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Another blog about the Blue Jays; just more poorly written than the other ones.
The Blue Jays currently have 40 players on their 40 man roster, plus 7 on the 60 day DL. Here is a list of what will happen with the first 10:
Mark Buehrle – Buehrle is signed for the next 2 years for a combined $37 million. He surpassed 200 innings for the 13th straight season, and had a 3.37 ERA over his last 150 innings after having a 6.33 over his first 9 starts. Buehrle should be back with the Jays next year, but also could be a trade target for a team looking for an inning-eating starts, even with his high price tag.
Brett Cecil – Cecil made the all-star team in his first year as a reliever, striking out 10.4 batters/nine innings. He struggled with arm injuries a bit in the second half, but he should be back in the bullpen next year. Cecil is arb eligibile for the first time this offseason.
Steve Delabar – Delabar was acquired in 2012 for Eric Thames, and made the all-star team in his first full season with the Jays. Delabar struck out 12.4 batters/nine innings with the Jays, but also declined a bit in the second half. He won’t be arb eligible until 2015 and should have significant trade value if the Jays look to move him in the offseason.
R.A. Dickey – Dickey had an inconsistent first season with the Jays, but is signed for 2 more seasons with a team option for 2016. He’ll look to rebound to his performance level from 2011-2012 with the Mets, but he does turn 39 in October.
Kyle Drabek – Drabek had tommy john surgery in 2012, and returned to pitch in 3 games with the Jays in September. His future with the team is unknown, as he has never been able to throw strikes consistently.
J.A. Happ – Happ is signed for 2014 at $5.2 million and has a 2014 option for $6.7 million. He finished the season strong with a 2.97 ERA in 6 September starts, but as a whole it was not a great season for Happ, including getting struck in the head by a line drive in Tampa Bay back in May. The best case for Toronto is probably if Happ is the team’s 6th starter going into next season.
Drew Hutchison – Hutchison never made it to the majors in 2013 after having tommy john surgery late in 2012. He could be a factor in the rotation next season, but probably can’t yet be counted on.
Casey Janssen – The Jays have a $4 million team option on Janssen for 2014, which should be a lock to be picked up. Janssen has pitched to a 2.46 ERA over the last 3 seasons, but could be a trade candidate in the last year of his contract, and with Sergio Santos available to take over as the closer.
Jeremy Jeffress – Jeffress spent most of the season in AAA, before getting into a handful of games with the Jays in September. He’s definitely a candidate to be outrighted off the roster in the offseason, which happened in April 2013 as well.
Chad Jenkins – Jenkins was up and down with the Jays a number of times in 2013, and will probably start next season in AAA as a depth option.
Never fear. The Blue Jay Report will return. I’m sure you all were missing it.
In the 2010 offseason the Blue Jays traded their number one starter, Shaun Marcum, for Brett Lawrie, a 20-year-old third basemen who hails from Canada. When the trade happened, I’ll be the first to say that I wasn’t thrilled. I’m a bigger fan of Marcum than most, and I hadn’t heard much of this Lawrie fellow before the trade. Obviously since then Lawrie has stepped up his game, first in triple-A, then in Toronto, so I’ve come around. Lawrie replaced Edwin Encarnacion at third for the last two months of the season, and performed better than expected. He gives the Jays another offensive weapon in their lineup, and showed that he could be at least an average fielder. His personality may rub people the wrong way, but he’s going to be a big factor in whether or not the Jays can contend in the future.
In 2010, Lawrie played in AA in the Brewers system, and put up a nice .285/.346/.449 line. He only hit 8 homeruns, but also had 35 doubles, which showed that his power was likely developing. The Blue Jays moved him to third base after the Marcum trade, and moved him up to AAA, where he tore up the PCL before he fractured a bone in his hand on May 31. He missed over a month before returning in mid-July, and then was called up by the Jays on August 4. In 43 games in the majors, he proceeded to put up a .293/.373/.580 line, which combined with above average defense at third, led to him being worth 2.7 fWAR; a total that tied him with Dustin Ackley for most fWAR of any rookie in the AL.
