So, last year Canada got Michael Saunders to the All Star Game. Fans were excited and he got the 26th position to the All Star Game. Now I am all for getting a guy what he deserves, but Michael Saunders was a 1st half wonder. Canada was so pumped up to be part of the Blue Jay fever that they voted for Saunders in droves. If you haven't heard, Michael Saunders was released by the Phillies last week. He definitely was not an All Star, he finished the season with 57 RBI. Here is a list of the other names on the list from last year.
2B Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers
3B Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
2B Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
OF Michael Saunders, Toronto Blue Jays
OF George Springer, Houston Astros
Okay, so what name doesn't make sense. Now, its not like these guys aren't going to make other All Star Games. But Longoria has only been to 3 Games in his career. He ended last year with 36 homers and should have been there. That said, he has been. Here are guys that had amazing careers and never went to one game.
This tells you how hard it can be too make an All Star Game. It's also a reason why the average Blue Jay fan should wait a couple seasons to see if ever Justin Smoak is an All Star or a 1 year wonder.
As the Royals lose game 2 of the 3 game series with the KC Royals. People were asking, were is Roberto Osuna? The Jays young closer has been a stalwart of the Blue Jays Bullpen. People are starting to realize the need and importance for a top arm at the back end of the game. From Tepera to Grilli, there wasn't an answer as the Jays coughed up a 4-1 lead to lose 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth. Ryan Tepera even conceding that he was over throwing.
Osuna has been lights out since he broke camp two years ago with the big club. His 95+ MPH fastball and 2 out pitches have made him one of the top closers in Baseball.
Unfortunately, along with the closer role comes mental anguish. Being the guy that is required to come in and shut the door is a lot of stress for a young player. Osuna's recent assertion that he was just not himself is concerning. Mental health is a struggle for alot of us and is not something to be taken lightly.
The importance of a closer can't be understated. The current Washington Nationals would be very happy with Roberto Osuna as their closer. The years of trying to find a closer from another organization for years from Cliff Polite to Jason Frasor or Brandon League. Every year there was another guy vying to be the Guy. Lets hope Roberto feels better soon.
The Blue Jays have a shortfall in MLB ready prospects, most teams have 4 or 5 guys who are ready and waiting for an opportunity. The Jays have basically Dwight Smith and that's it. Who is Dwight Smith Jr? Well his dad won the rookie of the year in 1989 for the Chicago Cubs. He was a great hitter with decent speed. Sounds kind of like his dad. Dwight Jr was a decent prospect up until this spring, he impressed in Spring Training and was sent to Triple A Buffalo to start that year. In Double the last couple years he didn't show much power or average. Hitting in the 260's two years in a row, he definitely wasn't setting the house on fire. That said, people liked his game and intangibles. Dwight knows the game and how its played, he isn't going to be a burner, or win a hr title or batting title. But he will probably hit 280-300, steal 15 bags and 18-22 hr's. Play great defense and be a great teammate.
He is coach-able and a good guy to have in the club house. I have too believe that Jays management knew they were getting this guy when they decided not to bring in a free agent for Left Field.
My rank on Dwight Smith Jr was a C+ at the beginning of the season. I would rate him a B now with upside.
Marcus Stroman had a tough outing and the Jays couldn't find any middle relief to keep them in the game. A major league season is full of games when the starting pitcher just doesn't have his A Game. Today was one of those outings and who entered to fill the void? Cesar Valdez. Who? Yes, Cesar Valdez. Cesar has an ERA of 8.71 - his job today was to shut down the Rangers. Kind of like what Dennis Lamp would in the mid 80's or Mauro Gozzo did for the 89 Blue Jays, he may have only won 4 games that year. But if you remember that season went down to the final game.
This middle relief has been a problem for the 2017 Jays. Guys like Dermody, Valdez and Beliveau the guys who need to stand up and keep the Jays in the Game. That is the biggest difference in where we are and where we need to be. 6 or 7th inning onward, the Jays have been terrific. Danny Barnes and Ryan Tepera have been a god send. Barnes has 3 pitches he can throw at any time and he pitches to both sides of the plate. Tepera can bring the gas. His slider is nasty and turns hitters into guessers.
Today's game shows how the Jays continue need some long relief, someone who can bridge 3 innings and keep them in the game. Both the front and the back end of the staff is excellent.
