Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Catching Up

Gird thy loins for one of those intermittent omnibus posts wherein I try to cover all the relevant events of the last week or so. Girded? Good . . .

Item: Hill/McDonald for Johnson. On the surface, this would seem to be worthy of extensive commentary but it's more straightforward than it might seem. if you lay aside the emotionalism and focus strictly on roster management machinations, it's easy to see why both tams made the move. Both second basemen were having disheartening years, with Hill desperately in need of something to jar him out of the ditch (if anything could); both are pending free agents who will be at least B types (Johnson projects as a fringe candidate for "A" status in the AL but not the NL); both were nominally potential targets for a FA signing by the team for whom they now play.

Each team gets an opportunity for an up-close look at the new guy, the new guy gets a chance to see how they like the new team, the D'backs pick up a much needed SS and the Jays either avoid paying a first rounder for Johnson (if he'd have surprised and been a type A) or, alternately, potentially gain 2 picks for him if he leaves. it's been widely (and correctly) noted the jays might very ell look to bring Hill back if Johnson leaves and they are certain to bring McDonald back.

Hows it working out? In seven games in the desert Hill's OPS is .956, in seven games for the Jays Johnson is OPSing .996 - smiles all around.

Item: Henderson Alvarez demands your attention. The Roookie mowed through the Orioles for eight dominant innings tonight, and while it's true there is still development to be done, and there will be bumps in the road, he's making his case to stick in the majors next spring.

Item: Respect JP Arencibia. It might be claimed that since his hot start, he's been an offensive drag on the team, this turns out not to be true. In his first 40 games this season, his OPS was .824; in his next 34 games, possibly affected by the lingering hand injury, it fell to .505; but in the most recent 29 games, he's rebounded to hit even better than in the early going, with an .866 OPS. At this point he has a better HR/AB ratio than any starting catcher in baseball not named Brian McCann, slump included.

Item: Brett Lawrie is a God. that is all.

Item: there's growing unrest among jays fans, not unjustified, about whether Adam Lind is going to turn out to be too mediocre to be entitled to 1B in the coming years. Few have been a bigger defender of Lind than i have but this IS disconcerting. Coming into tonight, his "slump" now extends to a disturbing 61 games (.197/.238/.313/.551) and ESPN iswriting up features on why the Jays ought to go get Prince Fielder (I still prefer Pujols, for the record). We are actually past the point of wondering if Lind is valuable here and entering the territory where you begin to wonder if he has reasonable trade value. But if we could move Wells and actually get something, that's not a huge concern.

Item: I miss Colby Rasmus.

Item: Carlos Villianueva was activated today, Jon Rauch will likely be activated tomorrow, and while Alex has spoken of waiting out the AAA season, they are free to add more relievers if they see fit about an hour from now. Darn good thing.

Item: The initial AFL assignments have been made - Gose, Hechevarria, Yan Gomes, Evan Crawford, and Aaron Loup (the latter two being relief pitchers). If you don't understand, remember that teams draft slots in the AFL by position (as more than one MLB team shares an AFL team) and so the last couple of players on each squad are lesser-lights. It's worth noting that teams have the opportunity to send six, so there's an unfilled slot here - and these rosters do change. also, reports are that Gomes is taxi squad, as Cooper (I believe) was last year and so won't get a lot of at bats. That's too bad because Gomes is a hidden asset in the Jays system.

Item: Concerning September recalls, keep in mind that AA has said he would wait out the minor league seasons, which means it's probably another week before anyone but the injured players start appearing. Also, keep in mind that NH is in the playoffs so their season won't be over until 9/9 ant the earliest and could stretch as far as 9/17 - the Jays won't weaken that squad for a September recall. It's not impossible to see an AFL assigniee called up in September, but it's not common either. The question on everyone's lips is whether or not Adeiny will be in Toronto in September. I'm still inclined to think he will, for a couple of weeks or so, and then will be dispatched to the AFL before the last week of the major league season. Others you can expect to see include:
Dustin McGowan (from rehab/DL)
Raji Davis (from the DL)
Brad Mills (potentially tried in relief?)
David Cooper
Adam Loewen (if not, he's likely done in the organization)
PJ Walters (maybe . . . just for slop innings though)

That leaves the question of Kyle Drabek. I'm sure he will be IN Toronto, but whether he'll be added to the team I'm not so sure.

Item: Speaking of minor leaguers, you've probably heard by Travis d'Arnaud is Eastern League MVP, Sal Fasano in EL manager of the year, Clayton McCullough is FSL Manager of the year, Mike Redmond is MWL manager of the year, and and Bluefield's Dennis Holmberk is Appy League Manager of the year. I'm seeing a pattern here.

Item: Bluefield started their playoff series with a win tonight, New Hampshire is already qualified for the playoffs, so is Lansing; Dunedin is a game and a half up with four to play. And if Eugene holds on to win the second half title in the NWL then Vancouver is in good shape to make it too. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that never in team history has the Blue Jays organization placed five minor league teams in the playoffs.

