Blue Jays Report Card: The Reckoning

Thursday, October 04 2012 @ 05:30 AM EDT

Contributed by: Magpie

It's time for the 2012 Jays to receive their grades.

This won't be pretty.

Before I get to the moaning and complaining - and one of the worst seasons in franchise history surely calls for some moaning and complaining - I begin as always with a heartfelt salute to the great Dave Till. Dave used to provide this very service on a monthly basis. Monthly!  They don't make 'em like that anymore.

Here's what the grades mean to me:

A - Outstanding
B - Good
C - Average
D - Below Average
E - Fail
F - Epic Fail

You may recall that I amused myself in September by asking all of you what type of grades you'd hand out to this year's crew. I have tallied them all up, and I'll report the Bauxite consensus where it strays from my own Final Judgement

As always a great many players tried on the uniform briefly this season. I'm pretty sure that no one likes the small sample more than I do, but even I see little point in grading a pitcher on 5 innings or so. I'm giving an INC for Incomplete to Travis Snider, Yorvit Torrealba, Sergio Santos, Andrew Carpenter, Evan Crawford, Chad Beck, David Pauley, Scott Richmond, Sam Dyson, Ryota Igarashi, Shawn Hill, Bobby Korecky, and David Carpenter. (Good news for Pauley and Igarashi, who ought to get an F anyway.)  Everyone else is fair game.

We'll begin with the front office...

John Farrell D (Box grade: C-)

Do you realize that only two of the men who have managed the Blue Jays had ever managed in the major leagues before? And those two men - Bobby Cox and Jim Fregosi - had managed just three winning seasons between them (out of thirteen full seasons) before they took the Toronto job? Cox's Braves went 81-80 in 1980; Fregosi's Angels won the AL West in 1979, his Phillies went to the WS in 1993... they had losing teams every other year before they came here. Odd.

Anyway. Judgement and decisiveness are two qualities I especially want to see from the team's manager. I believe the manager must have confidence in his own judgement (and it goes without saying that this confidence should be warranted!) and he then needs to be decisive in acting upon those judgements. Consider Farrell's predecessor. Before becoming a manager, Cito Gaston was a very successful hitting coach. He first worked for Bobby Cox, whose confidence and decisiveness were pretty much off the charts. Gaston then worked for Jimy Williams, who was the exact opposite of Cox in almost every way, a manager who changed his mind about things every week. For the most part, Gaston took the appropriate lesson from this experience.  But this was especially true in Gaston's handling of his pitching staff, which was always his real strength as a manager. Gaston's judgement of what an individual pitcher could do to help the team, and his decisiveness in acting upon those judgements, had an awful lot to do with his success. (Plus his ability to help young arms develop into actual major league pitchers, a skill that hasn't been seen around here since Gaston went back to the golf course.)  However in managing the lineup Gaston was utterly conventional, and often too slow to respond to changing situations. Too often, rather than being decisive, he was merely stubborn. Maybe this had something to do with the job he'd had before, and his own playing career. I think Gaston identified with the hitters and their issues. He'd been one of them. Gaston looked upon his pitchers with a much colder, and a much clearer, eye. Well, John Farrell used to be a pitching coach and before that he was a pitcher. I think we've seen the exact opposite thing from him - I think Farrell's been much more decisive, and on the whole his judgement has been better, when it comes to assessing the men in the lineup than it has with his pitchers. So I wonder if a similar dynamic is in play. I'm sure Gaston would have stuck with a struggling Escobar at the top of the lineup and Lind in the heart of it much longer than Farrell did, and that's one for Farrell. But I also think Gaston would have done something about Ricky Romero a long time ago.

What does the team have in John Farrell? He seems to have the respect and support of his players, which is always Job One, without which nothing else is possible. But it's hard to see that it's done him much good. We all see him taking the young player aside after yet another brain cramp, for a nice fatherly heart-to-heart. But we haven't seen his players stop making the same dumb plays, which they've done again and again, all year long. It's always a fine line for any manager. His fate is in the hands of a bunch of... kids, who make way more money than he does and don't care nearly as much. The manager can not be your buddy. (Well, he can try and he might even get away with it for a year, but after that - forget about it. It's over.) And while the manager doesn't need to be a cold, heartless s.o.b. (although there've been no shortage of managers who've made that work for them), it's always the case that the only card the manager has at his disposal is playing time. It's probably fair to say that all the injuries probably made it difficult for Farrell to make much use of that this season. But the composition of this roster didn't help much either.  Brett Lawrie, for example, really did deserve to be benched for being an idiot on several occasions this past season. Farrell couldn't bring himself to actually do so. After all - it would have meant playing Omar Vizquel in Lawrie's place. And then looking your starting pitcher in the eye.

