Sunday, 22 March 2015

At The Turn, Part 2

Continuing last nights update by reviewing the pitchers, there's probably less to say about the rotation than any other facet of the team. Barring further injury it stacks up like this:

Drew Hutchison - the (unofficial but widely projected) Opening Day starter. The intuition of almost everyone around the team who's commented is that he's ready to step up into the void left by Marcus Stroman. Even before the injury he was turning up on various list of potential breakout candidates and he's done nothing this spring to dispel this thinking. By starting game one, he gets to start against Baltimore, whom he owns, in his second start.

RA Dickey - Is what you see, there's not really much to say. Likely to start second game of the season so that he misses the Orioles (who regularly pound him) and starts the home opener.Also, that puts 3 of his first 4 starts indoors, which he prefers, and if the rotation held (it likely won't) 7 of his first 10 (assuming the Dome won't open before June).

Mark Buehrle - Like Dickey, there's not much to comment on, except to note that he likely won't start the third game because the Yankees have his number.

Aaron Sanchez - John Gibbons confirmed he's in and lingering doubts about whether he has the pitches and the skill at mixing them to be effective in that role this year seem to be more and more yesterday's conversation. With Martin supervising his work, expect pretty impressive work for a 22 year old.

Daniel Norris - technically still in competition with Marco Estrada, good luck finding much of anyone close to the team who thinks it won't be Norris. On sheer ability alone, it's an easy call but there is one bit of roster maneuvering - which I'll get to during the bullpen discussion - that would modify that just a bit which is worth considering but which almost certainly won't happen. Mike Wilner and others speculate he'll get a start n the third game in New York in order to combat the Yankees' lefty-heavy line-up. You might see the team move to break up the two lefties later on, but initially they probably like this order out of the gate.


Brett Cecil - presumptive closer, assuming recovery continues. Remember, Casey Janssen dealt with shoulder soreness last spring and was virtually untouchable in the first half. They might lose some on leverage by doing so, but Gibbons has always been an apparent fan of the traditional roles and if you are going to have a regular "closer" then Cecil has earned the job. Also, he was a closer in college so he's no novice.

Steve Delebar - has options and can theoretically be sent down, but he's going to have to fall apart for that to happen. Both velocity and control have returned and they need him to be a reliable late inning RHP

Aaron Loup - Good enough against both righties and lefties to be the go-to 8th inning lefty, no reason to doubt him.

Miguel Castro - You'd have an easier time finding a snowman in Dunedin than you would finding someone who's betting the kid won't make the team. There are ongoing debates about what it might mean for his future as a starting pitcher (it's an unusual track but it's been done successfully before) but with the depth of young SP, it's a risk worth taking. If it does stunt that development you still likely get a helluva closer for half a decade or so (before presumptive free agency).

Marco Estrada - Likely he won't be in the rotation but will be the sixth starter so he'll do long work in the 'pen to stay moderately stretched out. I've spoken before about how his stats last year were badly skewed by a relatively brief period of ineffectiveness, but he was nothing but excellent as a reliever last year, while throwing 2 or more innings in 13 of 21 appearances.Take away his August 29 appearance (the last game in which he gave up a run at all) and his ERA over that stretch was 1.94

Marco plays into the maneuvering I mentioned above but I'm holding off just a bit more on that.

Todd Redmond - Some professional writers are implying he's not a lock, but given that he's out of options I think he''s been a lock from the jump. He's done nothing but good things in a Jays uni including this spring, in which he's allowed a single earned run. No way Alex tries to slid a guy this effective through waivers and we can't afford to trade him.

With a standard 7-man pen, that leaves but one open job. The 7th guy could be a number of different pitchers but the bias here is towards LHP since it's no secret that any manager would prefer to lefties who are not the closer. Here are the remaining candidates-

Scott Barnes - Logically, should be his to lose. He's on the 40-man roster, also having a good spring, and 2 years younger than Hynes (27 vs 29).  He was pretty good in his first go at the majors in 2012 (at 24) but stumbled in a very brief 2013 appearance.He sucked at AAA when he was sent back down too and 2013 was a lost year. Still a very viable possibility. He has no options which, all things being equal, makes him probably the front-runner, but could pitch his way out of that situation.

