Wednesday, May 30, 2012

About First Base

Here's a quick and dirty bit of rosterbation - involving what seems to me to be a prime but overlooked candidate to help fix the 1B situation if;/when the Jays resign themselves to the idea that Lind isn't the answer.

There's a guy out there who, while aging and expensive, has the skill-set to be everything Lind was not. He's the ideal short term acquisition, but he's on a division rival and can't reasonably be expected to be acquired in a one-for-one deal. His name?

Kevin Youkilis.

Laying aside natural animosity to all things Yankee and Red Sox, there would be a certain satisfaction in Youk helping to bury his old teammates and a team that seems to be willing to throw him under the bus while replacing him with youth. The problem is, you need a third team to make it work. Specifically, you need a team that has and is willing to trade to the Sox a key piece, likely a couple of pitchers. That team knowing already that Alex will offer up prospects A,B, and C (or whatever) in return for him to be flipped to the Blue Jays.

An example:

Cubs trade Dempster to Red Sox for Youk, then Younk to Jays for Deck McGuire, Sean Nolin and Danny Farquhar (no idea what level of prospects it would actually take but obviously not top-10 guys)

Or, if you prefer...
Astros trade Wandy Rodriguez and Brandon Lyon for Youk and, say, Shoppach, then flipped to the Jays for acceptable prospects.

You get the idea.

The only glitch being whether or not the Red Sox anticipate the potential of a flip and refuse to deal with a team that might send him back to the division.

Thoughts?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Regression to the frakin' mean

Oy! Let's get back to some sanity please.

first, let me just note in passing the recent unfortunate money-driven content. I thought the views expressed were, regrettable, but the finances which made it necessary are much more regrettable.

Let me put it more plainly in light of the replies to that post: I hated it. But i'm not in a position to reject any source of income. I hope in the future you guys will pick up on the context of something so obviously out of place like that.
So we shall hopefully let the unpleasant memory fade from our attention, no?

Speaking of unpleasantness, the last ten Blue Jays games certainly qualify. Every time they seem to be breaking away from .500 level mediocrity, they regress right back in that direction. It's maddening to me. Worse, the team will have past the 1/4 mark by the end of the season with some noticeable ongoing difficulties. Two starters on the team are at or above their career levels. On the other hand, four are over 100 points of OPS below the career number they brought into the season and another is almost in that category. It is, IMO, the sort of performance that provokes teams to fire their batting coach (and with Chad Mottola in AAA likely a better option anyway...)

On the mound the news is somewhat better but Ricky Romero's recent control issues are becoming a legitimate worry. Ten walks and seven K's in the last 11.1 innings is very queasy-making.  As much as I love Henderson Alvarez, i know what i'd be saying about 13 walks and 15 K's in 55 IP if he played for any other team. Kyle Drabek also has a walk rate that does not portend future success unless it changes. Clearly he's much progressed from 2011, but another step is called for. Add to that the reality that Drew Hutchison, as well as he's done, is very green and I'm a lot more nervous most days than i'd like to be.

The bullpen? Two words - Francsisco Cordero. i was real nervous about him when he was signed but i bit my tongue because Alex has fooled me like that before. I'm reminding myself as i write this that on May 28, 2011 Frank Francisco had an ERA of 6.59 (and a 1.61 WHIP, and it was 2.43 thereafter. with a 1.22 WHIP.

However, past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Am I still happy with the makeup of this team? Apart from the absence of Travis Snider (more and more I'm climbing in board with the roster shuffle that puts snider in the line-up and Lind on the bench or worse) yes, yes I am. but I grow increasingly discontent with the way in which the high level of anticipation on Opening Day is slowly but surely being eroded by under-achieving results.

That said, let me spit-ball a bit:

I'm growing restless with the notion Roy Oswalt won't come to Toronto;

I'm still not impressed with the list of potential 1B acquisitions, unless we are surprised. Bryan LaHair would be a nice add if the price is not nonsensical;

Eric Bedard would be a solid acquisition if he's still healthy when the time comes;
-------------------------

Two final thoughts:

1. As I look at the top prospect list, i'm pretty disappointed  at this point in several names. for instance, while I never anticipated Deck McGuire and Chad Jenkins playing an important role in Toronto, i would have very much like to have seen them make themselves desirable when it came time to, for instance, try to grab Bedard. I also note that i said on a couple of occasions that the Jays should have let Gose start the year  - maybe even do half a season - at AA before promoting him to Vegas, so that his next offensive adjustment could have been made in a "truer" environment for hitters. I stand by that view. Also, while I love d'Arnaud and Hech as much as anyone, the Jays can afford a slower approach with them than many fans seem to want.

