Blue Jays Report Card

Tuesday, October 01 2019 @ 07:00 AM EDT

Contributed by: Magpie

That old designated thinker Friedrich Nietzsche once quipped:

Was mich nicht umbringt macht mich stärker.

which, freely translated, means "what does not kill me, makes me stronger." 

Well, I'm feeling S-T-R-O-N-G. Ecce homo, Mr Tabler. I could probably lift an automobile after this past season. 

Let's get on with the business, shall we:

I hope this whole thing didn't frighten you
There were times when it terrified me

The grades, as always, are extracted from somewhere in the vicinity of my nether regions. There is not, there never has been, there never will be, anything even remotely scientific about it.

They mean something like this, more or less:

A - Outstanding (in the Awards discussion)
B - Good (maybe even an All-Star, who knows)
C - Average (generic regular)
D - Below Average (replacement level, bench part, something like that)
E - Fail (probably belongs in the minors)
F - Epic Fail (you need to make a new career choice)

The cutoff, as in years past, was 50 plate appearances for the hitters and either 10 appearances or 20 IP for the pitchers. So I have nothing to say about Socrates Brito, Alen Hanson, Kevin Pillar, Anthony Alford, Beau Taylor, Breyvic Valera, Zack Godley, Neil Ramirez, Ryan Borucki, Ryan Feierabend, Jimmy Cordero,  Zac Rosscup, Yennsy Diaz, or Ryan Dull. Which is probably just as well, in most cases.

Let's first deal with management:

C   Charlie Montoyo

I had no major issues. As it turned out, he really didn't have an inordinate fondness for smallball and even if he did - what difference could it possibly make, this year? No harm in seeing if the young guys around him could execute these tasks, no harm in letting them learn a few things. It's hard to discern anything significant about him from a team like this. He likes to make sure everyone plays. He's willing to try stuff. He seems to have helped build a very upbeat atmosphere around the club, which is not to be sneered at when you're losing 90 games.

C   Ross Atkins
I suppose I'm grading on a curve, but this team made no pretensions about being competitive. The mission this year was to get rid of everyone too old to be a part of the next good Toronto team, and start getting as much young talent as possible on the field and in the system. And also to get rid of Aaron Sanchez, lest his awfulness infect the others. I think those missions were accomplished. Whether the stuff that arrived in exchange proves useful remains to be seen. Be forewarned - lots of it won't, simply because that's always the way it goes. With the possible - but I think unlikely - exceptions of Stroman and Stevenson, I don't think anyone Atkins moved this year would have had a role on the next good Jays team, and I don't think it's because we'll have to wait five years to see it. That said, we do need to start seeing actual progress from Atkins' team - Wins and Losses kind of progress - and we need to start seeing it now. Like next year. Following a team is supposed to be fun. This wasn't.

And the players:

A   Bo Bichette

Ok, he  was fun. The name "Brett Lawrie" came up in some discussions of Bichette, presumably to discourage us from writing the kid's Cooperstown speech prematurely. No harm in that. Lawrie certainly announced his presence with authority, but his dazzling debut in 2011, at age 21, turned out to be the high-water mark of his career. Which is pretty sad, although not as sad as the high-water of J.P. Arencibia's career being his first game. Within a couple of years, I was comparing Lawrie to guys like Jeff Francoeur. Aurelio Rodriguez. But I'm not worried about Bichette. You see, Bo knows baseball. His father was a long-time major leaguer. He's been around the game his whole life. He knows what's involved. He knows you can play hard without crashing into walls and fighting with umpires. Bo knows an August blowout isn't the seventh game of the World Series. Or the Stanley Cup Finals. I think we need to enjoy his hair flying around while we can, because you can be sure he'll be cutting it short in a  year or two. They always do.

A   Ken Giles
Giles was just sailing along, doing an outstanding job for a team quite unworthy of him. And then, at the beginning of July, he pitched on three successive days for the first time in three  years. Some pitchers can do that - Shawn Camp and Paul Quantrill did it here. But Giles throws much, much harder than those guys and he probably isn't one of them. He had also just returned from a brief stint on the IL with a tender elbow, which immediately resumed barking at him in protest. He never actually went back on the IL, but he was in and out of - uh, "availability" - for the rest of the month. That's probably the main reason he's still around - well, that and the Yankees backing out of a deal so close to the deadline that there was no time left to make anything else happen. (The Yankees, as everyone knows, remain the true focus of evil in the modern world.) Anyway, after all that, Montoyo backed off his usage of his closer. Giles pitched in back-to-back games just once more the rest of the way, and on that occasion he gave up the game-winning HR (the Verlander no-hitter.) I always say that useful relief pitchers grow on trees, because it's true. This particular tree, however, is extremely hard to find. What Giles did was way beyond useful. Only two men in team history have posted a better ERA+ in a single season: Mark Eichhorn in 1986 and B.J. Ryan in 2006. So yeah, he was absolutely fabulous. Giles will be a free agent a year from now and he's going to want to get paid. After all, a pitcher's elbow can just explode at any second. You know it, I know it, and Giles definitely knows it. Poor Tim Mayza just reminded everyone who had forgotten. That may make Giles more useful to this organization as a trade chip next July than he is as a pitcher.

