2015 MLB Season Preview · AL East · Toronto Blue Jays

Skydome Panorama

Toronto Blue Jays

Home Ballpark: Skydome… Does ANYONE seriously call it the Rogers Centre?

2014 Finish: 83 – 79 · 3rd AL East

Over/Under Wins in 2015: 83.5 · Over

What We Love:

  • Offseason Additions: Hard not to be (real) excited about the trio of players that the Blue Jays brought in during the offseason. First, the Jays landed one of the biggest fish in the free agent market when they signed Russell Martin to a 5 year deal. Although 2014 backstop (Dioner Navarro) did a more than admirable job, in Martin, the Jays receive one of the game’s premier defenders, a proven winner and a clubhouse leader. As big of a signing as the Martin deal was, it (nearly) took a backseat to the move that followed. In late November, the Blue Jays and Athletics pulled off a blockbuster of a trade that saw the Athletics receive oft-injured, but highly athletic 3B, Brett Lawrie; along with a trio of minor league prospects (Sean Nolin, Kendall Graveman and Franklin Barretto). The Blue Jays, on the other hand, received one of the game’s premier players and elite 3B in Josh Donaldson. Even though Donaldson is only entering his third full MLB season, he has already finished in the top 10 in MVP voting in back to back years; as well as getting his first All Star nomination last season. Donaldson already draws rave reviews for his durability, leadership and defensive capabilities, but you have to figure that his offensive stats will also get a boost as he leaves the cavernous Oakland Coliseum, for the more HR friendly confines of the Rogers Centre. Not to be left out of the shuffle was the acquisition of OF Michael Saunders from the Mariners, in exchange for LHP J.A Happ. Saunders has already endeared himself to the Blue Jays and their fans, when he opted to have his meniscus removed, opposed to surgery, after tearing it early on in Spring Training. Although the decision will leave him more open to long term injury, it’s a move that will allow him to return by mid-April rather than after the All Star break.

martin

  • Youthful Starting Rotation: Losing Marcus Stroman was a HUGE blow, but thanks to a well stocked farm system, that blow should be softened. Stepping up in the place of the “Stro Show” will be a pair of the Blue Jays top prospects, Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris. Sanchez, who thrived out of the bullpen a year ago, was originally looked at as a candidate to reprise his role and help solidify a (weak) bullpen. Instead he will get the chance to take the mound every 5th day and show off his deadly arsenal of a high 90’s sinking fastball and a devastating, 12 to 6, curveball, that we refer to as; “the Dirty Sanchez.” He has also been working on a cutter and a slider in the offseason so he can become a more rounded starter. Daniel Norris, whom has been garnering more offseason attention for his living arrangements than for his pitching capability, was originally slated to open the year in Buffalo (AAA), but a combination of Stro’s injury and an impressive spring has made it near impossible to send him down. Norris also offers a lot more upside than the other pitcher in the running, Marco Estrada (who is more cut out for the ‘pen), and has more experience/polish than the duo of impressive youngsters; Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna. Not to be outshone by Norris and Sanchez, Drew Hutchison will be leaned on (heavily) to help shoulder the workload. Record aside (8-11), Hutch had a solid, first season back from Tommy John surgery; making 32 starts and averaging a strikeout an inning over 184.1 innings. Not to count chickens before they hatch, but Blue Jays beat writer, Jeff Blair, believes that this particular crop of pitching prospects rivals the days when the Jays had Roy Halladay, Chris Carpenter and Kelvim Escobar as pitching prospects. It really is hard not to get excited about the prospects of these young arms.

Aaron-Sanchez-Daniel-Norris 

        Honourable Mention:

  • The 1 thru 5 in the batting order: Reyes, Martin, Joey Bats, Edwing and Donaldson.
  • Daniel Norris’ claim to being the Most Interesting Man in Baseball.
  • The Argos signing a lease with BMO field = One small step closer grass in the dome.
  • Having TWO young, high ceiling, Latino, power arms: Roberto Osuna and Miguel Castro.
  • Three Canadians on the 25 man roster (Martin, Saunders and Pompey).

