Friday, July 20, 2012

NEWS!

As you surely know, the Jays announced a big trade this morning. Not a stellar trade but a lot of bodies. I had a strong suspicion as I went to bed last night with the knowledge that Travis Snider was on his way to Boston that something was afoot. I even figured it must involve either Francisco or Davis going out and a reliever coming in. Didn't see anything this populated though.

On the surface it seems like a lot of bodies but let's break it down to analyze the value. Look at it like three separate moves for three separate players:

Asher Wojechikowski and Carlos Perez for Brandon Lyon - A bit steep for a reliever who walks at the end of the year but, when healthy, Lyon has been quite good for a long time. This is roughly the going rate. Wojo's best upside is as a late inning reliever, and Perez is far enough away and far enough down the depth chart to be affordable. Lyon broke in at age 21 with Toronto, way back in 2001.

Joe Musgrove and PTBNL for JA Happ - Happ is basically the guy Brett Cecil projects to be.A few more K's, a few less hits but basically in the same range. I do wonder who gets pushed out of the rotation if there's not another shoe to drop.

Dave Rollins for David Carpenter - Sure, why not? Rollins might never reach the majors and Ken Rosenthal tweets that Carpenter might be the best player coming our way. Take a look at his minor league numbers,

Francisco Cordero and Ben Francisco have no discernible trade value, and the path is cleared for Snider who - assuming he takes over regularly in LF, is an upgrade by himself.

On my most recent prospect list, I had Wojo at 14, Perez at 15, Musgrove at 19, and Rollins at 51

So seen in segments, I don't see much to object to here. It's not the sort of thing that excites, nor is it a groaner. also, as i alluded to above - don't be shocked if Happ (or Cecil?) is going out in a coming trade.

Of course, the most exciting news of the day is the arrival of Travis Snider. If Farrell slots him in as the everyday left fielder, that could be the biggest upgrade of the day.





Sunday, July 8, 2012

Life, the Universe, and Everything

One of the meme's of prospect focused baseball blogs is the progression to rank more and more prospects, just to be the one who listed the most names. I'm very guilty of that, having once mentioned as many as 70 (which is at least ten times as many as will ever actually be an impact major leaguer, on average). I've always wondered what would be the ideal number to rank? 20? 25? 30? 40? 50?

Then I remembered Douglas Adams answered that and every question. 42.

So from now on, that's my number.  Rather than give you a lot of details on these guys, think of it as more a snapshot of how players are moving up, down, or sideways. If you don't know who these guys are at least the ones from the off-season lists) and what they are about by now, you probably are not going to learn it here. Reality is - I like making lists, and virtually every baseball fan likes reading them and comparing them to their own, so i made a list. Without further delay, here's my mid-season ranking of the Blue Jays' top 42 prospects. Enjoy.
Date in brackets is an estimated ERA for first significant major league appearance.


42. Yan Gomes (C/3B) [N/A]- Gomes is not going to be even a starter, let alone a great one. But he has the opportunity to be a very valuable bench player as long as he contributes timely effective offense. Think about the role Eric Hinske settled into for the Braves. All the more valuable because he can catch which gives the manager great flexibility. He could find a spot on the roster next year and for years to come if things go well.

41. Richard Urena (SS) [2019] - slick fielding 16 year old shortstop signed out of the DR this week. Obviously I know little about him but based on where he was ranked by both BA and MLB relative to other Latin free agents, and the published descriptions, I'll pencil him in here. He's described as an excellent fielder with a solid contact bat.

40. Michael Crouse (RF/CF) [Sept. 2016] - Rivaled Jake Marisnick's production in 2011, he's been, at times, VERY bad this year in Dunedin. Has mildly up-ticked lately, but clearly he's lost a lot of the shine he had six months ago.

39. Chad Jenkins (RHP) [cup of coffee, late 2013]- There's no good spin on the season Jenkins is having, nor for fellow first rounder Deck McGuire. But because Jenkins was a lower ceiling guy with less impressive work coming into this year he falls further on the list. It is true that previous first rounders have floundered and come out of it, but Jenkins have a different feel. It feels very much to me like this guy can't be considered more than a fringy prospect at this point, if that. If he were not a first rounder he'd have been nowhere near this list.

38. Luis Castro (SS/3B) [late 2018] - among the bigger of the Latin prospects signed this last week, and likely to get bigger, the 16 year old Castro has the look of a guy who will grow out of SS and be moved off the position (particularly given the plethora of shortstops the Jays have added this summer and last - I count some six other guys who are playing short-season ball or about to who were signed or drafted as shortstops) and the usual progression s to try him at 3B. Down the road possible RF and 1B would be the next options. But he's a well regarded hitter who projects to have corner power.

