouldn't have made the top 10 if he were still in the organization - that's a big difference from me, I had him tied for 4th.

*There are indeed good reports on the improvement in Hech's bat, but more data is needed.

*Sanchez's control improved after the promotion to Vancouver (I was impressed they still ranked him slightly ahead of Syndergaard)

When someone lets me know what the Top 30 looked like, I'll pass that along as well.

Looking at the system reminds us of the most important thing to remember tonight - look FORWARD, not back.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Ode to Yu!

Yu Darvish, along with being a very talented ballplayer, a very sexy man, and the darling of two whole countries, is also the man who lost a thousand twitter puns.

In that spirit, a musical interlude (and you are an uncultured boob if I have to tell you "to the tune of..."

What we want, you've got
And it might be hard to handle
But like the flame that burns the candle
The candle feeds the flame
What we've got's a full stock of thoughts
and dreams that scatter
You pull them all together
And how, we can't explain - oh yeah
Well well Yu (Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu) Yu make our dreams come true(
Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu Y-uu)
Well well well Yu (Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu) Yu make our dreams come true
(Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu Y-uu)
Well yeah.

On a night when Yank games become a screamer
They're not messin' with the dreamer
I can laugh it in their face
Twist and shout - they're out
And Boston they can't stand us
'Cause we ain't the way you found us
We'll never be the same - ah yeah!
Well 'Cause Yu (Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu) Yu make our dreams come true
(Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu Y-uu)
Well well well Yu (Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu) Yu make our dreams come true
(Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu Y-uu)
Well well well Yu (Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu) Yu make our dreams come true
(Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu Y-uu)
oooh yeah
Listen to this!

We're done with the daydreams
Oh That sleepwalk should be over by now I know!
Ah Yu! Yu make-a our dreams come true" (Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu Y-uu)

I been waitin' for waitin' for you man, Yu make our dreams cone true
(Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu Y-uu)
I been waitin' for waitin' for you man, Yu make our dreams cone true
(Yu Yu Yu Yu Yu Y-uu)
I been waitin' for waitin' for, waitin' for waitin' for... (you make our dreams)

I could have done this basically without changing anything but the coda where the word "girl" pops up ...

And yes, I know, even if we got him there's still Brett Lawrie and a host of other players to be excited about - but none of those are pun machines!

fingers and toes crossed!!!!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Previewing the Second Half

(pending proof-reading!)

While mathematically, the halfway point between the first day of the post-season and the day pitchers and catchers report (February 19!) is right around Christmas, for all intents and purposes the close of the Winter Meetings marks the beginning of the second half of the off-season. It's time then, as that week draws to a close, to asses the state of the Blue Jays and look ahead to what developments might ensue.

We'll have to speak in broad general terms because, of course, our NGM (Ninja GM) will certainly do something (probably everything) in a manner not even hinted at in my speculations, but it would take all the fun out of it (and kill what little traffic I get) if I conceded that i really have no idea what comes next, so I soldier on as best I can. The best way to anticipate potential moves is to look at still existing needs. also, lets note up front that Alex prefers trades to expensive free agents.

First, let's look at the line-up if tomorrow were February 19:

Catcher: JP Arencibia is locked in, Travis d'Arnaud is at minimum half a season away and almost surely won't be seen before September barring serious injury to JP. Jeff Mathis is locked in as the reserve, and while I fully expect the team to maneuver a situation in which he does not get the amount of money he made last year in arbitration, there's no reason to assume he won't be here.

First Base - Everything AA and John Farrell say about Adam Lind leads one to believe they are committed to bringing him back as the first baseman. That said, if there is a position that's ripe, among hitters, for a ninja move it's first. Prince Fielder is obviously out there, but unlikely to sign on terms the Jays would agree to. The only other really sensible candidate who might be an upgrade on Lind (depending of course on whether Lind does bounce back) is Josh Willingham. Personally, I don't expect a deal there. Looking around the league, there's not an obvious upgrade rumored to be available via trade either.

Second Base - Kelly Johnson is set. There's some possibility - Alex even hinted at it - that he might surprise us with a deal to add a "core piece" to use his terms, and if he can do so - think maybe Gordon Beckham - then you could see Johnson flipped to a team like the Rockies. There's every possibility the will go with Johnson though.

Shortstop - Yunel Escobar. Next question.

Third Base - Brett Lawrie. Next question

Right Field - Jose Bautista. Next question.

Center Field - Colby Rasmus. Next question.

Left Field - open competition between Travis Snider and Eric Thames. Snider is the more talented player, but if he loses he might be "change of scenery" before May, if Thames loses he will be the 4th outfielder and occasional DH, and a good one, or go back to AAA to wait.

DH - Edwin Encarnacion. The only obvious way to upgrade here is via an unexpected trade, or convincing Carlos Beltran to DH, which seems unlikely. If the Jays were tossing aside the future to play for 2012, they'd plug Beltran into LF and push aside the kids, but I don't think Alex will deviate from the long term plan.

On the bench: the aforementioned Mathis, the loser of Snider/Thames maybe (though possibly this person could be in AAA or traded), Raji Davis, an infielder (Vilbuena, McCoy, or some player yet to be acquired - nether of these is an impressive SS) and, for now, Mark Teahen although my guess is they eat his contract before April 1.

Turning to pitching, again, mostly assuming this is what we go to camp with-

AA and JF have both spoken often about needing a top of the rotation starter. I made the case in my previous post for Yu Darvish and he's the one guy known to be available who fits that bill. I don't believe the Jays will pay the exorbitant cost to obtain Gio Gonzalez and I don't think they should. Pretty much anyone I'd be willing to pay that price for isn't on the market. Certainly there's no free agent comparable to Darvish. Roy Oswalt comes closest, and if he would come to Toronto I'd be cool with him if we try and fail on Darvish.

Beyond additions -
#1 - Ricky Romero in a lock
#2 - Dustin McGowan by seniority, and by talent, but if they want to coddle his arm a bit they might slide him to the #5 just so they can skip him occasionally.
#3 - Brandon Morrow seems set here. if they did sign Darvish then Yu would be #2 and Morrow still fits at three.
#4 - Brett Cecil but with a tentative grasp. Farrell reports he's working out this winter and in MUCH better shape than this time last year and if so, may well come to camp and demand this spot. but he's also the guy in this group most likely to fit as a bullpen piece (probably a highly effective guy in the 8th) - if he stumbles and two kids show well, he might lose out.
#5 - Henderson Alvarez/Kyle Drabek- The former has the edge, and it's his spot to lose. but Drabek will have a chance to beat out someone , so if either Cecil or Alvarez stumble in the spring and Drabek looks resolved, then he could steal a spot for sure.

Other candidates depending on emergency need: Potential relievers Villianueva, Listch, Carreno, Perez and minor league prospects Hutchison and McGuire and maybe Jenkins. It's unlikely any of those guys will be used out of spring training except in highly unusual circumstances.

In short, the odds are that it's Darvish, or nothing here. the depth is sufficient that adding a middling guy would be unnecessary and Alex has publicly noted as much.

The bullpen is where it really gets interesting. Alex has openly mentioned he fully intends to add here, and particularly in 8th inning guys.

We know that Sergio Santos WILL close.

We know that Casey Janssen, Carlos Vilianueva, and Jesse Litsch are locks, barring injury, and that Luis Perez and Joel Carreno have an edge on all the other non-locks currently in the organization.

We can also surmise that an 8th inning lefty is a priority and that second to that would be an 8th inning RHP (Alex speaks fondly of having Janssen available in the seventh since he's effective against both left and right handed hitters.

So four established slots, two potential "gets" and the last spot will go to Perez (second lefty) if he doesn't throw it away. Barring Cecil moving in of course.

