Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Halladay knocked around by old mates

It was a sight never seen before in the history of mankind; Roy Halladay pitching against the Toronto Blue Jays. And boy oh boy he looked legitimately awful in the early going. And who could blame him? He spent 12 years in the Jays organization before being shipped out to Philly in the off-season and had never faced his old pals before.

Halladay gave up a lead off double to Jose Bautista, served up a 2 run shot to Aaron Hill on the next pitch, then allowed two more runs on a double by Edwin "E5" Encarnacion and a base rap by Alex Gonzalez. Halladay being Halladay, however, meant he bounced back as he struck out the next four batters, retiring the final seven batters he faced. I don't know who had more ants in their pants for their opening act though, Halladay, or this kid.

Halladay returns to Toronto when the games actually count for a series beginning June 25th, assuming the G-20 summit doesn't screw everything up. Somehow I get a feeling Doc will be just a tad bit better in that contest.

Rzepczynski to miss 6 weeks with broken finger

Just one day after taking a screaming come backer off his finger Jays starting pitcher hopeful Marc Rzepczynski will miss up to six weeks with a broken middle finger. File that one under the "that was obvious" category. Immediately after Zep took the scorching ball off his digit, the 24 year maintained the injury was nothing serious. Ya right. Clearly, he was toast.

The unfortunate injury dramatically changes the face of Toronto's starting rotation to begin the season. Rzepczynski shouldn't have even headed north with the big club even before this occurred after a horrendous 6.10 ERA in the spring. So that essentially leaves Dana Eveland and Brett Cecil to duke it out amongst themselves for a starting rotation berth.

Eveland, acquired in the off-season from Oakland, has been brilliant in the Grapefruit League with a 1.23 ERA over 22 innings (2 starts) to go along with 19 strikeouts. He's also out of options so a spot on the staff appears likely. Cecil, who showed great promise last season, showed his penchant for injuring his finger a couple of weeks ago while in his kitchen, causing him to miss some time. That hasn't deterred him from pitching quite well in his two starts, fashioning a 3.38 ERA. The obvious way to settle the score? Perform this highly scientific task to determine who gets the starting nod.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Jays should name Frasor closer

There has been much debate over who should be the Blue Jays closer this year. Cito Gaston has three options in Scott Downs, Kevin Gregg and Jason Frasor at his disposal, but I believe the clubs stopper should be obvious. In fact, so much so that I happily scooped up Frasor in a fantasy baseball draft last week after two people selected Downs and Gregg in front of me. The past couple of days, Gaston has alluded to the fact Frasor is probably going to be his guy for the forseeable future.

It makes sense to put him in that role. Frasor was fantastic last season, going 7-3 with a sparkling 2.50 ERA to go along with 11 saves. He pretty much pitched just like this all year. The team has everything to gain by installing him as closer, not only because he can get the job done, but because they can try to drive his potential trade value up for interested suitors. The Twins and Cubs reportedly are mulling over whether to acquire him. Toronto could squeeze a lot of saves out of him, then ship him out of town at the deadline, or if they so choose, receive higher draft pick compensation when he leaves at the conclusion of the season.

As for Downs and Gregg, the organization is hoping Downs can reclaim his status as a dominant 8th inning man so his market value is sky high. His contract also runs out after the season, so the same reasoning that is applied to Frasor works for him. Gregg, meanwhile, could slide into either role if Frasor or Downs is dealt, or leave after the campaign and also net the Jays another draft pick.

It's the kind of innovative thinking that former New York Mets General Manager turned ESPN Baseball analyst Steve Phillips couldn't quite grasp.

UPDATE: Frasor has indeed been named Blue Jays closer to begin the season.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Vernon Wells is a monster

Vernon Wells is going to have a monster year. So much so that if Pierre McGuire called baseball games, Wellsy would be dubbed a monster every game. Seriously. I'm not being sarcastic. Really, I'm not. I believe that V-Dub will have an un-Vernon type season and actually produce. The longest tenured Blue Bird is going to be as lucky during the year as this bird of a different kind.