Colt Hynes - as it currently stands, he's reported by some to be the leading contender. He, like Barnes,  has the benefit of being already on the 40, left-handed, and having a good impressive spring. Also, in over 108 minor league innings between 2013 and 2014, he walked only 13 against 99 Ks.  However, unlike Barnes, he has options. He struggled during his first major league call-up in 2013 so he still has to prove himself.

 Jeff Francis - He's 34, Canadian (if that matters to you) and reduced to guile rather than stuff. The big drawback for him is that he's non-roster 2014 was is first year as a reliever, and n 20 major league innings, his counting stats were fine with the exception of the one that counts - earned runs. He was a perfectly capable starter (for 8 starts) n Louisville, but we have no way of knowing if he can be a capable major league reliever and it's unlikely the Blue Jays will risk losing someone on waivers to find out unless other options fail.

Chad Jenkins - the best reliever who hasn't made the team, his right-handedness and available option work against him. He definitely won't make the cut barring injuries ahead of him.

Roberto Osuna - hasn't forced their hand yet, despite being very impressive. Really no reason not to keep him as rotation depth at AA. Maybe the first guy who get's called if there's an opening in the rotation.

Kyle Drabek - Right handed, so there's that. Has pitched pretty well but there's no buzz about how impressed everyone is yet. Probably no one has any more riding on the next two weeks among bullpen candidates because like Barnes he's out of options. Which brings us to the aforementioned maneuvering.

Alex Anthopoloulos has already alluded to the possibility of opening with an 8 man pen (which he acknowledged was "not ideal") in order to avoid losing some players, and it doesn't take much speculation, given his track record on this subject, to suspect the guy he's worried about losing is Drabek. He has three options to do this:

1. the 8-man pen: more than being "not ideal" - if they open with 3 catchers it's functionally impossible. Even without it is very difficult to imagine. If Saunders opens on the DL and if the Blue jays are willing to lay with only three outfielders on the roster, they might use that; If Izturus is on the DL to start the season the same applies, the only way that helps is if there's no reserve middle infielder. The other presumptive bench players don't have options either. The only way the 8 man pen is even tolerable as an idea is if both Michael Saunders and Macier Izturus open on the DL and you count on one player to be the reserve for both infield and outfield - more on that in a second.

2. Let one of the other relievers with options, likely Delebar, open the year in AAA just long enough to get into the season where waiver claims are less likely, then try and sneak Drabek through waqivers while recalling Delebar. This is the most likely work-around barring a trade.

3. This is the one I like, though like the Thole Maneuver I described yesterday, may not get considered. In this choice, Daniel Norris starts the year in Buffalo while Marco Estrada gets the April 11 start. Norris is recalled on April 15 while Drabek hopefully slides through waivers. Why is this the best choice? it solves the waiver issue while also shortening Norris under a full season's work this year buying the jays another year before free agency. I can't think of a single logical reason not to do this.

That's how I'd do it, based on current information.

Speaking of roster maneuvering options and how I'd do it, I would absolutely open with both Saunders and Izturus on the DL and carry Ryan Goins and Steve Tolison on the Opening Day roster. Tolison is also out of options and could benefit from the "sneak through" attempt, as they would hope to do with Drabek, while Goins is the obvious candidate for the other spot. Anyone else (among hitters) would have to be added to the 40-man roster.

Before April is over, you can with luck have farmed out Drabek and Tolison - valuable depth - recalled Norris, activated Sanders and Izturus (no way around him being at least a bench guy unless they find a trade partner and he'll have to prove he can stay healthy first) while demoting Goins (unfortunately).

And the only guy you have to put through waivers before Opening Day is Liam Hendricks.

This is all subject, of course, to injury or the performance collapse of any given guy, but with available info, that's what it looks like right now.


Moon said...

I'm totally on board with the start with 3 outfielders and with Goins and Tolleson as you're 2nd base and reserve infielders. Tolleson can also back up the outfield if someone falls apart for some reason. the only change I'd make from your proposal is after the 3 weeks or so, as long as Saunders is back, I'd demote Tolleson and relegate Goins as the backup behind Travis.

The Southpaw said...

you may have misunderstood. I'd suggest Travis should be the starting 2B and Tolison the reserve OF/IF with Goins the reserve SS/2B

Activate Saunders, down goes Tolison (hopefully without a claim) then activate Izturus and down goes Goins while Travis remains the starter.

I'd rather be rid of Izturus but I'm not willing to eat $4mil just yet.