Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Pause for the Cause

I don't often (ever?) tangent in this space off talking about the Jays to other baseball matters, and only on one rather important (to me) occasion in my memory have I drifted off the sport altogether to the world beyond. Humor me then, as I make a second exception to that policy for a subject which is important, and personal, to me.

Word comes to my attention today that the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs have joined the San Francisco Giants in making a PSA video for the It Get's Better Project. Allow me to set aside on field rivalry and tip my metaphorical hat in the direction of the Beantown Nine (and the other teams as well).

When the first announcement came that the Giants had participated, I highlighted the announcement via Twitter to the Blue Jays players who are on that site, with an appeal that the Jays follow that worthwhile lead and participate as well. I'm not naive as to the idea that professional athletes get more tweets than they can possibly take note of, so with the announcement that other teams are participating I'm going to take my rabble rousing to the next level - I'm determined to get their attention and confident that if - when - I do, they will respond positively.

In fact, I would not be surprised to know they already were working on it. But I also want to raise a point in which I have a vested self interest. If you are not familiar with the It Gets Better Project, it's a campaign designed to raise awareness of bullying targeting LGBT youth and to say to these young people, who are at dramatically higher risk of self harm, than the average teen, that no matter how dark their current situation seems, life does get better. It is a wonderful project which anyone should be proud to support. I, however, have this one quibble: in the announcements I've seen there's been a great deal of attention to the "L" and the "G" but not so much to the "T" - I'd like to appeal for that to change along with my broader appeal to the Blue Jays.

When I was a teen, I made a huge effort (given the prevailing attitudes in the Southern U.S. in the 1970's) to be very sure no one knew about my condition, so I cannot say that I speak from direct experience with bullying. But I DO know what it is to live in a culture that considers people like you "freaks" and "pervs" and have no frame of reference to know better. I know full well what it is to look in the mirror and loath yourself, both for the wrongness of your physical gender, and for the "deviancy" of your gender identity condition. When the entire culture is one giant message screaming "you are not normal!!!" you don't really need a personified bully in your face to consider taking your own life. I do know what it is to spend what is supposed to be the best part of your life wondering if it's worth it to remain alive at all.

In today's culture, we have come a long long way from 1970's Mississippi (even in Mississippi!) but still, FAR too often, immature people (teens or no) perceive an easy target in the gay, lesbian, or transsexual youth. I think it's fair to say, also, that in some places being gay is more acceptable than being trans which, sadly, can even be a cause for derision from homosexual youth and adults themselves. But in all cases, so much progress has been made that a fair assessment of the future has to be optimistic. It is a mark of how far we have grown as a culture that more and more of those in the public eye take the opportunity to use their platform to say to those who still have to deal with those who have not joined in that progress "Hold on, it DOES get better" and by implication to those who still mistreat their fellow human being "these things ought not be."

I would be assumin too much, I expect, to assume that an at-risk LGBT teen might be reading my obscure little blog but the message cannot be repeated enough, even in the lightly traveled corners of the internet - you have a FAR more promising future ahead of you than those who came before you, and you should believe it when we say "it get's better." The world is changing and you stand to be the first generation that society might look on and call "normal" - stick around for that. Live that change, heck help make it happen.

Normally, it would be just as big an assumption to think for a moment that the Likes of Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, JP Arencibia, Jesse Listch, and Jose Baustista would ever take time out of there day to read this blog - but I'm going to be a considerable pest until someone calls their attention to my plea, which is this:

Guys, no one needs to tell you the influence you have on the young fans who look up to you, and no one needs to tell you what a progressive city you play in, so I will not waste time explaining the obvious. But each of you also know where you come from, you know those who follow you because you went to the same high school, the same college, maybe the same church - because you are, while still being a professional athlete "one of them." and credibility comes with that. I'm asking you, both as a Blue Jay fan and as a transsexual woman, if you have not already, step up to the plate and join your fellow major-leaguers who have done the right thing and added their voices to this call. And if it's not too much trouble, be sure someone mentions us trans folks somewhere along the way - we need it too.


Epilogue-
If, for whatever reason, you are reading this blog and you have ANY reasonable means of contact with the Blue Jays players, staff, or management and you can call their attention to this appeal, or at the least to the IGB project, please do so. I really don't care, in the end, if any of those prominent people ever know who I am - I do care that they speak up for an important message.

Thank you.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ricky Ro: Both right and wrong

By now you've read much, no doubt, about Ricky Romero's post-game comments last night and the various reactions and events which have followed. Romero has been, in his time here, the epitome of class and i refuse to assume that he's getting any sort of "attitude" - I doubt anyone thinks that. John Lott (a VERY good writer) characterized Romero's comment as "calling out" his teammates and Romero today pointedly denied that was his intent. According to today's reporting, Romero had a closed-door meeting to be sure his team-mates understood that.