B+   Matt Shoemaker
Was off to a great start before a season-ending knee injury, and his season didn't last last enough for him to return to his normal level. As everyone surely realizes, he's nowhere near that good. Opposing batters hit just .183 against Shoemaker in his five appearances, which is clearly one of those random things that just happens from time to time, for no apparent reason. I imagine the team would like a reliable veteran to consume innings, but Shoemaker has never been able to last an entire season in a major league rotation - he's been farmed out for ineffectiveness, he's had his skull fractured, he's needed surgery on his forearm, and now he's torn his ACL.

B+   Marcus Stroman
Traded to the Mets a couple of days before the deadline, I think I got Stroman figured out about a year ago. He's an undersized RH who pitches to contact and therefore will always be at the mercy of things he can't control: the umpires, his defense, the whims of the Ball In Play. Those things were all working for him during his first half with the Jays - he was allowing the fewest Hits per 9 IP of his career, leading to his best ERA, and it earned him an invite to the All-Star game despite a 6-11 W-L record. And then he was traded to the Mets. The Jays don't have a great infield defense, but it's much better than what Stroman would find behind him in New York. He was quickly giving up more hits than he'd ever allowed in his life, and it looks like he changed his approach accordingly. He struck out and walked more hitters as a Met than he ever did as a Jay. Unfortunately, he also gave up way more homers than ever, suggesting that the adjustment wasn't as simple as all that. You could be pretty sure, though, that Stroman would find an approach that worked for him in these new circumstances and -  what do you know - by the end of the year he appeared to have done just that.

B+   Eric Sogard
Where on earth did that come from? Hey look - here's a 33 year old infielder. He's looking for a job. Can he play short? Uh, not really. Can he hit? Well, he's got a career line of .238/.309/.314 with 11 HRs in more than 1500 ABs. What do you think?  Hmmm. I get the point but let's pick him up off the scrap heap anyway. It might be handy to have him around, just in case. So then the guy goes and hits .294/.357/.463 with 13 HRs in 391 ABs, because... you just never know. You really don't, and every time you think you do know... the game has a way of straightening you out. On the off chance that the 2019 baseballs, or a random hot streak, or some combination of the two were responsible for Sogard's production, the Jays cashed him in at the deadline for a couple of minor league pitchers, one of whom (the teenager) actually looks interesting to me. I'll probably forget his name five minutes from now, but his numbers looked interesting while I was looking at them. Anyway Sogard went to Tampa and kept right on hitting until he finally cooled off in September. But good for him. I hope he gets paid.

B   Lourdes Gurriel
On a team awash with RH batters with some pop, Gurriel is the only one who qualifies as a lefty-masher (.300/.330/.664). Well, him and Bo, who beat the crap out of southpaws in a much smaller sample. Gurriel did all right against the regular fellows, too. So did Bo, come to think of it. The rest of them - Grichuk, Hernandez, Jansen, Drury, Vlad - had generally above average platoon splits (except for Vlad, who had a big reverse split), but in none of them do you see anything that looks like a strength - it's more like wall-to-wall mediocrity. Gurriel looked quite at home in left field, after the team had spent several years trying to figure out where he should play. He might even have the speed and arm to cover centre, but that might be trying to push the team's luck a little too far. It was already hard enough finding him a position. He needs to do a better job of staying in the lineup - so far in his young career, every time he gets hot he gets hurt. At least they can only remove your appendix once.

B   Daniel Hudson
This was a very successful year for Daniel Hudson and it all began with him being released by the Angels near the end of spring training. That's a different way to go about it, but it worked out just great for him.. The Jays scooped Hudson up off the reject pile and he did a very fine job for them. Among other things, he inherited 22 baserunners and allowed just one of them to score. It's hard to do much better than that. After being traded to Washington at the break, he kept up the good work in his new home and then some (1.44 ERA, 322 ERA+). In fact, of all the players the Jays gave up this year, Hudson did by far the the best job for his new team. And he's going to pitch in the post-season for the first time since 2014, when he started and lost a game for the Diamondbacks in the NLDS.