I'm sure I probably missed something but that'll do for now.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Follow Friday!

Occasionally I do a few #ff posts on twitter noting all the Blue Jays players who tweet (or at least, have accounts) but there are getting to be so VERY many that I figured why not blow it up and give you more than just names. What follows is as comprehensive list as I can make, broken up by level and with comments where appropriate:

Toronto Blue Jays (11 players)

@JoeyBats19 - Jose Bautista validates my favorite nickname for him
@jparencibia9 - JP Arencibia, a must-follow
@Lunchboxhero45 - Travis Snider, yes, damnit, he's a Blue Jay as far as I'm concerned
@Encadwin - Edwin Encarnacion, new to the twitter game
@blawrie13 - Brett Lawrie, the King of Canada
@RealColbyRasmus - Colby Rasmus, doesn't tweet that much
@ESPY_TEAHEN - Mark Teahan
@Joeycatch8 - Newest major league Jay on Twitter, likey recruited by JP. often tweets in Spanish
@RickyRo24 - Always upbeat
@2Morrow23 - smart guy
@JesseLitsch - not always just baseball

Las Vegas 51's (1)

@ronuviedo_07 - Ron Uvideo

New Hampshire Fishercats
(9)
(lots of interaction on long bus trips)

@Travisdarnaud -Travis d'Arnaud
@MacDizzleMan - Mike McDade
@Yan_AGomes - Yan Gomes
@Deckdeisel - John Tolisano
@deckmcguire - Deck McGuire
@Jenknutz - Chad Jenkins
@1DrewHutch - Drew Hutchison
@FrankGailey - Frank Gailey
@Kho4 - Kevin Howard

Dunedin Blue Jays (10)
(not as many high profile guys)

@ajjim6 - AJ Jiminez
@rgoins5 - Ryan Goins
@thebigshow - Sean Ochinko
@JaxChillinONE - Justin Jackson (maybe the most prolific minor league tweeter)
@talley4cali - Jon Talley
@ItsKennyWilson - Kenny Wilson
@sukbrikkid27 - Joe Bowen
@AsherWojo - Asher Wojciechewski
@caseylawrence - Casey Lawrence
@scottgracey - Scott Gracey
@chop510 - Chris Hopkins

Lansing Lugnuts (12)
(most of the bullpen is tweeting)

@JakeMarisnick - Jake Marisnick
@MarcusallenK - Marcus Knecht
@_crouse_ - Michael Crouse
@JonJones707 - Jon Jones
@JackMurphy219 - Jack Murphy
@NoahSyndergaard - Noah Syndergaard
@Sean_Nolin - Sean Nolin
@DjbMantis - Daniel Barnes
@Brandon_Berl - Brandon Berl
@GriFF720 - Shawn Griffith
@S_Strickland34 - Sam Strikland
@MattFields18 - Matt Fields
@jma32 - John Anderson

Vancouver Canadians (7)
(more relievers)

@ksween22 - Kellen Sweeney (virtually never tweets)
@SteveMcQuail - Steve McQuail
@BryanLongpre - Bryan Longpre
@drewpermison - Drew Permison
@PBrua_6 - Phillip Brua
@schaef18 - Chris Schaffer

Bluefield Blue Jays (4)
(five of the draftees are on this team as well)

@SirArthurC - Art Charles
@Tucker_Jensen - Tucker Jensen
@BearJew36 - Ian Kadish
@Boomer2788 - Drew Elliot

Gulf Coast Blue Jays (1)
(wildly under-represented - Jake Anderson is here too)

@Murph14 - Griffin Murphy


2011 draftees (12) (including those assigned to teams above)

@Jake_Anderson22 - Jake Anderson
@musgrove23Jays - Joe Musgrove
@kevcomer - Kevin Comer
@DanielNorris18 - Daniel Norris
@tomrobson15 - Tom Robson
@TonyTones16 - Anthony DeSclarfani
@Mark_Biggs - Mark Biggs
@Matt_Dean_10 - Matt Dean
@EArce813 - Eric Arce
@KPILLAR4 - Kevin Pillar
@Sik28 - Arik Sikula
@LesRWilliams - Lew Williams
@Farrell48 - Shane Farrell

An incredible 68 players! and there might be a few of whom I'm unaware.

EDIT: Updated to add April's two and two other new names. Somehow I missed Sean Nolin, and the recently joined Noah Syndergaard; and again to add draftee Tom Robson..


Also:
Official twitter accounts of the teams:

@BlueJays
@LasVegas51s
@fishercats
@DunedinBlueJays
@LansingLugnuts
@vancanadians
@BluefieldJays


And if that's not enough, few major media sources and or professional evaluators most of whom you likely already follow:

@ShiDavidi
@LottOnBaseball
@RGriffinStar
@Wilnerness590
@elliotbaseball
@keithlaw
@Kevin_Goldstein
@marchulet


Howzat?

