Sunday, July 31, 2011

Progress

The Toronto Blue Jays, in a somewhat rare confluence, arrived at the end of July and the 2/3 point in the season on the same day today. Brandon Morrow marked the occasion - also the occasion of Roberto Alomar Day which in turn provoked an even rarer event in Toronto, a mid-season sellout - with one of his best games of the year, striking out 11 Rangers over 7 innings and getting his 8th win of the year.

It is always tricky to project past results into future performance, since all hitters have peaks and valleys throughout the season, and also because the number of games you miss in one part of the season doesn't mean you will miss a like number in the next part. Still, I like to play with numbers (on a very elementary level admittedly) so I can't help but make some random observations:

  • The team as a whole is on a pace for 83 wins (well, 82.5 but that's not going to happen) - i expect given the current roster construction (and the anticipated arrival) that they will do better than that.
  • Morrow has 8 wins in 19 starts and Romero has 8 in 21 - both figures pro-rate out to 12 on the season but Morrow might end u with the team lead unless Ricky gets more run support.
  • Not really an "on-pace" comment - But Frank Francisco has been good over the last two months (not the story you usually hear I know). He given up 7 ER in 18 IP since the last appearance in may, but 5 of those runs came in only 2 appearances (totaling only 1 out). without those two appearances his ERA over the last two months is 1.02 - which kinda works for me.
  • Adam Lind has only played in 82 games - just over half a season's worth. if he preformed at his current rates over 162 games he'd have 38 homers and almost 120 RBI.
  • JP Arencibia is on pace to shatter the jays team record for HR by a catcher and has a shot at Eric Hinske's rookie record of 24. Over his last 8 games he's hitting .346 and has 5 homers.
  • Jose Bautista's pace is now 47 homers and 106 RBI.
  • Eric Thames is in the midst of his first prolonged slump (0 for his last 13) but in his first 44 games as a Blue Jays, his 162 game pace is for 44 doubles and 18 homers.
All of which means very little, really, but I'm expecting the next third to be the most enjoyable 54 games of baseball the Jays have played in a long long time.

Oh, and about the passing of the trade deadline - almost every player you'd want to see the Jays turn over this summer is easily going to pass through waivers. Or be dealt to a claiming team. There could easily be more deals.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Rosterbation!

A few variations on the theme here.

Logically, the Jays have a player to be excited about at every position on the field for the next 3 years (more at some spots) except 2B. some also mention DH but with four outfielders you want in the line-up, I don't. While it might be true that Thames is headed for a regression at some point - what he regresses to may still be a better choice than some of the other options. More on that when I get to the bit about free agents.

As for the pitching, we now look like the bullpen is going to need some augmentation, particularly in the off-season - but finding relievers is usually not hard. Finding a proper player for the cliche of "closer" is somewhat more difficult.

Looking at the rotation, I see the following depth chart for Opening Day 2012:
Romero
Morrow
McGowan
Cecil
Drabek
Litsch
Villianueva
Mills

It's widely said that the Blue ays need to add an Ace level SP. I'm not at all convinced that is true. Sure, I'd be happy to add Ubaldo Jimenez (or Felix Hernandez or a healthy Josh Johnson) but do I think we are in NEED of such a move? Nope. I really don't. By the time we sort out whether McGowan can come back, or Drabek can solve his setback, we'll be wondering what to do with Henderson Alvarez and Deck McGuire and by the time they get a fair shot we'll be looking at Hutchison and Molina. Unless you are planning on dealing all your young pitchers, they need a path to the majors and so it's not a bad thing to have the opportunity to use the 4/5 spots to work those guys in. if we end up with the offense that seems to be developing, we can afford to not have a Philly-style rotation.

With the trade deadline less than 44 hours away, all seems quiet with the jays (and you know what that means). Here are the players on the major league squad that might yet be dealt this weekend:

Mark Teahen
Jon Rauch
Frank Francisco
Shawn Camp
Trever Miller
Raji Davis
Jesse Litsch
Brad Mills
Carlos Villianeuva

Obviously, alone, none of these is going to bring a head-turning return. but you never know what Alex will turn up.

For my part, in terms of targets, the name I keep seeing that grabs my eye is Koji Uehara. You may recall that last winter i expressed my lust for him on more than one occasion. Rosenthal tweets it's 50/50 he gets dealt, but he's apparently out there and I'd MUCH rather have him than, for instance, Heath Bell as our closer next year. how hard could it be to, for instance, send David Cooper and Brad Mills to the O's for him?

Finally, a day doesn't pass that someone doesn't insist that the Jays need to sign a big money free agent to prove they are "serious" about winning. Never-mind that the landscape is littered with free agents signed to big deal that are not paying off right now (remember when Chone Figgins was the very thing - how'd you like to have him on your team right now? Adam Dunn? The list is quite long).

Mostly people mention Prince Fielder. now I'm not going to raise hell if the Jays sign Fielder, but here's the thing - they won't. There's no way that fits the model of what they are doing here and I, for one, am glad. If we do sign a free agent DH next year, it would have to be the 2011 equivalent of Paul Molitor - and the only guy I see in that mode is Lance Berkman who is probably going to resist the idea of committing to DH.

Just my opinion of course, but don't look for me on the big money bandwagon.

Three to be named

Edit: A bit of news is breaking I wantto throw in before I begin: Callum at Mop-Up Duty has the story that the Jays are on the verge of signing Roberto Osuna out of the Mexican League. if true, this would give them the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 21st, and 33rd players on the Baseball America list of the top 40 projected signing bonuses for this year's international signing period - and not all those players have signed yet. Osuna stands to be a serious catch if this pans out.

Now, on to business . . .


There's some discussion over at Viva El Birdos about who the three players to be named might be if the Cards do indeed take the players instead of the cash. the Cardinals have until the end of the year to select them and ken Rosenthal wrote: "The three players to be named? Don’t get too excited. They are not top prospects, according to a source."
But since there is, for some reason, a 2 day waiting period before a new poster can post there (thus I cannot offer an answer to the question directly) I will do so here and perhaps those who might be curious will find some direction. Of course it's true I'm not privy to the list or any inside info - but just as clearly I tend to obsess over the Jays farm system so I can surely give some insight to Cardinal fans who've never given it a thought before now.

This is just one girl's opinion as far as the rankings go, but they are not wildly different from the list you see on big name sites - just a lot longer. Also, constantly updated so this reflects the work these guys did in the first half.

I will include here no draftees from 2011 since they cannot be traded until they have been in the organization for a year and thus cannot be selected by the end of this year. Among those listed, I will highlight those I consider "top prospects" which are too good to be on the list in blue. I will highlight 2010 draftees who cannot be selected until after August 15 and free agent signings which cannot be selected until a later date this year in red. Those not already in blue of course. The rest might well be on the list, though I've not heard a specific report of how long the list is. It can't be as long as my list!

