Thursday, 2 July 2015

Notes of Interest

While I prepare to update my top prospect list at mid-season (technically not mid-season for the prospects - that was a couple of weeks ago - but I tend to wait until after the July 2 international signing date passes) hopefully this weekend, and the 3/5 Farm Report (before the ASB) there are some news and notes items I wanted to throw out, some of them particularly since a couple of the bloggers who usually provide regular updates are gallivanting around Europe somewhere.

Item: Shi Davidi reports AA went to Buffalo to watch Daniel Norris tonight, given that the lefty is under consideration for a spot start in Chicago on July 8. Turns out Norris didn't (likely) impress the boss, giving up six runs, four earned, in 7 IP - more tellingly, AA commented to the press that when Norris was on, he'd strike out a batter an inning and not work so hard to paint corners and get ground balls - even if it meant walking some. Apparently no one told Norris. He walked only 2, which is excellent for him...but only struck out one.  No word on what Alex thought of what he saw yet, often the stat line doesn't tell the story. Norris may yet get that call.

Item: in the same scrum AA spoke optimistically of the potential to get Miguel Castro back to the bigs.He's looked outstanding so far in Dunedin but in only two appearances. Shi implied (from AA or his own sources is uncertain) that Castro was "due for a promotion soon" to either AA or AAA. Alex suggested that adding internal reinforcements would allow him to focus trade efforts on the rotation.

Item: speaking of said rotation, a update on a figure I've mentioned before. In their first 40 games (18-22, .450) the Blue Jays allowed 196 runs - 4.9 per game. In the 40 games since, they've allowed 145 - 3.625 per game. For comparison purposes, the second best pitching staff in the AL, the Tampa Bay Rays, have allowed 3.6 runs per game on the season.

Item: On Thursday we will learn, presumably, if we were informed correctly that Vlad Guerrero Jr. (i.e. VGJ) will become a member of the Jays organization, and whether they will be left with any money to sign anyone else (or, indeed, forfeit future opportunities). There's a reason I waited on that list.

Item: Justin Smoak might actually be pretty darn good. After today's two homer effort his slash lines are up to .261/.336/.51/.849 which, with all due respect, John Gibbons might want to reconsider the Navarro love-fest? Since coming off the DL Navarro is putting up an OPS of .653 - I'm just sayin' (love ya Gibby!)

Item: speaking of maybe being good, Kevin Pillar finishes June hitting .380/.394/.550/.944 which, yeah, it's just a month but it sure makes up for May (speaking of which, his bad month was actually a bad 18 games in 19 days. His current hot run actually started on May 27).

Item: Mark Buehrle's ERA for June - 1.67

Item: Jeff Hoffman goes again tomorrow for Dunedin coming off his best pro outing on Saturday (five shutout innings, 3 base-runners and six strikeouts). His turn comes up twice more after that before the AAA/AA All-Star break. I muse about the possibility (likelihood?) he'll get moved up to AA at that point.

Item: Anthony Alford and Rowdy Tellez - co-owners of the FSL (for a week).

Item: Remember after the draft I told you that CF Reggie Pruitt was the lower round pick to dream on - IF he signed which many predicted the Vandy-commit wouldn't? Yeah. He kinda DID! AA scores again, giving a guy some ranked among the top 200 potential picks (translating to a top 6-7 round guy) who was snagged in the 24th round a $500k bonus. His skill set is reminiscent of Anthony Gose (if perhaps not quite grading out as high) with speed being his best tool (rated as high as 70 by some scouts). He's said to have a swing that needs a lot of work and the extent to which they can successfully adjust it will say a lot about how he moves up the prospect chart. He'll start in the GCL or maybe Bluefield and prospect watchers shouldn't get down on him if he doesn't hit much this year.

Item: As of this writing, the Blue Jays stand tied for the second wild card spot, and 1 game out of first place in the AL East. Which is kinda awesome given the early pitching worries.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Salient Points

A stream of points which I hope to be able to ultimately order into something like a sensible narrative-

In today's game, the bullpen pitched 6.2 innings, allowing 2 runs on 5 hits and 3 walks while striking out 6  before Cecil entered the game. The Jays would have happily taken such a performance from any of their SP. This was a one-inning issue, not a "whole bullpen sucks!" issue;

As of June 6, Brett Ceci, today's villain, l had a 2.65 ERA, had allowed runs in only 3 out of 20 appearances, and multiple runs only once. Only twice in 20 appearances did runs charged to Cecil contribute to a loss.Since June 10 he's been a mess, but it's unlikely to be an unfixable issue. Not irrelevant - he's given up runs in five of his last six outings, the Jays won 3 of those 5;

Yesterday's bad guy Aaron Loup's ERA from May 19 (the pitching turned around, you will recall, after the May 18 Redmond start) through June 19: 0.79 and threw 11.1 IP, 4 hits, 1 walk, 12 k and a single earned run. Four times this year he blew up real good, but before Saturday it had been a full month since the last one. His xFIP for the whole season is 2.94;

Is anyone dissatisfied with the work of Osuna, Hendricks, or Delebar? No? Good. Because you shouldn't be. You can add Tepera to that also, despite the mysterious demotion today, though he's been getting hardly any use, he's not been part of the problem. He had his only bad outing on May 18 (in a game the Jays won);

That takes us through the 6 relievers with the most innings. Schultz has started out pretty good but the sample is too small yet.

The Blue Jays have lost 12 games since May 18, 4 of those are on the SP (3 of those four the team scored 2 runs or less). Of the other 8,  3 were in the 7th, one in the 8th, 2 in the 9th, and 2 in extras.
2 on Cecil, 2 Loup, and 2 Osuna, giving up their own runs, and two on inherited runners (one Delebar, one Osuna). So in the last month, Osuna - whom no one doubts, nor should - has let more get away than either Cecil or Loup.

Of the Jays relievers who've pitched in 2015 who were not on the roster at the start of play on today, June 21, the last time any of them pitched in a major league game was May 16. The collective ERA of the Jays bullpen this year is 3.56 (8th in the league). Take away the collective stats of the six players who haven't been here in over a month, and that falls to 2.88 - which would be 4th in the league. I realize that all teams have poor pitchers on the shuttle, but for one comparison, it's better than the collective ERA of the Yankees (4th best team bullpen ERA in the AL) 7 most used relievers.

Point here being that since the pitching turned around, the six busiest Jays relievers have been fine, outside of Cecil's last 10 days which is most likely a blip. The thing is, you need at least 7 good ones and the plug-ins to not be awful.   So the lesson from that is that they either they need to find another reliable guy for the middle innings, or they need a titular closer in order to push Cecil back into more targeted match-ups. If the report about K-Rod was accurate, and assuming he's available, that would be an ideal addition at the right price. Put another way, the bullpen isn't a disaster at all, though it could use a select acquisition.

As for the starters, while their collective ERA for the season is 4.42, 14th in the AL - since May 18 (without Copeland) it's 3.47 which would rank 3rd.  Again, I understand the nature of Arbitrary End Points and as flaky as they are, unless I apply the same AEP to the other teams, their value is further reduced...BUT it is also a valid principle that more recent data is better than older data.  Clearly the rotation is thin, as Sanchez's injury exposed (barring the possibility that someone other than Copeland ends up being a competent 6th starter). But as long as the front five is healthy and pitching as they have for the most recent month+, they are certainly good enough to support the hitting.

The takeaway then is that if - and it's a not insignificant "if" - the most recent data is the real talent level (and it's far more likely to be than the mess than was the first quarter-season) then the pitching staff is not BAD, just thin. The lesson from that, for the starters, is that they don't need a Scott Kazmir (check his road splits) or Aaron Harrang at a too-expensive price. They need to either add a true ace, like Cueto, or be confident that Doubront, Norris, Boyd etc can fill the need when called upon - or find someone who can.

I suggest some deep breaths for the more panicky fans. 

Three players demoted today - not sure why Tepera was one of them - no word on the promotions byut Travis will surely be one. They can push back the open rotation spot to June 30 so they will likely recall a reliever there and then switch them out for the starter for that game. Figure the other guy will be a reliever too. Rasmussen deserves a shot, the other (temporary relief call-up) guy could be almost anyone that's on the 40 man roster.
Who starts on June 30 should prove interesting. The reporters say the team speaks of Sanchez being back "in a few weeks" partly based on the assumed need for one or more rehab starts. The thing they aren't saying is that it's only 3 weeks until the ASB. It's safe then to speculate Sanchez won't be back until after, barring a wonderful report tomorrow.   IF that's an accurate assumption, then there's at least 3 turns, beginning with that 6/30 start, for the unknown starter. There exists only three reasonable possibilities:

1. Give Norris a spin. He hasn't earned it by his work in Buffalo but a 3 start trial will either motivate him to step up or to press. Which would be valuable information on sevberal levels;
2. Go with Felix Doubront who's earned a look but who would need to be carried all season, traded, or lost on waiver claim when they were done with him. Such a valuable (presumably) insurance policy might be too valuable to lose for the marginal gain of three starts. Something to watch: While Doubront's next rotation turn is on Friday, that's going with 5 days rest because of an off-day. tomorrow. If the Jays flip he and Matt Boyd around, so that FD starts on Thursday, that would line Doubront up with the open major league turn and be a strong indication he was the choice;
3. Alex pulls off a trade in the coming week for a starting pitcher that would slot in - and who can predict his trades?

Also Dickey is due back tomorrow but if Travis is joining the team, it seems likely Kawasaki goes back to clear his spot.

Also, if you somehow missed it - Anthony Alford just moved up to Dunedin.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

The Subject at Hand

So the topic du'jour concerning the Blue Jays is, of course, pitching acquisitions, notably starting pitching. Hardly a day goes by without a fresh article parsing stats, some more relevantly than others, but (almost) all coming to the same conclusion: the Jays are obliged to go out and trade for a better starter than the ones they have. While I'm all for upgrades, there's one analysis I haven't seen (not that I am ANNNNNYthing like an analyst) and that's the split BR and AR (Before Redmond and After Redmond).

If you recall,  on May 18, in the 40th game of the season, the Blue Jays elected to push back the rotation an extra day and give Todd Redmond a spot start. Now, I don't pretend to have any insight into what that one extra day off did for them - I'm skeptical it was just a matter of rest. The last previous off day was only 10 days previous after all. But what do I know? Anyway, it's been 30 days since then, 27 games which is not a giant sample, but it's 1/6th of a season. What ca we learn from looking at this split?

First. as a team, the Jays gave up 4.9 runs per game through that game, and 3.55 runs per game since.

Second, the five primary starters in the 30 days since looks like this (ERA/FIP/xFIP) per Fangraphs:

Hutch - 5.16 / 4.39 / 3.56
Sanchez - 2.57 / 4.61 / 3.70
Dickey - 4.55 / 4.43 / 3.88
Buehrle - 2.35 / 3.78 / 4.33
Estrada - 4.78 -/3.86 / 4.51

Which looking down that last column, that's not embarrassing IMO. 27 game sample though it is.