Wells has positioned himself to be in the perfect win-win scenario. He's played like crap for three years (relative to his $126 million dollar contract), so our expectations of him are at an all time sky low (or is it ground low?) He's finally healthy going into the campaign, unlike the past couple of years. And Vernon is hitting behind Aaron Hill and Adam Lind. He can't be that awful again.

Vernon always gets ridiculed for his pudgy body, and perhaps unjustifiably so. After all, he does look heavy like this. But why lose the weight? Where's the motivation? It's not going to change the fact he has wads of money filtering through his fat bank account for the next five years. Would you care about your performance and exercise? He would.

What do you think? Will Vernon be as pathetic as always? Or will he have a good season? Let your voice be heard by clicking on the "comments" button below this post.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Oh Gathright, we hardly knew ye

Today marks an incredibly sad day for the Toronto Blue Jays organization. The scintillatingly (did I just make up a word?) epic career of Joey Gathright as a Blue Bird is now over. Gathright was given his unconditional release today by the club, so excuse me while as I release a steady stream of tears. It's OK, feel free to break out the kleenex. You'll feel better afterwards.

When all you have is speed, as with the case of Gathright, then you better show it off at all times. Like this guy. Or better yet, this dude. The problem is, if you can't ever get on base because you are an awful hitter, then you're kind of screwed. Sorry bro.

Gathright (or is it Cartwright?) was trying to impress the team's brass enough to earn a spot as a bench player this season. It would've been a match made in heaven by all accounts. You know, because Gathright has had a storied career to date. But he was dreadful in the spring, hitting a pathetic .167 in 43 plate appearances. There goes that idea. Even Gregg Zaun could do better than that. I think.

So that ends the chapter of Joey Gathright's remarkably historic career with the Toronto Blue Jays. It's a devastating time for Jays nation. Now excuse me once again while I yearn for the glory days of Eric Hinske and Russ Adams in Toronto.

A stench emanating from Edwin Encarnacion

Edwin "E5" Encarnacion is allegedly healthy and on track to start at third base for the Jays this season. I'd be OK with that, except E5 racks up errors seemingly for the hell of it. Even this guy is better at fielding a baseball. The creaky and not as old as you think (27) Encarnacion has just got back to playing ball following surgery on his wrist. He's going to be fine this year, right? Wrong.

This injury already has a stench so rancid emanating from it that it's time to break out the axe body spray. I can see it now; a blistering .210 batting average, a razzle dazzle grand total of 8 home runs and a paltry RBI total of 35, all the while inventing new ways to airmail first base by five miles. Then we'll find out sometime in the winter that he was a hurt bag all season. Vernon Wells anyone?

Another plausible scenario is he'll be on and off the DL all year. That will force Jose Bautista to third base, ensuring Adam Lind and Travis Snider ample opportunities to run circles in the outfield and give career minor leaguer Randy Ruiz a chance to show everyone exactly why he hasn't been in the big leagues in 11 years. Maybe I'm too cynical. After all, Edwin does have one hit in nine at bats this spring.

Then again, considering this buffoon traded for him in the Scott Rolen deal last July, would we expect anything different?

(Note: Toronto Blue Jays Way realizes J.P. Ricciardi consummated a good trade by also netting prospects Zach Stewart and Josh Roenicke in the Rolenpalooza. However, in the interests of ripping him at all costs, it must be pointed out that he sucks. Big time.)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Send Rzepczynski to minors so Eveland can start

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm a big fan of Casey Janssen and feel he deserves to be on the club. He's up against Dana Eveland, amongst others, for a spot in the bullpen. Eveland shouldn't even be considered for the 'pen; Toronto should make him a part of the rotation and send Marc Rzepczynski down to AAA because he has looked brutal during spring training.