My reaction is that Romero was, at the same time, both right and wrong. It IS true that Bautista and Lind get less to hit when the rest of the team isn't clicking. While the Jays are, as John Farrell notes in an implied refutation of Romero's remark, still 4th in the AL in offense, that obscures the RECENT situation. In June, in 18 games, the team OPS is a mere .678(good for 9th of 14 AL teams) and that would be much worse if Lind's was 1.231 over the same period. Edwin encarnacion, in half as many plate appearances, has been acceptable in June, everyone else (including Bautista) has been almost invisible.

Obviously in some cases it's simply an ill-timed confluance of slumps, but it is nevertheless a correct observation that the time is now three weeks on in an offensive decline. Through the first 1/3 of the season (54 games) the Jays averaged 5 runs a game, since then they've average 3 runs a game.

John Farrell's defense of his team means little in context because what happened weeks ago before Corey Patterson regressed or when Juan Rivera had a hot two weeks isn't the point.

But here's where I think Ricky is wrong in spirit, if not on facts. Most of these guys simply are Not. That. Good.

Ok, Bautista and Lind are two of the best hitters in the league, but he excepted those two.

Escobar is one of the better hitting SS in baseball, so we can overlook his being in a two week slump (he's had two good hitting games in his last 13 coming into tonight) and JPA has been battling an injured thumb which has hampered all aspects of his game and has sent his offensive production into a tail-spin in the last month. I'd like to see him sit tomorrow and in the first game against the Cards, and if that three-day rest didn't help his thumb, put him on the DL and try to have him right by the time the second half starts instead of letting him bury himself offensively. In any case, in light of the injury I'll give him a pass too.

The rest of them? Bluntly speaking, they are bench players who have no business starting. Ok, maybe not Aaron Hill - he's not right but for the last 44 games he's hit just about what the average major league 2B this year is hitting, I'm (perhaps irrationally) reasonably optimistic somewhat better days are ahead. But Romero can't realistically expect production from Davis and Rivera and Patterson and Nix. if you do get some, a couple of good weeks here, a great game there, that's gravy - but you should assume they will fail because, let's face it, they suck.

Davis or Patterson as your fourth OF? Sure. but if they are your regular starters something is wrong. Rivera and Nix are below average even for that bench role. Maybe you can hold out some hope for EE. As a DH his season OPS is .880, but the rest of these guys are what they are and what they are isn't good.

By the time Lawrie and Snider prove themselves healthy and back in the groove, we ought to see something like this:

Call up Snider, DFA Rivera (as if anyone would claim him)
Call up Lawrie, DFA Nix (will likely clear in late July)
Call up Thames and send down McCoy
Trade a reliever (Dotel preferably) in order to activate Janssen so you don't have to run the 8-man pen).
Consider whether Adam Loewen is competent enough in CF to lose Patterson and call up Loewen. Otherwise, you are stuck with Patterson as your only reserve CF.

Getting rid of Davis would be cool, but it's more difficult and AA won't wasily give up on a guy who's on a two year deal.

One thing I'd like to see is a strong attempt to acquire Matt Kemp - but that's probabyl unrealistic.


Anyway, Romero's remark is mostly overblown, but I think he, and we, need to resign ourselves to not getting offense from most of these guys. And as I've written this, another loss goes in the book in which everyone not named Adam Lind (excluding pitchers) went 3/26 so, yeah...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Meet Your Short Season Squads

Before I get into what the title implies, just a word about the Escobar signing (of which you are no doubt well aware):

YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I assume you can infer my enthusiasm from that without further elaboration.

Now, as you also probably know, the Jays three short season rosters have been assembled, and with tomorrows opening night in Bluefield all will have seen game action. The highest level team, the Vancouver Canadians, started with great fanfare Friday night. The lowest of the three, the Gulf Coast League Jays played their first game earlier today.

The wins and loses at these levels are of little importance - this is all about prospect development. the VanCans are just a step below the full season Lansing team in terms of development, the GCL squad is for the very raw (and in some cases the injury slowed since it's located on the jays Florida complex) and the Bluefield squad is about halfway in between.

Rather than pretend I have any great knowledge of the more obscure organizational filler players, I'm just going to highlight the known prospects worth watching on each team.

Vancouver

Honestly, right now things are thin here. Player movement will see several interesting players suit up here before the end of the season, but right now there's not that many well-known names.

Justin Nicolino - the 6'3' lefty was the third of three 2nd round picks for the Jays in the 2010 draft, and surprisingly is the highest placed of the Jays high school starting pitchers. that he's hear (while Sanchez and Syndergaard are not) says a lot about his being the most interesting player on this team right now.

Shane Opitz - the 19 year old shortstop drafted in the 11th round last year likely profiles as a utility infielder in the majors (think something like most of Marco Scutaro's career in terms of results) but some thing he has intriguing potential.

Taylor Cole - only a 29th round pick this year, Cole has an unusual back story. He was drafted in the first round by the Yankees in 2008. Between then and now he took two years off from pitching for a Mormon missionary tour. We'll be watching to see if the first round potential is still in there.

Bluefield

Aaron Sanchez - My praise here has been effusive for Sanchez, he is in my view one of the top 10 Jays prospects in terms of ceiling (or was coming into the season). there's little I can add here except that I assume if he does well, particularly in terms of control, he'll probably not be here all season.