Three Jays in the top 60, NO Yankees (53 fewer runs on the season than the Jays) and ONE Royal (77 fewer) in the top 60 - there's 2 Royals and one Yankee ranked higher by xFIP than Estrada

Again, sample size but...yeah, it's not nothing, right?

Other thoughts:
As Stoeten  observed in his take on the subject, an acquired pitcher has to take a slot from one of those guys. The easy answer, of course, Estrada goes back to the bullpen, deserved or not. But as a mental exercise, what are the other options? The main point of Stoeten's comments was whether or not Drew Hutchinson has the cache to front a trade for an upgrade. Notwithstanding a lot of folks thought he was going to take a big step up this season and be a key piece of the rotation, the results have been mixed enough to make one worry about counting on him, and equally worried about trading him. One big factor is that  Hutch's home/road ERA split is insane(2.38 / 9.46). I don't know how to combine splits, but I'd be interested in seeing how the xFIP lines up with that. I would not be at all surprised to find that the scouts see more value in him than the ERA suggests. And putting the guy with the most service time among the young starters (and arguably the least pure-talent of the bunch) at the front of a trade package would be not-crazy.
If I'm wrong, he DOES have that option if things go further south.

There is also, of course, the factor of how much money the Jays will  be willing to take on. Here's a thought: what if you simply asked the team you deal with to take Dickey/Thole back in the transaction? Let's say that you make a monster deal for Cueto & Chapman at the mid-point of the season. Include Dickey/Thole in the return package and the net increase in salary for the Jays is 2.15 million.
Of course if you do that you can't include Hutch, and god knows what it would cost in prospects to get those two - but you get the idea.

Still, if Sanchez comes back strong and this trend holds, maybe you don't need a deal. I admit there's a little part of me that would like to see the in-house crew take them to a playoff position and beyond, just so I could play Nelson to those folks who insist the current crew isn't good enough to make it.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Monthly Prospect Progress and Assorted MLB Stuff: 2 of 5

This is a lot more fun, ain't it? On Monday, May 18 I wrote about potential ways to get the rotation right, but one of the things that never crossed my mind was a spot-start by Todd Redmond. But that's what they Jays choose to do that very day. Beginning after that game the Jays have allowed an average of 3.33 runs per game before Hutchinson blew up real good last night (better starting leads to better relief work in the aggregate). Through that game that figure was 4.9 so what changed was obvious. By sad coincidence the offense went cold (mostly due to injury - remember some of those line-ups?) for a couple of weeks - in the 14 days after Redmond's start they went 5-8, scoring 3 runs or less 7 times, accounting for all but one of those loses. Over that span, even while scoring big in the wins most nights, they averaged a full run less per game than they have over the whole season, which undermined the resurrection of the pitching.

Point being, their biggest problem 26 days ago hasn't bee a problem since (last night notwithstanding).

In other news this week, there was some sort of draft going on? I won't presume to be a resource when there are so many excellent legit resources out there but briefly, We all know the world loves the Jon Harris pick. Harris just signed his contract, which is great for bith he and the Jays - I'm predicting he's going to open the season in Vancouver.  Though he may spend no more than a month there (depending on movement above him) if he preforms well. Not as many deep reports on Round 2 pick Brady Singer, a 6'5" RH high schooler who's a sort of helium pick which reminds me of how the Jays scored Noah Syndergaard. Round 3 brought another pick Kieth Law and others loved in lightly scouted (due to location) RHP Justin Maese. If you want a late round sleeper to watch, I'm going to go with 24th rounder Reggie Pruitt, a blazing CF that reports was considered a top-3-rounds talent coming into his senior year. IF he signs of course - there's a reason he dropped this far. With little wiggle room in the pool, Alex would have to work a miracle to land him. Another name some are pointing to is Chandler Eden.

 Turning to the minors, before I get more specific on individual players, this year's Lansing Lugnuts are a offensive juggernaut.  In 2012 they got to watch Sanchez, Syndergaard, Nicolino, and Desclafini in the same rotation and now this. The fascinating Anthony Alford, resurgent DJ Davis, blossoming Richard Urena, and slugger Rowdy Tellez in the same line-up, along with underdog hero Tim Locastro, unheralded Ryan McBroom and excellent work from a few Dunedin imports combine to leave opposing pitchers little recourse.
On top of that, every pitcher in the starting rotation is a legitimate prospect. You can't compare it man for man to the 2012 rotation but there's no filler. Any Jays fans within travel distance really ought to seize the chance before some of these guys start getting promoted.

This 1/5 report is a few days late so it's actually for 36 days instead of 30 - sue me. ;)

Starting Pitchers

Jeff Hoffman (Dunedin) - Five starts in now and you can see the progress from week to week.  There were a lot more hits in his first two appearances (18 in 9.1 IP) than his next two (4 in 9 IP) and more importantly, 8 runs in the first two combined, zero runs in the next two.On Thursday he pitched 4 scoreless with only two hits before getting touched up for 3 more (and 3 runs) in the process of getting two out in the fifth.  His ground-out rate is steadily climbing too. It's early but signs are positive.Increased endurance will come as he keeps pitching.

Matt Boyd (New Hampshire, Buffalo) - Has absolutely mastered AA, I'm mystified that the Blue Jays haven't found a way to get him to AAA until today. Yes, he was promoted today and starts for the Bisons tomorrow. I still don't know which  Buffalo pitcher will lose his turn, but Canadian Andrew Albers seems a likely candidate to pitch for Team Canada in the Pan Am games, possibly that's playing into it somehow. Some observers suggest Boyd's abilities are not necessarily as good as his stats suggest, so AAA might serve as a correction. Still, it's hard to not be impressed by a 0.77 WHIP, a 1.10 ERA, and a 3.89 K/BB ratio.

Daniel Norris (Buffalo) - In 7 AAA starts, only once has he not walked at least 3 batters. The Blue Jays are NOT going to give him another chance in the majors soon as long as he's doing that. Likely it's some mechanical issue but they will want to see it fixed.

Jario Labourt (Dunedin) - On the day I wrote the last of these monthly reports, Labourt walked 4 in a a 2 inning (plus a batter) start in which he apparently hit his pitch limit (he hadn't given up a run or a hit). At that point he had 15 walks and 13 strikeouts in 15.2 innings pitched and carried a 4.60 ERA through 5 starts. Since that game, he has had six more starts, totaling 30.2 IP, 12 BB, 29 k and a 2.64 ERA. I'm going to venture he's figured something out. He's probably not going to move up before Hoffman does, unless the first rounder suffers a serious reversal, but it wouldn't be shocking if he spent some of the second half in AA. Particularly if there's pressure from Lansing for an opening.
He pitched the back end of a double-header in Dunedin tonight and, naturally spit all over my comments on his newfound control. (this is what happens when you take too long to finish a post)

Scott Copeland (Buffalo) - proved against the Marlins that he's not to be taken lightly. In Buffalo he's given up more than 2 runs only once and has an insane ground ball rate. He has a future in the Blue Jays pen if things break right on the depth chart.

Felix Dourbront (Buffalo) - Had an ERA of 1.00 over his first 5 starts for Buffalo. There may come a time when an opt-out decision has to be made (I don't know if his contract with the Jays includes one, but they often do for major league veterans signed to minor league deals). His secondary numbers all support the idea that he's pitching well (unlike Randy Wolf).

and the Lansing Crew-
Sean Reid-Foley - He was, like Hoffman, a 2014 draftee (2nd round) but out of high school. So a full season assignment was aggressive. How's he doing? How does a 13.83 K/9 rate grab you? He walks way too many, still, but he's hard to hit and it may be that he is dealing with the same problem Sanchez had - too much movement on the fastball to try throwing it to the corners. I have not heard that, I'm just speculating. Whatever it is, if he gets it under control (and isn't traded in the mean time) then his name will be another on everyone's lips.

Shane Dawson - On the day I wrote my last update, Dawson had his first setback of the year. In his first start in June he had another. Outside those two he's been near magical. He's a Buehrle type, and he'll be challenged by the time he hits AA but he will surely get the chance at this rate. Coincidentally, John Lott has an interesting piece this week about Dawson and the muscle missing in his throwing shoulder.

Chase DeJong -  in two games that coincidentally bookended my last update post, DeJong allowed 12 runs in 11.2 innings and I was wavering on whether or not he was sliding off the prospect list (not that he was super-highly regarded anyway, but he was in the back end of a few Top 20 lists and I had him at #26). In 6 starts since he's put up a 2.26 ERA and that includes allowing five earned runs in one of those.  Also it's worth noting that he has either 1, or 0 walks in 9 of 13 appearances and a respectable 7.75 K/9 ratio and a 4.47 K/BB rate.

Conner Greene - under the radar RH just needs to find consistency. He has just over 1 k per IP and a nice K/BB ratio. Over three games (May 3-14) he got knocked around, giving up a collective 11 runs over 11.1 IP (15 H, 6 BB, 7 K) - outside that run he's only had two bad starts. In his other 6 starts he's given up a mere six runs. There might be something here.

Jesus Tinoco - A Venezuelan bonus baby that hasn't gotten as much press as some other Latin signings, Tinoco is second only to Reid-Foley in talent in this rotation. Tonight's game was his peak so far, but it didn't look that way to start. The first 4 batters got a hit, 3 of them scored, and the pressure was on. Tinoco promptly struck out the next three batters. that touched off seven scoreless innings, with only 4 more hits and no walks and a total of 10 strikeouts. As with Reid-Foley, he sits on the verge of being a "high buzz" name among Jays fans. The prospect experts already know what he's about.


The main question-
Dalton Pompey (New Hampshire) - The Blue Jays' management team thought perhaps Pompey was putting too much pressure on himself in Buffalo to make a quick return to Toronto. So they gave him some distance by dropping him to AA New Hampshire. Only Pompey can say whether he was, in fact, pressing in AAA but he sure found his groove once he moved East. It's only a seven game sample but a 1.334 OPS is kinda eye-catching. Alex said initially that he only anticipated Pompey being in New Hampshire "a couple of weeks" - that looks like an accurate prediction.

the Lansing Crew-
Anthony Alford - Alford has cooled some since his OPS peaked at an astonishing .909 on May 26 (It wasn't logical to assume THAT was going to last) and some adversty is good for a ballplayers soul. In the 14 games since then, he's 11 for 55 (.200) with 23 strikeouts and only one XBH. Speculation from afar means little, but based on the strikeouts (that's almost exactly twice the rate of his previous 107 AB) one might guess they've learned how to make him chase balls outside the zone and he hasn't adjusted his approach.

Richard Urena - The gifted shortstp has a story that's the reverse of Alford. He was very cold to start the season (at the plate and in general, as a Latin player opening the season in Michigan for the first time). The stats for his first 11 games (.188/.234/.256/.490) has served to disguise how well he's doing since to the casual observer. Beginning April 23 until the beginning of play today, his slash numbers are .305/.319/.519/.838 in 187 at bats. The power is shocking pretty much everyone and is likely to regress as the season wears on. The flip side is he has ten times as many strikeouts as walks over that stretch. Still, it's an interesting factoid that he's outhitting the traded rival for the tag shortstop of the future, Frankin Barreto, so far this season.