As a game manager.... like most of you, I'm not particularly impressed. In fact, I think Farrell is the worst in-game manager to run a Toronto team since Bobby Mattick. On the other hand, I doubt if anyone cares less about a manager's in-game moves than I do. I like to think of it as the most visible and least significant part of the job, so it's hard for me to penalize him too harshly on that score. I'm not sure we even have a good handle on what type of game manager he is. But on the other other hand - it surely does count for something, and it's certainly been a negative something. I know everyone has complained about his management of the bullpen. I don't want to join that chorus just yet, at least not without further investigation. I'm all too aware that every team's fans - all of them, even Tampa's - complain incessantly about how their manager runs the pen. What do we know about Farrell the Game Manager? We do know he does not like handing out intentional walks. We can see that his offense is not built on speed (because how would you do that anyway?). His team does run the bases very aggressively, and while in 2011 that was generally a positive, this past year it hurt the team as much as it helped, if not more. Between Encarnacion and Rasmus running into outs, and Davis getting picked off, his players made a lot of outs on the base paths. Not to mention all the times his baserunners took the bats out of their hitters hands with ill-considered aggressiveness. Nor was Farrell's offense based on getting people on base. His leadoff hitter had an OBP of .324, and his no 2 hitter couldn't even crack .300. His offense was built around power in general and hitting home runs in particular. Obviously this was largely dictated by the personnel he has on hand. His two best hitters (Bautista and Encarnacion) are big time power hitters, and some of his complementary bats (Rasmus and Arencibia) don't really do anything except hit home runs.

On the other other other hand, it's not clear what any manager could have done in the face of the avalanche of injuries that afflicted this year's squad, a point I'm sure Bobby Valentine is happy to hear someone make. Some might say Farrell should get some credit for not losing the team, because they didn't give up, because they generally kept hustling. (I know there are some who disagree, but I always thought they were doing their best. They just weren't very good.) Even so, I tend to regard those things as the absolute minimum required by the job anyway. No bonus for achieving them, only demerits if you don't (like Gaston in 1995.) I would like to cut Farrell slack for the circumstances quite beyond his control,  and at least award him a gentleman's C... but I really can't point to much of anything Farrell's tried in response to these circumstances that's actually helped.

Alex Anthopoulos  E (Box grade: C)

I'm sorry. Your team, after bravely talking about contending, went out and lost 89 games. Who are you fooling? That's failure. You flunked.

My focus, as always, is on the major league team and admit it, everyone - the Boy Wonder did not have a good year. Going into the season, the team had an obvious need for starting pitching. I know I was pretty tiresome on the subject. Anthopoulos was unable to land a quality starting pitcher, by trade or free agency, in the off-season. Okay, that's going to happen sometimes. Free agents aren't always interested in coming to a team in a foreign country that hasn't been a contender in two decades. You can't always make the trades you'd like to make. The other teams have their own agendas as well. That's life. But Anthopoulos did not have anything resembling a credible Plan B. He chose instead to force a bunch of unproven youngsters into service, in the major leagues. I thought the disaster that ensured was inevitable, and should have been seen coming a mile away. The youngsters either failed to rise to the occasion (Alvarez, Cecil) or suffered serious injury (Drabek, Hutchison). And my Lord - Anthopoulos' belief that Dustin McGowan (who would probably hurt himself watching baseball on television) would be able to fill one of the rotation holes warrants an F grade all by itself. And Anthopoulos must have believed it - he gave the man a new contract. The failures in the rotation put enormous pressure on the relievers, who were shorthanded to start with because of the injury to Santos and the ineptitude of Cordero. Anthopoulos responded to that circumstance by attempting to acquire all the relief pitchers there were. In the world. And then carrying them all on the roster. Which made for a rather short bench. And speaking of the bench...