I'll catch up on my thoughts on various roster moves next time. I'll conclude here only by observing how bad i feel for Travis Snider. Kid REALLY needs to catch a break next year.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Non-Uniformity!


There's an undercurrent of buzz around the Jays that there will be some sort of new uniforms next year. I will preface my forthcoming views on that subject by saying that in my opinion the Jays have never worn better looking unis than those worn in the early '90s and if the new look was based largely on that one, I'd be a happy girl.

That said, if they really want to step up with some "next generation" patterns, then I suggest adopting the pattern worn by Yu Darvish in this photo.

I'm not good enough with photoshop type programs to do anything but screw it up, but imagine if you will a font very similar to the current Jays logo replacing "Fighters" - a Maple Leaf on the black sleeve and a Jays logo on the cap. Throw in a bit of red or not somewhere if you wish. I think it would be outstanding to be the first to wear that sort of pattern. The alternates might take some more creativity - I'm not sure what the road alternates look like for the Fighters or other Japanese teams. But possibly something that has blue over black, or charcoal gray over black would probably work. I'm confident a professional designer could expand nicely on the basic foundation.

In other news, as if you haven't heard, Mills is down to AAA - likely for good. Perez will get his next start, likely his next three turns, and joel Carreno is up from AA to pitch out of the 'pen - and if you don't understand that, read is as a straight up audition for next year's bullpen. Though it's not impossible he'd go back to AA to help the Fishercats through the playoffs.

Here's something to consider: Over the last 35 games, the Jays are 22-13 (.629) - over 162 games that's a pace for 102 wins, it's a better winning percentage than any team except the Phillies has on the season as a whole, That's one game back of the Yankees and a half game behind the Red Sox over the same period, and at the same pace they would finish with 88 wins. It didn't happen all against weak competition either. Nineteen of the 35 were against teams with better records then they have.

And, other than Encarnacion, it wasn't driven by unusual performances. EE had an OPS of 1.101, but Bautista's was .907, and JPA was at .704 which is consistent with his season as a whole. Lind's was under .700, Hill's under .500, scobar and Thames were right in line with their season stats, and Lawrie and Rasmus didn't play most of those games. That line-up averaged 5.43 runs per game, compared to the previous average of 4.53, they gave up 4.63 runs per game over that stretch, as compared to 4.53 in the previous games.

While one must acknowledge that the over-achiever will regress most likely, yu must also note that Lind will hit better to the same extent, that JPA likely progresses some and yes, even Hill (or whoever replaces him) won't play all year hitting under .500 - so I look at this team and I'm pretty frackin' optimistic about 2012.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

On the Dotted Line

(Are lines dotted anymore? I don't think I've ever actually signed on a dotted line . . . eh, nevermind)

By now you know - unless you are trying to access a site which isn't working - the results of the Blue Jays' efforts to sign their draft picks tonight. Tyler Beede got greedy (Make a rhythm every time!) and held out for $3.5 million (reportedly) and the Jays' ceiling was 2.5 mil. As compensation the Jays will get a first round pick in 2012, reportedly #22. The other most coveted draftee was LH Daniel Norris who did in fact sign for $2 million. Norris was called the best HS lefty in the draft by most and not a few said he was probably a better prospect than Beede (and only fell to the Jays because he was considered unsignable). If I may say, if the unsignable guy signs for $2 million, then I'm not at all uncomfortable with declining to pay Beede $3.5 million.

True, it's objectively true that they lost out on him for the price of one year of a mediocre reliever, and from that perspective it's hard to make sense of not signing the first rounder. But within the context of the draft and how it operates, their price for Beede was entirely fair. Another well-regarded high school pitcher was Kevin Comer - and he signed as well. Of the three highly drafted Vanderbilt recruits, two by the Jays and one by the Rays, two signed pro contracts. Beede had said quite a bit about the importance of winning a championship at Vanderbilt - that task got much harder tonight.

The other big signing of the day - the guy who was my personal hobby-horse in this draft, was 3B Matt Dean. Dean was rated the best 3B in the draft and, you guessed it, presumed unsignable so he slid all the way to the 13th round. But he's no 13th round talent. Most estimates had him as, on talent, a late first round or sandwich round pick. It's a MASSIVE steal, IMO, to land Dean. Also today the Jays signed highly regarded SS Christian Lopes, who is likewise a player who slid in the draft due to signability.

Including yesterday's (Sunday) signings, the Jays seriously ramped up the talent load from this draft. and while I've not yet read the reviews, I'm sure the jays will be considered one of the 3-5 biggest winners from this draft even without Beede. let's review:

Blue = signed, red = unsigned; bolded names are the ones I suggest being excited about.

