Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Duneiden Dispatches

As the paid media ramps up their detailing of all things Blue Jays in this most optimistic of springs, it seems to me that the link dumps have already been done elsewhere (DJF is very through, and you can follow Blue Jays Aggregator on Twitter for another fine source) s rather than do that, I think I'll just do a player-by-player rundown on the items that have caught my eye and contribute a fresh spin, if I have one.
Starting from the outfield wall and moving inwards...

Melky Cabrera - has said "stop asking me about the PEDs" and I think that's fair. The question of how much of his past 2 years production was "enhanced" is a fair one (I say this as one who is not convinced that PEDs actually produce much in the way of enhanced results, except in the recovery time from injury and I don't see why I should object to that effect). But let's confine the discussion of the subject to "what are our reasonable expectations for LF production in 2013?' m'kay.?

Colby Rasmus - Richard Griffin, among others, writes that this is Rasmus' "make or break year" which, realistically, it is. If he is going to hold off Anthony Gose in Toronto, he must step up his game this year. Otherwise he'll find himself starting over again next year. Some suggestions, though it is very early, about his approach seem to be hopeful. I'm one of those who's irrationally optimistic about a big year for him.

Jose Bautista - the question has been asked whether his wrist will still hamper his production this year, but the strong buzz in Dunedin is that he's swinging with authority and shows no sign of ill effect.

Brett Lawrie - there's a story out that Mark DeRosa has assumed the mentor role with Lawrie, and while I'm a skeptic about DeRosa's contributions at the plate, if indeed his vaunted leadership skills leverage maximum production for Lawrie, it more than justifies his spot on the roster.  I've seen one article which suggests that there's still a solid chance he could step to the next level this year. I, for one, believe that Lawrie will very soon insert him into the discussion "who's the best 3B in baseball?" and wouldn't be shocked if he did so in 2013.

Jose Reyes- Much is being made of the enthusiasm Reyes brings to the clubhouse and the field. While there's a limit to how much that translates into actual wins, if these reports are accurate, Reyes stands to become as big a fan favorite as Lawrie and Joey Bats.

Macir Izturs/Emilio Bonifacio - the well know "only competition among batters in camp" meme is being played out hard. I started out, after the trade, assuming that Bonifacio would win the job, but the article soften mentioned that Izturus is rated a better defender and i'm moving to the view that the team might work betters with Izturus the primary 2B, and Bonifacio available to provide spot starts and flexibility all over the left side of the field. I don't think there's a wrong answer here.

Edwin Encarnacion - one of the things no one is writing about that's on my mind is how much EE is now considered the first baseman, as opposed to the DH. My guess is that he'll spend a lot of time their during ST and lay claim to the position, if for no other reason than the guy who's performing ought to get preference when it comes to being on the field (which every hitter prefers to being a DH) when all other things (health, defense, etc) are equal.

Adam Lind - famously put his foot in his mouth concerning the departed coaches. Chad Mottola, the new batting coach, is confident he can get Lind back to being productive. Most think the leash is pretty short. If things go poorly, you'll see an import before the break. If Jim Thome finds himself unemployed on April 1, don't be surprised if the Jays stay in contact with him as long as Lind's production is in doubt. David Cooper is, however, not breathing down his neck this spring. Cooper has serious back issues and his potential to ever be a regular major leaguer may be in doubt.

JP Arencibia - the only storyline here is his determination to be a viable option for catching RA Dickey (and thereby being in the Opening Day lineup. Of course, there's also the ongoing competition behind the plate among potential back-ups Josh Thole and the aging Henry Blanco. I still can't wrap my head around the idea that Blanco is the favorite here, unless Thole is still nursing some injury, but you have to file it under "the team knows more than I do."

The rotation - Dickey's knuclker is impressing already; Johnson is talking about how his improvement over the course of 2012 had to do with bringing back and refining his curve;  Romero reports the injuries he had cleaned up over the winter to be feeling very good and hopefully his mental state is much improved,given he's no longer expected to carry the staff on his own shoulders; Mark Behrlie is being discussed more for the dog issue than anything else; and all is quite regarding Brandon Morrow - but let us pause for a sec and contemplate the times opposing teams will have to deal with his heat after having faced Dickey the night before.

Casey Janssen/Sergio Santos - the former is the presumptive closer, but going at a reduced speed while he recovers from minor off-season surgery. In theory this opens the door for Santos, who's reportedly fully healthy, but short relievers don't need much ST to be ready so it's a month too early for this speculation. 

Other pitchers...

Dustin McGowan - had been throwing since December, experienced mild shoulder pain (which he blames on too-long long toss) - obviously I can't express optimism but i still have hope.
JA Happ - the theme remains that he's potentially ticketed for Buffalo, more on that in a sec.
Brad Lincoln - Like Happ, he has options and those may land him in the Buffalo rotation, but...
Darren Oliver - all quiet
Steve Delenbar - all discussion presumes he's set to be a key player in Toronto, even though he does have an option or two.
Esmil Rogers, Brett Cecil, Jeremy Jefress - all out of options and thus all assumed to have something of an edge in making the team. AA even mentioned at the SOTF meeting that rogers was assured a job on that basis. But today John Gibbons said that he would take the best team north, options aside.If that's true, all three of these will have to fight for their job. McGowan is out of options too and should he end the spring healthy, something has to give.
In theory, Happ, Lincoln, and younger guys like Chad Jenkins, Aaron Loup, and Evan Crawford would be part of such a competition. Some writers suggest that minor league free agent signings like Justin Germano and David Bush would also be candidates but I have a very hard time believing THAT.

Still, Gibbons' claim enlivens what is already probably the most interesting roster-construction discussion of the spring.

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