Archive for March, 2012

Travis Snider Sent To AAA

It appears the battle for the Toronto Blue Jays left field job has been won by Eric Thames, the Jays left fielder last season.  Travis Snider was sent to the minor league camp and will begin the season in AAA Las Vegas.  Snider had a solid spring batting .271 with four home runs and a team high 16 RBIs in 17 spring games.  However incumbent left fielder Eric Thames was equally impressive this spring batting .333 with a home run and 7 RBIs.

Thames was also pretty steady last season for the Jays at the major league level, belting 12 HRs and batting .262 in 95 games.  I think it would have taken a combination of a monster spring for Snider and a terrible one for Thames for the Jays not to give Thames the starting role.  However, if I were Thames I wouldn’t be too comfortable based on comments by Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos:

“This doesn’t mean it’s permanent — this could change at any time. Just because one guy starts the year doesn’t mean it couldn’t change at any time. So Travis is going to be ready.”

The Jays announced a series of cuts today including David Cooper, Yan Gomes, Jon Diaz and Chris Woodward along with Snider as they attempt to get their roster set for opening day. 

Gregor Chisholm reports Toronto has five more cuts to make, and two jobs are up for grabs. Veteran Omar Vizquel is competing against Luis Valbuena and Mike McCoy for the utility infielder spot, while Dustin McGowan, Aaron Laffey and Kyle Drabek are in the mix for the final spot in the starting rotation. Top pitching prospect Drew Hutchison is also still in camp, but he isn’t considered a strong candidate.

Blue Jays Spring Training Recap – March 24, 2012

Another spring training day and another spring training route for the Toronto Blue Jays.  This afternoon they defeated the Atlanta Braves 9-0 behind a solid pitching effort from Henderson Alvarez.  Here is the boxscore.

Adam Lind homered and drove in four runs while Kelly Johnson added three RBIs of his own en route to Toronto’s 9-0 victory over the Braves on Saturday afternoon at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.

Right-hander Henderson Alvarez got the start for the Blue Jays and allowed just one hit through five innings. The 21-year-old also didn’t walk a batter while recording four strikeouts.

Alvarez needed just 61 pitches to get through his fourth official outing of the spring. He has allowed just two earned runs in 11 innings and appears set to begin the year as Toronto’s No. 4 pitcher.

Up next: Left-hander Aaron Laffey will get the start when the Blue Jays host the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Laffey will be followed on the mound by Jason Frasor, Carlos Villanueva and Luis Perez. The game is also expected to mark the return of third baseman Brett Lawrie, who hasn’t played since injuring his left groin on March 16 against Tampa Bay.

Appreciating Ricky Romero

Just wanted to update a former piece from my old blog on Blue Jays Ricky Romero with updated 2011 stats…

Former Blue Jays GM JP Ricciardi has taken his share of criticism since departing from the team but the franchise does owe him a bit of gratitude for leaving behind two of the best players on the roster, Jose Bautista and newly minted “boss” starter Ricky Romero.  I wanted to focus on the latter today considering you must have been on Mars for the past 18 months if you aren’t familiar with the exploits of one Jose Bautista.

Ricardo Romero was born November 6th, 1984 in East Los Angeles, California and was drafted 6th overall by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2005 MLB amateur draft.  The 2005 draft year in MLB is akin to the 2003 NBA draft that produced Lebron James and Dwayne Wade, among a few other stars.  Taken ahead of Romero that year was Justin Upton, Alex Gordon, Jeff Clement (ouch, the Detroit Pistons of this draft) Ryan Zimmerman and Ryan Braun.

It doesn’t stop there check some of the names taken after Mr. Romero: Troy Tulowitzki, Mike Pelfrey, Cameron Maybin, Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce, Chris Volstad, Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Garza,  Blue Jays OF Colby Rasmus, Clay Buchholz and Jed Lowrie.  Ok, forget comparing it to the 2003 NBA draft, or any draft, that is a who’s who of young baseball talent and even a few franchise players.

Considering his home park and division Ricky Romero has been one of the best left handed starters in baseball the past two seasons.  Brandon Morrow has the best stuff on the staff but Ricky Romero is our best pitcher.  Let’s do a quick comparison against another top lefty who most assume is a Cy Young contender annually, let’s see if you can guess his identity based on current stats.

