Dan Norris

Hey! Prospect stuff!

Remember prospect stuff?

Around here we used to get in a real lather any time that something like the mid-season top prospects lists from places like Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America — both of which released their mid-season 2014 lists yesterday. It’s not like that stuff became less important, it’s just with the depletion of the club’s upper minors with the trades of Noah Syndergaard (9th for BP, 19th for BA), Travis d’Arnaud, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino, etc., and the shift in focus by the Jays from prospect-hoarding to turning farm pieces into big league roster players, it simply wasn’t of the same concern. And now… well…

As much as my knee-jerk reaction to the Jays’ recent might be to write things like “this is not the week I want to deal with morons insisting the Jays should be sellers” *COUGH* the prospect question becomes ever more interesting the more the Jays flail. Sadly, the club has floundered so badly — and has been hit by key injuries to Brett Lawrie and now Edwin Encarnacion, with guys like Adam Lind and Jose Bautista playing while ailing — that it is no longer outside of the realm of honest assessment to wonder about the wisdom of dealing away prospects to patch the holes on the club’s current roster.

I mean, I’d absolutely argue that the season is still eminently salvageable — and that’s not even a word anyone should be using, given the club’s still-excellent position in the standings with nearly half a season still to go — but there are certainly reasons to wonder about what a future would look like with the players being praised today on these lists.

For Baseball America it was Dan Norris and Dalton Pompey — and, perhaps surprisingly, not Aaron Sanchez — who made the grade.

Norris jumped from outside their pre-season top 100 into the 25th spot, ahead of Sanchez (previously 32nd), and ahead of guys like Kyle Zimmer (Royals), Alex Meyer (Twins), and Hunter Harvey (Orioles), slotting in just behind the injured Jameson Taillon. A “lefty with three potential plus pitches (fastball, slider, change) and an average curve,” is what they call him, which sure sounds good to me.

Pompey (47th) also jumped from outside the top 100, placing the 16th rounder ahead of first-round outfielders Stephen Piscotty (Cardinals) and Brandon Nimmo (Mets), as they write that the “toolsy center fielder’s bat has caught up to rest of his tools in a breakout start in the Florida State League.”

For Baseball Prospectus, Sanchez (29th) still reigns among Blue Jays, but it’s with a heavy dose of cold reality — as has been the norm of late. “It’s been a familiar tune for the right-handed starter this season: electric overall stuff clouded by concerns as to whether the fastball command is going to grow enough to lead to consistency at the highest level. Sanchez has moved a few spots, but given graduations to The Show his status has probably moved a bit backward. This arm tends to tease visions of a legit frontline arm with his stuff, but the clear-headed line of sight points to a mid-rotational starter,” writes Chris Mellen.

Mellen also provides the write-up for the ninth-ranked Syndergaard, FYI. Ugh.

Norris (33rd) is nipping at Sanchez’s heels for the top spot in the Jays’ system because of the “ a developmental step forward” he has taken over the last calendar year, which shows “no signs of slowing.”

There are intriguing pieces in the low minors, too, and ones that were just drafted (one, Roberto Osuna, just about to get back on the mound after last year’s Tommy John) — and, obviously, a pair of excellent arms already in the big leagues — that make it a still-intriguing collection of talent, but it’s the upper level talent that matters most. That’s where the Jays will likely be forced to trade from if they choose to make major upgrades for the 2014 season, but that’s also where the foundation — small a base as it may currently be — for the future may lie.

Much of the talk about the necessity of doubling down on the all-in moves that the Jays made prior to the 2013 season has centered around the idea that it would be smart to build around the ever-fleeting peak years of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Jose Reyes, and that the upper levels of the farm system won’t be ready to produce talent that matches the timeline. However, with the strides made by Pompey and Norris this year, both now in New Hampshire, one wonders if that all still necessarily makes sense. After all, it’s not like teams with youthful rotations can’t be very successful, as last year’s Rays and this year’s Cardinals can attest.

Let’s think about 2016 for a moment.

That’s probably the last thing anyone wants to think about right now — especially the front office — but the Jays could be in an interesting spot. Right now they have just $27-million committed to payroll for that season, prior to arbitration raises, guys making the league minimum, and some key options to be exercised: Jose Bautista (35) at $16-million, Edwin Encarnacion (33) at $10-million, and R.A. Dickey (41) at $12-million. Not to be a negative suckhole, but let’s assume from here that they’d pick up the first two (Edwin’s is a slam dunk), but not the third. Because of buyout commitments already factored into the $27-million figure, that would be $50-million.