1. Brett Lawrie
2. Henderson Alvarez
3. Travis d'Arnaud
4. Anthony Gose
5. Jake Marisnick
6. Deck McGuire
7. Aaron Sanchez
8. Drew Hutchinson
9. Carlos Perez
10. Adeiny Hechevarria
11. Nestor Molina
12. Antonio Jimenez
13. Noah Syndergaard
14. Marcus Knecht
15. Justin Nicolino
16. Adonis Cardona - RHP
17. Chad Jenkins - RHP <-most advanced pitcher
18. Asher Wojciechowski - RHP <-higher upside than stats sugest
19. Michael Crouse - RF
20. Mike McDade - 1B <-either he or Cooper as potential depth of Pujols gets away
21. Moises Sierra - RF <-best OF arm in all the minors
22. David Cooper - 1B <-tearing it up, PCL caveat
23. DJ Thon - SS
24. Joel Carreno - RHP <-control still needs work
25. Brad Mills - LHP <-very likely choice
26. Adam Loewen - RF/1B <- fewer minor league AB's than Lawrie
27. Kellen Sweeney - 3B <- injured
28. Chris Hawkins - OF
29. Danny Farquhar - RHRP
30. Gus Pierre - SS <- probably have to change positions
31. Santiago Nessy - C
32. Griffin Murphy - LHP
33. Justin Jackson - IF/OF <- versitle, great D, low ceiling bat
34. KC Hobson - 1B <-good tools for 1B
35. Sean Nolin - LHP
36. Myles Jaye - RHP
37. Mitchell Taylor - LHP
38. Alan Farina - RHRP <-injured
39. Casey Lawrence - RHP
40. Brad Glenn - LF
41. Deivy Estrada - RHP
42. Daniel Webb - RHP <- very good stuff, struggling to use it
43. Darin Mastroianni - CF <- tweener
44. Marcus Brisker - CF
45. Sean Ochinko - C/3B/1B <-very versatile, 1st down year
46. John Anderson - LHP <- can't stay healthy
47. Brian Jeroloman - C <- outstanding defense, can't hit.
48. Chad Beck - RHP <- added some pitches, improved stock
49. Yan Gomes - C <- trapped behind better prospects, needs playing time.
50. Sam Dyson - RHP <-recovering from TJ surgery.

(counting Thames, and Luis Perez as major-leaguers even though not past rookie limits yet)

Anyone you see not on that list, unless he was added to the organization in 2011, is a guy you can have.

What I expect is that the list has a "Chinese menu" sort of pattern. That is, that there are three tiers of players and the Cardinals get to select one guy from each tier. So that, using my list as an example, they couldn't select Jenkins, Woj and Crouse. It would be more like the top 5 available guys are on one tier, the next ten on another tier and the rest on a third.

So a smart set might be Crouse, Mills, and Nessy - for example. Feel free, of course, to covet whom you wish. but I wouldn't get my hopes up about any of those in blue.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Double Rainbows all the Way!

There's so much to say about today's deal, one can hardly write coherently about it without breaking it into chapters. You have already heard most all the major details, the only thing you can find here is opinion you haven't seen elsewhere or maybe one you overlooked that I'm repeating. Rather than write a novel (as is my wont) I'm going to simply bullet this thing addressing each player involved in turn. Departing players in red, arriving players in blue.

Chapter One: The White Sox Deal

Edwin Jackson: I shouldn't spend too much time on Jackson because obviously he's not going to suit up for the Jays. He's an enigmatic guy in that what he's done the last few years, combined with his reputation as a prospect should make him stick longer with teams than he does. It is to our benefit that he has such appeal to the Cardinals though, because Alex has said a few times today that the previous impediment to getting Rasmus was that he refused to deal any of his (good) starters.

Mark Teahen: Clearly, the only reason we got Teahan is to give the White Sox salary relief. Still, he's a versitle guy who can do what Patterson was doing plus play in the infield as necessary. Ignore the twice (at least) too much salary, the Jays can afford it and it won't get in the way of any other move. Roster wise, think of the guy as a somewhat younger Eric Hinske. He's having a down year but most years he's a mildly below average guy who can be useful off the bench.

Zach Stewart: Stewart was among the Jays top 10 prospects on every prominent list last off-season - Kieth Law had him as high as #3, as did I. Some were cooler on him after he was "just okay" in repeating AA this year rather than be run through the Vegas wringer. I suspect that was an over-reaction and it seems unlikely a 24 year old has gone backwards for no obvious reason. Still, scouts had always waiver on whether he was a #3 starter or a potential closer - he was never called a potential Ace. the White Sox will, at a minimum, give him some time in AAA and he might very well break camp in the bigs next spring.

Jason Frasor: Long under-appreciated but has of late matured into the role of the guy whom most everyone quietly recognizes as a mainstay. If we were in a race he'd be a bigger loss than his stats (which are quite good) would indicate, in my opinion. I think he's the rock of the bullpen. but you can't let sentiment get in the way of something major. I'm going to be the first to say this - if the White Sox don't pick up his option for 2012 (and if he doesn't slip into a Type A status) don't be stunned if Alex brings him back as a free agent. Anthopoulos was effusive in his praise for Frasor today and I think it was sincere.

Chapter Two: The St. Louis Deal

Colby Rasmus: Has been one of the guys Alex has been "watching since last year" (kinda interesting how he seems to end up with those guys who stay constantly on his radar like that) and his dogged determination paid off. you can read some of the background on that pursuit in John Lott's nice piece on the trade. there's no point in re-cycling the massive praise Rasmus' talent has gotten over the last few years, or the history of conflict with former manager Tony LaRussa. in short, yes, there's always risk and more so when you are getting someone said to have "an attitude" - but before you worry too much, consider: Brett Lawrie, Yunel Escobar, Kyle Drabek, and yes, even Jose Bautista were said to have make-up issues beofre they came to Toronto. so far, other than Drabek's temper on the mound, we haven't seen any downside to that.

Brian Tallet: On the DL with a strained intercostal muscle (from a sneeze, no less!) and hasn't pitched since June 23, he wasn't pitching well in very limited opportunities before going on the list. But during treatment for the injury he was found to have a serious but treatable kidney disease which requires a treatment protocol which inhibits his rehabbing the injury. It's unclear when he'll be able to resume pitching. You already know the best case for what we'd get if/when he recovers.

Trever Miller: how many of you remember that Miller has been here before? In 2003 he appeared in 79 games for the Jays doing the sort of average work that has been the hallmark of his career. The non-discript lefty is 38 now and his always ordinary control is slipping away from him. Likely taking him on was a combination of a Jays pen being emptied out and taking on a bit of excess salary from the Cards. If he does anything other than eat some filler innings it would be too much.

P.J. Walters: at best, a long reliever in the majors. Think Bobby Ray or Scott Richmond. He's filler.

Octavio Dotel: Once John Farrell gave up the idea that Dotel would ever get a lefty out, he's been aces. Since May 14 his ERA has been 1.86. while the Cards paid way too much, if they use their bullpen acquisitions properly, they gained considerable value there.

Marc Rzepczyinski: is this the last time I'll have to remember how to spell that? all of us, including Anthopoulos, have expressed how much we hate to see him go - but in a telling complement to the young left, Alex said that if he held out on Zep the deal wouldn't have gotten done, and that would have been a big mistake. if Zep never does anything more than mature into a rock in the role he has now, he's got a lot of value - if the Cards convert him back to the rotation and he excels there, it will certainly soften the blow for Cardinals fans. don't rule that possibility out.

Corey Patterson: is it completely irrational that I'm almost as happy to see Patterson go as to see Rasmus arrive? Yes, it is, but I'm gonna go with it anyway. Thank God and Grayhound he's gone (yes I know he'll fly out but it's kinda cool to imagine him taking a bus).