Noah Syndergaard - Another RH high school pitcher taken in the supplemental round in 2010, some feel he's almost Sanchez's equal in terms of potential. He's somewhat more raw and might thereby be just a bit slower in promotion. Anthopoulos has been quoted as saying of both pitchers that they've touched 98 on the gun this spring.

Mitch Taylor - Yet another HS pitcher from the 2010 draft, this one left handed and taken in the 7th round. Taylor has gotten less notice in the shadow of the two names above, along with the already active college pitchers McGuire, and Woj who have also gotten much ink. The there's Nicolino and no less than three other pitchers taken before Taylor's name was called. Nevertheless, Taylor is a guy with considerable potential. He is somewhat smaller than the others, standing on;y 6'0" tall (an exception to AA's preference for "big bodied" pitchers).

Myles Jaye - A high school RH taken in 2010 (sensing a pattern here?) - this time in the 17th round, but you shouldn't underestimate him because of the comparative lateness of his selection. He only started pitching as a senior and he's thus pretty raw but the Jays were quite impressed with him this spring. Fangraph's Marc Hulet rates him the fifth best pitching prospect among the short-season rosters, behind Sanchez, Syndergaard, and two GCL pitchers, Griffin Murphy and Adonys Cardona.

Kelin Sweeney - a SS in high school, Sweeney will likely play 3B (and possibly eventually 2B) in the pros. He was the second of the Jays 3 third round picks last year and another player who might well move up before the season ends. Hulet notes him as the most interesting of the short season hitters, and mentions that perhaps he lacks the power many teams expect from a 3B.

Chris Hawkins - another HS shortstop, this time taken in the 8th round last year. Hawkins has started off the year playing CF in Bluefield though long term he may well slide to right.

GCL Jays

Griffin Murphy - surprisingly at the lowest level since his the oldest of the Jays HS pitchers taken in 2010 (he's 10 months older than Nicolino) Murphy is still nevertheless a very worthy prospect. The LH was the first of the jays three 2nd round picks last year, and considered possibly the best High School LH in the draft. Will probably move up during the season, and might be here because of lingering spring injuries.

Adonys Cardonas - (how can you not love a guy named Adonys?) the Jays spent a big pile of money (more than $2 million which is basically first round money) to give Cardonas the highest bonus in last years Latin signing period. Still 17 and quite raw, he will definitely be here all year.

Zac Adams - another 2010 pick, the LHP was taken in the 15th round though he's considerably better than that - he slid because he was considered unsignable. He does have some mechanical difficulties to overcome.

Adaric Kelly - a high school RH that slid all the way to the 28th round, Kelly, like Taylor, is a bit smaller than most of his peers in last years Jays draft. He's another player that just barely signed before the deadline and is perhaps a bargain because of signiability concerns.

Deivy Estrada - gets no respect from scouts, but still very young and has room to grow and pick up some mileage on his underpowered fastball. All he does is gets outs, however, and I'm rooting for him.

DJ Thon - I'm going to keep calling him DJ until it catches on damnit! Thon was slowed this spring by a blood disorder but is active in the GCL roster and played today. The HS shortstop was considered a near impossible sign but the Jays took the first round talent in the fifth round and pulled off the signing. He may not stick at SS throughout the minors, but he's expected to be well worth the investment.

Santiago Nessy - the biggest name the Jays signed out of Latin America in 2009, the 18 year old catcher is turning into the biggest signing period. He's already 6'2" 230 and he runs the risk of outgrowing the position. He's said to have average defense and good power and a solid make-up (per Hulet's report) and while the jays have the luxury of moving slowly with him (because of their outstanding depth at catcher) I wouldn't be stunned if he's eventually at 1B given his size.


Other names of note:
Vancounver: Balbino Fuenmayor, Jon Jones
Bluefield: Gustavo Pierre, Art Charles, Milciades Santana
GCL: Dalton Pompey, Eric Acre, Sony Javiar

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Mighty Lind



Since Jordan Bastian moved south of the lake, that particular catch phrase has fallen into disuse but it's high time to revive it. Because Adam Lind is certifiably a bad mo-fo and for him, at least, 2010 is just a bad dream.

Consider if you will: Adrian Gonzalez, first baseman of the Boston Red Sox, leads all of the major leagues with a most impressive 62 RBI. Gotta give your props to that, right? Sure he makes a truck-load of money, but he's earning it - amiright? Oh by the way, he also has over 100 more at bats than Lind, who missed just under a month of the season. Would you like to know what you get if you extend Lind's RBI rate over the same number of at bats?

71

Gonalzez has 15 homers in his 281 at-bats, Lind's rate works out to 24 in the same number of at bats. Gonzalez's OPS exceeds Lind's by 0.001 and that's more than made up for by the fact that Gonzalez has grounded into 14 double plays (Lind has 3). Oh, and did I mention that when ranked by OPS, Gonzolez is the only player in the AL between Lind and his teammate Jose Bautista? 