Even though Rzepczynski had a very solid rookie campaign, he is still extremely young and unproven despite his 3.67 ERA in 11 starts last season. However, in the spring this year, he has struggled with his command, allowing 9 earned runs in 16 innings, giving up 17 hits for a 5.06 ERA. The 24 year old has pretty good potential, but why not allow him to find his game in the minors and allow the veteran Eveland to start out the campaign as part of the rotation?

The 26 year old Eveland started 29 games in 2008, with a decent ERA of 4.34. He is being considered for the Blue Jays bullpen, where he'd fit in well as a long reliever. However, with the influx of pitchers vying for a job in the pen, including incumbents Jeremy Accardo, Josh Roenicke and Casey Janssen, why not move Eveland to the rotation, freeing up another spot for one of the young relievers? After all, he has a 1.69 ERA over the course of 16 innings, including one start.

I hope Casey Janssen makes the team!

I'm pulling hard for Casey Janssen to make the Blue Jays bullpen this year. Big time. It's been a couple of frustrating seasons for Janssen, but he can be a very important piece in a late inning role. Even though he missed all of the '08 season and had a pedestrian 5.85 ERA in 21 apperances last year, including 5 starts, the guy can flat out pitch.

In '07, he was one of the better up and coming late innings guys in baseball, racking up 24 holds with a dazzling 2.35 ERA. When healthy, that's the type of pitcher he can be. Unfortunately, staying healthy has been the problem. What's working against him is Cito Gaston wasn't the manager when he had his best year but he's doing his best to impress the bench boss this spring. The 28 year old has strung together five innings of shutout ball with five K's while allowing just one hit and one walk.

Kevin Gregg, Jason Frasor and Scott Downs as locks to make the 'pen, with Jesse Carlson and Shawn Camp presumably also on the squad. That leaves Janssen to duke it out with Dana Eveland, Jeremy Accardo, Josh Roenicke and David Purcey for two spots. Let's hope Janssen is part of that mix. He might prove to be a reliable stalwart in the 8th inning role in 2011 with Frasor and Downs presumably flying the coop after the season.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Jays name Shaun Marcum opening day starter

The Blue Jays are set to usher in a new era in 2010, one that does not include former staff ace Roy Halladay. For the first time in eight years, Doc will not start opening day. Instead, that honour will is bestowed upon Shaun Marcum. Halladay established a franchise record with seven consecutive opening day starts, but his time in Toronto is now in the rear view mirror, leaving Marcum as the main man entrusted with the duties of a #1 starter.

The 28 year old has the most big league starting experience of the pitching staff, so the Jays placed the righty on a pitching schedule that would line up with starting opening day against Texas. In 64 career starts, the gritty Marcum has posted a 3.85 ERA. Two years ago he emerged as one of the A.L. East's best young hurlers, posting a dazzling 2.43 ERA over his first 14 starts.

As that season wore on, however, Marcum's unconventional throwing motion caught up him and his throwing arm wore down. He ultimately had to undergo Tommy John Surgery on his elbow, causing him to miss the entire 2009 campaign. His road to recovery is now complete, and he will be leaned upon to be a team leader in an inexperienced clubhouse.

The team has to move forward without relying upon the 2003 A.L. CY Young award winner. This isn't Doc Halladay's pitching staff anymore. It's Shaun Marcum's.

Jays shut down McGowan for the week

It was always a little bit of a stretch to expect Dustin McGowan to fully recover from his shoulder injury in time for the 2010 campaign after missing the entire '09 season. The Jays have decided to shut down the 27 year old righty for at least a week following his latest minor league assignment, making it increasingly likely he won't begin the campaign in Toronto.

McGowan was hopeful he'd make the starting rotation coming out of spring training, but after throwing 36 pitches in a Triple-A game and topping out at just 88 MPH (having consistently hit 95 MPH on the radar gun prior to the injury), the club had seen enough. McGowan is in the midst of a "dead arm" period, making him become more fatigued adjusting to his regular throwing program this spring.