 

 What We Hate:

  • Marcus Stroman’s ACL: I honestly still cannot bear to think or talk about this. Stro’s blown ACL was an absolute gut punch of an injury. Even though he was only about to enter his sophomore season, Stroman had the stuff and confidence of someone far beyond his years. In fact, there were some (myself included) who believed that Stro would end the season as the teams de facto ace. What makes the matter worse, if that was possible, was seeing such a severe, freak injury befall someone with so much charisma and “swag,” as the Stro Show exudes. Silver lining time:

 

  • At least it wasn’t Tommy John (knocks on wood).
  • Stro’s work ethic, tenacity and drive, will pay HUGE dividends while he rehabs.
  • Stro is young enough that it shouldn’t impact his long term future (knocks on wood.)
  • You know he will be the Jays biggest cheerleader all season; especially if/when the post season comes around.

I look forward to tuning into the Stro Show when it returns in 2016. Best of luck in rehab!

Stro

  • Lack of Depth: Who is our Opening Day 2B? Are we really planning on a full season of Kevin Pillar in LF? What happens if Dalton Pompey falters? Who is our back up 1B? Are we really entertaining the thought of carrying Daric Barton on the 25 man roster? Will Brett Cecil be our closer all season? Are we looking at carrying three LHP in the bullpen? Is Todd Redmond and Chad Jenkins really set for a big workload? These are questions that you have to face/ask when you’re team lacks depth. Unfortunately all of these questions and scenarios could be ones that the Blue Jays face in 2015. You know what would have been really nice? Having Melky Cabrera to be our opening day LF. The Melkman would have allowed Pillar and Pompey to platoon in CF and would’ve been a perfect bat for the two-hole in the lineup. The Blue Jays would love for Justin Smoak to find his bat and be able to allow Edwing to focus more on DH, but he would have to hit consistently in order to do that. As for the 2B situation, as of right now it looks like its Devon Travis’ job to lose. Travis, who was acquired from the Tigers in exchange for Anthony “the Chain” Gose, has enjoyed a great Spring Training with both the bat and the glove, yet he has never played a Major League game. The other candidates to take that job are: “all glove-no bat,” Ryan Goins and the 35 year old Macier Izturis, who is coming off a blown out knee. The biggest head shaking decision was why no one was brought in to help fortify the bullpen. In fact, the closest they came was the deal with Ronald Belisario that fell apart at the last minute. How have they not called Rafael Soriano? Dude, has pitched in the AL East and would give the Jays a RHP out of the bullpen. Don’t you find it odd that GM Alex Anthopolous went out and made the big trades and big signings, but neglected to address his team’s depth? Seems like the guy who buys an expensive car, but neglects to splurge for power windows and locks.

        Honourable Mention:

  • The rest of the lineup (2B, LF, CF and DH) will be comprised of some combo of: Dioner Navarro, Justin Smoak, Daric Barton, Macier Izturis, Devon Travis, Ryan Goins, Dayan Viciedo, Kevin Pillar and Dalton Pompey.
  • Imagining what Melky Cabrera could have brought to this lineup: legit two hitter and starting LF/occasional DH.
  • That whole Duquette saga: imagine we traded Hoffman, Pentecost AND Mitch Nay for an executive?!
  • That ridiculous looking Ted Rogers statue. 

 

Player to Watch: SP Drew Hutchison. Sure there are a lot of candidates for us to pay attention to on the Blue Jays this upcoming season, but none may be as important as Hutch. In Hutchison, the Blue Jays have a young, battle tested starter, whom put up impressive numbers in his first season back from Tommy John: 184 strikeouts in 184.1 innings and a 1.26 WHIP. The main knock against Hutch is that he can struggle with his location, which can leave him prone to getting hit and hit hard (23 HR in 2014). Despite having command issues, Hutch does not issue a whole lot of free passes (60 BB in 2014) but in failing to consistently hit his target, he leaves himself open for batters to put a good swing on his mistakes. Personally, I see Hutch pitching 200+ innings and maybe winning 13 or more games.