Lawrie is unlikely to repeat his 2011 major league slash line in a full season in 2012, but I expect him to be well above average at third, especially considering the decline of the performance at the position across the majors in 2012. His walk rate was 9.4% after getting called up, which was a bit higher (in a short amount of time) than he had put up in the minors since he was in A. I expect about an average 8-9% rate for 2012. Overall, I project Lawrie for a .285/.345/.490 line in 2012 in 600 PAs, which is good for a .365 wOBA, and about 4.1 WAR. I don’t think his fielding will be as good as it was according to UZR said it was last year, but I still think he’ll be a bit above average in that regard.
I project Edwin Encarnacion and Omar Vizquel to get about 100 PAs combined at third in 2012 as well.
Alex Gonzalez (the non-caucasian one) did the Blue Jays a favor in the first half of 2010 by hitting 17 homeruns. This feat made him valuable enough for the Jays to flip to the Braves for Yunel Escobar, who was struggling a bit at the time. Since then, Escobar has rebounded, and the Jays resigned him to a team friendly contract, shoring up the position for potentially 4 more seasons.
Escobar debuted with the Braves in 2007, and impressed with the bat putting up a .326/.385/.451 line over 355 PAs, which was inflated slightly by a .364 BABIP. His offense understandably regressed a bit in the following 2 seasons, but he was still well above average for a shortstop, with a .294/.371/.418 slash and above average defense, resulting in him being worth 8.1fWAR. Then he slumped in the first half of 2010, with 0 homeruns and a .238/.334/.284 line, which led to the Braves trading him in an attempt to get more offense in the lineup for a playoff run. This timing worked out great for the Jays, who were able to acquire Escobar when his value was lowest. He rebounded with the Jays in the last half of the year, with a .275/.340/.356 line; which was still below his career average, but still above the norm for a shortstop. In 2011, Escobar’s performance returned to the level of ’08/’09, with a .290/.369/.413 line, which resulted in him putting up 4.3 fWAR in 133 games. Escobar’s walk rate was above 10% again in 2011, and it has hovered around that line every season, while his K rate has never exceeded 12%.
There’s no reason that Escobar can’t replicate his 2011 production, or even improve it slightly in 2012, as it was almost exactly in line with his career averages. This kind of offensive production from the shortstop position is becoming a rarity in the majors, especially when you consider Escobar’s above average defense. I project him for a .299/.373/.420 line in 630 PAs in 2012, which is good for a wOBA of .357 and 4.3 WAR.
Vizquel will turn 45 in April, and played his first season in the majors in 1989. Brett Lawrie was not born when he debuted in the majors. He’s old. Vizquel was a very good fielder for much of his career, and his offense was pretty good for a shortstop. That being said, the man is ancient, and doesn’t have much of that value left. He’s been below average defensively the last two seasons, and had a .287 OBP with the White Sox last year.
I would actually like to see Vizquel make the team out of spring training. He can still play adequately at 3 infield positions, and isn’t much worse than McCoy, who still has an option left. He’s pretty much replacement level, but I don’t see any utility infielder getting more than 80-90 PAs on the team this year, so I wouldn’t mind some of those going to Vizquel. I project him to put up a .250/.290/.315 line in about 85 PAs at both short and second in 2012, which makes him worth precisely 0 WAR.
The Blue Jays flipped Aaron Hill and John McDonald to the Diamondbacks last season at the deadline for Kelly Johnson, a player that they had tried to acquire the previous offseason. Hill had struggled through 2 straight awful offensive seasons, posting a combined .271 OBP from the start of the 2010 season up until the time he was traded. This came off of his very good 2009 season, when he hit 36 homeruns with a .286/.330/.499 line. He still retained some of his power in 2010, hitting 26 homeruns with and ISO of .189, but in 2011 he had only 6 homeruns in 429 PAs before he was traded. Kelly Johnson was struggling in Arizona as well, and the Diamondbacks wanted McDonald for his defense, so the teams swapped underachieving second basemen. I think the Blue Jays got the better of the deal, although Hill did pick up his game in the last month of the season in Arizona. For 2012, Johnson will be the Jays’ starter after accepting arbitration in the offseason, with depth being provided by Omar Vizquel, Mike McCoy or Luis Valbuena.
