Blue Jays Report Card

Monday, October 01 2018 @ 05:30 AM EDT

Contributed by: Magpie

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. It wasn't the Season From Hell, but there was punishment.

The 2018 Jays somehow got off to a decent start (16-12 through April 30.)  This was remarkable because four regulars (Grichuk, Martin, Travis and Morales) had lost their ability to hit a baseball and the third baseman was unable to throw the ball across the diamond, Baseball, eh? (It was J.A. Happ and the bullpen that carried the team.) But the wheels fell off soon enough and we were left at last with no doubt whatsoever that the 2015-16 run was over. Totally Over. Utterly, Finally, Irretrievably Over. Which many had already suspected, but it's definitely helpful to know for sure. Well, we now know for sure.

The grades, as always, are extracted from somewhere in the vicinity of my nether regions. There is nothing remotely scientific about it. The grades mean something like this, more or less:

A - Outstanding (in the MVP/Cy Young discussion)
B - Good (maybe an All-Star, who knows)
C - Average (generic regular)
D - Below Average (replacement level, bench part, something like that)
E - Fail (belongs in the minors)
F - Epic Fail (needs to find gainful employment in some other line of work.)

The cutoff, as in years past, was 50 plate appearances for the hitters and either 10 appearances or 20 IP for the pitchers. The most interesting guys who missed that cut were Reese McGuire (at this stage, looks quite a bit like a LH Maile) and Jonathan Davis (really like everything about him except his bat, alas, which is awful enough to kill his chance to have a major league career)

And for the first time since I started doing these - and that was way back in 2009, you young 'uns - no one gets an A this year. All we can say about that is SAD! It did inspire me to go back over franchise history and see what other seasons might have qualified for such a dubious accomplishment. I singled out three other similarly dismal campaigns: 1977, 1979, and 2004. And I also note that both 1978 and 1995 would have had an asterisk attached, each year getting its only A grade from a player who spent only a partial season with the team (Victor Cruz and David Cone, respectively.) Dave Stieb would have earned the most A grades (seven, including five in a row); Tom Henke, Carlos Delgado, and Roy Halladay would have earned six apiece (including the year when I unaccountably gave Doc a B+, because I'm just an idiot sometimes.)


John Gibbons C
Did what he could with what he had. I don't think anyone blames Gibbons for the team's record. I know I don't, and I know I don't blame Ross Atkins either. (I'd begin by blaming Josh Donaldson, Marcus Stroman, and Aaron Sanchez and proceed from there. There's lots to go round and no shortage of guilty parties.) I've described Gibbons in the past as a perfectly fine pilot when the machine is in good working order, words which don't exactly describe the 2018 Blue Jays. The team needs something else now. Gibbons himself didn't sound all that interested in being part of a Rebuild from Scratch anyway. (Well, not at first though it did occur to him later that these jobs are "hard to come by.")

Ross Atkins D+
Atkins wasn't quite ready to pull the plug on the 2015-16 team last winter. For starters,  they still had Tulowitzki and Martin and their Contracts on the roster, which somewhat gummed up the prospects of Tearing It All Down. So Atkins didn't immediately write off the 2018 season. And hey -  Tulowitzki, Travis, and Sanchez had missed huge chunks of the 2017 season. And after finally getting healthy, Donaldson had closed out the season with a Stupendous burst of power and production. Maybe there was still some life left in the old beast. But  for the most part, Atkins was not willing to actually invest anything significant on the 2018 team either. That proved ... prudent. It did mean his approach to the season basically amounted to sitting around and waiting for it all to be over, which is a little weird but made a certain strange kind of sense.  I'm sure Atkins regrets the $8 million he gave to Jaime Garcia, but the money is spent, the player is gone, and he's not on the hook for anything going forward. While Tulowitzki and Martin and their Contracts are still around, the end is at last in sight. We're finally getting done with the team Atkins inherited, and he can get to work on building something new.


Justin Smoak B
Smoak came reasonably close to matching his 2017 breakout season. Some of his home runs turning into doubles was the most significant difference. He was steady and consistent all season long. Until September his worst monthly OPS was .728, but both he and Morales stopped hitting in the final month. The playing time for both veterans became somewhat erratic in September as Gibbons tried to squeeze some of the kids into the lineup. Anyway, Smoak's consistency made him something of an outlier on this team, most of whose hitters were going up and down like a bunch of yo-yos. (A yo-yo was a toy, from my distant childhood. Google it if you must.)  The Jays can exercise a $8 million option to bring Smoak back next season, which I expect they'll do. I certainly would. I'm not ready to cast him aside and install Rowdy Tellez quite yet. For one thing, Smoak was more productive in the American League than Tellez was in the International League. Counts for something.

