Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Great Blue Jays Catcher Conundrum

Unfortunately for him, JPA's power
is his only valuable asset.
I have spent countless tweets debating this issue. I have even been blocked by a couple of people(although 1 has unblocked me after a couple of months) because of their sincere love for JPA, and my countless arguments against him. It is a great problem to have but unfortunately, it has divided Jays Nation, and has probably kept Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos up countless nights(although I imagine his newborn son has as well). What to do with the Blue Jays catching situation in 2013 and beyond? As we all know, J.P. Arencibia has clearly shown that he will hit you 20+ home runs a year, but he doesn't get on base. Travis d'Arnaud has not shown anything in the Majors, but his minor league numbers are better than JPA's, and he projects to be better. Anyways, I thought I would put all my arguments for my side(Travis d'Arnaud starting) down into a post so the people who disagree with me can share their thoughts in the comment section, and we could debate some more.

When told JPA has proven he can be an everyday Catcher, and d'Arnaud has not:
This is 100% the most valid argument that anybody can make on the JPA side. JP is an everyday catcher, but he isn't a "Division 1" catcher. He isn't Joe Mauer, Yadier Molina or Buster Posey, not that I'm saying Travis is, but d'Arnaud has a better chance to become one of those type of players because he can combine his power(which is basically the same as JP's) with the ability to get on base.

When told JPA is very good because he gets RBI's and deserves to be the starter because of that:
Call me when RBI's mean something and aren't dependant on your teammates and luck.

When told TDA should play 1st in 2013 and JPA should Catch:
Sal Fasano has said in the past that Travis d'Arnaud is one of the best defensive catchers he has seen. Travis is only 23, which means he has a ton of room, as does JP. But if you combine d'Arnaud's offense with his stellar defense, he has a chance to be an all-star for a long time in the AL.I'm not advocating a scenario where JP is on this team as well as TDA, but if somebody moves to 1st, it should be JP. Travis' defense is better obviously, and JP, as somebody who cares about winning, should be fine with the switch to 1st.

When told JP could play 1st, and d'Arnaud  could play catcher:
If no move is made in the off-season to acquire a 1B/DH, then I rather see Adam Lind play the position(DH) next season.  The reason for this being that the Jays need a pitcher, and JP can get you that, whereas Adam Lind cannot. Hopefully this doesn't need to be discussed anymore because AA brings in a player that plays 1B/DH...David Ortiz.

When told you can't get rid of JP because he cares too much about this team:
If a 3rd year player is upset about moving positions, and has a bad attitude about it, then I don't want him on my team. If he really cares about the team, he would do what's best for the team as a whole, which is having Travis d'Arnaud calling games and blocking balls behind the dish. The whole perception is that you can't move JP's position because he is older, and therefore deserves the respect of having a set position of defense. But if he really "cared" about this team like everybody says he does, he shouldn't have a problem with switching positions. So, he clearly doesn't "care" about this team so much that you can't trade him for a valuable piece.

Unlike his competition, Travis has more
 than 1 tool, 4 to be exact( Contact,Power,Arm,Glove).
When told JP did better in AAA, so expecting more from TDA is ludicrous:
Problem is, JP did not. Comparing JP's second year in Vegas and Travis' 1st year in AAA is like comparing apples and oranges. It is so much easier to succeed in the Minors when repeating a level(as shown by Asher Wojo.... this year before being traded), and that is why JPA had a "better" year than Travis at AAA. If you compare JP's 1st year and TDA's 1st year in AAA, it is ridiculous how much better d'Arnaud was. So, that argument is wrong. Oh, and by the way, Travis' 1st year at AAA, is better than JP's  2nd year according to wOBA and wRC+(JP .412/143 TDA .414/147).

When told trading JP would be regretted when d'Arnaud fails to meet expectations:
Travis d'Arnaud doesn't even need to have a wRC+ of 91(JPA's career #) next season to be worth more than JP. If his offense isn't what it is supposed to be, and it fails miserably, it can't be much worse than what JPA's is, and his defense, which won't change because of the league he is in, is still better than JP's.

