Archive for the ‘Daily Duce’ Category

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I tell ya, I haven’t seen this many ants since Cincy in ’84.

It is, of course, an off-day for the Jays, with a trip to Chicago and a reunion with Edwin Encarnacion upcoming. That means a roster move, too — and could spell the end of Juan Francisco. But so then you make Danny Valencia your starting third baseman against right-handers? I don’t know about that. Maybe? Francisco has been so awful lately (and brings so little with the glove) that it’s almost the better move, but don’t be shocked if the fact that Anthony Gose has options left makes him the odd man out either. We probably won’t hear about that until tomorrow, or later tonight at the earliest. In the meantime, here are some links…

“When the Jays needed a huge performance from starting pitcher R.A. Dickey, he allowed a two-run, two-out home to DH Kendrys Morales,” writes Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star. “Dickey overall did not pitch poorly, but once again, as has been the case with all of the Jays starters, he did not pitch well enough to win.” I mean, those lines are maybe not the essence of the article as a whole, but come the fuck on.

Griff did, however, have some nice words to say about the great travelling crowd of fans that once again greeted the Jays at Safeco Field.

Meanwhile, at Sportsnet, Arden Zwelling wraps up a big series that sure looks like a blow to the Jays’ playoff chances. While the Tao of Stieb tries to remind us of what Faith No More roadies looked like. And also that “even when things were good for this franchise, they were nerve-wracking and tense and often profoundly disappointing,” and that more delight and agony are sure to be in store over the next two months (assuming the Jays ever actually score a fucking run again).

Oh, but be sure to pause the autoplay video at the top of that Tao piece before you start reading, otherwise you’ll see one “getting poured out” for the Jays season (which is apparently over?) by Six Seixeiro… because he is a garbage clown. Hey, and speaking of Sid, him and I are just two of the guests who’ll be appearing at the next edition of Pitch Talks, which will be taking place a week from today — Thursday, August 21st —  along with Stacey May Fowles, Jenn Smith, Erin Valois, Shi Davidi, and Jeremy Taggart. Get your tickets here – use the promo code DJF for $5 off! Cool-ass poster here.

Hey, and two days earlier, come watch the Jays take on the Brewers at 8:10 PM over at Opera Bob’s! It’s an old fashioned DJF Drink-Up! (That’s Tuesday, August 19th, for those of you counting — and Opera Bob’s is at Dundas and Ossington here in Toronto, for those who haven’t been).

Anywho… hey, here’s a team whose playoff chances I don’t mind worrying about nearly as much as I do the Jays’: the Detroit Tigers. Michael Bauman of Grantland writes that it’s time for Tigers fans to worry. For Jays fans, though, the piece is worth noting because of how it illustrates just how quickly the Tigers’ fortunes turned around (*COUGH*) and how damaging it may have been that they over-extended themselves at the trade deadline and with big contracts, only now to find themselves in a position where they must fight to be in a play-in game (*COUGH, COUGH*)

Elsewhere at Grantland, Ben Lindbergh gives us The Managerial Meddling Index, in which he measures the in-game activity of managers, and finds — unsurprisingly, given all the platoons he’s had to run — that John Gibbons has meddled more than any manager in the majors so far this year.

FanGROFs Alert: I linked it in yesterday’s Game Threat, but definitely do check out Drew’s appearance on the FanGraphs podcast from this week — especially as he and Carson Cistulli spend a good deal of time talking about the DJF and Getting Blanked podcasts (the former of which, I should make clear, will definitely rise again — it just might be a little while) — and his latest FanGROFs piece, in which he looks at the importance of “the good miss.”

Elsewhere at FanGraphs, Dave Cameron looks at the Baltimore Orioles, and the idea of accepting random variance.

A couple pieces from over at the Toronto Sun, as Bob Elliott looks at prospect Mitch Nay, and also interviews Munenori Kawasaki.