 

hutch1

Top Pitching Prospect: Daniel Norris · LHP · MLB ETA: 2015

daniel-norris 

Top Positional Prospect: Dalton Pompey · OF · MLB ETA: 2015

 

Dalton Pompey

Top 30 Prospects (MLB.com): http://m.mlb.com/prospects/2015?list=tor

 

Final Prediction: 2nd AL East

– $

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The Good, the Bad and the Duquette: The Toronto Blue Jays Offseason

dome

Even with the snow (still) falling and the thermometer (still) regularly positioned well below the 0 degree mark, it is beginning to feel a little bit more like Spring. Okay well maybe not actually, but mentally it’s hard not to start dreaming of shorts, sandals, driving with the windows down and above all, baseball. That’s right folks, you did read that correctly.With the Super Bowl behind us, and the countdown to pitchers and catchers reporting now down to the two week mark, it’s pretty much time to round up (because that’s what we do in Canada) to baseball season.

As a Maple Leafs fan, I have been rounding up to the baseball season since Christmas

Sad Leafs Fans

We previously took a look at the big stories of the MLB offseason, or the Hot Stove Season as it’s known in the baseball world. We discussed the surprising signings and trades, which teams had “won” and “lost” the offseason, and what to expect heading into the 2015 season. Today, we will continue our review of the Hot Stove Season and take a more in-depth look at what the Toronto Blue Jays have done up to this point. Now because cliches are essential when discussing sports and I cant factor the suffix “gate” into it any way, let’s go ahead and discuss, the Good, the Bad and the Duquette of the Jays offseason.

The Good:

donaldson

Josh Donaldson is a member of the Toronto Blue Jays…

  • I feel like Lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump when he finds out that Forrest has been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honour. He can’t fathom what has happened, so he keeps repeating the line, “They gave YOU a Congressional Medal of Honour.” That has been me since news of the Donaldson deal broke well over a month ago. I STILL cant comprehend that Josh Donaldson is a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. Just thinking about it causes me to grin like an idiot. Josh Donaldson is a Toronto Blue Jay! One of, if not the best 3B will be our Opening Day 3B! He should bat in the 5 spot behind Edwin, but you could make the argument to have him bat 3 and move Jose up to the 2. Either way, Gibby should have fun writing out that lineup card every game, at least 1 through 5 that is.

martin

Filling our Canadian Quota: the Russell Martin Signing…

  • As mind blowing as the Donaldson deal was, it wasn’t even one of the biggest offseason moves that the Jays made. The Jays were one of the first teams to dip into the free agent pool when they landed one of the most sought after prizes of the offseason in Russell Martin. Despite the catching position not being one of the (glaring) weaknesses of the Jays roster, the Martin signing offers an immediate upgrade at a position to which the Jays already have a fair amount of depth. Martin, who is a superb defender, should immediately help control the oppositions run game on the base paths; an area which Toronto often struggles. Even though he did struggle offensively in his last appearance in the AL, there is no reason to speculate that Martin should return to the offensive woes that befell him in New York and if anything, should offer the Jays another potent bat to pencil in in the 2 or 5 spot. The Martin signing also allows the Blue Jays to use Dioner Navarro as trade bait to perhaps upgrade another area of weakness, perhaps the bullpen or middle infield?

The Bad:

melkman

The Melk-Man Now Delivering in the Windy City…

  • I honestly think that this is a non move that the Jays will regret making. Melky was the Jays most professional hitter last year, the way that he worked counts and spoiled pitches was an art form. Adding him to a lineup that now features Donaldson and Martin would be downright scary. I can understand walking away from Melky if he demanded the moon or even Shin Soo Choo money (7 yrs/$130 mil), but to walk away from a guy who eventually settled on a 3 year/$42 million dollar deal just makes me scratch my head. Nothing against newly acquired Michael Saunders, whom I view more as a 4th OF or platoon guy, but Melky is a LEGITIMATE offensive threat and a pretty damn durable player too. I really hope the Jays don’t regret going to war with the likes of Kevin Pillar, Andy Dirks and Michael Saunders over the Melkman.

