There is a fine line between a passionate fan and one who is panic driven. Following the poor effort in a three game sweep at the hands of AL East foe Baltimore the latter had strong opinions on how to fix what ails the Toronto Blue Jays.
1) Eric Thames just has to go and Travis Snider must be called up.
I’ll admit it, that terrible play on the Matt Wieters homerun has shined a giant, bright light on an undeniable fact – he is a lousy fielder. This talk was silenced slightly when Thames hit a monster jack for the only Jays run in game one of the series and overall his hitting hasn’t been horrendous. Travis Snider also recently came down with a wrist injury so this one isn’t likely to happen anytime soon.
2) Adam Lind needs to be released and David Cooper should be his temporary replacement.
This one might have legs as the Jays really don’t have much invested in Lind going forward and if you read the daily prospect updates on this site you know David Cooper is mashing in Triple-A Las Vegas. However you have to give a veteran like Lind a bit more rope to turn his season around though patience will be thin if he can’t turn it around quickly.
3) JP Arencibia can’t hit, call up Travis D’Arnaud.
Catcher is the toughest position on the diamond and every manager with any savvy will require a catcher to focus on defence first – especially handling a pitching staff. With the Blue Jays running out the youngest starting group in the majors it would almost be a disservice to their development if a rookie learning the ropes were forced into this role.
Couple that with the fact Aaron Cibia is coming off a 20+ homerun season and the starting gig is his for the foreseeable future. Don’t be surprised if he hits right around .200-.220 all season with the occasional homerun – that is just the type of hitter he is. Travis D’Arnaud is scuffling in Triple-A and will definitely need some more seasoning but I would expect him to be called up in September or possibly earlier if injury strikes one of Arencibia or Jeff Mathis.
4) Yunel Escobar is slumping so let’s see what Adeiny Hechavarria can do.
Escobar has not looked impressive at the top of the order and has even let his slumping bat affect his normally rock solid glove. As I wrote yesterday he appears a bit more aloof than normal and noticeably sulked the past two nights when things did not go as planned. We have the veteran presence in the dugout to help him past this and hopefully Joey Bats and Omar Vizquel handle this one internally.
Hechavarria is having a great start to the season in Triple-A but he still has some glaring weaknesses that could be exploited by big league pitchers, namely his plate discipline and patience. Yunel Escobar is a proven commodity off to a slow start, once he stops trying to yank literally every pitch and starts to use the whole field he should produce.
5) Move Edwin Encarnacion up in the order, no down, no permanently in the cleanup spot, at first base, no designated hitter.
Look, Edwin Encarnacion is a fine player but after a hot start is coming back down to earth, close to what he actually is. EE is a .270-.280 hitter capable of hitting 20-25 homeruns, adding depth to a major league line-up while batting anywhere from 5-7. He is an awful defensive player who should be the DH nearly fulltime or spell Adam Lind occasionally.
This season was never thought to be a year in which the Blue Jays were serious contenders but they came out of the gate in spring training and served noticed to the league – they are getting close. The pitching staff has held up better than most had predicted with every starting pitcher lasting five innings to start the year.
With the New York Yankees struggling to put out five major league starters, the Boston Red Sox dealing with slow starts and injury problems suddenly the AL East beast looks a little easier. If the Blue Jays can continue pitching well enough to stay in ballgames and the Jays key hitters (Bautista, Lind, Johnson, Escobar) begin to hit at their career levels this thing could get interesting.
Jayson Stark of ESPN wrote today:
There’s been a buzz about this team since the Blue Jays pulled into exotic Dunedin, Fla. And despite their messy sweeperoo this week in Baltimore, this remains a very intriguing team whose arrow is definitely pointing up.
“I like their club,” one exec said. “They’ve vastly improved that club. They’re going in the right direction. I’m not saying they’re going to win the division. But they’re making a lot of headway. And they’ve got a ton of good young players in the minor leagues.”
The Blue Jays run so many young works-in-progress out there, they’re probably the toughest team on this list to evaluate. Their rotation features three pitchers younger than 25 (Henderson Alvarez, Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchison) who have made a total of 37 big league starts. No one in their lineup is older than 31. And they’re hunting diligently for another masher and another top-of-the-rotation arm. So they could easily get better as the season rampages along.
Their biggest current worry, however, is that their new closer, Sergio Santos, just headed for the disabled list (inflamed shoulder) — and his replacement, Francisco Cordero, “really isn’t a closer anymore,” one scout said.
But in a division in which the Yankees and Red Sox both have issues, the Blue Jays are a team nobody should ignore. The verdict from one scout: “I think they’re for REAL. I might have gotten a little ahead of myself on how good their young players are. But I think they’ll be a fun team to watch. I don’t know if it’s all going to kick in the way I thought in spring training. But they should go by the Red Sox.”
So what is my advice? Stay the course, it’s a long season and baseball is a game that will always even things out. Rumours are floating that perhaps Alex Anthopoulos is interested in adding a veteran rotation piece and an accomplished slugger. Maybe he too sees a division suddenly vulnerable, potentially winnable.