Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thoughts from Spring Training: Day 2 & 3

            Well that went to fast. After 2 nights, 3 days, and 3 games, my trip to Dunedin has come to an end.  It was filled with insane experiences, from the everyday mundane task of deciphering what John Gibbons is saying, to meeting most of the Jays team in their cafeteria and clubhouse all thanks to Adam Lind! On to the stuff you guys want to read, my thoughts on different player performances.

On Ricky Romero
Romero was awful on Tuesday, and after his start, he told the media that he was throwing 90% sinkers because he wanted to get back to using that pitch like he did in 2011(Click here for article link). If this is true, it would explain his lack of velocity, which sat in the range of 86-87 all day, and only touched 90 a few times. Of course this is going by the Dunedin radar gun, which, might not be too accurate. But what is more of a problem than just his lack of velocity was his lack of control. My seats while I was in Dunedin were 4 rows up right behind home plate, and it was quite obvious that he had no idea where the ball was going. The sinker didn’t sink, and if Romero is going to try to get back to his pre-2012 self, he needs to make his sinker “sink”, and control his other pitches. Of course, he has a month to work on all of this before games actually count, so I wouldn’t worry too much.

On Steve Delabar
Delabar stole the hearts of Blue Jays fans last summer after coming over from Seattle in the Eric Thames trade by using his dominating splitter as a crazy out pitch that had him rising to the top of the league in K/9. The splitter wasn’t 100% on Tuesday, but I totally expect him to start getting the feel back for that pitch in the coming weeks. He sat around 88 MPH on that. He did have good fastball command at around 94 MPH, so that was nice to see.

On Emilio Bonifacio
All I can say about Boni is that he looked terrible at short on Tuesday making countless mistakes such as a bad DP flip, a high throw to Lind at first, a low throw to Lind, and a wide throw to Lind. As with all spring performances, don’t expect him to be this bad at shortstop during the regular season as he just needs to get some reps playing there, a position he hasn’t played in a regular game since 2011.

On Wednesday he looked good at second, and I love him at the plate as his speed brings so much to the game.I still don’t expect him to win the starting second basemen job from Maicer Izturis, but as a super utility guy playing 3-4 times a week, he could be great!

On Adam Lind…
I might be a little bias now when it comes to Lind because of what he did for me, but he has looked great the past few days. He launched a ball over 400 feet on Tuesday for a home run, and continued to look solid at the plate yesterday. Of course this was all against righties, but hopefully that is all he has to play against because of Mark DeRosa, who in a very small sample size of 5 at bats has been showing that he truly can hit lefties like he did before he broke his wrist and every other bone in his body like 64 times.

Rogers really impressed me at the beginning of his performance on Tuesday, but he started to lose his command after the first couple of batters, which led to multiple balls out of the zone and balls left up to the batters. His fastball sat between 94-95, which is great to see this early in soring training, and his slider had great movement both horizontally and vertically, tailing out and down to righties, and in and down to lefties, while being thrown in the high 80’s.

The newly acquired Schwimer has a great mound presence coming in at 6”8, and throws his fastball in the low 90s(well at least he did on Tuesday). He didn’t have good command of it at all, which is totally expected during spring training. He did have his off-speed pitches working well in the low to mid 80’s with some nice late movement. He’ll be a nice player for the fans down in Buffalo to watch this season.

Germano was the lone bright spot on the pitching side of things for the Jays on Wednesday. His stuff was crazy good, and I couldn’t believe how much movement he had on his curve. It must have froze batters 5 or 6 times. Just crazy. He’ll be in the Bisons rotation somewhere and it looks like he was a good get on a minor league deal by Alex Anthopoulos.

As always, don’t read so much into spring training performances as players getting into the mix of things, and competition skew them. 34 days until opening day!!!

Our 30 Teams in 30 Day series starts tomorrow, so make sure to check BJP daily for our previews!


Brett Lawrie warming up, or dancing, either one.

Mark DeRosa continuing his torrid spring...

Jamie Campbell sitting down with Justin Morneau to ask him some questions...

