Friday, February 17, 2012

2012 AL East predictions are in

We're looking at a very interchangeable top 4 and very competitive one in 2012.  All top 4 will be above .500 while Baltimore will continue to stare 100 losses in the face.  Here are my predictions for the AL East in 2012.

New York Yankees
Toronto Blue Jays
Tampa Bay Rays
Boston Red Sox
Baltimore Orioles

I know what you're thinking.  That's a homer projection coming from a Blue Jays fan.  Let's start from the bottom up on my explanation as to why I placed them in that order.

Baltimore Orioles - No pitching, average offence, they don't stand a chance of even coming close to a .500 record against any of their AL East opponents.  Considering they'll be playing 72 games vs the beasts of the East, they're pretty much screwed until they can pick up some kind of decent pitching.

Boston Red Sox - Big payroll, all stars, but no depth.  One core player struggling, a few injuries, a losing streak, a Valentine blow up could send this team reeling into mediocrity.  I'm guessing at least one of these happening this season. 

Tampa Bay Rays - Good God, their pitching staff terrifies me considerably.  But even with Joe Maddon's shrewdness, their offence just won't be enough to compete for a full 162 games this season.  They weren't even in the race last year without a Red Sox collapse.

Toronto Blue Jays - Depth and young talent.  That's what this team has that they've never had before.  Their AAA team will be a team that can consistently beat teams like the Orioles, Astros, Mets, etc. They are currently a team that mimicks the New York Yankees, just a younger version. 1) Offence that will grind out at bats, show a lot of pop and better OBP this season 2) Bullpen will be one of the strongest in the MLB 3) A rotation with not much proven ability behind their ace.  In the end, the Blue Jays rotation efficiency will determine how many wins they will get.  I'm putting them in the 88-93 win range in 2012.

New York Yankees - See the Blue Jays. Just older, more established and with the intimidation factor of running onto the field wearing pin stripes.

You could get into the specifics of the individual players of each team, but that's for another blog.  If I can ever get my lazy ass to write it. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What's next? A look at the Blue Jays roster PT 1

Now that it seems as though the Blue Jays have shored up their bullpen, what exactly is their next move? Do they stand pat and bring the current squad into 2012? Do they continue to try to upgrade? Are there spare parts that need to be unloaded?

In part 1, I'll break down the Blue Jays’ starting pitching to see where their core pieces lie and where they'll continue to look to upgrade.

Starting Pitching

The Core:

Ricky Romero - Signed through 2015 with a club option for 2016, Ricky fits in the long term plans as a top of the rotation type starter.

Henderson Alvarez - After a great debut in 2011, Hendo's fastball and changeup combo alone will allow him to carve through Major League line ups due to his supreme command of both pitches. His ability to cut his fastball and develop a consistent slider that already looks great when he throws it correctly could vault him into a top of the rotation type pitcher.

Jury is still out on:

Dustin McGowan - Timing is the biggest issue with Dustin. His return in 2011 showed he still has great stuff to get big league hitters out, but being out of options and in his last year of arbitration, 2012 will be the deciding year on whether the Blue Jays decide if he will be in the rotation going forward.

Brandon Morrow - Entering his second year of arbitration, Brandon's clock is ticking. With the best stuff on the staff, 2012 will be the year for him to prove that he belongs in this rotation long term. With a solid 2012 campaign, I could see the Blue Jays attempt to sign him to a 2 year + 2 club option deal around July or August.

Kyle Drabek - Biggest question mark right now. As it stands, he currently sits as the Blue Jays 6th starter. I can't picture the Blue Jays having plans for him to start the year in AAA. One, it doesn't raise his trade stock and two, they need to see what he has right now. He definitely has the stuff to be a top of the rotation guy, but 2012 is the year we need to find that out. As a member of the Blue Jays staff, not in the minors.

Trade Bait:

Brett Cecil - While he'd make a solid starter in most other divisions, his stuff just isn't good enough for the AL East. I'd like to see the Blue Jays place him in the bullpen in hopes of raising his stock like Rzepczynski's did last season.
Luis Perez - I'm not sold on Luis Perez in thebullpen. I'd like to see AA trade off Perez in a Teahen salary dump somehow. I'll throw some suggestions out below.


Drew Hutchison - In my opinion, Hutch is closest to MLB ready compared to the other two listed below listed and quite possibly even Drabek. However, the SPs above will get the opportunity to start ahead of him, but he will definitely be the first prospect looked at if there are injuries. If Romero/Morrow/Alvarez/Drabek/McGowan prove to work out, Hutchison will instantly move into trade bait territory. I think Drew is going to be a solid pitcher in the MLB, but I'll take the upside of the first five any day.

Deck McGuire - Judging by video I saw of Deck in July, he is clearly another year away from the MLB. While the stuff is there, the command clearly isn't. If he puts it all together, look out though. Love his fastball, cutter, slider and changeup. He could be a front line guy down the road.

Chad Jenkins - Another prospect that could probably step into a big league rotation right now, I believe he'll be second in line if there are trades/injuries/inefficiencies. Long term though, I can see him in the backend of a bullpen. He has a hard fastball and slider, slightly reminiscent of Duane Ward's arsenal.

Trade suggestions:

I think there are still pieces out there that could improve the bullpen, even if it's addition by subtraction. I prefer Cecil over Litsch and Perez in the bullpen chart, so if AA is able to unload one or both, I'd be all for it. A couple of pitchers that quickly come to mind are Matt Thornton in Chicago where KW is looking to unload salary, or even K-Rod in Milwaukee. There I could see the Blue Jays finding a taker for Teahen if they included a bullpen arm like Litsch and either Cooper or McDade (both 1B prospects that will be playing in AAA in 2012). These kinds of moves could allow for Cecil to step into the bullpen or be one of the pieces sent in the other direction.