Ryan Borucki B
Borucki was the team's best starting pitcher in 2018, which wasn't something predicted by too many people before the season began. I myself was barely aware of his existence. And being the best starter on the 2018 Blue Jays isn't saying much, I realize. Nevertheless - there's a lot to like here. Borucki's always around the plate and  he keeps the ball in the park. No one on this staff is less likely to give up a home run, and in the modern game (hell, any version of the game) not giving up walks or home runs comes highly recommended. Plus he's absolutely fearless out there. That's plenty to begin with. Let's see what he makes of it all. I certainly like him. Mark Buehrle, whose uniform number he wears, is his role model, and I loved Mark Buehrle so I'm already in his corner.  Borucki doesn't actually remind me all that much of the original. Yes, Borucki works quickly, and yes, he doesn't exactly frighten the radar guns. But Borucki does throw quite a bit harder than Buehrle ever did and of course no one has ever worked quite that fast.  And finally,  the opposition had 16 SB in Borucki's 17 starts, and it would be hard for a pitcher to be less like Buehrle in that regard.  The vast majority of baserunners who were foolish enough to even think about running on Buehrle  were promptly removed from the basepaths and dispatched back to their own dugout, there to reflect further upon their foolishness. I am not exaggerating, by the way. The career numbers against Buehrle were 58 SB, 81 CS, 100 Picked Off. Yeah, he was something, wasn't he?

Seunghwan Oh B
Traded to Colorado at deadline time, he was obviously the team's best relief pitcher in 2018. A low bar, I admit, but he cleared it with ease.

Roberto Osuna B
Traded to Houston at the deadline. Pitched well. It doesn't matter. Women go to baseball games, too. I remember quite clearly how angry every woman I knew was when the Jays signed Jose Canseco twenty years ago. They were all outraged.  As far as I can tell, the only thing that's changed since then is that women have grown somewhat less inclined to put up with the same old crap. So... good riddance.

J.A. Happ B-
Traded to the Yankees at the deadline, Happ had another strong season. Unfortunately for the Blue Jays, the prospect of the impending trade deadline may have got into his head just a little. For no apparent reason, in the month before the deadline Happ ran off what was by far his worst stretch of starts since rejoining the Jays in 2016. Once his destiny was settled, he went back to being a very good pitcher. All on behalf of the Evil Empire, of course. But I doubt that his July struggles had any negative impact on the trade return. Major league teams are smarter than that.  Happ was a few months shy of his 33rd birthday when Seattle traded him to Pittsburgh at the deadline in 2015. His career record at the time 55-59, 4.24. Since then, he's gone 54-23, 3.29. I suppose everyone wants to give Ray Searage the credit, and maybe they're right.  But it's baseball, and no one knows anything. Leo Mazzone was a genius when he worked with Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and John Smoltz. He wasn't nearly as clever when he was coaching Daniel Cabrera, Kris Benson, and Rodrigo Lopez.

Steve Pearce B-
Traded to Boston a few weeks before the deadline. He hits and he gets hurt.  Or he gets hurt and he hits. One or the other.

Rowdy Tellez B-
The Rowdy one certainly announced his presence with authority, but anyone can get hot for a week and it was September, after all. If he's ready, he's ready, but that's a pretty large but. (Please feel free to insert your own joke about Tellez' physical attributes here. If you must.) At any rate, I need to see more. (Of his performance on the field, I mean. Geez, this keeps getting worse and worse, one word at a time...)  Anyway, I'd really like to see Tellez open the year in Buffalo, beat up on AAA pitching for a while, and then see if  the team can move Smoak in mid-season for something shiny and attractive. Tellez, of course, isn't obliged to cooperate with this plan.