I say package JP with some other pieces, and get a SP. That is what this team needs the most, and Travis d'Arnaud at his worst will likely produce overall more than JP does. Hand him the reins in April of 2013, and don't look back. They are both very nice guys, but when it comes down to winning, production is the only thing that matters.

Anyways, if you have any other points in favour of JPA that I did not answer, please leave them in the comment section below.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Blue Jays Daily: August 21st 2012

This is basically an injury update because thats all the news we really get these days when you're a Blue Jays fan, but there is some stuff about prospects as well.

Morrow Penciled in for Saturday's Start
Brandon Morrow, who up until Felix Hernandez's perfect game last week led the league in complete game shutouts, will return to the mound for the Blue Jays this Saturday. Brandon will face the Orioles, who need to fade, because they aren't good. No decision on who will be sent down to make room for Morrow has been made, but you have to think its going to be Henderson Alvarez or Ricky Romero.

Bautista/Lind Play for the Dunedin Blue  Jays
Blue Jays All Star Jose Bautista and the man who is in the process of losing his job due to David Cooper's success , Adam Lind, are both playing for the Blue Jays High-A team tonight. They should be back with the big league club at the earliest by Friday. Jose should be leading off tonight, and Lind should be batting 2nd, but the game is currently being delayed because of rain. Hopefully they get the game in so our injured players can get some ABs.

Lawrie Shut Down...Possibly for Good
Brett Lawrie has been shut down from his rehab stint, and will need at least a week before he is allowed to rehab again in minor league games. Lawrie's ribcage is sore again, and that is the reason for this setback. Blue Jays Skipper John Farrell did not rule out shutting him down for the rest of the season so he will be ready for next year.
Yorvit Arrives
Recently signed Catcher Yorvit Torrealba is in Detroit and is ready to play if needed tonight. AA said last week that he and Jeff Mathis will split the catching duties if/when JP Arencibia comes back this season. Yorvit told reporters before the game that many teams offered him contracts, but because the Jays were able to promise him playing time, he chose to sign with them. Torrealba was 5-12 with 3 walks in 4 games played with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats(AA) while preparing to come up to Toronto.
Norris Heading to Vancouver
The crown jewel of AA's 2011 MLB Draft, Daniel Norris, has been called up to the Vancouver Canadians(SS A). Norris announced this via his twitter account today. Daniel had a 7.97 ERA in 35.0 IP in BlueField this season, which makes you wonder why exactly he has been called up. But, he is a top-100 prospect in the game for a reason. He has great stuff. I'm sure he will do just fine while playing for the Canadians. 

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Interview With Blue Jays Catcher Jeff Mathis

He isn't known for his offense, but his numbers
have been above his career averages this season.
He recently became the Blue Jays starting catcher. Yesterday he signed a 2 year $3 Million ($1.5 Million club option in 2015) extension with the club. Today, I bring you the transcript of an interview I conducted with none other than Jeff Mathis. Unfortunately it was done before the extension was finished and announced so, I did not talk to him about it.

A 29 year old catcher from Marianna, Florida, Jeff was drafted in the 1st round during the 2001 MLB Rule 4 Draft. He made it to the majors in 2005 with the Angels, the team that drafted him, and except for a couple of stints in the minors in 2006 and 2007, has been up here ever since. Last December AA traded for him by sending SP Brad Mills to the Halos. His offense has always been lacking for what it takes to be a starter, but this year he performed well offensively while he was a backup. Due to injuries to the two catchers ahead of him on the depth chart, JP Arencibia and Travis d’Arnaud, Jeff was handed the starting duties a couple of weeks ago. His offense has sputtered, going back to around his career numbers, but like always, his defense has been superb. He leads the league in CS% at 39%, and the way he calls games has had a very positive effect on the Blue Jays pitching staff.