Rowdy Tellez - June has not been kind to Rowdy so far, sorting a .485 OPS (at the start of play tonight) as a result of a slump that actually started 2 days before June arrived. He does enjoy a reputation with his manager and the organization of being a very smart hitter who knows how to adjust. Which, given he's yet to go more than two consecutive games without a hit, there's something to that. He continued that pattern going 2/3 in tonight's game. A 12 game sample, though, is far too small to tell us much. One thing I've learned over the years is a that a minor leaguer can look like the mext Mike Trout for a month, and like Ryan Goins the next.

DJ Davis - Anthony Alford may have a rival for most interesting story in the system in fellow Mississippian Davis. A lot of observers, myself included, were on the verge of shoving him out of the "prospects only" room after his ugly 2014 campaign. To remind you, he slashed .213/.286/.316/583 last year with 167 strikeouts in 494 at bats. When his OPS sank from .845 on April 25 to .681 on May 17 the narrative practically wrote itself. But Davis, this time, was having none of it.  In the 21 games since(coming into Saturday), he's slashing .373/.440/.520/.960 which is, of course, unsustainable but it shows he has the ability in there. Still hasn't mastered the SB yet, but one thing at a time. He's also pounded LHP in a small sample this year.

Tim Locastro - Here's a guy who's got "future folk hero" written all over him. Not drafted as a prospect or praised as one at any previous point in his career, but the second baseman has one outstanding calling card: he'll do whatever it takes to get on base.  Locastro was hit by a pitch an incredible 32 times in 67 games in Vancouver last season and is on a similar pace this year. For perspective, that pace last year, had it been over 150 major league games would have around 20 beyond the major league record. Reports are he takes the same "do anything" attitude to the basepath and the field.All that and he finished tonight hitting .326

Ryan McBroom - The 1B who's forced to DH because Tellez needs the reps in the field, is considered a potential power threat and not for no reason - he did hit 11 in 70 games in Vancouver last year to go with 23 doubles. But he has only 2 homers so far for Lansing, Otherwise though, his offensive game is better than ever so far, notably a much better walk rate. He's probably going to be stuck with playing second fiddle to Tellez throughout the system, but some observers think he has potential to surprise.

Others of note-
JD Davis (Dunedin) - Last month he'd have been a part of that list of Lansing hitters putting up eye-catching stats, but he was promoted to Dunedin halfway through May and after three great games hit the DL. He was out until June 4 but he came back just as hot as when he sat down. In 14 games in Lansing he hit over .400 with an OPS of 1.094, in 9 games in Dunedin he's hitting .424 with an OPS of 1.078 and six steals at each stop (which may not sound like much but pro-rate that to 162 games and it's 84). This from a guy who's a charter member of Marcus Stroman's HDMH club, standing 5'8" (officially). Suddenly the Jays are loaded with interesting CF prospects.

Roemon Fields - Like Urena, it pays to see how he's been coming along after a short cold start. Drop the first six games of the year from his record and he's slashing .292/.333/.387/.720 over the last 53 games. Hes, it's blatant A.E.P. sampling, but there's value, in my opinion, in watching trends.  This alone doesn't make him a top prospect, of course, but given how very few professional at-bats he has, compared to other High-A players, and his blazing speed, he doesn't have to be putting up an .800+ OPS to be interesting.

Andy Burns - I keep thinking this guy is, you know, just a guy after all, but he keeps doing just enough to keep from being dismissed as an org guy. Take away the guys no longer on the team, and major league veteran Luke Scott, and Burns is the second best hitter on the veteran Buffalo squad. He doesn't do anything great, but he does most everything pretty good. That still doesn't likely get him to the show, but who knows? He doesn't seem to go away.

Matt Hague - The best hitter (left) in Buffalo is this guy. He's spent most of the season at 3B, you won't see him in the majors unless the unspeakable happens, but you can't not mention a guy hitting .350 in AAA either.

Alrighty then. That went on longer than I expected, both in word count and time spent, but there ya go.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Brainstorming solutions

[Update: some of the assumptions below have been altered somewhat by the Blue Jays decision to bump their rotation back a day. I trust my readers - both of you - to be able to  sort through those implications. Damned if I'm going to edit the thing. I will, however note that if they are going to take this step to rest the starters, it's markedly less likely the use the upcoming off days to juggle in the manner about which I speculated if it means costing too many of them the extra rest]

I'm still remaining calm, but I admit to being a bit morose. I suppose it's too much to hope for to be a powerhouse over the course of a season when you're just hoping for your first October in over two decades, but constant mediocrity grinds you down in a way that just being obviously awful wouldn't. And despite having lost 15 of their last 22, this isn't a BAD team. If it occurs to you at some point that I'll sound like Wilner in my position on this team, that's understandable because on this question, I think he's right.

So what's wrong with it? Let's narrow the possibilities. As of this writing the Blue Jays are still the most prolific offensive team in the game. They are the first and so far only team in the majors to 200 runs, and only one AL team is even close. This despite getting no offense at all form SS, little from CF, and playing two AAAA place holders in the outfield (albeit both contributing a lot with the bat). Asking the team to improve by scoring even more runs isn't rational, nor is quibbling about the timing of said runs (i.e. only scoring 2 today to name just one case). It is true that the team potentially gets better still on offense when everyone is where they were intended to be. But adding in Reyes, Saunders, and whoever is playing 1B today isn't necessarily going to be a ton better than Colabello, Carrera and the hapless Goins have been collectively. They just have a more reliable track record.

So then if it's not the offense then what? Fielding? let's don't be silly. Donaldson, Goins, and Travis make up an excellent infield (EE isn't an embarrassment) and Pillar is a well known magician. Martin I don't even have to defend. Colabello is a liability but we're not five games under because of LF defense.

That leaves pitching. The much disrespected bullpen? Not really. There have been some ugly moments, to be sure, however by most measures they compare well (4th in the AL in K/9 for example, 7th in OOPS, OOBP, and WHIP). Not lights out or anything, but serviceable enough  Speaking in particular of the guys currently on the team, there's really only one issue - Jeff Francis. I think we're all mystified how he's still on the team. Loup? Nah. Six of his nine runs allowed came three apiece in two outings, with five weeks between them. He's fine.
ETA: As I was writing this, Francis was thankfully DFA'd and Todd Redmond was recalled. Redmond was good enough in 2014 to make me slow to read too much into his 4.1 innings in 2015. We'll see how it goes. 

It's not a Hitchcockian twist that I have arrived where you knew i was going all along. The rotation.

Drew Hutchison - 6.17 ERA
Hutch has the worst ERA of the current five, but he's been fine in his last two starts (3 ER over 11 IP) other than the need to economize his pitches and go deeper. My brainstorm which inspired this post was the idea of demoting him but you can't really do that coming off two good starts.

Mark Buehrle - 5.36 ERA
Practically speaking, you can't do anything with Buehrle anyway. If he's not part of the solution then there is no solution. Beyond that, almost 1/3 of his runs allowed came in one of his eight starts. Take away that one start and his ERA otherwise is 4.22 which is not good enough but it's major. Take that one and the one immediately prior to it and we're down to 3.65 which is slightly better than his career ERA. We're going to have to hope that starts #4 and 5 were just a horrible blip and that he'll be fine from now on. It's not an irrational hope at all but our collective nerves are jumpy, right?

Aaron Sanchez - 4.26 ERA
Channeling Wilner again on this point - we can't fairly say what Sanchez's baseline is. We know he has the stuff to get far better, but we have no idea when or if he turns it on. Someone pointed out on Twitter the other night the example of Chris Archer. Archer is a monster now, at the age of 26 and has been well above average for three years with a BB/9 of 3.1 as a major leaguer, yet from 2008 through 2011, at A and AA, his collective BB/9 was 5.25 and ranged as high as 6.6 so great talent can overcome control issues. Not to say it always does. His last start was his worst, and it can't be ruled out to give him the Norris Maneuver and see how it goes - particularly if he's still inconsistent when Norris is ready to return. Still, they'll likely give him at least two more starts before deciding anything. His third turn out falls on an off day so that wold be a natural point to maybe make a move.

Marco Estrada - 5.52 ERA (as starter)
Has gotten better results start to start but if he can't economize and get beyond the 5th inning, he's not going to have the job long. It's not a matter of being stretched out, he's thrown almost 100 pitches in the last two outings and still only went five. With a rotation otherwise struggling and a bullpen that's soft towards the back, you can't have that. He's got two more turns before the Jays come to a 15 day stretch with three off days. If he doesn't step up in that time I expect some rotation changes while they have some flexibility.

RA Dickey - 5.76 ERA
I was worried about Dickey before the season started, and was saying that I didn't think his option would be - or should be - picked up. But I didn't see this coming. Still, if I make an effort to parse things out and be fair, I could argue that five of his first six games were fine - 3.15 ERA n those five games and a not insane 4.38 with the bad one. But the last two have been hideous. You have to hope it's a blip - remember Buehrle had two awful games and recovered - because this team is NOT going to be quick to do something different with him for the very reason that the knuckleball is a recipe for inconsistency. If he, and the team, don't feel he's gotten it together in two more starts, they have the opportunity to do some jugging with the off days in order to let him skip a start, but it's kind of a tricky thing because there'd be a start that, well, let e show you.

As it stands, the rotation from May 24 goes like this:
Hutch > RAD > Estrada > Buehrle > off > Sanchez > Hutch > RAD > Estrada > Buehrle > Sanchez >off

Now what you can do is flip RAD and Hutch, giving the latter a 7th day start (he pitches much better on long rest) while RA goes on his normal rest but also lines up his next turn with an off day. Cool except - if he pitches well in that start do you still want to skip the turn? Me, I'd flip them anyway just to have the option - but the Blue Jays haven't been known for such maneuvering. And of course, there might be other ways you'd prefer to use the off day - say to line Estrada''s turn up with the guy you anticipate replacing him with. Still, all you can do with Dickey in the most radical extreme is let him pitch in long relief and i don't think that they would anticipate that as the best role for recapturing some measure of consistency.

What? You thought I'd have answers?
My long-distance judgement is that Hutch is likely to be fine going forward, as is Buehrle, and that you're stuck with Dickey. If I'm wrong about Hutch, and if he really looks bad for, say, three consecutive starts, he does in fact have an option.
Sanchez? I don't think they will let him go all year walking this many. How much rope he gets may well depend on internal evaluations of progress that we won't be told about unless he's optioned. It's maybe 40/60 he's given a visit to Buffalo before the end of the month (here i disagree with Wilner, I don't think they just punt him to the bullpen. There's some short term gain there but if you want him to eventually be a top-shelf starter you have to resist that.
Estrada? Yeah, unless he pulls out a 7 inning start with good stats, he's got two more turns - three at most to try. Because the options made be as good at it as he is and quite possibly better.

