Futures Game Recap

In a game showcasing most of baseball’s brightest shining up and coming stars, there were a few guys who stood out from the pack.  Although Bryce Harper (WAS) stole the spotlight in both the pre-game and post-game festivities, he did not shine quite as bright during the game.  He was 0 for 4 with 2 strikeouts and 2 groundouts to first.  One of which was hit fairly hard but a nice play by Yonder Alonso got the out.

Aside from two big innings, a 4-run 6th inning by the World Team off of Drew Pomeranz, and a 3-run 8th off of Kelvin Herrera for the US Team, this was a game largely dominated by flame-throwing pitchers.

For the US Team, my standout hitters were Jason Kipnis, (CLE) who led off the bottom of the 1st with a homer over the right-centre field wall, and Grant Green (OAK).  Green crushed a double off the top of the wall in straight-away centre that I thought would have been gone in any other park.  He also stroked another double, going 2 for 2 with 2 doubles, a run scored and RBI on his way to earning MVP of the game.  On the mound, I was blown away by Matt Moore, Tampa Bay’s mega pitching prospect.  He threw 11 pitches, 9 of which were strikes.  His fastball was between 94 and 98 mph, and was throwing a devastating slider at 86 mph.  Phillies prospect Jared Cosart was also very impressive.  He racked up 2 strikeouts and a flyout on 10 pitches; 8 strikes.  Sitting at 96 with the heater, he also displayed a plus change-up.

Jose Altuve (HOU) is a guy that doesn’t get much credit, because he stands at about 5’6”.  However, the Venezuelan native has hit everywhere he has played.  He was 2 for 3 with a single and a double, and I came away impressed with the diminutive infielder.  Jurickson Profar (TEX) may have been the youngest player there, but he was not outmatched, as he stroked a triple off Drew Pomeranz and displayed his impressive speed.  On the bump, Canadian James Paxton impressed me.  The University of Kentucky product threw 6 pitches; all fastballs, and induced 3 quick outs. He was between 94 and 96 and showed better control than I remember the last time I saw him.  Henderson Alvarez (TOR) was also impressive, with a fastball that topped out at 98 mph, and getting Harper to ground out to first on a 95mph sinker.

The US team jumped out to an early lead thanks to the leadoff homerun by Kipnis in the first, and an RBI fielder’s choice by Wil Myers (KC) in the 2nd.  They made it 3-0 in the 5th on Green’s first double, which scored Gary Brown after he singled and stole second.  In the top of the 6th, Drew Pomeranz (CLE) struggled, and gave up 4 runs.  Alfredo Silverio (LAD) homered to left, scoring Dayan Viciedo (CWS) who had singled 2 batters prior. A walk to Chih-Hisen Chiang (BOS) and a double to Sebastian Valle (PHI) spelled the end of the night for Pomeranz. With the score knotted at 3, Profar then hit his triple off Kyle Gibson (MIN), scoring Valle.

Green led off the 8th with a double, and Tim Beckham (TB) drove him in with a double of his own to tie it at 4. After an Austin Romine (NYY) single and a Nolan Arenado (COL) double to right field, the damage was done, and the US had a 6-4 lead.  Jacob Turner (DET) and Matt Harvey (NYM) split duties to close out the game.

The US has now taken a 7-6 lead in the all-time series.  A good number of these players will be on Major League rosters by season’s end, so be sure to check in on your favourite teams for updates.

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The return of the Doc

So I am going to start this post off by apologizing. I have been away and unable to post anything for the longest time.
Okay, that being said, I am not going to get into stats or any fancy words, I want to write about feelings. Before you think I am getting all soft on you, I just want to remind anyone that Roy Halladay has been my hero since I was 14 years old.