I’ve been pushing this lately in the Game Threat, so I might as well do it here too: since Facebook changed its algorithms with respect to sharing, it’s really become a much more powerful social media tool, and so it’s probably in your best interest to just go right ahead and like DJF on Facebook. That way you can get everything that’s posted here injected straight into your feed-veins. Do it.

Lastly, Kendall Graveman continues to be something of a groundball machine, and at Blue Jays Plus we can see in one handy GIF all eleven groundball outs he induced last night for the Buffalo Bisons. Impressive stuff. I wrote about Graveman last week, in case you missed it, trying to make sense of his success, his rapid ascent, and his status as a “real” prospect.

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Move over bananas, I’ve got a new source of potassium!

Talk about burying the lede. In small subsection of a Saturday piece for the Toronto Sun, Bob Elliott dropped this nugget: “Rogers Communications might prove us wrong about not giving general manager Alex Anthopoulos any cash to add at the deadline and the Jays could add a $10-million contract next week. Might it be a tad too late?” I’ll believe it when I see it. Sure would be fucking nice, though. So… whaddaya think the Mets want for Jon Niese? Because I bet it’s a metric shitload.

“I haven’t had any communication with them, which has been a little frustrating at times because I feel like I’ve ironed some of the things out that I needed to iron out and I’m just waiting for that opportunity to go back out there and hopefully do what I’m doing here.” Those words come from Sergio Santos, who says he was taken aback by the decision to designate him for assignment last month, according to Stephen Whyno of the Canadian Press, via the Globe and Mail. Santos gave up a hit in his first appearance for Buffalo, and hasn’t since. He’s struck out nine in 6.2 innings, but has also walked four. Sounds like he’s close.

More from Whyno, this time in the National Post, as he reports on Edwin Encarnacion’s first rehab game for Buffalo, and how badly the Jays need their slugger back.

The Jays announced this afternoon that they’ve claimed Colt Hynes, a left-handed reliever, from the Dodgers and assigned him to Buffalo. Hynes is 29, with 17 innings of big league experience, all of which came last season for San Diego, and… uh… it did not go well. He had a great year last year in Double- and Triple-A, though. This year he’s pitched to a 4.08 ERA and 4.04 FIP in 42 games in the PCL. Meh.

Great stuff at Sportsnet from Arden Zwelling, who looks at Jose Bautista, who is everything to the Jays — but maybe not enough.

Elsewhere at Sporstnet, Shi Davidi confirms what I wrote about yesterday: that the Jays will indeed play exhibition games in Montreal once again this spring. Sweet!

Back to Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun, as does his best to empower the whiny subset of the Jays’ fan base, writing that the club missed a golden opportunity last night, in what was “supposed to be the easy one” against Seattle. Yeah, and they were supposed to lose to the Tigers’ Cy-calibre starters, right? Funny how baseball sometimes is baseball.

Elsewhere in the Sun, in a notebook post, Elliott notes that Jose Reyes wasn’t thrilled with the decision to have him sit out Monday’s opener of the series in Seattle. “It was an executive decision,” John Gibbons told reporters. Elsewhere in the piece, Elliott notes that Dan Norris had an excellent debut on Sunday with the Buffalo Bisons, striking out ten in six scoreless.

Baseball Prospectus gives some context to Norris’s performance: “Norris has ridden his fastball/slider combination all the way to the upper levels of the minor leagues this season, with Buffalo representing his third stop along the way. He’s missed bats in droves at every stop and showed no sign of slowing down in his first Triple-A start on Sunday. He’s still got a ways to go to become a complete pitcher, including the development of the changeup he’ll need in the majors, but for now he’s able to get by with two potential plus pitches.” Sounds sorta like a guy who could do alright in a big league bullpen in a pinch, doesn’t it?

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Apps? What is that, appetizers? I could go for some nibblies. (Also: Daily?)

I’m sort of at a loss for words following yesterday’s epic 19-inning win — and all three of the games in an incredible series with the Tigers that, realistically, both teams could have swept if not for a few inches here or there — so let’s do one of these. It’s been a while!

