Happy 2017 everyone! Good to be back after being on a hiatus for almost 4 weeks. Just because I wasn’t blogging for the past 4 weeks doesn’t mean I wasn’t reading almost every post about the Blue Jays on any website and social media account linked to the Jays that I could. It may or may not have driven my wife a little bit crazy. If anyone was going crazy though; it was me. I’ll get right to the point about it. People were still losing their mind that Edwin had left the Jays, how our season was doomed and this was all Shapiros and Atkins fault.
Even Captain Obvious knows this isn't true.
Let me touch on that last point there. Yes; Shapiro and Atkins may have misread the market for sluggers but so did Edwins agent. That’s why the Jays moved on as quick as they did and why EE said no to the offer. They were both right and at the same time they were both wrong. Do you understand? Ya, I don’t either but lets just go with it and move on.
Can you repeat that again?
Technically; you really can’t blame Shapiro and Atkins for much this offseason. Sure, they haven’t spent on big names but then again; when Dexter Fowler is the top outfielder available; that’s saying a lot about the market. People are complaining that the Jays need relievers; sure they do. But relievers come and they go. The top guys stick around for an extended period but the rest of them have their ups and downs. That’s why when Brett Cecil; who was both loved and hated by the fans within a 12 month period; got offered $32 million over 4 years he jumped at it. And it’s the same reason why management has sat out in this crazy times with the though that: “That’s far too rich for our blood.” Other fans are saying: “Well we need to be making other moves like trading for someone.” That sounds easy if you’re playing a video game but this isn’t a game. And we don’t have the trade chips in the minors to make a move for a big name. You can blame that on wonder boy Alex Anthopoulos. He knew that he had one shot in 2015 to win the World Series so he went all in and traded away pretty much all of our top prospects and left the cupboard bare for his successors. However, because he got the team to the playoffs for the first time in 20+ years he’s treated like a saint; when sometimes it needs to be remembered he may have compromised this teams future for one shot.
How all Jays fans looking at our prospect list this year compared to 2014.
I completely agree with what he did. When you have a chance you take it. We did and it didn’t work out. We came close again last year and it didn’t work out. So now most of the core is two years older and we lost some important pieces over the last two off seasons. David Price, Edwin, Cecil Dickey and Hawkins have all left on way or another. Michael Saunders is a free agent and it looks like he might be able to be resigned at a decent price because his second half last year was brutal. That brings me to Jose Bautista. He’s still available and he’s still apparently in constant contact with the Blue Jays. Makes sense. He loves it here (so did Edwin); he’s a hero in the city and really; there are no other offers out there at this time. The problem is; is that the Jays seem more than happy to move on from him and collect the draft pick compensation for him. I do believe if the market continues to collapse the Jays will try to sign him to a multi-year deal but it’s going to be in the $10-12 million range over 2 years with an option at some point. That I can get on board with. If it’s more than that; I think there’s no way they make a deal with him. They’ve come this far and it looks like they won’t be pressured by the fans or any one for that matter to make a move.
That brings me to my final point. I had a very good discussion with a family friend the other day…to the point where a few others told us we needed to stop talking about the Jays and hang out. This person said: “the Jays owe it to the fans who have been going to the games; or they are going to lose all the good will they’ve built up in the city.” Now, this person has been a passionate Jays fan since they first were founded so his words hit a little harder than anyone I’ve chatted with on Twitter. My reply was simple; I didn’t believe the Jays should overpay 2nd tier free agents in order to make fans happy. In fact; if the Jays went out and signed every free agent available and missed the playoffs would those fans who demand the Jays do something still be there? Of course they wouldn’t.
Fans are fickle. They show up when the team is winning and find better things to do when the team is losing.
The one things that puts people in the seats as Al Davis would say is “Just win baby.” The ownership owes it to the fans to be competitive; I agree with that. Management is different; they don’t owe anything to the fans. They have to project whats going to happen 5-10 years from now. Trying to win in the present while building for the future. This team has a lot of holes; so do most teams to be honest. All the Jays have to do is win and all will be forgiven about this slow offseason. I want our team to win just as much as anyone reading this or any person that calls themselves a die hard. I also want them to be competitive as long as possible. Right now with the current core; I don’t see it. They’ve got some young pieces but not enough…so if it means that the upcoming season is played as a lets see how we do and if it’s bad we trade all our older guys to get way younger; I’m ok with that. Will I be happy about it? No; but I have to be realistic and it’s been to be proactive and start rebuilding before it’s too late and our team ends up like the teams from the mid 90’s to 2013. Not good enough to make the playoffs but not bad enough to get the top pick in the draft.