So what are the options? as free agents, the top of the list (such as it is) would be:
LHP - Mike Gonzalez, George Sherril, Damso Marte (if healthy) and Tsuyoshi Wada (if you can sell him on relief instead of starting)
RHP - there all pretty mediocre guys, frankly.

So you kinda have to turn to trades - this sort of thing is tricky to predict because Alex tends to surprise, but some names that have been mentioned include Jeremy Affeldt of the Giants (probably as good a choice as you will find), Sean Marshall of the Cubs, Greg Holland of the Royals (very good, pretty young, years of control), Tim Collins of the Royals (okay, only I am mentioning him - but if they are wiling to deal Holland, we could ask about Collins), Koji Uehara of the Rangers (no idea why there's talk but you have to like him), Matt Thornton of the White Sox (really, pretty much anyone on the White Sox - except Chris Sale - including Jason Frasor), and pretty much anyone in the A's 'pen - Grant Balfour would probably be a good target.

So in summation:
1. Take a run at Darvish
1a. Failing that look in on Oswalt or maybe Rich Harden
2. restock the bullpen likely via a series of trades.
3. find a reserve infielder who plays a good SS and handles the bat at least to McDonald levels
4. keep your eyes open for a chance to add a core player
5. pay attention to Fielder and Beltran until they are off the market just to be prepared for surprises.

That should do it!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Re-stating the case for Darvish

I find myself compelled to address again the Yu Darvish speculation. Based on a number of comments and observations, particularly over the last week, several prominent members of the local Toronto media and apparently most fans have concluded that the team will not be serious players for Darvish, while national (American) media figures persist in listing the Jays among the obvious fits.

With typical Jays related negativism on full display, seemingly thousands of voices reacted to some off-the-cuff comments from Alex Anthopoulos about having "payroll parameters" to jump to the conclusion that the Jays were - as long expected! - defaulting back to the "Tampa Bay Model" (the clock is ticking until someone, likely Richard Griffin, invokes the word "Montreal") which is, in my estimation, a wild over-reaction. The logical implication, of course, of that reaction is to assume Darvish is too expensive for the poor pitiful Jays and their tightwad skinflint owners.

Nonsense I say.

Let's examine some of the things we've been told since Paul Beeston returned to leadership with the team:

1. The Jays are a major market team and can be expected to act like one
2. When the time is right, the Jays will be perfectly able to play in the same salary nieghborhood as the Red Sox (Say the $120-150 mil neighborhood).
3. Alex doesn't have a set payroll figure and if he thinks a specific signing or trade makes sense value-wise for the team, he can approach Beeston and make his case. If he succeeds the money will be there.

More recently we were told, from several sources:
1. the Blue Jays believe they need to add a front of the rotation starter to take the next step
2. the Jays believe they need to get more innings from their rotation
3. the Jays believe the cost of such a player as a free agent is far too high given you are getting a guy past his peak and in decline
4. the Jays believe obtaining such a player via trade is almost impossible (since such players are seldom traded) and the cost to the farm system would be exorbinant (Just today he mentioned the cost to deal for a 2B would be higher than he liked).

Still more recently we heard Alex comment, in the context of a rumor mill that had the jays as serious players for Prince Fielder and several others, that he did not have an unlimited budget and he had to work within "parameters" - a comment easily understood when he explained later that he was faced with agents coming to him and basically saying "since you have all this money, why are you not giving us some?"

There is no logical reason, when everything that's been said this week (not only by AA but by Beeston) is considered in it's logical context to assume the Jays have - as many have theorized - reacted to the new CBA by going into small-market mode. Nothing they said implies that, and it's out of touch with reality. A CBA which severely hamstrings the amount of money a team can spend on acquisition of amateur talent has pretty much nothing to do with how much a team spends on the major league payroll, if anything it makes it more likely that figure will go UP, not down.

It's true that the CBA phases out the revenue sharing money the Jays had been receiving, which if published estimates of the Jays cut of that pie are correct, mean a drop in that revenue stream of ~$7-8 million each year starting in 2013 through 2016. This is not a crushing loss and if the team wins, would easily be offset by increased revenues from other streams. It's most assuredly not enough to take a team which had anticipated spending $120m plus down into the $50m range (i.e. the Tampa Model).

It is upon this falicy that everyone from Mike Wilner to Shi Davidi to Gregor Chisholm and a host of anonymous commenters across the interwebs have concluded the Blue Jays will probably cheap out on Darvish. Now, with due respect to the possibility that these gentlemen are privy to off-the-record insider knowledge which supports this conclusion, I dissent.

I've made the case for Darvish before, now let me do it again with enthusiasm. Consider these points in relationship to what we know from what we've been told before (as listed above)

1. Darvish is a potentially transformative player. Both on the field, where he is unanimously considered to be better than the best of the free agent market for pitchers (and the best North American FA pitcher, CJ Wilson, just signed for almost $80 mil) and off the field where he brings pretty much every last one of the intangibles which mark a player as a "rock star" presence.
2. He's a full six years younger than the aforementioned Wilson. the team who get's Darvish gets his prime years, not his post-prime years. that essentially NEVER happens with a pitcher, and really has only happened in recent memory with two other players - A-Rod and Ichiro.
3. Darvish regularly delivers 200+ innings and is ready now to step into a major league rotation.
4. Darvish will cost nothing in prospects as a trade for, say, King Felix would.
5. There is no other player known to be available by any means out there which the Jays could attempt to obtain (except arguably Prince Fielder - whom the Jays have said they will not go beyond five years on) who could have even half the impact on the teams fortunes that Darvish could have.

In short, if you were to sit down and create an imaginary player would would perfectly meet the parameters of the kind of player the Blue Jays management has specifically said they need, that guy would still not suit the description as well as Darvish does.

"But," you say, "he will cost $100 million, maybe more! how can a team like the Blue Jays invest $20+ million a year in an untried pitcher? It's madness!!"

I'll tell you how - because you have misunderstood the nature of the cost. Do you remember that the CBA has severely limited the amount of money teams can spend on international free agents (except those from Japan!)? and also but a pretty harsh limit on draft spending? what happens to that money for a team like Toronto which had been investing a ton of money in both markets? Back into ownership's pockets? Keep in mind that this money did not and does not count against the major league payroll. Beeston was specifically ask if his talk of $120m or more included the cost of amateur talent acquisition and he said no, that it was a description of major league payroll.

So where does it go? I mean sure you can do some things around the margins like provide better food and medical staff to the minor leaguers but nothing very expensive. I submit to you that Alex understands that he now has several million dollars in-hand to re-direct, and has to decide where it will best be used. Several million non-payroll dollars.

So, let's break it down. We'll assume for the purpose of this exercise that bidders for Darvish will expect to bid more than the Red Sox paid in posting for Dice-K. A team which acquires Darvish will hold his rights for six years, so if you amortize the posting fee, that's the term - so if we assume the winning post fee is $54 million (Matsuzaka was a bit over $51m) then that works out to $9 million per year over the six years you control him. Then of course, you have to sign him. Let us assume that it's a point of pride for him to be the highest paid pitcher this offseason, that means in round figures you have to pay him ~$80m over five years.

For a total of $134 million in all. Or an AAV (IF it were all payroll) - discounting the $9m we've accounted to the sixth year - of $25 million a year. And it's THAT figure everyone blanches at. But that $25 million is NOT accounted against the major league payroll. the posting fee is the equivalent of the bonus paid to someone like Adonys Cardona, or indeed, Daniel Norris - it's a different budget item than the major league payroll. That $9m a year will be made up in large part of the money that the CBA forces the team to not spend on other players. Again, the posting fee does NOT count against the major league payroll. whatever amount it is, it is spread over six years of player control for accounting purposes and is an entirely reasonable cost for the value received. In short, Darvish sets you back $9 mil a year over the next six years (in amortized posting fee). laying aside the benefits of interest and so forth as too complex for the discussion, the fact remains that a very great deal of that amount in any given year - possibly all of it - can be covered by the money the team would have otherwise spent in amateur player acquisition.