Bautista and the Yankees' Curtis Granderson and Mark Texeria are tied for the major league lead in HR with 21 (Granderson has 46 more AB than Bautista, Tex has 32 more). Give Lind Bautista's AB total and he pro-rates to 19, give him Granderson's and he has 23. In short, Adam Lind is arguably the second best hitting player in the AL. Like the higher metrics? Well, WAR probably doesn't pro-rate in a linier fashion like normal counting stats but if you note that Gonzalez (who's second in the AL among hitters with a WAR total of 3.6 - no idea if that includes Friday's action) has 61% more AB than Lind and you increase Lind's WAR total (2.3) by 61% you get - 3.7, so I'm going to roll with that since it reinforces my premise.

Lind did have one bad week in April, from April 10-18 he went 2 for 26. Since then, coming into Friday's play his line has been .404/.447/.798/1.245 in 29 games - for comparison in the same period, in 48 games, Bautista's line looks like this .339/.498/.727/1.225

So, I know it stands to reason that Lind's All Star vote isn't going to challenge Gonzolez's, Tex's or Cabrera's, but he's every bit the hitter those are and if he keeps this up it's going to be a crying shame if they don't find a place for him on that roster.

One other passing shout-out: for the last six weeks Yunel Escobar has been the second best hitting SS in the AL.

On the other end of the spectrum, JP Arencibia's sore thumb is killing his stat line - his OPS for June is a mere .504 and John Farrell has decided to look for ways to give him some rest. for now, Jose Molina will go back to catching Brandon Morrow along with newcomer Zach Stewart. Personally, if it were me i think I'd let Molina take the DGANG on June 22 and then Morrow on the 24th and see if three consecutive days rest and rehab might not help. It will be the last chance for something like that before the ASB.

In other news:

Item: I might as well mention Zach Stewart, as if you don't already know he threw a fine game in his major league debut Thursday afternoon. Kyle Drabek is set to start for the Las Vegas 51's on Sunday. 

Item: the Dunedin Blue Jays arrived at the All Star break as first half champs in their division (by seven games!), ensuring their place in the playoffs in September.  Six members of that squad will be on the roster for the FSL All Star Game this weekend and don't be completely shocked if one or two of them are in New Hampshire before too long. On June 1 Justin Jackson seemed like a lock but a June slump might slow that down. the other candidate is 2010 first rounder Deck McGuire.

Item: The Lansing Lugnuts are two games away from their break and they are in real need of a break. After flirting with the league lead for much of the first half, three fairly cold weeks have left them in third place and eliminated from that title. A confluance of circumstances left them short-handed in the rotation at the worst possible time, and the shakey infield defense has been the teams big weakness. So bad was the shortage that Casey lawrence had to be rushed back from Dunedin to spot start tonight. They needn't have bothered as the apparently unprepared Lawrence had his worst start this season (possibly of his professional career). I assume Lawrence won't be back in Lo-A long, but it's also apparent that Drew Hutchinson is worthy of promotion as well.  It's not inconciveable Hutch could be the one headed for Dunedin the next time they make a move. Another player who's (statistically at least) demanding a promotion is Canadian outfielder Marcus Kencht.

Item: Jesse Litsch makes his first rehab start in Lansing tomorrow.  I expect he's there to stay on schedule since Dunedin is on their break. Expect his next few re-hab outings to be for the D-Jays.

Item: Travis Snider is looking like his old self in June, particularly in the last 10 games (.487 BA, 1.330 OPS) and if this pattern holds (and Corey Patterson continues his regression to the mean - his OPS over the last 16 games is .504) Travis could be closing in on a return to the majors. Possibly along about the time the Jays finish their NL road trip.

Iten: the Vancouver Canadians, the first of the Jays three short season teams to begin play (and the highest level of the three) had their opening night on Friday and emerged with a win. Featuring 7 2010 draft choices and 2 2011 draft picks on their roster, the Canadians don't have any of the elite prospects (yet) but probably the most interesting guy is 2010 2nd round LHP Justin Nicolino.  Shane Opitz, an 11th round SS with some reasonable upside is there, as is the guy who still has the best name in the system, albeit he's long since lost his luster as a prospect - 3B Balbino Fuenmayor.

The Bluefield Blue Jays have announced their roster. Among the noteable names on that squad: 2010 supplemental round picks (and top propsects) Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard, 2nd round 3B Kelin Sweeney, and 3rd round 3B (listed as an outfielder) Chris Hawkins. also, toolsy but error prone SS Gustavo pierre has been demoted from Lansig to join the bluefield nine. there's a strong possibility that Sanchez, Syndergaard, Sweeney, and hawkins will not spend the whole season here.

Some of the bright lights from last years draft are still unassigned. We know that Sam Dyson is out for the year, and highly regarded DJ Thon is only now getting back into baseball shape after dealing with an unrelated health issue. No word on 2010 2nd round LHP Griffin Murphy (who seems too advanced for the still-unannounced GCL roster; EDIT - I read his age wrong on my spreadsheet - he's not noterably too old to start in the GCL) or sleeper Devy Estrada. Look for highly paid Dominican signings Adrian Cardonas, a RHP, and C Santiago Nessy to make their North American debut for the GCL squad, along with the rest of the recently signed 2011 class such as supplemental round RHP Joe Musgrove.

