Sunday, December 30, 2012

Why are the Jays Going for it Now?

We are in the midst of arguably the most exciting off season in Blue Jays history. Alex Anthopoulos has put smiles on many Blue Jays fans faces, by bringing in names like R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Melky Cabrera, Emilio Bonifacio, and Mark Buehrle. I have yet to see a contending Blue Jays team in my lifetime, but it would appear that the Jays will in fact contend in 2013. Before this off season, we thought we had Anthopoulos figured out. We all thought that his strategy was to build a contender with young, controllable players, and a stellar farm system. What he did was turn that stellar farm system into proven MLB talent, while keeping all of those controllable MLB players, which makes for a solid core that might just win a World Series in the coming year(s). One question that I am sure went through all of your heads was "Why are we doing this now?". Well, I have a few reasons why.

The first reason why this all makes sense right now is Jeffrey Loria. You knew that the Marlins would have another fire-sale this year, after making their big splash last year, that went horribly wrong. Usually, I wouldn't want to get players from a fire-sale, because most often they consist of overpaid players whose contracts have turned out to be massive failures, (see: Red Sox-Dodgers trade from this year) but what was so unique about the trade that the Jays made with the Marlins is that the players the Marlins traded away were guys who don't have terrible contracts, and all are legitimately impact players. So what Loria did is he treated the deal like it was the Red Sox-Dodgers trade, but traded away players that still make a huge impact on any team. Anthopolous took full advantage of that, in what in my opinion was one of the most lopsided deals I have ever seen.

Secondly,  getting the reigning Cy Young award winner for such a huge discount made the decision to go "All-In" much easier. Regardless of the great Minor League talent that the Jays had to give away for him, he is still making only $5 million  next year. It would be fair to say that there's not a team in the MLB who wouldn't give R.A. Dickey $5 million to pitch for them 2013 after the year that he had last season. To put this into a better context, Dickey is making just over a 6th of what Alex Rodriguez will make in 2013. And as you all know, A-Rod will be riding the pine for the majority of the 2013 season.

On top of all of that, the Jays will only pay Dickey $24 million combined in 2014 and 2015. That's a good price even if his stats get slightly worse, and he becomes more like the pitcher he was in 2010-2011. $3.7 million per WAR is pretty good, especially when you consider the fact that prices will skyrocket in the next couple of years due to the added TV revenue clubs will be getting ($25 million/year).

If Bautista's wrist heals from his surgery
like it is supposed to, we will be seeing a lot
 of this in the next few years.
Another thing to look at is that we really can't let the primes of Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista go to waste. Although there was much promise in young players like Travis d'Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, and Justin Nicolino, by the time that they could be impact players, both Encarnacion and Bautista are on the cusp of retirement, and most likely won't be the players they are today. Those two 3-4 in our lineup provides a deadly power combo that is almost as good as the Fielder/Cabrera combo in Detroit.AA even stated that it would have been one of his greatest faults to not contend while those 2 are still mashing the ball out of the park. Now, instead of the Jays only real offensive production coming from those 2, they have many great players to back them up(hopefully).

The lineup is powerful, the rotation looks un-hittable, and the bullpen appears to be very strong. We should thank Alex Anthopolous for these great gifts that he has given us. Oh yeah, and watch out for those Jays come October. The time is now. Flags Fly Forever.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Will the Jays Experience a Defensive Drop Off in 2013?

In the past two months, Alex Anthopoulos has turned the Blue Jays into a World Series favourite by making a couple of Free Agents signings (Maicer Izturis and Melky Cabrera), acquiring virtually every good player on the Marlins except for Giancarlo Stanton, and trading for the reigning National League CY Young Winner in R.A. Dickey. The club has drastically improved (on paper at least) on offense and in the starting rotation, but how they will fare defensively (again, on paper), is still a question mark.

Using the metric of Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), the Jays, along with the Atlanta Braves were the best fielding team in Major League Baseball (according to the data in this ActaSports article). Led by Brett Lawrie, whom scouts and prospect writers said was “destined for a corner outfield spot”; the Jays saved 70 runs while on defense. They did this using shifts created by now departed infield/3rd base coach Brian Butterfield, and subsequently also led the league in DRS by shifts, saving 12 this past season.  By just using the info given above, you likely think that the Blue Jays defense might take a little hit in 2012 because Butterfield is no longer at the helm of the infield defense, but not undergo such a drastic change. That’s not true. Here are some charts to take a look at.

Most of the players above had career years defensively
in 2012, something sure to change in 2013.

Projections were made using weighted averages of the players
 last 3 seasons performance, and then multiplied to give a 1400 innings sample.