External options:

Where trades don't seem much of an option, a few spots could open up if the Giants decide they don't want to lock up BOTH Cain and Lincecum and will look to trade one or the other. Rangers could look to trade one of their young starting pitchers to land a long term option in CF and keep Hamilton in LF. Then there's always Seattle, but they'd be instantly salivating over Lawrie and D'Arnaud, lacking long term options at both positions.

On the FA front, there doesn't seem too much that AA would be open to acquiring, other than possibly taking a flyer on Roy Oswalt. AA has said time and time again he prefers the trade route, so we shouldn't expect too much out of the FA route anytime soon.

Blue Jays have two planned starters in their long term core, while Jury is still out on Morrow, McGowan, Drabek and Hutchison. While Cecil and Jenkins are future trade or bullpen possibilities.

That being said, the Blue Jays do have a lot of options on the starting pitching front going into 2012. So don't expect a lot of things to change unless a top of the rotation starter with years of control becomes available at the right price.

Tomorrow, I'll look at an easier topic. The Blue Jays infield.

As always, you can follow me on twitter @GCM1979

Monday, January 2, 2012

What's next? A look at the Blue Jays roster PT 2

Today, I take an easier look at the Blue Jays roster going forward.  The infield.

The left side is all but guaranteed with Brett Lawrie at 3rd and Yunel Escobar at SS.  Escobar is under team control through 2015 while Lawrie is controlled for even longer.  The only issue that remains is WHEN Lawrie will receive a contract extension.  While currently making the league minimum, the Blue Jays could be apt to offer him an Evan Longoria type deal to lock him up for a lot less than they would need if they waited until his years of arbitration.  Longoria was signed to a 6 year/$17.5 million contract with 3 club options.

On to the rest of the infield.

JP Arencibia - after a solid rookie campaign, JP will be looking to improve upon his offence in 2012.  What impressed me most about his 2011 campaign was his ability to throw out baserunners in the 2nd half.  Showed a great deal of accuracy on the majority of his throws.  With a little more focus on his offence in 2012, JP could experience a breakout year that a fully believe will place him as one of the leagues best receivers.
Travis D'Arnaud - Travis will begin in AAA in 2012, where he'll refine his skills to make sure he is MLB ready.  So any catcher controversies you want to throw out there will have to wait until 2013.  I still believe there is room for both catchers on the Blue Jays, considering that Edwin Encarnacion is set to become a free agent at the end of 2012, opening up a possible catcher/DH platoon.

2nd base:
Kelly Johnson - KJ returns after accepting arbitration where he could either sign an extension with the Blue Jays, or look to raise his stock for a long term deal after 2012.  I think what happens here will determine whether or not Hechavarria is set in the Blue Jays long term plans.
Adeiny Hechavarria (also SS) - although his bat continues to have a lot of potential, Adeiny has yet to show it other than in a small sample size in AAA last season.  A solid season refining in AAA could allow for a more finite decision on whether the Blue Jays go with an all Cuban middle infield in 2013.

1st base:
Adam Lind - Adam Lind showed 2009 form at the plate for the first half of 2011, but broke down through the long season and continued some horrible numbers against lefties.  The Blue Jays 2012 line up should allow for Lind to get the day off with an opposing lefty on the mound.
Edwin Encarnacion - showing improved versatility in the field and patience at the plate, Edwin Encarnacion enters the last year of his contract with an extension in mind.  Adding his ability to play 3B and even left field, he could be a darkhorse candidate for a long term extension if he has a stellar year at the plate.

Michael McDade - switching hitting 1B with pop, McDade also plays a solid defence at 1B.  In my opinion, I'd like to see McDade get a taste of the MLB if an injury opens up a spot for him.
David Cooper - I liken Cooper to the 1B version of Howie Clark.  He'll hit in the majors, but not enough for the position he plays (which he doesn't really play all that well).

The biggest question you have to ask when looking at 1B is do you go with these internal options, or try to land a big gun in Fielder or even Joey Votto.  Even Logan Morrisson is a thought.  Looking long term, I just don't see Lind's bat playing enough for 1B.  I'm also a firm believer that Votto is already on the Blue Jays roster whether it be by trade or waiting until he hits free agency.
That being said, I prefer Encarnacion's bat at 1B over Lind right now.  But I'm really interested in McDade.  A switch hitting power bat that plays solid defence at 1st.  I still think eventually the Blue Jays will try to land Votto.
As for 2B, with not much in external options, what you see is what you get.  You'll either have Escobar and Johnson, or Hechavarria and Escobar.  We'll find out by the end of this season which combo it will be.

Tomorrow I'll have a look at the Blue Jays outfield.

As always, catch me on twitter @gcm1979

Welcome to 106!

For the past 3 years, section 106 of the Rogers Centre has become my home away from home (barely ahead of my 3rd home at the Loose Moose).  In section 106 you'll find me heckling away, supporting my beloved Blue Jays from April to October.

Here at blog 106, you'll get to hear anything regarding the Blue Jays. game by game opinions, roster analysis, prospect talk, and just about anything else.

I will also be providing you with interesting stories and news regarding the intercounty baseball league.  The IBL has been a Southern Ontario staple for years and years, and has been a host to many MLB players of the past.  I look forward to blogging about one of Ontario's best kept secrets.

The blog is in it's early stages, so feel free to drop me a line on twitter on advice you believe will help make the blog better for you, the reader.

You may follow me on twitter @gcm1979.