Options? Yeah, here's the top of that list:

Daniel Norris - only the internal observations can really tell us if he's making the progress in Buffalo that they are looking for. The BB/9 ratio is virtually identical, the K's are up a tick, the contact down some - but this is AAA after all. His longest outing, 6.1 IP on 103 pitches. Slightly better than Estrada on efficiency, likely to get better results. but ENOUGH better to justify recalling Norris if you aren't satisfied he's in the groove? I'm not sure. One factor, if you aren't down for 20 days you don't use up an option - he has three days left on that clock, if he's still in Buffalo on Thursday it cold be a while.
On the other hand, we're gaining an extra year of control in 2021 so that's fun!

Randy Wolf - Yes, he's owning the IL right now. He ran off a string of 22 scoreless innings, and he's given up more than 1 earned run (3) in only one of his 7 starts. He's hot. He's also not really this good. He's a 38 year old soft-tosser who's using a lot of guile and a little stuff. He could be the equivalent of Francis against big league hitters (which is exactly what he's been since 2011). Still and all, he has a June 1 opt out and if Estrada (or Sanchez) doesn't firm up their grip before the next off day the Blue Jays will have to at least consider seeing if he can give them a band-aid that will at least buy the kids some more time. Let's say for the sake of argument Sanchez holds on and Estrada doesn't.  If you plug Wolf into Estrada's turn and push it back every time an off day allows you to, then three starts (enough to draw some conclusions) would string it out until June 21 before you had to make a call on Norris or some other kid. He's on the same rotation day as Estrada, FWIW.

Felix Doubront - Has made only one appearance for Buffalo, but coincidentally his third turn out from now aligns with Sanchez's day to pitch (if they don't skip him on the off day). He enjoys the advantage over Wolf of being 11 years younger, but his one good year (at 25) was just slightly below average, so unless they see something the stats don't sow he's no savior. He's probably better than Albers and definitely better than Francis but otherwise - who the hell knows?

Scott Copeland - At 27 (same as Doubront) he's sort of an org-guy clawing his way onto the radar. He's a ground-ball machine who really impressed them in the Spring and he's already been up once. Don't expect a miracle, but like Wolf, he might be a guy who could buy them 4-6 weeks to see if the kids are going to pull things together.  give Sanchez 4 more kicks at the can and Copeland's turn lines up with his for the fifth turn out, on June 9.

Matt Boyd - a 24 year old LH college kid who's owning the EL on the AA level and really probably is gonna need to be challenged. He's a bit of a fly ball pitcher but he gets a lot of K's and gives up - at least at this level - not many baserunners. As long as the Jays are hoarding veterans (Wolf, Doubront, Albers) at AAA there's not a lot of room for him there (if we count Castro's developmental turns, they actually have six starters their now) and if they think he can handle the jump i wouldn't be at all surprised to see Boyd make the jump to the majors in the right spot - though I'd be mildly surprised if it was more than just a patch-over 2-3 start thing. If Wolf opts out at the end of the month, Boyd will surely be promoted. He's another guy, by the way, who projects to start in close parallel to Sanchez's start days (outside the vaguries caused by off-days).

In summation, while I'm not down on Estrada if he's the fifth guy based on his career, I'm not sure he's a good fit for a sometimes struggling group and see nothing lost if any of these guys get a trial in that turn (other than not wanting  Norris to be yoyo'ed). They may or may not be better, but it might save your 'pen a bit at least. As for Sanchez, we simply can't know without internal info what they are thinking with him. I suspect that if at least three of the others get in a reliable quality groove they will give him a lot of rope, but if Dickey continues to flounder, Estrada stays short, and/or one of the others goes backwards then Sanchez may become the change to make just out of an urge to do SOMETHING.  The old-timers in his spot would be a come down, as the potential for a dominant start pretty much disappears, but I'd as soon see either of those young lefties in his spot as see him remain.

None of this, by the way, should be read as me giving up on either Hutch, Sanchez, or Norris. I love dreaming on the future with those three along with Stroman, Hoffman, and Osuna and consider these growing pains part of the process. But sadly, they are backed into a win-now corner so a balance has to be struck.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Monthly Prospect Progress and Stuff: 1 of 5

I'm kind of feeling unnecessary again. In the Jays' blogosphere there's so very much good work being done by those well equipped to address virtually any angle that there's really almost no room for some little long distance casual blogger like myself to contribute anything more than an occasionally interesting (I hope!) opinion. Does anyone read sports blogs for opinions, really? They're looking for actual facts and information they didn't already have - and they all pretty much follow the same sources I do, the ones who don't have some sort of inside contact in the organization and know more on any given day that I do.

I could list off a dozen blogs that any half-interested Blue Jays fan really ought to be following religiously. But I can't honestly say mine would be one of those. No sooner than I thought I'd found a niche doing weekly updates than i realized some 3 or more other bloggers were doing it as well, and generally better (either via deeper analysis or better connections). I'm probably not going to bother with that anymore.

Still, in previous seasons (last year's unfortunate events notwithstanding) I'd done updates at the end, roughly, of each month of the minor league season. I need to be plugging away at SOME thing or their won't be enough content here to make it worthwhile to post at all so I'll see how this works. I had previously done these reports more in relation to player status and performance than by team (be honest, do you REALLY care who's in first place in the Midwest League on May 1? if you're not a fan of the Midwest league team first - no you don't, and maybe not even then) and I'll continue that pattern, but slightly modified in that I'll format it a bit more toward the Top Prospect list.

What follows then will reflect a consensus prospect list which results from combining the rankings by myself and nine other bloggers (technically more than nine since it uses the Batters Box list which is itself a compilation of the minor league contributes there). The list tracks fairly closely to a consensus list of nine leading professional sources (BA, BP, Kieth Law, John Sickels and others)  - each list has the same 10 players in the top 10, although in slightly different order from 5-10 - but four of the pro lists only go to 10, while every blogger went to at least 20 (and most to 30 or beyond. This allows me to get a consensus list 20 deep, and I'll also look at other players of note at the end, particularly guys who might end up in the Top 20 by years end. As per the old format, they are divided into pitchers and hitters.


1. Dan Norris  / LH / Buffalo - Given his work to this point has been in the majors, you know the deal. Beat reporters have noted that the team thinks the issue is mostly mental (i.e. struggling with shaking off a bit of adversity, and/or trying to be too perfect) and over-dependence on the fastball.

2. Aaron Sanchez  / RH / Toronto - Tantalizing and frustrating for reasons I'm sure you've noted. 

4. Jeff Hoffman / RH /  (extended) - drawing rave reviews before he even gets into game action, he's probably less than two weeks away from being assigned (my money is on Dunedin) and the talk suggests he's rise as fast as his production dictates ala Graveman, Norris, etc last year. Legit possibility the jays see him in September but one must be careful about assuming too much.

5. Roberto Osuna  / RH / Toronto - so far so good. A busy reliever's standard workload is just about right as he builds up his IP, the real question is whether they trap him in relief or let him spend part of a year back on the farm in 2016 adding to those 80 or so innings so that he's an option for the rotation if the need arises. I never heard anyone say he projected as a reliever anyway until late spring so I wonder if that's a bit revisionist.

6. Miguel Castro  / RH / Toronto Buffalo - Conversely, I have little problem envisioning Castro on track to be the closer long term rather than being re-tracked into a starting role next year. I'm not sure I can explain completely why I view the two so differently. But basically, Castro was the guy with the devastating fastball while needing  lot of work on secondary offerings - one upgrade, to the change, turned him into a guy with two above average pitches but no one really describes the others as  ready (though the slider gets some buzz). OTOH, Osuna was described as a guy with an arsenal and the pitchability of one much older back when he was 15. But given the depth of young stud pitchers, it's not a bad thing at all if he ends up closing. All that said, I don't figure anyone is stunned to see an A-ball guy take a minute or two to adapt to being in the majors. I would worry over much about the demotion.

10. Sean Reid-Foley  / RH / Lansing - If one could overlook the wildness, they'd find his line astonishing. For someone who was still in his last days of high school a year ago and already in A Ball, you have to like it.

 13. Matt Smoral / LH(extended) - Shi Davidi helpfully provided some insight here into the as-yet-unassigned pitching and Smoral was one mentioned. Most of us amateurs were puzzled he didn't break with a full-season squad but the dirt here is that he had a minor injury they chose to be cautious with. Now that he's getting read to get into real games, there's a bit of a crowding issue. This applies to others on the list as well so let me g on a bit of a tangent here.

The current Lansing starting staff has six guys, four of who appear elsewhere in this post. In Dunedin there's less crowding and three veteran free agent organization filler guys (Allen, Santos, and Smith) on hand. Hoffman figures to kick one of those guys aside and logically, one or two of the Lansing guys ought to be on the verge of doing the same to the other two. One would assume that when this happens, there'll be room for Smoral in Lansing.

14. Jario Labourt  / LH / Dunedin - Last year he was aggressively placed to Lansing, he was a mess and after a mere 14 IP (in which he walked 20!) he was dropped back to extended before being assigned to Vancouver where he pitched great (albeit still wit more walks than ideal, but that's not shocking for younger guys). He earned an assignment to Dunedin this spring, skipping the cold of Lansing, but it hasn't been all sunshine anyway. He went great start awful start, great then awful again. Now he's on the 7-Day DL.(That's what happens when you write a post a week before you plan to publish it)

18. Alberto Tirado / RH /  Dunedin - Same as above, he started 2014 in Lansing along with Labourt, and was awful - walking almost a batter an inning until they pulled the plug after 40 IP and sent him down to Vancouver, where he improved somewhat but still walked too many initially. He never made it back to Lansing but showed enough this spring for another aggressive promotion (albeit this time as a reliever) to Dunedin. In the early going, he's not stumbled this time. Davidi quotes Jays' Farm Director Tony LaCava in reporting Tirado may eventually be tried as a starter again, but needed to have some success.

19. Ryan Borucki / LH /  (extended) - Disabled after an elbow clean-up, there's no fresh news which implies he's not on the mound yet.

Beyond the Top 20, in order of how I ranked them:

Jesus Tinoco / RH  / (extended) - Pitched well enough in extended that when Lansing needed an arm for the duble-header the found themselves in this week, he got the promotion. He wasn't immediately sent back out after so maybe they are going to give him an extended look.
Case DeJong  / LH / Lansing - Re-bounding nicely from last year's struggles, should be on the countdown to make the move to Dunedin soon (as discussed above). Of course, I'm only looking at the stat line as with many of my comments.
Clint Hollon  / RH  / (extended) - When/if DeJong (or someone else - see below) moves up, Smoral is in line to replace him - this guy, an almost forgotten by many 2nd round choice,  would then be next in line, although it's possible that he'll be held back long enough to get a taste of Canada in Vancouver (something Alex talked about a few weeks ago as something the team would factor in when making assignments) 
Matt Boyd  / LH / New Hampshire -  Dominating so far, LaCava told Davidi he still needed work on his secondary pitches. Still, a lot of observers feel like that he might be a guy who could push his way into a late-season bullpen appearance. If he can overcome the logjam of relievers the Jays have stockpiled in AAA of course. Which is not to say they will not continue to view him as a starter for as long as possible. Also could be one of the more attractive trade candidates.
Adonys Cardona / RH /  (extended) -recovering from yet another injury that shortened 2014, LaCava reports he's hitting as high as 97 again. To try and keep him healthy, he'll work from the bullpen as what LaCava called a "priority reliever" which I take to me, he'll get his innings on a regular schedule regardless of situation, and then they will re-evaluate his future as a starter f he stays out there all year. Should be activated by Lansing soon.