Kevin Pillar C+
On the one hand, I'm just about ready to move on. Pillar's still a good player, but most of his value is defensive and he'll be 30 in a couple of months. Defensive value peaks and declines quicker and earlier than offensive value, which is something Pillar doesn't provide. (We have finally, finally given up on the idea of Pillar improving as a hitter, haven't we? The man is what he is.) On the other hand, you always need a centre fielder, because otherwise an awful lot of balls are just going to fall in between the other two guys out there. And all things considered, I think you'd especially prefer to have a good one behind a staff of unproven young pitchers. Anthony Alford has done nothing yet that suggests to me that he's going to be ready for the Show in 2019. And Randal Grichuk looks like a guy who can move over from the corner when the regular needs a day off, but I don't think I like the idea of seeing him in centre every day.  Well, there is a Dream Scenario out there. In Buffalo next April and May, Alford starts hitting AAA pitching at the level he hit AA pitching in 2017. Meanwhile, Pillar gets off to another one of his hot starts at the plate - this time it's for real, folks! - and at precisely this juncture, some contender finds itself with a pressing and unforeseen need for a centre fielder. A plentiful bounty is extracted and everyone lives happily ever after. The chances of all these dominoes falling so perfectly into place are Slim and None, in all likelihood. Anyway, I'm mildly curious as to how Pillar's arbitration numbers are going to shake out. Pillar's often been linked with Kevin Kiermaier of the Rays, a reasonably similar player (Tampa Kevin is a year younger, another defensive whiz, a better hitter, but not nearly as durable.) Toronto Kevin is obviously not going to get anything like Kiermaier's contract (6 years, 53.5 million) out of the Jays. But might he get one year at something like Kiermaier money (which was $5.5 million this year, $8 million next year.) I think the team could live with that, especially when they contemplate the existing alternatives. Or lack of same.

Tim Mayza C+
I expected - well, let's say I hoped for  - a little bit more from Mayza than we got. At least he was better than Loup, which was probably what mattered most. But here's the thing - Mayza was optioned to Buffalo on March 29 to start the season. Over the next four months, he was recalled to the Show and then optioned back to Buffalo six times. Not once did he stick around for three weeks. That may be clever roster management, but I think it's generally counter-productive. It's hard enough to establish yourself as a major league player without the threat of being sent back to the minors every time you give up a run hanging over your head. And I'll tell you this, too - every time it happens, it's a crushing disappointment to the player. Going back to the buses after you've had a taste of the bright lights? It's going to hurt.  (Maybe the purpose is to develop mental toughness, I don't know.) Anyway, Mayza finally came up to stay in mid-August and promptly became the best relief pitcher on the team from that point forward, posting a 1.96 ERA in 21 appearances (20 of which were scoreless.)  He also allowed just 4 of his 27 Inherited Runners to come home, best on the team by quite a bit.

Randal Grichuk C+
It's become a thing with me, but I just get far too excited when RH hitters come to Toronto from the National League. I think the technical term is Bautista-Encarnacion Syndrome. Anyway, I actually said to Liam before the season started that I thought Grichuk might hit 35 HRs in Toronto. In my defense, from June through the end of the season - four months - he did hit .270/.318/.552 with 23 HRs, which is Fine and Dandy and also very much within shouting distance of a 35 homer pace. But it's a six month season and both April (hitting, how do you do that?) and May (that hurts!) happened. Grichuk been better against RHP in three of his five seasons, and had no discernible platoon split at all in the other two. As a Jay, he got hot against southpaws at the end of the year and finished up .237/.295/.505 against RH and .263/.313/.496 against LH.

Aledmys Diaz C+
Like his fellow ex-Cardinal, Diaz is another RH batter who doesn't show much in the way of a platoon split. Diaz in fact has generally had a reverse split in each of his MLB seasons. Kevin Pillar also had a reverse split (very out of character for Pillar, who normally hits quite a bit better against southpaws.) The two switch-hitters, Smoak and Morales, were both very good against RH and both struggled against lefties. You see a trend developing here? Aledmys just might be the least flashy player ever to come out of Cuba, but he grows on you. He's a nice player - he seems reliable, low-maintenance, a better hitter than your average middle infielder - and the team will likely have need of his services next year.  (I mean even if Tulowitzki is able to play again, you have to assume that he's going to be a day-to-day proposition for the rest of his life.) Diaz will be a handy guy to have around.  I have no real sense at all of his defense at short. What did you folks think? He seemed competent enough, not really good but not really bad. He does  seem like a guy who'd make a fine utility infielder, although he's not really well qualified for the job. He's never really played anywhere except shortstop. (Coming into this past season, he'd played 23 pro innings at 3b, and just 4 innings at 2b.) One does assume that if you're capable of playing shortstop in the majors, you can probably handle the other two spots. But he's never actually done it, and they are quite different positions. 