Many of you out there were complaining from Day One about this year's bench and upon further consideration - that was very well said! What was the team's plan, anyway? Did they have one? Different managers have different philosophies regarding the bench. Some managers - Earl Weaver, say - have a bench filled with players who have roles within the game. Pinch hitters, defensive replacements, platoon bats, the kind of guys who make in game moves possible. Some managers - Cito Gaston, say - have players who have roles within the season - basically they sit and watch, give the regulars a day off when required, and fill in if there's an injury. (Mostly they sit and watch.) The Anthopoulos-Farrell regime doesn't seem to know what it wants from its bench. Make a decision! Of course, the decision to carry Omar Vizquel as the one backup infielder was clearly a Bad Decision. It might have been defensible in the spring, and some years it might not have even mattered. But this year it mattered, and it hurt the team. It's pretty clear now that Kelly Johnson probably needed to go on the DL for 3 weeks in mid season and get healthy. (Something else a lot of you guys were right about.) Doing that would have meant playing Vizquel fairly regularly, a task that quite obviously is far beyond his current capacities. Whether or not that was the reason, Johnson played - and played quite badly - through his injury.

On the trade front -  I had no problem with the deal for Happ. He's got a chance to be useful, and even if he doesn't amount to much, clearing Francisco and Cordero off the team was worth doing all by itself. (Which leaves of course the question of what they were doing here in the first place.) I wasn't keen on the Snider and Thames trades, especially the Snider deal. Not because of what Anthopoulos gave up - as everyone knows, I was never a big Snider fan - but if all you're going to get for him is a relief pitcher, I simply wouldn't bother. That might be me - I wouldn't trade anyone that at least had a chance to be a useful regular for a relief pitcher, just on general principle. I absolutely don't believe there's a shortage of pitchers, not at all. (There's always a shortage of quality starting pitchers, but I really do believe that useful relief pitchers grow on trees.) I would have had the same general objection to the Thames deal, but it's mitigated on the grounds that I don't think Thames is as likely as Snider to be a useful regular. That said, there was a kind of symmetry to those trades. They complete the circle begun with Rasmus deal from 2011. Anthopoulos traded a bunch of relief pitchers to get Rasmus, and this year he traded Snider and Thames to get some relief pitchers.

In the end, much more than anything else, what bothered me enormously was the handling of the young pitchers. I do not like green eggs and ham - who does? - but I really don't like seeing 22 year old kids in a major league rotation. The fact that Alvarez and Hutchison were in the rotation was an organizational decision. I hold Anthopoulos responsible; I don't believe it happened because John Farrell insisted that it happen. Farrell actually said that he believed a young pitcher needed upwards of 450 professional IP to be prepared for the major leagues. It's simply a different game, he said. Well, Drew Hutchison had roughly half that amount to get ready to throw in the major leagues. Quod erat demonstrandum, here endeth the lesson This year was a good year for my side of that argument, which means it was a bad year for Anthopoulos and his side. Maybe Anthopoulos thought that throwing his young arms to the tender mercies of the AL East would be less stressful than having them endure Las Vegas and the Pacific Coast League. I sure hope that's not what he was thinking because that would have been really, really dumb, and that's something you never want to see from the GM.

But what the hell. Anthopoulos is a very young man - much younger than me, anyway! - and this was still just his third year on the job. Let's hope this was a learning experience and let's hope he learned something from it. He's done a lot of things right so far. And certainly those dreamers who gaze at prospects and imagine bright shiny objects and ponies for everyone speak very highly of his work in accumulating a quantity of young talent. I'm not one of them because I don't take anyone seriously until they're at least in Double A. Until then, they don't even exist to me. But I absolutely believe that quantity is what's required to get the job done. You need to send out millions of sperm to fertilize just one egg, and I think you need roughly the same number of prospects to grow one quality major leaguer. So I trust he's on the right track.

