Friday, 31 July 2015

Well


Helluva week, eh?

On today's deals, I can be pretty brief. The Lowe deal is a nice surprise. I always thought Rob Rasmussen was being neglected and Seattle will, I expect, get a nice little return right there. The other two are so very far away that they would have to have been special indeed to worry about losing them. Doubront to Oakland was actually something I anticipated the day before the Kazmir deal, he's just their kind of guy.
Ben Revere? Eh. Okay, fine. For my money, I'd wager that you could plug Dalton Pompey into left field and get more production than they are going to get from Revere, but I'll concede Revere having been capable for a few years does offer more certainty, and does hit lefty. And if they follow through with a strict platoon, they will maximize his value since he doesn't hit left-handers well. But beyond this season, I wonder what it means for Pompey. Maybe you go back to playing him in left and put Pillar in the fourth outfielder role where he's better suited. Then there's Saunders which...I dunno.

As I discussed in my previous post, adding five veterans to the major league roster is a direct result of Anthopoulos' organizational philosophy to horde desirable pitching prospects in anticipation of their trade vale, and this is a fact that needs considerable notice in the media and in the front office - particularly if the Blue Jays do indeed make the run deep into October. It's also a reflection, as Alex told the press today, of the conscience choice over the late winter period to reserve a portion of their salary allotment from the corporate bosses to give themselves flexibility to take on salary in late July, which they have. The difference between the opening day payroll in 2014 and 2015 was a little over $11 million and Beeston insisted over the winter that the payroll would go up. About 7.5 of that will go to David Price. Just under $1 mil more goes to Hawkins. Mark Lowe makes little and the Phillies picked up the rest of Revere's deal. But that's almost $9 million that wouldn't have been there if the Jays had given it to some mediocre SP like Justin Masterson last winter.

Let's give as much credit as is obviously due.

And as I'm finishing this the Blue Jays just beat the new Ace of the team with the best record in the AL for their first three-game winning streak since June 19. Perhaps it is a new day indeed.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

You tell 'em I'm coming!

For some reason that was the thing that came to mind today in the wake of the Blue Jays' latest blockbuster - looking at the Yankees and thinking of the Tombstone quote, paraphrased for the team pronouns "You tell 'em we're coming! And Hell's coming with us!"

The conclusion here is in line with the consensus in the media and around the league - this team is an odds on favorite to blow by the illusory Twins and focus their sites on the Yankees, seven games off in the distance atop the AL East. I think they can catch them in what may be the most exciting September anyone can remember. The Jays are positioned as well as anyone could ask to be while being a .500 team. Besides the offense and the newly enriched pitching, they are close to a catchable team that they host for 4 next week, have 23 of their next 34 games at home, have 13 remaining games against the team leading their division, who just put their best starter on the DL with a sore forearm (at least).

It's not at all safe to assume Alex is done dealing, at the very least it would be profitable to come up with a "#6" starter to stash in Buffalo in case of an injury (a better one than Felix Dourbront) , but as it stands now, if the bullpen can shake off the inexplicable curse they seem to be afflicted by, it's hard to imagine the team being better equipped to do what needs to be done without imagining something insane (I know I know, the Tulo deal was insane but you can't assume something like that). The Blue Jays have:

The best catcher in the AL
Three first baseman in the AL Top 10 by wOBA
A second baseman second only to Jason Kipnis by wOBA
The best shortstop in baseball
The best third baseman in baseball
Arguably the best RF in the AL (JD Martinez is just ahead by wOBA so maybe 2nd)
A wizard defender in CF with a competent bat who's on pace for a 3 WAR season
A Top 5 DH (in what is for him a down year so far)
And a hole in LF...where the just happen to have their #1 prospect pounding on the door.
One of the ten or so best Ace's in the game
Arguably a Top 5 (AL) #2 starter
A Top 4 closer (by WAR)
and assuming health, no excuses.

If the team decides to start Dickey on 3 days' rest Sunday and push Price's first game back to Monday (which would be very smart) then Price will project to start, assuming the rotation is not further altered, 4 of the 13 games they have left against the Yankees, along with debuting against the Twins and late September games against Baltimore and the Rays.

One thing that no one else seems willing to suggest about Price is on my mind. The general assumption is that the Jays will definitely lose him to free agency this winter...but...is that such a sure thing? Paul Beeston will ride into the sunset after the World Series and, with any luck, take his five year limit policy with him. That's one obstacle aside. Another big issue is the whole "Free agents won't take our money" thing, which is really why I'm writing this paragraph. What have we learned from Buehrle, Reyes, and Donaldson?  That players who initially are reluctant to play for Toronto end up loving it once they are on the team. The hidden benefit of trading for David Price is that he gets a chance to love it before hitting the market, taking that factor off the table.

The cost is another matter, of course, and I don't think the Jays are prepared to match the completely insane deal Max Scherzer signed last year, but is anyone? The last three years of that deal lists him making, between salary and differed signing bonus FIFTY million dollars per year. Is THAT going to become the common deal for the top-of-the-market pitcher?  The next highest paid SP is Justin Verlander (there's a cautionary tale, eh?) who's 7 year deal which began in 2013 totals $180 million and that is, perhaps, a better model. Seven years at $25m plus another 6-10 split between a signing bonus and an option buyout would beat that so that's the neighborhood Rogers would have to consider. But I think they can afford it. There's $59 mil committed to 2016 (assuming Dickey isn't picked up), and something around $21 mil is a reasonable estimate for arbitration. Assuming a $140 million budget (using the 137 in 2014 as a guide for that) then 25 for Price still leaves over $30 million to fill out a team with not many holes.

It gets even better after that. Yes eventually arbitration - or a contract to avoid it - will add big dollars for Donaldson, and re-signing Bautista will cost something, but you'll be out to around 2019 before anyone else starts getting expensive and if you've guessed wrong about your budgets by then (given inflation) you have the option to deal Price if he hasn't pulled a Verlander (and if you are afraid of that you're never going to sign a major deal). Plus, there's the benefit of keeping him off the Yankees and Red Sox. I wouldn't be foolish enough to be optimistic given Rogers' history, but I certainly wouldn't rule it out.

All that aside, the future is NOW and hopefully this will be the stretch run we tell our grandkids about.




(Note: in the next few days I'll do a brief update to my mid-season list of prospects now that the crop has been thinned a bit)



Addendum: This is a bit off topic from the above but it fits directly into the context of this weeks events. One of the refrains that was beaten to death in the early part of the year by the sports media was that this was the "make or break" season for Alex Anthpoulos after a mere six seasons (compare that to JP's 8 futile seasons).  Nevermind that the Royals were in fine shape with a GM that didn't get his team over .500 until his 7th season for just one easy example. The real problem with this notion is that AA had packed out the farm system with talent despite having spent considerable prospect capital two winters ago in an attempt to leverage a talented team into the playoffs (an attempt that was derailed by a string of key injuries) while still laying the foundations for success in the majors through uncanny trades and usually strong development.  Impatience was in danger of costing the team dearly if the rumors were true.

The irony of all that is that what we've seen this week is exactly what Alex told us he intended to do in his first year on the job. While I've been unable to find a link to the exact quote, paraphrased what he said was that great pitching was very expensive and hard to come by, but you could always trade for and sign good hitters. In another moment he said his goal would always be to have an all-star caliber talent at every position, even if that might not be realistic.

