Tagged: Baseball Prospectus

Keys to the Season: What they are saying? What I am saying?

The Blue Jays enter 2010 depleted of some depth.  We traded our only front-end starter (Roy Halladay), let our best defense outfielder walk away (Alex Rios) and also traded our best defensive infielder (Scott Rolen). 
The analysts don’t see the Jays getting any better any time soon.  That
said, it is hard to get worse than the 75-87 record that saw the Jays
finish, once again, 4th place in the highly competitive A.L. East. 

The only thing that could be worse is the Jays finishing behind the Baltimore Orioles
for dead last in the A.L. East.  This is where most believe
the Jays are headed, as Baltimore seems to be going upward in the
standings with an array of emeging young players.  Some even go further
to say that the Jays are going to be the worst team in the American
League.  Hello Kansas City Royals!  I’m not about to go nearly that far, but I do believe the Jays 2010 success is contingent on some key factors. 

Every year I look forward to reading the Baseball Prospectus write-up that forcasts the Blue Jays future.  Similar many other baseball fans, I use the intelligence and effort put into Baseball Prospectus
to supplant my own personal lack of baseball intelligence. 
They do amazing work!  More to their credit, they were dead on with
pin-pointing the downfall of J.P. Ricciardi in previous years. 
Primarily, they critiqued Ricciardi’s string of questionable signings that
started with Cory Koskie and his low-risk, low-reward college draft
picks that produced a few good talents, but ended up depleting our farm
system as a whole.

For this season, Baseball Prospectus has pretty much agreed with
other publications saying that 2010 has been “clearly surrendered to
rebuilding’ with the signing of ‘stopgap’ players like John Buck and Alex Gonzolez.” 
They also state the obvious by very briefly saying “trading the Doc
hurts, and the Jays will be in a tough battle to be ahead of the
Orioles all year.”  What they are enthused about is the prospects of Hill, Lind,
Snider and the Walrus (Brett Wallace) all playing together at some point
this year, calling them the ‘Fab Four.’ 

I’m liking this ‘Fab Four’ analogy … a lot!   So, I’m going with it as my number 1 ‘key to the season’ for the Blue Jays:

Keys to the Season

1. The Fab Four  

It would be very nice to bank on repeat seasons from Adam Lind and Aaron Hill.  If it doesn’t happen, then Baseball Prospectus
has entertained the notion of trading Aaron Hill at peak value to
further establish the Jay’s committment to rebuilding.  Anthopolous
doesn’t seem headed that wa -, but it might be an idea? 
Hill and Lind anchored our lineup last year. The Jays would not have won 70
games without them.  For 2010 we need to count on their bats have to be back in full
effect.  They are both a key component to our team now.  They now have to show that the team can rely on them.  

It will key to get help from guys like Brett Wallace/Lyle Overbay and Travis Snider providing more support near the back of the order.  Going back to Baseball Prospectus, our home park (the Rogers Centre) statistically favors left-handed power hitters.  Last year Jays radio analyst and former player, Alan Ashby,
stated that what really contributed to the Jays 1st place dominance in
April and May was one man – Travis Snider.  Snider started the season giving the
Jays a great power element before totally tapering off in May.  He was a
nice surprise for a team that could use ‘nice surprises.’  This season the Jays could
potentially get another surprise in Brett Wallace.  Anthopolous acquired his
coveted left-handed power bat as a part of the Roy Halladay trade.  The Jays hope that Wallace will be the future, as Lyle Overbay
enters the last year of his contract.  Overbay suffered a
knee contusion last week in Spring Training, so the prospects of
Wallace in 2010 look more possible.  If Snider and Wallace can somehow
find their way into the lineup and produce at expected levels for the
kinds of prospects that they are?  The Jays will have a pair of surprise
‘left-handed’ power bats to compliment Lind and our home ballpark.  Brett
Wallace didn’t have a very good spring, so the Jays will look to
rejuvenate Lyle Overbay for their left-handed production in 2010.  Granted that Overbay’s knee contusion doesn’t become
serious.  These guys all have to produce for the Jays to compete with the potent lineups of New York, Boston, Tampa and now Baltimore.  

2.  Leading the Way on the Mound

The absence of Halladay in the Jays rotation leaves the question:  What starting pitching
talent(s) will emerge?  It would be nice to see multiple guys have
success.  For the Jays to have hope of doing anything this season, they
need some pitchers step up and make a name for themselves.  The likely
candidates are Shaun Marcum and Ricky Romero.  Romero is
coming off a fine rookie year going 13-9.  At one point in the season,
some Yankees writers compared Romero’s stuff, notably his changeup, to Mets ace Johan Santana
That may be a bit strong as Romero struggled at times – compiling an ugly
WHIP of 1.52.  He will need to do better than that to lead the Jays
pitching staff, but he is still learning.