The former 13 game winner, who hasn't played in a major league game since July 8, 2008, will likely start the year on the DL. The organization has to feel it's the most prudent course of action especially given the bevy of young pitchers vying for jobs within the pitching staff. It only makes sense to ensure McGowan is 100% healthy so he doesn't suffer a lengthy setback again.

Let's hope we don't go too long without seeing the man formerly known for his "mutton chops" in a Blue Jays uniform this season.

The future is now for Travis Snider

There has been much speculation and discussion about whether or not Travis Snider should head north with the Blue Jays to start the season. Let me try to put an end to it: The future is now for Snider and the Toronto Blue Jays. The stocky 22 year old has shown glimpses of greatness in parts of two big leagues seasons and spring training this year to show that the Jays simply need to have him start the campaign as a member of the Blue Birds.

A couple of days ago Snider belted three home runs in consecutive at bats in spring training. His raw power is so astounding that it's a matter of when, not if, he'll break out at the big league level. His situation is not unlike what faced Adam Lind a few years ago. Lind, a silver slugger winner in '09, displayed flashes of brilliance mixed in with inconsistency over the course of a couple of seasons. The organization was patient with him and they were rewarded with a monster year. Snider has all the tools to be a very good hitter, he just needs at bats against major league pitching. The team must be prepared to take the good with the bad, because he'll likely rack up strike outs before he gets more consistent.

The '06 first round pick has a vastly underrated aspect of his game, which is his defense. While he'll likely never win a gold glove in the outfield, he moves surprisingly quick for such a compact man, and makes smart decisions in left and right field last year. Just like patience should be preached at the plate with a young ball player, same goes for his defensive capabilities also.

With another year under his belt, Snider has learned to manage the ups and downs that go along with being a major leaguer. He's more comfortable in his surroundings which should lead to greater results. It's all but a certainty that in due time, the team will have one heck of a ball player in Travis Snider.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tallet working his way to starting spot

Brian Tallet looks to have firmly established himself as a member of the Blue Jays rotation to start the season. In yesterday's outing against Baltimore, the lanky lefty made short work of the Orioles hitters, pitching four scoreless innings while striking out three. The question is, can Tallet secure his spot in the starting five for the duration of the campaign with plenty of young arms waiting for their chance?

When spring training started I must admit that I didn't want Tallet to be part of the rotation simply because I preferred the young pitchers learning more on the job. But with Dustin McGowan potentially starting the year on the disabled list and some uncertainty over Brandon Morrow, it only makes sense to have a veteran presence in the rotation, at least for now.

It's sometimes easy to forget that while Tallet struggled down the stretch last year, he had a pretty good first go round as a starter in the big leagues. Aside from four hideous starts, he pitched well enough to give Toronto a chance to win most every start. Putting in perspective what the former 2nd round pick did last year compared to his six other seasons in the bigs, he pitched nearly 100 innings more than any point during his career. No wonder he wasn't as solid down the stretch.

As the elder statesmen of the starting staff, he'll be tasked to not only shoulder a great deal of the load, but perhaps mentor the young hurlers now that Roy Halladay has left town. No pressure.

David Purcey reaches full blown "bust" status

Unlike Ricky Romero, who turned his career around after at one point appearing likely to fall within the "bust" category, fellow first round pick David Purcey seems to be headed down the road to ruin within the Blue Jays organization. The six-foot five inch southpaw almost certainly has no hope of making the 2010 team, so it's fair to make the assumption that the "bust" label will be attached to him, at least as a member of the Blue Birds.

That hasn't stopped other major league teams from sniffing around the '04 first round pick. Though the lefty has been allergic to command of his pitches, he still offers tantalizing potential. Look no further than his two brilliant starts against the eventual American League champion Rays in 2008. In those two outings, he struck out a combined 18 batters, putting together eight solid innings in both contests. That had Jays management enthusiastic heading into '09. However Purcey suffered a setback during five starts in April, walking 18 batters in 25.2 innings, issuing 20 earned runs for a 7.01 ERA before being sent to exile in the minors.