2. I'm aware of Lawrie's meltdown. There's little else to say that hasn't been said but in my view, suspension or no, it's the cost of doing business. if Lawrie had thrown with the intent to hit the ump then I would be outraged at his poor judgement. but what actually happened, is a function of his passion, which is very good for the team, and a monstrously bad call which invited it. It does not strike me as a sign that Lawrie will be regularly abusive with the umps. i'm more worried about Bautista's constant griping than Lawrie's explosion.


Monday, May 7, 2012

1/5th Farm Report

As has been my custom over the years, I review the Blue Jays farm system on a roughly monthly basis (last season i refined it to 1/5 of the minor league schedule in each report) making note of those individuals who are having a lot of success. Think of it as the "hot sheet" so to speak. The time is upon us for the first such report of the young 2012 season and so report i shall.

Pitchers


1. (tie) Aaron Sanchez and Justin Nicolino - Two halves of one whole, RH Sanchez and LH Nicolino have been paired in a tandem starting arrangement in Lansing this year, one of two such arrangements being employed by the pitching rich team. According to sources, the powers that be in the Jays farm system intend to run the tandem for a while longer yet (it was originally described as "eight starts at 3 innings each, eight at 4 innings each, and the remainder at 5 or more" but on their sixth turn "Sachilino" was bumped up to 4 innings each, and there will probably be another 4-6 weeks at that level. So far, it's working like a house-afire. Over a combined 38 innings of work, the pair have not allowed a single run to score. They've allowed 32 baserunners via a hit or a walk, and struck out 44. Nicolino yields a few more hits, Sanchez a few more walks, but the combined effect is impressive. With all due respect to other pitchers in the system, there's a real possibility these guys will be the #1 and #2 pitching prospects in the Ssytem by the end of the season.

3. Noah Syndergaard - The big RH Texan is just a tic behind his rotation mates. He's also part of a tandem start pairing (with Anthony DeSclafani) and has thrown a mere 17.2 innings in six appearances. but he's only given up 2 earned runs over that body of work and struck out 25. Syndergaard/DeSclafani are scheduled to pitch Monday for the Lugnuts and we will see if they, too, are advanced to 4 innings each.

4. Dave Rollins - Not considered a prospect on the same level with the guys listed above him by most scouts and observers, Rollins has nevertheless held his own in the rarefied atmosphere in Lansing. Not being paired with another, he has more innings than the top-shelf guys, and he's been almost asd efficent with them. in 27 IP he's struck out 31, while allowing 30 baserunners (H+BB) and given up five earned runs.

5. Sean Nolin - The big lefty in Dunedin also has more highly regarded teammates sharing a rotation with him and like Rollins, chooses not to take a back seat. Nolin is putting up great K numbers (though, in fairness, boosted by an 11 K performance in his second start of the year) and has shown pretty good control. He's not a top shelf guy but don't sleep on him. Guys like this can have surprsing careers, or turn out to be valuable major league relievers.

6. Jesse Hernandez - the most noon-prospect guy on this list, but like Rollins, he's held his own in the shadow of the mega-prospects he shares a rotation with. Hernandez and Rollins have the exact same ERA (1.84) but he has a bit lower whip, on the other hand Rollins has a noticeably better strikeout ratio. Probably Hernadeez will fade at some point but you never know. Right now, the five Lansing starters i have mentioned have combined for 105 IP and 14 earned runs, that's an ERA of 1.20 if you are scoring at home. Oh, and they have struck out 122 while walking a mere 36 over that stretch.

7. John Stilson - Starting his pro-career in Dunedin should tell you something, Stilson IS considered a legit prospect and for the most part, he's pitched like it. Stilson was a reliever during much of his college years and many scouts still believe his ceiling is as a stud closer, not as a mid-back of the rotation starter. So far the 21 year old RHP has been a touch inconsistent, but the results in total look good (he sorts a 2.18 ERA in

HM: Jesse Chavez - a major league veteran who's not remotely eligible for a prospect list, Chavez has nevertheless raised eyebrows with his early season work in Las Vegas.


Hitters


1. Yan Gomes - Catcher turned third baseman (though, as understood, he's not abandoning catching but expanding his flexibility) may indeed by playing in hitter friendly las Vegas but he's never done anything to make you expect this level of production. He's always had home-run pop in the bat that was disguised by the limited playing time a reserve catcher would get in this system, but as of this writing he has a batting average of .388 (third in the PCL behind a couple of stiffs named Snider and Trout) and an OPS of 1.005 (which is good for 9th). If Gomes proves to be a legitimate option, then it will give John Farrell a lot of options to have a guy on his bench who can sub at both infield corners AND serve as a third string catcher.