1. Tyler Beede - RHP - 18 years old - unsigned
1s. Jake Anderson - OF - 18 - signed
Promising. some consider this a bit of a reach though.
1s. Joe Musgrove - RHP - 18 - signed
Something of an overdraft by most accounts.
1s. Dwight Smith, Jr. RF - 18 - signed Sunday
He's better than you've heard. some lazy analysis has amounted to "kinda like his dad" but some respected observers are quite impressed with him.
1s. Kevin Comer- RHP - 19 - signed
Excellent choice. He's not gotten as much attention in the shadow of Norris and Beede but he's a good one.
2. Daniel Norris - LHP - 18 - signed
On talent he'd have been a bargain with the first round pick. By the middle of the first round commentators were speculating his price was the only thing keeping him on the board.
2. Jeremy Gabryszwski - RHP - 18 - signed
Little reporting on this guy. He singed a few weeks ago an is on the GCL roster.
3. John Stilson - RHP - 21 - signed Sunday
Was a mid-first round talent on most listed before the season. A shoulder injury knocked him down the draft boards but the Jays felt him worth the gamble. He's got 4 good pitches, and may well start but there's also a possibility he could be developed as a faster-rising closer candidate. He might be one of those guys who, as a closer, could start as high as AA next year and advance as much as his results allow. One of the most interesting players to watch in terms of how the jays handle him.
4. Tom Robson - RHP - 17 (until 8/27) - signed
Position is about right for his Junior year performance. He regressed a bit as a senior, reportedly, but the Jays obviously believe in the kid.
5. Andrew Chin - LHP - 18 - unsigned.
6. Anthony DeSclafini - RHP - signed Sunday
Little discussed in shadow of bigger names - I can't tell you much about him tonight.
7. Christian Lopes - SS - 18 - signed
One of the ones you can get excited about. Another signability bargain.
8. Mark Biggs - RHP - 18 - signed Sunday
Yet another bargain on a guy most thought wouldn't sign.
9. Andrew Suarez - LHP - 18 - unsigned
10. Aaron Garza - RHP - 18 - unsigned
11. Andrew Burns - SS - 20 - signed some weeks ago and playing in Vancouver.
12. John Norwood - CF - 19 - unsigned
13. Matt Dean - 3B - 18 - signed
In my opinion, only Norris has more upside in this draft class for the Jays - be very excited.
14. Cole Wiper - RHP - 19 - unsigned (this is another guy who'd have been a coup)
15. Cody Glenn - LHP - 19 - unsigned.

As always, being as I'm obsessed with lists and rankings, I immediately assigned a lot of these guys tentative spots in my ongoing top prospect ranking list. Without going into tedious detail, here's my initial thoughts:

I have Norris In the second half of the top 10 (Beede would have been in the 10-12 range)
I have Dean in the mid-teens
I have Comer on the fringes of the top 20 (more a reflection of the quality of the system than of his abilities)
I have Stilson in the top 25 (barring more injury trouble)
I have Dwight Smith just in the top 30 and Lopes right behind him. Again, you normally think the guy at #30 is only a so-so prospect but unless you want to dis David Cooper, every one of those 30 guys is a legitimate "keep your eye on him" prospect. Anderson and Biggs fall just outside the Top 30.

All this is subject to announcements about international free agent signings, of course, as well as more extensive reporting about the players we signed from this draft.


Oh, and to end on a major league note - I continue to be shocked and amazed that Trever Miller is still on the Jays' roster, let alone pitching in tight games. I felt that way even before he gave up the lead to the mariners tonight, I feel so even more strongly now. But I've got plenty to be happy about tonight so I'll not rant on that subject further.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

September call-ups?

Alex Anthopoulos gave me some additional context this morning for the subject of September recalls, according to Richard Griffin on Twitter, when he said that September call ups would be from the Vegas roster and not New Hampshire. it's safe to assume that this reflects an interest in keeping the NH roster intact for a playoff run and it's not crazy to think the team things it will be good for the prospects on that team to win a championship . . .

Which, by the way, is also likely the reason that the mighty Lansing outfield is still in Lansing. Both the A-level teams are playoff contenders but Lansing Features a much stronger "atmosphere" due to bigger crowds and is probably better for that undefinable "winning experience" mentality.
/digression

. . . so this rules out my previous hunch that Travis d'Arnaud might get a taste of the big leagues this year - but fuels my hunch about the AFL. More on that later. Alex also said the recalls from Vegas would arrive two days after the Vegas season ended which would is September 5.

So . . . a guess . . .

Snider, Loewen and Cooper seem obvious. There will be a catcher - probably Bubbe and I'm leaning towards predicting Hech gets to come too, though Alex says that's not certain. McCoy will come of course. On the pitching side, it's a given Drabek comes back and probably PJ Walters since he's on the 40. Disabled pitchers Villaneuva and Tallet will be added. The remaining question is whether or not McGowan counts when he says "none from the Fishercats" - my guess is he does not and he'll be recalled in September.