37. Mike McDade (1B) [Sept. 2013] - Excellent fielder, surprisingly for his size, productive hitter so far. Presumably he will end up at AAA at some point, but most evaluators do not consider him a high upside guy.

36. Marcus Knecht (LF) [2016] -  Like Crouse, six months ago he looked much more promising. He probably ultimately has more upside, but the illusion that these two guys were closer to Marisnick than the really are is fully dissipated.

35. Mitch Nay (3B) [late 2018] - based solely on draft position (Jays' 4th overall selection, in the supplemental first round of the 2012 draft) and subsequent commentary. He's on the 60 day DL and one would assume may not get any pro at-bats this year.

34. Chase DeJong (RHP) [late 2017] The teams sixth overall selection last month, just recently signed and yet to be assigned to a farm team. Edges' out Nay here because he's actually likely to get some reps this year.

33. Jesus Gonzalez (RF/CF) [2019] - one of last year's bonus babies, ranked this high purely on the tools that got him the payday. A very raw 17 year old in the GCL is not the sort of guy whom you are going to get down on because of the stats in his first 13 games.

32. Sean Nolin (LHP) [2014] - Currently on the DL, and scouting reports say he's a low-ceiling guy, but the ratios are most impressive and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him turn out to be a fine little big-league bullpen lefty.

31. Anthony Alford (CF) [never] - If he were going right into playing baseball full time, he'd probably rate making the top 20. He's said to be an incredible athlete. BUT the odd arrangement which allows him to play QB at Southern Miss makes it far less likely he will capitalize on his baseball potential, unless he's something akin to a Bo Jackson type of guy.

30. Dawel Lugo (SS) [2018] - another 2011 bonus baby. These guys are ranked this high not only because of their signing bonus (which is a reflection of the team's view of their potential) but also because they started their careers in the GCL instead of the DSL. That, too, is a huge reflection on the team's view of them.

29. Christian Lopes (SS/2B) [2016] - One of my favorite picks from the 2011 draft. He's playing in Bluefield right now, but with the recent promotion of Lansing's 2B to Dunedin, I wonder if Lopes might not be moved up. He was considered, I believe, to be a pretty polished guy for his age.

28. Wuilmer Becarra (CF) [2018] - the highest paid hitter among the 2011 Latin free agents signed by the Jays, he was hit by a pitch last week and went on the 60 day DL and his 2012 season is probably over after a mere 10 games.

27. Moises Sierra (RF) [Sept. 2013] - Hitting well in AAA, but not eye-poppingly well. May well repeat the level next year to continue to add polish to his game. Ultimately, he's looking at a crowded outfield picture in Toronto and I'm not sure there's a role for him. Look for him to be included in a deal to a team with more opportunity. Possibly within the month.

26. Jacob Anderson (RF) [2017] - The Blue Jays 2nd overall pick in 2011, might well deserve a higher ranking than this, but the top of this list gets very crowded. From #12 to #27 you could probably put them in almost any order and make a pretty good cases for your choices.

25. Deck McGuire (RHP) [Sept. 2013] - Like Jenkins, McGuire has inexplicably fallen apart this year. Some lists (not mine) had him in the Top 10 over the winter and you won't see that again any time soon. I do think he has more potential to eventually be a decent major league pitcher than Jenkins, but probably for a different team.

24. Franklin Barreto (SS/CF) [late 2018] - The player most teams had as the best available Latin prospect in this signing period, opinions are mixed on whether he will stay at SS or move to CF. Potentially deserves a higher spot but it's difficult to rank a 16 year old who's been under contract less than a week. Ben Balder at BA said they would put him in the "16-30 range" and higher in a more shallow organization, so this is a decent spot I think.

23. Chris Hawkins (LF) [2016] - I admit to being caught up in some of the praise for this guy last winter and moving him up a few notches higher than my instincts suggested. This year, so far, there's been a notable absence of power and that has helped me decide to correct back towards my original view.

22. John Stilson (RHP) [2013] - real tempted to move this one up a few more notches but I'd like to see a better BB:K ratio first.He's been a fast mover so far, and of the guys who have not yet pitched for the Blue Jays, he's probably the next guy in line among the actual prospects - in terms of proximity to the majors..