That leaves you with a five year deal which would probably look something like 12-14-16-18-20 in terms of how it's structured. An easily affordable deal for a team which projects right now to have a 2012 payroll of !$70 million.

Even if you insist on looking at the total cost, the Jays would be on the hook for a cost that, were it all salary, would rank 17th on the list of all time biggest contracts. Yes, admittedly he's a less proven player than those who have bigger contracts, but he's also only 25 and most of those deals were signed with players in their 30's. We know that the Jays can afford it (easily), we know they are willing to go big on the right guy (or else we just assume everything is a lie) and we know all it takes is for Alex to see the value and make his case.

Look, if you want to argue that the Blue Jays should never take big money risks - that they should consider the "Tampa Bay Model" the ideal to be emulated - fine, I respect your right to that view. But if you are one of the folks who goes into every off-season insisting the Blue Jays chase Prince Fielder or whoever his equivalent is in that year, I defy you to argue against signing Darvish. This sort of opportunity comes along once a decade, if that.

More to the point, I don't believe for one second that Alex Anthopoulos doesn't see it. the Jays might not end up outbidding the Rangers (I'm convinced they are the main competition) but I think it is utterly foolish to assume they will not be among the 2-3 highest bidders.

Time will tell if I'm wrong.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011


Sergio Santos for Nestor Molina - WOW! I love me some nestor Molina but this is A win by every measure:

1. Molina now becomes the White Sox top prospect, easily
2. His upside is as a very good mid-rotation starter
3. However, pitching prospects, even the best ones, can ad do fail - the Jays just traded away that risk
4. further, in the very deep pool of potential starters in the Jays organization, Molina had the highest probability in the group of ending up relieving. In that sense the jays traded a probable reliever (just based on roster management) and the Sox acquired a probable starter (given the weaker depth chart) so they got more value than we dealt.

5. Jays acquired a player that they would control for just as many years (potentially) as they would have controled Molina
6. the acquire a player who's quite possibly filling the same role as the player they dealt would have likely filled
7. Said player has already made the leap to the majors successfully and does not come with that "pitching prospects often fail" caveat.
8. The Jays get the "young, cost controlled, long term, dominant closer" that Molina might have been a year or two from now - and they get him now.

My feelings can best be described by a brief musical selection:

Big grins right now!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Winter Meeting preview!

In brief - none of us have any idea what AA is gonna do.

Full stop.

His public comments suggest:
1. a trade is much more likely than a free agent
2. he's almost certainly not going to sign either Pujols or Fielder
3. If a reporter tell you he's "in on" someone, he's almost certainly NOT.
4. if they tell you a deal is basically done, it probably is.
5. he's much more likely to move on a pitcher than a hitter (albeit someone has to play 2B

My predictions, laughable though it is to try to predict his moves:
(some of these might not be finished at the meeting)

1. he'll bring in a 2B, either Prado, or a former hot young guy fallen on hard times (Beckham, Stewart, for example). also, in a potential surprise move - someone is going to draft Ryan Flaherty in the Rule 5 - i wouldn't be stunned if that team immediately flips him to the jays for something we can spare.

2. He'll make a significant move for a relatively big name closer. My favorite target is Houston Street, Andrew Bailey is another oft-mentioned trade possibility. It might also be some guy you didn't know was available.

3. He'll add other established relievers. Guys like Holland from KC have been mentioned and while it might not necessarily be him, it will be a guy that will make you take notice. i would not be surprised if he took a guy with a higher contract in order to get a good late inning lefty. Jeremy Affeldt would make mama happy!

4. He will work all week on a #2 starter type, but I'm not sure if a deal will get made because the prices are so high. Jair Jurrigans is madly overpriced and he's not even especially great. He might spend some money on Bedard, Harden, someone like that - risk enough to keep the term down, but good enough to play that role if healthy. otherwise, he will asses the landscape and the go out and try to land Darvish when he's posted.

in fact the one prediciton i'm most confident in - if the jays have no added a very significant SP within the next week, they WILL go all out on Darvish. They have said far too much pulbically about the need to add a pitcher not to.

Oh, and as a final thought, one caveat on Fielder: it has been pointed out on Twitter that if Fielder were to sign a five year deal (instead of the 10 years he wants) and plays well over that period, he will be a free agent again at a younger age that Pujols is listed at right now. and the odds are VERY great that he can sign a much more lucrative deal for the 5 years that follow that date then than he can now.

For instance:

Sign a 10 year deal now for, say, 22 per year AAV. $220 mil in all


Sing a five year deal now for, say, $25 mil per year ($125 mil in all) and then sign one then for (lets suppose a deal similar to what the Cards offered Pujols in length) eight years at $27 mil per (a very modest raise after five years of baseball inflation) for a total of $216 million, and a total earnings over 12 years of $341 million

YES, he runs the risk of career ending injury (think Albert Belle for an example of an unexpected health issue) or a decline in production. but he doesn't lose money unless his deal five year hence is less than $95 million (which is considerably less money five years from now than it is now - see my old report about baseball inflation from a couple of years back)

Can Alex convince Boras that risk is worth taking? if he can (and it's a MASSIVE "if") then those Fielder rumors might be right. but only in that circumstance.

By the time I drag out of bed tomorrow he might well have done something big - some reporter tweeted tonight that Alex had said he "had something on the five yard line" - one presumes he did not mean his own five.

All I know is, it's the most wonderful time of the year! (unless you made the playoffs of course)

Edit to add: My only comment re Jeff Mathis is this - either he will be flipped, or he will agree to a big pay cut before the non-tender deadline, or he will be non-tendered with a much lower salary on the table for him to accept if he wants.

(the trade-off for Mathis is this - go to arbitration and get virtually no raise, say make $2 mil at best, and risk that expensive BUT non-guaranteed deal getting him cut in late March and he walks away with 1/6th that amount (which is less than the minimum salary) OR sign a guaranteed contract for , say, $900k - or risk being non-tendered and finding some other team out there who will pay him more than a million to play for them after the Jays non-tender him)

The one thing that WON'T happen, in my view, is that mathis suits up for the Jays in 2012 with a guaranteed contract paying him more than $1.5 million (and i'd be pretty surprised if it were even more than $1 million)

Monday, 28 November 2011


As John Paul Morosi notes today, this is the start of a three week period centered around next weeks winter meetings during which the meat of the player movement this off-season can be expected to occur. Yes there are outlier factors - Darvish certainly won't be posted, won, and signed within the next three weeks (if at all) for instance. But for baseball junkies and rosterbators, this is Christmas season in a whole other sense.

Before I get too deep into that I want to pat my own back a bit. Here's a quote from me, posted on November 24:

If there is any thing which distinguishes them, it's that with so very many young talented candidates for the rotation that they might turn Molina into their own version of Joakim Soria even if that would be under-using his obvious talents.

Now note what John Farrell had to say on Jeff Blair's show today:

"Nestor Molina is a guy who we've had some internal discussions about who might fit that role [closer], for multiple reasons," said Farrell. "No. 1, emotionally he seems to have handled everything that's been thrown his way. He's got exceptional command of his fastball and he's got a split-finger that's a put-away pitch."
"So whether or not we look to make that decision this winter is probably premature, but he's a guy that we've had discussions about in that role going forward."

Prediction: if the Jays do not sign or trade for a legit closer (that is, a guy who's known as a closer, not just a quality reliever who might be able to) such as Street or Bailey, or Broxton - Molina will come to camp in the spring with a shot to win the job if he shows he can do it in ST.

Another interesting comment was that Farrell described the closer job as a higher priority than 2B (and I still have a pretty strong feeling that Alex will go get Prado for that job). given how very empty 2B is right now (with all due respect to Luis Valbuena) that's a pretty striking thing to me. Sal Fasano also had great things to say about Molina today.