The Players

Edwin Encarnacion A

Obviously he was the team's MVP this season. He was always capable of having this type of season with the bat - I certainly thought so anyway - and while he did make some changes to his swing, I believe the biggest factor was getting him away from third base and all the grief it brought him. He's one of the strongest, most powerful hitters to ever wear the uniform, and it's kind of interesting to me. Just where does his raw power come from? Brute force. The team's great power hitters have generally come in two shapes: the big, strong guys like Delgado and McGriff, who took big, mighty whacks at the ball; and the smaller men like Bautista and Bell who generated their power with a swift and violent whip of the bat through the hitting zone.  Encarnacion's not like either. He's one of the big men but he generates his power from a much shorter stroke. Encarnacion doesn't seem to load up his swing at all, he just overpowers the ball with raw strength.  Incidentally, he's not a good first baseman by any stretch of the imagination, not even close, and don't let anyone tell you different. He's not Adam Lind, but he's still pretty bad. But at first base his shortcomings don't bother anyone.

Darren Oliver A
He was only a LOOGY, and it goes without saying that there's no way a guy who pitched 60 innings is more valuable than some of the guys whose grades are lower... that said, it's hard to see how Oliver could have been better than he was. Since returning to the AL at age 36, his ERAs have gone as follows: 3.78, 2.88, 2.71, 2.48, 2.29, 2.06; his ERA+ has gone 120, 155, 162, 181, 194, and 207. I mean... GOSH! What's he going to be doing when he's 45? Going out and tossing 50 perfect innings?

Casey Janssen A
As you might recall, I wrote him off three years ago. I actually thought Scott Richmond would turn out to be more useful. I couldn't have been more wrong, and I couldn't be happier.

Jose Bautista B+ (Box grade: A-)
His grade is docked quite a bit because he missed 70 games, which constitutes a significant Absence of Value. But that's the only reason. He had a lousy month of April, which doesn't mean much in itself - he had a lousy month in 2011 and a lousy month in 2010 - but in his shortened 2012, it constitutes a much larger portion of his overall season. It doesn't mean anything else. I think we learned this year that Jose Bautista is the living, breathing heart and soul of this team. Without him on the field and in the middle of the lineup they are simply lost. Utterly, hopelessly, totally lost. They didn't go 28-44 after he was hurt by coincidence.

Brandon Morrow B+
Appeared to be fulfilling all of his considerable promise when an injury put him on the shelf for two months. It's true that he's had hot streaks before and we really need to see him do this for a whole season. But this performance was exactly what we've been expecting, hoping, waiting for from him. Like Bautista, he's docked for missing two months. Absence of Value rears its ugly head.

Brandon Lyon B+ (Box grade: A-)
I don't know about you, but I've long thought of Lyon as an up-and-down, injury prone sort of fellow. I've been quite wrong on both counts. In the last seven years, he's pitched in at least 60 games each year except 2011. And in those six seasons, his ERA+ has been 120 or better each year except 2008, when he was still roughly league average. I'd be fine with bringing him back, if they can.

Steve Delabar B+ (Box grade: B-)
Interesting. It appears the Jays told Delabar to stop screwing around with his other pitches and attack the hitters with a fastball-splitter combo. The old Tom Henke formula. Delabar was 28 years old this season, which happens to be the same age Henke was in 1986, his first full year in the majors. I think they might have found something special here. Delabar struck out 46 hitters in just 29.1 IP as a Blue Jay, which is shockingly close to Kimbrel-Chapman territory.

Carlos Villanueva B
No one really knows if he can pitch effectively in the rotation for a full season. I don't think he can, myself. I think the wear and tear, and minor hurts, will be enough to take him out of the rotation, just as it has the last two years. But Villanueva himself certainly believes he can, and he's going to be looking for a chance to prove it. I think the Jays might as well find out. This team is not exactly awash in starting pitchers. If it doesn't work out he can go back to the pen.

Aaron Loup B-

I wouldn't want him as my only LH in the pen. Pitchers who come at the hitter from extreme arm angles often have enormous platoon splits, and Loup is no exception. But there's certainly room in the modern plus-sized bullpen for a guy who completely destroys LH batters.

Luis Perez B- 
(Box grade: C+)
Was having a solid, useful first full season in the majors until the termites got him.