I was really looking forward to watching Shaun Marcum in the Jays
rotation last season.  He came off an impressive 2008 only to be sidelined in 2009.  At times, the way Marcum changed speeds and commanded
the strikezone makes, he was unhittable against weaker hitting clubs.  He seems
to have a great pitching IQ.  I like that Marcum always looks
like he is in control on the mound – something that he probably
learned from Roy Halladay.  Having Marcum back will be an asset that
the Jays didn’t have last season.  Although, coming off an injury, that
will hard count on.  The Jays making the Marcum the #1 opening day
starter is good sign that he will be one ‘key’ to watch in 2010!

As for the rest of our staff, the Jays look to be going with three of Brian Tallet, Marc Rzyepcynski, Brandon Morrow or Dana Eveland.

Eveland had a very strong spring that propelled him into the mix.  It is hard to tell how he will fair with the Jays, but he has certainly opened some eyes this spring.  He might be the most unlikely candidate to lead the staff, but these kind of players sometimes emerge.  Look at Ben Zobrist last year?  

The Jays gave up an intriguing young pitching prospect, Yohermyn Chavez and hard-throwing reliever Brandon League to get Brandon Morrow.  Baseball Prospectus
called Morrow “an odd decision” since the Jays don’t look to be
contending anytime soon.  I don’t agree with this because at age 25, Morrow is still young – making him a possible factor in the Jays rebuilding project.  He is the kind of
player where the Jays are expecting the worse, and hoping for the
best.  I’d say Morrow is ‘big key’ to this season because he could be
due for a breakout year capitalizing on his chance to start full-time.  If Anthopolous hit a homerun with this trade, 2010 could be very promising! 

Brian Tallet pitched very well for the Jays filling in rotation spots last year.  He
has the most experience of the bunch and is a solid option.  However, I don’t
expect him to ‘breakout’ year in 2010.  I’d catergorize Marc Rzyepcynski
the same way.  Zippy (as I call him) is very advanced for his age.  He has four good pitches that he can command, but they don’t overwhelm batters.  Both these guys are solid optionsm, but without a very high-ceiling.

If the Jays want to do something this year then having Kyle Drabek and Brett Cecil
emerge is key!  Cecil overstepped his bounds getting some early
‘big-league’ experience when he should have been in the minors.  Cecil
brings a great arm and a somewhat deceptive left-handed delivery. 
Cecil’s development is not quite there, but in my opinion he has the makings of a front-line
starter.  He will start this year in AAA and look to bounce back into
the rotation at some point this year.  Kyle Drabek has had a very
impressive Spring Training.  Drabek is now being considered for the
rotation earlier than we expected.  Not having actually seen him pitch, I
hear he has a very effective, well-controled curveball that is featured
along with some other great pitching tools.  Jays fans can barely hold
their excitement on him.  I know better than the rely on a rookie though.     

With the rebuilding project underway there is no reason to rush both
Cecil and Drabek.  However, their contributions this season could be
‘key’ to the Jays 2010 season, although it is a bit of stretch to count
on rookies emerging in dramatic fashion.

It is also a bit of a stretch to count on players coming off the injuries to emerge.  Dustin McGowan and Jesse Litsch
are both wildcards at this point.  We may see them not pitch at all
this year?  McGowan had a serious injury, and it is a terrible shame because of
his talent level.  Litsch doesn’t have the stuff to be a top 3 starter in my
opinion, but I hope he proves me wrong.  I’m counting more on the
contributions of Drabek and Cecil as possible ‘keys to the season’ … and the future for that matter!

3.  Team Defense

The Jays lost Scott Rolen at third base, we picked up a decent
defensive shortstop Alex Gonzolez, stayed similar defensively at
catcher acquiring John Buck to replace Rod Barajas and got a little weaker in the outfield losing Alex Rios.  The Jays outfield will now have Jose Bautista
Bautista intrigues me because I want to see how much ground he can cover in the outfield.  Bautista’s arm is also well above-average.  I look
for him to step-up and be a key contributor to the team defense.  With Adam Lind and Travis Snider possibly occuping the other corner
outfield spot, it could get ugly.  Also Edwin Encarncion at third base is a very risky option.  The Jays will need to play good ‘team defense,’ as they look to be deteriorating in that respect.