Now, looking ahead over the next month, I'm going to get away from my Jays-focus a bit and attempt some predictions about upcoming moves. Sometimes this will be "i think this will happen" and sometimes a little "I think this SHOULD happen" will leak in.

Top free agents, likely destinations:

Pujols - stays with Cards
Fielder - Nationals or Marlins
Reyes - Brewers
Wilson - Marlins
Oswalt - Rangers
Ramirez - Angels

Also, I've got Johnson to the Tigers (as many do) but I hope he goes to the Cards. As for the Blue Jays, the only major player (other than closers) I see them in on is Eric Bedard, which I think they would be the favorite for but not a slam-dunk favorite. There's a good chance he re-ups in Boston too.

Glancing over the latest chatter about trade possibilities, all of this sourced to MLBTR who in turn source it elsewhere:

Supposedly the Cubs are shopping Matt Garza. Before you covet him, look at his home-road splits and see what the park in TB did for him. Call me crazy but if I were the KC Royals i'd be all over this one. Very few MLB teams have a better set of prospects to deal from.

Yu Darvish and his wife are divorcing. Speculation abounds on whether this makes him more or less likely to post. Elliot reports Beeston is not a fan of the posting system and seems to imply this makes the Jays a much less serious contender for him.

Jonathan Broxton is said to be looking for a one-year deal to rebuild value, and given the Molina discussion . . . I'm gonna go out on a limb and say he's the probably first in line for the Blue jays. but he's said to be planning to pick a team this week and it's difficult to predict where HE wants to be. I'm inclined to think that the one year deal, or one and an option, is the way the team prefers to go.

I really thought there would be more things I wanted to comment on here in terms of "this player ought go there" sort of things - but it's getting late and my brain is froze up on the subject so....yeah.

Then there's THIS disturbing quote:

Teams that fail to sign top draft picks can’t re-allocate the money saved toward deals for other draft picks, according to MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo. For example, a team that fails to sign a top pick who had a recommended bonus of $1.5MM would see its spending ceiling fall by $1.5MM and would not have the option of spending that $1.5MM on other players.

If true, this is an astonishingly bad development - it amounts to hard slotting after all. It seems very hard to believe.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Top 50 Prospects: Part 2 - the Top 25

Since this is the post I'll be linking for the next year in the sidebar, let me start by including links to the previous lists:

Also, the list from last season is here.

And with that, let us indulge ourselves in a list of players Jays fans have to be thankful for (even if it's not Thanksgiving in Canada).

25. DJ Thon (20) SS [#17 last year] - The drop in ranking for Thon has more to do with the continued influx of talent along with the breakout campaigns of some other players, rather than penalizing him for his illness impinged 2011 campaign. Six of the players ranked above him were not in the Jays organization last year (on the other hand, five players graduated from the list).

24. Dwight Smith, Jr. (19) OF [ N/A] - I admit that I really overlooked this guy after the draft, and I blame that one one thing - all the lazy evaluations which said, more or less, "He's like his dad." But over time with more information, I think that sold him short. the more through descriptions make him sound like a considerably more interesting prospect than that initial description would imply.

23. Jacob Anderson (19) RF/1B [N/A] - I'm possibly giving Anderson too much credit for a really small sample in the GCL, but it was a very nice sample. In 37 pro at-bats he hit .405 and hie had a 1.098 OPS. Still, the 2011 first round supplemental pick (the highest pick after the unsigned Tyler Beede) was picked that high for a reason.

22. Chris Hawkins (20) LF [43] - Hawkins was drafted as a 3B, but the Blue Jays shifted him to LF this year and he responded with a fine offensive year. He showed good speed, good power, quality aggressive base-running (in 68 games he had 6 triples, and 14 steals in 18 attempts) as well as a respectable eye at the plate (.372 OBP).

21. Asher Wojciechowski (23) RHP [14] - Woj had a season that, on paper, looks like a disappointment. He opened the seasons strong, but the Jays felt he was relying too much on his fastball and had him make some adjustments that did not lead to a great results. By Mid-season he found the groove he was looking for (I'm unclear whether as a result of abandoning the changes or adjusting to them) and over his last 10 games looked very much like the guy the scouts had been praising (a 5 to 1 K to BB ratio for instance).

20. Chad Jenkins (24) RHP [13] - The best word for Jenkins year is "consistent" but that's as opposed to "impressive" or "breakout." Jenkins has established his pattern as a ground-ball pitcher who doesn't get the strikeouts one usually expects from a first rounder or a top prospect. I'm actually tempted to penalize him for that, he almost strikes me as the pitching version of David Cooper. But I'll be patient another year. My guess is that if he's still with the team next year, he'll have been so buried on the depth chart that he'll be dreaming fondly of a trade.

19. Roberto Osuna (16) RHP [N/A] - I readily admit I tend to give more credit to the new acquisitions than almost anyone, but how can you not be impressed by a kid who was holding his own in the Mexican League at 15! He was already 6'3" when signed and likely has added a couple of inches since then. I'm excited to see what he can do but he'll spend 2012 in the DSL so patience is required.

18. Kevin Comer (19) RHP [N/A] - Another supplemental round pick from the 2011 draft (thank you Colorado), some observers debated whether he might have been the highest upside pitcher the jays drafted this year (yes, over Beede) but like some of the other players from this draft, he was considered completely unsignable. That turned out not to be so.

17. Matt Dean (19) 3B [N/A] - This will be remembered as the boldest, or craziest, ranking on this list. Every year as the draft approaches there ends up being 3 or 4 guys that I read so much I like about that they become guys I lust after. sometimes that works out well (Eric Thames) and sometimes it fails (Justin Jackson). This year one of my favorites was Dean and i was thrilled the Jays took him. I have very high expectations. They got him late (13th round) - again a signability issue - but he was considered to be possibly a high 2nd round talent, of not even higher.

16. Adonys Cardona (18) RHP [16] - The prize of the Blue Jays international free agent class in 2010, Cardona made his stateside debut in 2011 and had just a little higher ERA than ideal, but the ratios were more than fine for a 17 year old in the GCL. There's nothing to suggest he's not progressing as expected.

15. Marcus Knecht (21) OF [33] - Mildly overshadowed by his fellow Lansing outfielders, mainly because he lacks their speed, but he led the team in walks, doubles and homers and has nothing of which to be ashamed. He'll certainly open in Dunedin in April.

14. A. J. Jimenez (22) C [15] - A lot of Jays bloggers like Jimenez a bit more than I do. Not that I dislike him as a prospect, in a vacuum, there's a lot to like. Good speed, solid doubles power, and reportedly excellent defense. But in the depth of the Jays system, particularly at the same position, he just doesn't stand out to me. I can remember years when he'd been a definite top 10 but not now.

13. Michael Crouse (21) RF [39] - Here's a guy I might be under-rating based on his draft position. There were a lot of similarities between he and the fellow who played to his right, but Crouse was a 16th rounder (2008) while the other guy was considered a huge steal in the third a year later. In fact, On August 1 he had more walks doubles, triples, and homers than that other guy, but he missed much of August with injury and was 1 for 11 upon his return. Quite possibly I've wronged him here, but the top of this list is a log-jam of worthy options.

12. Deck McGuire (23) RHP [10] - The knee-jerk thing to do is to compare McGuire's AA transition to that of other pitchers promoted before him and see disappointing results. But that was a tiny sample (only three starts before getting hurt) and it overlooks the results in Dunedin which were not at all underwhelming for a guy in his first professional season. There are guys in the system I like better (as yet unnamed) but i need to be careful to not penalize McGuire for not being them.