Brett Lawrie C+ (Box grade: B-)
On the one hand, is that all there is? Because honestly folks, .273/.324./405 from your third baseman is nothing to get too excited about. Plus his famous hyper aggressiveness hurt the team as least as much as it helped. There were baserunning blunders galore, a suspension for hot-headed foolishness... and of course he got hurt and took himself right out of the lineup for a lengthy stretch. These complaints notwithstanding, he's a legitimate major leaguer, a far better defender than anyone had a right to even dream of him being, a very promising bat - and he's still only 22 years old. Not everybody grows from that point, but Lawrie's possibilities are still more or less limitless. Limitless. And we can surely hope that he will grow out of the dumb stuff.

David Cooper C+  (Box grade: C-)
The Rodney Dangerfield of Blue Jays prospects, and indeed it's possible that Cooper's really not much more than the new Terry Crowley. This would be very bad news for Cooper because Earl Weaver retired almost thirty years ago, leaving very little room for a Crowley type in today's game. (Eric Thames, I think, has a similar problem.) By now everybody should know that I like Cooper quite a lot, that I think he's a bit better than that. So it's too bad he became the team's third first baseman to hurt his back (what the hell is up with that, anyway?) It means that he remains stuck behind the Memory of Adam Lind - just as he was in the midst of demonstrating that he's a) better than the Reality of Adam Lind, and b) better than the starting first baseman of about a dozen major league teams. You'd think that could have drawn some interest over the winter. I don't think it will now. Fun fact: 17 different players had more than 100 plate appearances for the 2012 Jays, and just three of them - the fewest of any AL team - managed an OPS+ better than 100: Edwin Encarnacion (150), Jose Bautista (136), and David Cooper (110).

J.P. Arencibia C
Went and hurt himself at the very moment when he seemed to be making enough progress as a hitter to lift him a level beyond Rod Barajas and his ilk. It was probably just a mirage, just a random hot streak. He's more likely to make real progress as a defender than as a hitter. There's certainly plenty of room for improvement. While Arencibia's defensive skill set may never be that good, he should continue to develop his abilities to handle his pitcher and call the game. Catchers generally don't develop a whole lot as hitters - the position just beats the crap out of them too much. In fact, they're even more likely to simply stop hitting altogether. The ones who last do so on the strength of their defense.  Anyway, I would assume that Arencibia will be the Number One trade chip being offered in exchange for pitching this winter.

Jason Frasor C
(Box grade: C+)
A very strange year from Jason - it was like he wasn't even here. Yes, he was on the shelf for almost two months. But he still appeared in 50 games. He pitched decently enough, but he did it like a ghost. Didn't leave a trace. No footprints, nothing. All I remember is the grand slam Ibanez hit. Weird.

Chad Jenkins C  (Box grade: D+)
Everyone says he'd be marginal, at best, as a starter. But failed and marginal starters regularly turn into effective relievers. You just have to put up with a lot of failure before they submit to their fate. So what I found most interesting about Jenkins was how much he seemed to enjoy being a relief pitcher. He was positively enthusiastic about the whole concept; about the chance that he could pitch any day, as opposed to going to the park four days out of five knowing that he was going to be a spectator.

Yunel Escobar C (Box grade: C-)
He's a strange one. Remember all the flash and pizzazz he had when he arrived, the spectacular plays he made? It's almost completely disappeared, and been replaced by a ruthlessly efficient machine in the field. He's just an outstanding defensive player, and at one of the most important defensive spots on the diamond. And I think that much of what went wrong with his bat this season was a case of simple bad luck. His BABiP dropped by 43 points, by more than 30 points below his career average, and he may have started pressing as a result. He wasn't really swinging at bad pitches, but he did start hacking at the first decent pitch he saw. He didn't draw nearly as many walks as he has in the past as a consequence. I would expect him to bounce back in 2013. Ideally, he'll re-establish his market value (which just took a hit) and bring back something useful in mid-season. The heir apparent is banging on the door.

J.A. Happ C (Box grade: C+)
It's hard to be sure from the little we saw of him, but the team might have found something here. The Astros are such an awful team that all their players look bad.

Aaron Laffey C-
Exactly the type of pitcher Anthopoulos should have been scooping up by the truckload before the season started. Fringe major leaguers, signed to minor league contracts - throw a bunch of them at the wall and hope you get lucky with a couple. Instead he threw the kids into the Valley of Death, like the Light Brigade at Balaclava, like Pickett at Gettysburg. Ask Robert E. Lee how that worked out.