Purcey has the ability to be a power pitcher that strikes out a lot of batters, making it tough to give up on him. The organization now views Purcey more as a reliever than a member of the rotation. There is a distinct possibility he could still be a valuable starting pitcher somewhere in MLB. It just doesn't appear likely to be as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Relaxed Romero pushing for opening day start

At this time last year it would have been crazy to assume that Ricky Romero would be in contention to be the Blue Jays opening day starter of 2010, let alone him even being on the roster at that time. What a difference a year makes. After labouring with his command in the minors for four seasons and still having issues in the spring last year, the team concluded he needed more time to develop. Had it not been for former pitching coach Brad Arnsberg prodding the organization to keep him in camp last spring instead of sending him to the minors, he might still be trying to shed the label of "bust."

Arnsberg saw something in Romero that prompted the Jays to make him the 6th pick in the 2005 draft, and just needed a little more time to squeeze it out of him. Under the former Toronto pitching coaches tutelage, the light bulb went off for the southpaw toward the end of spring last season, securing him a spot in the Jays rotation. In his rookie campaign, Romero was dominant for the first half, fashioning a 7-3 record with an ERA of 3.00 in his first 13 starts. He hit a rookie wall midway through July, but still managed to compile a respectable 13-9 record with a 4.30 ERA in 29 starts.

In his three spring training starts this year, Romero has been victorious twice, allowing just one run in 9 innings, striking out and walking 4 batters. His solid maiden campaign in the big leagues, coupled with Roy Halladay being traded in the off season has Romero in a battle with Shaun Marcum to be the opening day starter. It's doubtful even he could have imagined that last spring.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Jays should platoon Overbay & Ruiz at first base

The Blue Jays have several different directions they could go regarding their first base position for upcoming season. One possibility would be hand the reigns over to Brett Wallace (acquired from the A's via the Phillies in the Roy Halladay deal) with an eye to the future, or go with the status quo and have Lyle Overbay man first base like he has the past four years. A 3rd option, however, might be the most fruitful, which would feature a platoon situation between Overbay and late bloomer Randy Ruiz.

After spending 11 years in 11 different organizations, Ruiz received a promotion to the Jays late last season, hitting .313 with 10 homers with 17 RBI's in 33 games. The 2009 Pacific Coast League MVP dropped 22 pounds in the off-season, at the teams request, and has hit .500 this spring with 2 homers and a club leading 7 RBI. The time has come to see if Ruiz could translate his minor league success in a part time role over an extended period of time in the big leagues.

That would allow Overbay to solely face right handed pitching, where he hit at a solid .282 clip last year, as opposed to a dreadful .190 average against southpaws. The 33 year old, who is all but certain to leave the organization after the campaign is solid defensively which would aid the young starting rotation.

Wallace could then start the season in AAA Las Vegas, where he could get regular playing time to ease the transition to the major league level. Having been a third basemen for the majority of his minor league career, the 27th highest rated prospect in MLB, according to Baseball America, could then hone his craft defensively at first base in time to take over for the 2011 campaign.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Dana Eveland making impression at Jays camp

Perhaps the most unheralded acquisition in Alex Anthopoulos' first off season as Jays General Manager was prying pitcher Dana Eveland away from the Oakland Athletics for cash considerations. The way the 26 year old lefty has pitched in spring training, it's easy to see why Anthopoulos was so high on the southpaw in the first place.

Eveland, locked in a battle for either a rotation spot or a job in a crowded bullpen, has surrendered no earned runs in eight innings of work over the course of three appearances, striking out six. After posting a respectable 9-9 record in 29 starts two seasons ago, Eveland fell out of favour with the A's in '09 after yielding an ugly 7.40 ERA in his first six appearances of the campaign. He didn't fare a whole lot better in the minors with an ERA just shy of 5.00 in 21 starts.