B   Cavan Biggio
A quick word about Biggio's defense, the least interesting part of his game. I'd agree that he wasn't born to play second base. But he knows how to play baseball. He's a smart, hustling, alert ballplayer. I think he'll get by.  Now the interesting stuff! Biggio played in 100 of the team's 112 games after being summoned to the big leagues at the end of May. If he'd played that regularly over the entire season, he'd have played about 145 games and had 610 plate appearances. And given that much playing time, he would have drawn 103 walks. The only men who have drawn that many walks in a season for the Blue Jays are Jose Bautista and Carlos Delgado (four times apiece), Fred  McGriff, John Olerud, and Josh Donaldson. Obviously all five of these men had elite plate discipline. But they had something else in common - with the exception of Olerud, they all scared the living crap out of the pitcher. (Olerud only got that level of respect the one time he hit .363.) But Biggio? He's a .234 hitter with average power. There's nothing elite about him at the plate except his strike zone judgement. He's a different kind of phenomena. Biggio  may turn out to be the nearest thing to Eddie Yost since Eddie himself, who retired almost 60 years ago. Moreover, Biggio probably should have walked even more often than he did. He was receiving rookie levels of respect from AL umpires (i.e., none at all) when he arrived and consequently was punched out looking at strike three more often he expected or deserved. That was beginning to change by the end of the season, as umpires came to believe in his strike zone judgement.  Biggio also presents a dilemma for the other teams. You can't defend against him the way teams defend Smoak and Tellez by moving all the infielders over, because Biggio hits everything in the air. We have already seen some four man outfields deployed against him, we will see more, and we've already seen Biggio happily take advantage of the opportunities that presents. It's already an effective and different offensive package, with a chance to get better still.

B   Reese McGuire
Jansen was supposed to be the hitter who needed to work on his defense, and McGuire was supposed to be the defensive guy who couldn't hit enough to be a starter in the majors. Did they not get the memo? McGuire has now hit .297/.343/.539  in his very short taste of major league action. He can't possibly be that good a hitter, just as Jansen is unlikely to be as lousy with the bat as he seemed this season. McGuire played 168 games at AAA and hit .239/.314/.350 and I expect the team will be quite happy if he can match that in the AL. Obviously the league hasn't figured him out yet - don't worry, they will - so the good times got to roll in the meantime.

B-   Joe Biagini
He ended up as additional ballast dispatched to Houston to persuade them to take Aaron Sanchez off Toronto's hands  I mean, Atkins can say he really wanted to acquire Derek Fisher as often as he likes. He's not fooling anyone.  Biagini looked to have recovered his rookie form after being about as awful as a pitcher could be for two whole seasons. At the time of the trade, he'd been the Jays bullpen workhorse, leading the team in appearances and behind only Gaviglio in relief IP. Unluckily for him he went completely to pieces upon arriving in Houston. I thought the Astros had a Magic Touch with pitchers?

B-   Wilmer Font
After years of wandering through the majors, pitching for six different teams (three of them this year), Font stumbled into a job he could do and do well. It involved preparing like a starter and then pitching like a closer. Font became Charlie Montoyo's Opener of choice, and why not? He did a solid job in this strange new role.

C+   Vlad Guerrero
As noted, young Vlad really struggled against LH pitchers, hitting just .215/.297/.346 against the sinister fellows. Doesn't that seem a little strange? Maybe he'd just never seen a good one before. I do hope no one's too disappointed that he didn't come out and take the league by storm (excepting the Home Run Derby, of course, but who cares about that?) He did just fine for someone so young. He more than fought the league to a draw with the bat and while I have serious reservations about his ability to stay at third base, his defense was visibly improving as his rookie season went on. His power, at this stage, is just average but I'm pretty confident that it's going to develop, probably by an order of magnitude. Like just about everyone, I wasn't much impressed with his conditioning and suspect it may have contributed to his lousy September performance. It might have been just your standard slump, but its timing and the young man's girth do arouse suspicion.  I think everything has come fairly easily for Guerrero in his baseball career. He's been able to just step up to the plate and deal with whatever was in his path. But it's not quite that simple in the big leagues. He should have learned a lot from this experience. It'll be interesting to see next year what he's learned and what he does with it.

C+   David Phelps
After losing a year to Tommy John surgery, Phelps signed with the Blue Jays as a free agent. He didn't make it onto the field until June, but pitched well enough in his six weeks with Toronto to re-establish himself as a serviceable major league reliever. The Jays were then able to flip him to the Cubs at the deadline for something that may or not be helpful some day.  Phelps did a fine job for the Cubs as well until he was caught up in the general team collapse over the final two weeks. No one was spared.