2011 ERA xFIP K/9 BB/9 K/BB HR/9 BAA GB% WAR
Romero 2.92 3.64 7.1 3.2 2.23 1.04 .214 54.7 2.9
Player B 3.47 3.62 8.5 3.5 2.43 0.94 .233 50.6 3.7

Pretty even across the board although it is clear that Player B is more of a strikeout pitcher while we all know Ricky Romero likes to induce groundball outs when he can.  Player B is Boston Red Sox lefty Jon Lester who is having another very solid season in another tough ball park and tough AL East.  Lester is often among a handful of candidates when discussing best pitcher in the game while it is very rare that Romero will get the same type of praise.

Market and city has a lot to do with the difference in perceived value but Romero is 11 months younger than Lester and performing at a very similar clip over the past two seasons.  Lester was quite a bit better last year overall (5.6 WAR) but Romero held his own throwing 200+ IPs for the first time in his career (4.0 WAR).

His intense demeanour during his starts is a testament to a desire to win and his light hearted banter with teammates on off days make him an ideal leader and role model in the clubhouse for some of the future Blue Jays arms that are being stockpiled in the minor leagues.  Maybe Tyler Beede was too intimidated to sign with the Jays after one glimpse of Romero’s scowl walking off the mound?

Maybe Blue Jays fans were spoiled all those years watching the legend that is Roy Halladay apply his craft that we don’t appreciate the fact Ricky Romero is developing into a true number one starter.

Blue Jays Spring Training Recap – March 23, 2012

The Blue Jays need to save some of this late-inning heroics for the regular season as they rallied from two runs down to defeat the Tampa Bay Rays 7-5.  Brett Cecil wasn’t sharp tonight and got roughed up over 2.2 IPs, giving up 4 earned while walking 5 batters.  Read the full recap here.

In a matchup of two American League East left-handed starters on Friday night, one took a step in the right direction and the other had some trouble finding the strike zone.

Cecil, on the other hand, had command issues right from the start. He walked the first two batters he faced, setting the stage for Jeff Keppinger’s one-out single to plate leadoff hitter Sean Rodriguez.

After the Blue Jays tied the game on Edwin Encarnacion’s solo home run to lead off the second — his third long ball of the spring — the Rays piled on three runs in the bottom of the inning.

Again, Cecil’s control problems were central to the rally. After Jose Molina singled with one out to get things started, Cecil walked the next three batters to force home a run

Up next: The Blue Jays return to their spring home on Saturday to face the Atlanta Braves. Henderson Alvarez will make his fourth Grapefruit League start at 1:05 p.m. at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium as the Blue Jays began to prep their starters for the regular season. Alvarez, who allowed a run on four hits over three innings against the Yankees on March 14, will increase his pitch count up into the 70-80 range. Sergio Santos, Francisco Cordero, Casey Janssen and Darren Oliver are also scheduled to pitch. Julio Teheran will start for the Braves.

Beeston Discusses AL East Challenges, Ownership & Future

Stephen Brunt sat down with Blue Jays president Paul Beeston and discussed all things baseball.  Here are a few highlites:

Brunt: Are there any similarities between now and the building of the Blue Jays’ first contending team in the 1980s?

We put in Alex Anthopoulos. Alex hired the right people, much like Pat [Gillick] did. His philosophy is a little different, but otherwise he’s much like Pat. He’s entirely focused on what we want to do, which is win. It’s not just a matter of putting a competitive team on the field. It’s putting a system in place that is going to allow us to win on a regular and annual basis.

I think he’s done an unbelievable job. All of a sudden it’s happened. We went from the 29th best to the third best organization in baseball. It’s through all of those draft picks he stockpiled.

We invested a lot of money in Latin America. Those players won’t project until 2015. But we still have that nucleus that we have now, if Colby Rasmus and Kelly Johnson can do what they’ve done in the past and play up to their athletic ability. Alex has put together a hell of a team. He’s turned this team around in two years. It’s a completely different team.

Brunt: About that off-season criticism, and the heightened fan expectations…

We have to be a little bit more transparent than we were. Alex and I probably have a minor difference of opinion on what we should do. Alex doesn’t tell anybody anything. He believes that’s a competitive disadvantage, playing things out through the press, and I tend to agree with him. That said, with the Darvish situation-and that was the real killer-they said [Alex] went over to Japan to look at him and then all of a sudden we were supposed to sign Darvish.