Johnson was originally an outfielder in the Braves organization before being moved to second base after the 2006 season. He put up two solid seasons there in ’07 and ’08 with a combined line of .282/.362/.451 for an OPS+ of 113 before struggling in ’09 to the tune of .224/.303/.389 and being non-tendered at the end of the year by the Braves. The Diamondbacks picked him up as a free agent and he rewarded them in 2010 with a career year. He hit 26 homeruns that year with a line of .284/.370/.496, which, combined with his above average defense, resulted in him being worth 5.9 fWAR, 3rd among all major league second basemen. Johnson then struggled in 2011 with the Diamondbacks, posting a .180/.255/.320 line in April, and not really improving all that much from there. In total, before the trade to the Jays, Johnson posted a .209/.287/.412 line; a sharp decline from his 2010 numbers, but very similar to his 2009 numbers with Atlanta that caused him to be non-tendered. His walk rate declined in 2011 to 9.1% from 11.8% the year before, and his K rate increased to 27.4% from 22.1%. He did improve his performance over the final month of the season with Toronto quite a bit, posting a .270/.364/.417 line over 132 PAs and increasing his walk rate while also decreasing his K rate.
You can’t make too much of the small sample size of PAs for Johnson after he came to Toronto, partly because of his .346 BABIP, but he has posted consistently high BABIPs in his good seasons before, with .339 in 2010, .340 in ’08 and .328 in ’07. The problem is that his BABIP in the in-between seasons has been way lower, with a .247 mark in ’09 and a .257 mark in 2011 with Arizona. If Johnson were to post that same .270/.364/.417 line over a full season, he would be worth about 3.6 WAR though, which would be perfectly acceptable. He’s capable of more than that, especially a higher slugging percentage, but he’s also capable of performing much worse. If Johnson can lower his strikeout rate while maintaining a walk rate above 10%, even if he can’t repeat his career best 2010 season, he’ll be worth his contract this season. Johnson’s defense has been a bit above average the last two years as well, so he’s not hurting the team in that regard. I project a .265/.350/.455 line for Johnson in about 630 PAs, which is a wOBA of .353 and about 3.7 WAR.
Mike McCoy played for several organizations in the minors before finally getting his first taste of the majors in 2009 with the Rockies. He was claimed off waivers the next offseason by the Jays, and made the opening day roster in both 2010 and 2011 as a super-utility type. He doesn’t hit at all, although he walks a bit more than you’d expect, and his defense is passable in the infield.
Hopefully McCoy will not get 228 PAs with the Blue Jays in 2012, as he did in 2011, because he’s largely a waste of playing time when you have young players who could be getting experience instead. I don’t mind him getting the odd start in the middle infield, but hopefully we won’t see him in the outfield again in 2012, except as perhaps a late inning replacement. I project him to hit .200/.290/.270 in about 80 PAs spread out among many positions. He may not actually make the team, as he’s competing with Omar Vizquel and Luis Valbuena for a job, but his versatility at so many positions gives him a bit of a leg up on those two.
I’ll give a more detailed write up of Vizquel and Valbuena in the SS and 3B previews, but I project one of those two to get about 35 PAs at second as well.
Adam Lind will start out the 2012 season as the Blue Jays’ starting first baseman, while everyone around him will hope that he returns to 2009 Adam Lind form, when he hit .305/.370/.562 with 35 HRs. It’s hard to believe that the Jays will put up with him much longer if he continues to struggle as he has the last two years; although they don’t really have a great option to replace him. Edwin Encarnacion will likely get a few starts at first this year as well, and David Cooper may get a chance to play if Lind’s performance declines past a certain point or if he gets injured.