Tangent to the deal, the Jays owe the Cards 3 players to be named or cash. it's possible that how things go with Pujols in the off-season might drive who the Cards select from the list they have in hand. Perhaps Cooper or McDade (or both) are on the list but the Cards would only want to pick them if albert stays. Time will tell. I think we can safely assume the player is no a Top 10 prospect type of guy since you presumably wouldn't want to let such a valuable chip play in someone else's organization for two more months. I could be wrong about that though. My guess is whoever it is (if it's not just cash) - the Jays can afford it.

Also somewhat related, the Jays recalled Brad Mills who'll probably won't be in Toronto long but covers them a bit while they are short handed. Either he or Walters will be optioned out to Vegas as soon as tomorrow probably.

In the final calculation, when you strip away the fungible guys, and the finances (which were key - Gerry pointed out on Batter's Box that if the Jays don't have case in reserve they can't do this deal) we traded a top 10 prospect (Stewart) and a very good LH reliever (Zep) for a potential All Star center fielder. That my friends is a good days work.

In conclusion I can only say that for a committed roterbator such as myself, these are heady times.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What If?

On the occasion of my all time favorite Blue Jay (and all time favorite baseball player) being inducted into the Hall of Fame (a year late) and inspired by a train of thought that I've been musing over for at least half a year, I present for your consideration a bit of speculative fiction. Consider if you will an alternate universe, very much like our own, except in that a couple of Toronto GM's made a handful of different decisions at key points in the '90s.

I concede to you willingly that in order to create this chain of events I have to make quite a few assumptions in the absence of firm evidence. but then, I told you it was fiction - just roll with it!
Another caveat is the so-called Butterfly Effect. that is, you change one thing and a cascade of other changes follow, the wider the ripples get the less predictable the outcome. if it were really possible to go back and makes these changes, injuries wouldn't have necessarily happened at the same time, hits wouldn't have fallen in in the same way and so forth. But if I hold to that concept than this post is useless so don't get too caught up in the details.

What I propose here is three key players, in my opinion, that Toronto let get away who should never have been allowed to leave when they did. i want to transpose the stats these players accumulated elsewhere during the years I contend they should have been here and, where necessary, change other personnel moves which would have been the natural result of their presence here.
Think of these as the Alternate Jays.

For the sake of breaking up the very great length, this post will have an overview of how the 90's might have looked in this other space-time continuum (in quantum theory, it DID happen this way in SOME universe!) and how i justify doing it that way. Then in comments below, there will be two separate comments with elaborations on the theme if you want to read that much.

Let's begin with a modified time-line of the key moves:


December 10, 1991 - Toronto GM Pat Gillick trades Jeff Kent and others to the NY Mets for David Cone and therefore drop negotiations to sign veteran ace Jack Morris.

December 6, 1992 - Gillick decides to invest in the much younger in house option of Jimmy Key instead of aging ace Dave Stewart. Key is signed to a three year deal wort a little over $15 million and Stewart goes to the New York Yankees. This comes a week before the Jays re-sign David Cone to a three year $18 million deal.

November 1, 1995 - Blue Jays declined contract option on Joe Carter.

December 1, 1995 - Toronto GM Gord Ash holds a joint news conference to announce that he has resigned Jimmy Key to a 3 yr. 10 million deal and David Cone to a 3 yr. 18 million deal. As a result, Erik Hanson will never wear a Blue Jays uniform.

December 12, 1995 - Toronto signs Roberto Alomar to 3 yr, $17.5 mil deal.

Winter 1998-99 - Key retires, Roger Clemens is dealt (per request) to the Yankees and Cone leaves as FA for big offer from those same Yankees. Alomar is re-sgned, for 3 years with a 4th year option this time.

Sounds good? Just a few key turning points. Primarily involving three crucial players. Why did I include the departure of Carter? That's part of the answer to what I anticipate to be the primary objection, to wit "they could never have afforded that." I disagree, and I'll show you why.

What follows is a list of the 11 year period of which I speak ('92-'02) with the first column representing the teams actual payroll, as reported by USAToday, the second column being the Alternate payroll per my proposals above (assuming the Jays equal the salary those players got elsewhere), and the third column noting the amount of salary change +/- along with a running total in parenthesis. This also assumes the absence of certain players unmentioned who would have been pushed off the roster or not acquired.
(figures in millions)

'92 - $43.66 - $43.49 - -$0.17 (-$0.170)
'93 - $45.75 - $45.95 - $0.200 - ($30k)
'94 - $41.92 - $48.02 - $6.1 - ($6.13)
'95 - $49.79 - $54.36 - $4.57 - ($10.7)
'96 - $28.49 - $30.36 - $1.87 - ($12.57)
'97 - $45.89 - $48.82 - $2.93 - ($15.5)
'98 - $48.42 - $63.29 - $14.87 - ($30.37)
'99 - $48.17 - $54.67 - $6.5 - ($36.87)
'00 - $46.36 - $52.11 - $5.75 - ($42.62)
'01 - $76.89 - $82.09 - $5.2 - ($47.82)
'02 - $76.86 - $81.39 - $4.53 - ($52.35)

I hope it's obvious I declined Carter to help keep the three guys I retained for '96.

Now, an extra $52 million sounds like a lot, but over 11 years that's only an average of ~4.7 per season which isn't bad at all. Still, it takes a huge leap of faith to overlook the big leap in '98 (almost $15 million). To partially account for this, I'm going to postulate that keeping the big 3 after '95 meant that the Jays didn't sign Benito Santiago after '96, and Randy Myers after '97.

That supposition would mean that the Jays payroll in '97 would only rise $430k and the total increase from '92 to '97 was a paltry $13 million ($2.6 per year). That would also reduce the '98 deficit by ~$8 million for a somewhat more acceptable increase of just under $6.5 mil. Those two contracts would save the team $12.5 million. If you want more savings, I have one more layer to add which works both financially and talent wise. After the ‘98 season they dealt Woody Williams for Joey Hamilton which turned out to be a disaster. Now the easy thing to suggest is just keeping Williams and that saves you ~$4.5 mil over the three years (‘99-‘01). You can re-add a small amount for low priced guys to take the place of these three (a scrub for Santiago while O’Brien starts one more year; a marginal reliever at the bottom of the bullpen and Escobar acts as closer in ‘98; and there were enough in-house pitchers for the rotation as I’ll demonstrate below).

So you have the “Bad Three” to lose to balance the cost of the “Good Three” I want to keep. So here’s the above salary structure with the second column reflecting the second revision:

First five years unchanged:

'92 - $43.66 - $43.49 - -$0.17 (-$0.170)
'93 - $45.75 - $45.95 - $0.200 - ($30k)
'94 - $41.92 - $48.02 - $6.1 - ($6.13)
'95 - $49.79 - $54.36 - $4.57 - ($10.7)
'96 - $28.49 - $30.36 - $1.87 - ($12.57)

With the noted alterations:

'97 - $45.89 - $46.32 - $0.43 - ($13.0)
'98 - $48.42 - $54.87 - $6.45 - ($19.45)
'99 - $48.17 - $50.42 - $2.25 - ($21.70)
'00 - $46.36 -$46.61 - $0.25 - ($21.95)
'01 - $76.89 - $74.84 - $-2.05 - ($19.90)
'02 - $76.86 - $81.39 - $4.83 - ($24.43)

That’s an average increase of $2.22 million a year over what actually took place. Of course, you have to have on-field results to justify the bigger increases. Over half of the additional outlay occurs in just two of these 11 years - 1994 which you would think would be easy to sell coming off back-to-back championships. The other, of course was for 1998. So how do the Alternate Jays do?