What you just saw is a chart of the qualified players in 2012 on the Blue Jays, and the projected starters (Izturis and Bonifacio as a platoon for 2B) for 2013. The total DRS for the Blue Jays in 2012 was 70, which was so high due to abnormally good performance’s from most of the team, and, well, Brett Lawrie and Yunel Escobar. Of the qualified players shown in the 2012 chart, their total DRS was 59. We know that the total team DRS was 70 in 2012.So, given the addition of Mark Buehrle to the rotation, who is known for his stellar defense, and adding all the other members of the rotation and bench players, we can assume that the final number in 2013 will be around +10. A significant drop from the leage leading mark posted a few months ago.

The departure of Yunel Escobar (+15), Jeff Mathis (+5), and Kelly Johnson (+5), will hurt a lot, and so will the regression back to the mean for players like JP Arencibia, Colby Rasmus, and Edwin Encarnacion. Then, once you factor in that Brett Lawrie’s projected DRS of 36 is completely unrealistic due to it being skewed by the small sample size he produced in 2011 (+16 in less than 50 games), the 2013 number drops even more. Things aren’t looking too good…

With Escobar and Johnson leaving, the pitcher who will suffer the most is Ricky Romero, who is a true ground ball pitcher, with a career average GB% of 54%. Just another reason why it will be hard for him to get back to being a number 3 pitcher this season.

Of course, this is all on paper. Some players will outperform their projections, while others will fail to reach their projections. This is all before the season, and you can never accurately project baseball; it’s just such a weird game. It is going to be a very fun year to watch the Jays as they should once again be a force offensively and for the first time in a few years, they, barring injuries, should also have a fantastic pitching staff. But, their defense projects to be much, much worse than in 2012, especially at shortstop, where we’ve had the privilege to watch one of the best in the game in Yunel Escobar for the past few years, and now we’ll have to suffer through Jose Reyes manning the shortstop position for the foreseeable future. 

How do you think the 2013 Jays defense will perform? Let us know in the comment section below.

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Top 20 Prospects: #1 Aaron Sanchez RHP

 #1 Aaron Sanchez  RHP

Born: July 1, 1992 in Barstow, California, US (Age 20)
Acquired via: 1st round (34th) of the 2010 MLB June Amateur Draft. Out of Barstow HS (Barstow, CA).
Bats: Right, Throws: Right
Height: 6' 4", Weight: 190 lb.  
Baseball America Ranking: #1 (Best FB & CB)
Baseball Prospectus Ranking: #1
Fangraphs Ranking: #1 Rank: #1 (#38 in MLB)
Minor League Ball Rank: #1
(*All Rankings don’t include traded prospects) 

2012 Stats and Analysis
Lansing (A)

Sanchez has some really strange splits when you look at his numbers. The first odd split is something you’d never guess; his second half numbers were horrific, as he posted a 4.36 ERA, compared to his first half ERA of 0.77. Another strange split was his home-away splits, as he was dominant at away games with a 1.10 ERA, but struggled at home posting a 4.14 ERA in 41.1IP. Maybe the oddest split is Sanchez’s numbers against lefties, as a right-handed pitcher. He gave up 1 of his 3 allowed HRs on the year to lefties, and pitched to a .106 BAA when facing them, as opposed to righties, where his BAA was .287. In his first season of more than 55 IP(90.1), Sanchez' numbers finally came down to where his FIP was since he was drafted, and he proved how good he really is.

Scouting Report
Sanchez has a filthy repertoire of pitches, but fails to consistently control them; resulting in high walk rate(5.08/9) and “easy” runs. He can be basically unhittable at times, so if he could find his command, he'd be lights out. Easier said than done. Sanchez’s repertoire consists of a fastball, curveball, and change-up, all of which could end up being 60 or higher caliber pitches. The fastball, a 70 rating pitch, sits comfortably in the low-mid 90s with a easy delivery, but as he fills out it could be consistently in the mid-90s and find itself up to 97mph or so at points in the game. The CB with a 60+/70 potential sits in the upper 70s and is his second to-go pitch. It could end up being a near-elite out pitch if it can be thrown with some consistency in and around the strike zone. Sanchez shows good feel for his CH, but it’s in the early stages of developments, and is currently below average—but, like his other pitches, it has 60 potential. Sanchez has a projectable frame and the filth to match it, but he often loses command, and as he advances through the levels of the minor leagues in the Blue Jays organization, he will get teed off against unless he could consistently locate his pitches.

Sanchez will start the year in Dunedin (A+). Depending on his success he could find himself in New Hampshire (AA) by mid-year, but Buffalo would be a stretch. 

A September call-up in 2014 is possible if all goes right for Sanchez. In that case, he could find himself in a battle for a rotation spot in 2015. Stumbling blocks are almost inevitable for pitchers so a spot-start or call-up in 2015 seems more likely. 