Though it is unlikely at this point he'd make the Blue Birds starting rotation, he could be a valuable long reliever and spot starter. Toronto must think long and hard about keeping him with the team, however, because Eveland is out of options and he'd need to clear waivers before being sent down to AAA Las Vegas. Given his past success at the major league level and the fact it only took cash to acquire him from the A's, this could wind up being one savvy move by the Blue Jays rookie General Manager.

Joey Gathright seeks roster spot

Joey Gathright is known for his blazing fast speed on the base paths and in the outfield. The Blue Jays are in short supply of both, so the six year veteran of four major league teams is in the running for a roster spot. Gathright is being given every opportunity to make the team as either a fourth outfielder, or, if Travis Snider struggles in the spring, a chance to start every day in left field. He'd bring versatility to the club also, being able to hit lead-off on days that Jose Bautista is off and could spell Vernon Wells in center field.

Why am I posting about Gathright's chances of making the team despite him playing almost all of '09 in the minors? Basically it's just an excuse to show off his mad skills of jumping over cars!

By all accounts having Gathright on the team would be great for no other reason than to use him as a pinch runner because the Jays grossly miscast slick fielding John McDonald in that role last season. However, the 28 year old hasn't taken exactly taken advantage of his opportunity to head north with the big club to start the year, recording just 3 hits in 20 at bats with only one stolen base in the spring. Maybe he doesn't need to have a good camp. After all, he just needs to show G.M. Alex Anthopoulos and manager Cito Gaston that video. Then he'd make the team.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Jays closing in on netting shortstop of the future

The Toronto Blue Jays have spent the better part of a decade unsuccessfully trying to find their shortstop of the future. General Manager Alex Anthopoulos has reportedly taken steps to change that, closing in on netting 21 year old Cuban shortstop Adeinis Hechavarria. According to the New York Post the Jays are believed to be offering around $10 million for the 6-foot-1, 170 pound prospect who is said to resemble a young Alfonso Soriano.

The New York Yankees, among others clubs, were interested in signing Hechavarria, but with Derek Jeter likely to receive an extension, the highly touted prospect didn't want to have a roadblock in getting to the majors, instead choosing Toronto. The Jays have been seeking a player of Hechavarria's calibre at the shortstop position for a long time, having used a different shortstop on opening day for the past five seasons.

When Anthopoulos took over the reigns as Toronto G.M. from J.P. Ricciardi, he noted a need for improving organizational scouting and player development programs with a focus on international talent. Inking the Blue Jays potential cornerstone shortstop would be the strongest indication that he's committed to doing just that.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Cito Gaston shouldn't be Jays manager this year

It will seem sacrilegious to suggest that Cito Gaston needs to be relieved of his duties as Jays manager but that's exactly what should happen. If Gaston were to commit to being the bench boss for the long term, then the 2 time World Series champion deserves to remain at his post to try to return the team back to glory; however, he only wants to manage in 2010 and then ride off into the sunset. That's not good enough. The Jays need a strong leader that has a clear vision for the present and future success of the franchise.

The Blue Birds have begun the process of rebuilding by firing the mercurial J.P. Ricciardi as GM and replacing him with fresh faced Alex Anthopoulos, so it makes sense to wipe the slate completely clean and start from scratch. The prospective candidate would have a more thorough understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the roster and impart his philosophy on the Jays organization. It's counter productive for a club to have a lame duck manager counting down the days to retirement. The Jays need a strong communicator and motivator who is directly tied to the current and future success of the team. Cito Gaston is not that man.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cecil faces uphill battle to make rotation

After displaying flashes of brilliance in his first tour of duty with the Blue Jays last season, Brett Cecil should have made the Blue Jays rotation coming out of spring training. However, the 23 year old faces longer than expected odds to start the year north of the border because of a freak accident that occurred in his kitchen.

Cecil suffered a cut to his left thumb while preparing food, and as a result, the club decided to take a precautionary stance and delay his start date nearly a week. In his first action of the spring on Wednesday, the '07 draft pick, limited to just throwing fastballs and changeups, struggled with his consistency in his two innings of work. Cecil, who started 17 contests for the Jays last season, struck out four but surrendered three runs on four hits, with the damage coming off the bat of a Cody Ransom three run home run.