September 27, 1998 is a day I will never forget. Detroit Tigers in town, and I was at the game with some friends. I had heard that a young phenom who was just drafted a few years ago was starting for the Jays in his second big league game and there was a considerable buzz around the stadium. I think there were around 30,000 people in attendance that day. I watched in awe as this young kid was throwing 93-96mph with an absolute hammer. I remember he struck the first batter of the game out. I remember the anticipation of the 6th through 8th innings as Roy, the 1996 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Player of the Year, twirled his gem. Everyone stood on their feet as he induced a flyout and a groundout to start the 9th inning. As everyone knows, Bobby Higginson then hit a pinch hit homerun, breaking up the no-no. I was sitting in the 200 level behind the Blue Jays bullpen, and the ball was actually on track to get to me, it was just a bit short. The Jays still won, but little did I know that this would be a day I will always cherish.
The memories are pretty vivid in my mind, and it wouldn’t be until 2003 that I realized how good he really was. After Mel Queen had the idea of sending him all the way back to A ball, a lot of people gave up on him. But this was Roy Halladay, probably the hardest working man in baseball. He retooled his mechanics and came back with a vengeance. 2002 was good, but 2003 was a huge breakthrough. 9 complete games, 6.38 K/BB, and a Cy Young award; a star was re-born.
I almost took it for granted that I could see him almost in my own backyard whenever I wanted. Year after year, he was masterful, dominating hitters and signing contracts well below his market value. He loved Toronto, and wanted to win there.
Let’s fast forward past the trade, past the G8/G20 fiasco that pushed his return to Toronto to 2011. I am so glad that this happened, because I was actually able to see his return. Along with 44,000 other people who stood on their feet when he took to the mound, much to the chagrin of new ace, Ricky Romero, I cheered and clapped. Yes, he is now the enemy on a different team, but he is and always will be my hero for his work ethic, charitable nature, and the quiet confidence he possesses. I had a tear in my eye, seeing him on that mound wearing any jersey but Toronto’s. He wasn’t the magical Doc that some people expected, but he was exactly what he needed to be. Struggling with his stuff, he battled and threw 110 pitches in a complete game effort.
When the game was over, another ovation was given and he finally allowed himself to notice, tipping his cap to the fans.
I guess all I am trying to say was that seeing him pitch is something that anyone should allow themselves to do. He is a once in a lifetime talent, and a true class act. Even on his bad days, he is better than most, because he will battle through it all. I urge you, if he ever pitches against your team, go watch, you won’t be disappointed.

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Who Falls off the 40 man Roster after Spring Training??

Now that I have my tickets for Opening Day (Section 130, down the left field line), I am even more excited for this season to start. I participated in 1 BlueJaysWay’s 2nd annual 25 Man Roster Challenge. I used the same roster I had chosen before, but since we traded Napoli for Francisco, and picked up Podsednik, I had to make a couple minor changes. I think I have a good shot, but McCoy I think was a bad choice on my part. Oh well, it’s all in good fun, but I would love that Randy Knorr autographed photo.

I find myself thinking more about the impact that the minor league signings will have on some of the younger guys on the Jays 40 man roster. They have brought in some guys with extended big league experience, and if they make the squad, what is the domino effect on the 40 man? The only position players not set to make the team out of spring training are Jeroloman, Hechavarria, Mastroianni, Sierra, and potentially McCoy. Seeing as they need a catcher in case of injury, Jeroloman stays. Hech, Mastro, Sierra all stay because they are young with high ceilings. McCoy stays on the 40 man because of his versatility, and some even thinks that he makes the team. So it would seem that if Podsednik, Chad Cordero, Ledezma, Stewart, Lawrie, or Patterson makes the team, a pitcher would have to be cut loose.

I only bring up those select names because they are the only ones who I have really heard people discussing in making the team. A quick look at the Jays 40 Man Roster shows that there are currently 42 guys on there, meaning that 2 guys have to be dropped before the season starts anyways. The first two that come to mind, are McGowan and Jo-Jo Reyes. Now, before you think I have given up on Dustin, if he is moved to the 60-day Disabled List, he will open a spot on the 40-man. Reyes, because he is out of options, if he doesn’t make the team, he will have to be designated for assignment. Meaning the Jays will have 10 days to trade or release him, exposing him to other teams. If not picked up, he can be outrighted to AAA, but would be off the 40man roster.