C   Freddy Galvis
When the Jays couldn't get anything for Galvis at the deadline, they just cut him loose and cast him aside. This was mostly  to clear the decks for Bichette, but also to give Galvis a chance to keep playing somewhere. He'd been a good soldier and a good teammate so you do that sort of thing. It's good karma. The Reds scooped him up and had him fill their hole at second base. He didn't hit all that well in his new digs, but even so, they really enjoyed having him around. What a delightfully weird player he is. He's a surprisingly slow shortstop who hits some home runs and strikes out a zillion times. That's certainly not the kind of player he looks like.

C   Javy Guerra
Your generic relief pitcher, more or less suitable for everyday use. Guerra did an adequate enough job for the Jays early on, but was lost in an early season roster crunch (the team wanted Ryan Feierabend to start a game, just to see what would happen.) Guerra caught on with Washington, and was competent enough in the back of their bullpen as well.

C   Buddy Boshers
What flashed through the mind of Buddy Boshers when Tim Mayza's elbow ligament exploded that September evening? Let us speculate. First: "oh crap, there's my teammate in terrible pain." And then: "shame on me, but I'm the only LH short reliever still standing." And then: "oh crap, they're changing the rules next year. Looks like another minor league deal for me."  Boshers got off to a rough start in Toronto (11.25 ERA in his first 5 games), but he was actually pretty effective after that first week (2.25 ERA in his next 23 games.) It remains my conviction that if you shake any nearby tree, five or six guys just like him will fall out and his left-handedness won't be nearly as useful going forward.

C   Jacob Waguespack
Waguespack had a run of fine performances and in a reckless moment I actually typed these words: "Jacob Waguespack, Staff Ace." I thought I was being witty. Waguespack instantly folded up like a cheap suitcase (do cheap suitcases actually fold? what does that expression mean, anyway) and went 0-4, 8.40 over his next four starts. I'd suspect it was his way of saying "Don't lay that kind of pressure on me!" if he had any notion of my existence. I do like him. I get the impression that no one seems to think very highly of his raw stuff, but I've always believed that command, poise, and deception are more important than raw stuff anyway. Right now, he very much looks like a league average pitcher, which is certainly not without value. Let's see - he allowed 1.4 HR/9 - that's exactly the league average. Waguespack allowed 8.7 Hits/9 - that's slightly better than the league's 9.1; he allowed 3.3 BB/9 and again he's a little better than the league (3.8). He doesn't strike out quite as many (7.3 K/9, league is 8.3), but that's something that often improves as young pitchers develop. It needs to, as he was probably a little fortunate on his Balls in Play (.279, the league hit .298)

C   Sam Gaviglio
Gaviglio spent the entire season doing the same job for the same team. That hasn't happened to him lately, not since he was starting games for Springfield in AA back in 2014. He was The Long Man, and he was the Multi-Inning Guy.  There were 58 AL pitchers made more relief appearances than Gaviglio, but none threw more innings out of the pen. It's been a very long time indeed since a Blue Jay reliever pitched that much - we have to go all the way back to Duane Ward working 101.1 relief innings for the 1992 champs. So how did Gaviglio do in his First Real Job out there in the cold, cruel world? Kind of weird, to be honest. He was brilliant to start the year, and then started pitching like crap. He kept up this badness for three whole months - from May through July he posted a 6.26 ERA as the opposition hit .286/.332/.542 against him. He kept his job, though (a lack of alternatives surely didn't hurt his cause), started pitching better in August and closed the year out just fine until running out of gas at the very end.

C   Jason Adam
You can't argue with the results, but you also can't expect the opposition to continue batting .194 against him. Allowed just 1 HR in his 21 IP which is outstanding. Especially when just a year earlier he allowed 9 HRs in just 32.1 IP.

C   Nick Kingham
Released to clear roster space near the end of August. Kingham actually did a decent job here - 3-1, 3.00 in 11 appearances, 24.1 IP is more than adequate. I do like the result, and the results always go a long way with me. Still, I certainly don't care that he's gone and neither should anyone else. I can't quite figure out how he only allowed 7 runs anyway.

C-   Tim Mayza
Obviously this was a very difficult and disappointing year for Mayza. He didn't pitch nearly as well as he had in 2018, although he at least was able to stay on the big league roster all year. Then he blew out his elbow near the end of the season, needed Tommy John surgery, and won't be seen on the mound again until some time in  2021. As far as I can tell, he's never had any arm problems before, going back to his days as a starter in high school. Good luck, hope you make it back.