21. DJ Davis (CF) [2018] - I'm a bit uncertain on this one, but I try to always respect a first round choice. He's going to have to show me some things, and provoke some scouting reports, before I get a firm handle on my opinion but I'll rank him here as a nod to believing the team knows what it's doing.

20. Dwight Smith, Jr (CF) [2017] - similar to Davis in terms of how shaky my confidence is in this ranking. One of those guys who's subject to a large movement once i know more.

19. Joe Musgrove (RHP) [Sept. 2016] - got a lot more praise than I expected over the winter, hasn't pitched in two weeks but not on the DL. I'm uncertain what to make of that. Showed well in very limited work so far.

18. Sam Dyson (RHP) [2012] - I bumped this guy about 10 spots just based on the comments made by the team after he was promoted. It also presumes he is ultimately a starter or closer since I have a pretty strong aversion to ranking middle relievers, even good set-up man potential, in the top 30.

17. Matt Smoral (LHP) [20198]- 6'8" lefty taken high in the 2012 draft and said to be, on talent, better than even that spot but for a foot injury. Usual caveats about ranking just acquired guys apply of course.

16. Kevin Comer (RHP)  [late 2017]- highly regarded in 2011 draft, bought out of college commitment which knocked him down the draft list some. In other systems would be higher.

15. Carlos Perez (C) [2016]  - repeating a level at Lansing and really ought to be doing better, IMO, but I'm being patient with him.

14. Asher Wojociechowski (RHP) [2014] - I might be being too generous here too, there's so of a gray area here between the obvious top tier, and the guys who are young or inexperienced enough that you hesitate to rank them highly (Comer, Smoral, Musgrove, Barreto, Anderson, Smith, Davis, etc) and guys like Wojo and Perez among others tend to fall by default into this area. He could continue to perform about as well as he has and still be passed by half a dozen guys by the end of the year.

13. Matt Dean (3B) [2017] - off to a slow start, but i have a strong hunch about him and am displaying a bit of bias here.There were enough good reports on him after the draft that I feel he deserves to be this high for now.

12. Antonio Jimenez (C) [2015] - out for a year with Tommy John surgery, he's another guy who could continue to perform but still be passed by some of the younger guys just because of ceiling.

11. Robert Osuna (RHP) [2017] - NOW we are getting into the top tier guys. In a year, two tops, this guy's name will be on everyone's list. Still just 17, he could be in Lansing next year at 18 which is remarkable in itself.

10. Adonys Cardona (RHP) [2016] - Same song second verse - well actually the first since they signed him first - a minor injury has held him back in the GCL but he's still a high-ceiling guy. These two, and Norris, might be the next wave behind the Big Three currently at Lansing.

9. Adeiny Hechavarria (SS) [Sept. 2012] - As reluctant as they were to consider it, the professional observers are beginning to concede that the defensive master is showing legitimate progress as a hitter in AAA. Even though everyone is always tempted to knee-jerk to "well, it's the PCL" - scouts can tell what's league-fueled and what isn't. He making believers out of some. Not that anyone is projecting Derek jeter offense, but more and more it looks like his bat at least plays in the majors.

8. Marcu Stroman (RHP) [Sept. 2012] - Begins his pro career in Vancouver this weekend, with a penciled in schedule which takes him to New Hampshire before the end of the month. Legitimate possibility he pitches for the Blue Jays THIS year. Reliever or not, tat's special (and hopefully he'll still be a starter down the road ala Chris Sale).

7. Justin Nicolino (LHP) [2015] - One of Lansing's Big 3 pitching prospects, and the only lefty, Nicolino is the one who features great control and more refinement. He's had one or maybe two hiccups since the team broke up the piggyback arrangement but he's done nothing to lose his luster.

6. Noah Syndergaard (RHP) [Sept. 2015]- the one, of the B3, who has the most physicality, but maybe the least polish of the three. There's really not right and wrong way to rank him and Nicolino, you could flip them easy enough.

5. Daniel Norris (LHP) [2016]- a good argument could be made for putting the last two guys ahead of this one since he has a much shorter track record as a pro. Still, the off-season lists loved him and he's done nothing in Bluefield which suggests he needs to be dropped.

4. Anthony Gose (CF) [Sept. 2013] - Had a terrible April and an incredible May before settling into a middling (for the PCL especially) groove since. He's been consistently awful against LHP and despite the cries of some to rush him, he's putting no pressure on the team to promote him. I have a hunch that if Alex can make a big deal in July by letting him go, given the resurrection of Colby Rasmus as a top-shelf guy, you might not seem Gose finish the year as a Jays prospect.

