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.
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:
Scott Rolen was having a fantastic season as a Jay in 2009. As mentioned in previous posts, he made some necessary adjustments to his approach at the plate and became more of a contact hitter. The result was a steady .320 average, and a 28 game hitting streak mid-season.
Rolen was a true professional, and he will be missed in Toronto. Especially the hilarious commerical during Jays games where Rolen is at a drive through window ordering a burger.
Well, you always have to give value, to get value and I believe the Jays were able to do that this trade deadline. In the deal the Jays were able to acquire third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, relief pitcher Josh Roenicke, and relief/starting pitching prospect Zach Stewart.
Aquiring Edwin Encarnacion in the deal is a little bit of a risk. We don’t know what we are going to get from this guy?? He had very good year at the plate last season, but 2009 has seen Edwin hampered by injury and struggling at the dish. Defensively the Jays will definately take a hit, as Encarnacion cannot ‘hold a candle’ to perennial Gold-Glove candidate Scott Rolen. With this deal, the Jays make third base possibly a problem area in the future. I don’t think anyone is envisioning Encarnacion in our long-term future … right now at least.
Roenicke is a young hard throwing reliever that could be inserted into the Jays pen ASAP. With closing issues, set-up issues and overall wear and tear on the pen this season, Roenicke will provide some needed depth to the pen. Who knows? He could even step up to the closer role at some point???
Zach Stewart is another hard throwing youngster. It is always nice to see the Jays aquire a young player that has succeeded everywhere he has played in the minors! Stewart sports a 1.67 ERA at three minor league levels this year. He relieved 9 games in AAA, and managed to pitch at a 0.79 ERA clip, getting a couple of 2 inning saves. Stewart also started 14 games at the between class A and AA this season, doing very well in those starts. Sources say the Jays may be primarily looking at him as a starter. Starter or reliever, Stewart looks to be a valuable asset for the Jays moving forward.
Quite frankly, I can’t wait to see the young, hard-chucking Texas boy pitch!! Yee-Haw! Sorry, I sometimes spontaneously combust over new New Blue Jay talent.
I will miss Scott ‘the rock,’ but I’m glad the Jays made this deal. At least it is something!
Come 2010, we will see where we are in terms of the standings, and replay this Halladay thing all over again. Blah! I know you all can’t wait.
All sources indicated that we could only get ‘one’ solid prospect out of a Halladay trade. J.P. Ricciardi was looking for much more than that, and Halladay deserved much more that in my opinion.
With the offers that were apparently presented to us, I don’t see why we couldn’t get similar offers next season? The Jays were only getting presented with one legitimate guy, and a couple of low-to-mid level prospects. No doubt, we would get the same next season in Halladay’s contract year. We will see in 2010, barring any Blue Jay playoff run. What Doc will command in 2010? He will at least be worth ‘one’ good prospect next season. Mark my words! Mark’em.
I’m on J.P.’s side with this Rolen deal, and holding firm on Halladay … On the Record.
“You are Scott the Rock, you are rockin and rollin. I wanna rock with you all night and party everyday.” (quotation from a Scott Rolen fan that encounters his favorite player working at a drive-thru window in one of the very humourous Blue Jay advertisments this season.)
Scott Rolen has been a big suprise for the Blue Jays this season, hitting .325 and playing ‘rock solid’ defense at 3rd base. Never do I doubt Rolen’s ability to make a play at third base when the ball is hit in his direction. It is very reassuring to Jay’s starters to have a spectacular infielder like Rolen, especially during a Halladay start that often induces multiple groundballs. This season, Rolen has made a notable transition at the plate from previous years. He is hitting for a high average, but not nearly getting the power numbers that a player of his stature – when he is hitting for a high average – is accustomed to. Rolen made a significant transition in his stance, and batting stroke this offseason. He lowered his shoulder at the plate in response lingering problems in the area. By doing this, Rolen was able to shorten his stroke, giving himself better timing and plate coverage. The down side of that is keeping the shoulder high in a hitting position allows the batter the generate more power. With Rolen’s shoulder problems, this was a fair trade-off as his average is now soaring to (if it keeps up) a career high. Homeruns can definately be overrated. The new compact hitting and durable Scott Rolen is having a great impact on the team now. Can he keep it up? Cue mon!!! He is a rock! Que Bob Segar here … ‘Like a rock.’
Marco Scutaro made one of the most ‘heads up’ plays that I’ve seen in a long time yesterday in Philadelphia. On a ball four from Phillies starting pitcher, Joe Blanton, Scutaro alertly stole second base seeing that Blanton and the Phillies middle infield of Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley were not paying attention. How he did it? I don’t know? But with plays like that, you can definately tell the competitive drive that Scutaro possesses. He works works walk, gets on base, steals, and earns everything he gets. A very fine season Marco Scutaro is having, and I think All-Star consideration is not off limits to him. Here is an earlier derivative design of Scutaro that applies as much today, as it did when I made it last season.
To conclude. Go Jays! Way to sweep the World Champs!
Gone! Stranded! Destitute! Munsoned up a creek, without a paddle. Like a tree without its rich and succulant sap. Like a ballplayer, without his mitt, or like Frank Thomas without his at-bats.
That was me, for the past 3 weeks I’ve been without my laptop and frequenting public computer labs. Upon graduating from a College course in Public Relations, they stole my computer rental and took away some key programs, like Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Office. I was able to get them back, however, and now I’m good to go, so you can expecting some more fancy designing (i.e. The Carmona/Corona label below).
So, now that I have my laptop back, it is time for the Blue Jays to win again. Pleeeeease! Man, Wha happend when I was gone! Murphy! Six game losing streak and we fall into last place in the AL east? It is definately a sign that I need to keep up with this blog, in order for the Blue Jays to win.
To me, it is now becoming obvious that the Blue Jays need to shake things up a bit. John Gibbons, wow, you are definately on the hot seat. The way Frank Thomas was handled, in Toronto, was despicable. I solely blame this on management. Thomas was a clubhouse leader, proven to produce, and committed to making the Blue Jays a winning club this season. The Jays need guys like that, we definately don’t need to be getting rid of them. No doubt, he will have a big year with Oakland now, and that may come back to bite the Jays in the future. It is obvious what the Jays are, all pitching and limited offense! Soon, we will be crying for a big hitter and this whole situation will haunt the team.
On the flip side of that coin, the Jays are deep enough, this season, that we will be okay. Matt (‘the lumberjack’) Stairs (I call him the lumberjack because he looks like one and swings a bat like one) will be inserted into the lineup more often, and the Jays will also see what they can get from Adam Lind (not much recently!).
The big question here is:
Does this make the Jays a better team?
No, definatly not in the long run. I’m sure that Thomas would have had a huge year for us, in and towards the second half, following his usual trend of being a second half star.
Are the Jays still okay without Thomas?
Yes. The big additions to our team, this season, were Rolen and Eckstein. They bring the winning attitudes, and Rolen looks, in my estimation, to be poised for a great year. They, are what will really make the difference for this team. My prediction that the Troy Glaus for Scott Rolen deal, would be the best move J.P. has ever made as Blue Jay’s GM, is starting to come true in it’s initial stages. Stairs will hit for a higher average but will have less homerun pop, and we are all waiting on (‘the heartbreak kid’) to come around. It that those things happen, the Jays will be good, if not great this season. Here is hoping Blue Jay fans.
With Thomas, I don’t buy into the conspiracy. Benching Thomas was a management decision and a very bad one. J.P., sticking to his strategy of making players happy, released Thomas because the position Gibbons put him in. What do you think about the conspiracy? Was it management or front office? Really, if you know, I would also like to know.