So my Family decided to take me to Sightlines for yesterdays Blue Jays vs White Sox Game. The view was terrific! We got there early around noon, we dropped everyone off in the round about for the hotel. I parked just up the street for 20 dollars. But this was a great way to get everyone to the park and in the stadium. The reception seems a little confused about things, they are always talking to each other. We reserved seats a couple months ago, so we were front and centre. Right on the rail over looking the field. We had 5 kids in our group, the ability to let them roam around makes it a much better environment for everyone. Having taken the kids to lots of Jays games, they get pretty bored sitting in the regular stadium seats. So, having the open environment makes it easier to keep them happy.
Now the important part, the Food! There are 2 carving stations that have all different kinds of meat from Pork to Sausage to Prime Rib. All of the sides you can imagine go along with the meat, this includes salads, potatoes, breads, carbs of all kinds. They also offer a great brunch on weekend games, which includes eggs, sausage, bacon and waffles. Desert is always available and will ensure that you are very content. Items like alcohol and juices are a la carte. If you keep to water and pop there is no extra fees. Groups of 5 or more and they will add the gratuity to your bill.
Greatest benefit of this facility is the price of the ticket and buffet is around 100 dollars. If I buy a ticket anywhere in the 100 level I am paying minimum 50 dollars. Ad a hot dog, bag of peanuts and a Pop and its 100 dollars. Sightlines gives me all of that and much more, for basically the same price.
Being a starting pitcher is not an easy Job. When you are bad, you're really bad and everyone sees it. Joe Biagini just didn't have the rhythm on this day. He was out of sorts from the first pitch and the Sox put the wood to him. Unable to throw strikes and get ahead, he was easy pickings for the gap hitters. Although Biagini throws hard, he is not nasty. He relies on command and throwing all his pitches for strikes. When the curve isn't getting over, or the first pitch is a ball. He is instantly more hittable than when getting ahead of the hitter. His first time through the order, Joe is dominant - hitters hit .156 against him. The 3rd time around hitters are hitting .296, what this means is that hitters start to get locked into hitting against him. The more he can limit the pitch count, the better he will do that 3rd time through the order. Pitchers need to understand that the best thing for hitting is to see lots of pitches.
Yes, the Jays had some timely hitting and the bullpen was clutch. But this game was won by a terrific ability to extend Jake Odorizzi. Odorizzi is one of the Rays top pitchers. He throws strikes works to contact. But the Jays were able to run up his pitch count and jump on him in the 5th inning with Kendrys Morales doing the most damage with a 3 run homer. Jake's pitch count was over 40 after only 2 innings. Okay, so why am I making such a big deal about pitch count. Winning teams wear down the starting pitcher and get into the bullpen early in the game. Hitters like Morales and Donaldson are excellent at this approach, today we saw Goins and rookie Dwight Smith Jr battling to full counts on multiple at bats. This was the major reason they won a 1 run game.
Players to note - Dwight Smith Jr looks like a real player. Currently hitting over 300 at Triple A. We are excited to see a young player with a great approach to hitting. He also stole 3rd base and did it with ease.
Mallex Smith for the Rays is going to be exciting. Pure speed and this kid can bunt. Watch out because he is the next Carl Crawford. Smith is 7 for 7 in steals and has only played about 15 games. He is an exciting player.
So, yes, Marcus is sub 6 feet tall. And he doesn't remind anyone of your prototypical power pitcher. But he has the nastiest stuff in the American League. Everything he throws moves, either to the left or to the right, up and down. His record is 7-2 currently, ERA of 3.07 with 2 complete games.
He also gives his team a chance to win every night. People usually make a lot of being a big game pitcher. Jack Morris was measured more for his ability to win the big game, more than his actual numbers. That said, it was usually Jack telling everyone that fact, but given his 10 inning 1 hitter against Braves in the World Series. He probably knows what he is talking about. Stroman in his young career has been a very big game pitcher, 2 playoff runs for the Blue Jays and a Gold Medal game win for Team USA. Being named MVP of the WBC says everything about his performance.
