Thursday, 5 March 2015

Best Case Scenario

As usual, I'll try to do something different tan just report information readily available all over the Toronto sports media. Everyone knows by now that Andrew Stoeten, for example, reliably offers a link to all the best stuff. Just check the sites in the sidebar for good stuff. Speaking of that, once I get moved I'll be adding a couple of other great resources. One is an excellent idea by the great Marc Hulet filling  a need for the obsessive roster-bater (i.e. people like me) - it's called the MLB Prospect Market. 

There you will find charts with info compatible with the outstanding info found on Cott's. They have depth charts listing all the important players in the Blue Jays system with info about Rule 5 eligibility, roster status, and option years.You can find this info for every team in the league. There are also notes with info that might be otherwise hard to find. A similar resource, one that's Blue Jays specific, is hosted by Bluebird Banter. There you'll find a chart for players in camp, 40 man roster and non-roster, with service time, options used, and the player's choices if/wen they are cut.

Now, on to today's exercise. What would it look like over the coming months if we had the benefit of several best case scenarios (BCS) playing out? No, I'm not going to indulge in stating the obvious like "Jays win World Series" and "Stroman wins Cy Young". No, I'm thinking more about those places where there are question marks.

So let's look at the presumptive roster:
Starters - Stroman, Hutchison, Dickey, Buehrle, ???
Relievers - see below
C - Martin and ?
RF - Bautista
CF - Pompey
LF - Saunders
3B - Donaldson
SS - Reyes
1B or DH - Encarnacion

For the rest, we'll get to it below.

So question one - 5th starter. The BCS here is that Santana's comeback is for real. Let's face it, it doesn't take much to be an average #5 starter in major league baseball. In 2013 the average 5th starter had an ERA of 5.00 so one has to assume if Santana gets the job the Jays think he'll give them more than that. No, it's not reasonable to expect he'll be back to his peak form, but if he can, even for a string of 15-20 starts before breaking down again, be better than your average #5 that helps the team. Yes, he can't break with the team but that's easy enough. Plug Marco Estrada in for the first 3-5 starts.  That too has potentially positive repercussions.

Let's say Marco gets the three turns in April an Santana's first turn is May 1, 14 starts would take him through the ASB and anything more is gravy.

Which brings us to Question 2 - the bullpen. I've come around to the position that Cecil ought get a full chance to close. I agree with the principle that Gibby ought to use him in the highest leverage spot and have other pitchers he trusts to follow him. But I'd say that about any closer. It seems to me he can handle it and the Jays can handle giving him the role and not messing with Sanchez's mental game. To me Cecil as closer is the BCS for both he and the Jays.

So if Cecil is closing and Estrada is temporarily in the rotation, what does the rest of the April 'pen look like:? Here's my speculative prediction for those six spots.
1. Aaron Loup - needs no explanation.
2. Todd Redmond - has an option but unless he has a miserable spring he'll break with the Jays
3. Wilton Lopez - again, pending  spring performance but you can tell Alex has a strong interest in the guy. Best case is that he is as good as he was in Huston and justifies that faith.
4. Rob Rasmussen or Scott Barnes - the Jays will want to have another lefty available of Cecil is promoted. If either of these guys (or, for a dark horse, Luis Perez) show reasonable competency one of them will have the spot. My guess is Rasmussen. Best case is not he brings that talent that made him a high draft pick and establishes his place in the majors.
5. Steve Delbar - he has an option, so he has the opportunity to lose this spot during ST, but he has a nominal edge. It would definitely be a BCS if he proved to be the guy he was in the first half of 2013.
6. Kyle Drabek - remember how the jays broke with Jeremy Jeffress and gave him a chance to prove himself before they lost him (and he went on to prove himself after he got to Milwaukee)?  Same deal here. He might look sucky in ST and if so they may try to slip him through waivers, but if he shows ANYTHING they can hang their hat on, they will be inclined to take advantage of Estrada's spot to see how he does or if they can maybe get a little something for him. Don't sweat it, he probably won't get enough leverage to affect the outcome of any game early on.
Next in line: perpetual shuttle rider Chad Jenkins. His one remaining option is the bane of is existence, but he will be a key player as injuries and such cause the wheel to turn.

Let's chase this one a bit further. How will the Buffalo bullpen stack up, as ordered by the likelihood of being useful to Toronto at some point? Beyond Jenkins (and the alternate lefties mentioned above), here's who to watch:
Matt West - Watch this guy closely, the Jays really like him and if there's a few breaks on the depth chart he could be pitching key innings in August and beyond.
Ryan Tepera - his shift to the 'pen showed the Blue Jays some potential. Still getting a read on whether he can optimize that.
Preston Guilmet - he's definitely on the outside right now, but he is at least on their radar.

It would be a BCS if it turns out the Jays have a deep surplus of quality bullpen options. Don't rule out the possibility that AA starters Matt Boyd and Taylor Cole might sneak in at some point,  or Miguel Castro towards the end of the year when hes nearing his IP ceiling.

By now you are very curious what I figure to do with Sanchez and Norris. Well I'm going to argue they are at the front of the Buffalo rotation until someone breaks down. The seasoning, particularly for Norris, can't be a bad thing and every team needs significant SP depth. If we find a way to squeeze either or both onto the Opening Day line-up, that makes guys like Liam Hendricks (no option, might be lost) and Jeff Francis your first line of defense. Unless Ricky Romero suddenly finds his past. If/when Santana (or someone else) breaks down ten the two young guns stand a BCS.

Turning to the field, let's make the 2B question short and sweet - BCS is that Izturus isn't awful and he does well enough to give Travis some breathing room in AAA. If all goes well, by May Travis will be pounding the door down. The bench implications are too numerous to parse. If there are four spots and one goes to a reserve catcher, one goes to Valencia, and one goes to Pillar (don't give me all the Dickerson/Dirks baloney) that leaves one spot (which will eventually go to Izturus if Travis takes over 2B) to go to either Goins, or Tolison, or Santiago or Kawasaki. Of those, the latter two are non-roster and it would be strange if they stayed. Goins has an option and Tolison doesn't so early on, Tolison probably breaks camp with the big club.

Back-up catcher? The BCS is that Navarro is dealt for value and that sometime in June or July Jimenez takes Thole's job from him.  Thole does have an option, so the Jays can park him in Buffalo if Jimenez emerges. The sooner this transition happens (on merit) the better.

That leaves the 1B/DH situation. There's a good bit of buzz around the alternatives here, but there's a pretty clear BCS. Edwin prefers to play DH, according to reports, and Donaldson (sometimes Reyes as well) has a throwing accuracy issue. You need a good receiver at 1B. That would seem to rule out Dyan Vicedio who has no 1B experience o speak of. Justin Smoak and Daric Barton are both quality defenders, so the BCS here is subject to who aids the team offensively more.Honestly, I can't see how that could possibly be Barton, as disappointing as Smoak has been so far. Either one has the potential to be the worst bat in our line-up on any day which Martin plays, but if either is going to be surprisingly adequate, it's Smoak.  Before you scoff, I remind you of the way that the Rays have a history of trotting a guy out that everyone figures will be a bum and he ends up being a boost (Lee, Pena, Kotchman, Loney). It could happen. In a BCS.

Finally, my own personal BCS: That Michael Saunders impresses enough to be slipped into the #2 spot in the order. The idea of only having two lefties and hitting them back to back is insanity, IMO.

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