If I understand the (poorly reported) Eastern league playoff schedule they will be done no later than 9/17 and the AFL starts 10/4. Speaking of McGowan, he could theoretically help carry them through the playoffs (standing in for Alvarez, in essence) and still get three major league starts. It seems to be that the EL playoff schedule looks like this (with projected rotation):

9/7 - McGowan
9/8 - Jenkins
9/9 - Molina
9/10 -(if necessary) McGuire
9/11 - (if necessary) Carreno

9/13 - McGowan
9/14 - Jenkins
9/15 - Molina
9/16 - (if necessary) McGuire
9/17 - (if necessary) Carreno

If McGowan flew out the next morning he could start on the 18th, 23rd and 28th in Tornto - or if they had him return after he pitched on the 13th and not stay for the celebration they'd have even more options. Honestly, I could see them doing either (recalling him on September 1 or letting him ride the playoff run).

Oh, and by the way, heck of a game on Saturday. I'd assumed Friday was the winnable game so I was not expecting much (even had it been the regular lineup) so it was definitely impressive. And as i write that Lawrie just drove in Rasmus in the bottom of the ninth to tie today's game! Go Jays!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Have Fun With it

My apologies to whoever's photo this is that I just hijack to make a funneh. Hopefully no one gets offended. But you got to laugh at all this stupidity.

I really don't have a reason to make a post except to get that picture posted someplace but just to give you a little baseball related tidbit - Adeiny Hechavarria has been promoted to AAA. You shouldn't read too much into this but one of two things is potentially true (with other variants in between):

1. This means nothing to the overall plan and he will go back to the minors, potentially even AA, next spring with a progress plan that would bring him to the majors for good in late 2013 (he'll be out of options if he goes back to the minors in '12 and '13) and a full time major leaguer (not necessarily starter) beginning in 2014. OR

2. the jays are looking at Hill's production and saying "if we're going to carry an empty bad anyway, why not get an insane glove at SS in the bargain" and thinking about how it would work to move Esco over to 2B next spring and instal Hechavarria at SS. In my mind the risk with this option is that potential that you permanently stunt his offensive growth (which, traditionally, you'd expect to happen more in the minors than in the majors). but I can'trule the possibility out on that basis.

Am I the only one who's getting antsy for the draft signing news to start rolling in?!

#slowdayblues


The Man in White Comes Through!


No one seems to have a photograph of the fabled Man in White - but due to my four unidentified sources, I've found one!

Seriously though, this makes every bit as much sense as the nonsensical ESPN story which is being so thoroughly dismembered across the internet that all I could do would be to summarize the hard work of others. I will only go so far as to say that based on his voice at the beginning of his presser today, if Alex were a violent man something or someone would be broken and bleeding from his rage.
Justifiably so.

Ultimately though, the god-like powers might belong to Alex himself, and not the man in the photograph. The way this team is coming together is almost majestic to behold. there have been isolated moments over the past 18 years when I've been this giddy about the team - possibly the most recent pre-Alex moment was the acquisition of Scott Rolen (I'd always been a huge fan of his) - but I can't remember an extended period when the excitement has just grown and grown as it has since he took over and over the last couple of weeks we're cresting at hights not seen since the fall of '93.

Tonight was already going to be exciting as we watched yet another potential core piece make their debut in a Blue Jay uniform for the first time - the third such occasion in two weeks - but then Brett "Full Tilt" Lawrie stole the show and blew our collective minds. Props to Alvarez who had a perfectly fine debut, especially for a raw 21 year old. But the sheer passion and joy on Lawrie's face as he celebrated his game winning grand slam with his team-mates was electrifying in a way I'm having difficulty finding appropriate words for.

I'm still buzzing over it five hours later! These, my friends, are heady times! If you have missed something, you may want to ask Article Writing Services to write for your site so next time you can catch all the action.

Just a few tidbits you might have missed:

*The Blue Jays have signed Canadian RHP Tom Robson, their 4th round pick and their ninth selection overall, to an over-slot contract; they've also signed 17th rounder, also a RHP, Brady Dragmire - about whom I know almost nothing.

*Travis Snider in three games back in Vegas is 7/12 and more importantly drew three walks tonight and has struck out only once.

*I'm seeing more and more buzz about Travis d'Arnaud from thought-leaders in the baseball commentary universe. I've a hunch you'll see him be a consensus Top 20 prospect in the majors this winter.

*Dustin McGowan got through 4 IP in very impressive fashion - mst nights he'd be the main focus of our discussions. Look for him to join the Jays as early as September 1.

*25 year old "non-prospect" Brad McElroy is hitting for an .829 OPS Since the break. He and teammate Brian Van Kirk are looking like guys who will knock around the organization for a few more years - but don't get excited, they are both quite old for the FSL.

*Some source, which I can't find again at the moment, reports that the latest issue of Baseball America ranks Lansing manager Mike Redmond as the best prospective major league manager in the circuit, and also honored Jake Marisnick as the best batting prospect in the league as well as Steve Turnbull as the best relief prospect (the latter of which surprises me some).