2. David Cooper - Ever so quietly the 51's first baseman is right back where he left off last year. He might not be considered much of a prospect by scouts, and it's true he is on his second tour of a league he had little trouble with in '11, but it is worth noting that in the early going his home run pop seems to be returnign after taking the year off last year. In a season with few remarkable offensive stories, Cooper gets the nod.

3. Mike McDade - it's not stunning the big NH 1B, also repeating a level, is posting the best OPS in NH. After a fairly slow start he's caught fire, hitting a robuist .971 (OPS) in the last ten games.

4. Ryan Goins - here, on the other hand, is a bit of a surprise.The SS is running right behind McDade on the New Hampshire leader board. This might not last (See for Reference: Jackson, Justin) but it bears watching.

5. Jake Marisnick - struggled with this one, a lot of good candidates for the one. Marisnick  is the brightest prospect of the group (play his cards right and he could easily be the Blue Jays #1 prospect this winter.Still, he's in a 5/25 slump over his last 8 games which drug what had been spectacular stats back to the pack some.

HM: Kevin Patterason has been the best hitter in Lansing so far; Jack Murphy, reserve catcher in Dunedin, who's sporting a robust (particularly for the league) .955 OPS, albeit in only part time opportunities; Travis Snider - no rookie but he was tearing to cover off the ball before injuring his wrist (again!) playing defense. Before that he was dominating the league.

Friday, May 4, 2012

This is he . . .

. . . of whom I've been speaking for the last two off-seasons.

Brandon Morrow may finally have arrived. Last week when Mike Wilner was asking the question "Had you rather have the high K, don'e by the 6th inning, power version of Morrow, or the pitch-to-contact longer lasting version?" my reply was - I want the guy who can adjust back and forth and do either as the situation dictates - not unlike a certain ex-Jay who now wears a lot of red.

Last night, that's what he was. And it was glorious. Let's hope this is the guy we have going forward.

In case you hadn't noticed, the suddenly hot Jays are now 5-1 in their last six games and seem to be shedding the annoying tendency to regress to .500 every few games. they HAD to have gotten a major confidence boost from the Texas series, and the shuffle at the top of the line-up looks good in a microscopic sample.

Four teams in baseball have a better run differential.
Four teams have scored more runs (#1 is 9 runs ahead of Toronto) which is frankly insane the way several key hitters have hit so far.

And there are more reasons to think the team will get better than that they will get worse.

Before I finish what would be a very brief post for me, a couple of  the grumbles buzzing around the Jays-verse:

Jose Bautista - is he not taking a bit too long to come around? Yes.

However, this is Bautista through 26 games this year:
.172/.310/.323/.633 - 2 doubles, 4 homers, 12 RBI, 18 BB, 16 K and .158 BAbip
And this is he through 26 games in 2010
.206/.301/.402/.703 - 7 doubles, 4 homers, 16 RBI, 13 BB, 24 K and .225 BAbip

And we know how 2010 turned out. Can we be certain he will rebound in such a huge way in 2012? No, but neither should we assume that he's turned back into a (relative) pumpkin either.


Adam Lind - on and on and on it goes, the eternal debate "why is Adam Lind hitting cleanup?"

I can't really understand why this debate is so strident when the answer is so blindingly obvious. As things stand right now, as of this writing, Except for Edwin Encarnacion and Kelly Johnson, every other hitter on this team is putting up mediocre or worse numbers right now. John Farrell has two problems to solve - lead-off and clean up. Flipping Johnson and Escobar addresses the former (finally) and it took 24 games of the season to do that. It's true, and an inarguable point, that EE would look better as the #4 hitter - but then Farrell has the problem of 3 straight RH hitters (which in turn means you stack some already struggling lefties too at some other point in the lineup. For example:

Johnson
Escobar
Bautista
Encarnacion
Thames
Lind
Lawrie
Rasmus
Arencibia

You could make a case for flipping Rasmus and Lind but i don't see that happening. The point is, opposing managers can bring in a LH reliever to go after both Thames and Lind and will routinely. Farrell is going to be reluctant to do that. I think it's clear that his current thinking is that if Lind has any chance to rebound that it's going to happen while he's nestled snuggly between the legend of Bautista and the most dangerous hitter at the current time (Bautista and Encarnacion). If he continues to flounder that WILL change, but i don't think the reasoning for why it hasn't yet is all that difficult. If another LH hitter were as hot as EE, or even above average, then it would be much easier to move him out.

After tonight's game, they will be exactly 1/6 of the way through the season, and with a win they would be on pace for 96 wins, with a loss on pace for 90 which I believe virtually every Jays fan would be really happy about. And the best is yet to come, in my opinion.

Coming up this weekend, the return of the Fifth Reports on the farm system.