Oprah gets it.
With all that being said. Pitchers and catchers report on Valentines Day. That means it's only 31 days to go! So it looks like I'll be enjoying that day more than I normally would! Wait; that came out wrong...oh well.
Not that every other Valentines Day before this wasn't awesome....
All we have heard recently in the news is that the Jays minor league is depleted and they don’t have any high end talent that other teams have which makes it harder for them to make trades. I won’t disagree with that here although we do have some interesting pieces who could eventually make it to the bigs; some sooner than later. The thing with players in the minors is that some guys who are called “can’t miss prospects” struggle mightily when they make it to the bigs and flame out quicker while others who went unnoticed excel for some reason when they get to the top level. I’m not going to say that’s going to happen with any of these guys but what people have to remember is that baseball is completely different when compared hockey, basketball and football. Very rarely will a player get drafted and make an immediate impact in his first few years of professional baseball. Most spend a lot of time in the minors learning more about the game and develop slowly before they are actually ready. So without rambling on; here is a look at our top 10 prospects in no specific order.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B
Yes; he is that Vlads son; and the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree. His power is near the top of the chart as is his overall hitting ability. Some scouts have even gone as far to say as he was born to hit. Considering this past year he was the youngest in the league that he played he managed to walk almost as much as he struck out which is an incredible feat for a 17 year old. He has some speed; it grades out around average. Defensively he’s a work in progress. He has an arm rated at just above average and his defense is getting there. Considering this was his first year playing the hot corner there were bound to be some bumps and bruises along the way. ETA for Toronto: 2020
If he's half as good as his Dad...well that would make him better than 99.9% of the world.
Rowdy Tellez, 1B
How can you not want for a guy named Rowdy to make it to the bigs? His calling is his bat. Not near the level as the previous mentioned guy but then again; most aren’t. He had a great year in the minors this year with regards to his power. It’s the first time he’s really put it all together at the plate which has most scouts happy. Some however, fear that he is a swing and miss candidate but an OBP of close to .390 even with 92 strikeouts it’s an impressive feat. The two main problems that scouts see with Rowdy is that his defense is below average and his body type isn’t exactly what they see as working out long term. One can hope that he ends up like a former prospect (although not of the Jays but eventually came to us), Edwin Encarnacion. ETA for Toronto late: 2017
Sean Reid-Foley, SP
He’s our top rated pitcher with a fastball that sits between 92-95mpg but can get up to 98. His next best pitch is his slider which is rated above average and his next two pitches, the curve and the changeup sit at around average or below. His biggest issue has been control but this year he seemed to have a break through striking out 130 in 155.1 innings while only walking 38. He held hitters to a .190 batting average so that means he was dealing more often than not. He grades out as mid-rotation starter and should be arriving when either Estrada or Happ come off the books. ETA for Toronto: 2018
Anthony Alford, OF
Alford is an interesting case. He gave baseball a backseat to football while playing QB at Southern Miss. The Blue Jays drafted him and offered him a huge signing bonus but allowed him to continue to play football. After a couple of years, Alford finally gave up on football and turned to baseball. In his first full season he gave everyone a glimpse of what he was capable of and shot himself up a lot of scouts boards. This year however, he was injured a fair amount and took a step back. He’s on of the players most likely to be asked about in any trade talks because his speed is phenomenal, his defense is very good and he’s a tough out at the plate. It will be interesting to see where how he develops over the course of a full season. ETA for Toronto: 2018
Reese McGuire, C
One of two prospects acquired in the Francisco Liriano trade, McGuire is known as one of the best defensive catching prospects in baseball. His hitting is slowly coming around and that is the only thing at this point in time standing between him and a chance to be an everyday catcher when he finally reaches the big leagues. With a plus arm and plus defensive skills, don’t be shocked if he reaches the majors on an emergency call up basis later in 2017. ETA for Toronto: 2017 depending on injuries to the big league roster
I can do this.