The grounds crew taking the tarp of the field in preparation of Tuesday's game...

Gibby waving to the crowd before the game...

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Monday, February 25, 2013

Thoughts From Spring Training: Day 1

The jerk sitting all by himself...
The Boston Red Sox beat the Blue Jays 4-2 today in John Farrell's return to Toronto, or Dunedin I guess. I was at the game today, my first of three this spring training, and, as expected, it was awesome. My seats are 4 or 5 rows up right behind home plate, so I'm able to see the strike zone beautifully. Some thoughts and pictures from today's game...

 On R.A Dickey...
Dickey, JPA, and Pete Walker before the game.
Dickey was pretty obviously just getting a feel for his knuckler today, sitting at 73-74 MPH on it, and maxing out at 75 MPH. Those readings are from the stadium radar gun, so they might be a couple ticks off. It didn't have as much movement as it will have during the regular season, which was the primary reason he got hit hard a few times today. The knuckeball was left up a couple times, and Red Sox batters took advantage. Towards the end of his outing, he threw one pitch around 58 MPH if I remember correctly, and got the batter(Pedro Ciraco) to roll over it into a double play. That particular pitch had a ton of movement on it, and it was great to see. The results might not have been great, but for his first spring outing, Dickey showed great signs today.

On JPA...
He looked pretty solid behind the plate catching Dickey. Only had one passed ball in his 2 innings, so not so bad. He won't be catching Dickey once the regular season comes, but practice can't hurt him. Of course today's knuckle ball is easier to catch than the ones that should be coming in Dickey's upcoming starts because it didn't move so much.

On the Dominican Four...
Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion represent the best top 4 hitters in baseball, and boy did they look good today.

        Reyes looked comfortable at the plate, hitting a hard ground ball that got through the hole between short and third, and before that, hustling and scoring from first on Melky's third inning double. His base running was phenomenal, something we didn't see a whole lot of last year thanks to Mr. Farrell.

Bautista's super high leg kick.
        Melky had two solid hits, both of them doubles, and even more important than that, he seemed to wait for the pitches he wanted. Other's were chasing pitches, but he was able to wait for his pitch, and drive it...Twice. His defense was also solid, as he made a great throw to hold a runner at second.

         Joey Bats almost hit another home run today, smoking a ball to straight away centre field, before it was run down at around the 390 mark. Those line drives are great to see from him. His eye was also in mid-season form, something we can always count on from Jose.

         Edwin did hit one out of the park today, like really far out of the park. As soon as it hit the bat the entire stadium knew it was gone, and everybody erupted into applause. EE was chasing a bit early on, but was able to stay back on some pitches, which led to his monster shot to left field.

On Josh Johnson....

JJ looked really good today, changing speeds and keeping hitters off balance. There was a moment where he started a hitter of with a 92 MPH fastball(likely a bit more because of the radar guns), then dropped a 75 MPH curve on him(which he is said to be working on), and then followed that up with some more heat. The hitter was absolutely fooled, and if JJ can keep on changing speeds and locations like he did today, he is going to end up being the best pitcher on this staff by years end. He was awesome today.

On Sean Nolin and John Stilson...

Nolin about to release one of his many
impressive pitches on the day.
Nolin was the guy who impressed me the most today, even though his stat line doesn't show it. He was painting corners with ease, and aside from a few mistakes which will happen in spring training, he looked great, It's no wonder AA loves him so much. I wouldn't be surprised if he hopped right over J.A Happ on the depth chart by the All-Star break. He's got great stuff. Mid-rotation guy for sure.

Stilson looked good, not great, just good. He had semi-good command of his stuff, but that lack of a true third pitch is going to put him in the bullpen in the near future. Could make for a great late inning guy. He definitely has the confidence and cockiness for a big leaguer :)

On Mark DeRosa...
Okay. I know I sort of love DeRosa because I predicted his signing and all, but once again today, he hit lefties, without his bones breaking. Gibbons will take notice to this. He'll end up being Lind's platoon partner if he doesn't get injured. He has always been a good lefty hitter, and it'll be nice for him to make a solid contribution to this team.