Conclusion

If all these things fall into place, the Jays will have a very good
year.  If they don’t?  And you will notice that I don’t expect all them
to actually happen.  The Jays will – as every baseball preview predicts
– submit this season to rebuilding and likely end up in the ‘cellar’ of
the A.L. East.  Notice how I used the word ‘cellar.’  Cellar are often opened by keys … ha ha.  Yep, I’m a cornball.

Even though this year looks bleak Blue Jay fans, it will be entertaining to look out for my:

Keys to the Season”   

JaysKeys copy.jpg 

                            

 

              

AA Faces Trouble Right Out the Gate

All right!  Time to get serious about this season, and Jays in the future.  Reading ‘Baseball Prospectus‘ I see that Jays GM Alex Anthopolous is already facing critics.  Here is a little background on Anthoupolous, and the situation he faces for the upcoming season.

Walrus.jpg    

At the end of 2009 the Toronto Blue Jays went
the route of choosing a young, and up-and-coming General Manager, Alex
Anthopolous
. Among Blue Jay faithful, Anthopolous is beginning to
become known as ‘AA’ out of conveinence for his large name.

AA took over the job in October of 2009 after working as an Assistant
GM apprentice to the J.P. Ricciardi for four years. Before that, AA had
been with the Montreal Expos and the Blue Jays as a scouting
coordinator since 2000.

AA is great young sucess story graduating from my Alma-matar,
McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, with an Economics Degree. At
23, he decided to pursue a career in the game. He became proactive,
calling organizations and looking for any way to get a foot in the
door. Finally, after getting a direct line to Expo GM Jim Beattie’s
office in Florida, he got his chance. Starstuck, AA says that he hung
up on Beattie the first time he called.

In his short time as GM, AA has inherited a team with many problems
seeking an innate desire to rebuild. Right from the beginning, it was
clear that AA had a new agenda than the previous GM that was said to
have ‘reign’ over all Front Office decisions. J.P. Ricciardi cut Blue
Jay scouting, and AA’s first instinct was to expand it, possibly
looking to go after ‘gem’ high-school prep players that the previous GM
was reluctant to take the risk on. Over Ricciardi’s tenure, he drafted
low-risk, low-reward college prospects that didn’t completely fail
(finding guys like Aaron Hill, Adam Lind and Ricky Romero) but they
were enough to deplete the depth in the Blue Jay’s farm system to where
they were rated #28 system in baseball.

The appease the public, and address this need, AA showed a committment
changing this by expanding the scouting staff and trading the Jay’s
most valuable commodity, Roy Halladay, for three top-level prospects
that instantly boosted the rating of the Jays system.

The rebuilding that every Jays fan is looking for has seemingly been
initiated with these moves. However, reading the recent issue of Baseball Prospectus
they consider the trading of top prospect Michael Taylor to the Oakland
Athletics for A’s top prospect Brett Wallace a fatal mistake by AA.
Baseball Prospectus evaluated Taylor as a player with much more
naturally gift skill, and having a higher-ceiling.

Wallace, a low-risk college phenonom at Arizona State, was ripped by
Baseball Prospectus for his athletic ability and they made fun of the
way scouts mocking called him ‘Walrus Boy.’ The Jays have notoriously
been critisized for showing a tendancy to disregard building their team
around speed and defense. Trading Taylor for Wallace only fuelled this
debate among Blue Jay faithful.

The current do not have a legitimate leadoff hitter, they have two slow
outfielders that have trouble making plays in the gap (Travis Snider
and Adam Lind) and third baseman with notorious defensive problems
(Edwin Encarnacion). Taylor, with speed and outfield range, would have
been able solve two of those problems. Instead, the Jays saw fit to get
a player that REALLY needs to ‘mash’ in order to play first base in
MLB.

Altogether, AA has been critisized and commended for his initial
dealings with the Jays rebuilding plan. He continues build from within
while cutting payroll and improving his chance to reap the benefits
young players. It is the way in which he is doing it, which has been
critisized.

Personally, I tend to agree with Baseball Prospectus. Taylor would have
been the option with more potential. However, looking at the Jays
current first base situation, they could use help in the area. Teiexia,
Youkilus, Pena and Atkins are what the Jays are up against at first
base. They haven’t had that ‘jumpstart’ in the middle of the order from
that position. I see both sides here, but I’m also skepitcal about how
Wallace with be able to hit, or field even considering his frame. I
believe, this deal could definitely backfire HUGE in AA face!

Do you agree Billy Beane swindled the Jays by acquiring Taylor for Wallace?

Does AA deserve to be ‘ripped on’ for the ‘Taylor/Wallace deal?

How important is it to have athletes on your team, as opposed to players that can ‘mash’?