At just 20 years old, Sanchez has the ultimate make-up and projectable frame for a pitcher. His ceiling is a high-end #2 starter that’ll log innings to a low ERA, with a floor not so far behind. He’s a high risk guy that may never reach the majors if his command doesn't settle, but if he does, he could be absolutely dominant. Sanchez could find himself being a pitcher that the fans cannot wait to watch pitch every five days due to pure excitement, it's just a matter of when he will be able to locate his pitches and stop walking so many batter per game.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Top 20 Prospects: #19 Alberto Tirado RHP

#19 Alberto Tirado RHP

Born : December 10, 1994 in Nagua, DO (Age 18)
Acquired : Via International Free Agency in 2011
Bats : Right. Throws : Right. Height : 6'1''. Weight : 177 lbs.
Baseball America Ranking : Not listed.
Fangraphs Ranking : 12 (now 10, due to the Dickey trade.)
Baseball Prospectus Ranking : 10 Ranking : 20
Minor League Ball Ranking : 13 (now 11)

2012 Stats and Analysis :

GCL Blue Jays (R)




Bluefield Blue Jays (R)




Right-handed pitcher Alberto Tirado could possibly be the Blue Jays #1 breakout prospect of 2012. Especially since he was signed for such a small amount of money in international free agency, no one was expecting big things from him. Tirado has even made it on to the top 10 in some prospect rankings, as well as making Baseball America's top 20 prospects in the entire Gulf Coast League.

As far as the stats go, it's no lie that Tirado was dominant in the GCL, working a stellar 2.42 FIP, with a nice walk rate, and the BABIP being right around average. It was another story in the Appalachian League though. The standard stats would indicate that he was great (2-0, 2.45, 0.82), but if you look deeper, you notice that he wasn't actually very good at all. His K/BB ratio was at 1:1, and his FIP was all the way up at 4.47, more than 2 full points higher than it was in the GCL. How did his standard stats look so good, you may ask? Well, it was thanks to his BABIP. Anytime your BABIP is below .200 (let alone .150), you are extremely lucky. Lucky to the point where pitching badly makes you look like a Cy Young Winner. With that being said, Tirado only pitched 11 innings in Bluefield, a sample size that's too small to fully judge his performance, not to mention that he is playing in rookie ball, where stats mean next to nothing

Scouting Report:

Tirado is built with a very thin, athletic frame, and has very long arms. You can expect him to put on a few pounds, as he continues to fill out his frame. His fastball reaches 95 mph, but it isn't too overpowering. Look for the fastball velocity to increase even more, because after all, he is just 18 years old. He works his secondary pitches in very well. He has a slider, which is apparently his second best pitch behind the fastball. The reason that his slider is so successful is because he recently switched from a 3 quarter arm slot to a low-3-quarter arm slot, that added some extra bite to the pitch. His other pitches are a curveball and a change-up, which aren't perfected, but will improve with development. He is one of those prospects that you have to be careful with. Many in the organization are excited, but rushing him would be a big mistake.

Where Will he be in 2013, and ETA? Projection?

Tirado will likely begin 2013 in Extended Spring Training. From there, he will either go back to Bluefield, to play in the Appalachian League, or to Vancouver in the Northwest League, depending on how the brass of the organization sees how he is progressing. By August, you could see him in Lansing, although it is doubtful.

You could see Tirado in the big leagues as a September call-up in 2015, but that's the best case-scenario. Realistically, there are some bumps in the road when you are a minor leaguer, so a realistic ETA would be 2016, and I wouldn't even be too surprised if he arrived in 2017. After all, he is very raw, and no one knows what he has in store for us in years to come.

I really think that his ceiling is a #2 starter. If I had to make a prediction, I'd say that he is the prospect that makes Jays fans forget about losing Noah Syndergaard and Justin Nicolino. I expect big things from Alberto Tirado, and I think you should too.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Top 20 Prospects: #20 Anthony Alford OF

Going a bit out of order to fix the list because of the Mets trade. Today we'll be doing our new number 20, with tomorrow being number 19. Then, on Sunday, our number 1 prospect will be revealed(I wonder who that could be). Enjoy.

#20 Anthony Alford OF

Born: July 20, 1994 in Columbia, Mississippi, US (Age 18)
Acquired via: 3rd round 2012 MLB June Amateur Draft from Petal HS (Petal, MS).