Now, for that interview I did.

Mathis' stance last season with the Angels.
You can see his feet are close together.
It is quite evident that you have made some changes to your swing when comparing video from past years to this season. What have you done to it that has allowed you to access your power? (Jeff’s SLG% is up by .102 points over his career average).
“Knowing that I was going to get more limited opportunities, I have simplified things and gotten back to doing things that have brought me success in the past.”
Mathis' swing/stance this season.
His feet are farther apart, which
 allows him to drive the ball more.
Is it difficult going from playing once or twice a week to everyday like you have done since JP Arencibia has gone down due to injury? How have you changed your daily routine?
“I will always approach things with the mindset that I can play every day in this league and I mentally and physically prepare myself to do that. I have tried to maintain my workout regiment throughout the season and I feel ready to help the team while JP is out. It is really unfortunate that we have lost him, but I want to try to do what I can to help the team while I am in there.”

You are one of the best defensive catchers in the game. What do you think you do differently than others that allows you to have such great success behind the plate?
“I have always tried to separate what I did offensively and defensively. No matter what was happening offensively, I have always taken a lot of pride in how I called a game or helped a staff from the 1st out to the last out. I have been around a lot of very good catching coaches during my career and I have just tried to be a sponge to learn as much as I can from them. I know that I can affect a game behind the plate as much as I can at the plate.”
Mathis goes to the mound
to talk to Ricky.
Ricky Romero has clearly been struggling of late, and you have had your first few chances of catching him. Are you do anything different in your game calling than what JP Arencibia does to try to snap Ricky out of his skid, and if yes, what?
“Ricky is a hell of a major league pitcher and he is working on some things that he believes will help him be more consistent. None of us doubt that he will be successful in doing that. He is too good of a pitcher for that not to happen. That being said, we as players all go through bumps in the road and it is our job as professionals to figure out how to keep in on the path to success. Ricky will undoubtedly do that.”
Which pitcher on the Blue Jays do you have the best connection with when it comes to knowing how to call their game to perfection?
“I try to work with each individual pitcher differently so as to do things that he is comfortable with. It is my job to help each of our guys be successful and to allow them to get into a rhythm on the mound that benefits them. This is not about me. This is about them not worrying about me or how I am doing things behind the plate so they can concentrate on being successful and executing pitches, sequences and a game plan. If I am doing that, I am doing my job.”
Hope you guys enjoyed it. I want to thank Jeff for taking time out of his busy schedule to do this with me, and hope he continues to have success with the Jays.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Jays Extend Their Starting Catcher

Mathis catching in Tropicana Field
 last week vs. the Rays.
That headline got you excited, didn't it? Too bad the Jays starting catcher right now is Jeff Mathis. The Blue Jays announced earlier this evening that they had signed Mathis to a 2-year $3 million contract with an Anthoption(Club Option) in 2015 for $1.5 million. This is still a pretty big move because it gives us a whole lot of possible options to think about for the catching jobs in 2013. Since Mathis' job is now set in stone, we can assume one of JP Arencibia or Travis d'Arnaud will be moved this off-season. Here are a few possible situations next year when it comes to the backstops.
1. JPA Traded, d'Arnaud Starting, Mathis Backup
This seems like the most likely case as it improves the team all around and if JPA is packaged with one of the Lansing 3 and some fillers, he could bring back a pretty good pitcher. AA has said outright that he is going to acquire a pitcher or two this off-season, so that statement gives this possibility more steam than the others. The big question is whether or not the Blue Jays #1 prospect will be ready for 2013 because he tore his PCL this season, and has been shut down. But the latest we have heard about d'Arnaud is that he will make up for lost time playing in the Arizona Fall League later this year, and should be ready for April 2013.