Barry Davis tweets that the Jays will not have Adam Lind in the lineup tonight, despite what many people were expecting. Fair enough, given that they’re being cautious with his back. Edwin Encarnacion is playing another rehab game tonight in Florida, we’re also told.

More roster stuff: the Jays, ICYMI, optioned Ryan Goins down to Buffalo following the game, bringing up a fresh arm in the form of Brad Mills, and preserving Richard Griffin’s respect for the team, at least temporarily, by not sending out Chad Jenkins, who was fantastic for way too many innings on Sunday. I saw a lot of consternation about why Mills and not literally anybody else, but here’s the thing: whoever got this call wasn’t going to be up for long — they’re not going to keep carrying an eight-man bullpen when Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion return this week — and ideally would be Jenkins-like in his ability to provide multiple innings of relief. Mills, then, I think makes perfect sense. Could have been Sean Nolin, I suppose, and I know Delabar has gone a couple innings at times, and Kyle Drabek has some tasty looking numbers since going to the bullpen in Buffalo, but they were just looking for fodder to mop up a few innings if need be. Now, if Mills is the first guy out of the ‘pen tonight in a tight game, I take it all back.

One move it’s seeming more and more like the Jays should have made before yesterday (not that any one game — even one in which a player got on base eight times — changes anything) is signing Melky Cabrera. I can see them — assuming they even have the money to play around with — waiting, making the qualifying offer, and hoping either he takes it and comes back on one-year ~$15-million deal, or that he declines and ends up in such limbo because of the draft pick compensation that they can sign him back at a reasonable rate. But it’s not like he’s necessarily going to command crazy dollars anyway. Case in point: Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star polled a number of agents on what they think the market for Melky will be this winter, with answers ranging from Shane Victorino on the low end (three year, $39-million), and Curtis Granderson on the high end (four years, $60-million). Just do it!

Here’s another thing the Jays should look into doing: quitting the kind of horseshit described in this tweet (assuming we’re getting the whole story here). To wit: @coreyrutledge says, “18th inning, Rogers Centre staff still making me sit in correct seats, kicking higher level people out of 100s.” To be fair, over the years I have had far, far, far more leniency when it comes to being in unoccupied seats than problems, but if true, that’s not a real good look.

“Between the big series against the Orioles and the big series against the Tigers, someone had ordered a machine that makes fog and flashes strobe lights, and Sunday evening was the perfect occasion for the Toronto Blue Jays to plug it in and rev it up,” reveals John Lott of the National Post. Colby Rasmus explains: “Everybody was excited, pumped for the win, and I think we were trying to make the environment [about] everybody being happy that we won, not just coming into the locker room and just sitting there. Everybody came in having a good time. And I think that’s going to push us to want to win and want to do things right, and just have fun. At the end of the day, fun is winning and winning is fun.” Testify, Colb-eh!

The Blue Jay Hunter breaks down yesterday’s action, but more importantly, gives us a GIF of R.A. Dickey kissing Jose Bautista.

More from yesterday? At Sportsnet, Mike Wilner has 19 things you need to know about the 19-inning battle, and his colleague Michael Grange looks at the scary-fun ride we all were taken on over the course of the game, and how the fun is just getting started, as they try to keep pace in some tight races with less than two months remaining in the season.

The Toronto Sun noticed — well, they noticed that the TV broadcast noticed — that Ryan Goins and Nick Castellanos played rock, paper, scissors from opposite dugouts during the 17th inning of the marathon.

As you’d expect, it’s awesomeness at GROF, where the Zubes checks in with The Player Haters Guide To The Second AL Wild Card Spot. Don’t just sit there, read it already!

Back to the Star, where Josh Rubin relays more of the story of Jays fan Rob Ouelette, who tried to pay tribute to his stepbrother by scattering his ashes on the field at Rogers Centre this weekend, but was caught in the act, and dealt with rather seriously by the authorities. Brendan Kennedy reported about the incident for Saturday’s paper, leading to this gem of a quote from Colby Rasmus: “I wouldn’t doubt it in this place. Strange people. But he or she is gonna be with us (Saturday) and we gonna be rockin’.”