Take a break and grab a coffee if you need to - consider this an intermission.....Back? Ok, moving on...

Again, I’m assuming an “all other things being equal” situation when clearly all other things won’t be equal. Also, I’m assuming for the sake of the fantasy that Gord Ash makes the same money-saving choices I would have made. Not, of course, a sure thing - although with Dave Stewart never having worn a Jays uniform, he might not have been here to sell Gord on the idea of Hamilton so there’s that. Anyway, don’t nit-pick me with the obvious “yeah but” reactions. Also, I’m using ERA+ and OPS+ for ease of research and comparison. It makes the points well enough.



1992
The Scenario assumes David Cone with the team from Opening Day and everything else being the same.
David Cone, in our world, got 27 starts for the Mets and was MUCH better than Morris was for the Jays over that period. The Jays went 20-7 with Morris starting though, so one can't postulate too much of a gain in wins, and whoever picks up Morris' September starts likely gives that win or two back (barring another trade but let's not get THAT deep). Call it a wash on in-season wins.

In the ALCS, Morris gave up 9 runs in 12 2/3 IP - Jimmy Key would have likely been the starter in his place and I'm gonna go out on a limb and say he'd have done no worse and likely better, although the machinations of bullpen usage go crazy then. In the World Series Morris had an ERA of almost 9 - it doesn't really matter who would have gotten those IP.

1993
We assume Morris and Stewart were never on the Jays, and both Cone and Jimmy Key remain on their roster in ‘93. Cone’s ERA+ in ‘93 was 138 which was easily better than anyone on that team in our world - Morris’ was 70. Key’s ERA+ was 139, and Stewart’s was 98. They also combined for 490 IP as opposed to the 310 recorded by the aging guys who we are replacing. The team won 95 games that year, with this upgrade it might easily have topped 100.

1994
This is the year that David Cone won the AL CY Young award with an ERA+ of 171, while Key led the league in wins and had an ERA+ of 141. How would that have fit into Our Jays? Dave Stewart’s 82 and likely Al Lieter’s 95 would have not been in evidence. Lieter would probably have displaced Greg Cadaret and Scott Brow in the bullpen and 49 really ugly innings go away.
That ‘94 team went off a cliff compared to the previous years, but this pitching upgrade wold have made a massive difference. This upgrade wouldn’t have turned that 55-60 team into a playoff team most likely, but it would have certainly challenged the O’s for second place.

1995
the ‘95 Jays went 56-88 and finished in last place, 30 games out. Cone started the year with the Blue Jays and was dealt to the Yankees mid-season but in my alternate world, he’s seen as a cornerstone and he’s not going anywhere. However, Key got hurt in ‘95 and had a forgettable campaign. If we assume all things equal we have to assume he would have been little help to the ‘95 Alternate Jays. Still, Cone remaining spares us Danny Darwin and it’s easy to presume an upgrade of 6-8 games in the standings. Enough to get out of last place at least.

1996
For our ‘96 squad we’ve kept these two important pitchers, and we’ve chosen to retain Alomar instead of Carter. Key in ‘96 was just a bit above average coming back from the injury (107+) and Cone missed 2/3 of the season to injury, although he was excellent in his 11 starts. But Key blocks out the awful Erik Hanson (93 ERA+) and Cone at least could have taken the 11 starts that went to Marty Janzen (who we wouldn’t have had anyway in the Alternate-verse) who also sucked. I feel safe in suggesting 3 or 4 extra wins.
As for the hitters, Alomar’s OPS+ was 136 and Carter’s was 95. As a secondary effect, Alomar kills off the awful at bats contributed by Tomas Perez and Felipe Crespo (64 and 67 respectively), while Carter’s ABs go primarily to Robert Perez and Jacob Brumfield (93 and 92) which means that LF is essentially a wash and 2B get’s VASTLY better. I’m too lazy to even attempt to parse out how that affects the wins since a few more marginal wins won’t make them a playoff team - but 8 more wins in all gets them over .500 and I could defiantly see that.

1997
Alomar missed almost a third of ‘97 but was excellent when he played, and Crespo was a competent hitter this year as the likely injury fill in. Carlos Garcia played 103 games in our dimension and “produced” an OPS+ of 47, while Alomar played 112 games and posted a 134. Carter was most often a DH in ‘97 and his OPS+ was an embarrassing 77. Shannon Stewart would be the most obvious candidate to pick up at bats and he was at 113 as a rookie that year. There’s a lot of improvement there.
On the pitching side, Cone posted a 159, Key a 128, and they combined for 407 IP, either of which alone would have produced the second best total on the ‘97 Jays. Key could replace almost all of Robert Person and Chris Carpenter (81 and 89) and Cone would absorb the work of Woody Williams who wasn’t awful. But his 104 pales obviously in comparison.
It’s reasonable, I think, to suppose all this takes a 76-86 record over .500 and into third place - but not to the playoffs.

1998
The last year of our Fantasy monster pitching staff is upon us. We only need to make up four games this year to make the playoffs as the wild card team and the right to face the Indians in the first round. I’m going to stick with Cone blocking Williams which means his 125 replacing Williams’ 103. Key lost his job in the rotation for the O’s that year, despite having posted average work - I’m going to say he remains a starter with the Jays a bit longer than 11 turns. Since I need Escobar to close (where he’ll do a better job than Myers), we’ll start by giving his 10 (good) starts to Key, along with Hanson’s atrocious 8 starts, along with two ugly spot starts by Dave Stieb. The result is an ERA about half a run higher than Key’s was.
On the offensive side, Alomar’s ‘98 was easily his worst year of the decade, with only a 100 OPS+ but Craig Grabek who got almost 2/3 of the starts at 2B in Toronto only came up with a 76. Carter was, of course, gone by now even in the real world.
So, does this equal five more wins? I think so. I can’t guess how it would have went down with Cleveland but Clemens and Cone would have been pretty tough to beat.

1999
This one hurts me because I really expect that if the ‘98 Jays make the playoffs, Clemens doesn’t (unofficially) opt out. I’m going to nod in the direction of what that means but because I want to keep the focus on the three good guys, I can’t bring myself to extrapolate this to the guy who’s turned himself into such a pariah. The truth is, what he did and what Wells did in his place is pretty much a wash in ‘99 anyway.
Alomar, on the other hand, was back in form with a 139 OPS+ which easily destroys Homer Bush’s 96. That would add a couple of marginal wins I’m sure but the team would have still been well back of the playoffs.

2000
Bush slipped to 75, Alomar had a 114. If you want to look at pitching Clemens pitched marginally better than Wells, wins aside. Still, this might have gotten them the 3 games they needed for second place but they were 8 games out of the wild card and you can find that in one player most of the time.

2001
Alomar over Bush 150-89 - Were Clemens here he’d have likely saved us from the dreaded Loaiza acquisition and I don’t need to make that comparison for you do I? Still, while the Jays were only 2.5 games behind for second place, the Wild Card team that year won 102 games so no playoffs.

2002-2003
Robbie is in decline now - would have blocked Hudson who actually hit slightly better both years but likely no major impact on results. This assumes JP would have been kinda forced to pick up the option on sentiment.

How might the Jays fans feel about the team now if the team had only 5 sub-.500 teams in 29 years (1983 through 2010)? True, it would still be 13 years since a playoff appearance but those difficult post-strike years (and most of a decade of sucky ownership) would have been much mitigated by teams which had some hope.