With plenty of arms in the running for a starting job, including Shaun Marcum, Ricky Romero, Dustin McGowan, Brandon Morrow, Brian Tallet and Marc Rzepczynski, Cecil will likely find himself ticketed to AAA Las Vegas to begin the campaign. Where he hopes to avoid any more mishaps in the kitchen.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Blue Jays season pass: Buyer Beware

I have purchased the Toronto Star Blue Jays season pass the past two years, believing it to easily be the greatest deal in all of sports. It most certainly still is, but the Blue Jays organization has erred in a BIG way for this upcoming season. In fact, their latest stunt will almost certainly turn off prospective buyers who are unsure about whether to plunk down their cash to see a ball club that's expected to struggle mightily.

When I went to order the season pass online, I was shocked to see a big alteration to the deal. It used to be $114 for all 81 home games in the 500 level seats (did I mention it was the greatest deal in sports?) However, this year, the pass is only valid for 80 games, excluding the home opener! The past couple of seasons the box office was generous enough to not only give you a ticket for the home opener, but an additional ticket for the first game of the campaign as a nice gesture for buying a seasons worth of mediocre baseball. Not so anymore.

Buyer Beware: If you, like me, are used to getting the pass expecting to get tickets for the home opener, you'll be greatly disappointed. Instead, you'll have to purchase additional tickets for the Jays season debut April 12th against the Chicago White Sox. In light of the fact that this is expected to be a major down year with the departure of franchise icon Roy Halladay, this is an extremely curious maneuver by the organization; one that's sure to ruffle some feathers.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Jason Frasor's name pops up in trade rumours

Jason Frasor's name has been bandied about in potential trade rumours for the past few months, and according to ESPN'S Jerry Crasnick via the Chicago Cubs have inquired about the availability of the 32 year old reliever. The Cubbies were said to be interested in him a few months back, and after losing Angel Guzman to a season ending shoulder injury, their interest has piqued once again.

So the question remains, should the organization move Frasor in his contract year, arguably at his highest trade value? Or hang on to him? The diminuitive righty is coming off a career year, where he went 7-3, saving 11 games while posting a brilliant 2.50 ERA. However, the Jays signed Kevin Gregg in the off-season to shoulder the load in the later innings, and also have another reliable reliever in Scott Downs in the bullpen.

Ultimately the decision will be made based on the value of the player coming back to Toronto. Frasor qualifies as a type B free agent, meaning if the club lets him walk at the end of the year, they are entitled to a 2nd round draft pick as compensation. I can’t see any team giving the Blue Jays a better prospect than what a 2nd rounder could net, though G.M. Alex Anthopoulos pulled off a heist by trading reliever Brandon League for Brandon Morrow in the off-season. The team might ultimately decide that it would rather have a proven reliever to aid the young pitching staff along with a good draft selection than to trade him away for a low ceiling prospect.

UPDATE: MLB Trade Rumors has reported the Minnesota Twins are also interested in Frasor given that closer Joe Nathan might miss the season with a torn ligament in his elbow. Several Toronto scouts are now appearing at Twins games according to Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun.

Arencibia knocking on the major league door

Blue Jays catching prospect J.P. Arencibia certainly knows how to make a good impression. He did so coming out of college at Tennessee, prompting the club to select him with the 21st pick in the 2007 draft. The 6' 215 lb. righty also has been showing off his vast potential during the spring, homering in each of his three contests, which has him knocking on the door for a promotion to the big leagues.

It hasn't always been easy for the Jays "catcher of the future." Since birth, Arencibia has had a problematic kidney condition, one that nearly caused him to need it removed last season. It was also discovered that he dealt with vision problems, prompting him to undergo lasik eye surgery. That might explain why the catcher hit just .227 in 97 night games compared to .284 in 19 afternoon contests.