Kendrys Morales C+
Baseball, eh? After looking completely washed up for the first six weeks (he was hitting .146/.230/.270 on May 17), Morales ditched the eye-glasses he had adopted to compensate for the failing vision in his right eye. And in so doing, he miraculously turned back the clock, and became the team's best hitter. From May 19 through the end of August, Morales hit .298/.372/.547 and even chipped in an emergency inning at third base and pitcher without grievously embarrassing himself or the ball club. Like Smoak, he stopped hitting in September as his playing time dried up and disappeared while young persons were being auditioned. There was something exceedingly strange about Morales' revival, besides the fact that his season turned around after he took off the glasses.  Kendrys came into the league as a switch-hitter with no platoon split and in time he had gradually devolved into a guy who killed LH pitching while struggling against the RH throwers. But this year he completely reversed that trend -  beating up on RH pitching (.274/.366/.495 even while turning his bad eye toward them) while scuffling against southpaws (.199/.258/.324). Who knows? Maybe he just needs glasses when he's batting right-handed.  But it all worked out, didn't it? Wouldn't we all rather be looking forward to one more year of Morales at $12 million than the deal Encarnacion famously passed on (which at this point would involve two more years at $20 million a year.) Today that feels like a bullet, dodged. Tulowitzki doesn't have that much guaranteed money coming. (Almost, though.)

Lourdes Gurriel C+
Still looks really raw, but obviously circumstances have interfered with his development quite a bit. He didn't play at all in 2016, and injuries limited him to just 64 games in 2017.  I don't know what he is yet, neither do you, and neither does his team. He seems to have All the Tools, as they say. He looks like he has the arm and athleticism to be a good shortstop. He is not a good shortstop, however, and his eventual spot on the diamond is To Be Determined.  He does look like he can handle major league pitching - he may actually hit 30 HRs in a full season someday - but he also looks like yet another member of the team's Hit the Ball before the Ball Hits You brigade. Which is a thing, because if you have four or five guys like this in your lineup every day, you're just not going to have enough people on base to score many runs. There's no way. And Kevin Pillar, Devon Travis and Aledmys Diaz are charter members of this club and it's not like Grichuk and Hernandez are on-base machines themselves. At the beginning of September I noticed that Gurriel and Grichuk were both running a siginificant reverse platoon split. That did not hold up for either player. Gurriel in particular spent the final month absolutely hammering the southpaws, and  finished the season as one of the team's two best hitters against LH pitching. Gurriel and Luke Maile. How sad is that?

Curtis Granderson C
Traded to Milwaukee at the August deadline. He's nowhere near the player he used to be, of course, but he can still help you out if you keep him away from the southpaws. I will always have fond, fond memories of  his walk-off homer against Kimbrel. I mean, Craig Freaking Kimbrel? The guy with the career ERA+ of 217? The guy who strikes out three batters for every one who manages a base hit? A walkoff homer? Please. Against Kimbrel I tend to be impressed when someone manages a foul ball. That was worth it, all by itself. The fact that Granderson is one of the game's better people, and it's always good to have guys like that around, was icing on the cake. (It provides good organizational karma.) With the notable exception of the 2015-16 seasons, John Gibbons in both his terms as the skipper has consistently used more pinch-hitters than almost any AL manager - his teams have led the league in PH appearances several times, including the season just past - and Granderson was his best at the job this year. (Hernandez was the worst.)

Russell Martin C
Martin was sufficiently alarmed by his offensive production this past year - not that there were very many catchers in the AL who hit better than Martin anyway, as disturbing as that may be . - that he was talking about doing off-season work that specifically addressed his hitting. Good idea, dude. Apparently it's not his normal practice - Martin's off-season regimen has mostly focused on overall body maintenance, which does seem to be a good plan if you're an elderly catcher. But when you're looking up at the Mendoza Line special measures would seem to be appropriate. There's one year left on his contract and it's not likely to hurt the team. He's still, at the very worst, a league average catcher. No, he can't throw anymore but it's not like anyone steals bases in the modern game anyway. It's probably a good idea to have him around to help school the young catchers. It's definitely a good idea to have him behind the plate handling the young pitchers.

Billy McKinney C
Came over in the Happ trade and promptly hit .395/.478/.763 in his first month with the team. Just as we were all penciling him in for a job on the 2019 team, he went out and hit  .182/.232/.325 in his second month. You may want to Google "yo-yo" once again.  What he is, how good he is... no one has any idea yet. I'm hoping for good enough to get Hernandez out of the everyday lineup. McKinney is almost two years younger and he was a better player in his two month audition. But McKinney's not going to be nominated for a Gold Glove anytime soon either, and he hasn't demonstrated yet that he can hit a LH pitcher (He had just 23 plate appearances against the Sinister Ones.)

Dwight Smith C
Smith is one of those guys who gets no respect, and consequently gets no opportunities. It's not going to make any difference, but he might be a better baseball player - in every facet of the game - than Teoscar Hernandez. Teoscar is exactly 11 days older than Smith, and has certainly received an opportunity.  But I promise you we're not going to find out.  I don't expect Smith's situation to change. I don't expect to see him get any kind of a shot. It probably doesn't matter. But youneverknow.