So we have before us a man who - along with his scouts and development staff - who has drafted (or signed as an IFA) and then dealt for major league help:

Noah Syndergaard
Asher Wojciechowski
Justin Nicolino
Sean Nolin
Joe Musgrove
Kevin Comer
Daniel Norris
Anthony DeSclafini
Matt Boyd
Kendall Graveman
Jeff Hoffman
Jario Labourt
Jesus Tinoco
Miguel Castro

And there's still a dozen or more pitchers of similar quality still in the system from Marcus Stroman down to Justin Maese.

Because of those young pitchers the current teams has 3/5 of it's starting rotation and the left side of the infield manned by two men who are the best in the game at their respective positions.  Pitchers from that list put Troy Tulowitzki and David Price in a Jays uniform this week. This scenario is EXACTLY what Alex said he intended to do six years ago.  It simply takes time to execute a master plan. Executives, and some fans, need to appreciate that reality - and their GM.

Oh, and that other comment? If you count Encarnacion as 1B, he's 5/9 of the way to nailing that one too.




Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Vertigo

Damn this team will drive you insane, right? Write up an extensive review of the pitching in which you conclude they are better than advertised, but have an insane propensity to "choke" in 1-run situations (as they did a couple of times since I wrote that) and on the most exciting day of the year they go out and watch their bullpen throw 5 innings of no-hit ball in a 1 run situation and....still lose.

Le sigh.

Okay, anyway, about that excitement, eh? No need for me to tell you what happened, or who was involved so let me just rattle off some random items that together make up my reaction:

Devon Travis - as I tweeted last night, Travis single-handedly  made it easy for the team to trade their lead-off hitter. So good has Travis been that if you gave him the same number of PA as Jason Kipnis he'd pro-rate to 4.3 WAR...and now he's hurt again. He left tonight's game with pain in the same area of his shoulder as the previous injury that sidelined him for 5 weeks. He first said he intended to play through it but we saw how that went last time and the team might not let him do that. If he hits the DL that presents an interesting problem for the line-up. Either Gibby carries on with the same logic that he applied to Donaldson, he might be bold enough to try Tulo in the first spot and tell him to ignore the "table setter" business and play his regular game. The other alternative is to find someone who can do it which brings me to...

Dalton Pompey - Hasn't gone hitless in three weeks; I've been convinced for a week or so now that if they don't trade him, he'll be recalled no later than August 1. But the option is there to go ahead and bring him back right away and plug him into left and lead-off and count on him to keep a level head this time.  He definitely has the talent.

LaTroy Hawkins - I was probably the least enthusiastic among the positive thinkers about adding a 42 year old as a key component of our bullpen but I read a point this morning that brought be around a bit. The one thing this bullpen doesn't have that has been a fixture in the past is a "wise old man" veteran. Think Darren Oliver. In a bullpen with so many puzzling outcomes, possibly that's exactly what this crew needs. Anthopoloulos bragged on his reputation as a clubhouse guy (something that's also widely said about Tulo) and it seems likely that his contribution outside the lines was part of why Alex wanted him.

Troy Tulowitzki - There's been several references out there today to Denver Post articles which provide reason for hop on the injury front, but that is clearly the major - really the only -  red flag in the deal. I'll add my voice to the choir singing his praises as the best shortstop in the game, when he's playing.  In the short term that's still in our favor because for this year and the next two, we'd have the same problem with Reyes who's a lesser player on both sides of the ball when both are healthy. The risk, of course comes after 2017. Still, he's two years younger than Reyes so you didn't take on a deal that runs into his late 30's. I think he makes the team better, potentially much better.  I wonder if Gibby will hit him between Edwin and Jose?
As for the contract, Evan Ross and Blue Jays Plus did a nice job of shooting down the "bad contract" meme here, and he nailed it. Also, due to the salary inflation in baseball, $20 million in 2019 isn't the same as $20 million now. Even better, it's not even that bad through the life of the contract. The Jays actually save $2 million each of the next two years, then they pay out a net $16 mil in 2018 (because Reyes had a 4 million buyout) and the only time they take on the full $20 mil in in 2019. Tulo's contract calls for only $14 mil in 2020 and $15 mil on his 2021 option year (which, if he's any good at all you probably pick up since it has a $4 mil buyout and you probably won't be able to buy much of a veteran SS for a net $11 mil in 2021.  That's not bad at all.
It's also not a contract that hamstrings the Jays payroll, as they only have $59 million committed (to four players) in 2016, and arbitration salaries that should run  (based in the current roster, 7 players) around $21 million. There's a lot of good young pre-arb talent to fill out the team, but it will need a front of the rotation guy with some experience, a closer and a reserve catcher - and have as much as $40 million to work with without assuming a noticeable payroll bump.

Jeff Hoffman - I loved dreaming on the guy, and I'll be worried that he might turn into peak-Verlander at some point but, it's a tribute to how much emotion we invest n our prospects that it's even a question to be asked whether you trade one of your top three prospects for five years of the best player at a crucial position. That's why we have Tulo instead of Cueto, by the way - the Royals paid out for two months of a very good starter, while the Jays paid out for over FIVE YEARS (plus an affordable option!) of the guy who's currently the best in the world at what he does. We bought the same amount of control we gave up. It does put some pressure on the Jays to increase rotation depth for 2016 which points right back to AA shopping for pitchers like Tyson Ross or Andrew Casner who have some control left, but that's a swap you make ever day and then sort of the consequential implications later.

Miguel Castro and Jesus Tinoco - I had, on my totally unauthoritative mid-season list, Hoffman at #1, Castro at #6 and Tinoco at #21 (with a bullet). Castro is exciting but very raw, actual talent evaluators on-line can give you details but he's not a guy you're going to be outraged over dealing. Tinoco is intriguing but he's not going to make a significant impact before the end of the decade. Can't lose sleep over that, particularly when you're dealing from a position of tremendous depth.

 The Unknown Starter - The team still has solid assets to add another pitcher. AA has said, wisely, that he doesn't expect to deal from the 25 man roster, and as I've said, Norris, Alford and Pompey would be very tough to move (I actually had bad dreams last night about waking up to find Alford was the third prospect to the Rockies) but even if you take them off the table for the sake of discussion there's Matt Boyd, Sean Reid-Foley, Richard Urena (now blocked) Max Pentecost (value diminished by injury), Matt Smoral (ditto), Jario Labourt (profile raised by Future's Game selection),  Rowdy Tellez (which would hurt me) and even DJ Davis (raw tools are there). That will get you something, the question is who? After the Tulo deal, you can't even assume it will be someone you even thought was available. But I still like Tyson Ross (whom I fear can't be had without giving up Norris). A little over 60 hours to go







Sunday, 26 July 2015

Worth noting

Feeling some pressure to get this finished before there's an announcement that makes some part of it obsolete!
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You may have heard by now that Drew Hutchison is struggling on the road this year (after being much better on the road last year - baseball, eh?). But the extremes are flabbergasting. Consider:

Home:  9G - 57 IP - 47 H - 14 ER - 13 BB - 53 K - 2.21 ERA - 1.05 WHIP - 7.42 H/9
Road: 11G - 51 IP - 81 H - 51 ER - 21 BB - 45 K - 9.00 ERA - 2.00 WHIP - 14.29 H/9

THAT, my loyal readers, is batshit crazy. No lesser description will suffice. Who can say if the trend will hold, but there's one glittery silver lining: 6 of Hutch's next 7 starts, assuming the Jays don't tamper with the rotation for any reason, come at home. That takes us all the way to Labor Day (by then Maybe we can give some starts to Stroman, amirite?).

