Bench Jobs for the 2011 Jays

I said I would get to the bench, and other components of their roster that heads north at the end of March, and I had planned on spreading it out over the next week or so. But, since I have no life except to hang out, read MLB Trade Rumors and eat pizza, I have decided to tackle the idea of their bench now. Again, I reiterate that I know AA7 has more up his sleeve and there could be other players in the mix come spring training and beyond. I am also taking into account that I am sure the Jays will not bring a prospect or rookie north if they don’t intend to start him, so Mastroianni, Gose, and Lawrie seem destined for either New Hampshire or Las Vegas.

So if we go back to the starting lineup of C – JPA, 1B – Lind, 2B – Hill, 3B – Bautista, SS – Escobar, LF – Rivera, CF – Davis, RF – Snider, DH – Napoli, that leaves us with infield options of Encarnacion, McDonald, McCoy, and from the Blue Jays Non Roster Invitees List , I see they also have David Cooper, Jonathan Diaz, Brett Lawrie, Mike McDade and John Tolisano. Those last two haven’t played above A ball, and the first two’s performances have been very underwhelming. Lawrie needs every day at bats, so AAA Las Vegas seems like the best place for him and his ego.

Now looking at the outfield options, we have Moises Sierra, and Darin Mastroianni. Mastroianni needs every day at bats, as does Sierra. Sierra had 34AB in AA in 2009, and that is his highest level of ball so far. For non-roster invitees, we also have Anthony Gose, Corey Patterson, and Eric Thames. Thames had a good year in AA last year, but I have heard reports of a long swing and he can be over-aggressive. Needless to say, he probably goes to Las Vegas and plays beside Mastroianni. Gose will probably get to AA this year, getting every day at bats, and learning more about stealing bases properly. So far it seems like the only real option for 4th outfielder is Corey Patterson. Defensively, he is pretty average. 0.8 dWAR over 11 seasons. Overall, in his 11 seasons, he has a 5.6 WAR. Not terrible. Not to mention that he is pretty fast. He has 205 career stolen bases, and was successful in 21 of 25 attempts in 2010. So he has that working for him. Not a terrible guy to pinch run or play defense for Juan Rivera late in a ball game.

At catcher, there is Mike Napoli, who is also the DH/backup 1B. We also have Jose Molina, who, oddly enough, has the exact opposite name of his older brother Benjamin Jose Molina. Jose is a good defender, throwing out 41% of would-be base stealers. There is also Brian Jeroloman. He has always had tremendous plate discipline, racking up an OBP of .385 despite a batting average of only .246 in his 5 year minor league career. He was always seen as a fringy backup type catcher, and there are already 3 catchers ahead of him. As for NRI’s, there is Ryan Budde, Travis D’Arnaud, and AJ Jimenez. There is always a need for more catchers at spring training, because there are usually 600 pitchers, and somebody has to catch all their bullpens and side sessions. Look for D’Arnaud and Jimenez to make a bigger impact in 2012 or beyond.

Encarnacion makes the team as DH/1B/emergency 3B. McDonald goes north with his tremendous defense, where he can back up the middle infield, corner infield, and even play corner outfield in a real pinch. Molina makes it as a backup catcher I guess. As it stands now, Corey Patterson seems to be the only real viable option as the 4th outfielder, unless one of those kids really impresses enough to start.

So there are my picks of position players to break camp with the Jays, if it were to happen now.
JPA, Napoli, Molina,
Lind, Hill, Esco, Bautista, Encarnacion, McDonald
Snider, Davis, Rivera, Patterson

Next I will get to the rotation, which I think could also have a huge impact on the bullpen.

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Trickle Down Effect of Wells Trade

What do AA7 and John Farrell do with this lineup now? So many options and so much flexibility. In my head I have gone over probably 20 different lineups, and I can’t figure out which one is truly best. Of course, there could still be more moves in the works, such as a third baseman coming in moving Bautista to RF. But as of now, there are so many possibilities. At each position there are at least 2 options, other than SS. I would like to quickly run down the possibilities at each position, and give my insight to each one.