Teoscar Hernandez C
With younger LH batters like McKinney, Smith, and Tellez threatening to take away some of his at bats, Teoscar might be well advised to carve out a role for himself as a lefty-masher. But that's not happening - he didn't have much of a platoon split at all, and what there was saw him hit a little better against righties. I'm not a fan at this stage. He's like Tepera to me - he's not bad, he just isn't very good. Hernandez hits doubles and home runs, which is a fine thing. It's just that he doesn't hit an especially large number of them and he really doesn't do anything else. He needs to either add something to his offensive game or (much more likely) simply do more of what he already does. Which is not beyond the realm of possibility - he hasn't harnessed it yet, but he has big-time power. But as for his defense? Avert your eyes, people.  I don't know why he's such an awful outfielder. He seems to have the requisite athleticism, he seems serious enough about wanting to improve.  Is it possible that playing the outfield isn't quite as easy as some of these guys make it look? The worst defensive outfield I have ever seen was the group that Tim Johnson ran out there for a couple of weeks in July 1998. It had Jose Canseco in RF, Shawn Green in CF, and Tony Phillips in LF. If you weren't unfortunate enough to actually see them play, I don't know how I could possibly describe it. Just be aware that it's twenty years later and I'm still traumatized by the experience. As you can probably tell. Hernandez would not have been out of place with that crew. George Bell, at his absolute worst, after the knee and shoulder issues, was never this bad. I  think Bell, who was actually a pretty good outfielder when he came to Toronto, might be pretty relevant to the current situation. Bell heard so much and so often about his defensive shortcomings that it got into his head. He began to believe it, and began to play the field tentatively, defensively, unsure of whether he could make a play. I think that's starting to happen to Hernandez.

Luke Maile C
I mentioned a few weeks back that Maile, in blatant disregard of all the laws of God and Man, was one of the better hitting catchers in the AL in 2018. This is a good thing, but this was information so shocking, so unexpected that the entire Box community was literally struck speechless upon receiving the news and needed some time to absorb it.  Nevertheless, it's true. Baseball, eh? Unfortunately, the Jays gave up many more runs when Maile was doing the catching. Which was not a good thing, and it was also the exact opposite of what had happened in Maile's games behind the plate with Toronto in 2017 and Tampa in 2015 and 2016. Investigation was called for. So what went wrong? Home runs. Opposing batters hit 91 HRs in 526.2 IP working with Maile, just 76 HRs in 620 IP with Russell Martin. This in turn called for looking at the individual pitchers involved. This isn't always a factor - everybody does better pitching to Jeff Mathis, it's just a fact, accept it people! - but it really was the key variable this time. Maile caught the majority of innings from Marco Estrada and Joe Biagini. Those two guys were both a:) lousy and b) prone to giving up home runs. They allowed 26 HRs in 129 IP with Maile, 11 HRs in 58.2 IP with Martin. The HR ratio is similar, the innings caught was not. Whereas Martin caught the majority of innings worked by J.A. Happ and Ryan Borucki, who were both pretty good and generally better at keeping the ball in the yard. Martin also caught most of Stroman's innings, and while Stroman was pretty lousy himself, he does keep the ball in the park.

Josh Donaldson C
Traded to Cleveland at the waiver deadline. Oh, we had some good times, swell times, times that we'll always remember. Just not this year. Donaldson started only 21 games at 3b, and generally looked like a shadow of his former self in the field and at the plate. The team and the player were both counting on his good health, and both lost, big-time. (I came this close to writing "both lost, bigly.") Anyway, the return on the trade has already demonstrated that to be true for the team, and I expect that Donaldson's upcoming free agent contract will confirm it for the player. That's just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. So why, why, why did the GM wait so long to make the move? Well, Atkins took enough heat this year for trading Donaldson at the waiver deadline - with the player one month away from free agency, after showing up for the season with a dead arm and then missing 100 of 130 games with the worst calf injury in the history of calves - that it's fearful to contemplate what the response would have been had he traded him last winter.  If Atkins had received anything less than Ronald Acuna in return, he'd have been burned in effigy by now. And maybe even then. Trust me, for every thoughtful observer murmuring "Yes, now is the time" there would have been hundreds of  not-so-thoughtful folks roaming the streets with pitchforks and yelling. Atkins is smart enough to know these things, and he's smart enough to know the impact trading Donaldson before the 2018 season would have had on the morale of the team ("Wait, we've given up already?") and on the paying public ("He traded Josh? What the hell?)  It surely wasn't unreasonable to imagine Donaldson playing well enough to make the whole season better for everyone. And even if that was not in the cards, it wasn't unreasonable to think he'd play well enough to bring back a plentiful bounty at the deadline. So Atkins took a chance. It just didn't work. It won't be the last time, either. He's going to do lots of things that don't work. That's the job.