Bluefield's first game is June 21, the GCL Jays start on June 20. Still undetermined is when the team will be ready to assign Dustin McGowan to a team and start the clock on his rehab.

As always, pardon the spelling and capitalization errors you might find, it's too damned late to proofread.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Sunday not fun day.

Cleaning up some notes from all over on a rather depressing weekend. the Jays' run differential was +29 when the Red Sox came to town - it's +1 now. It's tough to get excited about anything right now. Not to over-react to this (after all the Red Sox are now on a nine game winning streak and are killing everyone) they have looked really bad before - like when Detroit was in town - and then ran off a string of really good play (between the Detroit series and this one, they were 17-11 which is .607 ball). but having noted that, this might also be an opportunity to step back from the scoreboard watching and think more about the future than the race.

The subject on everyone's mind today is Kyle Drabek. John Farrell insisted before today's game that there had been no conversation about demoting Kyle Drabek (remember how we were assured they were committed to Travis Snider?) but one has to think there has to be something cooking beyond just sending him out there and hoping for the best. I have no inside knowledge, and guessing at Anthopoulos' next move is a mugs game - but just looking at the schedule there seems to be a rather obvious course of action.

The Jays have been mighty impressed with Luis Perez (I'm going to have to admit I was wrong about him apparently) and he pitched several innings in relief of Drabek today. Perez was always a starter in the minors and has the stamina to start. They could start him on Drabek's next turn - June 18 in Cincinnati - and then Drabek's turn would fall on an off day. That would give them over two weeks to work with him on the side to try to get a handle on his emotional issues.

Then there would be three more turns before the ASB for Drabek to demonstrate he'd "got it." and by then Litsch should be recovered (assuming no setbacks) and you'd have the option of demoting him if he was still fighting himself. It seems to me like a reasonable plan.

The other, much milder, worry is Brandon Morrow. There have been a few instances this year when the strong temptation is to ask "is he regressing?" On the surface, the easy answer would be yes - both his ERA and WHIP have moved from "unfortunate" to "poor" - but if you look at the saber stats, not so much. while he has a 5.63 ERA right now, his FIP is still just 2.55 (considerably better than Romero's) and his xFIP is a very respectable 3.61, so probably, he's going to be fine. Assuming there are no confidence issues as a result of recent setbacks.

I know that the common meme among Blue Jays observers is that the offense has been surprisingly good and the starting pitching has been surprisingly bad, but i caution against the supposition that our crop of pitchers isn't as good as we'd assumed.

Consider: Romero has been just fine, and Morrow is clearly better than the results right now, which will normalize in time. Listch has been good when healthy, though it's right to wonder if he can stay on the field. Villinueva has been a revelation, as good as Cecil was expected to be, and Reyes has been a perfectly adequate fifth starter. On the major league level, apart from injuries, only Cecil and Drabek have been a crashing disappointment. and that won't last. Cecil wasn't doing it with mirrors and every professional agrees that Drabek has tons of stuff, all he needs is maturity.
Beyond the major league staff - you have McGowan . . .let me interrupt myself to recommend a great piece by Callum at Mop-Up Duty in which he advocates for sending Drabek down. In that piece he notes that McGowan went through the same "fighting himself" struggles early on that Drabek is experiencing now, and quotes a Jordan Bastian article from 2007 about the progression from pitching scared to trusting his stuff. It made me wonder if it wouldn't be ideal to eventually have McGowan and Drabek in the same clubhouse so that the elder might work with the younger on that score.

Anyway, to get back to the point: McGowan may well fly apart at any time but until he does, i'm going to hope for the great comeback story - he still has ace level stuff if he can stay healthy (and it's been done before, see: Carpenter, Chris) Cecil will be back, Henderson Alvarez at AA has the whole system buzzing, and top prospect Zach Stewart, despite inconsistency this year, has not lost the confidence of the management (see AA's comments about the NH situation here). And that's not even mentioning the potential of Perez and Zep and Brad Mills and the recently promoted (to AA) Chad Jenkins.

Romero, Morrow, Drabek, McGowan, and Alvarez all have legitimate ace-level stuff. Cecil, Stewart, and Litsch are legitimate mid-rotation guys. And then you have Reyes, Villianueva, Perez, maybe Zep, and Mills as fallbacks for situations involving injury or regression. down the stretch in 2012, and particularly in 2013, that stands to be one of the very best rotations in baseball. We shouldn't lose confidence in the plan because of a few bumps in the road.

You may not have noticed in today's shellacking, but Bautista broke his homerless streak with a solo shot of of a dominating Jon Lester. in other good news for the offense, Adam Lind is hitting .414 with a 1.333 OPS since coming off the DL. If you give him the same number of AB as Adrian Gonzalez, he pro-rates to 18 homers and 62 RBI. Lind is arguably the second best hitting 1B in the AL (behind Cabrera) right now. he's certainly on the same level with them.