2. JPA Starting Catcher, d'Arnaud Starting DH, Mathis Backup C
You don't like this. I don't like this. Rogers loves this! AA has been brainwashed to love it. Instead of spending money on David Ortiz or another DH, Rogers could conveniently pay those 4 players less than $3 million for 2013, and still think they get good production. AA said during tonight's game that this case has potential for next season, but I don't see it. My first problem with it is that JPA brings back a pitcher if traded, and Ortiz would love to play in Toronto with his best friend Jose Bautista, and another close friend, Edwin Encarnacion. My second problem is that if you do have these 3 catchers, why not have d'Arnaud,the better defender, play catcher, and JPA DH. You are getting the same offense, but improving the defense. Just makes more sense in my mind. What do you guys think?

3. JPA Starting, Mathis Backup, Travis d'Arnaud starting in AAA
Please no.

4.d'Arnaud Traded, JPA Starting, Mathis Backup
If it brings back Stephen Strasburg,Clayton Kershaw, or Felix Hernandez(Or other players of that caliber), then I'm fine with it. Otherwise, NO!(Mike Trout as well)

Well that basically sums them all up. If I missed any, I'm distracted by watching the Jays game right now, so it isn't my fault.

Which situation do you prefer? Leave a comment in the section below and we could discuss, I really want to know what others think about this.

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Source: Blue Jays to Sign Yorvit Torrealba

Torrealba,right, was suspended 66 games in the
 Venezuelan League last year after hitting the umpire,left.
A report by Drew Davidson, a writer for Fort Worth Star-Telegram, says backup catcher Yorvit Torrealba is close to joining the Toronto Blue Jays. If this is indeed true, which it likely is, Torrealba will assume the backup catcher duties, with Yan Gomes becoming the back up 3rd baseman, taking over for Omar Vizquel. Vizquel,45, has had to go out of his role as Assistant Bench Coach since Brett Lawrie got injured to play a game every 4th day or so.The 34 year old we will call Yorvit has an OBP of .302, and is pretty bad defensively.

So if your counting players on the disabled list, the Blue Jays now have 4 back up catchers. JP Arencibia,Jeff Mathis, Yorvit Torrealba, and Yan Gomes. Travis d'Arnaud couldn't come soon enough...Right?

Update: The Blue Jays just announced that they signed Torrealba to a minor league contract, and he will report to AA New Hampshire, where he will play 4 games before coming up next week in Detroit.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Medic! Youth, Energy, & Potential Will Have to Carry the Blue Jays

WARNING: This is an opinion piece created by an observant fan

The heart of the 2012 Toronto Blue Jays has been grit, tenacity and bringing a youthful energy to the diamond every game. This philosophy is being accentuated with the arrival of farm system DL assistance, in the form of: top prospects, pitching help, and support from important bench players. It is safe to say that the disaster of the 2012 season, is working positively toward 2013; and the Blue Jays fanbase should be excited to watch these kids grow up together.

                                                                                    Anthony Gose:
As crazy as it sounds, Gose now appears and holds himself among the great crop of new Blue Jays as the experienced rookie. Gose has learned A LOT in his first three weeks of major league experience. Gose is an obvious example of a defensive stud that just needs to take his licks at the plate and make the appropriate adjustments; all expected of a 21-year old professional athlete. With GM Alex Anthopoulos commenting on how impressed he has been with the quality of Gose’s at-bats and his determination to get better; I have to agree to a certain extent. The speed of Anthony is without question, and with a steady upgrade of his bunt ability Gose will carve a niche for himself until his swing is ready to contend with big-league pitching more consistenly. At a very young 21 years, Gose finds himself with a swing percentage of pitches outside the zone of 32%, just three points above the league average – this is encouraging considering his widely held weakness is a high K-rate. I believe in the potential of his athleticism, patience, determination, and the progress Gose will make under the Blue Jays developmental program.