*Another Canadian in the system, 2010 16th round pick Dalton Pompey (gotta love the name) was promoted to Bluefield - he's a speedy CF with a pretty good bating eye for an 18 year old. Some speculation the Jays might be clearing a starting spot in the GCL for 2011 draftee Jake Anderson.

*Finally, I've heard random noise (things like "took a physical" or speculation from professionals) about the Jays having a pretty good likelihood of signing the following:

Tyler Beede
Kevin Comer
Daniel Norris
John Stilson
Matt Dean

That would be a very impressive haul if that was all the signings still unannounced. There have been a couple more vague implications about a couple of other guys - Christian Lopes in the company of Beede at the area-code games for instance - but nothing you could take to the bank.

The highest pick about whom I have seen absolutely not one word in print about is Dwight Smith Jr. It's good to sign everyone but I wouldn't be crushed if he were the one who got away.


Edit: I'm planning a more in depth look at this question some time late next week after the signing hubbub passes but there was a comment with a question about potential September call-ups and I want to just throw out a rough basic list of possibilities. in the JP era it was usually a pretty short list, it's unclear what AA's philosophy is. but as I see it, here are the possibilities:

Pitchers:
Carlos Villanueva - if he's not activated before then
Dustin McGowan
Brian Tallet - if he's recovered
Kyle Drabek
Maybes: Ledzma, Walters, Ray, and Danny Farquhar

Hitters:
Travis d'Arnaud
Travis Snider
Adam Loewen
David Cooper
Mike McCoy
Jayson Nix and/or Chris Woodward
Adeiny Hechavarria (would not actually get playing time, just for the experience, since he's on the 40 man anyway)

Major caveat - any of the legit prospects listed here may very well be assigned to the AFL and generally players going to the AFL are not September call-ups. Henderson Alvarez, d'Arnaud, Cooper, Adeiny and Loewen would all be potential candidates. If d'Arnaud went west you might see Ryan Buddie or, less likely, Brian Jeroloman come up since the team traditionally adds a third catcher in September.

Monday, August 8, 2011

4/5 Farm Report

On the occasion of the news that Henderson Alvarez will get the call to start for the Blue Jays on Friday night when the Angels come to town, and taking advantage of an off day, I present to you the last (official) in-season Farm Report two days early. I anticipate more and more news this week about draft pick signings (several have been strongly implied on Twitter lately including something from Matt Dean today that was a pretty broad hint) so I want to go ahead and get this out of the way and clear the decks. Per the usual format, pitchers and hitters listed separately. There's enough being said about Brett Lawrie already that I will omit him here even though his time in Toronto has been very short.

Pitchers

1. Drew Hutchison - As I was writing this tonight Hutchinson was firmly cementing the #1 spot on this list by thoroughly dominating the Tampa Yankees, allowing a single baserunner in six shutout innings. Hutchison has given up a mere 15 runs in nine Hi-A ball appearances and seven of those came on one game (pretty much the only non-excellent start he's had since April). The right-handed Hutchison is still 2 weeks short of this 21st birthday. He might be, ya know, kinda good at this whole pitching thing.

2. Henderson Alvarez - Just four months older than Hutchison, the two men have very similar results this but Alvarez is thought to have somewhat better stuff - and he's pitching in AA. Since July 1, Alvarez has accumulated 39.2 IP, during which he's struck out 37 and walked . . . five.

3. Nestor Molina - Molina, whom I've raved about all year, also has very similar statistical results to the men above him - very low walk numbers, solid-to-excellent strikeout rates, excellent ERA and WHIP. the only major difference is age - Molina is over 19 months older. This, however, is somewhat mitigated by the reality that this is Molina's first year as a starter. He only has ~70 IP more as a pro than Hutchison does. It would be difficult to say which will ultimately be more successful.

4. Justin Nicolino - No we're not done yet with the high-K low-walk studs. Fiftenn months younger than Hutchsion, 2010 draftee Nicolino is a 6'3" lefty but his stat line in Vancouver is even better than that of the three pitchers above him on the list. The 19 year old has a 1.07 ERA in the Pioneer League and is clearly head and shoulders above the competition. I've been puzzled for a couple of weeks now why he hasn't been promoted to Lansing.

5. Noah Syndergaard - Another 2010 draftee off to a seriously impressive start, the 6'5" RHP is not yet 19. Still he ran off a string of five outstanding appearances in Bluefield before being promoted to Vancouver recently where his first start was more of the same. Stop me if you've heard this, but here's another guy with more strikeouts than innings pitched and a better than 3:1 K/BB ratio.

6. Mitchell Taylor - yet another 2010 draft choice, the 7th rounder Taylor trailed not very far off Synergaard's pace at Bluefield. The 6' LH starter has pitched in nine games (started five, but it's the nature of short-season ball to do "split-starts" with two starting pitchers) and has, you guessed it, more than a K per IP and a 3.5:1 ratio.