You may be wondering what Key and cone have to do with keeping Robbie Alomar a (nearly) life-long Blue Jay? My feeling is that I can't really justify the assumption we could have kept Robbie on a re-building team. the strong pitching staff represents the "commitment to winning" that both drives revenues and provides motivation to Alomar. There are a list of moves the Jays made, or failed to make, over the years which I'd love to go back and reverse, but none more important to me than the failure to retain Roberto Alomar. It gives me just the tiniest hint of bittersweet emotion about what will otherwise be a glorious afternoon.

(if you haven't had enough yet, see the comments below for more)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Looking back to see forward

(Yes, I'm four days late, what of it?)

It's customary in the wake of the All Star Break to take a look at how the first half went in anticipation of the second half. Rather than do grades and stuff, or drown you in stats, i just want to kind of give you my brief take on the team by positions, both in terms of looking back and looking ahead.

Lineup

Catcher: JP Arencibia was, for a while, on a pace to have the best offensive season anyone has ever had at this position in a Blue Jays uniform, then through a combination of slight injuries, and the league adjusting to him, he went into a notable offensive tailspin (he hit .135 over 26 games mostly in June). Anytime you are on the down cycle of the adjustment process things look bad but I'm as confident as is rational that JP will adjust in reply and have a productive second half. Reports about his defense are mixed, and the common assumption is that Travis d'Arnaud will yet take his job, but that's probably 2013. in the mean time, the Jays will have a fine catcher.
First Base: Adam Lind is back to being Adam Lind. At his peak this year he was among the 2 or 3 best hitters in the league. He, too, went through an extended slump which is, in fact, ongoing. don't worry about it. Such corrections happen and he'll have another hot streak soon. His defense has been, by most accounts, surprisingly good given his lack of pro experience there.

Second Base: Sigh. Aaron Hill gets on a little roll, nothing major, just kind of signs that there might be hope, then it falls apart again. At this rate, they might as well park him at #9 until the off-season and look elsewhere. I've loved the guy since he came up and defended him often when others ripped him but for whatever reason, he's just not finding the results and he's beginning to carry his frustration into the field.

Shortstop: Yunel Escobar is on pace to rival the best offensive year even posted by a Toronto shortstop, Tony Fernandez '87 if you were wondering, and playing solid and sometimes spectacular defense.
Third Base: has been a train wreck and I refuse to look at the blood and gore. if things go well we've a little more than 2 weeks before Brett Lawrie (i.e. the Savior) gets here. I'm going to keep looking ahead to that happy day.
Left Field: coming into Saturday's play, Travis Snider was hitting .400 with an OPS over 1.000 since his return from Vegas. obviously that will not continue, but one could hope he's turned the corner. if he has, he'll be a monster. Oh, and he's a solid and potentially above average LF too.
Center field: Rajai Davis has been a crashing disappointment and really, on a decent team he's the 4th or 5th OF. There's not a lot of opportunity to improve this situation out there (the jays actually toyed with giving Snider a shot at the job) but fan's patience (and likely management's) is wearing thin.

Right Field: Jose Bautista, duh. Yes he's playing 3B right now, but that's only for a few more weeks. in the mean time we've seen a lot of Eric Thames out there. Technically Thames is no RF, he barely has the arm for left - Snider ought to be over here, but for whatever reason the team hasn't often done it that way. So far Thames has been a monster offensively, which WON'T last. But when he comes down he's still going to be better than a lot of "experts" think he's going to be. The challenge will be to find a way to get him on the field. Coming into Saturday's game, his OPS since his last recall (in 7 games) is 1.055, but his BABiP is .404 and that will almost certainly cool.

DH: Edwin Encarnacion continues to redeem his "lost" season when he doesn't have to worry about the leather. In his last 17 games he has an .884 OPS and as a DH, on the season, it's .832 but the kid procession will hurt him. Eric Thames will cut into his AB when Lawrie arrives, it's inevitable. Don't be shocked if you see EE traded in August if he continues to build credibility as a DH.

The Bench of Molina (having a career year at the plate) McDonald (an invaluable vet with so much youth around) and Corey Patterson (who really needs to lose his job to Adam Loewen in August) is reasonable and two of the three are valuable.

By late August I'd think it would be perfectly reasonable to be running this lineup out to see how it worked in anticipation of next year:

Escobar - SS
Lawrie - 3B
Lind - 1B (break up lefties better, let him take advantage of the "protection" factor)
Bautista - RF
Snider - LF
Arencibia - C
Thames - DH (LF)
Hill - 2B
Davis - CF
Bench - Molina, Loewen, McDonald
Rotation

Ricky Romero - In a bit of a reversal at the moment, as will happen over the course of the season for 95% of all pitchers. He's had basically three bad games all year. Don't worry about him. unless he's going against the Red Sox.
Brandon Morrow - All the higher metrics like him better than Romero, his FIP is 10th in the majors, and over his last six games he's posted a 2.68 ERA. If last year is any indication, he'll roar through the second half. One of these years he's going to put together a season like Verlander is having.
Brett Cecil - The sample is small, but the last two games have been most impressive and the opposition was not easy. I'm optimistic he's found his groove but it's more hunch than evidence right now.
Jo-Jo Reyes - I continue to be mystified, though not surprised, at the constant call to DFA Reyes. it's true his results are wildly inconsistent, but he did run off a nine game stretch in which his ERA was 3.65 which is entirely respectable. It's also worth noting that in all games against opponents other than NY and Boston his ERA is 3.87 (IIRC). Which is not a defense of his presence in the Jays rotation, but a an acknowledgment that he DOES have value. Value that i'm hopeful AA is about to cash in within the next two weeks. Because even though he's not a train wreck as some imagine, the Jays have other pitchers who need to be taking that turn more than he does. Hes got talent, he needs to find a way to use it consistently, but if everyone is healthy, he's no better than the sixth best option here by years end and those behind him wouldnt be very far behind.
Carlos Villianueva - He's had a tremendous run of nine starts (he got beat up today but I'm talking about the first half) and you cant not be impressed but you have to remind yourself - it's NINE starts. He's going to be facing the risk of fatigue soon as it's been some years since he's pitched this much. With three other guys who may well need to find major league work, you have to assume at some point he comes out of the rotation. But it's impossible to predict when.
Jesse Litsch - His rehab assignment is up today and the word is he'll be optioned to AAA tomorrow. Jesse is a hard case to diagnose. His K rate was up noticeably this year which is normally a sign of growth and progress, but he's had more trouble staying healthy than anyone should be comfortable with. By most measures, he deserves to be recalled if (when!) Jo-Jo is traded, which would save his option as he'd be down less than 20 days, but it might be that the numbers game works against him.
Kyle Drabek - left his last AAA start with a muscle strain which makes prognostications concerning his return problematic. for now I'm going on the assumption that he won't be back until rosters expand in September, but if he ran off 4 or 5 impressive starts he might change that. If he doesn't miss a turn he'd have nine starts in Vegas before September 1 - that's not an eternity.
Dustin McGowan - His 30 day rehab ends August 2 and we are told that it's possible for the Jays to deactivate him for 7 days and re-start that clock, but maybe they don't do that. Everything I say about McGowan, OF COURSE, comes with the caveat "assuming no setbacks" but with that said - It's not a minor thing that his rehab ends right after the trade deadline where Reyes (or possibly Villineueva) could very well be traded. He's up to roughly three innings now, and he has time for three more starts before the end of the month. If he con comfortably go five or six IP without problems, the Jays face a choice.
McGowan has no options, and although with the ability to restart the rehab clock that's not a major concern THIS year, but what about 2012? There's a good argument that the Blue Jays would profit greatly from seeing McGowan do major league work outside September in 2011 in order to have a better idea about the 2012 rotation. I, for one, think that would be a very sound strategy if they think they can manage his work load in the majors as the comeback continues.