3. Jake Marisnick (CF) [late 2014] - down a tic through (almost) no fault of his own, It has more to do with having been passed by an even better guy than it does Marisnick's own production. In fact, in my opinion, he's possibly gaining some ground on Gose given the latter's mixed results in Vegas. Certainly he fits better, in my view, in the long-term plans because there is more development space between him and Rasmus, which is to say they could leave him in the minors until at least 2014 which might be more difficult to do with Gose.

2. Aaron Sanchez (RHP) [late 2014]- When this guy refines his control a little bit, you are going to see him race into the Top 20 prospects in all of baseball. He's the most gifted among the three (very gifted) Lansing aces and he's far from a finished project.

1. Travis d'Arnaud (C) [Sept. 2012]- if anyone makes a list of Jays prospects and this guy isn't #1 on it, you ought to ask him why. There might have been some doubt when the season started, but not anymore. He's out for several more weeks with a knee injury (fluke accident) but at the time he went down his OPS was almost as good as JP's in his MVP season and JP was repeating the league. If his line hadn't been dragged down by a poor April in which he was working on things the team had ask him to do instead of focusing on being a good hitter, it would be considerably better.

Just for fun, let's speculate on the 2016 roster. for the sake of this exercise i will assume all options for that year on the books right now are declined, save one.

SP: Sanchez / Syndergaard / Nicolino / Alvarez / Hutchison / Norris
RP: Stroman/ Stilson / Perez / Wojo / Dyson / Crawford / Nolin
C : d'Arnaud / Jiminez
1B:  ??
2B: Lopes (rookie)
SS: Hechavarria
3B: Lawrie
LF: Snider
CF: Rasmus (assumes an extension signed in the next year or two)
RF: Marisnick
DH: Bautista (option exercised in this case)

Of course, stating the obvious, many of these guys will fail, there will be imports, there will maybe even be some carry over from the current roster (Janssen for instance). This is just for fun.

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speaking of just for fun, I'm going to borrow some of Mike Wilner's speculation to throw out a bit of rosterbation in the form of a trade fantasy:

Anthony Gose, Asher Wojo, and Carlos Perez for Chase Headley and a throw in.

Headley flipped to Arizona, along with Travis Snider, Kevin Comer and Chris Hawkins for Justin Upton and a throw in.

Meanwhile in an unrelated deal they grab Matt Garza. Say for Drabek and Moises Sierra Syndergaard or Nicolino.

It could happen, right? Right?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Mid-Season Thoughts

Traditionally I do a mid-season post, and I also have been doing periodic posts after each 1/5 (approximately) of the minor league season. Given the lack of bloggage around here (you will possibly note the absence of the 2/5 Report), I'm going to squeeze in both goals for this week.

On the major league level, it seems emotionally to have been a season plagued by more upheaval than normal. Between having almost all the key bats - everyone except EE - start off slowly, on an individual basis (yet, somehow, inexplicably, continue to score an above average number of runs) and only some of them recover to play well, to the obvious decimation of the pitching staff, to even the supposedly upgraded bullpen being inconsistent - there's not as much opportunity for projection as one might normally find. The idea that they could finish the first 81 games just over .500 but still within less than 3 games of the playoff spot is astonishing. Rather than go position by position, I want to just note some items worthy of consideration and then move on to the minors (all statistical quotes through the game of July 3):

Item: Brett Lawrie - Lawrie reached his lowest OPS of the season on May 25. Since that time (35 games) he's hit .320 with an OPS of .888 and most of that (since June 5) has been in the lead-off spot. His counting stats over that stretch pro-rate to 56 doubles and 23 homers over a full season.

Item: Colby Rasmus - The low point of the first half for Rasmus was May 18. Since then he's played in 40 games (that is, essentially 1/4 of a season) and the results have been better than any CF in the AL except Josh Hamilton. Try .304 with a .974 OPS for size. Pro rated he's on a pace that would produce 52 homers, 44 doubles and 144 RBI on the season. He probably won't keep that pace up, but it's not implausible he could take a run at the distinction of the best season by a CF in Blue Jays history. Remember, ths is the guy that a ton of vocal Jays fans were vehemently unhappy with just 2 months ago.

Item: Jose Bautista - As late as May 11 Jose Bautista's BA was still below the Mendoza line (all the way down to .177) on the back of a historically atrocious BABIP. Whatever was causing that, over the last 49 games he seems to have solved the problem His OPS over that time is 1.069 and he's hit 22 homers in just under 1/3 of a season's worth of games. For anyone else I'd say "he can't keep this up" but . . .we are speaking of Jose Bautista. it was reported a couple of days ago, and i will not trouble myself to verify if it has changed any in the last couple of days, that since the beginning of 2010, the #2 hitter in home runs is THIRTY THREE behind Joey Bats.
33!!
Who can guess what the second half holds for him?