Adam Lind struggled somewhat in his first two extended stays in the majors before breaking out at age 25 in 2009. In 2010, Lind struggled a great deal offensively for virtually the entire season, at least in part due to his inability to hit lefties at all. Whereas Lind in 2009 crushed right handers for a .317/.389/.602 line and performed decently against lefties at .275/.318/461, 2010 Lind declined in both regards, with a .275/.327/.502 line against righties, and a horrific .117/.159/.182 against lefties. Moving on to 2011, Lind started out the season hitting quite well, pretty much matching his 2009 performance, with a .312/.361/.569 line from April 1 to June 30. He did miss 24 games due to injury during that time, but it didn’t seem to affect his performance for the first month after returning. Then from July 1 to the end of the season, Lind’s offense cratered to a .203/.242/.338 showing, which is enough to make small children weep. The troublesome part about this is that Lind actually performed better against lefties in 2011 than he had in 2010, but his performance against right-handers dropped to .253/.303/.468. His previous career numbers carried a heavy platoon split, but this wasn’t nearly as pronounced in 2011; he was equally bad against both. Lind did post significantly lower BABIPs in 2010 and 2011 than his career average, but if that trend continues for much longer you have to start wondering what portion of it is luck and what portion can be attributed to a flaw in his swing or his pitch recognition. His walk rate has also declined from 8.9% in 2009 to around 6% the last two years, and even when he was hitting better at the start of 2011 he was still only walking about 7% of the time.
Obviously you’d like Adam Lind to return to his performance level of the 2009 season, or the first half of 2011, and put up those sorts of numbers over the entire season. Unfortunately for Blue Jays fans, that may not be the most likely scenario. You’d like to see him start walking more and being more selective, although that may improve if he starts hitting better over a prolonged period of time and pitchers have to start being more cautious with him. Even a league average performance would be a step in the right direction for Lind, but you have to wonder if his 2009 season was a career plateau which he may never be able to sustain for a full season again. Lind’s defense was about average in his first season at first base last year, which was better than I anticipated, but I don’t see him getting too much better than that in the future. I project a .280/.331/.487 line in 600 PAs for Lind in 2012, which is good for a .355 wOBA and about 2.1 WAR. Luckily for the Jays, if Lind doesn’t improve he only has a guaranteed contract until the end of 2013, with the last 3 years of his contract being team options.
Cooper only has 81 major league plate appearances to his credit so far in his career, so it’s hard to say if he can hit big league pitching, but he did put up a .364/.439/.535 line with Las Vegas last year. That should be taken with a grain of salt due to the nature of the PCL, but his 1.5 BB/K ratio is also impressive.
Cooper will probably still spend the majority of the year in Triple-A unless Lind gets injured, or his performance is simply too awful for the Blue Jays to stand anymore (unlikely). I project a .275/.330/.420 line in about 100 major league PAs for Cooper in 2012.
I project Edwin Encarnacion to get about 50 PAs in 2012 at first as well, but his projection will come in the DH preview.
In the first of my series of position-by-position preview of the Jays, we’ll look at catcher, where JP Arencibia returns for his sophomore season as the starter. Last year’s backup Jose Molina signed an offseason deal with the Rays so Jeff Mathis was brought in from the Angels to take over that role. It’s a pretty big downgrade, as Molina was above average offensively last year, and Mathis was his usual self, posting a .484 OPS. The Blue Jays’ #1 prospect according to all sources, Travis D’Arnaud, could be called up to the club sometime during the season as well, but it’s unlikely that we’ll see him until September.