Book Review – The Bullpen Gospels

When I went down south a few weeks ago on a “scouting” trip I finally had some free time to read a couple of books I had been eagerly anticipating.  So I purchased The Extra 2% by Jonah Keri and The Bullpen Gospels by Dirk Hayhurst at my local Chapters (yeah, I’m still old school) and thought I would share a quick review on the latter today.

The Bullpen Gospels is written by former Toronto Blue Jays reliever Dirk Hayhurst who takes the reader on an emotional ride into what life is really like behind the scenes of pro baseball.   I have to say if there was ever a book that drew my complete, undivided attention after only one page it would have to be this one. 

Mr. Hayhurst is an imaginative and well spoken introvert living out his dream of “making the show” and at times his inner anguish and pain bleeds through the pages as he stumbles, triumphs and staggers through life in the minor leagues.  All former pitchers, at any level will appreciate his battle with the “Baseball Reaper” the unseen force causing untimely wildness, jet streams out to left and cheap hits to fall in.

Continue reading ‘Book Review – The Bullpen Gospels’

Epy Guerrero: “Mel Queen Cost the Jays Pedro Martinez”

Former legendary Blue Jays scout Epy Guerrero was back in town and long time Blue Jays writer Bob Elliot had a great piece with some crazy quotes:

Guerrero hasn’t worked for the Jays since the fall of 1995, but run into him at any winter meetings and he’ll tell you how he saw a major leaguer first, that he wanted to sign him and that general manager Gord Ash deployed Mel Queen to the Dominican to take a look. Queen wasn’t as impressed. Said the youngster would not get any better. 

“Because of Queen, Toronto doesn’t get a hall of famer … Pedro Martinez,” Guerrero told me.

He then pulled no punches when discussing Jose Bautista, saying:

“And,” Guerrero said, “I also stopped the Jays from trading Jose.”

Guerrero said he ran into then manager Cito Gaston at the winter meetings in Las Vegas in December of 2008. Guerrero said Gaston told him that the Jays were about to trade Bautista and asked him to take a look at the hitter when he returned home.

“I phoned Cito after seeing Jose play for Licey and said ‘you better keep this kid,’ ” Guerrero said. “He was figuring out the timing on the leg kick, getting it down right.”

Bautista does not doubt the story.

“After 2009 when I hit 10 home runs in September, they wouldn’t have traded me,” Bautista said. “After 2008? They probably would have, I hadn’t played that much.”

Coming over from the Pittsburgh Pirates for Robinzon Diaz, the catcher of the future, Bautista hit .214 with two doubles, three homers and 10 RBIs in 21 games. He had an OPS of .648 in 13 starts.

“I believe Epy, he probably talked Cito out of trading me, they’re close friends,” Bautista said. “And … and the rest is history.” 

It is hard to know how accurate any of his claims are though neither Cito Gaston nor Jose Bautista exactly denied any of it.  Take it for what it is worth, the ramblings of an old employee and long time baseball man.

Brett Lawrie Still On The Mend

Brett Lawrie hasn’t returned to the lineup since injuring his left groin while attempting to score from second base on March 16, 2012.  The third basemen hasn’t played since and although Lawrie went through a series of drills Wednesday without any ill effects the Blue Jays will remain cautious and hold him out of the lineup for at least the next two days.

“We’ll increase his baseball activity today, particularly with ground balls, little bit more lateral work,” Blue Jays manager John Farrell said Thursday. “He is not in the lineup today, and right now we’ll push that back until Saturday at the earliest. He continues to be improved every day but consistent with what we’ve stated about him, we’re going to err on the side of caution.

“He’s making steady progress, this isn’t because of a setback in any way but it’s just a gradual ramping up of the activities and being sure that any discomfort, which there is not right now. We just want to be sure we take him through the appropriate progression.”

Analysis: It’s basically wait and see though it seems he is getting closer to returning.  It would be nice to see him stay completely healthy and get back into a good rhythm prior to the regular season starting in 18 days.

LINK – What Can We Expect From Brett Lawrie in 2012?

Blue Jays Rumour Roundup – March 22, 2012

A few odds and ends, including a great one-on-one interview with Anthony Gose:

*Gregor Chisholm sat down with Anthony Gose and they discussed a multitude of topics, including:

The Blue Jays are letting you bunt again this year — what is that going to do for your overall offensive approach?