Brad Lincoln C-
(Box grade: C)
Neal Huntington may have pulled one on Anthopoulos here, cashing in a guy who got hot for half a season for someone with at least a chance to be a solid regular. You never know. Lincoln might be a decent bullpen part going forward. Or he might not.

Drew Hutchison C- (Box grade: C+)
Pitched far better than anyone had a right to expect, and suffered a serious injury in the process. I just don't see how you can put a 21 year old kid with exactly 31.2 IP above A ball in your rotation and not expect something bad to happen.

Kyle Drabek C- (Box grade: D)
I was kind of impressed, in a weird sort of way. It's pretty much impossible for a pitcher to be effective if he walks almost 6 batters per 9 innings. But Drabek came about as close as you can come. He hung in there, and kept battling. He battled until his arm fell off. Again. Hard to be optimistic about his future as a starter after a second Tommy John operation. I don't think Jason Frasor's career has any relevance in this case.

Colby Rasmus D+ (Box grade: C)
Played quite well for three months, and then turned into a pumpkin. He was probably playing through injury as well, and it worked just as well for him as it did for Johnson. And like Johnson, that makes it hard to know what to make of his year as a whole, and hard to know exactly what the team has in him. I still think Rasmus is basically the next Lloyd Moseby if all goes well. A little better than Moseby in the field, not quite as effective at the plate or on the bases. That's if all goes well, and I have some concerns. Rasmus is four seasons into his career, and he's hit .243/.313/.424 with 76 HRs in 569 games. Four seasons into his career, Moseby had hit .258/.313/.405 with 45 HRs in 512 games. Each had had one outstanding season (at age 23) and three seasons that weren't very impressive. But Moseby was more than two years younger at this stage of his career, and his three lousy seasons were at ages 20, 21, and 22 - he took a big step forward in his fourth season at age 23, and remained productive in the following years. Rasmus had an outstanding sophomore season at age 23, but he's spent the two following years going backwards. You'd have to be a fool not to be concerned about him.

Jeff Mathis D+ (Box grade: C-)
For a while there, his offense was a total surprise. Completely out of the blue, he wasn't embarrassing himself with the bat. Far from it - for the first half of the season, the team didn't lose any offense when he replaced Arencibia (who is only in the major leagues because of his bat.) But then Arencibia got hurt. Within a week, Mathis' bat, such as it is, fell right off the face of the earth and explored new and previously uncharted depths of futility. From July 29 until Arencibia's return in early September, Mathis hit .146/.170/.260. Not even Mike Scioscia would have tolerated that. But as for his defense - yet again, his team's pitchers shaved nearly half a run off their ERA when working with Mathis. I realize everybody regards Catcher ERA as a flawed and unreliable stat, subject to massive illusions and outside influences. Unlike those utterly perfect and illuminating stats, like... well, none of them seem to be coming to my mind. Anyway, it really appears that there may be catchers who persist in posting the same random flukey thing year after year after year - Jose Molina! - so you might just consider the possibility that behind this flawed and illusory statistic lurks a genuine ability. The root of that ability? Who knows. Is he a master psychologist? Does he receive and frame pitches nicely? Does he slip the umpire a handful of bills at the start of the game? I sure as hell don't know. But just because you can't explain why something happens doesn't mean it's not happening. Half a run a game is a huge freaking deal. On offense, that would be roughly the same as the difference between the 2012 versions of Edwin Encarnacion and Yunel Escobar.

Kelly Johnson D
I believe that this guy is normally a good baseball player. Certainly, he was one in April and May. He was what he's always been, a guy who takes his walks, provides some pop, and plays quite a bit better in the field than you expect him to, for some reason. But it all went sideways and I think we know why at this point. Towards the end of the season, Johnson finally acknowledged how much trouble his hamstring had caused him, especially at the plate. The player is always going to want to play, and sometimes the team has to step in and say "No. You need to get healthy." That didn't happen, which hurt the 2012 team. It also didn't do Johnson any favours as he looks for a new contract this winter. In the absence of a better alternative, I'd certainly bring him back, but I'd like a qualified backup on hand this time. Just in case.