In draft news, six late round picks are either signed or unofficially agreed to sign (the highest of those being 26th round SS Justin Atkinson) along with the Jays' third overall pick, RHP Joe Musgrove. also worth noting: ESPN's Kieth Law, in response to a question on Twitter, opined that he expected the jays would be able to land their first round pick, Tyler Beede, for $3 million or so.

The Jays have done more roster shuffling in the lest few days among the farm teams than perhaps in the whole rest of the season, here's a rundown:

Bobby Ray, who'd been on the AAA DL, was activated and moved to AA where he started and took the loss in an unimpressive effort today;
Chad Jenkins (former first round pick) was promoted to AA from Dunedin and started yesterday throwing an impressive game;
Reider Gonzalez, who's been very good at AA, was promoted to AAA (where he spent the early part of 2010) and threw a good games for the 51's yesterday;
Casey Lawrence was promoted from Lansing to take Jenkins' turn in Dunedin and threw a fine game today;
Egan Smith returned from the DL to take one of the open spots in the Lansing rotation today;

With the extended spring training session ending on June 20, and the short season leagues set to begin play soon (Vancouver's first game is Friday night), expect considerably more minor league news in the days and weeks to come.

One final note: Mike Wilner reports that the previous reporting that Dustin McGowan would be required to begin a rehab assignment when extended ends was, in fact, not correct. the Jays are at liberty to keep working him out at the Florida complex without a hard schedule to promote him. that means that, at a bare minimum, they will stretch it out so that his 30 day re-hab extends past the July 31 trade deadline. there's every possibility he might not arrive until September unless he is so very impressive they are not afraid to show him to major league hitters.
John Farrell was quoted Thursday as having reported that McGowan had thrown 2 innings on Wednesday and was on a schedule that had him throwing 2 inninges every three days, and then would go to 3 innings every 4th day and if he handles that well go to a regular starter's schedule.

If they DO decide to assign him to a team (likely the GCL Jays) when the season starts, a 30 day rehab would have him returning to the majors in the last 10 days or so of July. Coincidentally, that's probably the most optimistic reasonable time frame for Lawrie. I can see Lawrie joining the team at Texas July 22-24. if not, it probably won't be until August 1.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Quick Hit: MLB Draft Day One

You have plenty of sources better than this one for draft info, so I'm not going to pretend to be an expert when I'm not. What I do want to do is give you a brief synthesis of what I've picked up so far on the five players the Blue Jays drafted tonight.

1.21 - Tyler Beede, RHP - 5/23/93 - 6'4" 200

The thing that jumps out from all the various descriptions on Beede is how polished he is for a HS pitcher. I won't try to cover all the details here but he sounds like a player with not only great physical ability, but great baseball skills and a very good makeup. While acknowledging I was only mildly enthused with last year's #1, I'm going to say my first impression on Beede is that he's a better prospect than any of the pitchers we took last year except maybe Sanchez.

The downside is that he sent signals indicating he had a fierce commitment to Vanderbilt University and the assumption is he'll be a very difficult sing. This is mildly mitigated by the speculation that the Massachusetts native was trying to scare other teams off him so that he could get drafted by the Red Sox - but the Boston FO passed on him two picks before the Jays tabbed him so possibly that bit of fanboy longing being off the table, he might be more open. I, for one, an very confident the Jays will get him signed and not let money stand in the way. The tone of the comments in the ESPN article here is not that of people who are dead set against signing. We heard much more firm language from the Thon family last year. However, it's entierly possible it will take right up to the deadline to make it happen.

1S.35 - Jacob Anderson - OF/1B - 11/22/92 - 6'4" 190

Anderson is another player that was described as a tough sign, but on Twitter tonight you didn't get the impression he was unenthusiastic about going pro. The "bio" under his name on his profile page already says "Go Blue Jays." Anderson is described in some quarters as a smooth, solid defender who's bat has raw power in it. My instinct is that he'll end up at 1B as he climbs the ladder and might contend for the title of highest-ceiling 1B prospect in the system right now. But the team might keep their options open by starting his pro career in the outfield.

1S-46 - Joe Musgrove - RHP - 12/4/92 - 6'5" 230

Musgrove is, as they say down in the south, a "big ol' boy" for an 18 year old. Said to have a solid-plus fastball and a "hammer curve," the team probably sees good upside from this pick. One thing you can definitely say about Musgrove, he's NOT going to be a hard sign. Read the article here, and note the money quote:

Musgrove has accepted a scholarship offer to San Diego State but said he is eager to work out a deal with the Blue Jays. “I want to finish up my senior year (he graduates June 16) and get out there in time for the start of rookie (league) ball,” Musgrove said. “This is what I’ve been working toward, so I want to sign and get going on my career.”
Would that all of the Jays picks were so motivated.

1S.53 - Dwight Smith, Jr. - OF - 10/26/92 - 5'11", 180

You might remember his dad, who played over 800 major league games, mostly with the Cubs, from '89-'96. He was just an average guy, a little power, a little speed, decent contact. Smith is an advanced player for a high schooler as you might expect from a "bloodlines" guy, and might end up being a somewhat better hitter. But he profiles right now as a pretty similar guy (he's even virtually the same physically as his dad was in his playing days) and as much as i love a bloodlines pick, he's probably the draftee I'm least enthused with tonight. If he wasn't the son of a major leaguer I'd have a hard time not being a critic on this one.