cecil

Bullpen? More like BS…

  • The Jays currently have THREE areas of weakness: 2B, CF and the bullpen. Of those three areas, reinforcing the bullpen should have been the easiest offseason task to accomplish given the amount of free agent relief pitchers there were; opposed to the amount of available 2B and OF. And yet here we sit with about two weeks to go before pitchers and catchers report and the Jays have added ZERO arms to their bullpen. In fact as it stands right now, the Jays have somehow managed to pull of a negative in the addition column when they failed to ACTUALLY sign Ronald Belisario, but more on that later. With no real additions made, the Blue Jays will head into Spring Training with a bullpen that consists of: Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup, Marco Estrada, Todd Redmond, Rob Rasmussen and (hopefully) Steve Delabar. Pretty grim to say the least. Personally, I believe still have options to rectify their lack of activity. They could still go out and sign one or two of the remaining bullpen arm (Rafael Soriano, Francisco Rodriguez and Burke Badenhop) left on the market. Or they could take it a step further and sign SP James Shields. Signing Shields would not only solidify their rotation but it would also allow Aaron Sanchez to stay in the bullpen, thus fortifying that area of weakness. This isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds, especially with the price on the self titled “Big Game” James having come down considerably.

and… the Duquette

duquette

Duquette-Gate: The Expensive Price For a Suit 

Looks like I did manage a way to sneak “gate” in there, because a scandal or saga isn’t official until it has “gate” attached to it.

Oh where to begin with the Dan Duquette saga?

Let’s start with the most absurd factor which was the fact that there was ANY consideration of giving up ACTUAL ON THE FIELD TALENT for someone who contributes an exact WAR of 0.0.  I have never understood the infatuation with trading actual talent for coaches, let alone a damn executive. What’s more shocking is that we aren’t even talking a utility infielder or relief pitcher (the pieces involved in the John Farrell trade) but top tier prospects; three to be exact! And you thought RA Dickey for d’Arnaud and Syndergaard was bad.

That’s correct. The Orioles wanted not one, but the trio of SP Jeff Hoffman, C Max Pentecost and 3B Mitch Nay; all three of whom are included on the Jays top ten list. Besides the asinine fact of depleting your own farm system to pick up a suit, you are also contributing to the direct improvement of an inter division rival. I shudder at the thought of having to face Jeff Hoffman for the next 10+ years. Now before you start saying that Hoffman is JUST a prospect, this is a kid who very well could have been the #1 pick last year if not for Tommy John surgery, not to mention the fact that he has the potential to be a big league ace. That last bit is not hearsay either as it comes from a very reputable source, his college pitching coach at Eastern Carolina, the same guy who coached Chris Sale at Florida Gulf Coast.

Chris Sale

Besides the fact that I wouldn’t trade three top prospects for Billy Beane or Theo Epstein let alone Dan bleeping Duquette, how is this any way to treat current President, Paul Beeston? Beeston was employee #1 of the Blue Jays, not to mention being one of the first guys to have his name put on the Level of Excellence. The fact that he has to hear his fate being played out through the media is unceremonious to say the least.

But why Duquette and why now? This can’t be JUST about Beeston’s pending retirement at the end of the season. Why the sudden love affair with a guy that NO ONE in baseball wanted as of 48 months ago? Not to mention the whole “tampering” issue that could have cost us a player or draft pick just out of stupidity. For now, the whole Duquette saga has been put on the back burner as Beeston has signed on for the 2015 season, after which he will retire. But you can all but guarantee that this WILL NOT be the last you hear of Duquette to Toronto.

Blue Jays - Dickey

More of a Dickhead than a Knucklehead

“I don’t think there’s any replacement for time spent, Josh has caught 75 to 80 percent of my starts since 2010 or 2012 and there’s nobody better … but it would be nice to have someone like Russell who can do it as well.”