So, if Podsednik makes the team, who gets dropped? What if the Podfather AND Patterson or Cordero makes it? What if all 3 make it??? The person I most see being taken off the 40man is Luis Perez. He is 26, entering his 3rd year on the 40man roster and he is a left handed starter. Up until last year, his numbers weren’t bad, but those numbers were mostly skewed by his age (in 2008 he played A ball as a 24 year old). Once he made the jump to AA two years ago, his K rate dropped and his ability to keep the ball in the yard suffered. He began 2010 repeating AA and actually pitched worse, walking more and giving up more hits. Somehow, this earned him a promotion mid season, probably after the draft and players began to sign. He clearly was not ready for this jump and he struggled even more in the hitter friendly PCL. He walked almost as many as he struck out, and gave up over 11 hits per 9 innings.

Despite having pretty low walk numbers in the minors, Brad Mills has yet to put it together in his 2 cups of coffee in the big leagues. He doesn’t throw hard, but has a decent curve and a good change to go along with his herky jerky motion. Do the Jays brass think he will really be able to get hitters out in the AL East? I think that he is close to the bubble, and with a bad spring, he can get himself a one way ticket to Vegas.

Another guy who is a bit of a fan favourite is Scott Richmond. Last year he pitched 41 innings coming back from a shoulder injury. He had a 3:1 K:BB ratio in that time, but over the course of his career has been his propensity to give up the long ball. In 166 MLB innings, he has allowed 29 bombs, which is almost double the average MLB rate. If he can’t make a healthy comeback, this feel good story of a good Canadian boy will have its ending.

Robert Ray is yet another righty who could get the axe. He isn’t overpowering, and doesn’t suit the typical mould of pitcher that Anthopolous has stated he believes can get guys out at this level. He doesn’t strike many out and doesn’t walk many, and doesn’t give up too many long balls.

Seeing as I only envision Podsednik making the team, the only guy I see coming off the 40man roster is Luis Perez. This, of course, is only barring any sort of trades or anything that opens a spot on the roster before the beginning of the season.

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2011 Fantasy Baseball

Alright, so I have finalized the settings for the fantasy league for this year. It is different in a few different ways. First, there is a 25-man roster. Second, point totals are a little varied so it will take a bit of planning to get the right combination of players. The way it will work is head to head by points.
Maximum 20 teams
Catcher, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS
3 OF, 2 Util
5 SP, 2RP, 2P
5 Bench Spots
1 DL

Offensively points are acquired in this way:

Runs – 1 point
Hits – 1 point
Homeruns – 1 Point
RBI – 1 Point
Stolen Base – 1 Point
Caught Stealing – (-1) Point
Strikeout – (-1) Point
Total Bases – 0.75 Points per base

Points for pitchers:

Innings pitched – 1 pointer per IP
Win – 10 points
Loss – (-3) Points
Saves – 5 Points
Earned Runs – (-0.4) per ER
Walks – (-0.4) per BB
Strikeouts – 1 Point
Holds – 3 Points

I came up with these points by doing a lot of statistical analysis, and the top pitchers from last year match up to around the same total as the top hitters.

If you are interested, shoot me an e-mail at blandy1284@hotmail.com, and I will do what I can to accommodate everyone. Thinking about making it a $20 buy-in, but could be scrapped just for fun. E-mail me with what you think and we will go from there.

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2011 Player Projections

Over at Baseball Canadiana my friend @travisgarrey
likes to do his predictions of what each team will do over the course of the
season. Does a pretty damn good job and makes for a good read. I look forward
to his daily predictions, and can’t wait till the end of the year to see how
right he was. That being said, I always do my own predictions every year. Not
for every team, but for each player with the Jays. I don’t look at advanced
stats, and I don’t have any formulae for how I come up with them. I merely look
at their previous stats, and make some stuff up. Gut feeling, if you will. Last
year, I think I was pretty close, as I predicted a comeback season for Wells,
and downfall for both Hill and Lind. However, I don’t think anyone could have
predicted Bautista’s season. Here is how my 2010 predictions played out, with
actual numbers in parentheses:

Player

2010 Prediction

2010 Actual

 