That roster, then, would have declining stars in Bautista, Encarnacion, and Jose Reyes (33). But it also has Brett Lawrie (26) still. It has Stroman, Hutchison, Sanchez, and Norris (all 25 or under). It potentially has Pompey (23). It still has team control on Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup, and Steve Delabar. Maybe it has potential impact guys currently in the low minors or from the most recent draft knocking at the door. It surely has enough resources to have kept Casey Janssen (34), Melky Cabrera (31) and Adam Lind (32) around, if they felt it was warranted.

It’s a club that should have the payroll to fill in the roster holes not yet filled internally, too. But what kind of a roster is it?

It’s an aging roster, but also a roster very dependent on very young and untested players (presuming all these players even make it to 2016 healthy and without major bumps along the prospect highway). It’s also in a division with a Boston team that’s way ahead of them in terms of prospects right now (and already looking to be sellers this year), and resources, and a Tampa organization that constantly manages to churn out successful major leaguers. It will also be a Jays club that hasn’t yet solved its stadium/grass issue, and that most likely has continued its long run of futility, meaning that no matter how much freed payroll space they have (and it may not be that much — I think we all know that we can necessarily expect Rogers to continue running payrolls like this year in perpetuity) they’re still not going to be anything close to an A-list destination for free agents.

It’s not easy to forecast from this far out, obviously, but it’s tough to say that the club is setup for great success in 2016 by holding their chips, and with two of the three aging offensive stars on the roster in the final year of their contracts (and Reyes up the year after), it doesn’t necessarily bode well beyond then, either — though right now it doesn’t feel like it will be terribly difficult to keep guys like Bautista, Encarnacion, and Lind here in Toronto beyond their current deals, and it’s certainly not setup poorly either.

So, it might not even be so bad. However, the willingness of those guys to stick around could change if the Jays miss their moment here in 2014, as they very well might without intervention from the front office… which, on the other hand, would then deplete the club’s prospect stock — though a trade-off for that is how a successful year might make them a more viable free agent destination, and playoff and stretch-drive revenue should keep the club’s budget more robust than it would if they chose to fold up the tent now and hold onto hope and prospects for 2016. It’s a conundrum, and is complicated by the fact that the current front office certainly can’t expect to be around to see the fruits of their drafting if once again the club fails to meet expectations — especially if Paul Beeston leaves at the end of the year, which is totally not a whisper I’ve heard *COUGH*. If they’re going for it, they need to make the playoffs, and if they don’t, well…

Inaction on the trade front in these next three weeks would very possibly be a gift from Alex Anthopoulos to a successor more likely to appear sooner than later if the GM were unable to find some other way to stem the current bleeding. Some fans, especially those who never seem to quite be comfortable unless the Jays are rebuilding, might even be forgiven wanting to see it all go down like that, even if it means dismantling the big league roster, more years in the wilderness, and no guarantee of ever necessarily getting as much of a sniff of playoff baseball as they will here in 2014. But it’s hard to see this front office giving that gift. These next three weeks are hugely important to the multi-million-dollar project they’ve been embarked on whole hog for a year and a half, and though I believe that Anthopoulos wouldn’t be so crudely cynical and self-interested as to blow up the farm to gamble on this season (and may not be allowed to be, frankly — because it’s not like his boss isn’t at least a bit mindful of his legacy), it’s very hard to envision them not doing something, or morphing — as those fans of the rebuilding process would surely love — into a seller.

That’s especially so because things just aren’t nearly as dire as they currently seem, hard as that may be to believe for anyone who has witnessed the abysmal play of this club over the last few weeks. Commenter allisauce adds some much needed perspective on the current malaise:

I enjoy how people point to Tampa as some team that could get hot and make a run of things. Why Tampa now? Because they’re playing well at this moment? They had a run of 10-20 from mid-May to Mid-June. Lots of injuries. Sound Familiar?

Exactly. And while that doesn’t mean that the Jays don’t need to address their problems and should just wait for health and expect things to get better, their problems are addresssable, and their position in the standings is still enviable.

It would be easy, then, to suggest that Anthopoulos is perhaps dangerously trying to hedge — somewhat like he did in his “pursuit” of additional pitching this winter — by being too cute in trying to get the additions he needs without giving up the prospects he badly doesn’t want to. Other potentialities would be that he’s crippled by indecision and fumbling the ball at the goal line, that he’s too cognizant of appearing like he’s self interested and simply resigned to going down with the roster he’s got, or that he’s doubly hamstrung by limitations Rogers has placed on payroll increases. Alex himself, though, would suggest that it’s something else.