Item: The rotation - Ricky Romero is now 8 games deep into easily the worst stretch of games in his major league career; Henderson Alvarez may or may not have turned the corner on a forgettable seven game stretch (six of which were regrettable) of his own; Brandon Morrow is likely out until(hopefully early) August; Drew Hutchison until September at best; and Kyle Drabek until the middle of next season. Still no progress on Dustin McGowan, and indeed a mysterious silence surrounds him. Jesse Litsch who might have been pressed into service is on the shelf for the year too. Brett Cecil didn't even make it out of ST but he's back now - who knows how well that will work out.

On the other hand Carlos Villianeuva is rewarding my faith in him (after the Jays waited entirely too long to turn to him, IMO) and Aaron Laffey continues to defy my expectations for him - which I do not expect to continue long term given his next three starts are against the White Sox, Yankees, and Tigers.If he's still shiny at the end of the month I'll be stunned.

Point being: until Morrow returns, at least, things are going to be adventurous unless AA trades for a significant starter. There was a time I coveted Eric Bedard (including in the off-season when he was on my VERY short list) but with the Pirates tied for first place (!) that is off the table. That makes my current first, realistic, choice Matt Garza. Dempster, when he comes off the DL, might be very tempting too. I like the way Alex talks about being buyers and not sellers but I have no real clue how that will play out. I certainly didn't see the Rasmus deal coming.

Item: Casey Janssen - He demands your respect. that is all.

My prophecy for the second half?
Lawrie continues to roll.
Rasmus continues to be one of the very best CF in the AL but slows some
Bautista keeps being Joey Bats
Encarnacion slows some, but still ends up with his best year ever
Lind rebound some, to respectability but not enough to quiet the critics
Johnson and Escobar CAN'T continue to be as bad as they have been - can they? (check out how Aaron Hill is doing these days)
Arencibia probably is this kind of a hitter and will continue to be.
As for left field, I have to believe Snider comes back after the All-Star break (barring another insanely poorly-timed injury) and I have faith in him when he does. overall, while the total of runs, which is already very good, may not reflect a big boost, i think the offense will be more consistent down the stretch BUT . . .

I'm REAL worried about the ability of the rotation to hold things together until Morrow returns. After tomorrow, the next 12 games are against teams with better records, and nine of those are on the road. If the Jays are still over .500 and within 3-4 games of the wild card on July 23, then there's a good argument for adding a big piece.
In theory Romero HAS to get better than he's been, if he can get out of his own head; I have a lot of faith in Villianueva and I'm pretty confident Alvarez is finding his groove again. Cecil and Laffey are, IMO, time bombs - especially the latter (although it's looking more and more like Laffey is Cecil's ceiling as a SP). The question being, can they both not blow up until Morrow returns.
The next rough patch starts on August 7 and I have all fingers and toes crossed that Morrow is back by then. 45 of the last 54 games are against teams currently in playoff contention (48 if you count Detroit). if they make it, it will be because they earned it.
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On an additional note: the Blue Jays, as die-hard fans surely know, have not only signed Marcu Stroman to complete a sweep of their top 14 picks, but still have about $300k in the kitty for a couple of other intriguing guys. Stroman, so the report goes, may well be in Toronto by September.

In more prospecty goodness, the Jays singed - according to published reports - four of the top 13 players on Baseball america's list of eligible Latin Free Agents, including #1 on the list Franklin Barreto, a SS who some see as a future CF. The other three are Jose Castillo (the top LHP in the crop), Luis Castro (a big SS who's future might be at 3B), and Richard Urena (a slick fielding SS with doubles power). BUT that puts the Jays well over the league mandated ceiling, even with the tax figured in. late reports today (Wednesday) claim Castillo did not, in fact, sign with the Jays. This would entirely clear up the overage so it's probably accurate. also leaves the Jays just under $45k to spread around to lower profile guys.

Speaking of prospects, look for the 3/5 Report soon, including a revised Top Prospect list with a lot of baseless assumptions and hopeful thinking.

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Edit: late breaking news - Scott Richmond out, AA prospect Sam Dyson (he of the 52.2 professional IP) is in. Even though Dyson's ratio's at AA suggest he's got work to do, I'm fascinated by this move.