AVG

HR

RBI

R

SB/SBA

AVG

HR

RBI

R

SB/SBA

Lewis

.256

7

33

74

16/21

.262

8

36

70

17/23

Hill

.255

25

87

81

5/8

.205

26

68

70

2/4

Lind

.281

22

91

71

½

.237

23

72

57

0/0

Wells

.284

30

103

86

9/12

.273

31

88

79

6/10

Overbay

.271

19

74

64

2/3

.243

20

67

75

1/1

Encarnacion

.215

21

68

56

1/3

.244

21

51

47

1/1

Snider

.265

21

70

65

5/9

.255

14

32

36

6/9

Gonzalez

.245

12

51

74

3/5

.250

23

88

74

1/3

Buck

.252

15

61

53

0/0

.281

20

66

53

0/0

Bautista

.242

13

41

35

2/4

.260

54

124

109

9/11

McDonald

.215

1

14

27

3/5

.250

6

23

27

2/3

Molina

.226

2

18

13

0/0

.246

6

12

13

1/1

Wise

.260

2

15

25

6/8

.250

3

14

20

4/4

 

Player

2010 Prediction

2010 Actual

 

 

W

L

ERA

SV

K

BB

IP

W

L

ERA

SV

K

BB

IP

Marcum

12

8

3.91

0

125

51

175

13

8

3.64

0

165

43

195

Romero

14

6

3.65

0

168

71

181

14

9

3.73

0

174

82

210

Morrow

12

9

4.25

0

177

82

164

10

7

4.49

0

178

66

146

Rzepczynski

9

11

4.78

0

124

71

138

4

4

4.95

0

57

30

63

Cecil

8

14

4.29

0

105

49

145

15

7

4.22

0

117

54

172

Tallet

2

5

4.98

0

52

36

75

2

6

6.40

0

53

38

77

Frasor

3

7

3.58

6

59

29

65

3

4

3.68

4

65

27

63

Roenicke

1

4

4.15

2

43

31

53

1

0

5.68

0

18

13

19

Camp

4

2

3.25

1

45

21

55

4

3

2.99

2

46

18

72

Janssen

4

3

3.81

1

54

25

61

5

2

3.67

0

63

21

68

Downs

5

5

3.14

5

64

18

72

5

5

2.64

0

48

14

61

Gregg

2

7

3.98

31

61

32

64

2

6

3.51

37

58

30

59

 

Looking back, I made some decent choices. Most people picked
Dana Eveland to win the 5th spot, and they were right, but it didn’t
mean it was a good choice, as he really sucked. I also had Roenicke and
Rzepczynski to be with the team the whole year, but inconsistencies and
injuries, respectively, held the two down in the minor leagues. I won’t dwell
on those projections and I will get right to 2011. Here goes:

Player

2011 Prediction

 

AVG

HR

RBI

R

SB/SBA

Davis

.286

6

48

95

58/69

Escobar

.294

12

67

83

7/11

Bautista

.254

32

92

88

12/15

Lind

.282

29

89

71

0/0

Hill

.269

28

79

72

4/6

Snider

.288

25

76

79

10/13

Encarnacion

.241

26

70

62

3/6

Rivera

.271

19

68

64

3/5

Arencibia

.261

16

58

53

½

Patterson

.252

6

28

36

17/20

McDonald

.231

5

21

30

3/5

Molina

.238

7

25

19

0/0

McCoy

.254

5

31

25

3/4

 

Player

2011 Prediction

 

W

L

ERA

SV

K

BB

IP

Romero

15

8

3.53

0

183

68

214

Morrow

14

10

3.92

0

215

69

193

Cecil

14

8

4.01

0

129

55

185

Drabek

11

9

4.22

0

145

53

168

Rzepczynski

11

10

4.35

0

151

66

172

Dotel

3

7

4.81

0

52

36

62

Frasor

3

5

3.59

3

62

26

61

Rauch

3

3

3.98

4

43

16

55

Camp

5

3

2.85

1

51

19

67

Janssen

3

5

3.95

0

59

26

66

Purcey

3

2

3.74

2

62

29

65

Francisco

2

5

3.14

34

81

32

66

 

With that projection, they get an 87-75 record. This is all
gut feeling, and I didn’t really do any number crunching. Just kinda made my
educated decisions based on what I thought of the player. Now I could use
statistical formulae or copy Bill James and other projections, but I just went
merely on how I felt. It is pretty fun to do, and it only took me a minute to
come up with the numbers. I know that injuries will happen and other people
will be called up, but I just took into account the guys they have. As for
McCoy, I really don’t know who the 4th bench player will be, but
seeing as McCoy can play anywhere but pitcher and catcher, I figured to give
him a shot. The Jays could also elect to go with an eight man bullpen but I have
never liked that idea.