Danny Jansen C
Well, you have to like how he swung the bat in his first look at major league pitching, and it will be nice to have someone in the lineup with some actual plate discipline. Especially as Martin approaches the end. Jansen obviously wasn't particularly in sync with the pitching staff (team ERA was 5.43 with Jansen catching, 5.19 with Maile, 4.38 with Martin), but that's what spring training is for. I assume (I hope!) he'll be Martin's apprentice next year in some type of job-sharing arrangement and graduate to the number one job in 2020.

Ken Giles C
He didn't exactly remind me of Tom Henke at first glance. He kind of grew on me, though. His Toronto numbers were knocked all out of kilter by one disastrous outing against the Red Sox, but he was just fine after that. Giles' history suggests that he may take the game, and its ups and downs, just a little too seriously.  But that's better than not taking it seriously enough. He's obviously got the goods to be an extremely effective relief pitcher, and he's certainly been one in the past. Next year's bullpen is about as close to a blank slate as you can imagine. Of this year's holdovers, Giles might be the most likely to still be around next spring.  Surely Mayza (not just good, but left-handed too!) will be there as well and probably Tepera (though I'm not really a fan.) But the rest? Do they bring back Clippard? How about Guerrieri? Fernandez? Paulino? Shafer? It's a good thing relief pitchers grow on trees because Atkins will need to be shaking a few this winter.

Thomas Pannone C
Doesn't throw quite as hard as Borucki, who I think we already regard as the team's designated soft-tossing LH starter. In his brief audition Pannone has walked a few more guys and given up a few more HRs than Borucki. But he seems to have a pretty good idea of what he's doing out there and and a pretty good idea of what he needs to do in order to succeed. Like Borucki, he doesn't get rattled out there. He just keeps pitching. And that figures - when you don't make the radar guns scream, you need to learn how to pitch. I don't know how effective Pannone will be in a major league rotation but I don't think he's got anything left to learn at the minor league level.

Aaron Sanchez D+
As bounce-back years ago, that wasn't much better than what you'd get from a dead cat. Sanchez came dangerously close to posting a worse WHIP than Biagini, which is terrifying to contemplate. Luckily, he only allows half as many home runs. Listen to me Aaron - if you're not going to strike out a lot of hitters, you have to throw some strikes. This is not negotiable. You can't issue 5 BB every 9 innings. Granted, much of this badness happened during his generally awful month of May (0-3, 5.96 with 17 BB in 22.2 IP.) He was pitching well in June when he went on the DL for six weeks, and he seemed about to close out the year with several strong starts when his finger started acting up again. Sheesh. Al Leiter had a problem with blisters for three months while at Syracuse in 1990 and we're still hearing about it almost 30 years later. One wonders what kind of place Sanchez' issues will eventually assume in Team Lore.

Devon Travis D+
Stayed off the Disabled List for the first time since.... well, ever, I suppose. That's the good news. The bad news is that his BAVG, OBP, and SLUG declined for the fourth year in a row, which is what the scientists call a disturbing trend. In Travis' case, it was mostly because he came out of the gate like Grichuk and Morales, having completely lost the ability to hit. It got Travis sent to Buffalo for a few weeks. He didn't hit there either, but he did do better on his return. But Gurriel or Diaz (or both! After all, Tulowitzki might play some baseball next year, youneverknow) are  threatening to take his job away. Travis needs to step up.

Sean Reid-Foley D
At this moment the favourites for next year's rotation - more or less by default - would have to be Stroman, Sanchez, Borucki, Pannone, and Reid-Foley. That's two RH finesse ground ball pitchers, two "soft-tossing" LH and Reid-Foley, who throws a zillion miles per hour and often doesn't  have much of a clue where it's going. But I really like a bit of  variety from my gang of starters, and Reid-Foley would certainly provide some. The observers who invoked the name of Juan Guzman have nailed his upside, which is considerable. But Reid-Foley definitely, certainly, absolutely  needs some more time in AAA to learn his trade, so I would expect the GM to look some itinerant starters on the cheap to fill that spot in the meantime. At this stage Reid-Foley is still a thrower rather than a pitcher. When his stuff is working he can beat anyone and when it isn't working he doesn't know how to get by. He doesn't have a clue, in fact. There's more life in that arm than anyone else in the picture for next year's rotation, but there's not yet a whole lot of pitching sense in that head. But why would there be? I've got shirts that are older than he is. They don't fit me anymore, but I've still got them.