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Dalton Pompey went 5/6 Saturday with a double and a triple. In eight games, coming into that game, since returning to AAA, he was hitting .355/.474/.429/.903 - not it's .432./.523/.622/1.155 which is, ya know, pretty solid. Plus, he's only struck out twice. I'm relatively certain the Jays are waiting until August 1 (if he's not traded) to bring him back which will give him another 5 games or so to polish but it doesn't look like he needs them. I'm gonna say he's ready to be our everyday Left Fielder.

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Shi Davidi reports the Reds wanted Stroman plus in any potential Cueto deal - yeah . . . . no.

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The weekend has been buzzing on the trade front. The Royals seem to have Cueto (and his regular turn would have him facing the Jays in Toronto on Thursday), the Royals are zooming on Cole Hamels (which is an outcome I like because it keeps him off the Yankess and Red Sox, as well as off the roster of 2015 playoff contenders) and the Jays keep being linked to controllable guys. First it was Carlos Carrasco which was dreaming big and didn't work out, now it's Mike Fliers from Milwaukee, presumably that would make them look longingly at Tyson Ross too, who's maybe at the top of my list of targets.

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With Buehrle going today, and two at home versus the hapless Phillies the Jays have a chance to build some momentum. After that it's 4 against the Royals (who's starting pitching is vulnerable, other than potentially dealing with Cueto) and four against the can't-possibly-be-that-good-Twins. The Royals are a good team on the road, the Twins aren't. If they play well they could run off a 9-3 run (from last night) going into a crucial 3 game set in New York on August 7-9 which will be follow by home series against Oakland and the Yankees again. This August needs to be the reverse of last August.

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Update:

So much for that "have a good run" idea, eh? Since the winning streak ended the Jays have almost the exact same winning percentage as they had when the streak started.  Even though statistically the pitching has been much better, as previously noted. This does not speak well for the future despite a tremendous open door to the playoffs. As Ben Nichelson-Smith tweeted moments ago, their are only 5 AL teams over .500 at the moment, and all of them hold a playoff position as of now. The very vulnerable Twins are just 3 games ahead of the Blue Jays, and lest we lose hope, the Royals were 50-50 on July 23 last year. Still, the clock is ticking. Loudly.

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Jon Morosi tweeted thus:
Given that Kimbrel would only be due something just short of $3.5 million as of today, this can only be a reference to the future commitment - $11 million in 2016, and $13 million in 2017 (with a $13 million option on 2018 with a $1 million buyout). Let me say in passing that $13 million doesn't buy you nearly as much talent as it used to, that's less than the qualifying offer for free agents in each of the last two years. The  Jays paid BJ Ryan $12 million 8 years ago (I know how that turned out).Kimbrel has the lowest xFIP in the National League and is, in today's market, NOT overpaid.

However, the Blue Jays have made it clear they need a starter much more than a reliever. What gives? Consider (and I may be pipe-dreaming here as I hardly ever come p with a speculation like this that plays out - but what the hell) ...consider that there are a couple of rumors concerning the Padres: the first is that they may be under some pressure to move salary (and it's not like Melvin Upton is going anywhere) and the second is that among the starters they are least motivated to move Tyson Ross (for obvious reasons) so what if...just what IF the Blue Jays are expressing willingness to take on Kimbrel's contract in order to get Ross, and are willing to pony up prospect capital for 5 years of control between the two (2 on Ross, 3 on Kimbrel).

From a financial point of view, the Jays can easily rationalize this because Ross, whatever he wins in Arbitration, will make under-market salaries for those two years, while Kimbrel, though more than Alex likes to pay for relief innings, is not exorbitant and they can simply calculate that the savings on Ross off-sets the excess (as they see it) on the closer position. And make no mistake, Ross is worth it - indeed he's in my view the most desirable target among all potentially available starters. There are only 5 AL starters with more fWAR than he has, only 5 with a better xFIP (and 3 of those are on the Indians). He's a starter who can line up with Pineda or Archer without taking a back seat.

As a bonus, and this might not happen even if the acquisition was made but I'd have to seriously consider it: assuming neither Sanchez or Osuna was in the deal (which would kind of deteat the purpose) then Osuna and Kimbrel give you the 1-2 to end the game, and Sanchez can be stretched out quickly to go back into the rotation. Include Hutchison in the deal, or demote him, and you upgrade the rotation in two slots. Also, with Kimbrel on the team it further opens up the possibility Osuna comes in as a candidate to start next spring. That's a lot of potential good out of this deal.

Castro + Boyd + Reid-Foley + something like Urena maybe? You might have to such it up and inclde Sanchez instead of Castro. It would be worth it.

The key might be whether or not they can get someone to take Shields - which would relieve the salary crunch without making Kimbrel an issue. Here's hoping!






Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Fun With Arbitrary End Points

This idea's been knocking around in my head for a couple of weeks or more and I've put it off, reluctant to do the drudge work necessary to parse the stats. But the trade-fever is rising to acquire pitching, almost certainly a starter, and with Mike Wilner's column Monday providing renewed inspiration, I took some time this evening to dig into the idea. What you are about to read is going to be rife with caveats, but that's okay because I'm not trying to be exact here but rather just give an overview of a general idea that you might have sensed but been sure about.

With time perhaps tthe impression has faded for many, but I noted before in this space (about halfway into the season) that there's a distinct difference between the performance of the team over the first 40 games, and thereafter. Coming into Tuesday night's game the team has played 94games which creates some convenient points of reference. Forty games - not mathematically 1/4 of the season but as close as you can get in whole games - followed by 54 games, 1/3 of a season. There's a big difference between the two. Why did I pick that date? If you're a regular reader (hey you two!) you can possibly guess. The 40th game was the one that the Jays surprised team watchers by inserting Todd Redmond into the rotation for one start to give the rest of the rotation a day of rest. It's hard to claim, of course, that this act had any direct impact at all for more than 10 days or so, but nevertheless, the numbers are striking.

Let's also distinguish that I'm not talking about the hitters here. Through 40 games, the Jays averaged 5.25 runs per game, since then it's climbed to 5.33 runs per game. Up, but not enough to point to any sort of trend. And with that, Caveat #1: This is going to be all about what are commonly called Arbitrary End Points (AEP) - primarily that one AEP on May 18. However, it's not quite as useless as that might make it seem because it's a straight "before and after" look at samples of significant size, it's not like saying "if you took out this bit and that bit then..." (although there are two minor points where I notice something by doing that further down). I believe ther is value in noting a "turning point" either for the good or the bad - you just can't get carried away with it. There's also value, in my opinion, in noticing if a player was very good most of the time but had one wee or 10 days or whatever when he went sideways. For example, that whole business about how Marco Estrada sucked last year? Yeah - for about 3 weeks. He got absolutely rocked for a short period, including a huge chunk of the homers he allowed, and outside of that stretch was just the same as he'd been all along. I think noting that was predictive of what we could expect this year.