After tearing up the PCL in 2010, Arencibia earned a call up to the majors in August of that year but struggled offensively in limited time. The Jays’ were still confident with him heading into 2011 as the starter though, letting John Buck leave after the season. Arencibia started off the 2011 season fairly strong, hitting .258/.319/.497 through May 31 with an 8.4 BB% and a K% of 23.5. From June 1 to the end of the season however, Arencibia struggled mightily, posting only a .199/.263/.408 line, and seeing his BB% fall to 6.9% and his K% rise to 29.4%. His BABIP also fell to a lowly .232 over this period, compared to a .295 mark up till May 31. Over his minor league career, he posted a BABIP over .300 every year but once (Las Vegas 2009), so bad luck could have been a factor in his lower performance level over the last 4 months of the season. His power stuck around even with his other offensive woes though, as Arencibia posted an ISO above .200 in every month of the season except September (.171). His defense was below average last year according to both B-R(-7 runs) and FG (-5 runs), but that is fairly common for rookie catchers, and he should improve.
Ideally, you’d like to see Arencibia cut his K rate down to about 20% in 2012, which may be a bit optimistic judging by his minor league numbers. I think it’s far more likely to be 22-23%, which is still a bit higher than one would like considering that Arencibia is unlikely to post a BB% higher than league average. Arencibia’s power is his strongest tool, and he should be able to put up 20-25 HR’s again this year, with 30 HR an outside possibility. He should improve his defense a bit in his second season, where I expect him to be about average. I think he could hit anywhere from .220 – .260 this year, but I think a likely line is about .240/.310/.470, good for a wOBA of .336 and putting him at about 2.5 WAR over 500 at bats.
Mathis’ career batting line is .194/.257/.301. From 1990 onward, his career OPS+ of 50 is the third worst of any non-pitcher with at least 1100 plate appearances, and over his career he has been slightly below average defensively. In summation, Jeff Mathis is not a good player. I don’t understand the Blue Jays thinking in bringing him in. Sure he’s just the backup catcher and probably (hopefully) won’t have more than 150 plate appearances, but for someone who’s so utterly terrible at hitting, you’d at least like him to be above average defensively; which he’s not.
Mathis will likely start 30-40 games this year, and I’m guessing there’s a good chance those will mostly be Brandon Morrow’s starts. I project him for about .185/.230/.270 over 150 PA, which should also make you angry. That’s around -0.6 WAR for anyone keeping score.
D’Arnaud is the Jays’ top prospect, and has been ranked as high as the 6th best prospect in baseball this offseason. He put up a .311/.371/.542 line last year with New Hampshire, and projects to be a middle-of-the-order hitter for years to come.
D’Arnaud will likely play the majority of the season in the minors before getting a September call-up. There’s a chance though that if he dominates in the minors, he could force the Jays to call him up in July or August, and split time with Arencibia for the rest of the year. Probably unlikely, but it would take at bats away from Jeff Mathis, which is always a good thing. I project a .270/.330/.410 line over 50 or so PAs for D’Arnaud.
Edwin Encarnacion. The mere mention of his name will induce horrified expressions from many Blue Jays fans, a reaction that is natural if you’ve ever seen him play third base. Despite this, he does have the ability to provide some value for the team as a DH in 2012.
Encarnacion slumped horribly to start off the 2011 season, and did not hit his first homerun until May 29th. Up until that point, covering 146 plate appearances, he was hitting 236/260/321, good for a wOBA of .269. Over a full season, this would have made him approximately a -2 win player.
April 1 – May 28
From May 29th until the end of the season though, Encarnacion was able to put up pretty good numbers. His walk rate increased from 2.7% up to 10.2%, and over 384 plate appearances he hit 287/362/507 with 17 HRs. That translates to a .375 wOBA, which would have tied with Robinson Cano for 13th in the American League of any player with at least 250 PAs, and would have been higher than what Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler put up in 2011. If he were able to put up these type of numbers over the course of a full season as a DH, that would make him about a 4 win player.