11. Carlos Perez (21) C [4] - Here's a guy who did have a disappointing season. I've seen quotes indicating his coaches were pleased with it but statistically he was well off his previous pace. Given the remarkable progress by some other players in the system he was bound to drop, but he still gets a ton of praise so not too far. Most are giving him a mulligan on this year.

10. Aaron Sanchez (19) RHP [8] - Here's another one of my "pet projects" - the guy Mel Queen called the best pitcher he'd scouted since Christ Carpenter - but he struggled with control at times in 2011 and in the process saw a couple of his fellow draftees pass him by on my list.

9. Daniel Norris (19) LHP [N/A] - I have an acknowledged history of spotting the first round pick a spot in the Top 10, unless the depth is staggering (which it is) but Norris wasn't a first rounder. Nevertheless, he's the recipient of so very much praise, including being widely described as a guy who'd never have reached the Jays first pick if anyone had thought he would sign, that in my mind, he's the #1 pick for 2011 no matter what the record says. This is one of those places where my ever shifting rankings shows up, as i had him at #6 right up until I started writing him up, but I can't overlook the results already in the book. I do believe in this guy though, without reservation.

8. Justin Nicolino (20) LHP [42] - Only one other player rocketed further up the chart this year than Nicolino. Made all the more valuable by his left handiness, Nicolino's year gives the appearance of one who's toying with his inferiors. in 12 starts for Vancouver he had an ERA of 1.03, a WHIP of 0.75 and a 6:1 ratio of K's to walks. And you have to be less inclined to think it's a low-minors mirage when you note he was a 2nd round pick.

7. Noah Syndergaard (19) RHP [18] - As good as Nicolino was, Syndergaard was just as good, though physically he might have a higher ceiling. Listed at 6'5" with some reports about that he's added another couple of inches, the big Texan pitched across three levels and while not quite as dominant as the lefty, the cumulative ERA was under 2.00 so he's worthy of this respect.

6. Adeiny Hechavarria (23) SS [5] - all the reports say that his bat will be just tolerable in the majors given his defense (which is a contender for "best in baseball") and dismiss his late season surge after moving up to Vegas is nothing but a manifestation of the PCL effect. But it's worth noting that his offensive turnaround starter weeks before his promotion, and that a big chunk of those Vegas games were played in Memphis and Nashville which do not inflate offensive numbers and he never slowed down. He also did well in the AFL after a slow start, hitting .308 with an .870 OPS in the last 10 games he played (albeit the AFL is also very hitter friendly). I'm not saying he's going to be an impressive hitter but I am saying he might be getting a little too much disrespect at the plate.

4.(tie) Nestor Molina (23) RHP [56] - didn't just put himself on the map, he re-drew the whole friggin thing. In his first year as a starter after three in relief, Molina walked through hitter in Dunedin with ease, then as if that wasn't enough he spent August slapping around AA at a pace that would impress Nicolino. In five starts he threw 22 innings and struck out 33 while walking only 2 and giving up a single earned run.

4.(tie) Drew Hutchison (21) RHP [19] - there's simply no way to choose between he and Molina, he started the year in Lansing and didn't find much in the way of serious opposition on any of the three levels he pitched at. And like Molina, he threw even better in a small AA sample than he had at lower levels. Either pitcher could see time in Toronto in 2012, but certainly will be candidates in 2013. If there is any thing which distinguishes them, it's that with so very many young talented candidates for the rotation that they might turn Molina into their own version of Joakim Soria even if that would be under-using his obvious talents.

3. Anthony Gose (21) CF [6] - another very hard choice here, Gose has outstanding skills in 4 of the 5 tools . . . but it's the deficiency in the fifth that left him ranked third for me. He can run like the wind, and do it smartly, he's a great fielder and has solid power (albeit, that was new this year and needs repeating) and has a cannon arm. But he hit only .253 which is not quite what you'd want for a future lead-off hitter. If he hit .300 he'd be a contender for the top 10 prospects in baseball.

2. Jake Marisnick (21) CF [9] - Edges Gose almost entirely because he hit .320 this year. While batting average is a less than ideal stat, a developing prospect needs to put the bat on the ball and Marisnick did that. He's not quite as fast as Gose, and probably has a tic less arm, but he's a more well rounded player. He's some seven months younger than Gose, but hasn't been pushed as fast through the minors. My hunch is he's a slightly better bet to be an All-Star and a somewhat lesser bat to flop than Gose.

1. Travis d'Arnaud (23) C [11] - the definition of a break-out year. d'Arnaud went from a year which was hindered by a back injury which led some to worry if he was physically able to hold up to the rigors of the position, to winning the EL MVP in convincing fashion. Even though the Blue Jays now have on their roster perhaps the best young catcher they've ever developed, the speculation is already abroad that his days are numbered until d'Arnaud forces the Jays to open the position.

And there you have it. To acknowledge historical reality, it's generally true that the majority of highly ranked prospects DON'T in fact go on to be above average major leaguers, but with that said, I truly feel that the team has 18-20 guys who are, in an average year or an average system, easily "top 10" prospects and over 40 guys who have legitimate potential to be average or better major league players. it's hard to describe the remarkable depth.

Last year the Kansas City system got high praise for having several really high ceiling guys, which would be an aspect they had over this list in the judgement of most observers, but for sheer depth of really good guys, it's hard to imagine it ever getting any better than this.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Top 50 Prospects: Part 1

So. Brian Jeroloman is back. AA never lets me complete a list in peace. For the record, I had him at #73 (this pushes Marcus Brisker out of the top 100 - yes, I have an irrational attachment to having Scott Campbell on the list).

Now, let the festivities begin!

50. Alan Farina (age 25 on opening dayof minor league season) RHP - Will miss most if not all of 2012 recovering from TJ. Still has pretty good future after recovery.
49. Sam Dyson (24) RHP - has been recovering from injury, at least one recent report said he'd had a setback. Good stuff but plagued by injury.
48. Santiago Nessy (19) C - could go a lot higher if he stays at Catcher and succeeds, much harder to impress if he has to move out to 1B. Big kid for a catcher.
47. Manuel Cordova (17?) RHP - One of the summers well regarded bonus babies.
46. Jesus Gonzalez (17?) OF - another 2011 summer signing. All of these guys in the top 50 were well regarded by scouts and paid like high draft picks.
45. Anthony DeSclafini (22) RHP - Sixth round pick this summer, some good reports though largely overlooked in the praise for other picks.
44. Tom Robson (18) RHP - Canadian hero, 4th round pick this year. Will be a sentimental favorite for many.
43. Jeremy Gabryswski (19) RHP - Second rounder this year, another guy who didn't get the publicity of some others but some observers like him a good bit.
42. Yan Gomes (24) C - Finished strong in the AFL, had surprisingly good season in AA despite a constant struggle for playing time behind d'Arnaud. Given the opportunity he could climb.
41. Myles Jaye (20) RHP - considered a quality sleeper choice when drafted in the 18th round in 2010. Didn't set the league on fire, or disappoint. Jury still out.
40. Jario Labourt (18) LHP - Under the radar free agent last year, pitched fairly well in DSL this year but too early to judge him on stats. Scouts like him.
39. Mitchell Taylor (20) LHP - Excellent walk and K rate for Bluefield, possibly a temperament issue as he was sent home early for disciplinary reasons.
38. Mark Biggs (19) RHP - Eighth round pick in 2011 but he fell due to signability. probably more like a 3rd round talent.
37. Griffin Murphy (19) LHP - Second round pick looked a bit ordinary in first pro season but it's very early yet. Considered a very quality pick.
36. Joe Musgrove (19) RHP - Yet another guy who is perhaps underrated because he wasn't a guy who fell due to being hard to sign. Thus not a lot of publicity after the draft.
35. Kellen Sweeney (20) 3B - Missed almost the whole season due to injury, but if healthy still has a major league ceiling.
34. Dawel Lugo (17?) SS - All these 2011 bonus players have a "?" by their age because I don't have a birthdate on most of them. All these guys were on the list of the top 40 highest regarded Latin prospects on signing day, essentially, sort of the first round talent of the market.
33. Wilmer Becarra (17?) SS/CF - Most reports suggest the shortstop is growing out of the position (he's already 6'4") and will likely begin his pro career in CF.
32. Mike McDade (23) 1B - A mid-season knee injury wreaked what had been a breakout year. his first-half OPS was .880 and the second half saw only a .561 total. We'll have to see if that was an expected regression or it really was the knee.
31. Joel Carreno (25) RHP - Seemed to find a niche as a reliever (in a small sample) which is what I'd expected of him all along. We don't know yet how he'll peak but there might be a very good late inning guy here.
30. David Cooper (25) 1B - none of the scouts express the view that he'll be anything more than a filler guy in the majors, depsite fans drooling over his 2011 stats. Could have a Dan Johnson like career, or might prove his critics wrong.
29. Sean Nolin (22) LHP - lost a bunch of weight over the last off-season and re-invented himself. Jays coaches were blown away by the result. With so many good pitchers in the system, this might be the single most overlooked pitcher the team has.
28. Christian Lopes (19) SS - Seventh round signability steal. This is one of the guys from the 2011 draft I have a strong hunch about, though he might end up at 2B eventually.
27. John Stilson (21) RHP - Health is a big concern here. if he can stay on the mound, might be one of the biggest bargains in the draft. Question is - will the Jays develop him as a starter, or throw him out there as a closer where he might come very fast.
26. Moises Sierra (23) RF - Sierra is a bit of an enigma to me. Tools are there, performance is so far just "not bad." I've concluded that given the team's near-majors depth, Seirra is a prime trade candidate (as is Cooper) and I expect him to be an add on to some trade, this winter or next summer (in the same manner that Yohermin Chavez was in the Morrow deal).