All things considered, I'd like to see McGowan get the first opening when Reyes is dealt and I wouldn't object to sending Villianeva back to the pen if (when?) a reliever is dealt so as to save Listch's option. That doesn't make room for Drabek before September but that seems to me the best management of assets. particularly in that you probably want to build value for Litsch so you can shop him in the off-season.

If all goes well, I could see a 2012 rotation of Romero - Morrow - McGowan - Cecil - Drabek and I could see that being a very very good group.

Bullpen

Frank Francisco - No one is any more mystified here than I am. Normally in a situation like this you say "he must be hurt" but basically he's just having the pitcher version of Adam Lind's 2010. It makes no sense, it shouldn't be happening - but there it is. The root of the problem though, is control. His walk rate is way up over what he had over the last three years coming into the year, and when you pitch behind, you tend to give up untimely hits. You'd like to say "this cant continue" but we're speaking of relievers, who the hell knows really?

Jon Rauch - Lots of dissatisfaction with Rauch, and most of it unjustified. It's true he's pitching a bit worse than his career norms, but nothing disastrous. His biggest weakness is, he just doesn't give off the closer "vibe" (much like Frasor has always felt) and when your closer is tanking, the natural emotion is to look around for another and Rauch doesn't seem like it. We complain about managers being locked into the closer-myth, but a LOT of fans are too. I expect he'll keep cruising along at about this level, being neither the villain or the hero.

Jason Frasor - the new all time appearance leader among Jays pitchers as of today, Frasor has been perfectly fine. He is, for all the grief he's gotten over the years, the rock of this group. And the one guy out of the five potential free agents that really does need to be back next year. As with any reliever, he could blow up, but don't hold your breath.

Octavio Dotel - You all know how I've been counting the days until Dotel was traded since he was signed. I didn't like the deal and it wasn't so much whether or not he pitched well, he just seemed unnecessary. And all the more so as other veterans were added. I still think he's probably the first relief pitcher out the door when deals start happening. But credit where due, lately he's been anything but a negative. In his last 19 appearances, spanning 16 IP, he's given up exactly 2 earned runs. In his last 17 appearances he's walked ONE batter. I expect this level of work won't last, and I won't feel any remorse if he's dealt. But you have to tip your hat.

Shawn Camp - Camp had three quietly impressive seasons for the Toronto squad but that might be winding down. his K rate in particular is down while his H/9 rate is up. i don't think he's going to be a problem over the rest of the year, but I'm less happy to see him in tight spots than I used to be. I have a feeling someone is going to overpay this winter.

Casey Janssen - Expected back Monday after missing a month to injury, Janssen was pitching the best he ever has and looking forward to the second half and to 2012, he really should be pushed more and more into a prominent role. in fact, I'd be perfectly happy to see him given the ninth inning. Take away one apperance (the next to last before he hit the DL, and possibly influenced by pain) and his ERA is 2.00 and that's way better than Rauch and Francisco can offer. I don't know what John Farrell is thinking, but with Frasor and Janssen from the right, and Dotel where appropriate, and Zep and Perez from the left, he's got a fine back of the bullpen - if he just used them in the back instead of the bigger name guys.

Marc Rzepczynski - He's settled into the Scott Downs 2.0 role pretty seemlessly, apart from the very occasional off day. In three appearances, he's allowed more than one ER, going 1.1 IP over those with 7 ER allowed. outside those, he's got an ERA of 1.26 over 35.2 IP and, with the above stated caveats always in mind, I have every confidence such work will continue.

Luis Perez - Okay, I totally whiffed on this guy. More than once over the last couple of years I asked "why are we burning a 40 man roster spot on this bum?" Well, I sit corrected. for a second lefty in the pen, you could do (and many teams do) a lot worse. Still, he's young and the sample size is small so i don't want to overstate the situation.

That's a cram packed bullpen, and if Villianueva were to be sent back from the rotation, someone would have to go. Between the lines, that's obviously a sign to trade Camp, or Rauch, or Francisco - but all of these guys mean draft picks next year and are by no means guaranteed to bring back a similar return this month. Dotel being on a roll might bring a similar return (plus, he might just accept arbitration this winter) and that makes him seemingly the most likely to be traded. Once you get past those, if there were a rash of injuries or something, Danny Farquhar or Brad Mills seem the obvious choices to plug in from AAA.

On the whole, I really like the potential for this team to max out the youth movement soon and ride that pony into the new year. Looking ahead, I only see one potential free agent that makes me go "Hmmmm" - and that's Lance Berkman (because you can keep the deal short) - assuming he's down with being a DH which is probably not the case. You'll here a whole lot of griping over the next nine months about how the jays are not spending enough money on major league acquisitions. I, for one, had rather seen as many home grown players carry the load as possible. these are exciting times for me.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mid Season Prospect Ranking

Everybody's doing it - you know ima gonna!

I am going to try to be a little less verbose than usual here because I've been giving you blurbs on these guys all season. This is sort of a "work in progress" list in that any time the sample size gets smaller the rankings get more tentative.

1. Brett Lawrie - Duh. Probably won't be on the off-season list because he's about to graduate.
2. Henderson Alvarez - Increasing notoriety means scouts are noticing something exciting.
3. Travis d'Arnaud - setting himself apart from other catcher prospects in the system.
4. Anthony Gose - still very young, but very exciting.
5. Jake Marisnick - moving slower than Gose but may be just as good.
6. Aaron Sanchez - very raw but huge ceiling.
7. Deck McGuire - handling first pro-season with ease, may reach AA this year.
8. Carlos Perez - not a great year, but has great talent.
9. Zach Stewart - difficult to tell from stats but team clearly loves him.
10. Eric Thames - another potential graduate.
11. Drew Hutchinson - has rocketed up my chart, would go higher in weaker system.
12. Adeiny Hechevarria - already best glove in baseball, have to wait on bat.
13. Antonio Jimenez - bat slacking some as season wears on.
14. Nestor Molina - out of nowhere and on the radar.
15. Chad Jenkins - still watching to see how he plays at upper levels.
16. Marcus Knecht - another fast riser.
17. Moises Sierra - his manager loves him, stats need to trend upward a bit.
18. Noah Syndergaard - another guy who'd be higher in most other systems.
19. Adonis Cardona - still largely speculative.
20. Asher Wojciechowski - struggled for a while, possible over-reliance on fastball.
21. Adam Loewen - I hate ranking him this low, I think he'll play well in the majors.
22. Mike McDade - keeps proving doubters wrong.
23. David Cooper - knocked down a couple of points for lack of defensive skills.
24. Michael Crouse - could climb a lot of refined.
25. Justin Nicolino - has been very impressive so far.
26. DJ Thon - speculative so far.
27. Kellen Sweeney - likewise.
28. Griffin Murphy - and again.
29. Joel Carreno - another guy who's exceeding the professional's expectations.
30. (tie) Justin Jackson - could still be a valuable utility guy (Ryan Freel with a better glove?)
30. (tie) Brad Mills - seems unlikely to get a chance for the jays but being the best pitcher in the PCL should get you SOME notice.