7. Brad Mills - the definition of the finesse lefty (think Jamie Moyer), Mills is now in Toronto but his work this year deserves mention as he's been called the most effective starter in the PCL. At first glance his stats are not on par with the younger men above him on the list, and his stuff is certainly far less remarkable, but doing what he's done in that league deserves notice just the same.

And one other starter for you to keep an eye on is Sean Nolin, another 2010 draftee who's doing very good work in Lansing.

Honorable mention for a few relievers doing excellent work: Danny Barnes is owning the competition in Lansing; Wes Ethridge and Bobby Korecky, both considered too old to be at the level they are pitching to be prospects, are nevertheless pitching very well; So is journeyman Sean Henn in Las Vegas.

Hitters


1. Travis d'Arnaud - He just keeps getting better. the weaknesses of BA as a stat aside, he has hit .386 since July 1 (and that after hitting .410 in May). the 22 year old catcher is becoming legitimately one of the best prospects in baseball.

2. Marcus Knecht - The thing to watch with the 2010 3rd round Canadian outfielder, beside the prolific hitting ability, is the steadily impressive BB:K rate. There's little to even express caution about in Knecht's offensive game.

3. Jake Marisnick - Knecht's team-mate who shares the outfield with him, Marisnick - a 6'4" CF - recovered from an average May in fine form. Since July 1 his OPS is over .950 and, important for a player of his age and experience, his walks almost equal his strikeouts over that span.

4. David Cooper - by now you are familiar with the scouting reports that suggest Cooper is a marginal guy as a prospect at best, and I'm not here to dispute them - still, the guy just keeps hitting. Over the last 10 games his BA is .405, and he hasn't had a full month this season in which his OPS wasn't over 1.000 fueled by prolific walks and a ton of doubles.

5. Anthony Gose - the NH center fielder is riding his hottest stretch of the year, with an OPS of .982 in his last 10 games. He's still working on some aspects of his game, but it's worth remembering that he's less than 8 months older than Marisnick and he's two levels higher.

6. Adam Loewen - Since May 1 the one-time-pitcher turned RF has been raking. His BB:K ratio has been a bit troublesome but at this writing, he's last 10 games has seen him draw 9 walks against 10 strikeouts. If his walk rate comes up for good he'll have little left to prove in AAA.

7. Eric Acre - shout out here to the 25th round pick in this year's draft. The 5'9" catcher-turned outfielder is ripping up the competition for the GCL Jays. He had some off-field issues that reportedly dropped his stock in the draft (the Jays drafted him in the 27th round in 2010 as well but he didn't sign) and he was a bit of a bargain but still, this is surprising. His OPS is 1.067 and his OBP is .432 despite a BA of only .270 - the former stat is second in the league and the latter is 4th - oh, and he leads the GCL with 11 homers (in 115 AB).

HM: Adeiny Hechevarria - an offensive non-entity (despite having been called perhaps the best defensive SS in professional baseball) for most of the season but over the last 10 games (7/27 - 8/7) he's hitting .381 with a .970 OPS. This is probably just a hot streak but if it's a sign he's figured something out (new mechanics for instance) then look out.

Big week ahead, and an exciting finish to the season afoot on all levels.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

All Hail Redux

You know, lost in the uber-hype around Brett Lawrie is how often we are doing this sort of thing lately? Just a little over a week ago we were all losing our composure over Colby Rasmus (and for good reason) Late last season we got giddy over Kyle Drabek and powered-up by JP Arencibia. Before the end of this season we might get a chance to swoon over Henderson Alvarez. these are heady times!

I was tempted to squeeze out the time to gush over his promotion Thursday, and again Friday - but a rush-job love-fest would be something easy to find all over, why do I need to do that too? One of the things I've found akward about blogging is the unwritten rule that if something big happens with your team, good or bad, you rush to the keyboard and pound out a response. for various reasons - some selfish - I've never done that much. I prefer to marinate a bit in the news and the reactions around me and left my thoughts be informed by the wisdom - and nonsense - of others.

But having had 48 hours to meditate on the arrival of Lawrie I don't end up with much more than what I had Thursday. He's a major milestone on a virtual autobahn of team-building, as was Rasmus. It's true that there will be a constant undercurrent of hand-wringing about his defense, but he's not going to be anything close to the issue Encarnacion was in that regard. If he turns out to be "below average" no one will care if he hits like everyone thinks he will. One need only to read the quotes from John Farrell, who's thin veneer of grizzled baseball cliches was not nearly sufficient to cover up his school-girl gushing over Lawrie, in order to pick up on the idea that this is not just another prospect.