1S.57 - Kevin Comer - RHP - 8/1/92 - 6'3", 205

Comer is another guy who has made his college commitment to Vanderbilt. I'm not 100% sure of the dynamics of having drafted the top two recruits from the same school, but Comer, like Beede, is said to be a player who'll expect some respectable dollars to turn pro. But he's a talented guy, on pure talent maybe the second best guy the jays drafted (I confess I don't understand when teams insist they take "the best available talent" and then you see them take a Comer AFTER someone like Smith. Can it REALLY be that's the order they had them in?).

According to this ESPN feature, he's got a well above average fastball which ranges through the mid-nineties, and a delivery that leaves hitters guessing. Just as important, he's said to be a plus-plus makeup guy (it seems to be a high priority for the jays in their scouting to find such high-character types). When I first heard about this pick I reacted with a sort of "eh, never heard of him" dismissal but having read up on the guy, there's a lot to like here.


Potentially, the Jays might get 2 or 3 of these guys on the field in relatively short order, while Beede and Comer probably won't sign in time to play any official games this season. I'd love to be surprised on that prediction. Day Two starts in the AM, I expect more good things to come. I hesitate to publish my "wish list" of players I've been eying who are still on the board, since I didn't see ANY of these picks coming (nor, as far as sites I've seen, did anyone else). but here are a few names I'd love to see the Robbie Alomar call tomorrow:

Josh Bell - OF (first round talent, dropping because he apparently expects huge payday)
Nick Delmonico - C (Can I confess, I just love this guy's name! Plus, there are skills)
Daniel Norris - LHP (had been called a mid-first rounder all spring)
Dillon Howard - RHP (Boras client, sadly)
Rick Oropesa - 3B/1B (lots of power)
Jorge Lopez - RHP (Haven't found too much info on this Puerto Rico product
Dillon Maples - RHP
Matt Dean - 3B

We'll see!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

2/5 Farm Report

Since the Major League Rule 4 draft begins tomorrow, and will no doubt dominate the Jays news cycle over the next several days, I'm rushing this a bit. Technically, the second fifth of the minor league system (60 games) is not in the books until Tuesday. But we are not going to draw any conclusions at this point that will be altered by the next two days.

The first thing to note is a bit of breaking news: Brett Lawrie has been placed in the minor league DL retroactive to June 2 (likely so the 51's can add some depth) and can't be activated until Wednesday. That means the Jays have a mildly uncomfortable choice - either bring him to the majors immediately (essentially, because activation Wed. would give them room for one minor league game if they are going to debut him in KC), let him join the team at home (which AA has said he had rather not do), or wait until they travel to Cincinnati June 17. No word yet on how they are leaning obviously. Mike Wilner is saying that you can count on them waiting until Cincinnati. I'm not entirely convinced he won't be activated next Friday.

Beyond that, here's your report. Like last time, I'm gonna give you the top performers among hitters, and among pitchers, so far (cumulatively) . Afterwards I'll make note of those who are disappointing (from the top prospect list)


HITTERS

1. Brett Lawrie - the 21 year old 3B just keeps getting better and better, at least up until that unfortunate pitch. Other than Anthony Rizzo, no one else of a remotely similar age is preforming as well in the PCL. He still leads the league in doubles and total bases, is near the top in homers (despite having missed five straight games) and oh by the way the errors are way down. He's a potential star and he's ready, when the hand heals.

2. Adam Loewen - Talk about a turn-around! Loewen struggled through April and I was beginning to wonder if my faith in him was misplaced, but he's been unstoppable in May. His 1.127 OPS for the month is almost as good as Lawrie's. It's true he's much older, but due to his unique history, he actually has fewer professional at bats than the third baseman. He also played a satisfactory 1B while Cooper was in the majors. I, for one, hope he's on the 25 man roster next year - and I believe he can handle it.

3. Travis d'Arnaud - Here's another guy who's on fire. The 22 year old catcher played 20 games in May after coming back from the DL and hit an astonishing .410 over that period. His OPS over that stretch was 1.221 and he walked more than he struck out. With Brian Jeroloman not setting anything on fire in Vegas, it's not inconceivable d'Arnaud could force his way into a promotion if he keeps this up.

4. Anthony Gose - Gose, like d'Arnaud and Loewen, had a pretty forgettable April but has hit so very well in May that he's made his whole season a success (so far). His OPS for the month is .889 but more importantly for a prospective lead off hitter, he posted a .417 OBP and has supplemented his great bat with great wheels. in 56 games played, he's stolen 27 bases in 32 attempts. That's a pace for 69 on a complete minor league season.

5. David Cooper - Picked up right where he left off before his brief stint in Toronto. Before the call up he hit .395 with a 1.055 OPS, since returning he's hit .397 and the robust OPS over 1.000 is still present. Professional observers insist Cooper's not going to be much of a major leaguer, but it's hard to ignore these numbers. hopefully at some point he helps complete a trade for something good.