This entry is about pitching. I'm not going to argue that I know why the breakdown looks like this, or that it's anything other than random in terms of which AEP you might have chosen. But it exists. In the first 40 games, they were 18-22 and since then, coming into the Oakland series, they've gone 29-25, and when you see these numbers you'll be scratching your head that the latter isn't way better.  What you are about to see has great risk of being presented in a confusing way, but hopefully I can organize it reasonably well. There will be two major sets of stats, obviously, separating the Starters from the Bullpen - with only Estrada making this difficult. I'll sort him out though. Another caveat: ERA is a bit of a blunt instrument, there are other stats of the sort that inform xFIP for example, which get more precisely to the quality of pitching, but for an overview like this, ERA will do.





The Jay's starting set has been remarkably stable this year. Three have made every turn of the rotation, Norris gave way to Estrada who's been a rock, and Sanchez is the one injury which triggered a revolving door which has not produced good results. What I've done, then, is charted  the five who held their job on quality as a separate set from those who did not hold on (and Doubront who seems destined to lose out to whomever is acquired). This also allows me to distinguish those who pitched on both sides of the AEP from those who haven't. Before you read further, do be aware I've caught myself in several minor errors already (like failing to remember Doubront had a bullpen appearance) so if you spot an error, don't be stunned (as if...).

First set. The first column of numbers is their ERA through May 18, and the second column is their ERA since.  Then a column with IP and ER before, and one with those after the AEP, and finally a column with IP per start before and one after. Note that Estrada did some quality relief work before moving into the rotation, the stat you see represents only his starts.The bullpen work will come later.


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NameERA BeforeERA AfterIP ' ER BeforeIP ' ER AfterIP/G BeforeIP/G After
Buehrle5.362.0647 ' 2874.1 ' 175.887.41
Hutchison6.174.5242.1 ' 2961.2 ' 315.295.61
Dickey5.763.9550 ' 3270.2 ' 316.256.42
Estrada5.523.114.2 ' 1069.2 ' 244.896.33
Sanchez4.262.5738 ' 1828 ' 85.437
Total5.443.28192 ' 116304.33 ' 1115.496.48




Now here's a chart for the short-term guys


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NameERA BeforeERA AfterIP ' ER BeforeIP ' ER AfterIP/G BeforeIP/G After
Copeland
6.46
15.1 ' 11
5.11
Boyd
14.85
6.2 ' 11
3.33
Doubront
4.63
11.2 ' 6
5.83
Norris3.86
23.1 ' 10
4.67
Total3.868.8123.1 ' 1033.66 ' 304.674.81



And finally, the total for all starters:




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All Starters5.273.79215.1 ' 126337.33 ' 1425.386.25

Now, even in the totals it's striking. Over a run and a half down in Starters ERA, almost a full inning better in IP per start. But if you filter out the failure to thrive threesome in Sanchez's spot (7 starts) along with Norris (just to be fair), then the ERA swing is a fat 2.16 down, and the IP per start gets even better. To put these in some context, here's a list of AL teams ranked by starter's ERA on the season. Obviously the comparison is imperfect, since they are not split the same way the Jays' numbers are, but I'm not trying to prove where they rank since May 18, just giving you an idea where these numbers would rank if they'd been doing this all year.

Oakland - 3.00
TB - 3.42
LA - 3.56
Seattle - 3.80
Minnesota - 3.83
Houston - 3.97
Chicago - 4.00
Cleveland - 4.12
Baltimore - 4.22
NY - 4.22
Texas - 4.26
KC - 4.33
Toronto - 4.35
Detroit - 4.52
Boston - 4.84

So they are ranked 13th out of 15 right now, but if they'd done all year what they've done in the past 54 games, they would rank 4th - and if you take just the front five guys over that span they have the second best ERA on the list. Pretty remarkable, yes? One more tidbit on the starters. If you take the moment when their ERA peaked and they started trending downward, you of course come up with different dates for each of the main 5 guys, but it's noticeable how close they are (relative to the 5 day turn through the rotation) to that May 18 AEP.
On May 12 Buehrle peaked at 5.54, he's totaled 2.30 since (less if you factor in his shutting down Oakland tonight but I didn't).
Hutchison peaked on May 3 at 7.47, since then it's been 4.21
Dickey peaked at 5.77 on May 26, since it's been 3.49
Estrada doesn't fit well since his ERA was never again close to what it was after his first start on May 5, it's trended downward with a steady pacesince.
And Sanchez splits exactly with the AEP.


Sane treatment on the bullpen. This time it divides neatly into two groups again, those with 15+ IP (as relievers) who just so happen to all have pitched on both sides of the AEP, and those with less who only pitched on one side of the line. Noticeably, the first group represents the current seven pitchers in the bullpen, plus Todd Redmond who's at the fulcrum of this analysis. The one exception to my methods here is that I failed to distinguish Redmond's start from his relief work, but by the time I realized what I'd done all the charts were finished and I was well into this commentary, and damned if I'm going to go back and adjust all those figures. Just know that the pre-AEP starters figures, collectively, will go up just a bit more, and the pre-AEP bullpen figure for Redmond will too (I know it's weird but Redmond's first two bullpen appearances were so bad that a bad start still pulled it down some, meanwhile the collective bullpen figure in the "before" column will get just a bit better.


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NameERA BeforeERA AfterIP ' ER BeforeIP ' ER After
Osuna0.863.4321 ' 221 ' 8
Schultz
1.85
24.1 ' 5
Hendricks3.632.4917.1 ' 721.2 ' 6
Cecil3.465.2913 ' 517 ' 10
Loup6.284.1214.1 ' 1019.2 ' 9
Delebar1.84.265 ' 119 ' 9
Tepera4.262.196.1 ' 312.1 ' 3
Redmond11.882.358.1 ' 118 ' 2
15+ IP4.113.2785.1 ' 39143 ' 52

Notice that Osuna actually went up, as did Cecil and Delebar the collective total is still striking. Almost two full runs difference. Speaking of Cecil and Delebar, the latter's second section ERA was a sterling 1.81 until July got here, three recent rough outings ballooned it and puts him on the bubble as a candidate to farm out when Sanchez is activated. Cecil has an even more interesting, to me, story. For one week, June 15-21, he fell apart, giving up 8 ER in 2.1 IP over 3 appearances. Without those his ERA in the second column would be 1.23 and lest we leave him out, if Aaron Loup had called in sick on June 20, his second column figure would be 2.84 so...not going to guess what's up with Delebar because the blow-up is recent, but these guys are not as bad as their results, and that's before you add in Sanchez.

Unlike with the starters, the short-term guys really don't bust up that trend.