Others to watch:
Shane Dawson  / LH / Lansing - Soft-tosser is fooling everyone and needs to be challenged with a promotion which one would think would be coming quite soon, P
Conner Greene  /  RH / Lansing - 2013 draftee (7th round), just past his 20th birthday, posting tasty ratios in the early going which bodes well for continued success.
John Anderson / LH / New Hampshire -The Dustin McGowan of the Jays minor leagues, he has good enough stuff for them to stick with him, but enough injuries to make everything uncertain. He's accumulated less than 300 IP in the system since 2008. LaCava says he has "probably the best stuff" on the AA team but he just needs consistent work. Given the org depth among SP, that window of opportunity may have closed for him but a power lefty in the 'pen is a valuable thing if that's where he lands.

In no particular order, other than being grouped by level, the following guys have rocked it so far - minor league relieving being what it is, who can say which of these might offer major league results at some point. (Not nitpicking here about what constitutes actual "prospect")
Buffalo - Colt Hynes, Ryan Tepera, Rob Rasmussen, Preston Gulmet, Bo Schultz (apart from one bad inning from Luis Perez, the whole 'pen here really)
New Hampshire - Matt West, Danny Barnes, Blake McFarland, Dustin Antolin, Tiago Da Silva (just promoted)
Dunedin - Will Browning, Chad Giordo, Jimmy Cordero


3. Dalton Pompey / CF /  Buffalo -  You know at least as much as I, there hasn't yet been any in-depth reporting on the demotion but one might suppose that this is one of those "how will you react to failure?" moments that high-character payers will come back from just fine.

7. Max Pentacost / C /  (extended) - Technically listed on the Dunedin roster, and on the 7 day DL, but the originally mentioned recovery times dovetails nicely with the beginning of the short-season teams' season, and I'm inclined to think the Jays might give him a little run through the Northwest League before moving him back to A ball.

8. Devon Travis / 2B /  Toronto - Really nothing to say here, right?

9. Richard Urena / SS /  Lansing -needs to start getting that K rate down but for a Dominican playing in the cold for the first time, some grace is warranted. Not enough data yet.

11. Mitch Nay / 3B / Dunedin - LaCava explains they've made adjustments to Nay to see if he can pull the ball more to capitalize his in-game power (most think he has significant power potential but it doesn't manifest in games, the team thinks, because he tends to hit to the middle of the field. As such, you can't make too much of his stats so far.

12. Dwight Smith, Jr. / LF / New Hampshire - If he had more power, or speed, or glove, he'd get a lot more notice. For me, he's still a "tweener" who lacks a clear major league path, but he can hit ad draw walks and that's not nothing. Might be helpful in a trade to a less ambitious team.

15. Anthony Alford / CF / Lansing - Has done nothing to dim the high praise he's now getting from all quarters. It's not a crazy claim to suggest he's already the best position player prospect the Jays have.  Still, it's early and adjustments - and counter adjustments - are yet in the future.

16. Rowdy Tellez / 1B / Lansing -.899 OPS since April 15, like Urena, too many K's but pretty easy to overlook if he's producing. Put it down as a goal, more than a concern.

17. Dawel Lugo / SS / Dunedin - he's just 20 and at A+ which buys some grace, but I seriously worry whether he'll ever hit and the stat line does nothing to convince me I'm wrong so far. LaCava says they are happy with him though so...shrug?

20 AJ Jimenez / C / Buffalo - Just promoted after spending some time in AA when he came off the DL (presumably because Thole being in Buffalo would have regulated one of them to the bench). He's done nothing in 2015 and he's in danger of losing what tiny sliver of prospect status he has left unless he has a pretty remarkable rest-of-the-season.

Beyond the Top 20 (as I ranked them):
Lane Thomas / IF-OF / (extended) - It's not that they don't list him as a 2B, it's that he's so good they can't decide where his bat plays best. He probably doesn't have the pop traditionally associated with 3B, so it's here or CF and it's probably easier to move out later if needed than in.
Matt Dean / 1B / Dunedin - Some occasional homers can't disguise the horrid BB/K ratio. That would take massive power he hasn't shown. Averaging a strikeout per game at 22 without it tends to kill your prospect status.
DJ Davis / CF / Lansing -Really seemed to have figured things out for a secnd, then hit a 1 for 17 over 5 games that suppressed his rates. You know how early season slumps can kill a player's line. Bears watching.
Dan Jansen / C - Lansing -It's like most of the Lansing squad wasn't ready for Michigan in early April and took the first week off. Jansen was 0 for 14 in his first five games. Unlike some of the other slow starters, he hasn't gotten untracked yet. Time will tell if the progression was too aggressive or if he finds a way to get his swing going.

Others to watch:
Andy Burns / IF / Buffalo - More "sleeper" than prospect by the most generous of estimates. But his some versatility and maybe enough bat to cling to the end of a major league bench. Maybe. Probably not but...maybe.
Christan Lopes / 2B / New Hampshire - very well regarded when drafted, Lopes has mastered the art of mediocre as a pro. He seemed to show some significant breakout potential in winter ball down under but it was more of "pretty okay" for Dunedin in April. Still, maybe the Jays see something - he was just promoted to NH - or maybe it was just the best they could do when the AA squad found themselves short-handed.
 Roemon Fields - / CF / Dunedin - first (almost) week was a disaster - a .167 OPS in the first six games - but since April 15 his OPS is .760 which, given his inexperience, is pretty okay.
Dicke Joe Thon / IF-OF / Dunedin - Kicked ass at Lansing - but was some 2 years (at least) two old for the league, off to a slow start in five games in Dunedin but I'm sucker enough for the feel-good story that I'll give him a minute.
Ryan McBroom / 1B / Lansing -He's a 1B, DHing only because Tellez is on the same team. He's hitting well, and he's 3 years older than Tellez so obviously much impacted by that in terms of prospect status.

In the future, I'll address actual news, good and bad, and not include guys just because they were on a pre-season list.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Highs and Lows - 3 Weeks In

Sweep Orioles? Yay!
Get swept by Rays? Awww.

In fairness, the Jays have won one series in Tampa in . . . ever? . . . s losing at least two of these, particularly when Archer was in the mix, isn't crazy - but letting the Saturday night game slip away was a huge downer. That said, I still contend it's very foolish to get all bent out of shape about the bullpen. Stuff happens. To everyone. I remain calm, it's just too early. So - system review time!

Pitching wise, you have to be encouraged by Hutch and Norris but there's a ton of inconsistency in he staff as a whole. As much as I'd love to think that those two, at least, have found their happy place, I'd just as much like to hope Castro's last couple are only a blip but I have no objective argument to prove it's not the reverse.
Offensively you still have to be pretty happy about where they are with only half (less than, really, since he's benched the busier half of his personal platoon) of Reyes, and only one of the expected key bats raking (along with one gigantic surprise - Travis - and one mild one - Smoak).

The Bisons remain En Fuego - before Sunday's loss they were on an 11-1 run. The offense has caught up, nearly, with the pitching, with a team OPS good at .721 for 3rd in the league (.729 leads) though with such a veteran roster that should be expected. Chris Colabello has taken over the team lead in OPS with his league leading 5 home runs but Matt Hague remains right there with him.  Nothing to say about the pitchers except more of the same excellence.

New Hampshire
You may remember my praise of the bullpen last week, Matt West and Luis Perez still haven't surrendered a run and the next three best relievers have given up four, collectively, in 25.1 IP - the line for all five reads: 42.2 - 31 - 4 - 18 - 54. Matt Boyd finally saw his ERA budge off zero but it was my no means an ugly affair. On the offensive side, apart from noting that DSJ continues to perform well, i have to mention KC Hobson. He's blocked about 4 different ways at AAA, and he's been around this circuit too long (having been promoted mid-2013) but he's having his best season yet in the early going. It's unwise to assume so much from such a sample but even if he kept this up there'd still be a lot of questions.

At the start of play on April 18, Roemon Fields sported a BA of only .167 and an OPS of .461 - since then he's gone 15 for 31 and has a 1.110 OPS. Better keep your eye on him. Christian Lopes is also 7 for his last 17. Dawel Logo is 6 for 19, and Matt Dean is also clawing back from an awful start. On the pitching side, reliever Jimmy Cordero is hitting as high as 102 on the guns and so far fooling everyone. Prospect Alberto Tirado is doing solid work, while Jario Labourt seems to be getting in touch with his inner Aaron Sanchez, mixing dominating stuff with a shaky feel for the strike zone.

Where to start with this bunch? After 5 games Anthony "The Legend of" Alford is OPSing .917 and seemingly leading the team in stories told about. Dicke Thon (again, too old for the Midwest) is demanding promotion (.945). DJ Davis is bidding to be taken seriously again (OPS of .842). First Baseman/DH Ryan McBroom (whom broadcaster Jessie Goldberg-Strassler reports is very much on the radar of organizational power brokers as a guy with legit major league potential at the plate) is trying to elbow his way out of Rowdy Tellez's considerable shadow. Oh, and Danny Jansen seems to have shaken off his 0 for 14 start. On the mound, ultra-soft tosser Shane Dawson is fooling everyone, but it's uncertain how that will play as he moves up. College draftee Justin Schafer has looked good and Chase DeJong has done nothing to dim his luster.

It's not impossible that I find motivation to post more than once a week.  Sometime. It could happen.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Keeping Calm - 2 Weeks In

So it's been over a week without a post but I wasn't really comfortable with the "Random Notes" model, not that I might not use it again, and I see no point in just being one more voice in the throng just repeating every news item as it pops up. I'd rather try to provide at least a little original content.

That said, two weeks in it's reasonable to take stock through the system and see what things look like.

A lot of nervousness going on but, as Stoeten might say, simmer the fuck down. The Blue Jays lead the major leagues in scoring, and that with Bautista, Encarnacion, and Martin well below any reasonable expectation for output and only Devon Travis (among the starters) possibly a bit higher than you might have guessed (though he's changing a lot of minds in the early going). That should be cause for some excitement on that side of the ball. Plus, today's throwing error notwithstanding, the defense has gotten a lot of praise.

The pitching is another story, but there's some complexity there too. The team ERA is 14th in he league at 4.54 but take away Todd Redmond and it's 4.03 good for 7th in the league. Under the same selective calculation, the bullpen ERA - which is 4.14 and 12th in the AL would, without Redmond, turns into 2.68 which would be 4th in the AL.  I'm not saying such a calculation is exactly fair but it's key here because Redmond is gone (and may well be claimed, but even if he's not being off the 40 means he won't be at the front of the line to come back. It's also been suggested he may have the right to declare free agency rather than accept the assignment.