The 2011 version of the Toronto Blue Jays looks to be more
exciting. More stolen bases, more guys taking an extra base and being
aggressive on the basepaths, but they still look like a team that will be
mashing the ball out of the park at a prolific rate. My projection has them at
216 homeruns, which last year would have been first in the MLB. Their OBP will
rise slightly, which makes them a much less one-dimensional team when it comes
to scoring runs.

Their pitching reflects the philosophy of GM Alex
Anthopolous, in that they have some power arms who can not only strike you out,
but induce a ton of ground balls. Their revamped bullpen will produce some
quality numbers, and probably net a few draft picks if the current structure of
the CBA stays in place regarding free agency.

I am not going to get into much detail regarding the other
teams in the league, but I project them to have a 3rd place finish
in the AL East, and finish just a few games out of the wild card race.

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2011 Jays Bullpen…Finally


As if the bullpen situation wasn’t going to be tough enough to decipher, the Silent Assassin struck again, acquiring Frank Francisco from the Rangers for Mike Napoli. Now I have heard some people saying that Francisco is redundant, as there are about 7 hard throwing righties for the bullpen vying for 5 or 6 spots. That being said, I am going to attempt to tackle the daunting task of figuring out this bullpen. There seems to be really only four actual left handed options for the pen, if you include Rzepczynski. Seeing as I have him starting the season in the rotation, there is no need to include him here.

As for lefties, there is David Purcey, who showed last year he can be a fairly effective reliever, even earning some higher leverage innings towards the end of the season. He gets a fair amount of strikeouts; since becoming a reliever, his K rate is 8.47/9IP. He still walks too many guys (around 4/9IP), and may have been a bit lucky in 2010, judged by his .247 BABIP and paltry 29% ground ball rate.

Jesse Carlson, who appeared to be pretty good in 2008 after going 7-2 with a 2.25 ERA in 60 innings, is another option. Although both lefties and righties have hit for a similar average against him, righties have a much higher slugging percentage against him. He could be a real viable option as a LOOGY.

Jo Jo Reyes came over in the trade that brought Yunel Escobar to the Jays, and he is out of options. I believe if he were designated for assignment, another team would surely pick him up. Although his numbers with the Braves left something to be desired, he did a pretty good job when he came over in the trade, and I believe Anthopolous sees some real tangible skill here.

Wil Ledezma is a guy just recently picked up on waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates. What AA sees in a castoff from the worst franchise in baseball, I am not sure. But I also remember another castoff from that organization that the Jays grabbed for a player to be named later (that ended up being Robinson Diaz), so maybe the Jays strike gold again. He is another LOOGY, but when I look at his career stats, I see that he is actually slightly worse against lefties than righties. Then again, he isn’t even good against either.

Mike Hinckley was drafted by the Expos in the 3rd round of the 2001 MLB draft, so maybe that’s why AA7 would bring him to camp. He was ranked in the top 100 of Baseball America’s top prospect list from 2003-2005, peaking at 29 in 2005. He doesn’t get a ton of strikeouts in the minors, and he walks too many guys, but maybe working with Walton and Hentgen will allow him to harness all that potential.

Sean Henn is also invited to camp, and in parts of five seasons in the big leagues, he has an ERA of 7.56. He doesn’t get many ground balls and doesn’t strike many guys out. He will not make the squad.

I think the only lock out of all these guys is Purcey. Carlson and Reyes make it depending on how many guys, if any, are traded, as well as how many lefties they end up going with.