-->
NameERA BeforeERA AfterIP ' ER BeforeIP ' ER After
Francis6.75
12 ' 9
Castro4.38
12.1 ' 6
Estrada0.84
10.2 ' 1
Hynes6.00
3 ' 2
Albers3.38
2.2 ' 1
Jenkins4.50
2 ' 1
Coke
3.382.2 ' 1
Doubront
3.86
2.1 ' 1
Rasmussen
0.001 ' 0
others >4.223.0042.2 ' 206 ' 2

The thing that jumps out at you here is the IP totals. Over 1 IP per team by a shuttle pitcher in the first set of games, less than 7 IP in 54 games since. That's called stabilizing, folks, and it shows up in the results. Almost a ran and a quarter lower in collective ERA in this group. Here's the bullpen totals:


-->
Bullpen >4.153.26128 ' 59149 ' 54

Almost two full runs better, and not surprising given what the starters did, 3.2 bullpen innings per game in the first split, 2.76 in the second.  Those ERAs look good compared to the league too. The collective bullpen ERA in the last 54 games, if it were for the season, would land the Blue Jays 5th, just ahead of the Yankees.

Finally then, the totals for the whole team, before and after:


-->
Total > 4.853.63343.1 ' 185486.1 ' 196

How does that play against the league?  That 3.63 nestles between Baltimore (3.73) and Tampa Bay (3.59) for 6th in the AL and for love of 1/10th of a run, tonight's effort by Buehrle might have put them in second place (#1 is Oakland at 3.35 followed by the Angels at 3.52).  The major point of all this is when you hear broadcasters or journalists say "the Jays have some bad pitching" - they really don't. The HAD some bad pitching, over the first six weeks of the season. Since then they've had perfectly reasonable pitching on the whole.

How then to reconcile this with Wilner's description of how the bullpen has somehow managed to lose games at a higher rate than they should have? If you haven't read it, go do so for context, but the basic idea is that they pitched really well in low leverage outing but sucked in high leverage situations. Wilner reports accurately that the Jays lead the majors with 15 blown saves, so let's start there. But that will have to wait until next time, because sorting that out pre- and post-AEP is too big a chore to begin at 3 AM.

Addindum

After another long session with Baseball Reference while listening to the Jays and A's I'm prepared to say a little something about Wilner's reporting on how much trouble the Blue Jays bullpen has had in high leverage situations. I didn't bother to try and re-create his reporting or be more clever than BR in terms of what qualifies as high-leverage. Rather I just wanted to see it for myself and I needed some sort of measure to quantify what I'd seen. So what I decided was to look at every situation in which a Toronto reliever pitched when the score was within 1 run either way (or tied of course) and how these turned out. I'm not entirely comfortable with the method because if, for example, three pitchers throw 3 innings of relief while tied and the third one give up a homer, the first two actually did their job. But this is more about collective results and the finer the detail, the longer it would take me to parse out.
ETA: Tonight's extra inning loss is a good example. It was both a success and a failure. Osuna gave up the game winner in a tie game, however,4 relievers combined to throw 3 shutout innings while the team was down a run, or tied. The reports will say the bullpen blew the game, but that won't do justice to the good work they did to stay close. That's where those stats Wilner cited work better.

So what I found was that in 34 games so far, such a situation occurred. and the Blue Jays only won 11 of those. In 10 of those games, the bullpen did it's job and four times the Jays lost anyway (situations where they were 1 run down), while 24 times they failed, but in five of those the hitters bailed them out. That's just awful and honestly, it defies reason given the overall quality of the players involved. In reference to my AEP, 12 of these cases occurred during that first 40 games and the bullpen failed in nine of those. Six of those nine were at least partially the fault of Castro or Francis but that's all that can be taken as a "positive" from this period.

Since the AEP, the success/failure record is 7-15 which is some better but still not good, but to introduce another AEP, since June 1 (the win streak started the next day) it's been 6-8 which is more reasonable. Honestly, I'm not really sure what would be considered an acceptable rate in a profile like this so I'm just defaulting mentally to .500 as a point of reference - which means over the last seven weeks they were only one game below where you might reasonably ask them to be.Still, on the season, if you expected a .500 record that would mean that, setting aside the 4 games they were already behind, and the 5 the won anyway, they might have won 6 or 7 more games than they have. If you do the same but disregard the games before the AEP, they might have won 3-4 more since then than they have (again, disregarding the Oakland ongoing series). Four more wins and they would be a game and a half behind the Yankees right now.

Another remarkable aspect of all this: Who among the relievers is considered by everyone to be the single most reliable reliever we have? Osuna right? Yet Osuna has been involved in more of those 24 failures - eight - than any other member of the 'pen (and also involved in six of the successes). Cecil is next with six (4 of the successes), Loup five (4), and Castro four (1)...and on the other side, Delebar was involved in only one of the failures, but in four of the successes. Which brings me to the one big take-away from all this drudgery: You can't just assume that adding any given pitcher will fix the problem because it's a problem that really shouldn't even exist. If your best reliever is involved in more failures than anyone else, and you trust him - as you should! - then how can you say of any pitcher you might add that such events won't happen to him?

This all strikes me as akin to the annual examination of records in 1 run games. You can certainly wise it were better, if it's bad - but if it's bad that doesn't necessarily prove you're doing anything wrong. All you can really do is hope the scales eventually balance.



Monday, 20 July 2015

Well, Sanchez is ...huh?

So, with news breaking this afternoon that Aaron Sanchez will be returning from the DL in a relief role, it's an obvious motivation to speculate like mad. And being as it's me were talking about, I never say in 500 words what I can say in 3,000 so...

First off, Evan noted at BlueJaysPlus, there's really only three basic potential explanations, but I want to dig a bit into the nuances of this and maybe add a 4th by the time I'm done. Kinda.

His first possibility is that the Jays are sold on Felix Doubront. Pretty much no one thinks this is the case, but there's an alternate version of this possibility that I'll get back to. His second possibility is that the Blue Jays have lost confidence in Sanchez as a starter. Again, this is inconceivable so there's no point in lingering long over it right this second. Third, and the assumption that's on everyone's mind, is that there's a trade coming. But don't assume that means it's coming any minute even if it is.

Sanchez will throw again for Buffalo on Tuesday, and , they say, be called up "late in the week" (safe money would be on Friday for the opening of the Seattle series. Meanwhile, the Jays spurned the chance to slid the 5th starter slot back by using the off day tomorrow, so Wednesday at Oakland rather than Saturday at Seattle. In so doing Doubront's next turn would fall on next Monday - also an off day - and who knows if they would hold the pattern and refuse to skip him.  That might depend on Wednesday. Thing is, that next Monday is the 27th, just four days before the deadline. So by staying with Dourbront for now they are really only committing to one more start, against a losing team in a pitcher friendly stadium and...one other thing I'll get back to.

Now, as you might recall, if the Blue Jays decide not to keep Doubront in the majors, they will almost certainly lose him since he has no options left and won't make it through waivers. So if they cut bait now, unless they want to cram him into the 'pen they lose an asset, and he's certainly no guarantee to work out well in the bullpen. On top of that, there's not a lot of flexibility in the rest of the rotation. Buehrle and Dickey are absolute locks (the latter, despite my mockery, has been better than fine for over six weeks now) and Marco Estrada removed whatever doubt anyone may have had about his role by outpitching Chris Archer today. That leaves only Drew Hutchison, who's an ace at home and trash on the road. They may tinker with his turns to get him more home starts (I doubt it) but there's no indication he'll be off to Buffalo or the 'pen anytime soon. So there's that one spot to mess with.