Moises Sierra:
The most obvious point to be made about Sierra is his schoolyard mentality, one that is going to earn him a few choice words from every manager and coach that he plays under at the major league level. Players that bring grit, swagger, and aggressiveness to the diamond everyday should never have to apologize. Without any doubt, players like Lawrie or Sierra will have to temper that aggression into beneficial team production. Sierra is far from the prototypical stellar OF prospect, yet he possesses raw power, a monstrous throwing arm from RF, and a knack for making things happen on the basepaths. Moises has hit the ball fairly well thus far with the Blue Jays but it will be his baseball knowledge and critical decision-making that will decide his fate. Being the obvious odd man out in the Blue Jays OF, Sierra is doing a service for the Blue Jays displaying his skills to the viewing pleasure of the rest of the MLB.

Adeiny Hechavarria:
At the ripe age of 23, Adeiny has been heralded by many baseball minds as the next elite Blue Jays middle infielder and his fantastic ability to make great plays in the field is evidence of that. A young Cuban prospect, Hech has nothing left to prove with his slick fielding glove, soft hands and strong accurate throwing arm. He has found no problems anchoring the infield defence from his shortstop position at any level of competition. Outside of his inflated 2012 numbers in AAA, Hech has showed a dramatic ability to adapt, be patient, and make good plate appearances each time out. With the bat speed and maturity that Hech has shown in a handful of major league games on top of his stellar rise through the minors, the Blue Jays have a valuable SS and every other MLB team knows it as well.

Yan Gomes:
In my opinion Yan Gomes deserves a lot of kudos for the roller coaster ride of position and affiliation changes he has endured. Gomes has been called upon to play first base, third base, catch, and even play some left field. For a team decimated by unlucky injuries, the Blue Jays have needed players with the versatility and laissez-faire attitude of Yan Gomes. The defence of Gomes behind the dish was less than great for a player with a primary position of catcher, but I think Yan has proven to be a satisfactory first base glove. I believe that the versatility, power, and age of Gomes give him a moderate value especially for NL teams looking for those kinds of bench players. The best way for Gomes to prove his worth, while with the Blue Jays, is to do a better job driving the ball when he does get a pitch to hit; he has struggled chasing pitches recently.

                                                                                    David Cooper:
Cooper is the “Rudy” of the 2012 Toronto Blue Jays. There are easy reasons to like and dislike David Cooper as the replacement 1B or DH for the Toronto Blue Jays while Adam Lind continues to have back issues (as a result of poor physical conditioning). Cooper has a particular set of honed skills as a result of being the steadfast 1B in AAA Las Vegas for the past 3 seasons. The plus ability for David Cooper is his short and clean swing that is packaged with a very good batting eye. Cooper does not chase many bad pitches and has driven the ball with authority when gets the barrel of the bat out on the ball. I believe that Cooper needs to improve his running ability and his lower back flexibility if he is ever going to be considered a major league defender. The value of players like Cooper is that he can make the most of his at-bats with the Blue Jays and help become a valuable trade piece because he has MLB experience and moderate results. The value of David Cooper may be measured most appropriately when and if he becomes a trade piece for the type of core player Anthopoulos is looking to add. 

Please feel free to comment below and as always your various opinions are welcome.

Follow me on Twitter: @ntopolie13 

-Nick Topolie

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Assassination of Johnny Giavotella by the Coward Dayton Moore

The Assassination of Johnny Giavotella by the Coward Dayton Moore

(Or another buy low candidate for Alex Anthopolous)

            Heading into the off-season, there are 3 obvious holes that the Blue Jays will need to address before the season starts next April.  One is in the rotation, another is in Left Field, assuming Anthony Gose doesn’t prove he can stick, and the last is at the keystone, where Kelly Johnson’s horrendous 2nd half slump means he certainly won’t be back next season.  If you look at the free agent crop this off-season its especially poor, where the top two names available will likely be Freddy Sanchez of the Giants, and Johnson himself.  Neither of those excite me in the least, so in order to address that position Anthopolous will need to get creative.

            Throughout his tenure as the Jays general manager Alex Anthopolous has routinely targeted players who have talent, but for one reason or another have fallen out of favour with their current club.  He did this with Yunel Escobar from the Braves, again with Brett Lawrie in the Shaun Marcum trade, and most recently with Colby Rasmus after he’d fallen out with Tony LaRussa. 