“It just adds something else to my game. Instead of an 0-fer night I might be able to scrounge up a hit or instead of going into a longer slump I can just break it with a bunt. Keep myself on base , I have to get on base because that’s my job batting at the top of the lineup, get on base, use my speed, score runs any way possible to help my team.”

*Baseball America ranked the 2012 Organizational Talent Rankings, with the Blue Jays ranking 5th.

Baseball America’s annual organization talent rankings evaluate the overall value of each system’s prospect-eligible players (no more than 130 at-bats, 50 innings or 30 relief appearances in the major leagues, without regard to service time). Baseball America’s editors determined the rankings, and Jim Callis wrote the capsules for each team.  The top five in order was the Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals, San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks and Toronto Blue Jays. 

Here is what they said about the Jays:


2011 RANK: 4. 2010 RANK: 19.

IMPACT TALENT: The Blue Jays are loaded with up-the-middle talent in C Travis d’Arnaud and OFs Anthony Gose and Jake Marisnick. They also have plenty of high-upside, less-developed arms in LHPs Daniel Norris and Justin Nicolino and RHPs Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard.

DEPTH: In two-plus years on the job, GM Alex Anthopoulos has built the game’s deepest farm system. Under his watch, Toronto has been aggressive on trade market (d’Arnaud and Gose, as well as several big leaguers headlined by Brett Lawrie), in the draft ($22.6 million on bonuses in 2010-11) and internationally (four seven-figure deals, including $10 million for SS Adeiny Hechavarria).

2012 ROOKIES: Though the Jays have no obvious big league openings, d’Arnaud and RHPs Deck McGuire and Drew Hutcison could create opportunities for themselves by the end of the year.

*Baseball America also ranked the Toronto Blue Jays 4th in the ability to put talent into the major leagues.  Not surprisingly the baseball prospect factory known as the Tampa Bay Rays were number one.  Not only are there big payroll issues to deal with in the AL East but also efficient organizations.

Per the website:

“Below, we rank the organizations based on the talent that has passed through their systems since the end of the 2008 season. That includes both prospects who graduated to the majors or were used in trades, as well as those lost via waivers or the Rule 5 draft. A team gets credit only for players who spent time in its system (so no Austin Jackson for the Tigers) and anyone who was traded by one organization and reached the majors with another (such as Brett Lawrie) are counted with both.”

Here is what they said about the Jays:

4. BLUE JAYS. Lawrie looks like a superstar in the making, and Ricky Romero has justified being the sixth overall pick in 2005. Toronto also has hopes for J.P. Arencibia, Brett Cecil and Kyle Drabek, though it erred by letting Ryan Roberts and Sergio Santos leave as free agents.

Blue Jays Spring Training Recap – March 22, 2012

A pitcher the Jays are counting on to have a big season pitched 5 shutout innings this afternoon as Brandon Morrow outdueled the great Cliff Lee in a 2-0 victory.  Read the full recap here.

Morrow looked equally as dominant on the mound for the Blue Jays. His lone struggle came in the second inning when he momentarily lost command and walked back-to-back Phillies with one out. Morrow didn’t allow a hit until Carlos Ruiz hit an opposite field single with one out in the fifth.

Toronto’s No. 2 starter left the game after that inning having not allowed a run while striking out one. He has now surrendered just one earned run in 13 1/3 innings this spring and continues to show improved command of his breaking pitches.

“That’s something that I set out to do was to improve my pitches per inning and go deeper in games,” said Morrow, who needed just 59 pitches to get through his five innings of work. “It’s definitely encouraging, I had to go down to the bullpen to throw 15 more to get my pitch count up.

“I’m thinking through at-bats and watching the way [hitters are] reacting to balls and calling a little bit more of my own game, shaking to pitches. … All positives.”

Morrow’s final line was 5 IPs, 1 hit,  0 earned, 1 BB and 1 K.

Check out an in-depth look at Brandon Morrow and his odd splits from 2011 and why he should be geared towards success in 2012.

Up next for the Blue Jays: The Blue Jays will travel to Port Charlotte, Fla., on Friday to take on the Rays in a rare Spring Training night game, which starts at 7:05 p.m. ET. Left-hander Brett Cecil will get the start and is expected to go five innings and will be followed by pitching prospect Drew Hutchison. Toronto is expected to send a lot of its regulars to the game before giving them the day off on Saturday.

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