And some more pictures...
Former Jay Lyle Overbay in the Boston on-deck circle.

Reyes stretching before the game.
Lawrie about to swing and miss.
I hope you enjoyed. Probably won't be posting again tomorrow night, but I'll try.

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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Will Josh Johnson become Toronto's new “King”?

 I would like to start by saying Hello to everyone. My name is Jordan Hostick and this is my first article that I'm posting for Blue Jays Plus. You can Follow me on twitter @Jordanhostick16 and I hope that everyone enjoys my articles.

      So as most of you know during the off-season this year the Blue Jays made some major shakeups to their roster including acquiring Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio and finally Josh Johnson in a trade with the Miami Marlins. The reason why I mention Josh Johnson's name last is because he's my main focus for this piece as he could become a Free-Agent at the end of this season. Last week, Felix Hernandez signed a massive 7 year, 175 Million dollar extension with the Seattle Mariners. Which brings me to my question - With this new mega-deal between Felix Hernandez and the Mariners, what does it mean for contract talks with Johnson during or after this season?

      Over the past couple of years Alex Anthopolous has been the kind of General Manager to, if he wants to retain someone for the future, he signs them during the season rather than after. Just look at what he did with Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Ricky Romero during the past 2 years. The 5 year, $65 Million contract to Bautista still being the biggest contract that Anthopolous has handed out. While Anthopolous has re-signed them during the season(Bautista was right before spring training) rather than waiting around until after the season where they could just get up and say that they are going to test free agency, it is still unknown whether or not a contract will be in the works for Johnson. While I can see Anthopolous working out a new contract with Johnson, I don't believe that he is worth the kind of money that Felix is going to be making. Not to take a shot at him because I have not seen him pitch yet in a Blue Jays uniform, but other than last year he has had somewhat of a career riddled with injuries. His Fastball Velocity has also dropped from 94.9 MPH in 2010 to 92.8 MPH last year as reported by

      While there were these issues and they came with him when the Blue Jays acquired Johnson back in November, he is still poised to do pretty well for himself in his next contract whether it be in a contract extension with the Blue Jays or whether he does decide to test free agency next fall. If he were to test free agency he could potentially have quite a bit of competition on the market with the likes of Tim Lincecum, Matt Garza, Gavin Floyd,and former Blue Jay Roy Halladay possibly becoming free agents following the upcoming season.

      All in all I believe that we will be seeing Johnson in a Blue Jays uniform for quite a few years to come but the only concern is the money, I believe that he will end up getting a Ricky Romero type of contract where he makes around $30 - $40 million over the next five years. The question is, if he does end up having an amazing year for the Jays next season do you take a gamble and give him a Cliff Lee type contract where he makes $120 – $130 million over 5-7 years? With that I want to know what your opinion on what kind of contract Johnson deserves. Whether he will sign during the season for a Ricky Romero type contract or if he waits until the off-season, would the Jays would give him a Cliff Lee type contract if he does well?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Team Canada WBC Preview - Part 1