The perception last season in AAA Las Vegas was that he had a down year. While he did have a pedestrian batting average of .236, he clubbed an impressive 21 home runs while driving in 75 runs. Couple that with his scorching hot end to the campaign in which he smacked 6 home runs and plated 15 runs in his final 10 games, and the season can't be characterized as a complete failure. The biggest hurdle Arencibia faced was improving his defense behind the plate, which he worked extremely hard on, gaining recognition for his efforts.

Arencibia is almost certainly ticketed to AAA Las Vegas to begin the season, barring injury to the presumptive starting catcher John Buck or backups Jose Molina and Raul Chavez. If the talented youngster can continue tearing the cover off the baseball and getting better behind the dish, there is optimism he could earn a promotion to Toronto sooner rather than later.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Could Jose Bautista be the next Marco Scutaro?

Admit it. When the Blue Jays broke camp in '09 with Marco Scutaro as the leadoff hitter, you thought from the get go the team was doomed. A strange thing happened, however. Scutaro, the journeyman of 8 big league seasons exceeded expectations, providing a stable force atop the Jays lineup. He signed with Boston in the off season, leaving a serious void in the leadoff spot once again. Enter Jose Bautista. Can he be the next Scutaro?

Consider these numbers from last season. In the final 16 contests, Bautista hit in the top spot of the order 14 times, posting a respectable .289 average and .345 on-base percentage. Taking it a step further, in his final 28 games, Bautista hit .272, smacking 10 home runs while driving in 21 runs. Couple that with his scintillating start in spring training (.636 average with 2 home runs, 5 runs batted in and 3 doubles) and there is hope that Bautista can in fact handle the job.

Spring training statistics are hardly a foolproof way to project success in the regular season, and Bautista sports a rather uninspiring .238 career average and only 14 stolen bases in his 6 year career. However, maybe, just maybe, Bautista will silence the critics and become the Jays 2010 version of Marco Scutaro.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Marcum's road to recovery complete

After missing the entire 2009 campaign following Tommy John Surgery on his injured right elbow, Shaun Marcum's long road back to recovery came full circle Saturday. The 28 year old hurler was finally back in his element, facing major league hitters for the first time in 536 days. Marcum hardly skipped a beat, putting together two solid innings against the Yankees, striking out a pair without allowing a hit.

The long 18 month rehab was a grueling process that took its toll on Marcum. After labouring through 2 innings in a mid September contest in '08, the righty presumably was set to miss the entire '09 season. A sense of optimism, however within the organization prompted the team to set a timeline for a return in early August. After going through a rehab stint in the minors, Marcum thought he'd be toeing the rubber for the first time in 11 months, but suffered back spasms in an outing with the Jays AAA farm team in Las Vegas, setting his progress back. Then in August came the birth of his second son, so the Blue Jays brass decided to sit Marcum down for the entire season as a precaution.

After going 21-13 with a 3.77 ERA primarily as a starter for the Jays from '07-08, Marcum, the longest tenured starter with the club, is a leading candidate to be pencilled in as the opening day starter provided he stay healthy. That would be the ultimate capper on the long road back for Shaun Marcum.

Welcome back to Toronto Blue Jays Way!

Yes I know, it has been FAR too long since I last wrote on this Toronto Blue Jays Way blog. For that I am ashamed, truly. It was just so difficult to write about the team knowing that the baseball season was still far away from starting up again. It was basically depressing to know that there would be no ball for such a long time. However, that has all changed when the calendar turned to March because the Blue Jays Spring Training has begun!

I will be blogging throughout the Blue Birds exhibition schedule with thoughts, opinions and observations regarding the team, and of course carrying on to when the games really matter, starting April 5th in Texas. Already there are plenty of topics to discuss, from the job Alex Anthopoulos has done since being named the Jays General Manager, whether or not Jose Bautista can be the next Marco Scutaro, and also which young pitchers should be in the Jays rotation to start the 2010 campaign.

So welcome back to Toronto Blue Jays Way! I certainly hope to bring even more content and information to my loyal readers for the upcoming season!