Rajai Davis D (Box grade: C+)
I've reached the stage with Davis where everything he does bothers me and you probably need to take that into account. I especially think of the way he stalks defiantly away from the batter's box after whiffing on a fastball two feet out of the zone. Or the way he stands there proudly at second base after stealing successfully, and setting up the... intentional walk to the team's only good hitter. He makes me crazy, absolutely crazy. Like a really fast Corey Patterson.  Davis brings outstanding speed and an extremely aggressive mindset to the basepaths and the outfield. But he also brings pretty bad judgement and an excessive amount of what can only be described as carelessness. While he will occasionally shock you with an utterly amazing play in the outfield, overall he is simply a bad outfielder. His speed does allow him to outrun many of his mistakes; unfortunately he makes so many mistakes that there's no way he can outrun them all. Every throw is an adventure, every decision is a risk, every judgement is a bad one. He made many more dumb plays than Brett Lawrie, and Davis ain't no rookie.

Henderson Alvarez D-

Alvarez had - and probably still has - a chance to develop into a really good major league pitcher. But in order to do so he needs to develop a third pitch that he can use to strike out the occasional hitter. This is not negotiable. It's also not a particularly easy thing to do - there are plenty of pitchers who spent their entire careers trying to develop a good third pitch. Unfortunately, this organization has decided that the American League is just the place for Alvarez to attempt this difficult task.  He was 21 years when they made that judgement. Here's more good news - by the time he does develop this essential skill, if he ever does, he'll probably be just a year or two away from free agency. So I think that was a pretty bad idea.

Adam Lind D-
(Box grade: F)
We'll always have 2009, although it's pretty clear by now that it was a fluke. He simply got hot and stayed hot for a whole year. He's actually had streaks in each of the last three seasons where's he hit just as well as he did in 2009. Unfortunately, he's mixed them up with plenty of stretches that Jeff Mathis would be reluctant to acknowledge. His contract was one of the first moves Anthopoulos made that impressed anyone. Now, even though it's not particularly onerous, I think we're all waiting for it to run out. One more year...

Adeiny Hechevarria D- (Box grade: D)
I'm impressed. Really impressed. I don't think he's quite there yet, but he's really close. Looked completely overmatched at the plate when he came up, but he didn't seem to get discouraged, kept plugging away, and by September he was showing clear signs of Figuring It Out. And even if he never amounts to much with the bat, I would point out that the Blue Jays won a championship with Manuel Lee at shortstop and I'm pretty sure Hechevarria can provide that level of offense. Defensively there's no comparison. At shortstop - and he's a shortstop, not a second baseman - he's just a friggin' natural. He actually  reminds me - just a little - of young Tony Fernandez in the field. Hechevarria is built quite differently and he doesn't have Tony's wide assortment of idiosyncratic throwing methods - who does? - but he's that smooth, that slick, that completely self-assured in the field. Nothing a batted baseball does will ever surprise him. He's going to be a lot of fun to watch.

Ben Francisco D- (Box grade: E)
He's a guy who could have some use as a bench player on some teams. This wasn't that team, and it was obvious as far back as back in March that this wasn't going to be that team. The obvious question from the start was always "What exactly is this guy doing here?"

Moises Sierra D-
(Box grade: D+)
Not sure what to make of him. Some days he reminded me of George Bell, some days he reminded me of Robert Perez. Well, he's more of a George Bell type - just a lesser version. A smaller talent and (obviously!) a smaller personality.

Brett Cecil D- (Box grade: D)
I assume his days as a starter are over, but you never know. Right now, I think Cecil's best chance to make the team in 2013 would be if Darren Oliver retires. The type of LHP Loup is mandates that the team have at least one other southpaw in the pen. Luis Perez won't be around, and if  Oliver decides he's seen enough hotel rooms, there's a an opening for Cecil.

Anthony Gose D- (Box grade: C-)
I was going to give him an E before he started to hit a little in September. I do like him, whatever the grade. He's really raw, but he obviously has impressive tools. He can simply fly, on the bases and in the outfield; he's also got one of those big Ellis Valentine-type long distance artillery arms (as opposed to the low flying laser beams of Barfield or Suzuki.) Unfortunately, the rockets Gose's arm sends into orbit haven't quite worked out the kinks in the guidance system, and seldom hit their intended target. At the plate, he was generally overmatched by major league pitchers. I do like the looks of him as a hitter, and I do think he's going to hit major league pitching enough to hold a job. It might not happen for a while, maybe not until 2014 and right now, I think if you gave gave him 150 games in the AL, he'd be a threat to strike out 230 times. But he looks like a keeper.