Do I think Stroman is up there with Sale, Keuchel, Darvish? No, but I think he is right there with the rest of the bunch. Who would you rather have pitching a big game, David Price or Marcus? Yes, that's a pretty simple question. Most young pitchers don't have quite the pedigree for playoff games that Stroman has in such a short period. Stroman maturity is growing, he no longer gets excited about umpires and his celebrations are more tempered. He is definitely a big game pitcher. Since returning to the rotation in 2015, Stroman has been a stalwart for the Blue Jays rotation.
If you haven't seen Marcus pitch from behind home plate, you are missing out. I encourage everyone to pay the extra couple loonies and see a game from behind home plate. You won't be how much movement he has on his pitches. His slider absolutely explodes and his fastball is electric. Stroman might not have the history to be called a top 10 pitcher just yet. If I had to win 1 game, he would be in that top 10. Gotta love the Stro Show!
Rule 5 waiver pick from 2016, Joe Biagini has been a great addition to the Blue Jays roster. Taken as a non-protected rule 5 player from the San Francisco Giants in the spring of 2016. Giants Manager was shocked to find out that Biagini was part of his system and had gone unprotected, "we need guys like that on our team." What makes Biagini so special is his ability to throw all his pitches for strikes. His fastball ranges in the 93-94 range and occasionally hits 95-96. In 2015, Biagini had a great year for double A Richmond. Posting an era of 2.42 in a a very hitter friendly league. The Jays looked at his ability to control the strike zone. Biagini works down in the strike zone and its very tough to get the ball in the air. He throws a sinking 2 seam fastball. His year in 2015 as a starter at Double A, Biagini gave up just 5 homers in over 130 innings. Astros prospect Kelvin Marte also dominated that league in 2015, but his ERA was higher.
Why did the Giants leave Biagini unprotected. Sometimes teams get obsessed with the swing and miss affect of a prospect. The Giants clearly missed the boat on Biagini and most teams would be happy to have a pitcher as advanced as Joe. His whip is currently 1.02 and he is striking out 8 batters per nine innings. He is clearly going to be in the Jays rotation for the foreseeable future.
Joe is also loved by his teammates. Here is a crazy video - very funny!!
The lineage on this kid is through the roof. His Dad Dante Bichette was an amazing hitter for the Rockies - I am sure you know who he is.
But who is Bo Bichette, prospect for the Toronto Blue Jays? Well he hit .427 last year in rookie ball and is hitting .383 this year at A ball for the Lansing Lugnuts. He has good range and may be more profiled for 3rd base than Short Stop. But the bat is a sure thing. This kid can rake. His command of the strike zone has been ever improving, as his increased walk rate will attest.
His frame and footwork would make you think he can handle 2nd base. The bat is unquestionable, lightning quick and a balanced stance. The ball jumps off his bat. Drafted in the 2nd round, many thought he was going to be a 1st rounder. I think the Jays were ecstatic to get him in the 2nd round.
At the end of 2016, Baseball America had Bo as the number 9 prospect in the Jays system. That is only going to get better. Bichette continues to lead the league in hitting at .385, this is an impressive number.
After losing the first 2 games of the series in Oakland, they need to win the getaway game. Getting a 2 homer game from Justin Smoak and a 2 run bomb from Josh Donaldson in the 10th. It was a murky game with Francisco Liriano being only average, allowing 4 runs in 5 innings of work.
A couple of questions have come out of this team - is Justin Smoak really this good? The answer is yes. And I am surprised to say that!! His swing and miss rate has dropped by 50% and spray chart is much more spread out. His pitch selection has changed drastically. Smoak used to try and get in front of every fastball and hook it to right and left. The home run yesterday was off J Cotton, hitting left handed he hit to left centre field. This makes sense if the pitch was away, but it was inside.
The bullpen continued to be stellar and dealing lots of strike outs and zeros. Ryan Tepera is now 4-1 and steady member of the staff. If not for all the injuries, I am confident the Jays would be a top team in the American League.
Blue Jays second baseman has been a fan favorite ever since he arrived in 2015 from the Detroit Tigers. As Anthony Gose is now being converted to a Pitcher, SOURCE - the Jays clearly won that trade. Travis has been a plus offensive player for the Blue Jays, his defense has been improving. This most recent injury is troubling. Not will he come back, but is Devon a player than can play everyday player in the major leagues. Having the fortitude and resiliency to handle the playing a tough position like 2nd base. Devon is never going to be Lou Whitaker or Bobby Grich, but he should be able to have a few 140 game seasons for Toronto. Hitting over .300 and 12+ homers and 70+ rbi. That said, management should get that season and trade him right effing then. His value is only going to be reduced over the next couple years. Any additional injury will diminish his value.