The Jays GM was quoted heavily in a piece from Bob Nightengale in this morning’s USA Today, in which Cardinals GM John Mozeliak says that he’s “pretty frustrated right now,” and that “There’s no easy solution. There’s just not a lot of players out there period.”


More from Nightengale and AA:

It’s become the most mystifying trade deadline in recent memory.

“Your needs can change in a hurry, from game to game,” says Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, whose club certainly is living proof. “You can’t just be locked into one area. Everything is fluid. Your needs constantly change. It’s just too early to get a read right now.”

. . .

“We’re only halfway there, and just as hot as teams are in the first half, teams get cold in the second half,” Anthopoulos says. “We’ve see teams collapse down the stretch, or play particularly well down the stretch. Any club can get hot in the second half. Look at Kansas City last year. Look at Tampa Bay.

“It’s hard to take away from your big-league club in July, because if you’re not that far out now, you have a chance.”

So, what now? The Jays keep on bleeding with their current roster, forcing them to be even more desperate — or more resigned to their fate — by the time the opportunities to make the deals they really want/can actually open up?

Yep, these will be a big, big three weeks for this organization. Hold on tight.


Image via Baseball Hot Corner.

Comments (78)

  1. Quite the neck.

  2. common perception is that as long as Beeston is here AA’s job is safe, no?

    • I don’t think that’s necessairily the case.

      The wildcard, really, is how much Rogers has handcuffed AA. I doubt we’ll ever know the extent of it (if any) but clearly Beeston would know.

      If we shit the bed this year, and AA was trying repeatedly to make moves that Rogers kiboshed…….then I don’t see how that can’t be factored in. I mean, you can’t hobble someone and THEN blame them for shortcomings.

      • Well, they COULD. It was pretty much MLSE’s modus operandi for over a decade.

      • One thing unique to the Jays over other teams is its owned by a corporation. Firings do not happen the same way as say a team owned by an individual. Look at Seattle and how long whoever the president used to be was there. Corps as heartless and as unemotional as they are, are not necessarily a bad thing to have in a position of power as they are not going to be crazy reactionaries. There is going to be a better understanding of process than with an impatient individual.

      • I see what you’re saying and I’m not here to dump on your comment but its hard for me to agree with the idea that Anthopolous is “handcuffed” when the Jays have the type of payroll they do. For the most part I like what AA has done but it was his choice to take on the contracts he did and while it still might work out, it was one motherfucker of a risk. If the payroll is sky high and the team still disappoints, it’s hard to blame the owner, even if it is piece of shit Rogers.

        • I think that where the blame towards Rogers comes from is that AA made the Miami trade as the opening salvo of a “3-year window”. The idea is that if the team wasn’t successful, they’d then address the needs of the team with commitment from ownership to see that plant through. This past off-season clearly showed that ownership had changed direction from AA’s original plan, likely due to the colossal failure of 2013. The reason a lot of fans were pissed at this is because Rogers is the wealthiest ownership group in baseball. They can afford to spend right up to the luxury tax threshold if they want ($189 million), if not more. Whether that’s fair or not is subjective, certainly, but that’s what it is I think.

  3. Personally, I wouldn’t trade any significant prospects right now. I’d ride it out or try to get a chase headley style upgrade. No way I’d move Sanchez or Norris for anybody that’s rumored to be available.

  4. If I were AA – I’d be hanging onto his top prospects. Sorry, I don’t the current roster has the depth to compete for a full season, and it’s becoming apparent now.
    When everyone is healthy (which is rare) and hitting on all cylinders (ever more rare) – yeah, they can be as good as anyone. But AA’s problem is that the talent drop-off between the starters and the “fill in guys” seems like a vast chasm. And there’s never just ONE injury to deal with….historically, it’s 2 or 3 main guys going off together, and the team doesn’t have the talent depth to overcome that. I’d be presenting Rogers with a choice (that is, if they even give a fat fuck about their baseball team, other than a bottom line number) – give us money to catch a free agent or two for a couple of years, so we can keep the kids….or we’ll trade them for players that might help us now. But if we do that, the cupboard is pretty effin’ bare for a few years to come.
    I don’t envy the man his choices – but I’d hate to see him give up guys like Sanchez, Norris and Pompey, who could conceivably be making an impact as early as next season.