Of course, this doesn't help the rotation results so far. Buhrlie and Dickey have done what they do (albeit RA has to be concerned about those walks) and Norris, despite not having the life on his pitches he wants (he said after the game today that he's going through a "dead arm phase") but even so, until today he had numbers that, extrapolated to a whole season, would be a fine rookie season. But you really want Hutchison to step up to the expectations soon and everyone is watching Sanchez.

But still, one Tweeter (who's name I can't remember and I'm too lazy to look up) inspired me to look up his claim and elaborate. There was another Blue Jays team that started off slow. The were 7-6 after the games of April 20 and they would go on to be 11-12 over the next (almost) month and sat at 18-18 on May 15. By the way - that team went on to win the World Series in 1993.

Also - Gibby said post game that he "Hopes and thinks" that Reyes and Travis will both play Tuesday, and barring a further setback Michael Saunders should return in the next week sometime. So there's that.

The Bisons are riding a six game winning streak and the veteran roster is doing mostly what you'd expect. The pitching has been uniformly excellent apart from one Jenkins start and Scott "Groundball Machine" Copeland apparently has caught the eye of management. The pitching staff sports a collective ERA of 2.01, and that's how you run off a winning streak. The offense hasn't been as impressive, noticeably Caleg Gindl has cooled a bunch from his hot spring. But Andy Burns was promoted when Goins left for the majors and was 4/4 in hi first AAA game. He's now about the only semi-prospect among the position players on this otherwise veteran team.

New Hampshire
Here the story is really mostly about the two prospects on the team (recovering AJ Jimenez notwithstanding) and the unheralded residents of the bullpen. On offense, the one everyone is watching is Dwight Smith, Jr. Despite reports the Blue Jays had designs on trying him at 2B, he's played left exclusively in this young season - possibly because of the continued presence of Jon Berti, or possibly to avoid magnifying the pressure that comes with the leap to AA - but his hitting hasn't suffered. Prospect status aside (he was well regarded when drafted but hasn't impressed since) 1B KC Hobson is off to a nice start.
On the mound, LH starter Matt Boyd seems to have shaken off the hiccups he experienced in AA last season. He's pitched 9.1 innings in two starts so far and struck out 18 batters. Falling in the mid-low 20's on most prospect lists (notably, John Sickels had him at #16) Boyd will force some re-ordering if he keep this up. The rest of the AA rotation has been more shaky. The bullpen on the other hand has been lights out. Except for Corey Burns. He's given up 6 ER in 7.2 IP, the rest have allowed but 4 in a combined 44.1 IP - that works out to a bullpen ERA of 1.73 with Burns and 0.81 without. Among the featured players are waiver claim and sleeper prospect Matt West, old friend Luis Perez, and finally healthy Danny Barnes along with AFL surprise Blake McFarland. Arguably each of these men really ought to be at AAA and if they keep it up some tough decisions will have to be made.

The story here is much the same. The .500 (pending the results of today's rain-delayed tie game) team features uncertain hitting and praise-worthy pitching. It is a team, however, with more prospects to watch. Every position in the infield features a player who's been highly touted at some point (being perhaps too generous to Christian Lopes) - none of them are particularly disappointing or impressive in the early going. Among pitchers, Jario Labourt and Alberto Tirado are the two that bring the press clippings with them. Probably the observation most worth making is that Tirado, who's had some control issues, has only one walk against eight strikeouts so far.

The 8-3 Lugnuts are also the beneficiaries of a lot of excellent pitching. Other than one stumble by Conner Greene, it's hard to find a fault, and Chase DeJong along  with unheralded Starlyn Suriel are already pushing for their ticket back to Florida. Prize draft pick Sean Reid-Foley, only 19 this season, hasn't been dinged yet in two starts but has been a little more wild than ideal. At the plate, the player that has stood out from the rest is one-time prospect Dicke Joe Thon who's off to a blistering start with a 1.159 OPS. It would be a great feel-good story if he put himself back on the map, but he's 23 and taking his second go at Lo-A ball (at least one if not two levels lower than a real prospect his age ought to be) so he's got a lot of work to do.
The potential big bopper on this team is Rowdy Tellez who was 0-7 in his first two games but has heated up nicely, witness his .825 OPS in the nine games since (in which he's been on base in all but one of them). On the other hand, he's striking out at an alarming rate. DJ Davis is also off to an encouraging start, having reached base in every game before today's 0 for 4 effort.

So there ya go, if I know it now you know it.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Random notes...

...many of which you've already heard about or figured out for yourself.

Item: Winning a series a Yankee stadium is always the most important news of the day

Item: Castro is the closer, and that may possibly be true for years to come

Item: Max Pentacost has been assigned to Dunedin. This may have to do with his recuperation from surgery, or may be where he's going to play when he's healthy.

Item: Jeff Hoffman tweets he's got a two inning start in extended tomorrow. The reports on him have been a bit nuts, and he may make an appearance in Toronto by the end of 2016 if all goes well.

Item: Michale Saunders made his first rehap start tonight, but reports are he won't be ready for the home opener.

Item: Mitch Nay Matt Dean, and Dewal Lugo homered for the D-Jays tonight.

Item: I got no more items, but I wanted to at least notice these.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Observations on Minor League Rosters

Let me not miss the opportunity to extend two thumbs WAY up to the major league squad for their impressive Opening Day win before I wax verbose about minor leaguers. Castro, Travis, Pompey and Pillar certainly scoffed at the whole "pressure of Yankee Stadium on Opening Day" thing, eh?

So the format here is just to take a quick look at each of the rosters announced today and just do a stream of conscienceless reaction to each. Keep in mind that they might stil change before these teams play their first games later in the week.
 (most of the starting fielders are obvious but sometimes I'm guessing)

Buffalo Bisons-
SP: Randy Wolf, Jeff Francis, Chad Jenkins, Andrew Albers, Scott Copeland
RP: Steve Delebar, Rob Rasmussen, Ryan Tepera, Bo Schultz, Preston Gulimet, Scott Barnes, Greg Infante, Austin Bibens-Dirks, Bobby Korecky
Lineup:Josh Thole, Daric Barton, Mune Kawasaki, Ryan Goins, Matt Hague, Chris Dickerson, Ezequiel Carrera, Caleb Gindl, Andy Wilkins
Bench: Sean Ochinko, Chris Colabello, Jon Diaz, Brad Glenn
DL:John Stilson, Felix Doubront, Wilton Lopez, Johan Santana, AJ Jimenez, Ramon Santiago, Andy Dirks

This team is overflowing, literally, with major league and "4A" experience....expect liberal use of the "DL"...Jenkins in rotation is interesting...nice to see Copeland rewarded...Hendriks, Doubront and, hopefully, Santana will push a couple of those guys to 'pen at some point, but Santana will no doubt have to start recovery in much depth here that a few guys had to get shoved to AA despite having no real business there - expect more of these guys to get squeezed in similar fashion, or released...not sure where Juan Oramas lands once (if)  he clears waivers  

Compared to my projection: Pretty close, can't forcast DL, surprised West was squeezed out, Goins demotion affected Berti's placement I assume.

New Hampshire FisherCats
SP: Matt Boyd, Taylor Cole, John Anderson, Casey Lawrence, Mike Lee
RP: Dustin Antolin, Danny Barnes, Matt West, Arik Sikula, Blake McFarland, Cory Burns, Luis Perez, Greg Burke
Lineup: Jack Murphy, KC Hobson, Jon Berti, Jorge Flores, Andy Burns, Dwight Smith, Jr., Melky Mesa, Matt Newman, Jake Fox
Bench: Pierce Rankin, Shane Opitz, Kevin Nolan, Ryan Schimpf
DL: Ricky Romero, Derrik Chung

Assuming Romeero on this team is just an overflow issue from the loaded Buffalo DL...Boyd getting a lot of buzz but promotion may be difficult to win...Anderson is becoming the McGowan of the farm, they keep sticking with him so he must have something... Smith in LF reflects lack of OF options (as I mentioned in the preview post) and the presence of should-be-in-AAA Jon Berti...

Comparison to  my projection - Fox and Schimpf squeezed out of AAA as I predicted, a few consequential org guys a step up or down, usually because of crowding or positional needs

Dunedin Blue Jays
(secondary sources - official roster not updated  yet)
SP: Jario Labourt, Jayson Aquino, Jeremy Gabryszwski, Matt Dermody, Brad Allen, Luis Santos*
RP: Alberto Tirado, Brady Dragmire, Jimmy Cordero, Chad Girodo, Scott Silverstien, Will Browning, Tiago De Silva
Lineup:  Jorge Saez, Matt Dean, Christian Lopes, Dewal Lugo, Mitch Nay,David Harris, Roemon Fields, Derrik Loveless
Bench: Mike Reeves, LB Danzler, Emilio Guerrero, Jason Leblebijian, Ian Parmley
DL: Griffin Murphy, Chris Schaffer, Seth Conner

Labourt apparently blew them away in the spring...Aquino is the guy they got for Ybarra...Luis Santos is a guy I never heard of until I saw him listed on this roster at Bluebird Banter - was released by the Royals - he physical is pending...Look for Hoffman on this roster when he's activated...Tirado is another one that forced their hand in the spring...De Silva and Browning are crowded out of AA by the surplus of pitching there...Lopes is a possible break-out...Fields showed enough, plus age being a factor, to be jumped to least one report suggest Conner may be moving into a coaching role?

Compared to my projections - I pretty much whiffed on the rotation, save for Allen (albeit White suddenly retired) but I was fairly close otherwise. I had hoped Alford would show enough to land here to avoid the CF conflict but it's not illogical that Fields, being 4 years older, would be the one pushed.

Lansing Lugnuts
SP: Chase De Jong, Shane Dawson, Chase Mallard, Starlyn Suriel, Justin Schafer, Alonzo Gonzalez
RP: Mark Biggs, Jose Fernandez, Andrew Case, Tim Mayza, Chase Wellbrock, Francisco Gracesqui, Colton Turner, Phil Kish
Lineup: Dan Jansen, Rowdy Tellez, DJ Thon, Richard Urena, Gunner Heidt, Boomer Collins, DJ Davis, Josh Almonte
Bench: Justin Atkinson, Michael De La Cruz, Ryan McBroom, Tim Locastro, Chris Carlson
DL: Adonys Cardona, Tom Robson, Anthony Alford, Jon Davis

Biggs must have shown them something this spring because he looked like a bust last year...Jansen i on everyone's sleeper list...Rowdy Tellez is the one here I'm most fascinated by...Heidt isn't an ideal 3B but there's no better alternative on this roster...Atkinson is being converted to catcher...when Alford is ready, there will be a conflict as both he and Davis are natural CF, but my guess is Alford will play RF when they play together...Cardona and Robson are both prospects if healthy.