Eric Thames D-
(Box grade: F)
Didn't play very well here, but he's a better player than that. I like him, but he's a man out of time. He's a defensively challenged outfielder, whose bat isn't quite good enough to justify him being a regular LF or DH. He'd probably be a fine platoon outfielder, or a bat off the bench - but in the modern game, there's simply no roster room available for this type of player. He's been squeezed out of work by the seven man bullpen.

Ricky Romero E
Romero's been a good player in the past, and I expect he'll be a good player in the future. He's hardly the first good player to have a terrible year - just this year, he was joined by Tim Lincecum and Jon Lester, among others - and it's not like his ability suddenly and totally vanished. What happened, I think, is that Ricky forgot what his job was. As you may recall, Romero won eight of his first nine decisions. But he wasn't pitching particularly well, and he wasn't very happy about his performance. His teammates told him not to worry about it. "Take the wins!" they told him. Because the baseball player's job is not to play well. His job is to win. Playing the game well is certainly the most reliable way to win, but playing well is not the point of the enterprise. The point is to win that day's game. And so if you pitch well, or if you have four hits and drive in three, and the team loses - the enterprise was a failure. Well, winning wasn't good enough for Romero, and he couldn't leave it alone. He wanted to pitch better, and he tried to fix whatever was wrong. In the process, everything got totally messed up. He lost a bit of his fastball command, which created problems in setting up his other pitches, and everything spiraled out of control. And while on one level, he dealt with it like a pro and took his punishment like a man - on another level he didn't deal with it very well at all. Professional athletes usually respond to failure with defiance - they don't believe it, they don't accept it, they don't expect it to happen again. This is often highly delusional, but it's pretty much a necessary trick of the mind for most of them. I'll get them tomorrow. After a while, Romero seemed unable to summon that up. He was merely depressed and frustrated. And his frustration, which reached about 137 on a scale of 10, ended up exacerbating the situation. He lost his mind, his focus, his confidence, his trust, his belief, his reason to live, and the key to the secret kingdom. Man, he was lost.  I'm sure this was bewildering and painful for him but coping with failure is a pretty big part of the game. Deal with it.

Yan Gomes E
Here's a guy who was practically invented to fill a role on a modern league bench. He's a catcher who can also fill in at both infield corners and in left field. What a concept! But once again, it's just not going to work if he struggles to crack the Mendoza Line.

Mike McCoy E
He'd also be a nice bench part, with his ability to play all over the diamond and provide some speed off the bench. Except he can't play a passable major league shortstop, and we know he can't crack the Mendoza Line.

Francisco Cordero E (Box grade: F)
He really did have stretches when he pitched...  well? Let's not go that far. Better to say stretches when nothing totally disastrous happened while he was out there. Maybe he'd load the bases, but manage to escape without anyone scoring. That's the sort of thing would make up his 2012 highlight reel. That Coco didn't actually descend to F level until he arrived in Houston was probably just a matter of dumb luck on his part. We can say that he generally dealt with his failures with class and professionalism. He certainly had no shortage of opportunities to work on his mea culpas. It's an old story - the game leaves us before we're ready to leave the game. He's had a fine career. I can't imagine it continuing, but sometimes they surprise you.

Joel Carreno E
I liked him a year ago. Damned if I can remember why. Which means I probably never actually saw him pitch, and just looked at his numbers. That's usually a mistake (for me anyway!)

Omar Vizquel E
Seems like a really interesting guy - athletes with genuine artistic talent are uncommon. But he's no longer a major league ballplayer. So does anyone care how interesting a guy he is? Well, I do. But I don't want him on my baseball team.

Jesse Chavez F
(Box grade: E)
I suppose there was no harm in finding out why he was having so much success in the PCL. Based on what happened to Chavez in the AL, one suspects that  PCL hitters aren't all that good. I guess he was better than Igarashi. And Dyson. And me.