Catcher

JP Arencibia
Mike Napoli
Jose Molina
I see JPA and Napoli almost splitting most of the time, with JPA starting close to 60% of the games. I see Napoli as a good guy to mentor JPA as an offensive minded catcher in the bigs.

First Base
Adam Lind
Mike Napoli
Edwin Encarnacion
Lind will start against righties, Napoli will start against lefties. Seems pretty easy from there. Encarnacion gets at bats to fill in occasionally.

Second Base
Aaron Hill
Brett Lawrie
I know Lawrie has been working out at 3rd this winter, but maybe the Jays like him at 2b enough to move Hill to third. Not likely, and Hill plays all year at 2nd. Lawrie needs more time in the minors.

Third Base
Jose Bautista
Aaron Hill
Brett Lawrie
Edwin Encarnacion
Hill could move over, or Lawrie could open some eyes at third, but realistically, for this year, unless they bring someone else in, Bautista is the man at the hot corner. I am not even putting Encarnacion on this list.

Shortstop
Yunel Escobar
John McDonald
A pretty obvious choice here, as John McDonald will once again be a late inning pinch runner or occasional fill in when a day off is needed.

Left Field
Travis Snider
Juan Rivera
Rajai Davis
Adam Lind
Corey Patterson
This is tough. Because I am not sure who would be better in right or left, I think that Snider and Rivera play opposite each other. Let’s say Rivera takes over in left. Apparently nobody thinks Lind can play the outfield anymore, and Patterson, well, I don’t think he should start anywhere.

Centre Field
Rajai Davis
Darin Mastroianni
Anthony Gose
Corey Patterson
Although Mastroianni has really opened some eyes in the last year or so, I think Davis pretty much wins this by default. Gose is not quite ready yet, maybe another year or two of seasoning ought to do it though. Mastroianni starts the season in Vegas, and Gose in New Hampshire.

Right Field
Travis Snider
Juan Rivera
Rajai Davis
Jose Bautista
With Davis supplanted in centre, and Rivera already in left, that leaves Snider to play every day in right. Hopefully he is healthy and he shows his true potential. I think he breaks out this year. Unless they find a 3rd baseman, Bautista stays there. But if Bautista found his way to right, Snider would simply shift over to left.

Designated Hitter
Edwin Encarnacion
Mike Napoli
Adam Lind
I think initially, Encarnacion gets a fair amount of time here, as Napoli helps ease both Arencibia and Lind into catcher and 1B, respectively. But as the season goes on, I see Napoli spending more time here as they get accustomed to their positions and Encarnacion will be on the bench.

I will have to think about bench guys, and definitely put my two cents in about the rotation and bullpen in the next week or so. But basically, barring any unforeseen changes, (which is exactly how the Silent Assassin does things) I guess my starting lineup looks something like this:

C – JPA/Napoli
1B – Lind/Napoli
2B – Hill
3B – Jo-Bau
SS – Esco
LF – Rivera
CF – Davis
RF – Snider
DH – Encarnacion/Napoli

Not bad. Considering the oldest guy is Rivera, who will turn 33, and only under contract for 2011. After that, Bautista just turned 30.

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Bidding a proper fare-Wells

I know that he has taken a lot of flak for his huge contract. It is simply not his fault. Vernon Wells is one of the greatest Blue Jays of all time. His name is littered all over Blue Jays career record books. 4th all time in career WAR. 7th in Slugging %. 3rd in games played with 1393. First in AB, 5470. 2nd in Runs, hits and total bases. 2nd in doubles and 10th in triples. 2nd in homeruns and RBI, just behind Carlos Delgado. Three Gold Glove Awards. Three time American League All Star. Hundreds of hours donated for charity purposes. Hundreds of thousands of dollars donated. Won the Branch Rickey Award for humanitarian work in 2010.