Harold Ramirez, OF
The second prospect of the Liriano trade, all he has done is hit since he was drafted. He’s a great hitter but he profiles more as a corner outfield and not a centre fielder like he is now due to a below average arm and average defensive skills. ETA for Toronto: 2017
Max Pentecost, C
This is the last guy I’ll preview and a guy I’m really rooting for. He was one of the best hitters (finished 2nd overall) during the 2014 season in which he was drafted. Shortly after starting his professional career he injured his shoulder and missed the rest of the season. In January of 2015, something didn’t feel right in his surgically repaired shoulder and he went under the knife again causing him to miss all of that season. This year was his first back and he showed a lot of flashes of potential but was limited to only playing first base. If his shoulder is ever healthy again he could be fantastic behind the plate but with the Jays already having Reese McGuire ahead of him and then Martin on the big league club my bet is that he’s converted to first base. ETA for Toronto: 2018
Notable Mentions; ie. Wanted to write about them but didn't want this to be 7000 pages long.
Connor Greene, P(known more for his modelling and acting than his pitching at this point but has the ability to change that); Bo Bichette, 2B (yes, his Dad is Dante); Jon Harris, P(throws in the low 90’s); T.J. Zeuch, P (stands 6’7”, throws hard, so that works).
So I asked a few friends recently about what they would like to see me write about the Blue Jays this offseason. One of the questions was why Kevin Pillar can’t seem to win a Gold Glove for the stellar defense in center field. Now I can be very tough on him as a hitter as those of you who have read my blog know. A lot of people want to think it's because the Blue Jays play in Toronto and there's no way they'll vote a guy from a Canadian team as a winner of the Gold Glove. That's not true not at all. This team has a storied history of numerous Gold Glove winners. For Pillar however; it's quite simple: He’s the second best guy out there and has been for the past two seasons.
If you look at the simple stats, Kiermaier had a better fielding percentage at .993 to Pillars .983. That means that Kiermaier only had 2 errors in his time in the outfield as compared to Pillars 6. Now some of you big Toronto fans are going to say: “But Pillar played 42 more games than Kiermaier!” Yes, that is true but in less games Kiermaier had 1 more outfield assist and had only 60 less chances of fielding the ball. That works out to close to 1.5 chances a game if Kiermaier had played the whole season. So, there is a chance that had he played as many games as Pillar, he would have made as many errors. It could have happened but if you’re going to look at the negative, then you’ve got to think that he’d have far more assists than Pillar and would have reached double digits.
He's pretty, pretty...pretty good.
Now those are looking at the basic stats; but with advanced metrics and analytics we can delve a bit further into the stats. I’m going to just browse a few because this is new to a lot of us and I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.
Ya Steve...I don't really understand advanced stats either.
First we’ll look at Total Zone Total Runs Fielding Above Average. This measures the total runs above or below average the player was worth based on total plays made. Pillar was a 4. That means he would worth 4 runs over say Carrera playing centre field instead of him. Kiermaier on the other hand was a 10. 2.5 times better than Pillar with one-third the games played. That number jumps off the page right away at you. So you’ve got to think that really hurt Pillar in the voters mind.
It hurts about that much. Maybe more.
Next we will look at Defensive Runs saved. Really simple here. If an average player plays instead of the two guys we’re looking at their team could look to give up that many more runs over the course of the season. Pillar saved 21 runs in centre. Kiermaier; 25. So again in one-third the games Kiermaier posts a number that is a fair amount higher. Right now it’s 2-0 Kiermaier so, I’m assuming you know where this is going.
The last stat I want to look at is Outfield Arms Runs Above Average. Again it compares our top guys to the average players in the league based on not only how many assists but how many guys are unable to advance on throws whether it be hitting the cut off man or the right base. Pillar was at 4. Kiermaier 12. That’s not even close. So Kiermaier either threw out or stopped runners advance at 3x the number that Pillar did.
Comes up pretty short doesn't he?
Just looking at those three stats alone shows just how one sided this competition is. Don’t get me wrong; I love Pillar in centre field. After years of having Colby Rasmus (never seemed to play deep enough) and Rajai Davis it’s nice to have a guy that we can depend on basically any ball hit his way to give 100% effort on. He’ll even run through his own teammates; isn’t that right Tulo? Kiermaier just outright deserved the award this year and last year. It happens. Sometimes no matter how good you are, there’s always someone better. Think of the guys who played second base during the 90’s when Roberto Alomar was manning that position. They never had a chance unfortunately and that was before advanced stats.
Sure my mother-in-law will probably disown me for saying he’s not the greatest but let’s be happy to say we’ve got the second best guy in the American League patrolling our outfield. I’m ok with that because we know on a nightly basis, whether you’re at the park or watching on t.v.; there’s a chance that you’re going to see a highlight reel catch. So there you go boys, that’s why Pillar came in second again. Not because he isn’t good but because there is a guy out there who is far better.