In my opinion, there are easily 40 or more players in the system who would be top 30 prospects on your average MLB list - and there are players as low as #55 on my list that some would make an argument for as being worthy of that praise.

Coming soon: the Top 25!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Prospect Week Continues!

This whole business of having a deep deep system takes on a new context given the news of the new CBA today. Frankly, I like Kevin Goldstien's take that pretty much the only good thing to come out of it (in terms of acquiring amateur talent) is the agreement to move up the signing deadline.

That said, my tinfoil hat theory is that Paul Beeston saw this coming (having worked closely with Uncle Bud) and that factored into Alex's plan to do crazy balls-out system building now, then turn into big-market monsters when they were ready - with "ready" being defined as "when MLB changes the whole dynamic." I suspect that Anthopoulos already has a plan in the works for how to keep succeeding in the new paradigm.

For some good takes on the situation, see Dave Cameron's piece for Fangraphs, Jim Callis' revised thoughts for Baseball America For Jays specific content, there's a great read (as always) From Shi Davidi, and Stoten's comments on DJF (which includes some further linkage). One further thought, Kelly Johnson is now a "modified Type A" which means that should another team sign him, the jays will get a pick in front of their first pick, but that team won't actually lose their own pick. I can't help but notice that the Twins (at #2) Cubs (#6), Marlins (#9) Rockies (#10) and Mets (#12) could all use a guy like Kelly Johnson at 2B next year . . . just sayin'!

And with that, I'll dive into the next batch of players on the list.

75. Dave Rollins (LHP) - kinda low pick in '11, did pretty well
74. Jon Diaz (SS) - the next John McDonald?
73. Jon Talley (C/1B) - Not too late for him to bust out if power holds up
72. Darin Mastorianni (CF) - sure seems fringy to me
71. Jesus Tinoco (RHP) - Signed this month, little info other than bonus
70. Jorge Vega-Rosado (SS) - Could make big leap if production continues
69. Alberto Torado (P) - Summer bonus baby, not a lot of info
68. Matt Wright (LHP) - Might lose in minor league portion of Rule 5 draft
67. Chad Beck (RHP) - Recent high praise justified?
66. Casey Lawrence (RHP) - Has done well for undrafted free agent
65. K.C. Hobson (1B) - very disappointing year
64. Keenen Bailli (OF) - Japanese import, unheralded for a reason apparently
63. Eric Acre (OF) - Undersized, but showed a lot of power
62. Danny Barnes (RHP) - low minors relievers are often illusions
61. Yeyfry Del Rosario (RHP) - little notice 2010 bonus baby, might be something there
60. Evan Crawford (LHP) - Added to 40, Jays must see something
59. Dalton Pompey (OF) - Some consider him a sleeper to watch
58. Brad Glenn (OF) - old for his league, but props for results
57. Daniel Webb (RHP) - headed to relief, Jays apparently like his profile there
56. Sean Ochinko (C/3B/1B) - off year, gets a mulligan
55. Tyler Ybarra (LHP) - a most promising sleeper
54. Gus Pierre (SS) - how long will they endure his SS defense?
53. Danny Farquhar (RHP) - marginal guy probably
52. Gabriel Cenas (3B) - Still in DSL, too early to tell on this bonus baby
51. Brad Mills (LHP) - likely can't succeed in Toronto. Needs trade.

Coming soon: the real meet of the system is on the horizon with 50-26 up next.

Top Prospect Week begins!

As i mourn both the MVP vote and the signing of Joe Nathan in Texas (and cast a wistful glance at the stats for Houston Street) I lay aside the past and look again to the future

I'm totally changing up the way I list the prospects this year. I have, on my spread sheet, a "ranking" of no less than 150 players in the Toronto Blue Jays organization. A few of them I'll take out because they've lost their rookie eligibility even though in my mind they are still prospects because they haven't firmly established their grip on the major league roster, but there's still a ton of names. obviously the VAST majority are not likely to ever suit up in Toronto, but I don't like for a player to sneak up on my, so I pay attention to all of those who are interesting in any way.

In an effort to share my obsession with you, I intend to at least call the name of 100 players. to repeat, these are not "prospects" in the sense of having great promise to make an impact in Toronto. I think there are 30-40 guys you should be enthused about in the Jays system and, statistically, you'll be lucky if a third of those are real difference makers.

But it's also true that guys who were not in that top 30 last year are very important players this year, and guys who are not now, might very well be there a year from now. So I try to be exhaustive.

In years past I've avoided the more traditional "count-down" listing format preferring to just start with #1. But this year I will go with the reverse list simply by the nature of this week-long project. What I intend to do is write four columns, beginning with this one, with 25 players on each. I'll going to be very clear in saying that the lower on the list you are, the less the "rankings" actually mean. In this first installment (100-76) they are almost completely useless, in the next they reflect somewhat the concept of which players might be more prone to break out and jump into the top of the list (as Nestor Molina did this year). In the third installment, I begin to really sort of focus on "this guy is better than that guy" (and that defined as a balance of tools, the likelihood he can effectively use them, and accomplishment so far).

It's only the Top 25 where I consider the number beside the name to really mean something important in terms of reflecting my views. The higher we go on the list, the more likely I'll want to comment on the player. Which means, of course, that i won't say much about these guys.