Now consider - let's say the Blue Jays do, in fact, swing a deal for a very-good-to-great SP, and you already put Doubront on waivers in order to let Sanchez start....one game. Maybe two. Then he's off to the 'pen anyway (because he addresses a real need there, as opposed to the net loss of demoting Hutch). That's not really how Alex Anthopoulos rolls. On the other hand, if Doubront starts and pitches well, he might help leverage a trade or be dealt in a smaller deal (don't scoff, look what we paid for Danny Valencia). If he blows up, well, just as easy to waive him 10 days later. If Sanchez got that start and is great, it's harder to ask him to move to the 'pen, if he's rocked, it hurts his confidence which now, based on the run up to his injury, has to be high. Finally, if not trade can be finalized, the gap is short enough they can always ditch Felix on August 1 and give the job back to Sanchez without much issue.


Looking ahead to Sanchez in the bullpen, Gibby said not to expect him in high leverage situations right away (and if you want to keep him available to go back to the rotation, what beter way than a few 2-3 inning outings over the next couple of weeks?) but you know that's the plan. Sanchez circa 2014 setting up Osuna has a distinct whiff of Ward/Henke from where I sit. Throw in Bo, Tepera (who deserves your respect!) and Hendricks in the 6th/7th and you can be selective with Cecil and Loup (who are both better than you think). Not to disrespect Delebar (and I have a hunch the will stockpile Tepera in Buffalo rather than demote Delebar - or go with 8 - when Sanchez is activated) who's no car crash by any means. People can look at whole season stats and moan all they want, that's already a solid 'pen (worrisome only in that there are 3-4 key guys doing it at the major league level for the first time) and a damned respectable one when you add Sanchez. Whatever might be said of that rotation spot, Sanchez will help the 'pen as much as any potential acquisition not named Chapman.

But here's the thing niggling my brain, and maybe it's just because I've been lusting after this guy as a trade target, but there's an interesting confluence of events here.As you know the Jays visit Oakland starting on Tuesday. Who's starting for the A's on Thursday but one Scott Kazmir. Trade candidate. 
Very. Desirable. Trade Candidate.

In my feeble recollection, I'm not aware of very many high profile players dealt just in time to face the team that just traded them. But what if, when the Jays flew home from the coast, Kazmir was on the plane? Or at least, what if Alex was working on making that happen knowing the A's wouldn't close a deal before Friday? Because these are the A's who have used Jesse Chavez as a pretty important SP for a few years now...so what if Alex wants to let Oakland get a first hand look at what Doubront can do in anticipation of offering him in the deal as a non-rookie option to slot into Kazmir's spot?  Don't get me wrong, Felix would have only a small marginal value in the deal but if he makes it easier at all that's a plus. Heck, apart from persuing Kazmir, if the Jays do have to try and squeeze value out of FD after a trade for whomever, Oakland is just the sort of team that might be interested so showcase him.

So I can definitely see an angle here, as much as it worries me Sanchez will be so good that the team will get fuzzy-headed and want to keep him in the 'pen long term. And speaking of the long term, consider this - if the Blue Jays do add a rental starter, potentially 4 out of 5 members of their rotation in October (shaddap) will be pending free agents.  Then follows a winter of hand-wringing about the Blue Jays need to add veteran leadership or whatever, but I'm looking forward to the best 5 out of Stroman, Sanchez, Osuna, Norris,  Hoffman, Hutchinson, and Boyd filling those slots. I'm not sure I want a lesser guy who brings only 10 years of experience tying up one of those spots. Unless maybe it was Kazmir. ;) Thought for the record, I'd absolutely put a QO on Buehrle and wouldn't be unhappy if he accepted it.  Okay, got it. Rambling now. Anyway, in less than 2 weeks we'll know something.







Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Monthly Prospect Progress and Stuff (4/5)

I know what you are thinking - didn't you just write far too many words about prospects? Yes, my last entry was indeed a farm related post (mostly) but that was a ranking reflecting adjustments to the off-season list based on over half a season of work in 2015. The monthly isn't so much about ranking but taking note of who's hot, or not, that deserves a mention as well as assorted player movement and such like.

Speaking of - various reports on Tuesday confirmed that, as predicted last week, Jeff Hoffman is moving up to AA and will start for the Fisher Cats on Friday. More on that in a bit. Hoffman is, of course, all tangled up in trade speculation as the deadline approaches in just over two weeks. The debate rages about the balance between giving up the long-term return on blue chip prospects against the games - and potential playoff games - that can be won by acquiring a premium talent with said prospects. On one hand, it's certain the Blue Jays have to make SOME move this month, and more than just a minor deal for a Danny Valencia-type. It boggles the mind how the fan base might react if they stand pat or, worse, fold their tent. But at the same time, every start by RA Dickey that's not ace-level serves as a cautionary tale about what they might have had in Noah Syndergaard. A Sportsnet poll question asked whether you'd give up Jeff Hoffman for Johnny Cueto (who's set to be a free agent at the end of the season. My answer is that unless I intend to get him under contract before he ever hits the market (and with the Jays' 5-Year limit that's not even a pipe-dream) then no, I don't.  Flags fly forever but Cueto alone, as good as he is, doesn't guarantee a flag. Not Norris either though he has more potential to not pan out.

I know it takes value to get value so here's my list of available players with, in my opinion, top trade appeal.
Sean Reid-Foley
Miguel Castro
Richard Ureana
Max Pentacost (value down, can't be centerpiece at this point)
Matt Smoral (ditto, and for the same reason)
Matt Boyd
Alberto Tirado
Clint Hollon 
Dawel Lugo (stats aren't much, scouts really like the potential though)
Jario Labourt (impressed on the big stage Sunday)

Not all of these guys are centerpiece types of course, but could, for example, Reid-Foley, Lugo and Labourt get you Matt Latos? Yeah, and it might be an overpay, maybe get them to kick in former Jays prospect Sam Dyson or go for closer AJ Ramos while you're at it. Alex Anthopoulos insisted rental players with no control after this season were his last option, but that's what dominates the SP market and it will take some of his best magic to go get a top-end SP with control.  It might also mean persuading ownership to take on Cole Hamel's contract or whatever part of it the Phillies will not carry (and assuming you can convince him to waive his NTC) and even if you can do that, you get even more complex negotiations depending on the amount of cash changing hands.

Beyond Hamels, there's Tyson Ross in San Diego (yes please!) or maybe Andrew Cashner aaaand...who? Maybe Mike Fiers, but with 4 years control he shouldn't be on the market. Interestingly, Cashner has an xFIP of 3.70 and our own Drew Hutchinson has an xFIP of 3.78 - if we could get the on field results to match that figure in the second half it would make a big ol' difference. And yes, as I mentioned last week, if someone like the Reds looked at that figure and decided it represented the true Drew and accounted him that trade value, yes, I'd put him in the deal because of all our young pitching assets, he's burned the most control and has the lowest ceiling.


Now, about those minor leagues...