On the other hand, many fans' comments seem to forget the process, discussing hitting him 2nd or even fifth or even THIRD. Let's not get nuts people. I quibble a bit with Farrell's lineup last night (I can't understand Hill still batting in front of Arencibia) but Lawrie at #9 is actually excellent, IMO. if he gets off to a fast start he basically acts as a trigger to restart the lineup one batter early. He gets the benefit of more veteran players feeling out pitchers he's unfamiliar with, and then from his first at-bat onward, he's at the head of a line that goes Lawrie > Escobar > Thames > Bautista > Lind > Encarnacion > Rasmus...how can you NOT love that? It's far better than hitting him in front of Hill.

If you will pardon me a tangent into rosterbation here, looking forward to 2012 the team has no need to add a starter at any position from outside the organization except at 2B. and if they fail to scrounge up an above average guy there (the market, either FA or trade, is remarkably thin) then honestly, you can win a LOT of games with one hole in your lineup - it's not going to kill us as long as he's hidden away at the bottom of the order. it does remain to be sorted out how you deal with Snider and Thames if you bring back EE - can you bring the older guy back on the understanding that he's strictly a reserve? I mean you CAN - you have an option - but can you in good conscience? if so, problem solved. Let Thames DH and serve as your primary OF reserve, and let EE back DH and 1B and be your emergency 3B - it's a valuable role if he'll take it. Of course, Davis will rust but that can't be helped.

Speaking of Snider - I understand the raw emotions concerning sending him down and on an emotional level i share them - but you have to think Adam Lind has had a nice talk with him and told him "I got the T-shirt." What Alex Anthopoulos is saying is dead on - this happens with young players all the time and the idea that he's out of favor or needs a change of scenery or some such is just silly. He DOES neet to get his plate control back (only one walk on his most recent recall) and I'm concerned that the modified swing might not be as conducive to power as the one he originally came up with, and in that regard more work - regular work - is a good thing.
But he's 23, and he has almost 900 at bats in the majors. One need look no further than Alex Gordon to see why patience is advised. Is it possible he ends up a perpetual underachiever? Sure. But we are a long long way away from concluding that.

Among the other moves made Thursday which are naturally swept aside in the fooforall is the recall of Luis Perez for the bullpen and the disabling of Carlos Villanueva with what is essentially a phantom injury. There's every reason to assume that Villanueva simply ran out of gas after the break. He had a very good nine game run that was invaluable but ultimately that's likely his role - be a very good reliever who can step into that emergency starter role if need be. A contender needs a guy like that.
There will be a need for a fifth starter soon and while the easy answer would be to give those starts to Jesse Litsch, the team is saying publicly they want to find out how he works as a reliever and the early returns are favorable enough (2 walks and a hit in 5 IP against 9K) that this may well continue. If it does, then things might get very interesting if Farrell was serious about the potential the team could seek to take a look at Henderson Alvarez. Will Brad Mills already in the rotation and Kyle Drabek still refining his game, there doesn't seem to be another obvious option once Litsch is ruled out. Dustin McGowan is doing fantastic but he hasn't pitched above A-ball or more than 3 IP this season. I look forward to seeing him in September but anything earlier than August 27 is too aggressive to be realistic.

One other point on pitching - the weakened bullpen. both this year and next year need attention but i don't think it's a stretch to say the team is somewhat resigned to less than great work in some quarters this year.

The current pen is Rauch/Francisco/Camp/Janssen/Litsch/Perez/Ledzma and Miller. Miller really has no business here, Ledzma is very slightly better but no good team should want him. Rauch is having his worst year in a while (other than his mediocre tour in Arizona) and Camp seems to be in decline. that leaves four guys you can have some confidence in - five if you count Villanueva when he comes off the DL. While PJ Walters is no prize, I'm a bit puzzled he's not up here instead of Miller or Ledzma. Surely he'll be back on September 1. Sean Henn and possibly Danny Farquar are probably better than those two bums as well, though Henn is very much a scrub. Starters Chad Beck and Joel Carreno are other options though there's been no mention of calling them.

Looking ahead to next year, the core of Janssen, Listch, Villanueva and Perez is still pretty sound (though without a long track record in some cases. One could make a reasonable argument for any of those three righties getting a shot at closing but the team doesn't seem so inclined. if that doesn't change we can anticipate a repeat of last winter with a coule of potential closers imported (among the candidates, Francisco isn't a bad option). Also, a reliable more veteran LHP would be on the agenda. but the art of bullpen construction is highly unpredictable. if it was me, I'd try to persuade the Giants to trade Sergio Romo or seen someone similar to him (the Braves have some options) even if you have to pay "too much for a reliever" to do so.

Still, there's no real need to sweat the bullpen - all too often when we think it's fine it stinks, and when we think it stinks it turns out fine. Relievers are weird like that.

Lots of rain in Baltimore as I type - might be looking at a double header tomorrow if things don't change.

Edit to add: I've been meaning to include a link to a wonderfully lustful article by Callum at Mop-Up Duty about the potential of the Jays breaking the bank for Yu Darvish this winter. Consider me on board.