Bats: Right. Throws: Right 
Height: 6' 1", Weight: 193 lb.
Baseball America Ranking: Not Listed. Voted Best Athlete
Baseball Prospectus Ranking: Not Listed
Fangraphs Ranking: Not Listed Rank: #10
Minor League Ball Rank: 1st “other”. Likely on list if updated for trade

2012 Stats and Analysis:

Blue Jays (GCL)

You can’t take anything away from his stats this past season because he barely played, but if you want to see how fast he is, he had 4 stolen bases in the 5 times he got on base. Anyways…. #SmallSampleSize

Scouting Report
Of course I couldn't find a picture of him playing baseball...
His mugshot is good enough.
Anthony Alford’s best tool is his speed, which projects to be a 70 grade.  I guess you can say it comes in handy when running away from the cops (I had too, sorry). The two-sport star was expelled from Southern Miss recently for an on-campus event, which led to him being arrested, and getting his scholarship revoked. He has since transferred to Ole Miss, but I’m pretty sure he isn’t allowed to play football for a year with them. That being said, if he doesn’t commit to one sport full time, there is no way he is going anywhere. His arm is a plus (He played QB at Southern Miss), and he has good range in the outfield thanks to his speed. At the plate, he projects to be above average power wise, but his hit tool is suspect. BA gave him the best athlete in the Blue Jays system award for a reason though, and that’s because he does have the ability to be a 5-tool guy.  The key for Alford will be to get as many AB’s in each summer before he has to go off to college to play football, and hopefully he’ll decide that baseball is the best thing he can do very soon.

2013? ETA? Projection?
Because Alford only has April, May, and June off, I can see him going to extended ST for a few weeks in April, and then being moved up to Lansing so he can play some games. He’d likely spend his whole 2013 season their, and then in mid-July, go off to Ole Miss to play football. This whole two-sport athlete thing is really hampering his development, and he needs to make up his mind sooner rather than later. Depending on what he does, I don’t see him being in the big leagues before 2016 at the earliest, although maybe a September call-up in 2015 makes sense. He is only 18 so he is very hard to project, but right now, he has the raw tools to become a 5 tool player, now he just needs to stop playing football, and work on becoming that dynamic outfielder that everybody says he could be.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Top 20 Prospects: #2 Marcus Stroman RHP

#2 Marcus Stroman RHP

Born: May 1, 1991 in Medford, New York, US (Age 21)
Acquired via: 1st round (22nd overall) of the 2012 MLB Draft from Duke University (Durham, NC)

Bats: Right. Throws: Right 
Height: 5' 9", Weight: 185 lb.
Baseball America Ranking: #3
Baseball Prospectus Ranking: #6
Fangraphs Ranking: #7 Rank: #5
Minor League Ball Rank: #3

2012 Stats and Analysis
New Hampshire (AA)

The Blue Jays had a lot of injuries in 2012. Because of this, they needed Marcus Stroman in the majors this past season. This resulted in Stroman going on the fast track to the majors, meaning he would be pitching out of the bullpen. In a small sample size of 11 innings, he dominated while playing in Vancouver against college players, and then got called up to New Hampshire in the hopes that he’d pitch there for a couple of weeks, then make his way up north. Stroman pitched just under 10 innings in AA when he was suspended 50 games for using a banned performance enhancing substance that he had left over from college. Had he been on the 40-man roster, he wouldn’t have been suspended, only a warning would have been issued, so it was truly just a case of ignorance, and not Stroman trying to “cheat”. His stats were way too small of a sample size to judge anything on, and because of that, there isn’t much we can take away from his 2012. His walk rate was horrific in AA, but he didn’t even pitch what would be an entire game, so you can’t look into anything.

Scouting Report
Stroman was a first rounder this past year for a reason. It wasn’t his fastball. Despite his height, his 4-seamer can touch 96 MPH, but sits around 92-93. The height does cause a problem to the pitch though, as, to quote Keith Law, it is “quite flat”. It still projects to be a plus pitch (60 grade), but his homer rates will be high due to the lack of movement. He was picked so high because of his slider. The slider sits in the mid 80’s, and is thrown to both sides of the plate to both righties and lefties. It has nasty movement on it, and projects to be a wipeout slider with a grade of 70. He also throws a change up that is nothing special, sitting in the low 80’s, and will likely be average. He does use it very well, and it definitely keeps hitters off balance.

2013? ETA? Projection?
Stroman is due back from his suspension in early May, and it will be interesting to see where he goes from there. If the club wants him to start, which I imagine is what they are planning now due to, you know, the Jays being good and not needing another rookie reliever, he will likely begin in high A ball playing for the Blue Jays in Dunedin. From there, a move to New Hampshire around the all-star break would likely make sense, where he would finish his season. But, if Alex Anthopoulos and his staff feel that his height, or lack thereof will project better in the bullpen, he’d start in New Hampshire, with a mid-season call-up to Buffalo, and then, eventually, a September call up to Toronto. So, his ETA is September 2013 if he’s a reliever, or 2014 for sure, no matter what he is. In a perfect world, he’s a number 3 starter, but I rather see him in the bullpen, where his fastball will have extra juice(no pun intended), and his slider keeps batters shaking their heads!

Tomorrow, I take a look at our new 20th prospect(due to the trade), while on Saturday, Isaac will write about number 19, followed by Marshall wrapping everything up with our number one Blue Jays prospect on Sunday. So, stay tuned!

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