There's not a lot of news out of Buffalo in terms of prospecting. The continued tease that is Daniel Norris continues, for the second time he's been one-more-good-start from getting the call and had the ball bounce away from him. Alex defended his July 1 outing, pointing out the weather led to a lot of bad breaks - but Sunday's game was ugly ever how you parse it. On the offensive side, 3B/1B Matt Hague continues to pound on the door to a crowded room, but there's also Sean Ochinko. The back-up catcher, in 83 AB over 23 GP between May 19 and July 8 hit .386 with a .961 OPS. He'd be starting if the Jays didn't need Josh Thole's bat to stay active (as if...)

In New Hampshire, it's all about Dalton Pompey until the Blue Jays decide he's safe to move up. I'm wondering how much more Ezequiel Carrera they can deal with myself. Also have to take notice of reliever Danny Barnes who's proven himself worthy of promotion if they can find room among the old-timers.

Looking at Dunedin there's the remarkable Alford and Tellez show though it's only 17 games, there's no reason to think either is a SS illusion in terms of talent. The other story offensively is that Mitch Nay, who'd begun to make a few folks invoke then name "Ahrens" finally woke up on June 25 and has been mostly on fire since. He's hit .393 over those 61 at bats - and drawn 7 walks - while running up a .981 OPS, but he didn't hit a single homer over that hot stretch and that's still something the team is looking for. There's not to much on the pitching side to note that hasn't already been said in the previous column, but I'll tip my metaphorical cap to unheralded to Jeremy Gebryszwski who's put up an ERA of 2.48 over his last five appearances with 23 K's against 4 walks in 29 innings. Fact is, the 2011 2nd round pick has only had 2 truly bad starts this year, without those his ERA is 2.80 with good supporting numbers. He's probably as good as most of the guys who've gotten starts in New Hampshire.

In the Lansing rotation, the top remaining performer is Shane Dawson who won't be back until the men's baseball team at the Pan-Am games wraps up, almost certainly on July 19. He stands as the most obvious candidate to be promoted to Dunedin to take over Jeff Hoffman's vacated slot. Next in line is Jesus Tinoco, who's quietly avoided the control issues that hit some of the other young Latin players in the system when they got to full season ball. If there's a guy that a lot of folks are sleeping on on the full season teams, it's Tinoco. Still, the Jays may prefer to move him a bit slower and wait a few more weeks to move him up. He's only 20. There are 3 or 4 relievers worthy of promotion here too. On offense, it's all about Ryan McBroom but with Tellez and Dean both sucking up AB in Dunedin, there's nowhere for him to go.

In Vancouver, if the chain reaction effect takes Dawson to Dunedin the next link in the chain is Clinton Hollon who's shown himself capable of stepping up to Lansing. I'd be shocked if he wasn't there before August (unless he's part of a trade). 2015 draftee Jon Harris will likely move too at some point but probably not for another month or so. Other than those two, and recovering Ryan Borucki, there's not much to talk about at this level. Oh, and recently drafted RP Travis Bergen is off to a hot start.

Continuing the theme of chain-reaction promotions, my pick for Bluefield is Juliandry Higuera. He's been by far the best pitcher for the Appy League team and in the discussion for best in the league. CF Rodrigo Orzoco is hitting well enough to get noticed too, head and shoulders betterthan the other full-time guys.

Finally in the GCL, the last link in the chain is the 2015 draftee that has opened everyone's eyes, Jose Espada. If my chain-promotion theory is right he's the clear choice to move up. Offensively, 33rd rounder Kalik May is lapping the field but recently signed steal Reggie Pruitt hasn't missed a beat and either or both are worthy of consideration to move up.I expect both in Bluefield in short order.


Friday, 10 July 2015

Mid-Season(ish) Prospect Ranking & Stuff

So. Back to .500 - le sigh. They will be more than a little fortunate to not fall below by the time the sun sets on Sunday. 
 Aaaaaanyway...

The stuff I mentioned in the title being some interesting correlation of pitching news this week. Both Daniel Norris and Jeff Hoffman pitched on Tuesday night and pitched well, more on both of them when I get to the list. Felix Dourbront pitched well for the Jays, but we've seen the "kick-ass in your first game" phenomena twice before so we need to see what he does in KC on Sunday to begin to get a read. Meanwhile, Alex Sanchez made his first rehab outing in the GCL hours before those other games and threw 2 innings. Alex Anthopoulos was on the radio the next day and reported no difficulties. He said Alex would pitch again on three days rest and then go on a regular starter's 5th day rotation.  While some may speculate that he might not need a long re-hab, I'm sure he'll get one and here's why.

There's only one start left in his turn before the break which obviously he's not going to make, and after that the team doesn't absolutely have to have a fifth starter until July 25 which is right at the end of the 20 days he's allowed to stay on re-hab assignment. He'll have 4 starts, if all goes well, under his belt by then but that day wouldn't fall on his turn. Which means he can either go on the 26th at Seattle, bumping Estrada (at least temporarily) or he can skip the long plane ride  - which only makes sense given the nature of his injury - and start on the 28th in Philadelphia. The answer seems obvious. Technically it might be a day or two after that depending on hos the team wants to sort out the rest schedule for the other four but you get the idea.   Of course, other roster machinations flow from this too. No later than that point they'll need a read on Doubront who'll surely be lost if they try to demote him. The trade picture will be much clearer, the endurance of Marco Estrada vs. his value in the 'pen vs. the progress of Daniel Norris will have more data. Plus two of Hutchinson's next three are on the road which...yeah...about that.

Drew Hutchinson has insane splits this year in just about every way you can split stats and one of those is that he's aces at home, and an abomination on the road. There is, in my opinion, a very real possibility that if he doesn't pitch in a most excellent fashion, consistently, and quick, he could find himself in Buffalo (or traded if anyone will count him as valuable) before July is done.  And despite the respectable FIP/xFIP numbers (he leads Blue Jays starters in both), it would be hard to object.
(I wrote that in my first draft before Wednesday's start against the punchless White Sox and...no progress on the bottom line, though the rain contributed to a couple of runs that might not otherwise have scored so maybe he gets a mulligan from the F.O.)

The real problem with the rotation is Dickey but whatchagonnado? (I'm aware he did well against the Sox but the peripheral trend is very troubling as others have noted)

Anyway, on to the rankings.

There is more witchcraft that science to someone like me, who is neither a trained scout nor at the games, ranking prospects in the best of times. I base my lists on what I read elsewhere and hold the conceit that possibly the way that I integrate that stream of info will produce something that maybe passes along to you something you didn't already know from having read all the same sources yourself - along with an ego-stroking opinion of my own...opinions. But another big part of that sauce is the stats and scouting the minors via stats can be a fool's errand because you don't know whether the team has a player purposely working on some task rather than striving for the best statistical bottom line. Worse, the short-season teams have only been playing for 3 weeks or less.Which means the potential for sample-size error is too great to even do that (not that I don't occasionally overlook that principle). In short, I do this mostly because I like making lists and I like it when on occasion I'm the first one you heard pimping a particular guy, not to be authoritative.

The list is 30 names, with sporadic commentary, and a handful of names to watch at the end.