Another player who fits that bill perfectly is Royals 2nd base prospect Johnny Giavotella.  After being a 2nd round pick in 2008, Giavotella exploded in 2010 in AA Northwest Arkansas, finishing 6th in batting average with a .322 average, to go with a terrific OBP (.395), and Slugging % (.460).  He followed that breakout season, by posting even better numbers the next year at AAA in Omaha (.338/.390/.481), even earning a promotion to the majors in August.  However, like many young players getting his first taste of the big time, he disappointed despite getting regular at bats over the last two months of the season hitting just .247/.273/.376.  This was evidently enough for the Royals to completely sour on him as a player, despite the fact they’d invested a high draft pick in him.

Even though they had Giavotella seemingly ready to step into the lineup, and a perfectly acceptable fallback option in Chris Getz, in one of the strangest moves of the off-season the Royals decided to block Gio’s progress by bringing back Yuniesky Betancourt.  Betancourt had spent the better part of two seasons as the Royals starting shortstop, and had been massively disappointing, managing to combine atrocious defense, with one of the worst OBP’s in the league both years. 

After getting to the Brewers to take his poor contract in the Zack Greinke trade, the Royals brought him back seemingly as the utility infielder, and gave the starting 2nd base job to the decidedly average Getz out of spring training.  The reason they gave was that Giavotella’s defense needed more seasoning at AAA before they were ready to commit to him.  With the Royals seemingly making a push to win this season, these decisions make some sense, as going with the 28 year old Getz was presumably safer than risking the unproven Giavotella. 

They did give Giavotella a brief shot in May when Yuni hit the DL, but despite hitting the ball very well (31% Line Drive rate), hit into a lot of bad luck, and when Betancourt returned he was sent back down.  At this point in the season, the Royals had already gone through a 12 game losing streak, and had already lost starters Danny Duffy & Felipe Paulino to Tommy John surgery.  All pretences of winning this season had gone out the window, but they continued to let Giavotella rake down in the minors, where he’d already proven he could defeat.  Keep in mind, that the reason they had given Getz the job out of spring training was reportedly because of his defensive acumen, but now not 2 months later, they were turning to Yuni and his atrocious glove.

It really dawned on me how much the Royals had soured on Giavotella until this week, when they finally cut ties with Yuniesky Betancourt.  It should be noted that this team is so poor at evaluating talent, that it wasn’t Betancourt’s poor defense that led to him being cut, nor was it his .256 OBP that got him cut.   Rather it was his poor attitude, lack of willingness to accept a reduced role.  Anyway, with Yuni’s spot on the roster coming open, that seemed to give them another great opportunity to give Giovatella an extended look to close out the year.  Again they are turning to Getz, and because they need a backup shortstop (despite Alcides Escobar playing all but 2 games at short this year), they called up 27 year old Tony Abreu.

            At this point, the Royals have screamed from the rooftops, that we don’t want Giavotella, and have effectively killed any real trade value he has.  Despite hitting .335/.401/.488 in almost 900 AAA plate appearances, this year alone they’ve chosen to give playing time to Yuniesky Betancourt, Chris Getz, Irving Falu, and now Tony Abreu instead a promising 24 year old former 2nd round pick.  This has all the makings of someone that Anthopolous could swoop in and get on the cheap. 

            This isn’t to say that Giavotella is a perfect player.  He does have defensive deficiencies, and has disappointed in his very brief major league stints.  Despite all that, Giavotella still has the type of bat that inspires alot of faith, especially given how weak the alternatives at 2nd base are this off-season.  I’m not sure if the Royals and Blue Jays could work out a deal, especially given that both teams most pressing need is in the starting staff, but if something could be worked out, and I think it could, then he could be just the low cost alternative that could plug the 2nd base hole next year, and for years to come.