6. Mike McDade - like fellow 1B Cooper, McDade gets next to no respect from professional talent evaluators but he just keeps hitting. His OPS of .968 for May has to be respected in a league not known for being a hitter's league. He still has a poor BB:K ratio, but otherwise there's not a lot to criticize.

7. Moises Sierra - Often overlooked in the shadow of Gose and other higher profile OF prospects, Sierra is quietly hitting his way into the conversation. The cannon-armed RF has a .901 OPS in May and, other than a poor SB ratio, is doing pretty much everything right (as much as one can say that based on stats alone of course). I'd be interested in knowing what the front office thinks of Sierra.

8. Justin Jackson - the one-time SS of the future followed up an impressive April with an even better May. his .922 OPS for the month, fueled by a great walk rate, is especially impressive for the FSL. If you were going to complain, you might want a guy with his skill set to successfully steal a bit more.


9. AJ Jimenez – Missed a big chunk of May to the DL but he's picked right up where he left off in the half-dozen games since he returned. For a 21 year old catcher in the FSL, it's hard to find fault with his season so far.


10. Marcus Knecht – The 20 year old Canadian outfielder was down a bit in May from his steller April , but an .880 OPS is by no means a disappointment. Unlike his teammates in the Lansing OF, Knecht is a hit-first prospect, but he seems to be quite good at it.


11. Jake Marisnick – Another player fresh off the DL, Marisnick regressed somewhat in May (before the injury) but his overall stats are still quite good. He seems to be back in the grove (albeit in a TINY sample) since his return. Hopefully he'll carry that throughout June.


12. Michael Crouse – The impressive physical specimen (he's been said to resemble Dave Winfield physically) was more low-average/big power in April and much the reverse in May. His OPS is down, though still quite good, and his strikeout rate was way up in may. The team will be looking for him to correct that as he tries to get back to the groove he'd been in.


13. Brad Glenn – the outfielder is admittedly old for the level, but he's leading the league in homers and that deserves some respect. Here's a guy who probably needs, more than anyone else on this list, to be promoted at some point to try his hand with players closer to his age.


PITCHERS

1. Nestor Molina – This kid has been virtually unstoppable. On the season he has an incredible 70:7 K:BB ratio in just under 59 IP. In May he walked 2 batters while striking out 43. on the season, opposing batters are hitting .233 of him.

2. Henderson Alvarez – the sample size is small (4 starts) but for a 21 year old pitcher who's having his first look at AA, you have to like the results. Coming into today he'd went 6 innings in each of three games and allowed one earned run in each, while accumulating a K:BB ratio of 13:4 and giving up no homers. He got knocked around a bit today but Ill take that for a blip. Also, there have been reports of his fastball velocity reaching the upper 90's.

3. Joel Carreno – lightly regarded in most circles as a prospect, particularly in terms of remaining a starter in the big leagues, Carreno nevertheless is doing all he can to turn heads. After an ugly April, Carreno turned the page and reeled off five impressive starts in May, holding opposing batters to a miniscule .082 BA. And giving up only 8 hits in 31.2 IP. So why isn't he topping the list? A little matter of 21 walks in the month is all. If Carreno figures out how to stay in the strike zone, his profile goes way up.

4. Deck McGuire – hitters have managed only .230 off the 2010 first rounder on the season so far, resulting in a 3.24 ERA for McGuire. In may his ERA for the month was 1.88 and hitters managed only .203 against him. It's hard to complain about such results for a first pro-season.

5. Chad Jenkins – like his fellow first rounder, Jenkins too improved in may over his good-ut-not-great April. Reportedly a ground-ball machine, Jenkins is not striking out hitters at an impressive rate, but otherwise he's done all you could ask. Given his partial-season at Dunedin last year, don't be surprised if he's moved up to AA around the mid-season mark.

6. Brad Mills – the Rodney Dangerfield of the Blue Jays system continues to roll along seemingly unnoticed. He was notably less effective in May than in April but that has more to do with how VERY good April was. One thing that demands your attention – he walked six against 35 K's in 39.2 May IP.

7. Sean Nolin – the 2010 sixth rounder has mostly justified his elevation to the Lansing rotation, though he was knocked around his last two starts. The sample size on the 20 year old lefty is a bit small yet but he's worth watching.

Trending down


Perhaps the biggest disappointment so far in terms of magnitude if not lost status is CF Darin Mastroianni. Mastro was always a fringe prospect anyway, you never say him on the “expert” lists. But he was the classic dirtbag sort that fans love to root for. In 2011, after a mediocre 22 games in AA, roster crowding provoked by the arrival of Travis Snider pushed him back to AA and he didn't handle it well, hitting only .202 in May. A prospect on the fringes can't afford to have months like that; Sean Ochinko, winner of the Webster award each of the last two seasons, has struggled all season; Gus Pierre is having a devil of a time on both sides of the game, posting a .512 OPS so far and an astonishing 31 errors.