May 29 – Sept 25
Encarnacion’s posted walk rates above 10% in both 2008 and 2009, so he has a history of getting on base at an above average rate, and his strikeout rate was a career low last season. (Surprisingly it wasn’t much higher during his slump at the start of the year.) His performance level other than that was not unexpectedly higher than his career norms, and it doesn’t appear to be just simple luck either, judging by his .300 BABIP over the period. The big key for getting value out of Encarnacion is to not play him in the field. He’s one of the worst fielders in the league at third, posting a -37 UZR/150 last year, and wasn’t a whole lot better at first last year with a -12.9 UZR/150. It’s not a huge deal if he plays 10-15 games at first in 2012, but Farrell should not play him at third. And while you’ll probably here more schtick from Buck Martinez at the beginning of the season about how Edwin’s in great shape and he’s “just so much more quick and mobile this year,” it’s just simply not true. No amount of offseason workouts will make Encarnacion even close to being an average fielder at third. All of his value comes from his bat, and if he’s able to produce as he did for the last four months of 2011, there’s a decent amount of value to be had, especially when you consider that he’ll only be payed $3.5 million in 2012. Encarnacion’s been prone to streaky performances over his career, but he sustained a fairly high level of play over a four month period in 2011; he just needs to do that for 6 months in 2012.
For the inaugural post, we’ll be looking at the Blue Jays’ upgraded bullpen for the 2012 season. The Jays picked up 4 new relief pitchers in the offseason, upgrading more than half of the bullpen and turning a weakness into a strength in the process.
The first, and probably biggest impact player that they acquired, was Sergio Santos from the White Sox. Santos struck out 13.07/9 while closing for the White Sox last year in only his second MLB season. He did walk 4.12/9 however, which is higher than one would like, but he lowered it by .41/9 over 2010, so hopefully that will decline further in the future. Santos’ HR rate jumped in 2011 contributing to his higher ERA in 2011, but all of his other peripherals improved. His very team-friendly deal is also a huge plus. All in all, Santos should be a big improvement over Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch, who the Jays felt compelled to keep throwing out in the 9th this past season, and who combined to go 28/37 in save opportunites.
The next acquisition the Jays made was to bring in soon-to-be-AARP-member Darren Oliver, who despite his advanced age still managed to put up a pretty decent performance with the Rangers in 2011. His K rate dropped in 2011, as did his walk rate, but against LHB he still struck out more than one batter and inning. He should step into the lefty specialist role than was vacated last year with the trade of Rzepczynski.
Bringing Jason Frasor back to the team wasn’t a huge surprise, and with Frasor you pretty much know what you’re getting. His FIP has increased each of the last 3 season, although he was quite a bit better before he went to the White Sox last year, while his other peripherals stayed fairly similar. Frasor isn’t the best reliever in the league, but he’s better than Shawn Camp, and decent enough at his salary to go out there in the sixth or seventh.
The most recent addition to the pen is Francisco Cordero, who closed last year for the Reds. Much has been said about Cordero’s decline in velocity and what it means in terms of his effectiveness, so I won’t go too in depth about that. That being said, his K/9 dipped by almost 2 last year, to a very pedestrian 5.4. His walk rate decreased substantially as well, so perhaps Cordero’s claims that he’s started pitching to contact aren’t totally off base. It’s unlikely that he’ll repeat his shiny 2.45 ERA, but it’s not hard to imagine Cordero being a fairly effective set-up man for the Jays in 2012.
Incumbent Casey Janssen returns as well, coming off a very effective 2011, along with a combination of a couple of Jesse Litsch, Carlos Villanueva, Dustin McGowan and Luis Perez
Overall, here’s a summary of the 2011 stats of the 3 main guys departing from the bullpen, and the 3 main additions. (I haven’t included Jason Frasor as he played more than half the year for the Jays last year)
Pretty clear improvement across the board there. Alex Anthopoulos’ bullpen upgrades over the off season have been significant, while still being quite affordable; not costing the team much more than the Phillies are paying Jonathon Papelbon alone next year.