Richard Urena D
Actually posted some decent offensive numbers with the major league team at the end of the season. Don't be fooled. For a brief, shining moment the goddess of BABiP fell completely in love with Urena. Alas, as we all know, the goddess is one fickle deity and a mighty reckoning will be coming. Urena's bat actually seems to have stopped developing, in which case he's simply not going to hit enough to hold down a major league job. He still strikes out in one of three at bats, which is about the only thing he has in common with Adam Dunn. But let's not write him off just yet. He's still only 22 years old, and it's not like baseball players all develop in a nice steady, linear way. They progress, they stand still, they take a step back, they progress some more. You never know. Urena still has plenty of time to take another step forward. But he needs to take that step.

Tyler Clippard D
Now a free agent. You can do worse at the back of the bullpen, I suppose. Clippard led the team in appearances, which doesn't mean much of anything, but he also led the staff in K/9 ratio, which does suggest that there's still some giddyup on his heater and some movement on his pitches. But his mistakes tend to provide souvenirs for the paying customers. It's a problem. Clippard gave up more homers than Jacob deGrom, who was second in the major leagues in innings pitched. Okay, deGrom is seventeen shades of awesome. It's still just a weird thing. Clipppard also allowed more home runs than either Stroman or Sanchez. I know both guys missed about a dozen starts but they still pitched way, way more innings than Clippard. You can call me old-fashioned but I don't think relief pitchers should give up more of anything than starting pitchers. Especially not home runs.

Ryan Tepera D
He's not bad. He's just not very good. If he was tucked away at the back of the bullpen, your seventh reliever, that would be one thing. But he's been one of the key relievers these last two seasons, and he's simply not good enough for that job.

Sam Gaviglio D
Some are born mediocre, some achieve mediocrity, and fans of the 2018 Blue Jays had mediocrity thrust upon them. Gaviglio finished the season as one of six starters, and I assume that's his job next season - working in the Buffalo rotation, ready to come aboard if (when) someone goes down.  I hope that's his job next season. If he's on the big league roster, it's a sign to me that things have gone amiss.

Marcus Stroman D
Sometimes I think Stroman has been undone by the very mindset that has made him successful. He's been told all his life that he was too small to make it in the big leagues. As a necessity, he developed an obstinate belief in himself that he could indeed become a major league pitcher. And you have to give it up to him. He was right. Here he is. But it seems sometimes that there's something stubborn and obstinate about his game, that he doesn't adjust well to changing realities. And then I reflect - nah, I'm overthinking all of this. He's just a guy who doesn't miss enough bats to start with, so he's always going to be at the mercy of things he can't control. His defense, the umpires, the random vagaries of the Ball in Play.

Yangervis Solarte D
Solarte's strong first half was fun to watch, and it was useful with Donaldson missing in action and Grichuk, Morales, and Travis all struggling out of the gate. But he was pretty much useless (.168/.202/.226) from July 1 forward, and he didn't exactly impress me as a particularly alert and energetic kind of player. His attention span and  his level of effort all seemed to come and go. The Jays have a $5.5 million team option on Solarte for next season and I know I'd cut him loose. It's nice to have a guy who can play a bunch of positions and chip in with the bat. But that might be Lourdes Gurriel's destiny, and the Jays do have many roughly equivalent, more or less average infielders coming out the wazoo. The wazoo? Come on, indulge me. After all, I could have written "... average infielders oozing from every orifice."  But then you'd all hate me, if you don't already. And you'd be right to do so.

Marco Estrada D
He's now a free agent and extremely unlikely to return, especially if Ross Atkins cares at all what I think. Estrada gave up the fewest Hits/9 IP in the AL in both 2015 and 2016, but these last two years his hits allowed and home runs allowed have gone up and upper.  And  this year his strikeout rate fell sharply back to where it was three years ago. These are not encouraging trends. But it was a good run, one pretty much unforeseen by everybody, and I think he must be regarded and remembered as the second best post-season pitcher in franchise history.

Aaron Loup D
Traded to the Phillies at the deadline for a bucket of baseballs and a tall minor league right-hander. This brought an end to his rather long and very weird tenure with the Jays. Aaron generally delivered the same level of performance during the Gibbons years (he was much more effective pitching for John Farrell) but the precise way in which he delivered that performance varied wildly from one year to the next.