After the draftees sign or not, some of them will be top 30 names - Beede likely in the top 10 and Norris and Dean, IF they signed, would probably be in the top 20. That could go as high as 9 or 10, depending on who signs, in the top 50 .

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Bonus material!

This is a strange, as Paul Harvey used to say: Shi Davidi reports that John Farrell has set his post-break rotation thusly:

7/14 - Reyes
7/15 - Villianueva
7/16 - Romero
7/17 - Morrow
7/18 - off
7/19 - Cecil

Looks fine, right? You just jumped into the logical rotation at #4 (Reyes) and moved on. BUT Farrell goes on to say that after the first time through he'd use the off-day to flip Reyes and Romero to - per Richard Griffin - "get Ricky back in the top spot."

HUH?!?

That rotation HAS Ricky in the top spot! Here's what happens with the reported flip:

7/14 - Reyes
7/15 - Villianueva
7/16 - Romero
7/17 - Morrow
7/18 - off
7/19 - Cecil
7/20 - Romero (on three days rest!)
7/21 - Villianueva
7/22 - Reyes
7/23 - Morrow
7/24 - Cecil
7/25 - off
7/26 - Romero
7/27 - Villianueva
7/28 - Reyes
7/29 - Morrow
7/30 - Cecil
7/31 - Romero
(After the deadline, we don't know who will be in the rotation)

Villianueva is our #2 now? How does this make sense? Farrell said they had mapped out the rest of the season and they tried to plan ahead for favorable match-ups and such but I've done that too (I do it all the time, don't ask) and there's no improved match-up (which really comes down to throwing your best guys at the best teams) by flipping Ricky and Jo-Jo. The only thing i could see is getting Reyes' last start in July three days before the end of the month so as to maximize the trade window, but I can't see a team significantly changing their intent based on one start.

I'm confuzzled.

I'm going to try and knock out a review/preview on the major league squad tomorrow, I'm ready to see the new kid-friendly team show their stuff.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

3/5 Farm Report

Technically speaking, the minor league season is more than 3/5 done. I'm using the AAA season for reference, since there's not a consistency among levels, and the Vegas team arrives at the ASB having played 90 games, which splits easily into three 30 game sections, and the second half's 53 games split into two segments which is close to, but not quite, 30 games each. So it's actually just under 63% of the season - full disclosure.

Before I begin, I'll take brief note of some special cases:

Brett Lawrie - has been disabled for most of the last 30 games so there's nothing on the field really to report. You all know his story by now (was set to be called up when he was injured on a HBP). He tweeted this morning he was going out to take BP. Keep your eyes open for a report on how his hand responded. If there's no setback, he might make it back into a game by the weekend, or early next week. The original projection was a mid-to-late August recall, but if there's no setback, you might see him after the trade deadline passes on July 31.

Eric Thames - Among the statistical leaders in several PCL categories (his doubles pace pro-rates to 67 over a full AAA season), he was on a blistering pace when he was recalled from the minors for the second time on June 23 and he's putting down strong roots in the majors.

Now, to the folks still in the minors-

Hitters


1. Travis d'Arnaud - As much as JP Arencibia has put to rest a lot of his critics this year, offensively at least, the presence of d'Arnaud closing in the rear view mirror persists. Like Loewen, his early stats were unremarkable, but after returning from a mild concussion in early may he caught fire and has been en-flamed, apart from one brief slump in June, ever since. His OPS on the season is 4th in the Eastern league, but his OPS since returning from the DL is 1.000, which would be .008 off the league lead. For a catcher. In June and July his BB/K ratio has been down, but otherwise, you have to love the guy. and his defense draws raves as well. Before you start checking the calendar though, remember that the Blue Jays have every reason to take it slow with him. My guess is that barring injury or trade to JPA, it will be something like June of 2013 before he batters down the door to the majors.

2. Marcus Knecht - The clock HAS to be ticking down it's final moments before Knecht is promoted to Dunedin. He's spanked the Midwest League pitching to enough of an extent to punch his ticket. He's second in the league in OPS, third in OBP and BA. and the other guys up there with him are 2-3 years old than the just-turned-20 year old Knecht. It's not like there's any notable prospect blocking his advance.

3. Jake Marisnick - A recent column by the Sun's Bob Elliot postulated the observation of one scout which suggested that the outfield quartet in Lansing reminded him of the days in the late 80's when Glenallen Hill, Derrik Bell, Junior Felix, and Mark Whiten were were climbing the Jays minor league ladder as teammates. Knecht and Marisnick make up half that set (along with Michael Crouse and Marcus Brisker) and both of them are quite possibly better than any of the original quartet. After getting off to a blazing start in April, Marisnick cooled a bit in May but has since recovered most of his momentum. Like all young hitters, he needs to refine that whole BB/K thing, but for his first year in pro ball, he can hold his head high. I've a hunch he might get a taste of the FSL in early to mid-August.

4. David Cooper - Clearly Cooper isn't showing himself a power hitter. His HR total (8) pro-rate out to a pedestrian 20 over a full AAA season. but wait, there's more. Cooper has an astonishing 35 doubles - THAT works out to 74 over 143 games. it also leads the PCL. Cooper's OPS leads the league once you eliminate veteran organizational players like Cody Ransom and Jai Miller. He leads in BA and OBP without that caveat.
There's a running debate over whether or not Cooper has actual major league potential, and what his ceiling might be. observers like Kieth Law think he's little more than an org player himself (but the law thinks Thames is a 4th outfielder too) and the lack of optimism is not entirely unwarranted. but he's doing everything offensively he's capable of doing, and it would not stun me if AA managed to milk some value out of him in a trade before the month is over.

5. Adam Loewen - We know by now that Loewen got off to a mediocre start (he didn't make my first minor league report and I was on the verge of doubting my previous enthusiasm), however, since May 1 it's been a different story. Over those 65 games his OPS has been 1.007 (which would rank 8th in the PCL if it were his full season figure) and this from a guy who has almost 250 fewer minor league at bats than 20 year old Anthony Gose. He's still striking out too much, as you might expect, but it's well past time he was getting some respect. I, for one, would very much like to see him in Toronto beginning August 1. If that means Corey Patterson is on the waiver wire, so much the better.

6. Mike McDade - People keep doubting him, and he keeps right on hitting. Second in the EL in doubles and RBI, in the top 10 in HR, BA, SLG, and OPS. and a growing reputation as a perfectly good fielder, despite the "bad body" label. He does have a history of weight concerns, but he's worked hard to get a grip on that and on that. he's listed at 260 but reports have had him well below that.

7. Art Charles - While it's early to make too much of a conclusion about the short season players, who are just now passing the 20 games played mark, Charles is such a standout that he has some attention coming. His OPS ranks third in the Appalachian League, and his 8 HR is one off the league lead, his 8 doubles are 2 off the league lead, and all that in 81 AB. He also leads the AL in RBI. The 19 year old 1B was a 20th round pick in 2010 so he's definitely an underdog, but you have to tip your cap. Another short season players on Note include Vancouver CF Jon Jones - not the Martian Manhunter, the other one - who's displayed doubles power and good speed.

Pitchers

1. Drew Hutchinson - On July 6 Hutch came on in relief (to begin the third inning) of the re-habbing Dustin McGowan and pitched into the sixth inning before giving up his first earned run of the day, of, and his first earned run in 43 innings pitched. Over that stretch, he posted 50 K's against only 5 walks, and his GO:FO ration was over 3:1, while allowing only 22 hits. almost all of them singles. He's in the FSL now, and he's defiantly on the radar.