100. Scott Campbell (2B) - injuries wiped out his career, a lot of sentiment in this ranking
99. Marcus Brisker(CF) - tools, hasn't panned out
98. Jon Jones (OF) - speedy guy but not blazing
97. John Anderson (LHP) - tons of injuries
96. Ryan Tepera (RHP) - classic Org Guy
95. Art Charles (1B) - a guy who could move up some
94. Adric Kelly (RHP) - some thought a sleeper in 2010 draft
93. Nico Taylor (OF) - very low pick, but nice start
92. Kevin Aherns (3B) - pretty much ready to give up on former 1st rounder
91. Justin Atkinson (SS) - versatile infielder from 2011 draft
90. Kevin Patterson (1B) - could move up next year
89. Devy Estrada (RHP) - loved his work pre-'11, scouts insist it won't play at higher levels.
88. Shane Opitz (SS) - some think he has promise
87. Ericdavis Marquez (LHP) - Awesome in DSL, 20 a touch old for that league
86. Ron Uvideo (RHP) - respectable stats, might be a fringe major leaguer for a bit
85. Zach Adams (LHP) - slow start, praised pick at #15 in 2010
84. John Tolisano (OF) - more disappointment from the '07 high schoolers
83. Dayton Martze (RHP) - mixed opinions from me here
82. Andrew Burns (SS) - 11th round pick in '11, same as Opitz in '10
81. Justin Jackson (IF/OF) - looked like possible break-out into June then fell completely apart
80. Kevin Pillar (RF) - good stats, but old for league
79. Brady Dragmire (RHP) - here a good thing or two about this pick
78. Ryan Goins (SS) - not bad, just not taking off either
77. Dustin Antolin (RHP) - comeback from TJ this year, could make big jump next year
76. Ryan Schimpf (2B) - just a guy

Up next - 75-51

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Uniformly Pleased!

Okay sure, it's not news. I, like every other Blue Jays fan on the planet, am still swooning over the new unis. I didn't even particularly dislike the last ones (the only ones I ever hated was the hideous T-Bird design) but these come very near to perfection. My favorite choice is to use the stripped down logo (as opposed to the one with the baseball behind it) on the cap and jersey. The darker, brighter coloring on the logo is a vast improvement over the pastels of the original.

There's not a lot more to say about the biggest event of the day, but it wasn't the only event. There was also roster movement as November 18 was the deadline for teams to finalize their roster in advance of the upcoming Rule 5 draft. The choices on who to add were obvious this year, as the Jays added Travis d'Arnaud, Mike McDade, Nestor Molina, and LH reliever Evan Crawford. Meanwhile they announced that the had removed Brian Jeroloman, who was lost on waivers to Pittsburgh (you'd think they would have learned by now!) and Cole Kimball (who they'd just claimed on waivers a few days ago) who was lost back to the Nationals from whence he came. Also added to the 40 man roster was another waiver claim, one Andrew Carpenter who played for the Phillies and Padres last year. The roster now stands at 38.

for those of you wondering about the shortage of slots given the needs the team has, having only 2 or 3 (or even less) open slots heading into the R5 is not unusual. Teams simply make their arrangements and announce the deal formally after the draft. And when the time comes other players will be outrighted to the minors to make room (such as Alan Farina, who's recovering from Tommy John surgery, or Darin Mastorianni as examples)

If you are wondering if any Jays prospects are at risk of being drafted - no one you should worry about but here are a few players who might temp teams, particularly in the minor league portion of the draft:

1. Jon Diaz - ceiling is John McDonald 2.0
2. Matt Wright - LH reliever who had good ratios
3. Mark Sobolewski - under-achieved his scouting reports coming out of the draft
4. Balbino Fuenmayor - one time bonus baby, never got out of low-a ball.
5. Jon Talley - C/1B/DH with emerging power potential

I'd be stunned if any were taken in the major league portion of the draft.

Coming soon, the Top Prospect list.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

2011 Positional Review: Pitchers

Buckle up folks, this is going to be a long one. I thought about doing the relievers as a separate post but that would give you the impression that they are more highly regarded than they are. the truth is the best relief prospect is usually no better than the 15th or so Starter prospect, and most of the best major league relievers were not relievers in the minors. So I'll list them in this post after dedicating the thousands of words necessary to cover the deep SP list.

Let me take a moment to note here, as I'll have to do in the Top prospect list, that there are guys who ":feel" like prospects still who have lost their rookie eligibility and so do not qualify. particularly, in this case, Henderson Alvarez (who'd be #1 on this list if he hadn't broken that threshold) and Kyle Drabek (almost impossible to properly rank anyway)

1. Drew Hutchison (20) RHP - It's difficult to speak highly enough of Hutch's record as a professional so far. The 15th round steal has been nothing short of phenomenal. As a pro he has 42 starts, ranging from short-season to AA in just 2 seasons. in that body of work his SO/BB ratio is 4.33; his SO/9 is 9.7 and his BB/9 is 2.2; his ERA is 2.52 and his WHIP is 1.03 over a total of 218 IP. If there is a cautionary note it's that he more than doubled his IP total from 2010 to 2011, which os often regarded as inadvisable - but you were never going to be able to stick to the +20% rule when his 2010 total was under 70IP anyway.

2. Nestor Molina (22) RHP - This might be viewed as a mildly aggressive ranking given that Molina is 22 and most of the other highly ranked guys played all or most of 2011 at age 20 or less. But Molina, despite having played his first professional game as a pitcher (he's a converted SS) at 18 was only recently moved into the rotation and has fewer professional starts than Hutchison does (27 v. 42). But what starts! In particular look at his five starts to finish the season after being promoted to AA New Hampshire. his ERA was 0.41, giving up a single earned run in 22 IP. He also K'ed 33 while walking TWO in those five games. And this at the end of a season in which he exceeded his previous career high in IP by 50. Overall his rates in 2011 were even better than Hutchson's. It's only the smaller sample of starts which has him slightly behind Hutch on this list.

3. Daniel Norris (18) LHP - another aggressive ranking here, and no maybes about it. This is based entirely on the flood of praise directed his way in the wake of the Jays landing the supposedly unsignable "best HS LHP in the draft" this summer. I'm sure there will be strong arguments made for going with the professional results of the next three guys on the list before I note Norris, but none of them came into the draft with the clippings Norris did.

4. Noah Syndergaard (18) RHP - Reviewing the 2010 draft class I certainly swooned over the praise for another guy in that class, and still think highly of him, but a lot of good things were said about the 6'5" Syndergaard as well and so far he's gotten out of the gate better. He's done all you could ask for in his first full professional season and his growth curve seems to still be trending upward. In 11 starts spread over three levels he posted a sub-2 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 9.2 SO/9 to go with a 1.09 WHIP. Expect more good things next year beginning at Lansing and possibly following the rapid promotion path that Hutchison took in 2011.

5. Aaron Sanchez (18/19) RHP - Sanchez, who turned 19 in the middle of the 2011 season, was the object of my swooning affection this time last year and as much as I still love his upside, the big (6'4") righty didn't match Syndergaard's production in 2011. Sanchez has dealt with some mechanical problems with his delivery which has created control issues. He's shown flashes of brilliance but until he gets that problem solved he's going to lag behind his classmates.

6. Justin Nicolino (19) LHP - There might be a small element of bias in not putting Nico ahead of Sanchez on this list, because it's hard to find any fault with the lefty's first year. The Jays held Nicolino far longer than i would have in Vancouver when he seemed to be owning the league, but he did get 3 starts in Lansing at the end of the year and did fine work in a small sample. In Vancouver he had an ERA of 1.33, a WHIP of 0.85, an insane H/9 rate of 5.8, 10.8 SO/9 and 1.9 BB/9 while opposing batters hit a tiny .156 off him. The 6'3" Nicolino is listed at a mere 160 and it's possible that he still has some growth yet in his physicality. Certainly there are no red flags when it comes to projecting continued success.

7. Deck McGuire (22) RHP - the 2010 first round pick has suffered more by comparison to the insane production of those above him on this list more so than by actual under-achievement on his part. Seen in a vacuum, McGuire did pretty much exactly what you'd expect in a first professional season in which he was aggressively started off in Hi-A ball. He posted almost a K per 9 with a solid ERA and a somewhat higher than ideal WHIP (though far from awful at 1.21) fueled by somewhat too many walks while making 21 starts in Dunedin. After his promotion to NH he made three respectable starts before being shelved with a minor injury which kept him out of action for a month. His ERA there was a bit high as AA hitters made better contact off him but the sample size (under 21 IP) is far too small too make you worry much.