Compared to my projections - Borucki had clean-up surgery on his elbow so he was held back, Smoral is yet unexplained but presumably they wanted to keep working on some of his shortcomings. Yeyfry Del Rosario was released so I was badly wrong there. Urena possibly provided enough upward pressure push Lugo up to Dunedin despite mixed results.

Over the next few days, sources close to the teams wil no doubt have conversations with some of the more well connected sources liike Charlie Caskey and Jesse Goldberg-Strassler and Gerry at Batters Box and we'll get more insight into why these various choices were made and what the organization felt it learned in camp. Fascinating stuff for those addicted to prospect porn.

Not as fascinating, perhaps, as games like the Blue Jays played today but not every game will be so enjoyable I'm sure. Which reminds me, I don't think I've made my prediction this spring. I'm going to be bolder than most (no surprise since I'm a compulsive optimist) and cal this a 90 win team (+/-3) and a division winner. So there, I'm on the record now.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Head to Head

Apparently the consensus of the various people who do predictions Have the Red Sox as the division favorites, with the Blue Jays and defending champ Orioles well back. I'm thinking maybe take a little closer look at that, in my own homerish fashion. I'll admit to being wary of dismissing the O's since i dismissed them into the early days of August last year and they still won 96 games, but I'll admit that on-aper they don't look like they belong in this discussion. I'm also worried about overlooking the Yankees, so let's do a 4-way head to head look at these teams and see where I think the consensus might be wrong, as we await the first pitch in the Bronx tonight. No, scratch that - let's include the Rays too.

To simplify things, since I'm not a math-whiz in advanced baseball metrics, I'm going to stick to projected fWAR as found in the Positional Power Rankings at Fangraphs. On occasion, I'll finesse some points I feel are not well reflected n the numbers (playing time, or some situation that's changed since the projections were made) but those numbers are the jumping off point. Also, I'm separating starter from bench and consolidating all of one players total under his primary position. I recognize that skews the numbers a tiny bit due to positional defense adjustments but screw it. You want meticulous detail you ain't readin' my stuff anyway.

Martin - 3.8
McCann - 3.1
Weiters - 3.0
Hannigan - 2.2
Rivera - 2
Big change here is that Hannigan steps in for the injured Vazquez in Boston, all I can do is pro-rate the PA but when I do, the Red Sox actually gain ground (make of that what you will). Jays and O's get biggest contributions from reserves. O's entertaining injury risk.

First Base
Napoli - 2.7
Davis - 2.5
Texeria - 1.6
Loney - 1.2
Smoak - 0.6
I could point out the flaws in the other guys but that'd mean I was buying into the air up my skirt about Smoak having potential for more. Not sure I do. But everyone here except Napoli is soft so it wouldn't take much to climb the list.

Second Base
Pedroia - 4.3
Franklin - 1.7
Travis - 1.5
Schoop - 1.4
Drew - 1.0
This was calculated before Franklin looked like he was going to spend around 1/4 of the season on the DL, but since they didn't credit him with a full season of PA, there was no easy way to calculate an adjustment. By contrast, Travis was projected only 175 PA and I took the liberty of tripling that. I don't know that he won't fail, but I'm making an executive decision based on the results of the spring.

Reyes - 2.7
Hardy - 2.6
Bogarts - 2.5
Cabrera - 2.0
Gregorious - 1.2
IF Reyes' D  IS improved by his health (big if granted) he might put some space in here

Third Base
Donaldson - 5.5
Machado - 5.0
Longoria - 4.8
Headly - 4.0
Sandoval - 3.4
Strongest position in the division, last place here higher than 1st place at shortstop and 1B

Left Field
Ramirez - 3.4
Gardner - 3.3
Saunders - 2.6
Jennings - 2.0
De Aza - 1.6
Pretty remarkable that for the vast difference in reputation and contract, there's less than 1 WAR between Ramirez and Saunders

Center Field
Jones - 3.8
Elsbury - 3.8
Betts - 3.3
Kiermaier - 2.8
Pompey - 1.4
I've inflated Pompey by 100% (which is still a bit shy of his ZIPS projection - ZIPS likes him much more than Steamer) for the simple reason that the power rankings show him a below average defender which is just damned silly. Also, as weak a hitter as Anthony Gose which also seems quite crazy. I compared him to Cleveland's Michael Bourn, who himself only projects to a .667 OPS and a slightly above average fielder, adjusted for fewer plate appearances, and came up with 1.4 WAR - still last on the list but not crazy, certainly the projection is easily within Pompey's abilities.Also, I don't buy in on Betts. I want to see him do it again (well, I don't WANT to but you get the idea).

Right Field
Bautista - 5.3
Peirce - 3.0
Souza - 1.8
Victorino - 1.6
Young - 1.4
Pierce is spread all over the place on the rankings, I just consolidated him into RF (though if Davis fails again he'd be at 1B) - the guy busted out at 31 which isn't unheard of but I'm skeptical. Souza may well be better than this projection.

Encarnacion - 3.2
Ortiz -2.6
Jaso - 1.3
Beltran - 0.9
Snider - 0.8
Snider's just the guy with the highest total among O's bench players. There's nothing here that allows for A-Rod accumulating anything above replacement as I'm confident he will.

Total starting lineup
Blue Jays - 26.6
Red Sox - 26.0
Orioles - 23.7
Rays - 19.6
Yankees - 19.3

Red Sox - 3.7
Yankees - 2.4
Blue Jays - 2.2
Rays - 2.2
Orioles - 1.5

Total offense
Red Sox - 29.7
Blue Jays - 28.8
Orioles - 25.2
Yankees - 21.7
Rays - 21.8
(giving the Yanks a cushion here due to aforementioned A-Rod factor)

Starting pitchers
NYY: Tanaka (2.9 Sabathis (2.2) Pineda (2.1) Warren (1.8) Eovaldi (1.3) et al (1.3) - 11.6
TBR: Archer (2.2) Cobb (1.9) Smyly (1.9) Odorizzi (1.3) Karns (0.7) et al (1.4) - 9.4
BRS: Porcello (2.4) Buchholtz (1.5) Miley (1.5) Masterson (1.1) Kelly (0.5) et al (0.3) - 7.2
TBJ:  Buehrle (1.9) Hutchinson (1.7) Dickey (1.6) Norris (0.8) Sanchez (0.3) et al (0.8) - 7.1
BO: Chen (1.7) Tillman (1.3) Gausman (1.2)  Norris (1.0) Gonalez (0.5) et al (0.8) - 6.4

 Buehrle is as much as a full win too low, based on his track record and there's no reason I can see to project a regression from Hutch. Give the two of them just a repeat of last year and they jump from #25 to #18 on the Power Ranking list. The Yanks have injury concerns throughout and the Rays have already been hit by setbacks (I know, I know, Stroman - le sigh). The spread between #2 and #5 here is anyone's game.

TBR: McGee (1.7) Boxberger (1.0) Jepsen (0.1) Balfour (0.1) Frieri (0.1) et al (-0.2) - 3.0
NYY: Betances (1.6) Miller (1.4) Carpenter (0.2) Warren (0.2) et al (-0.5) - 3.0
BO: Britton (0.5) O'Day (0.5) Matsuz (0.3) Hunter (0.3) et al (-0.2) - 1.5
BRS: Uehara (1.5) Tazawa (0.7) et al (-0.9) - 1.3
TBJ: Cecil (0.8) Loup (0.4) Redomond (0.1) et al (-0.8) - 0.5
Let's first acknowledge that bullpens are insanely volatile and further acknowledge that the gap between a middling bullpen (Baltimore) and one of the "worst" (by this measure) is only 1 WAR.

That said, there's some nuttiness with the Blue Jays projections. Marco Estrada at -0.1 makes little sense to me - his track record suggests much better, but the uncertainty concerning where his innings will come from (rotation or 'pen) likely suppresses the result. Worse, they rate Castro -0.4 which, if he pitches that poorly he won't be on the team long enough to accumulate (ditto Osuna at -0.2 for that matter)

Total pitching
Yankees- 14.6
Rays - 12.4
Red Sox - 8.5
Orioles - 7.9
Blue Jays - 7.6

Grand Total
Red Sox - 38.2
Blue Jays - 36.4
Yankees - 36.3
Rays - 34.2
Orioles - 33.1

Closing remarks -
I feel okay about the difference between the Red Sox and Jays because of my confidence that the projection metrics can't capture the potential contribution of rookie players, of whom we have more in starting roles than the other teams combined. On the other hand, I'm worried that I, as many others, are underestimating the Yankees and I'm forced to cling to the hope that they will get beat up by injuries. I also don't buy the O's falling into last place though I'd be totally cool with that.

All in all, it looks pretty much like the "eye view" impression looks - not much of a gap from top to bottom, fairly evenly matched teams, the winner reliant as much on "breaks" as anything else, and every team facing the imperative of doing all the little things right because the margin for error is almost non-existent.

Let the games begin!

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Quick Hit: Starting pitcher depth?

Conversations rumble about how thin the Jays are behind the Front 5 starters, with reference made to past years and how many pitchers got at least 1 start (9 in 2014, 13 in 2013 for example) for the big league club. Keeping in mind that for some of those guys it WAS just one start.

I won't bore you with a regurgitation of the circumstances which led to those often sub-standard substitutions - it wouldn't be a Quick Hit then now would it?

So here we go - a rough order of priority, in a circumstantial vacuum, in which we might see starters beyond the projected Opening Day rotation. This attempts to strike a balance between number of starts they'd be allowed and the order in which they'd be turned to.

Tier 1
6. Marco Estrada - truth is, they are six good options deep at a minimum;
7. Roberto Osuna - they could stretch him out if it looked like the need would be long-term;
8. Todd Redmond - he's shown himself capable before and he's not the only long man now;

Tier 2
9. Randy Wolf - if he does well once the season starts he could potentially jump to #7 only because  if the need is really long term, Osuna probably couldn't hold up to accumulate more than 100 IP so Wolf might be a natural fit if he proves worthy; Possibly he could really such and drop down to around #15 too;
10. Liam Hendricks - they are clinging to him for some reason, but if you get to him, for more than one or two spot starts, you have to pray the team knows something you don't. So far he's struggled to turn good AAA stats into MLB results;
11. Chad Jenkins - he's been better than Hendriks in spot start opportunities, despite poorer AAA stats;
12. Andrew Albers - has the virtue of having started and exceeded expectations for the Twins a couple of years ago

Tier 3
13. Jun Pablo Oramas - not likely on your radar, he's better than you think he is. No, really. Maybe a sleeper in terms of potential major league contribution.
14. Johan Santana - kinda of an odd placement, if he shows anything like a measure of his previous ability he's top tier, maybe #6 or #7 - but not before June at the earliest;  If he doesn't show much but is still able to pitch at all, this is about right - he can't do worse than ...
15. Jeff Francis - okay NOW you can start to worry;
16/17. Matt Boyd/Taylor Cole - If they pitch in AA this year like they did in Dunedin last year, they have to be on the radar if things get bad enough they have to consider giving Francis a start. They are not A-list prospects but they do have good arguments. Boyd is a LHP who shows up on some Top 30 lists (Including Sickels at #16, MLB at #22, and Fangraphs at #29); Cole led the entirety of minor league ball in strikeouts and while technically old for the level, is not old in terms of experience after taking time off for a Mormon mission. They could either of them get some Graveman like helium.
18. Rickey Romero - I know I know, but I can't make this list without mentioning the non-zero possibility he finds his stuff again. Like Santana, if  he really does get it back, this is far too low, but unlike Santana, we can't be certain all his issues arose strictly from health issues so a higher degree of suspicion is warranted.
19. Scott Copeland - mentioned only because the team made specific mention of having him stretched out for added depth, something you wouldn't normally bother to comment on for an Org Guy (which he surely is, though I wouldn't rule out a future as a fringey reliever)
20. Jeff Hoffman - should be crazy to contemplate this, but you can't rule out him coming together so well that he blasts through the system for an August debut. Which could be very good news or a sign of complete unmitigated disaster in Toronto.