2. Henderson Alvarez - Alvarez pitched a clean 6th inning in the Futures game today, including getting an out from the guy who's possibly the top hitter still in the minors. that's in recognition of his obvious talent. Having gained zip on his fastball this year Alvarez is not a sleeper on anyone's chart anymore. He's still somewhat raw and observers think his K numbers will increase as he refines his approach.

3. Nestor Molina - Molina has appeared in 16 games this year, starting 13 of them - fully half of the 26 earned runs he's allowed game in just 2 of them. Outside thouse two hiccups, his ERA is a stunning 1.57!, Oh, and he has 93 K and 8 walks. This from a guy who came into the season with less than 80 IP in the pros, almost all of it in relief.

4. Deck McGuire - McGuire has been the picture of steady. Just about any way you split his stats they look pretty close. His walk rate is higher than you'd like to see, but there's nothing else for anyone to be disappointed with.

5. Joel Carreno - Under-rated by most observers, pegged as a future reliever who's stuff won't play as well at higher levels (and we have seen other pitchers look great at AA and blow up at AAA), Carreno just keeps striking out the opposition. Opponents are hitting a pitiful .185 off him, he has over 30 more IP than hits allowed, and more than a k an inning. The walks are fairly high but otherwise, he's been great, pedigree or no. And all that after he was pretty bad in April.

6. Sean Nolin - He played himself off my last update with a couple of stumbles just before I wrote that entry, he hasn't been all aces since then but his secondary number promise that the 2010 sixth round LHP has something going on. He has a 3.67 K:BB ratio as his most promising stat, but he spent a stint on the DL and came out of his last start early so he might still be dealing with that problem.

7. Justin Nicolino - As with the hitters, the short season pitchers haven't really accumulated a telling sample size, but Nicolino, a 2011 2nd round choice, has preformed great at a higher level than other more heralded high school selections. The 19 year old LHP has a 4:1 K:BB ratio, and opponents are hitting .150 against him. Also, he has twice as many IP as hits allowed, and it's not inconceivable at all that he gets a short test in Lansing 4 or 5 weeks from now. Other short-season pitchers worth congrats include supplemental round choice Noah Syndergaard who's preforming similarly to Nicolino though a step lower; David Rollins, a 24th round LH in the recent draft who's pitching even better than Syndergaard (SSSA!!) ; Myles Jays (2010 17th rounder) and ever-under-rated Deviy Estrada.

Sometime over the next week I'll take a look at the major league squad's first half and give you a look at my mid-season prospect ranking update (yes, I update the list every month or so - no YOU'RE obsessive).

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Back on the Snide(r)!

Scattershot notes from all over:

Item: Travis Snider is BAAAAACK! Juan Rivera is no more, saints be praised. After todays impressive spanking of Cliff lee (who saw THAT coming?) the jays kicked Rivera to the curb (i.e. DFA'ed) and recalled Snider from Las Vegas. Huzzah says I. According to John Farrell, Snider will play RF in Boston, then swithc most likely to LF but he wouldn't rule out playing Snider in CF (the Jays had been toying with the idea and had him play a few games there in Vegas). Personally, given that the legend of Eric Thames (screw Sam Fuld) is in full bloom in Toronto, my heart says give Snider every chance to succeed in CF so that the two young guys are not costing each other at bats and turns in the field.

Item: Juan Rivera is gone! (yeah, I wanted to say that twice, what of it?). Alex Anthopoulos was quoted as saying he hoped to get something for Rivera and some talks had already happened. I won't put anything past NinjaGM but on paper, the Blue Jays would surely have to assume the vast majority of his remaining $2.62 million on his contract in order to get anyone worth taking even marginal notice of. Corey Patterson is now on the clock.

Item: Now that it's July, we can speculate about who else might be on their way out of town. There's the aforementioned Patterson, who's departure would clear the way for Adam Loewen; There's Edwin Encarnacion who's heating up and therefore might be a chip you hold until the last day to see how many heads he can turn, but if he departed it would allow the Jays to take a longer look at David Cooper.
There's Jo-Jo Reyes who, while having done serviceable work, is blocking Jesse Litsch and behind him are Drabek and eventually Stewart. They can afford to deal him and a team with an injury (such as the Indians) might see the value in paying something of value to plug a lefty with some talent into a hole in their rotation. finally, there are five guys in the bullpen who would theoretically draw interest and be available (I know I know, everyone is available, but you know what I mean). Needs? Prospects, as always - albeit a ready or almost ready guy with promise at 2B would likely be attractive given the dearth of good options out there at that position in the upcoming FA market.

Item: Jayson Nix is gone. You knew that of course, I just wanted to say so. He might actually clear waivers and head to Vegas though, so who knows if we've seen the last of him.

Item: Eric Thames is a bad bad man. Other than walking he's doing it all right now. it probably won't hold at this level, of course, but it sure is fun to watch. Don't cast those ROY ballots just yet!!

Item: Remember the name Drew Hutchinson. He's working on a streak of some 39 straight innings, spread over two levels, without giving up an earned run. From the time he gave up his last ER, he's posted the following line:

39.1IP, 22H, 4BB, 47K - five of those hits were doubles. That's six starts and change.

Item: Jose Bautista got more All Star votes than anybody. Ever. Sadly, as of now he's the only Blue Jays going and, as it turned out, only RickyRo has a real reason to file a complaint about getting snubbed. However, AL manager Ron Washington padded the team with Rangers to the exclusion of other deserving players. Seems to me Tiger fans have the most to complain about.

Item: Jesse Litsch, who's been very good in his rehab so far, get's the call in Vegas tonight, but AA has told him that there's no guarantee there's a job for him when he's healthy. Again, this smells like a situation where, if everyone stays healthy, someone is getting traded.

Item: Justin Jackson got promoted to AA this week as we are seeing more and more movement among the Jays prospects.

Item: Dustin McGowan pitched in his first real game in - three years? - yesterday. He threw 35 pitches and didn't do that well but you could hardly expect much after all that time. The Jays were pleased with his stuff. Farrell said they will gradually increase his load - 2 innings (35 pitches was, basically, 2 innings worth if everything goes well) then 3 twice then 4 twice and etc, although obviously it's actually pitches, not innings they are counting. Probably something like 18-20 pitches constituting an "inning" so you'd be looking at 35-40, then 55-60 twice, then 75-80 twice. That would be six starts, all he can fit into the 30 days of a standard rehab assignment. As much as I'd love to see him climb back into the Jays rotation in August, the word is that the team, if they don't think he's ready, have a maneuver available to "reset the clock" on the 30 days. Still, if there are no setbacks you should see him in a Blue Jays uniform in September at least.

Item: lastly, you know of course about the cursed unbalanced schedule (which rumors are promising might be about to go by the boards) - but do you know about the sneaky unbalanced schedule? Consider this: Here's the W/L percentage of the NL teams that the Jays and the teams ahead of them in the division standings played-

TBR: .466
BRS: .478
NYY: .489
TBJ: .515

Here are the 2011 inter-league records for those four teams:

NYY: 13-5
TBR: 12-6
BRS: 11-7
TBJ: 8-10

Now, it's certainly possible that who they played wouldn't have made any difference in those results. but it still gets on my nerves.