For righties, I will start with Jon Rauch, and not just because he is the tallest player in MLB history. Rauch stands at 6’11, and that is just huge. He has neck tattoos, and has a past of having a great intro. I have said a number of times that I really think that he will be a fan favourite in Toronto. He has had a fairly decent stretch the last four years, with his FIP neatly under 4, and even getting under 3 last year. However, if you take last year out of the equation, he gave up over a homerun per 9 innings. This was probably due to his HR/FB being less than half of his career averages.

Shawn Camp has been a guy in the last few years who has been put in higher leverage situations and given more innings. He is a groundball machine, averaging over 55% in his 7 seasons in the big leagues. Since joining the Jays, his ERA has gone from 4.12 in 2008 to 2.99 in 2010. However, these numbers are misleading, as his FIP has actually risen from 3.21 to 4.16 in that time. He has always had a pretty good sinker to induce groundballs, and a decent slider to go with, but has added a changeup he throws about 30% of the time. That being said, he is a strike thrower and gets ground balls, which is great for him to be a middle reliever this year.

Octavio Dotel, or Octavi-bro Bro-tel, as @DaBrettuation, a fake twitter account for Brett Lawrie calls him, comes over this year, and I was not impressed when he signed. If this had been the 2001-2002 Dotel, I would be ecstatic. Between those two seasons, he had 263 K in 202 IP, good for an 11.7 K/9. He also only gave up 51 earned runs, with a tidy 2.27 ERA. Video game numbers. In 2010 he had a 4.10 ERA and 4.20 FIP. His HR/9 was 1.27, and walked a batter every 2 innings pitched. He still maintained a 10.55 K/9, but his numbers are pretty pedestrian. A lot has been said about his lefty-righty splits, and I won’t quite go into it. All you need to know is he doesn’t strike many lefties out, he walks a ton of lefties, and lefty’s average against was .292, while righties hit only .162. Basically, he sucks against lefties.

Frank Francisco, my personal choice as the closer to start the year. This is due to the fact that his FIP is pretty similar to batters on either side of the plate. He walks lefties at a higher clip, but they hit at a much lower rate. He strikes out hitters at a rate over 10/9IP. The last 2 years he has kept his walk rates below 3.10, and his WAR has been between 1 and 1.5 the last 3 years, so he has a chance to really improve on that by racking up a full season of saves.

Jason Frasor was just recently signed to a contract after accepting arbitration following a season in which he was granted Type A status in free agency. His contract includes an option year, so it didn’t break AA7’s decision to only offer multiyear deals after his imposed deadline on arbitration eligible players. To be honest, I used to hate Frasor. HATE. There was just something about a 5’10” righty throwing 95mph I can’t stand. That, and it seemed that any time he was put in a tough situation, he wilted. Sometime in the middle of 2009 my opinion changed. Frasor as a fastball-slider guy was merely average, or slightly above, if you look at his WAR values. Then I saw his splitfinger-changeup hybrid, also known as a fosh ball, which was invented in the 80’s by Mike Boddicker. It looked pretty dirty, and he now throws it about 15% of the time, as opposed to throwing a changeup around 3% of the time early in his career.

Casey Janssen is another guy who has been with the Jays for some time now. He throws 5 pitches, 4 of them over 10% of the time. For a reliever, this seems a little much, considering only one of them has a positive value over his career. His fastball has average value over his career, although it has gained velocity and the value has improved. He is another pitcher in the pen who gets a lot of groundballs and his strikeout to walk ratio was 3:1 last year. He is in a dogfight for one of the final spots left on the roster.

Dustin McGowan is one of my favourite guys with the Jays. His trademark sideburns and goggles have made a big fan of me. That, and his absolutely electric arm when he is healthy. He had top of the rotation stuff, but has never been able to stay really healthy. I think that he could become a bullpen guy if he ever does become healthy again, and he could be a very valuable guy. I am guessing he will start the season on the DL. When he is healthy, the Jays brass will have a huge decision to make. I hope they don’t cut him loose too early like they did with Chris Carpenter.

Another power arm that gets ground balls? Sure, why not. Josh Roenicke has yet to display the types of numbers envisioned of him after his first few years in the minors. While he strikes out almost 10/9IP, he also has walked over 5 per 9IP in his short major league career. In the minors, his BB rate is only 3.8, so if he can come closer to that number, he could be pretty successful. He gets about half of his outs via groundballs, and just over a third by strikeouts, which means he keeps the ball on the ground and is able to get quick outs. He averages almost 94 on his fastball, but his cutter is his go to pitch.