The above quote was taken from the pitcher whom use to be Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard, clearly I am speaking about one Robert Allen DIckey. The quote was in response to the news that (newly acquired) Russell Martin was preparing to catch the novelty pitch and was R.A’s not so subtle way of saying that he wants Josh Thole to once again be his personal catcher. The problem with having Thole play Tim McCarver to RA’s (apparent) Steve Carlton is one of three fold:

  1. Having Thole on the Opening Day roster would lead to the Blue Jays carrying THREE catchers (Martin, Navarro and Thole) on the 25 man roster. This wouldn’t be a problem if either one of them could legitimately play another defensive position. Even if we entertain Russell Martin’s grandiose delusions of being an infielder, this is a guy whom has played 18 games at 3B and 1 game at 2B and RF; Brett Lawrie he is not. So that leaves three players to share catching duties, but wait… this is the AL so we do have the DH to consider, which leads me to our next point.
  2. Josh Thole CANNOT hit! or at least he cannot hit in the AL. In the two years he has played in the AL, Thole has managed to hit .215/1/15 with a .289 OBP in 285 plate appearances. In fact he has been a negative WAR player during his tenure in Toronto. It’s a shame too that he can’t hit to stick in the lineup as his left handed bat would be a nice accompaniment to the Jays right handed heavy lineup.
  3. But above all, the Jays would be rewarding mediocrity. Dickey has not been good enough in a Toronto jersey to warrant a personal catcher. If anything he has been nothing more than a glorified innings eater. Why do we need to keep a below average player on our roster in order to appease a mediocre one?

My Dickey hate aside, I can understand and even empathize with his hesitancy about going to a new catcher after the whole JP Arencibia/Opening Day 2013 fiasco. But Martin is not Arencibia, in fact he is a good defender behind the plate and shouldn’t have (many) issues adapting to the flutter ball. He may not be AS good as Thole when it comes to handling the knuckleball but what he lacks for in experience he will make up for in offense, which will definitely be needed when R.A takes the mound.

belisario

Did we sign him or did we not?

News breaks that the Jays have agreed to a 1 year, minor league deal with free agent RP Ronald Belisario. Despite adding (much needed) depth to the bullpen – an area of weakness – Belisario was set to make upwards of $1.7 million this season, a fairly hefty price tag for a guy who posted a 5.56 ERA in 66 innings with the White Sox last season. Belisario would later go onto sign a minor league deal with Tampa Bay.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time that the Jays have failed to ACTUALLY sign a free agent that they have already been reported to have ALREADY SIGNED! (see Santana, Ervin). What we don’t know is WHY the deal fell through. If something came up in Belisario’s physical (he has been busted for coke use in the past) then perhaps it was a wise decision to walk away. But if the reason is merely because the Jays brass were hemming and hawing over dollars and cents, than this should be viewed as an embarrassing failure. Not because of losing the player but for what it stands for; that the Jays are run by incompetent individuals. If you were a free agent, would you want to come to a team that cannot even sign a mediocre reliever to a minor league deal? Seems like another amateur move by a team that cannot decide whether it’s a big market player or a mid level jobber.

Bad PR aside, what the Belisario fiasco also represents is that ANOTHER relief pitcher is off the market and it looks more and more that the Jays are heading into the season with the likes of Steve Delabar, Marco Estrada, Todd Redmond and Liam Hendriks being our right handed options out of the ‘pen. I still don’t understand how the Jays were willing splurge and most likely overpay for the services of Andrew Miller, but yet they are balking at the idea of signing one of the (few) remaining decent relievers available: Rafael Soriano, Francisco Rodriguez and Burke Badenhop. If you really want to prove that you are looking to contend in 2015, why not go out and sign two or even all three of those options? I bet it will look like money well spent when you’re bullpen isn’t blowing every lead given to them.

Now with all of the above being said, the most important thing to take away from the offseason, besides the fact that JOSH DONALDSON IS A TORONTO BLUE JAY, is that there have been WAY more positives than negatives. More importantly, if all we are seriously bitching and complaining about is maybe adding a 2B, some depth and bullpen help, than things are looking pretty damn good heading into 2015. Can’t wait to see more of this…

donaldson2

Two weeks and counting….

– $