Super Duper Toronto Blue Jays Round Table Part 1
Welcome to the first annual mopupduty.com Toronto Blue Jays roundtable!
One can’t help but be impressed by the list of participants. Due to length we’ve had to break the roundtable into two parts, so don’t forget to come back for the second half tommorrow.
Lloyd the Barber from Ghost Runner on First
Representing Bluebird Banter we have both Hugo & Rincewind
We also have Ian Hunter from the Blue Jay Hunter
Stoeten from the mighty Drunk Jays Fans.
And finally your Mopupduty.com head writers Callum & Matthias (Kman)
Note: Answers are posted in the order in which we received them followed by the mop-up duty crew.
Assuming that Justin Jackson isn’t ready in 2010, what do you forsee the Jays doing about their SS situation?
I very much doubt Jackson will be ready for 2010. I think best case is he might be up for a September 2010 callup. That said, if he progresses quickly at the plate, you never know – it’s not like anyone is blocking him in the system and he is a very exciting prospect. Don’t count out Pastornicky either. Both are solid defensively with good speed and what seems to be a good eye at the plate – but how they develop as hitters will be critical.
Anyway, I could see the Jays bringing Marco back on a 1-year contract, depending on how well he does this season. I think it’ll be him or someone similar, a veteran stopgap.
I would love to see the Jays go after J.J. Hardy. Although he would probably command $5 million plus on the free agent market, that money would be better served with him rather than somebody like Orlando Cabrera. But knowing J.P. Ricciardi’s tendencies, I wouldn’t be surprised if he signed O-Cab as starting shortstop for the 2010 season.
I’ve been banging away on the JJ Hardy drum all winter long but I think the price is too steep. The 2010 free agent class is pretty grim, my biggest fear is another retread like Bobby Crosby. I’m sure there’s a no bat gloveman rotting away at the end of a National League bench that JP can bring in for a song.
If next off-season is like this one then there will be lots of shortstops available for fill in duty for a season. If no one else I’d imagine they could re-sign Scutaro to a 1 or 2 year contract. Jackson would have come an awful long way in a season to make the club in out of spring next year.
I know that Aaron Hill is lukewarm on the idea of switching positions, but with Cambell, Emaus, and Tolisano all potentially coming up at second, and presumably not being able to handle short the way Hill could, I have no idea how you don’t move Hill to short– and I don’t know why they don’t do it this year. Yet, for some reason, I kind of get the feeling that they won’t. I have no idea what I think they will do, because trying to think beyond the obviousness of the Hill solution makes my head hurt too much.
I’d be shocked if Jackson was ready at any point in the 2010 season. More of a toolsy player, I see it being another few years until he grows into a full-time role at the MLB level. The Jays 2010 shortstop may come down to where the Jays are positioned. If the team has a half decent 2009 and the youngsters develop to the point where the bluebirds may have a shot in 2010 then I could see J.P. spending some dollars or making a deal to upgrade the position. Of course, depending on how the development process goes they may be fine with bringing back Johnny Mac. The Rays proved last season that a light hitting defensive shortstop (Jason Bartlett) won’t kill a team playing the AL East. The last thing that I’d like to see is a Barrett/Millar/Clement style comeback project. Let’s either go for broke or stick with what we’ve got (well retain what we’ve got as Scutaro & McDonald’s contracts end this season).
Both Scutaro and Johnny Mac will be entering free agency at this time and it remains to be seen whether JP will be as well. In an ideal world, I see the Jays trading from their position of strength (bullpen) for a SS. If not, expect another bottom of the barrel free agent scraping of Bobby Crosby or Jack Wilson with more than a few reclamation projects invited to camp.
Is the prospective 2010 offense strong enough to play a conventional 2000′s AL offense or will they need to manufacture runs in a similar fashion to the 2008 Tampa Rays?
Well, I guess it depends on what you mean by manufacture runs. I doubt the Jays will be too much on the basepaths or with the sacrifice bunts – they just don’t have the personnel to pull those sorts of things off even if they were effective. That said, I think Cito and Tenance really plan to focus on good situational hitting. You figure Lind and Snider will provide more power than the Jays had last season at DH and LF (they would almost have to) and if Rios shows the power he did in the second half last season, that will be a boost as well. Another factor is Aaron Hill – he showed quite a bit of power in 2007. Joe Inglett did a great job filling in last season, but Hill should provide quite a bit more power. And if Scott Rolen is healthy, I could see him flashing some more pop as well. All that to say, I don’t see the Jays playing much small-ball this season.
I don’t think the Jays need to swing for the fences to remain competitive in 2010. Last year they finished 11th in the AL in runs scored, and lost 32 one-run games. Really, I think they just need guys who can get on base, with a heart of the lineup that can bring them home. Hopefully Gene Tenace can work some magic and the lineup can squeeze out a few more runs to help improve that win-loss record.
I think they can score runs without hitting many home runs without resorting to a slap-dash, “hit it where they ain’t or hope they boot it” approach. They have a lineup (and a ballpark) primed for endless doubles with the occasional triple thrown in for good measure. Hardly an on base juggernaut, they can rack up a couple extra base hits and score, rather a singles parade to push across two runs. I really don’t think “putting the pressure on the defense” works against good clubs like the Sox and Rays. They’re quick to punish greed on the basepaths.