World Baseball Classic Preview - Team Canada
I'll (Ewan) be previewing the World Baseball Classic over the next couple weeks, starting out with a 3 part preview of Team Canada.  Today focusing on the schedule, manager, and key player.  Next week, on Monday I'll be breaking down all the hitters individually, and then Tuesday I'll do the same with the pitching staff.  Then next week I'll look at the other teams in the pool with the Canada (Mexico, United States, & Italy).  As we get closer to the games I'll be looking at the matchups and previewing each individual game
    The Canadian team comes into the 3rd World Baseball Classic looking to advance to the 2nd round for the first time.  The Canadians have drawn what seems to be a favourable pool, with USA, Italy, and Mexico.  One could expect the Canadians to lose to the Americans (though we did upset them in 2006), and beat the Italians, which would mean the tournament will likely come down to a matchup against an evenly matched Mexican team.  If you only catch one game of this year's tournament, the March 9th game against Mexico is the one to watch.  
Manager & Coaches
    Back to manage for the 3rd time is all-time Blue Jay great Ernie Whitt, and is backed up by the who's who of famous Canadian ball players like Larry Walker (Hitting Coach), Stubby Clapp (Bench Coach), Denis Boucher, and Paul Quantrill (Sharing the pitching coach duties).  
    I personally would've been a lot happier had Canada gone another direction with the skipper.  While Whitt did redeem himself to a certain degree by leading Team Canada to an upset Gold Medal in the recent Pan-Am Games, in previous World Baseball Classics I've been very critical of Whitt's passive in game tactics as well as his lineup construction.  
    For example, in both the previous WBCs Whitt has gone with one of the team's weakest hitters in the leadoff spot (Pete Orr in 2006, & Chris Barnwell in 2009), and predictably has gotten next to no production out of that spot.  I'm aware its just a 5 game sample, but the .053/.143/.053 production from those two players wasn't that far from what you would've expected.
   This was most obvious in the 2006 tournament.  The team was heading into an elimination game against the Mexicans, and was riding high after a historic upset of the Americans.  In the two previous games the team's best player had been center fielder (and #9 hitter) Adam Stern.  Stern was having the week of his life, hitting .715/.750/1.571, meanwhile leadoff man Pete Orr had recorded just one slap single.  Despite this Whitt left Stern in the 9 spot, and he picked up one of Canada's 3 hits, while Orr again went hitless.  Now this probably didn't matter, as Canada got blown out, but this is the type of rigid thinking that's plagued Whitt's managerial career.
    Another concern I have about Whitt is his inactivity in game.  During the 2 games in 2009, Whitt never once even put a runner in motion, let alone stole a base.  This type of strategical play (or lack there of) just doesn't work in a tournament, where one loss means so much more than it would during a season.  Whitt did use a pinch hitter 3 times during the tournament, however 3 of them were to pinch hit for leadoff man Chris Barnwell, which begs the question why he was in the leadoff spot in the first place?
    Given these tactical flaws, and the team's lack of success, I was really hoping to see some new blood at the helm (Like Walker for example).  Instead I'm left hoping that Whitt has learned from his mistakes, and things will be better this time around.
   Honestly, I'm not holding my breath.
Key Player

Jameson Taillon
    With the top 4 Canadian Pitchers all missing from the tournament (Dempster, Francis, Diamond & Harden) the burden will fall to the flame throwing Pirates prospect Jameson Taillon to carry the Canadian team.  His connection to Canada is tenuous at best, since he was born in Florida, and raised in Texas.  However since both his parents are Canadian, he holds duel citizenship, and will proudly be donning the maple leaf on his chest for the first time.
     Since being drafted 2nd overall in 2010, the Pirates have been very careful with their prized ace prospect.  Even despite that Taillon arrived in AA late in the season, and was utterly dominant in his 3 outings there.  
     His fastball is a true plus-plus pitch, sitting 94-96, and touching as high as 98, with a good amount of arm-side run to it.  As with any young pitcher his command can waver from time to time, and his long arm action doesn't hide the ball very well, however when his heater is going its about as good as it gets.
    The primary secondary offering you'll see from Taillon is a dominating hammer curveball, which I've seen comparisons to Ben Sheets' elite offering when its working.  It shows strong 11-5 tilt, and has some late breaking action like a slider.  When his curve is on he has two near elite pitches that are as good as anyone's in the game.
    His third pitch is a still an emerging changeup that will be critical if he's going to have success against major league calibre left handed hitters.  With this pitch still a question mark, manager Ernie Whitt is going to have to be careful when he's going into a lefty heavy part of opposing lineups.
    For Canada to advance, its tournament is likely to come down to a matchup against the Mexicans on March 9th.  Given that the other main option for the Canadians is minor league journeymen Shawn Hill, this start MUST go to Taillon.  First of all, he's the only pitcher on the Canadian roster with the possibility of a dominant outing.  Also, since the only notable left handed batter in the Mexican lineup is Adrian Gonzalez, I think that will allow Taillon from having to rely on his changeup too much.
    This is a lot to ask of a 21 year old who has just 18 innings above A ball, but with a depleted pitching staff, he's the best option we have.
     As always you can follow me on Twitter @Mentoch.