  5. While obviously there’s a lot of baseball left to play, I don’t think you can look at the standings and say “wow, only 3 games out” without looking at the context.

    If we had, say, the team we had in May (i.e. most people healthy, and the bats playing at least to their average potetnail) and we were only 3 GB, there would be clearly no worries.

    Frankly, I’d prefer to be 3 GB with the May team then 3 games ahead with this team.

    Don’t think we should be sellers, but I’m not sure we should be buyers anymore either, unless it’s for mostly cash deals a la Headley.

    • The context doesn’t change things because it’s not as bad as you’re presuming. It’s a good team.

  6. Excellent article. There are no easy answers.

    What they do might partly depend on the W-L record in the next 3 weeks,
    partly on what players are available,
    partly on what it will cost in prospects to get those players,
    & how those acquisitions will impact on next year’s roster,
    partly on how many $ are available for adding talent
    and partly on the prospects of being able to re-sign/replace
    Melky, Colby and Casey.
    We can guess. But we’re not in possession of a lot of the facts.

    • you’re forgetting that it also depends on the play of their prospects after their promotions.
      they can raise their stock in a heartbeat.

  7. I hate the frustration that I feel right now since the injuries have handed them an excuse for standing pat. Even if it might be correct, I hate the easy out of “hey, when everyone was healthy we were winning, so why do we need to sign anyone?”
    Yes, I’m being a bitch. Yes, I’m just baseball sad this month.

    • Is anybody saying or thinking that at all, though?

      • Probably not — hence my calling myself a bitch. But can’t you see it happening at the end of the season?
        Like I said — just wallowing a bit here.

        • It’s all right…I was in a deep funk after staying up to watch that shitfest last night. We have our dark fan days. Have an internet beer on me, Gil!

  8. Can the Rogers center have some RV hook ups installed for when Norris shows up in his VW?

    • I’ll admit, after reading through a bit of his Twitter today I became attached to the prospect.

      There is one pic he has on there and I’m not sure if he took it or it’s a shot from “Into the Wild”.

  9. If Sanchez can be who we thought he was, or even close (say a legit #2) then any potential rebuild might not be so long and painful.

    Stroman/Sanchez/Hutch are pretty solid, young, controllable pieces to build around.

    • NO REBUILD!!! They are going to compete with this team. They are NOT SELLLERS!!!

      • I wouldn’t like it either, and I’m sure nobody wants it…..but the decision might not be the Jays to make.

        IF they fade this season and finish poorly, I don’t see any chance of “retooling and going for it again next year”. I think a rebuild would be likely.

        There’s always going to be someone willing to take a guy with a pedigree like Reyes. Buerle is also moveable.

        • If they don’t make it this year they are only a few pieces away. They are closer than you give them credit for. Look at it this way. How much harder would it be starting from scratch and not only getting the team they have now but then exceeding it. Seems much easier to just add pieces to the current team.

          • I like the core of this team. But we don’t really have a young core. Reyes/Bats/EE/Buerhle are all old enough that you can never be too confident about next year and skills decline (when/if they do) pretty quickly.

        • pro sports is incredibly hard to handicap. the raps were “rebuilding” when they traded rudy gay. would trading rasmus and buehrle be a similar move if we got some young controllable pieces back that could help this year. oh ya. anyone who says a gose/pillar platoon going forward isn’t better than rasmus plus what he gets us back in trade is just stupid.

  10. Off topic: for some reason, I feel like Norris is doing alright with the ladies.

    • With a VW bus, you god damn right he is doing all right with the ladies. Especially the hairy arm pitted type.

      • Yeah the VW bus was the main reason. The all american good looks and the fact that he’s a pro baseball player are just supporting factors.

      • Norris seems like about as cool a kid as you could find. I really hope he sticks around because I am totally ready for him to be a Jay.

    • Absolutely

  11. The comment about Sanchez being a mid-rotation starter is couched as being a negative thing. Obviously you’d like his ceiling to be higher, but a mid-rotation starter with electric stuff under team control is a valuable piece.

    • Good point.

      • Yup. And if you trade him for anyone other than David Price, you’re going to get a mid-rotation starter without team control, so what’s the point.

        And, I wouldn’t trade a guy with his ceiling for someone like Daniel Murphy or Martin Prado.

  12. I’m getting closer to the mindset that we keep the top prospects, hope to land Headley on the cheap and cross fingers, and go with what we have, hoping that we land two excellent pieces in Lawrie and Encarnacion for the trade deadline. I certainly don’t believe that any of the other AL East teams are deep enough to run away and hide.