1. Jeff Hoffman (RHP) - with all due respect to #2, this is the guy who was under consideration for 1:1 with how he'd recover his stuff and I'm satisfied that answer is positive. I'm expecting that after Sunday's game, he's likely done in Dunedin. The story all along has been that he'd move fairly quickly and the mid-season break seems a natural time to take the next step.
2. Daniel Norris (LHP) - Had possibly his best AAA game this year on Tuesday, and has been under control more often than not for 7 starts now. Will surely get at least two more turns and needs to keep his focus while he waits for roster maneuverings to play out over the rest of the month.
3. Dalton Pompey (CF) - Killing it in AA, at some point he'll get kicked back to Buffalo for another test there. With Pillar's recent success the Jays won't feel rushed, unless Saunders has another setback and which...has anyone heard anything new on him? Maybe I assume too much.
4. Anthony Alford (CF) - seemingly the more he's challenged, the better he gets. At this point I wouldn't even be mildly shocked if he were a September call up next year. If not before.
5. Vlad Guerrero, Jr (OF) - Maybe I'm running high on him here, particularly given he lacks some of his dad's defensive promise, but I'm giddy on him.
6. Miguel Castro (RHP) - there's maybe a little hiccup at Buffalo for some reason, possibly a self-imposed pressure thing, possibly it's a BABiP thing I'm unaware of, but  there's still so much to love here. I'm rooting for him to do well either to be a key component of the upcoming trade, or to show enough in the major league 'pen to give the Jays the option to work Osuna as a rotation candidate next Spring.
7. Sean Reid-Foley (RHP) - Another guy who's become a serious potential trade chip. He's still a bit wild, but for a 19 year old high school pitcher drafted last June, it's hard to ask for more progress. If he's still in the system on August 1, look for the Jays to slow him down until he refines his walk rate a bit.
8. Max Pentecost (C) - been a while since we had a report but barring a setback, he should be close to getting back into real games.
9. Richard Urena (SS) - Unexpected power surge in Lansing joined a solid average and sterling defense, but the BB/K ratio shows there's still work to do. Promotion to Dunedin as much about Lugo's struggles needing relief as Urena forcing their hand.  Still, he's in the Toip 10 for a reason.
10. Jon Harris (RHP) - he's no Hoffman but he was a steal where he was drafted and he was described as a polished guy who'd move fast.
11. Rowdy Tellez (1B) - I've been the high one on this guy from day one (and no it has almost nothing to do with his being named "Rowdy"). He was having trouble getting his doubles over the fence over his last month in Lansing but the Jays saw reason to promote him and he's proven that wise so far.
12. DJ Davis (CF) - OTOH, I punished him hard for his abysmal 2014 but he's turned it around nicely this year. He still needs a lot more polish but you can at least see what the Jays were thinking now.
13. Matt Smoral (LHP) - clinging to this spot more for lack of others blowing by him than anything. In danger of having injuries knock him out of the top 20. Needs to get, and stay, on the field.
14. Matt Boyd (LHP) - I had him at 28 coming into the season, a noticeable and unexpected uptick in velocity, and the results that followed, shoved him towards the top. Viable trade candidate. If he handles AAA as he did AA, might climb another couple of spots by season's end.
15. Alberto Tirado (RHP) - wilder, still, than you'd like, particularly since the team resolved to let him pitch in relief all year in order to make some progress. Hard to hit stuff, but needs fewer walks.
16. Clint Hollon (RHP) - like Hoffman, recovering from TJS, he started the year with Vancouver's season opener and has been well ahead of league hitters. My guess is that when Hoffman moves up and another Lansing starter goes to Dunedin (there are two solid candidates) that Hollon is Lansing bound after his start upcoming on Monday.
17. Dawel Lugo (SS) - He wasn't an accomplished hitter in Lansing last year, but pressure from Urena and the team's apparent impression with his tools pushed him up to Dunedin to start this season. That didn't work out and he pretty completely failed the challenge. Scouts still report the potential is there but the team is clearly going to have to go a lot slower with him.
18. Jario Labourt (LHP) - Control issues continue to plague the big lefty. The Jays thought he could handle Dunedin coming out of Spring but the hits are up, the strikeouts are down and the walks are intolerably high. in all but 2 of his first 12 games it appeared he had made a step forward on that issue, but over his last 5 starts the wheels really came off. First the walks went back up and then, while he corralled that he started getting hit around. He's said to be a hard worker and good student so possibly he can find the handle again soon. But he'll need some consistency.
19. Mitch Nay (3B) - he's trying the patience of a lot of people at this point. Jays people said earlier in the year that they had him working on some things and they were confident his power would come. Well it ain't came yet. He homered in back-to-back games May 17-18, and only 2 times since. He's only just not got his batting average to .250 for the first time this year, and it took a torrid 15 for 31 streak over his last eight games to do that.
20. Lane Thomas (2B) - can field several positions, they are using him exclusively at 2B so far, and while he's off to a slow start the SS factor keeps me from worrying.

21. Jesus Tinoco (RHP) - Doing all you'd want a 20 year old Latin pitcher to do in A ball. On his way up.
22. Dwight Smith, Jr. (LF) - really very ordinary season and he didn't have a big margin with me.
23. Matt Dean (1B) - Like Nay, he's shown less power than he needs to if he's o be highly regarded.
24. Brady Singer (RHP) - the second player drafted by the Jays in 2015 remains unsigned, though everyone says he will.
25. Nick Wells (LHP) - 3rd round pick from 2014, still in short-season ball.
26. Connor Greene (RHP) - one of the "punt" picks in 2013, just before Kendell Graveman, recently earned a mid-season promotion to Dunedin.
27. Justin Maese (RHP) - this years 3rd rounder, just assigned to the GCL last week.
28. Carl Wise (3B) - waited on his Visa at Bluefield before moving up to the VanCans. Shows they consider the 4th rounder from this year fairly polished.
29. Shane Dawson (LHP) - Owned the Midwest league for much of this year, worthy of promotion but something's going on - he missed time without public explanation lately.[Edit: Per Mike Wilner, Jeff Francis in Buffalo was placed on the "Temporarily Inactive List" in order to play for Team Canada - one may easily assume that's what is going on with Dawson]
30. Roemon Fields (CF) - Tim Raines says he's the best fielding and running CF in the system. He's probably always going to be a fringy hitter but he impressed them enough in Dunedin to get the promotion to AA when Alford moved up to High-A. In a tiny sample he's off to a hot start with the bat at his new level.

Here are some other names from further down my list that I'm keeping a particular eye on.

Ryan Broucki and Tom Robson, two SP coming off injury who are considered legitimate prospects
Danny Jansen, catcher, was considered one to watch out of spring, before he started slow and then got hurt - no idea on the timetable for a return.
John Stilson - like Smoral, he needs to stay healthy, and maybe has even less chance of doing so.
Reggie Pruitt - the draftee they supposedly couldn't sign and did
Danny Barnes - you don't usually pay too much attention to effective minor league relievers but I have a hunch about this guy.
Juliandry Higurea - not considered a big win when he was signed as an IFA but in the early going at Bluefield he's been excellent, and was so before that in the DSL. Plus, I have it in my head he's Teddy Higuera's kid (I can't confirm that - need to get JSG to ask the Blefield broadcaster about that sometime. Teddy was a favorite of mine back in the day.

Why do these things always get so LONG? At least that explains why it takes me three days to finish one.