What the Beginning of Spring Training Means for the Blue Jays

This is the first article I’m writing for BlueJaysPlus, so I hope you guys like it. You can follow me on twitter, @TheRealNickBell

                As we all know, the Blue Jays have far and away won the off-season and have completely transformed themselves from an afterthought in the AL East to a contender for not only the playoffs, but also for a World Series appearance for the first time since Joe Carter scraped his World-Series winning home run off of Mitch Williams 20 long years ago. Fans have been sick and tired or hearing that they have to wait for a few more years for a ‘true’ contender. Blue Jays fans, that time is now. For the first time in what seems like an eternity, the Blue Jays have some legitimate World Series aspirations. For the first time in two decades, Blue Jays players and coaches alike believe in themselves and what they can do. For the first time in twenty years, Blue Jays fans have hope; hope in their team, hope in their GM, and hope in their city.

                For as long as I have been on this earth, there has not been this much hype surrounding the Blue Jays; this much hype is unheard of in this city for any sport, let alone the Blue Jays. Canada’s only baseball team has had a lot riding ever since 1993, especially after Montreal re-located to Washington in 2004. The Blue Jays however, had failed to meet any of those expectations over the past twenty years. Now, the stakes are higher than ever and now it is up to the boys in blue to deliver and make the playoffs for the first time since 1993.

                Now let’s look at what the Blue Jays have done to give themselves such lofty expectations. The World Series ended on October 28th, 2012. We all remember when Miguel Cabrera was frozen by the 79 MPH slider of Sergio Romo, but what we didn’t realize as Jays fans however, is that less than a month after that pitch was delivered in Detroit, the only team in Canada was about to make a move both literally and figuratively. On November 13th, 2012, just 16 short days after the off-season had begun, the Jays struck. Toronto and Miami agreed to a deal that would send SP’s Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle along with All-Star Shortstop Jose Reyes, backup Catcher John Buck (Now of the Mets) and speed demon Emilio Bonifacio north of the border. Much was made about ‘depleting the farm’ with this move, but things only got more interesting when the Blue Jays signed OF Melky Cabrera to a 2-yr/ $16 MM contract a few days later. The most recent deal that really ‘depleted’ the great farm system Toronto had was the most talked about of the three, the most dramatic of the three, and the most controversial of the three. It was a cold, snowy December night and I was just casually checking some baseball sites when all of a sudden, Twitter explodes that an R.A. Dickey deal had finally been finalized and that the 2012 NL Cy Young Award winner was going to join Buehrle, Johnson ,Reyes, and Cabrera with the task of leading this afterthought of a franchise, this mediocre franchise, this franchise that had been so puzzling and frustrating to watch for a very, very long time, this franchise that we call our Toronto Blue Jays.

                I, along with thousands of Blue Jays fans worldwide, have never been more excited about this team, our team and its potential to bring a winning team back to Toronto. With the Raptors and Leafs looking better, now it is the Blue Jays’ turn to make some headlines on the field; to take this team to the next level, that level being the post-season, a place where we as a city supporting this illustrious franchise have not been in twenty years. This new-look team has the hearts of many on their sleeve every day; we are united not by the maple leaf that the players wear on their uniforms, not by the Rogers Centre, but by the passion for baseball and the hunger to bring a World Series championship to Canada. This is our goal, this is our mission, so sit back, don’t relax, and enjoy the next 8 months of Blue Jays baseball, because we’re back, and we’re back for real.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wednesday Web Works: February 13th

Week number 2 of doing this... I think I'm going to dedicate this more to blogs than newspapers. Onward!

This morning, Andrew Stoeten wrote about these tweets he received at DrunkJaysFans.
Interesting, although I think I trust Gavin Floyd's cousin's neighbour more than this guy. 

