The most tempting thing, early in the season, is to over-react to small sample sizes. The Blue Jays are 1-5, panic! Similarly the minor leagues have many players hitting over .500, or zero, and pitchers with good or bad starts. I am going to ignore those for now. Buffalo and Lansing have started with three and four wins respectively. Dunedin are 2-2 and New Hampshire 1-2.
You probably heard over the weekend that Tellez hit two home runs on Friday night. One was to left and one was to right. With the excitement level still high, Tellez was 0-4 with three strikeouts on Sunday. Tellez is still learning how to play at the AAA level and we need to give him time to see how he settles in.
Tellez's prospect status is a big question. Some of it comes from the fact that he is a first baseman. Most major league first basement started out at some other position and when their fielding was not up to standard they moved to first base. A lot of the skepticism comes from some prospect experts, chief among them Keith Law, who think Tellez's swing is too slow. We hope that is not right but what do we look for over the season to see what we can learn? First we should see how Tellez hits against the better AAA pitchers who are either top prospects or fringe major leaguers. Second we should pay attention if we see Tellez is facing a hard thrower, can he get around on the fastball? And finally, look to see where Tellez hits his home runs? Tellez has a lot of opposite field power which is a great trait to have as long as you can hit the inside fastball. If your bat is slow it is easier to hit to the opposite field, the hitter has a fraction more time. If Tellez is showing power to right field, particularly against the pitchers I mentioned in my first two points, then he will look like a good prospect.
I saw a prospect report this winter that commented on Alford being a raw prospect. Now that Alford has been a full time baseball player for over two years I think the raw label is done. Jays manager John Gibbons was very complementary of Alford after spring training saying that he saw a great improvement in approach and ability in Alford over the last year. Alford's 2016 was disrupted with injuries, if he can show that improvement on the field this year, he could jump up the top prospects lists.
Dwight Smith Jr.
Smith spent the last two years in AA and his offense was all right, but not outstanding. Smith has started the year hitting six for nine. He has one strikeout so his BABIP is 750. One of his six hits went for extra bases. Expect regression. Having said that Smith is 24 and if he is to have a breakout season, this would be his chance to do it.
Vlad Guerrero Jr.
Vlad is off to a hot start. His OPS after four games is over 1300. But I did want to look at what has happened in the games. Vlad had two hits in the first game including a home run. In the next three games Vlad has walked five times. The pitchers are starting to be careful. What happens from here? Pitchers will likely not want to challenge him and will throw more pitches off the plate and off-speed. Vlad's reaction can go a couple of ways. He could start swinging at bad pitches and striking out or grounding out weakly. Or he could just take his walks and be an on base machine. In that case the Jays might have to look at promoting Guerrero to face pitchers who will challenge him.
Conner Greene's start on Saturday was similar to his 2015 starts. He threw 84 pitches in 4.1 innings and walked five hitters. Over the weekend I listened to the latest episode of the At the Letters podcast. Usually the podcast has Ben Nicholson Smith and Arden Zwelling rehashing the weeks games. However the latest podcast has Stephen Brunt joining the guys. The first half has Brunt discussing his Aaron Sanchez documentary airing now on Sportsnet. In the second half they discuss spring training and scuttlebutt around the team. In it they say that Greene is on the trading block, that the team is trying to sell high on him. They suggest he is too full of himself and also say he came into camp throwing as hard as he could to try and make the team. Greene bears watching to see if it looks like he is developing. This spring the media had many stories of Greene following the Aaron Sanchez winter program. Keep a close eye on this space!
Third Star - Jason Leblebijian, 2-3, 2 run home run, 3 RBI
Second Star - Christian Lopes, walk-off two run home run
First Star - Ryan Hissey, 2-4, grand slam HR,6 RBI