C-   Derek Law
Law came over in the Kevin Pillar trade and can I just say that I'm really happy Pillar didn't make the playing time cutoff for this year's Report. There's simply nothing good that can be said about an OPS+ of minus 67. Happily, Pillar would go on to have a nice year for the Giants, reaching career bests in HRs and RBIs and - believe it or not - leading his new team in both categories. Good on ya, son. Anyway, Derek Law. Law was added to the Jays bullpen at the beginning of May, and absolutely stunk out the joint for two freaking months. He had an ERA of 6.99 at the All-Star Break, and the opposition had hit .291/.370/.513 against him. Did this get him banished to Buffalo? Mysteriously, it did not. You might remember me screaming over and over that Law had no business being in the major leagues. Would no one rid me of this meddlesome ne'er-do-well? But do they listen to me? Ever? Of course not. And then - who can explain it - a miracle happened. Law began to pitch better. He began to pitch quite well, in fact. In 26 appearances from 15 July through 17 September, he put up an ERA of  1.93 as the opposition hit just .138/.308/.234 against him. As you can see, it was almost impossible to get a hit against him, which allowed him to get away with walking an enormous number of hitters. Very odd, but quite effective. Law's good work was extremely hard for me to fathom, but it wasn't completely unprecedented. He had pitched quite effectively for the Giants as a rookie back in 2016, even if he'd been a pile of hot garbage ever since. Law faded badly at the very end of the year. He was establishing a new career high in innings pitched - running on fumes, he allowed 11 hits in his last 3.2 IP.

C-   Danny Jansen
Jansen's focus coming into this season was defense, for good and obvious reasons. It was acknowledged to be the weakest part of his game. He was also a rookie charged with handling a new, and constantly changing, cast of pitchers. No fewer than 37 pitchers (and a couple of position players) took the hill for Toronto this season, and Jansen had to figure out how to catch each and every one of them. (It took seven years as the A's everyday catcher before Mickey Cochrane had caught that many different pitchers. Game done changed.) Anyway, if Jansen didn't hit a lick for the first two months of the season - and he didn't - I think he had an excellent excuse. Because he did just great behind the plate. Jansen's defense was one of the season's most pleasant surprises. His bat did begin to eventually show some signs of life - from 1 June forward he hit .234/.301/.427, which was still disappointing but a little bit closer to what the team was hoping for.

C-  Justin Shafer
I rather like him and I suppose the results weren't too bad. The trick was done with mirrors, though. He gave up a hit per inning, which you can really only get away with if you don't give up home runs and you don't walk people. Shafer did just an average job of keeping the ball in the yard and he walked 25 guys in just 39.2 IP. That's very nearly a Luciano level of non-command. He got away with it this time. Just don't try it again.

D+   Randal Grichuk
I'm still waiting for the great Randal Grichuk breakout, when he knocks out 35 or 40 home runs. I still think he's got it in him. Maybe next year. Until then, he's your generic outfielder, more or less suitable for everyday use. Shows up, plays hard, never causes any trouble. You can definitely do worse, and the 2019 Jays showed us some of the many possible ways of doing worse. I'm inclined to think this was just a bad year, an off year. They just happen, and there's not much you can do about it except keep plugging away. Grichuk struck out less frequently than ever before, which is apparently something he was making a conscious effort to improve. Indeed, he whiffed in less than 26% of his PApps for the first time his career. Baby steps! It probably would have been more useful if he hadn't also had his worst ever BAVG on his Balls in Play. Fun fact: Grichuk led the 2019 Jays in Hits, 2bs, 3bs, HRs, RBIs and Runs Scored, which is a) a feat unique in franchise history and b) utterly meaningless.

D+   Justin Smoak
Now a free agent, Smoak will be 33 in December and he may even have some trouble finding work this winter. I know nobody cares about BAVG anymore, but .208 is still pretty ugly. It happened largely because Smoak hit just  .224 on his balls in play, which is a) a career low, and b) hard to do. I suspect that the increasing prevalence of defensive shifts had a lot to do with that, but the fact that Justin is also one of the slowest players in the American League was likely a contributing factor as well. He also was called out looking at strike three almost as frequently as Biggio, which was an odd development. No one expects to see him return. Atkins seems determined to clear the decks, Smoak is old, he's in decline...  but he's a good teammate, a solid glove at first base, and he can still put a mistake in the seats. Most importantly, this team's biggest offensive weakness is its inability to get anyone on base (do I hear someone saying "getting on base is what Cal Stevenson does."). Even with that hideous BAVG, Smoak still gets on base at a rate better than the league average. Which is more than most of the other guys around here can manage. It's not as if Rowdy Tellez just demonstrated that he can do a better job