Yeah I think we could be ok in 2010, Moonraker (Travis Snider), Lind will have proven if he is a major leaguer or not, Rios, Wells, maybe Cooper, Arencibia. A leadoff hitter wouldn’t be a bad thing to come up with but something might turn up.
Well, I don’t know if anyone will be playing a “conventional” 2000s offence any time soon, given the changing body type of your average major leaguer, but if it means not running or bunting themselves into outs, I hope the Jays try it. But whether they can actually be a powerful lineup probably hinges on whether Lyle Overbay can ever rediscover himself, and how quickly JP Arencibia– or, if you prefer, Aaron Cibia– adapts to the majors. The other guys, I’m not so concerned about.
This is a tough call. IMO the Jays offense is built around doubles hitters, with very few legitimate 30 HR threats for the 2010 season. I could see Wells knocking out 30 and possibly Snider but outside of that I think the club has many 20 – 25 HR guys in Rios, Overbay, Lind, Arencibia (who I can see struggling a bit with MLB pitching) and Hill. Perhaps the Jays won’t need a full on small ball offensive strategy but I think advancing more runners to second would benefit the club. Loosing multitudes of one run games year after year isn’t getting it done. Time for a change, however slight. Add in a few more sacrifices with weaker hitters and hit and runs. With the strength of the bullpen the Jays should be playing for a lead as early as the sixth inning.
If by conventional 2000′s AL offense you mean two walks and a ding dong, the answer to that is a resounding no. Power numbers are down across the board and with the pitching talent in the AL East, the Jays are going to have to work counts, employ hit and runs, double steals, sacrifice bunts etc etc to bring the boys around. It will be fun to watch for Jays fans and AL teams will dread playing them, if that is the strategy they intend to employ. It will also be interesting to see if Papa-Cito can work his hitting magic on Alex Rios.
In your opinion which players (on the current big league roster or prospect) skills have increased the most and decreased the most offensively and defensively speaking?
Brad Emaus seems to have made huge strides with his bat over the last year. He’s looking like a legitimate major-league hitter who has power, on-base skills, and a good bat. On defense, it sounds like J.P. Arencibia has really quieted the doubters who said he wouldn’t stick at catcher. He obviously has some more work to do but I don’t hear any more doubting he can play behind the plate. Decline-wise, John McDonald seems like he has lost his edge a bit as a fielder. He might still be above-average, but with his awful bat he needs to be better than that. On offense, Johermyn Chavez really struggled at Lansing last season after an impressive showing in the Gulf Coast League in 2007. He is so young he could well bounce back, but the onus is now on him to do so.
Surprisingly, I would say that Marco Scutaro has improved the most defensively. Offensively, Jason Lane is just killing it down in spring training. I’d maybe even throw Russ Adams in that category. In the decreasing department, I think John McDonald dropped the ball (literally and figuratively) defensively since his glory days in 2007, and offensively Lyle Overbay just hasn’t been the same since that broken wrist.
I’d have to say Aaron Hill on both fronts. I loved his quick swing when he first came up, but I remain surprised by his ability to hit for power. He’s really become fun to watch. I never expected the fill-in third baseman with the mullet that went 0 for May one year to become an all-star caliber second baseman.
Decreased defensively: John McDonald. He maybe the answer for the decreased the most offensively too, though it is pretty tough to be worse than he was last year, so let’s take Rob Barajas as dropping of offensively.
Increased: Scutaro was terrific defensively last year, he’s proved he can be a major league shortstop. I’m hoping that Rios will be the most improved offensively this year, get us the 30 homers and 100+ RBI that we were hoping for last year. Or I might just be deluding myself.
There are definitely some prospects who’ve made people take notice– Emaus’ spring has been pretty ridiculous– but I’m going with the completely easy answer on who’s improved the most: Rios. Which isn’t exactly to say that he’s any more talented now than he has been the last two or three years, but I just think he’s finally– finally– going to put it all together. Defensive slippage is definitely Wells, if you believe most metrics– and yet, I’ve seen Jeff Blair claim that VW is going to be the CF until VW says otherwise. Ugh.
Let’s start off with defensive skills. Vernon Wells lofty reputation as a gold glove caliber center fielder is pretty much a thing of the past. He takes too many plays off. Vernon’s -13.7 UZR (fancy zone rating style metric) was the worst on the club last year. The Jays would benefit by moving Rios into CF. Speaking of Rios he keeps getting better and better defensively and is pretty much all-world at this point. He gets my vote for most improved.
Offensively I would say that Scott Rolen’s skill-set is decreasing the most. It’s a given that he’s not the MVP candidate of the past. Yet there are a few other metrics that point to an overall decline. Firstly his contact rate is declining. In 2008 he set a career high with a K rate of 17.4%. His out of the zone swing rate went up to a high of 23%. He’s just not being selective enough at the plate. I can live with this if some power numbers increase but this just hasn’t been the case.
I think Brad Emaus made the most improvements at the plate in 2008. After a poor short stint in 2007, Emaus came back and hit .306 with 48 extra base hits and more walks than strikeouts in 2008.
If Snider ends up making the team it is because his stock has risen exponentionally. Conventional wisdom would state that he needs to go to AAA so the Jays can David Price/Evan Longoria his MLB service time and if he bucks that trend it is because his stock has increased much higher than even his September callup. There will be a lot of pressure heaped on a guy with no AAA experience and one year of pro-ball with a penchant for striking out.
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