Vernon gave so much to Toronto and Blue Jays fans. Sure, he was sarcastic and short at times, but I think that was part of his personality. He would speak his mind in times where people often give the cookie cutter answers to media questions. For that he was often scrutinized unfairly. Toronto fans always expected so much since he signed that ridiculous contract. Some of us thought it was a great idea at the time, locking up a 3-time Gold Glover who just had a year of .303/32/106. Little did we know he wouldn’t perform to that level in the rest of his time with the Jays. It is not his fault that JP Ricciardi is an idiot. I am of the ilk that if you can get a certain amount of money, then why not take it.

Vernon will really be missed by many of us, and I hope that the fans will come out in droves when the Angels come to town August 12th this year. I will be there, and I will cheer him on with pride.

We will miss you, Vernon, and wish you the best of luck.

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Vernon Wells traded to Angels for Napoli and Rivera

Mike Napoli was a name I recently saw that the Rays were interested in. I thought, “hey that’s not too bad of an idea.” Not altogether useless behind the plate, as he is a -2 WAR defensively over 5 years, but not great either, throwing out 24% of baserunners over his career. However, he is known as a pretty decent hitter with some pop and ability to get on base. Offensively, he has a career OPS of .831. Over his career he has mashed lefties to a tune of .931 OPS. He averages a homerun every 16.8 AB’s! He also averages 2.2 WAR per season overall.

Napoli has reportedly been traded with Juan Rivera to the Blue Jays for Vernon Wells and cash.

WHAT!!! Where did this come from? Alex Anthopolous is quickly becoming the Silent Assassin as others have begun to call him.

Here is a guy who can play serviceable defense behind the plate and at first base. So the questions I ask are what do the rest of guys play? Is Lind still the full time 1B? Does Arencibia get less playing time now? Do they just get rid of Molina? Is Encarnacion basically screwed? Does Rivera play right or left with Snider playing the other? Does Davis get handed CF or does Patterson get a good crack? Does Gose or Mastroianni ACTUALLY have a shot of making the squad? Probably not.

Rivera isn’t too bad of an outfielder. When he is healthy. The last couple of years he has been pretty good with a combined WAR of 2.5 over that time. Considering that Wells has only been a 3.7 WAR in that time, to me it seems as though this trade is actually a win for the Jays.

I haven’t even accounted for the fact that Wells is under contract for $86M over the next four years. Combine Rivera and Napoli’s total contracts and they will likely save somewhere around $70M. At the time of writing, I haven’t heard how much money the Jays will be sending to the Angels. A few things come to mind from that: Making room to sign Bautista long term, signing Manny now, or making a big splash next year in free agency.  Even some combination of these is possible. Personally, I would rather not sign Bautista long term yet. I would like to see another hot start this year before considering it. Even then, if that were to happen, I think trading him at the deadline could net huge compensation. If Manny is close to signing with someone, it must be with the Jays. Is it feasible to think that the Silent Assassin could go after Pujols next offseason? Even the guys at Baseball Canadiana have thought of this idea. I am not sure, but there have been so many questions I have asked, and I don’t know if I can really justify all of them.

Update: No money is being exchanged. Which means Anthopolous is an absolute genius. Best move he has made yet. Wouldn’t be surprised if he had some more up his sleeve leading up to Spring training. Pitchers and catchers report in 25 days.
Update 2: Rommie Lewis has been designated for assignment to make room on 40-man roster.
Update 3: Yes I realize this is a little late, but my idea of signing Manny was shot down because he signed with Tampa for $2M.

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Advanced Defensive Metrics

I have always been a huge guy when it comes to baseball stats. I have followed and memorized numbers and stats as most hardcore baseball fans have. However, with the recent influx of advanced sabermetrics, I find myself behind the ball or so to speak. I know the general meaning of WAR and ISO, but when I read articles that get really deep, I feel a little lost. I guess what I am trying to say is that it is kind of like a New Year’s Resolution for me to read up and learn more. Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus are my basic starting points. I want to be able to better judge a player’s performance by not only the usual ERA or OBP or whatever stats come to me, but also learn about VORP and the craziest defensive stats that have always left me scratching my head. So in this, I pledge to learn more, and to better convey my message as I become more knowledgeable about each individual player and team.