D+   Trent Thornton
Like most teams, the Jays have a thing for large pitchers - after all, pitchers do tend to be large human beings and pitchers have certainly always been the largest ball players around. The three smallest Toronto pitchers all stand six feet tall and no one would be be surprised to learn that one of them is Thomas Pannone. But the other two little guys are Anthony Kay and Trent Thornton, both of whom look like much larger people to me. Well, they look pretty large on my TV, anyway.  Thornton wasn't supposed to make the roster coming out of spring, but the injuries to Buchholz and Richard forced him on the team and Thornton ended up being the only man who stayed in the rotation all season long. While he had his moments, he clearly still has a lot of work to do. But it seems to me that there's no glaring weakness in his game. Consequently, there's no obvious thing that he needs to work on, like getting the bases on balls under control or finding a way to keep the home runs from flying out of the park. It's more as if Thornton needs to make incremental improvements right across the board, which may be a more difficult proposition.

D+   Teoscar Hernandez
He's probably the fastest guy on the team, not that he's been able to put his speed to much use playing baseball. He runs the bases well, but he doesn't know how to steal them. He doesn't put his speed to much use in the outfield, either. It just helps him run down his mistakes, which are plentiful. He turned out to be a bad centre fielder. I'm not sure if that's better than being an awful left fielder. Probably not. He hit with a little more power this year, and improved his plate discipline a little as well. But one of every three plate appearances ended in a strikeout. It puts so much pressure on the rest of his game to make something useful of the remaining at bats. Hernandez hit .259/.346/.592 after the ASB, with 18 HRs in just 54 games, and it's that kind of production that keeps hope alive. I think it may have been a mirage - in the second half he was striking out even more frequently than usual (82 Ks in just 201 ABs) but he hit .337 on his balls in play. That's a fluke. Teoscar the Tease. The raw power is so tantalizing, but sooner or later he's got to do more with it than he's doing now. Or just do what he did in the second half for a full season.

D   Richard Urena
Familiarity breeds contempt, or at least boredom, and we've now seen Urena for three straight Septembers. Some folks have already concluded that he's unlikely to amount to anything. And I found myself saying over and over - maybe, but don't you all realize how young he is? Yes, there we were all talking about Richard Urena. The things we do when we're losing 90 games. Anyway, AWeb noted that it "Seems like Urena has been playing at too high a level for 3 years now, sometimes due to organizational need instead of performance. This has been known to set back prospects..." Well, gosh darn it, but I think the man hit the nail squarely on its pointed little head. Way back in 2016, just 20 years old, Urena hit .305/.351/.447 for Dunedin, which is kind of like what Cal Stevenson (just seven months younger) did in Dunedin this year. Urena's Dundedin performance got him promoted to AA New Hampshire before the season was even over. His performance may have warranted it, but he was still just 20 years old. The real reason he was promoted was because the New Hampshire shortstop situation was a pile of garbage. Urena held his own in AA for the rest of 2016, which made him a massive upgrade for that New Hampshire team and he returned there in 2017. By now though everything had changed on him. Instead of being better than his level, he wasn't quite as good.  Now he was just trying to stay afloat. Even so, he was promoted to AAA Buffalo in 2018. Urena was totally overwhelmed by AAA at that stage in his career, but Bo Bichette was coming up fast behind him and the organization needed to clear the New Hampshire shortstop job for Bo. So Urena's spent his last three years overmatched by his level, just trying to survive. It's almost the exact opposite of Vladimir Guerrero's minor league experience - young Vlad has always been a little too good for whatever level he was at. All Vlad's learned is how to dominate, he's never learned to scuffle. Urena's had to scuffle for three straight years and it may very well have set him back. Permanently or not? Who knows.There's still plenty of time for him to take a step forward. But as I said last year, he needs to take that step forward.

D   T.J. Zeuch
Zeuch doesn't look to be as extreme a groundball pitcher as Stroman was, but he's pretty clearly a member of the same species. As such, we should expect him to give up considerably fewer home runs than the average pitcher. Which he did. Like Stroman, he's going to strike out fewer hitters than the average pitcher and he's going to give up more hits, because that's the nature of ground balls. It means he can't afford to walk people. He's got 342 minor league innings and he's walked just 2.6 per 9 innings. He needs to keep that up in the major leagues. He didn't in his brief September trial - major league hitters generally have better strike zone judgement. But young pitchers often give major league hitters a little too much respect. I think he needs to get over that and be a little more aggressive in the strike zone.