Last year, the guy with the 8th most stars was..Hendriks, with 3 (Norris had 1 but being a September gift isn't really relevant); in 2013, the #8 guy was Chin-Ming Wang with 6 (5 others combined for 11 beyond him) and Hendricks projects AT BEST to be the 10th option this year and could readily be considerably lower.

I'll argue we have deeper depth this year than last.
Stroman stepped in when an early opening came up and was excellent - let's imagine Osuna could play that role (again, innings limitations may apply);
Happ was promoted as the first internal option - that's Estrada;
Hendriks was the emergency plug-in  - Rednond has demonstrated solid results Hendriks can't cite;
Norris only had the one meaningless start but maybe that's Hoffman?
Looking at 13, Wolf CAN'T suck as bad as Wang did I don't imagine; Ditto Albers (just to try to compare vaguely similar status) in relation to Romon Ortiz; Jenkins was #10 that year with 3 starts, he falls at a similar spot on the depth chart this year; I won't belabor the comparison further for folks who got less than 3 starts.

In short - our depth is just fine. Sure, if they can stock up on guys like Chacin or Maholm on minor league deals, it can't hurt to add more - but the depth is no thinner than it ever is, and no more so than it is for almost any team around.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Minor League Roster Previews

[Edited to reflect Drabek loss]
[Edited again 3/29]
[Edited again after roster announcement 3/31]

It's still two weeks away from Minor league opening say, and a lot can still change, but with the increasing likelihood that one of us Blue jays bloggers will be plotting to write on a subject only to look up and see some other fine blogger has beaten them to the punch, iI choose to get out in front on this one.

Today's surprising,if not shocking, demotion of Steve Delebar illustrates what a fool's errand such prognostication is (clearly i laugh in the face of danger, right?) and if I'd finished this post last night when I started it I'd have taken less than 12 hours for it to have been rendered at least a little obsolete. Nevertheless, fools rush in and all that - I live to roster-bate.

Be advised of the predictable caveats:
a. Injuries can happen (especially those lightly reported and seldom understood minor league "injuries");
b. you can never be completely sure what the internal decision makers will decide regarding keeping or releasing marginal players(!), in that respect I'll project a roster for every player that, to my knowledge, is still in the system and projects to play for a full season team. You can bet some of them will be release within the next two weeks;
c. given the above, some rosters will have more names than will actually fit on the standard roster. The roster limit for AAA and AA is 24 at the beginning and end of the season, but 23 most of the season and there are currently 30 or more players who would seem to make sense nowhere but AAA. By the way, the limit at A ball is 25. In short season it's 30 and rookie ball allows 35.
Nothing for this overcrowding until players start getting cut, but designating projected starters among fielders will help clear the picture a bit; I'll acknowledge that in some cases a player will be one level below where he clearly ought to be once actual rosters are set.

Projected starting rotation and starters at each position bolded.
For the purposes of this exercise, the following  players are projected to be on the Blue Jays
Hutchison, Dickey, Buehrle, Sanchez, Norris / Cecil, Castro, Loup, Redmond, Estrada, Osuna, Hynes
Martin, Encarnacion, Smoak, Travis, Reyes, Donaldson, Bautista, Pompey, Pillar (Saunders, Izturus on DL)  / Navarro, Goins, Tolison, Valencia

Drabek is was a bold call here, but I choose chose to see hanging on to him as the explanation for Delebar's demotion. I am was stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the possibility they are taking Osuna north along with Castro as it's an idea I REALLY don't like - it's probably the call I'm most likely to be getting wrong here. [Yup. Took less tan a day. I'm conceding the point. I'm really frustrated about the Osuna decision. I LOOOVE the guy but I don't see the sense in it. But it is what it is]

[Edit: Alex implied today that they won't commit to the bullpen until the very last second and certain players who are currently assumed to make the team might not if the opportunity to acquire a reliever they like arises. As such Osuna might NOT make the team and, Stoeten relays from somewhere that he would open in Dunedin in respect of the winter weather at AA which is what I was thinking in the first place! Hopefully it plays out just that way. He also commented on the need to have someone who could be shuttled after long games or bow-outs.]

 Potential losses to waiver claims for out-of-options players ignored below. However, those OOO players are designated with a (*) on the AAA roster below. DL players in italics; Players on my Top 30 in Blue, Sleepers in Green.

Randy Wolf, Ricky Romero, Andrew Albers, Juan Oramas, Liam Hendricks*, Jeff Francis
Matt West, Rob Rasmussen, Chad Jenkins, Ryan Tepera, Preston Gulimet, Bo Schultz, Scott Barnes, Steve Delebar, Wilton Lopez, Bobby Korecky, John Stilson, Luis Perez
AJ Jiminez, Josh Thole, Sean Ochinko / Andy Wilkins, Daric Barton, Chris Colabello / Jon Berti, Munonari Kawasaki, Jon Diaz, Ramon Santiago / Matt Hague Chris Dickerson, Ezequiel Carrera, Caleb Gindl, Andy Dirks

Comments: Here's a good place to point out that there are too many candidates to be precise, obviously  the Bisons won't have 15 active pitchers, (along with 15 hitters no less!) comments taken with appropriate grain of salt ... As of now I'm theorizing that Drabek is only up long enough to sneak through waivers and one of these guys - likely Delebar - will be recalled in his place the first misstep he makes ... If Hendricks is claimed, Francis would start since there's too many pitchers here anyway ... Vicideo probably ought be in majors but where? ... Berti benefits from having Travis in the majors ... Hague hits well enough to start, best option for 3B ... Vicideo DH? ... all relievers on each team listed in order of age ... [Edit] Wilkins claimed from White Sox after losing Drabek. He's a fine "trade" return for the pitcher and has a solid track record in the minors, no idea why the ChiSox didn't want him. Figures to be the starting 1B in Buffalo which in turn makes me think that Barton and/or Calebello may be released. Also possible Vicedeo has an out clause if he doesn't make the Jays.

[Edit: Vicideo didn't have an out-clause but apparently they had a handshake deal so he's moved on, which helps a bit with some of the crowding at Buffal]

New Hampshire: 
Matt Boyd, Taylor Cole, Scott Copeland, Casey Lawrence, Austin Bibens-Dirks, Michael Lee
Dustin Antolin, John Anderson, Arik Sikula, Will Browning, Brad McFarland, Cory Burns, Greg Infante, Tiago Da Silva, Rafael Cova, Greg Burke
Derrik Chung, Jack Murphy / KC Hobson / Dwight Smith, Jr. Jorge Flores, Andy Fermin, Kevin Nolan / Andy Burns,  Ryan Scimpf / Matt Newman, Melky Mesa, Brad Glenn,  Jake Fox

I had projected Osuna for Dunedin as recently as a month ago, as I said, I'm going to put him on the farm as a starter until the officially say different ... another overcrowded 'pen ... no word contradicts the previous reports DSJ would be converted to 2B, Travis in the majors clears the way for him to get full time work at the position for the Fisher Cats ... Fox and Schimpf have no business in AA but the roster is light otherwise and neither are prospects so org players can be moved about to serve the organizational needs.

Jeff Hoffman, Chase De Jong, Shane Dawson, Starlyn Suriel, Brad Allen, Ben White
Jeremy Gabryzwski, Brady Dragmire, Jayson Aquino, Francisco Gracesqui, Jimmy Cordero, Chad Girodo, Griffin Murphy, Danny Barnes
Jorge Saez, Peirce Rankin, Chris Schafer / Matt Dean, LB Danzler / Christian Lopes, Emilio Guerrero, Shane Opitiz / Mitch Nay / Marcus Knecht, Anthony Alford, Derrik Loveless, Ian Parmley

Osuna and Castro no longer here breaks up what might have been crazy-good rotation ... AA mentioned Vancouver for Hoffman but I suspect he'll be game ready before mid-June ... more crowded 'pen ... Guerrero may be outgrowing SS, could end up in OF but won't supersede the top prospects  and he'd need to hit like an outfielder ... aggressive placement for Alford, but his length of time in big league camp suggests he's on special track, plus avoids collusion with Davis over who plays CF in Lansing

Jario Labourt, Matt Smoral,  Ryan Borucki, Adonys Cardona, Tom Robson
Yefry DelRosario, Jose Fernandez, Andrew Case, Justin Schaffer, Alonzo Gonzalez, Chase Wellbrock, Matt Dermody, Scott Silverstien
Dan Jansen, Justin Atkinson / Rowdy Tellez Ryan McBroom / DJ Thon, Dewel Lugo, Gunner Heidt / Jason Leblebijian / Roemon Fields DJ Davis, David Harris, Chaz Frank

If Cardona stays healthy and Robson recovers well, this will potentially be the strongest rotation top-to-bottom of these 4 teams ...Jansen leapfrogs Max Pentacost because of the latter's injury - Pentacost won't be ready before the short-season teams start ... McBroom might stay in Vancouver just because there's no obvious replacement for him there ... I picked Heidt to promote over Locastro but the organization could make the opposite choice ... interesting how they will handle Fields, whom Mel Dider calls the best CF in the organization, and DJ Davis, who can't afford the distraction of changing positions, in the same outfield - but you can bet few fly balls will get down.

It's too early to project short-season rosters, but here's a guess at where some of the more prominent guys will probably end up:

Vancouver - Max Pentacost, Sean Reid-Foley, Alberto Tirado, Clint Hollon, Lane Thomas, Richard Urena ... this should be, as usual, a helluva team if someone fills the gap left by McBroom

Bluefield - Jesus Tinoco, Evan Smith, Nick Wells, Jacob Brentz, Patrick Murphy, Angel Perdomo, Matt Morgan, Yeltsin Gudino, Freddy Rodriguez ... I highlighted Perdomo who's actually my #31 because it's crazy the system is so deep he didn't make the top 30, but by mid-season potentially five guys (or six?) will graduate off the top of the list so I cheated a bit there. In similar fashion, it's not that the team here is so thin it's just that by the tie you get this deep there's not room YET for too many of these guys.

 Now, I'll sit back and wait for the Blue Jays make dozens of choices I didn't anticipate.