Carlos Villanueva doesn’t throw particularly hard, he averages around 89 on his fastball, but his slider and curveball both rate as positive value, and his money pitch is his changeup. In 2010, he threw four pitchers between 20-30% of the time. He pitches backwards, working off of his off-speed pitches to make his fastball appear better, however he has a negative value in his fastball. His numbers don’t vary too much from LHB to RHB, but he does strike out lefties at almost double the rate. His numbers aren’t bad, but with a bullpen stocked with RHP in the tough AL East, I don’t think he quite makes the cut.

Brought in on a minor league deal with an invite to spring training, Chad Cordero comes in as another former closer looking to head north with the Jays. He had 113 saves from 2005-2007 with decent peripheral stats. He didn’t walk many, nor did he strike out a ton of guys. He also didn’t get many ground balls and gave up too many homeruns. He doesn’t throw hard and doesn’t seem to have a positive value in a secondary pitch. Just looking at his numbers, he was incredibly lucky in 2004 and 2005, with a BABIP of .218 and .230, respectively. His career ERA is 2.89, but FIP is 4.05, which proves how lucky he was. I am pretty shocked to see all of this, as I thought he could be a viable option, but realistically I see him as a AAA/depth guy at this point.

Alan Farina had a pretty ridiculous 2010 for a minor leaguer. He threw 65 innings including the Arizona Fall League, but halfway through the year, he got called up to AA New Hampshire from high A Dunedin. Between the two, he had 74 strikeouts and 20 walks in 55 2/3 innings. He didn’t give up a homerun, and only gave up 8 earned runs. He gave up 25 hits. 25 hits in almost 56 innings!!! According to jaysjournal.com , he pitches in the 91-95mph range, with his best pitch being his slider. I don’t necessarily think he is going to make it, but he is someone to look out for in the future, either as trade bait, as other Jays prospect relievers have gone, such as Tim Collins, Danny Farquhar, and Trystan Magnuson, or as a bullpen arm to look for in 2012 and beyond.

So, barring a trade or any other moves, (and who really knows with the Silent Assassin at the helm) the 2011 Toronto Blue Jays bullpen could look something like this:

Closer: Frank Francisco
Setup: Jon Rauch
Setup: David Purcey
Middle Relief: Shawn Camp
Middle Relief: Jason Frasor
Middle Relief: Octavio Dotel
Long Relief: Casey Janssen

Now, I realize that because of this, Jo-Jo Reyes will be exposed to waivers, and maybe a team will take a flier on him, or maybe Anthopolous swings a deal in which we get something back for him. McGowan will likely start the year on the DL, and when he proves he is truly healthy, I think he can be a really good option for the bullpen by the end of the year. Carlson will be the first lefty called up, and if he can continue to show improvements in his control, Josh Roenicke could be a contributor this year.

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Jays Rotation for 2011

At the beginning of the off-season, it seemed as though Toronto’s rotation was pretty much set in stone, the only things to consider were the order that the pitchers would go. Then came the big shock of sending Shaun Marcum to Milwaukee for Canadian 2B prospect Brett Lawrie. I already said I don’t think Lawrie has a legitimate shot of making the squad out of spring training, and there is now an open spot in the rotation. I imagine that Marcum would have stayed in the #1 spot as he was last year, and had a pretty good year. However, he is gone, and that means, that for only the third time in the last 10 years or so, we will have a new Opening Day starter.

I know that a lot of people have said that Kyle Drabek is a lock in the rotation, but I am not quite sold yet. He could really suck in spring and really struggle, so I think we can only say that there are three guys locked into spots. Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, and Brett Cecil solidified their spots in this year’s rotation. Main competition for the 4 and 5 spots are Drabek, Mark Rzepczynski, Zach Stewart, and Jesse Litsch. Scott Richmond, Brad Mills, Jo-jo Reyes, Deck McGuire, Chad Jenkins will be in camp but I don’t think any of those guys have a real shot.