D   Anthony Kay
I think we all enjoyed how, immediately after the trade, Kay hopped on the Twittering device and asked what things he should know about Canada. I thought that was extremely premature, but what did I ever know. The Jays fanbase rose to the occasion rather magnificently, myself included (know this if nothing else - speed limit signs are not mph). Kay soon responded in kind, perhaps a little overwhelmed by it all, but maintaining that he didn't understand milk in bags any more than a Raptors shooting guard but declaring that all-dressed potato chips were a gift from the gods. Which they are, of course. Such a swell time was had by everyone that I ignored the playing time limits for him. Waguespack, Zeuch, and Kay may all turn out to be back-of-the-rotation guys. But that represents a very real upgrade on Sanchez, Buchholz, Richard, and Jackson, none of whom have any place at all in a major league rotation.

D   Brandon Drury
I'd like to think Drury could be a perfectly serviceable bench part. He started games at six different positions and he's generally adequate to better-than-average at most of them. There's some pop in his bat. These things are handy to have around. He played way too much for the 2019 team, but that's not really his fault.  That said, a guy who hacks at everything as much as Drury does simply has to hit at least a little better than .218 if he's going to be of use. I mean, a .262 OnBase? He's another guy, along with Biggio and Smoak, who was called out looking at strike three an ungodly number of times. I do think this is all there is - I don't think there's any upside, any chance of him getting much better than this.

D   Billy McKinney
There are some things to like about McKinney. He always hustles, he runs the bases aggressively and well, and he's got some pop in his bat too. But obviously .215  isn't going to cut it for yet another guy who hacks at everything. And he can only play corner outfield or first base. Whoa. You mean sometimes being left-handed isn't an advantage in baseball? Who knew. Unlike Drury, who as things currently stand is a more useful bench body, I think McKinney may yet have more to offer than what we've seen. I'm certainly not promising it, but he's still got fewer than 400 ABs in the major leagues and he's already had a couple of seasons disrupted by injury. He could yet prove to be a better major leaguer than... well, Rowdy Tellez anyway.

D   Ryan Tepera
Pitched poorly for two months and went on the IL for three. He did do better when he came back in September. Tepera is now the senior member of the pitching staff, 2019 being his fifth season with the team. I don't know, that just seems sad to me, but I've never been much of a Tepera fan. He's the only pitcher still here who was part of the post-season teams. Only Justin Smoak, who made his Jays debut about a month before Tepera,  has been with the team longer.

D   Elvis Luciano
We expected nothing from him, and certainly until September nothing was delivered. (And I tell you this truth to you, not out of spite or anger, but simply because it's true.) His work in September was encouraging as he seemed to have made a new friend - the strike zone. His early performance made one think that they had never met. At any rate, Elvis will now leave the building and disappear into the minor leagues for the next few years. Maybe we'll meet again, down the road somewhere. Maybe we won't. It's a long road.

D-   Rowdy Tellez
Tellez did hit well in September, just as he had in 2018. Tellez has now hit .286/.338/.600 with 10 HRs in 140 September ABs, and .220/.280./417 in the other five months of the season. Gosh. Is there anything different about September baseball we should know about? If Smoak isn't back and Tellez inherits the first base job, I'd say he's got an excellent chance of providing the Jays with their worst production at the position since it was manned by Doug Ault, back in Year One. Yo, Rowdy - I am mocking you. I am belittling you. Prove me wrong, big fella.

D-   Sean Reid-Foley
Lose the mustache. It's not working for you. And you know what else isn't working? Walking 86 batters in just 120.2 IP between Buffalo and Toronto.

D-   Thomas Pannone
I'm sure this was a frustrating year for Pannone, but I don't care. He frustrated me often enough. I like him and he let me down. Hell hath no fury. Still, I shouldn't have been that surprised. LH of Pannone's general ilk, guys who can't blow anyone away with the fastball, often need a considerable amount of time to figure out what works for them in the major leagues. There are guys who just know what works because some kind fairy gifted them with this knowledge while they were still in the womb - I'm looking at you, Mark Buehrle - but they're the exceptions. For everyone else, the process can be extremely gruesome for a year or more. But sometimes...PRESTO!  Tom Glavine turns into Tom Glavine.  But they're the exceptions as well.  I won't mind if Pannone gets another chance on next year's team to see if he can figure this stuff out. I still think he has a chance be an effective pitcher. But I'm not prepared to invest anything in the notion.

E   Jonathan Davis
Love the speed, love the defense... but I don't think he can hit enough to play regularly in the majors, and seeing as how he'll be 28 next May, I don't think he's likely to figure it out. I hope I'm wrong. But I'm not.

E   Luke Maile
So long, it's been good to know you. Maile posted an OPS+ of 18 this season, which is a) horrifying, and b) better than what he did in 2017 and exactly what he did back in 2015. Clearly, odd-numbered years mess him up.