How much do the Jays lose without Devon Travis?
Ryan Goins is a top 5 infield defender in baseball. His range and arm strength make it tough to get anything past him at second or shortstop. His recent time filling in for Tulo at Short has given him a lot more confidence than most bench players have at this stage of the season. He has more power than people expect.
Darwin Barney is also a great defender and has hit much better than most Jay fans thought the former gold glover was going to produce. His hitting has improved and he is no longer the easy out he was in Chicago, earlier in his career. And yes, he won a Gold Glove for second base in the National League.
Running the righty/lefty game with Barney and Goins is as close to replacing Travis as one could hope for, when considering how special a hitter Devon Travis is to replace. Defence is better with Goins or Barney but Travis is a game changer with the Bat.
Judgement - Travis is going to be a an injury concern for most of his career.
Its now June and J.A. Happ has yet to record a win and the Jays are 2 games under 500. Yes, he has been injured, but its hard to think that last years 20 game winner would have such a tough run in 2017. He was one of Toronto's top pitchers and behind Aaron Sanchez, would be considered the ace of the staff. Ryon Healy made him look pretty pedestrian with a couple monster homers to Left Center. Happ will come around, the Jays offense should have been able to do better against young lefty Sean Menaea, but as is common. Left handed pitching was there down fall.
Justin Smoak continues to show that he is a different player. Strike outs are down and the power is up. Now with 15 homers he is only 5 away from his career high. He has been the team mvp to this point and the Jays would be in deep trouble with him.
Troy Tulowitzki looked better than he has since his return and the offense should be on the rebound.
The great thing about finding power hitters in the prime of their careers - you can often find players that were released by other organizations because they just couldn't produce on a regular basis. Double E was a great example of this, the Cincinnati Reds basically packaged Edwin Encarnacion up with some prospects for Scott Rolen. Rolen was definitely in the twilight of his career. Luis Gonzalez of the Diamondbacks, Kevin Millar of the Marlins, Jose Bautista, Ryan Ludwick of the Reds, Cecil Fielder, Eric Thames all had non descript careers only to produce and turn into series players later in their careers. Justin Smoak is a player that both the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners considered a can't miss prospect. The Jays were able to grab him for nothing. His 2 run bomb on Sunday off Luis Severino proved that he is going to be a bat to be counted on for the foreseeable future. The Jays represent a match up nightmare with back to back switch hitters. Smoak and Morales will continue to give the Jays dream match up in run scoring situations. Justin should easily eclipse his career high of 20 homers this year.
The Bringer of Rain was able to hit a ball out of the strike zone, into the seats in right centre field. Tyler Clippard was throwing gas, mid to high 90's and most hitters would have struck out on that pitch.
The Jays bull pen stepped up and Joe Smith and Robby O were able to shut down the Yankees for the hold and save. Jays split weekend series with Yankees.
Blue Jays are 27-29 still in Last Place, but things are getting better. Tulo and Rainmaker are finally over their hang nails and broken heals. Aaron Sanchez should be back shortly from an actually nail issue. Last years perfectly healthy lineup, was going to be hard to match.
John Gibbons has done great work this year. Putting relievers in positions to succeed. Apart from Roberto Osuna, the team is very limited with shutdown arms. Joe Smith has been a great addition. Jason Grilli's performance today was disastrous. 4 home runs in the 8th inning was the first time for a Blue Jay pitcher, ever. Yes, you heard that right. EVER!! He's a great guy and last year was amazing, but he has lost the location. His fastball is actually faster this year than last year. Fangraphs - is a great site for looking up velocities. A guy like Jake Arrieta has seen a drop in velocity this year, so its easy to understand why his effectiveness is down.
Joe Biagini has really made the jump and is a viable option in the rotation. His ability to pitch and plus velocity will ensure he gets a long look. He throws strikes and changes speeds.
If the Jays can split the series - you would have to think that was a plus. The Yankees are in first place and playing great baseball.