The case can be made for Brandon Morrow to start on Opening Day. His pure stuff is evidenced by his 17-K 1-hit performance on August 8, 2010 against the Tampa Bay Rays. He is known to have top of the rotation stuff. He can flash a high 90’s fastball, and dial it back to low 90’s with run and sink. He has a devastating breaking ball and a changeup that is starting to come into its own with the work of Bruce Walton’s “everyone must have a changeup” philosophy. That being said, I believe his track record isn’t quite there to be named the ace. Ricky Romero’s win totals, ERA and FIP have improved both years in the big leagues, his K rate and BB rate have improved, and his HR rate has drastically improved. He gets a lot of ground balls and he is a work horse. He is becoming exactly what the Jays expected when he was taken 6th overall in the 2005 draft out of Cal State Fullerton. Morrow and Romero are the same age, and if they both progress, they will be a formidable tandem at the top of the rotation for years to come.

The third spot is owned by Cecil. His numbers have also improved from his rookie season to 2010. His FIP has improved, and although I don’t expect him to win 15 games again, I can see him with 12-13 wins. His K/BB has improved and I think as his ground ball rate improves, he will be a great #3 starter.

After Cecil, it is a relative toss-up. Pretty much everyone has Drabek etched in stone into their projections, but I only have him penciled in, for now. After all, he has 3 major league starts and he jumped up roughly 30 innings from the season prior. He too, has top of the rotation stuff, and projects to be a frontline guy in the relatively near future. I have seen reports that have said he has one of the best breaking balls in all of the minor leagues, so let’s hope this plays out for him at the big league level. Oh yeah, he has good genes; his dad, Doug, won a Cy Young Award in 1990 for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Mark Rzepczynski, or Scrabble, has had minimal success in the big leagues so far, but that is just because of unfortunate circumstances. In 2009, he pitched to a tune of a 3.67ERA in 11 starts. In 2010, he was penciled into the rotation, but due to suffering a broken finger trying to catch a ground ball in spring training, he was set back quite a bit. He never really regained his form, and it was a while until he got called back up. He has been a ground ball machine, getting just over 50% ground balls in is 125 innings in the big leagues. To go along with his high K rate, there is potential here for a pretty good season. His results were mixed, so the Jays sent him off to the prospect rich Arizona Fall League. He simply dominated there. 27 K in 31 innings, only 9 walks, and 4 earned runs, leading to a 1.16 ERA.

Jesse Litsch is an interesting candidate as well. His numbers seem to make him look like a better pitcher than he actually is. His FIP in 2007 was almost 1.5 higher than his ERA, and in 2008, his only full season in the MLB, it was almost a run higher. In the last 2 seasons, he has 11 starts for the Jays, and only 6 more in the minor leagues. His numbers weren’t encouraging either. Litsch is a contact pitcher who doesn’t walk many guys, but also doesn’t strike out many. He has a pretty good 47% career ground ball rate, but also gives up enough homeruns. Seeing as he hasn’t pitched much in the last two years, I don’t see him making an immediate impact in the 2011 season.

Zach Stewart was a reliever in college, and was taken in the 3rd round of the 2008 draft. He came over with EE12 and Josh Roenicke in the Scott Rolen trade. He strikes guys out with a mix of a great fastball and above average slider. A lot of guys have said that he will be a future closer, but for now, the Jays plan on keeping him stretched out to be a starter. I think he needs a bit more time in the minors, improving his control, and working on his changeup. Look for him in 2012 either as a starter or late inning bullpen guy.
So that rounds out the analysis, and here is what I think to be the rotation for the 2011 season:

1 – Ricky Romero
2 – Brandon Morrow
3 – Brett Cecil
4 – Kyle Drabek
5 – Mark Rzepczynski

I like how they alternate handedness in the rotation. Anthopolous has stated that he wants power arms to be able to compete in the tough AL East, and they have at least 3 of them here, as well as guys like Stewart, Deck Mcguire and Chad Jenkins in the minors.

****In the middle of writing this, I find out Napoli is traded for Frank Francisco. Guess I have to make new projections on the lineup now. Will post further updates shortly.

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