    • Right on! Let it roll and see what happens.

    • Well said Teddy. People forget that both EE and Lawrie should/could be back this month, and Morrow could be back in August-ish too. At that point, your shit bench becomes a pretty damn decent bench (Reimold, Francisco, Kawasaki or Tolleson, Kratz or Thole).

  13. Don’t forget Jeff Hoffman and Max Pentecost in 2016! :)

  14. As a side note, saw young Beedha signed today for 200K more than the Jays were offering.

    • And he only had to assume a shit-tonne of risk, and not take the money up front (on which he could have invested it and had more by now than what he got).

      • Yep, the time value of money means that he lost a good bit of money AND set his development time back AND delayed his entrance into free agency by a few years when players really cash in.

        All in all, a great example why taking the money is almost always the smart decision.

        • I agree with both of you. I was just pointing out what he signed for. Guaranteed money is always the best money. His arm could have blown up and then he is done for. Big gamble for not much of a payoff.

  15. Fuck this lineup tonight is terrible. Maybe the worst yet.

    Where’s Kratz and Dan Johnson?


    • Interesting career path.

      In this case, I’m sure it’s just a matter of bad luck. If he were RH, I have no doubt he’d be here.

    • Johnson is busy competing in the MILB allstar game homerun derby.

    • Could it be that they are being careful timing a Johnson call-up? Seeing as he’d probably be scooped up by another team if designated for assignment. Or does it not work this way?

  16. The biggest question for me is, how long does it take Lawrie and EE to get back to regular production when they get back? If they are able to make a pretty fast return to form, i dont believe they have to go selling the farm at the deadline. Maybe another veteran infielder and some bullpen help.But no way do i trade Sanchez or Norris at this point, and thats me giving kudos to Happ, Stroman and Hutchison this year!

  17. “Prospects are for poor people”.

    Ahh, those were the days.

  18. I wouldn’t be against moving Buerhle for some type of help – not as a sell move though.

    Moving him would gain at least an asset that we could use somehow, and clear $$ for AA to pick up someone else (say Headley, Prado, Hill, Phillips, etc…) while also making a move for one of those low-quality pitching options.

    Stroman / Dickey / Hutchison / Happ / ____ ,which could be Sanchez, Morrow, or an addition…

    Then adds to the lineup as well and gives us more future flexibility.

    This is of course assuming you can make those other deals and get an asset back for Beurhle (or Dickey, if you prefer, just feel like B has more value than the D). Even if the asset is something you’d move for someone else.

    • NO. You don’t trade Buerhle during the season. MAYBE during the off season but not right now. He has been fairly consistent and what you are going to replace him with is not going to be as good as he is. Plus he pitches really quickly and that is fun.

    • lets trade the pitcher that is headed to the ASG and clearly leads the staff right now?
      sorry. bad idea IMO.

  19. 3 games back with a 36.2 % chance at the postseason.
    We could go from Cinderella to Tara Reid here in a hurry.
    We need a few warm bodies that don’t have I.V. Bags hanging out of their arms soon.

    Get us just a little bit Alex, just a little help.

  20. you poor, poor bastards

  21. So Osuna k’s 2 of the first 3 he faces, scoreless inning and Max Pentecost who is catching him gets his first pro hit and RBI to put the GCL Jays up.

  22. in a couple of years we could be looking at a line up of..Hoffman, Hutchison, Sanchez, Norris and Osuna. Please don’t anyone piss on my parade for an hour. Let me bask in tomorrow for one hour.

  23. How bout we just pick up Tulo and bam we’re done…forget about prospects for the next few years because they’d all be gone getting him. Would be a pretty deadly lineup though once we had Brett and EE back, not much weakness there.

  24. So Norris gave up 2 runs, 3 hits & walked two ….retired 2 batters in the 1st inning of his start tonight & was pulled. According to BA’s Ben Badler there were quite a few scouts there to see him. “More than usual” he said. He said that Norris sat 91-94 but couldn’t locate.

  25. A.A. needs a 2nd Baseman or a 3rd Baseman, depending on where you play Lawrie, but it will still be a need this offseason if an acquisition is a rental. It is still a need.

    A.A. need a stud Starter,which he will find many excuses not to acquire and that’s a need this offseason as well.

    Hoffman could be up here in 2016, with Stroman and Hutchison. Enough with the kids, get some grown-ups here too.

    Not making the postseason is a bad thing.

  26. Good post. I agree.

  27. Good read.

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