8. Adonys Cardona (17) RHP - The Venezuelan bonus baby was in his first year stateside in 2011, pitching in the Gulf Coast league. As one might expect, there was some inconsistency but the indicators were strong, as were the reports. He could use more control, but his K rate was strong and I think given what he was paid to sign, there's every reason to expect big things.

9. Kevin Comer (18) RHP - Some observers considered it just as big a coup for the Jays to steal him away from Vandy as it was to land Norris and some scouts thin he's at least as good a prospect. For some reason, maybe just a latent resistance to believe that every move is pure gold, I've resisted buying into that entirely - but I can't ignore that he's good enough to at least provoke such high praise either.

10. Roberto Osuna (16) RHP - the nephew of former Major Leaguer Antonio Osuna was holding his own in the Mexican League at 15. He was considered no worse than the 4th best international player signed this summer and right now he's being rated all on tools and ability. He's very unpolished but with effective coaching could be a special player.

11. Chad Jenkins (23) RHP - Some are concerned about Jenkins' perceived lack of conditioning and his propensity towards a ground-ball, low-strikeout result and wonder how he'll play at higher levels. But his numbers are not bad, so much as they are something less than most fans hope for from a first round pick. In another organization one might expect him to be a perfectly serviceable #4 or 5 starter. given the competition with the Jays, it's hard to imagine a path from where he is to the major league rotation. I anticipate he'll be included in a trade at some point.

12. Asher Wojciechowski (22) RHP - Woj is listed at the same height and weight as Jenkins, but I've yet to hear anyone question his conditioning. Possibly they are put together differently. Still ,it's difficult to resist the urge to compare them. Their K rate was almost identical and the BB rate was pretty similar too. Woj gave up considerably more hits but there's a caveat to that. He started the season in fine fashion and, sometime in mid-May, the team tried to change something about his delivery which, whatever the intent, fouled up his fastball command and let to a lot of balls up in the zone. This persisted throughout June (his combined ERA for May and June was 7.81) , but once he overcame (or abandoned?) that he reverted to form and finished the season strong posting a 3.18 ERA in his last ten starts. For some reason i've had a hunch all along that Woj will end up a power reliever rather than in the Jays rotation (if he's not traded at some point) and I still lean towards that view.

Other guys to watch who stand to be quite good:
John Stilson (20) RHP - if he recovers from injuries suffered in colege
Joel Carreno (24) RHP - marginal as a starter prospect, could be a very good reliever in 2012
Sean Nolin (21) LHP - took huge leap forward in 2011
Mark Biggs (18) RHP - described as a steal in the 8th round, another "hard sign" guy
Joe Musgrove (18) RHP - i might be under-rating this guy
Mitch Taylor (19) LHP - 7th rounder from 2010, bit of a sleeper in this group
Griffin Murphy (19) - disappointing first season, still good potential
Jario Labourt (17) LHP - just getting started, well regarded though

Even more guys who deserve a mention: Myles Jaye, Jeremy Gabryszwiski, Tom Robson, Anthony DeSclafani, Manny Cordova, Sam Dyson, Tyler Ybarra

When you can construct a solid Top 20 prospects while only mentioning starting pitchers, you know you are doing something right.

1. Joel Carreno (24) RHP - mentioned above, much more promising in the 'pen
2. Chad Beck (26) RHP - lots of praise from observers for long-shot guy
3. Alan Farina (24) RHP - will miss all of '12 recovering from TJ surgery
4. Danny Farquhar (24) RHP - not as impressive in '11, still has interesting arsenal
5. Trystan Magnuson (26) RHP - big guy, middling stuff, reminds you of Rauch in some ways
6. Danny Barnes (21) RHP - dominated at Lo-A, remains to be seen how he handles advancement.
7. Evan Crawford (24) LHP - solid ratios in AA, doing quite well in AFL
8. Matt Wright (24) LHP - high K/low BB numbers in Dunedin show promise.
9. Dustin Antolin (21) RHP - first year back from TJ, next year will be key
10. Daniel Webb (21) RHP - highly regarded in draft, couldn't pull it together as starter, Jayssiad to love his upside as reliever.

Others to watch - Ron Uvideo, Aaron Loup, any of a number of SP who might ended up converted to relief along the way. Particularly Stilson and Dyson who'd come much faster as relievers.

(subject to proofing tomorrow)

Friday, 11 November 2011

2011 Positional Review: Catchers

This is a position both well stocked (astonishingly so given the rarity of good prospects behind the plate) and easy to handle in review.

1. Travis d'Arnaud (22) - It's difficult to imagine a player taking a bigger leap forward or accomplishing more of what he needed to in a season than d'Arnaud did this year. He was the MVP of the EL and deservedly so. He showed good power, good plate control, and above average defense. Usually the first guy one mentions on a list like this is worthy of 2 or 3 paragraphs but d'Arnaud's promise is so self evident it's difficult to find things that need saying. He'll start 2012 in the PCL and may well dominate but I've a hunch the Jays will move slowly unless they get a very impressive opportunity to include JP Arencibia in a trade, and it's possible it might be June of 2013 before d'Arnaud is in the majors "for good".

Some will express caution about the thumb he injured during the Pan Am games, but the team is confident he'll be ready to go and 100% when Spring Training starts.

2. Carlos Perez (20) - this was one of the hardest choices I've had to make so far in relative ranking. Viewed in isolation Perez's 2011 was not the second best season by a catcher in the jays system. Indeed it was arguably not even third best. But Perez brought a high enough profile into the season to sustain his reputation through one down year. He is still, of course, unpolished and inconsistent. But most observers see a relatively high ceiling. He'll need to rebound in 2012, however.

3. A.J. Jimenez (21) - Jimenez was a ninth round pick in 2008 and has been steadily raising his profile since the draft. He's always had a good reputation as an impressive defender, and he's turned himself into a quality hitter. He lacks home run power (so far, but he makes good contact and posts a respectable OBP. In isolation, he has a case for the #2 ranking on this list, and he certainly has his believers among Jays' prospect observers, but I still think that Perez will ultimately be a better prospect with a higher ceiling and it's for that reason i gave him the slight edge on this list. Jimenez will certainly move up to NH in 2012, and it's reasonably likely that unless Perez struggles in the spring, he'll move up to Dunedin as well, despite a sub-standard 2011. But the Jays might elect to hold him in Lansing and make him force their hand.

4. Yan Gomes (23) - It's time Gomes started getting some respect. Thus far in his career he's had the misfortune to share a roster with a catcher who was much his superior andso his playing time, particularly behind the plate, suffered. Gomes followed JP Arencibia at Tennessee, and while not as powerful as his predecessor, he shares a similar profile. Gomes is probably never going to be a first string major leaguer, but I could easily see him succeeding as a competent journeyman backup. but we'll never know for sure until and unless he gets a shot at a full time starting job.

5. Santiago Nessy (18) - Nessy is a bonus baby signing out of Venezuela. As you might imagine he's very young and raw and many of these guys just never "click" - but Nessy got off to a reasonably good start with the bat for a kid his age in his first North American work. My concern with this kid is his size. He's listed at 6'2" and 230 and probably isn't done growing. That's pretty big for a Catcher. I could see him maybe moving out to 1B at some point.

Another name to know is erstwhile glove man Brian Jeroloman. Abandon hope he'll ever hit much, but he has an impressive defensive reputation and some guys build a pretty decent career as a reserve on that profile. Sean Ochinko, from the 1B list is still technically a catcher and if Perez is not promoted out of the spring he (Ochinko) might actually get noticeable work behind the plate at least in the first half. also, Big Jon Talley has his believers, but he's as big as Nessy, and it's unclear how much potential the Jays see in him