Questions that I have about advanced defensive stats are things such as: Does an outfielder’s arm strength come into account on runners trying to take an extra base? I realize it will show their range factor or speed, but what about the runners that don’t even attempt to go first to third on a single because Bautista or Ichiro are in right? In these advanced stats, does it really paint a better picture of future performance, or does it merely make us ask more questions about a player? Baseball is scrutinized in so many ways and stats are sometimes objective or subjective, so people’s viewpoints are skewed one way or another based on personal opinion.

Sure Derek Jeter’s advanced stats show that he has no range, but he does make almost every play on balls hit right at him. Trust me, I am no fan of Jeter, but are his advanced stats a better judge of how he is defensively? I really hope to get to more information regarding these metrics.

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Jose Bautista’s 2011 Salary

In his fourth arbitration year, Jose Bautista is expecting a raise from his 2010 salary of $2.4 million. Some have said his salary will be in the $6-11 million range. Seeing as noone in baseball has ever had such a huge jump in power numbers from one season to the next, (Bautista went from 13 homeruns in 404 PA in 2009 to 54 HR in 683 PA in 2010) an arbitration case can be very difficult to estimate. There has not really been a comparable case go to arbitration, so my guess is as good as yours. Seeing as the Jays haven’t gone to arbitration in over a decade, I wouldn’t be surprised if they came to an agreement before Anthopolous’s set deadline for the seven remaining players who are arbitration eligible. Another thing that could happen would be that the Jays lock him up long term, and considering how AA likes to keep things so close to his chest, who really knows if these talks are in progress.

Ryan Howard received $10M in his first arbitration year, which was a record at the time. Could Joey Bats get this much? I doubt it. Howard had 129 HR, NL Rookie of the Year, and an MVP in the 2.5 seasons he played in the MLB leading up to that record salary. Prince Fielder got $7M in his first year eligible for arbitration, and that was as a 25 year old with over 100 homeruns in his first 3 years.

Judging a case like this is so difficult, but my guess is that if they do go to arbitration, Bautista’s camp will request in the neighbourhood of $10.5M and Anthopolous will counter with $7.5-8M.

I also think that Anthopolous will capitalize on a huge return at the deadline if Bautista comes even close to his production up until the trade deadline. Two top 100 prospects (possibly corner infield spots) and a young arm could maybe get the deal done.

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Some of the Best Baseball Nicknames, Past and Present

I wanted to start off my first post as very light, with basically a list of great nicknames of baseball players.

Pretty much anyone involved in baseball knows that nicknames play a huge rule in identifying players and their abilities. Through the years I played with guys with nicknames like Dirty, Stew, Wizard, Bee, and Shorty. Needless to say, virtually every baseball player has a nickname, or some sort of change in their name that they are identified by. My last name is Bland, so the obvious choice is to call me Blandy. adding a -y or -er to any last name is a very easy and unoriginal way of giving a nickname to a teammate or opponent.

I have found that there are less original nicknames in the game now than ever. A-Rod, I-Rod, K-Rod, J-Roll, V-Dub just to name a few. I think of some of my all-time favourites and Mad Hungarian, The Big Train, Yankee Clipper, Iron Horse, Chairman of the Board Charlie Hustle, Splinter, and Bambino come to mind. That’s not to say that there aren’t great nicknames now, but it seems that so many nicknames are just some derivation of their given names.

I found a few really interesting ones from present players that I previously didn’t know. Ryan “The Hebrew Hammer” Braun is one that I instantly liked. Another is for Jim Thome: The Nordic Frankenstein. Of course there is Doc, and The Freak, and the Kung Fu Panda. I would love to hear anyone else’s favourites!

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