Also at DJF, Stoeten writes about Roy Halladay saying he wants to retire in Philly, Archi Zuber releases round two of his magnificent Jays valentines day cards(Part 1 if you click here), and they released a podcast.

At BlueBirdBanter, Jared McDonald(formerly of JaysJournal and I believe currently also with JaysProspects) writes that Melky Cabrera is a good player, something we haven't seen in left field for the Jays in what feels like forever.

Kyle Franzoni of JaysJournal throws out the possibility of Moises Sierra being a good alternative to Adam Lind.Ya, I think I'll say no to that one. Seems like first impressions really do last along time.

Sticking with Adam Lind, the BlueJaysHunter wonders if Lind can regain his 2009 form, or close to it. If used correctly, I think Lind might not be so bad. Now Gibby just has to use him correctly.

The BaseballProspectus staff writes about 9 players they think could have breakout years in 2013, one of which, is former Blue Jay Travis Snider....Whatever, we have Dickey! A BP subscription is not required to view this article.

The MLBFanCave released their top 30 today, and one of them is Jays prospect blogger April Whitzman. About time a Jays fan got in!

Shi Davidi writes a Jays notebook of all the things that went on at Jays camp today, including Dustin McGowan's latest injury...You know it's spring, when Dustin McGowan gets shutdown! That page also has Shi's twitter feed, which features great pictures that I'm sure will get you excited for baseball.

Hope you enjoyed the links!

You can follow me on twitter, @gideonturk. To connect with the site, Follow us on Twitter, and Like us on Facebook.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Wednesday Web Works: February 6th

So, apparently being a PR2 site isn't a good thing(I just found out what that meant a few days ago). In order to increase BJP's PR(Page Ranking), we need to have links in our articles, as well as be back linked to(which we do get). So, every Wednesday, I'm going to put out a link post like the "Various Time of Day Snacks" at DJF, or the "Media Mashups" at BBB. Maybe I'll start doing them more than once a week, but for now, I'll write these every Wednesday(plus the name has an alliteration that took me way too long to come up with). On to the links I guess?

Last night was the annual "State of the Franchise" event for season ticket holders(over the age of 19 of course...) at Rogers Centre, and so, there are a ton of recaps.

  • John Lott wrote about AA's response to a Melky Cabrera question in the National Post.
  • Brendan Kennedy gave a summary of all the points that were discussed for the Toronto Star.
  • Andrew Stoeten recapped the event in a very DJF way(lots of words about beer) on DrunkJaysFans
  • Ian Hunter also put some words together as a recap at the BlueJayHunter.
  • Lastly, JaysJournal recapped the event as well.
And on to other Jays stuff...

Kyle Matte continued the JaysJournal Top prospect series with an article about Mitch Nay, who is their number 14 prospect.

Keith Law released his Top 10 Jays prospects for 2013, ranking Aaron Sanchez at #1 of course, with Roberto Osuna at #2.

Yesterday, Jonathan Mayo of released his Top 20 prospects for each of the AL Easts clubs(including the Jays). Take these with a grain of salt though because, well, they always look different than the other rankings.

Earlier today, Stoeten shared his thoughts on the Law rankings, and the Mayo rankings at DJF.

Over at BP, Sam Miller writes about how the overall lack of speed on the Detroit Tigers roster will hurt them on the base paths, something we as Jays fans don't need to worry about thanks to Jeffrey Loria.

Kyle Franzoni of JaysJournal takes a look at the right handed pitchers that are scheduled to be non-roster invitees to the Jays camp this season, highlighted(?) by Chad Beck.

At Fangraphs, Jeff Sullivan writes about Micah Owings, the former pitcher who signed a contract with the Nationals as a first basemen, but intends to both hit and pitch. I always say that if everything fails for Anthony Gose, he could be a very good pitcher/pinch runner because of his ridiculous arm and crazy speed. Hopefully Gose won't have to ever think about that.

Finally, Sportsnet has all the info on Jack Morris joining the Fan590 as a colour commentator and the broadcast schedule for Blue Jays ST!

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