John Axford D
Traded to the Dodgers at the deadline for a ride to the airport and a relief pitcher unsure of where home plate is located. Man, the 2018 Blue Jays were a new experience for me.  I'd always thought that inning-eaters were supposed to be mediocre, run-of-the-mill starting pitchers. After all, if you plan to use mediocre relief pitchers to eat innings, you're going to need an awful lot of them. But the 2018 Jays were up to that challenge. I've never seen so many mediocre relief pitchers in my life.

Jake Petricka D-
Speaking of run of the mill relief pitchers. The opposition hit .317/.386/.511 against him, which is actually a little worse than run-of-the-mill. He could have had better fortune on his Balls in Play, but that's about the best thing that can be said about him.

Jose Fernandez D-
Made the playing time cut-off, to my considerable frustration. What can we say? Well, he's the fourth Jose Fernandez to play in the majors. The first was Jose Amayobanex Fernandez, a corner outfielder from the Dominican who got into 21 games with the Expos and Angels in 1999-2001, and hit .143 - he then went off to Japan, where he enjoyed seven strong seasons in the JPPL. The second was Jose Delfin Fernandez of Cuba, who blazed so brilliantly through the baseball sky for the Marlins before killing himself in a bout of drug and alcohol fueled stupidity. The third was Jose Miguel Fernandez, the Cuban second baseman who defected back in 2015 and finally made it to the majors this summer with the Angels (for whom he's mostly played first base?) Our boy is Jose Manuel Fernandez, a skinny left-hander from the Dominican. Maybe he has a chance, maybe he doesn't. His history suggests his relationship with the strike zone tends to come and go, but he's been hard to hit and he gets enough Ks.

Jaime Garcia D-
Washed out as a starter, and was pitching pretty well (one disastrous outing aside) out of the pen before being released at the waiver deadline. His days as a starter are surely over. At the very least, I doubt anyone's going to give him $8 million this winter to start for them next year. He went on to pitch pretty well in the Cubs bullpen and may be able to carry on for a few more years as a LOOGY.

Danny Barnes E
He's not a major league pitcher, folks. Trust me on this. He was passable in 2017 because - but only because - he was fabulously lucky on his Balls in Play. Opposing hitters batted just .222 on balls in play against Barnes in 2017 - and that just screams FLUKE, in large flashing capital letters. I didn't notice this a year ago because I was so disturbed at the number of home runs he was giving up. Anyway, when things return to normal, this crap is what you get. He does nothing well. He allows too many home runs, too many hits, too many walks - and, just as a bonus, the numerous baserunners in the game when he's on the mound can steal the next base at will.  I suppose it could have been worse. But I'd rather not try to imagine how, if you don't mind.

Joe Biagini E
Whoa. Worse than Barnes? Well, 'never challenge worst"  Matthew E. always used to say.  Biagini does throw strikes, but when you consider what opposing hitters do with those strikes (.323/.384/.529 with 14 HR in 297 ABs) you feel like telling him to cut it out. Try walking some guys, Joe. It won't hurt the ball club as much. After his final appearance of the season (2 BB, 3H, 3ER in .2 IP) Scott Carson wondered on Twitter what uniform Biagini would be wearing next year. I came this close to answering that whatever it is he'll be saying "Want fries with that?" With a mighty effort, I was able to restrain myself. Just too mean. Even for me.

Luis Santos F
Oh my lord. Worse than Biagini? Really? Yup. He was basically exactly like Biagini but with almost twice as many bases on balls mixed in.  It turns out that approach hurts the ball club even more, so Joe can feel free to disregard my snarky advice. Fortunately for everyone, Santos was allowed to do this for just 20 IP, whereas Biagini stunk out the joint for more than three times as many. Santos did do one thing well - 4 guys tried to steal a base with Santos on the mound, and all 4 were caught stealing. It does make you wonder, though. Why would you even try to steal with this guy pitching? Just let the batter drive you home.

Troy Tulowitzki (Absent)
No one was paid more money to play baseball for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2018 than this fellow, so he rates a mention. (Russell Martin made the same amount of money and Josh Donaldson was at $19 million and change when he was sent to Cleveland. Technically, the Jays paid Donaldson more money than Tulowitzki, but they were paying Donaldson to play for Cleveland by the time it was over. It was that kind of year.) While acknowledging his significant contributions to the 2015-16 teams, you'd have to say that the return on the Tulowitzki investment has left something to be desired. He's got complete no-trade protection and he's guaranteed another $20 million next year and $14 million in 2020 (there are also bonus provisions but I'm pretty confident they will not come into play). And then it's either a $15 million club option for 2021 or a $4 million buyout. Gosh, I wonder which way the team will go on that one?