E   Derek Fisher
The ball really does jump off his bat. It doesn't jump often enough, and almost everything else about his game is painful to watch. He does a good job taking pitches. It's too bad he's no good swinging at them. He's a DH if he ever figures out how to make contact more often.

E   Aaron Sanchez
He got off to a very fine start (3-1, 2.32 in 6 April starts) and for a brief shining moment we were able to let ourselves dream that the Sanchez of 2016 had come back to us, at last. Too much to ask? Yeah, too much. Aaron went 0-13, 7.49 over his next 17 starts, which really shouldn't be allowed to happen. The team had to add ballast to the deal just to get someone to take him off their hands, and Mike Green is still unhappy about losing Cal Stevenson that way. After three weeks in Houston, Sanchez was shut down with a sore pectoral muscle and two weeks after that they decided he needed shoulder surgery. Which makes me wonder just how much discomfort Sanchez was trying to pitch through this year, especially after two frustrating years of stupid and irritating injuries that always seemed trivial. Except that nothing is trivial when it comes to being able to pitch effectively in the majors. Pitching is bad for you, and most pitchers are always hurting. They don't always know when they're injured. The lesson this time (set to the cheesy tune of your choice):  Hey kids, don't be a hero, look what it did for Ricky Romero

E   Clayton Richard
I would imagine his career is over, and not a moment too soon. Even so, it's got to suck getting released for the third and probably the last time on your birthday. Blow out them candles, son. His teammates loved him, and management admired and appreciated the way he took the ball and gutted it out for ten starts on his bad knee. In truth, Richard was never really any good - at his best, he got close to almost-average - but he played in eleven seasons and earned $18 million dollars. Mama, let your babies grow up to be left-handed.

F   Clay Buchholz
Like Richard, Buchholz got very high marks for his mentorship. But the team also wanted him pitch a little, in exchange for the $3 miillion they were giving him. How did that go? Not great. He pitched a very nice game to start his season, and then he got worse and worse until landing on the IL in early May. He didn't return until late August but he pitched a very nice game when he got back. And then he got worse and worse.

F   Jordan Romano
Obviously, there was nothing to like in his performance, but who really knows what to make of such a small sample. I sure don't. If you like, you can be encouraged by the 21 Ks in just 15.1 IP, and be appalled by the 4 HR and 9 BB.

F   Brock Stewart
I've always believed that a pitcher who isn't able to make it in the Dodgers' system isn't going to make it anywhere. Stewart allowed 9 HRs in 21.2 innings. Let's see anybody defend against that.

F   Edwin Jackson
Jackson pitched about as badly for the Blue Jays as a human can pitch. Even so, after he was released by Toronto he was quickly signed by Detroit who instantly stuck him in their rotation for reasons we probably shouldn't speak out loud. Jackson crossed everybody up by giving the Tigers two fine starts, before quickly remembering that a) he was 35 years old, b) he hadn't actually been any good in almost ten years, and c) Job One was securing that first overall pick. Jackson probably wasn't a willing participant in that last factor but even his best efforts weren't going to make much difference. So it goes.

Jackson was a teenager, a beardless boy, when he made his MLB debut back in 2004. He broke in with an impressive (2-1, 2.45) September performance for the Dodgers. He was nowhere near ready for prime time, of course, and he had been traded to Tampa Bay before he was able to establish himself as a major league starter. Jackson put together four seasons as a solid mid-rotation guy and helped two different teams to World Series appearances. In those four years (2008-2011) he went 49-41, 4.06,  but as it turned out, his best days were already behind him. He was 27 years old by then and he'd already been traded six times. The 19 games he won in his two years with Tampa would be the most he'd win for any team in his long and meandering career. While he would never be traded again, he would be released four times, and he'd sign as a free agent with somebody eleven times. He always looked like a pitcher so he kept getting chances. Every time it looked like he was out of lives he'd put together a half-season impressive enough to buy him a few more chances - out of the Atlanta bullpen in 2015, out of the Oakland rotation in 2018. One would think that after going 3-10, 9.60 at age 35 that the clock has finally struck midnight. But hey - the man got 17 years in The Show, he made almost $80 million dollars, he's got a World Series ring, and he actually started a World Series game (and pitched pretty well, even if he took the L.)

Well. Let's never do that again.

Blood on the carpet, mud on the mattress
Waking up with that American sadness
Dead receptors, body limitations
Weak handshakes and great expectations
Bountiful chemicals, beautiful kitchens
So many choices. decisions, decisions
I said a couple things that probably weren't technically true

128 comments



https://www.battersbox.ca/article.php?story=20190916034701967