A couple slightly stale minor league injury notes from Shi Davidi, as he tells us that Dalton Pompey has had a recurrence of tightness in his right quadriceps muscle, and that the team is unsure if he’ll play again before the minor league season finishes up at the end of this month. AFL him! Meanwhile, Neil Wagner was pulled from a game late last week with elbow pain, and Davidi says there is concern he may be done for the year. So… there’s that.

Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs looks at the hard-charging Kansas City Royals, who now hold the second Wild Card spot, and are not unserious contenders to unseat the Tigers in the AL Central. Just what we needed, another team playing well.

Interesting stuff from Charlie Caskey of Your Van C’s, as he gives us a minor review of the Jays’ top prospects, and how they’ve fared this season in terms of their prospect stock.

Some great GIFfery from Blue Jays Plus, who show us what it looked like when, in the first inning of his Triple-A debut, Dan Norris struck out the rehabbing Wil Myers. Nails much?

Lastly, for those of you out west, a friendly reminder that a year ago, Dave Burrows wrote an excellent piece for us, explaining that the best place to watch a Jays game is Safeco Field. Playoff atmosphere, please!

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Swab it out! Why do you think we have those expensive swabs?

When they’re not talking about how well the Jays are doing on the field, or the small but significant trade the Jays made yesterday — shedding catching depth, as Alex Anthopoulos seems to love to do so much — they’re talking about the money that’s available to the club, or the lack thereof. John Lott gets to the nut in a piece from the National Post on Monday. “Anthopoulos used to say: Ownership has given us every confidence that the cash is there if we need it. We have to sell the trade as an upgrade for the baseball club, of course, but Rogers has never said no to that kind of deal,” he explains. “When asked recently if he could add payroll, Anthopoulos said he could add players, and players make money, so there. (‘No one plays for free,’ he added, just to erase any ambiguity.) The GM said he is confident the Jays have the “resources” to acquire players at the deadline. In the absence of new money, ‘resources’ is code for players. Toronto can trade players for players.”

As always, it’s more complicated than just complaining about cheap Rogers. Their short-sightedness here is evident, but for once it doesn’t take a whole lot to understand their holding firm on the stance that the payroll is very healthy (10th in MLB), and if the front office has a problem it’s with the way they themselves have allocated that money. That, too, is complicated, as there were surely internal pressures on Alex Anthopoulos to do something major in the off-season between 2012 and 2013, rather than to coast again on false hope while shrewdly rebuilding as the best years of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion went to waste. On the other hand, the front office needed to know better than to have put themselves in this kind of situation, bloating the payroll so badly with added backloaded deals that in the event that ownership somehow wanted to tighten the purse strings — even as they paid through the dickholes for fucking hockey rights — they’d be without the kind of wiggle room they could truly use right now. But let’s not be too soft on ownership here. After all, there’s only one group in this mess who gets what it wants, and it sure isn’t the fans, or the players, or the organization itself.

For all my pissing and moaning, though, we still don’t even know for sure that it’s true that the Jays are resigned to cash-neutral deals heading into Thursday’s deadline, and that they’ll be cut off at the balls when some expensive deals are moved in waiver trades through the month of August. It sure fucking feels like it, and I’m certainly not betting on Guy Laurence riding in on a white horse with a bag of money — a hat for the players to pass around, however, I wouldn’t put past him — but it’s also true that the Jays continue to be rumoured to be monitoring players whose contracts would definitely require more payroll to digest (and please, put away your crackpot Ricky Romero theories away). That at least makes plausible some of the ideas in the excellent guide to possible Jays additions from Ben Nicholson-Smith over at Sportsnet. (Or if it doesn’t, just for a minute pretend these Jays are a team that operates somewhat normally).

Elsewhere at Sportsnet, and speaking of those August deals the Jays aren’t likely to be too heavily involved in (unless it’s for guys at the league minimum — like for whoever they need to scramble to get to catch if one of Thole or Navarro goes down), last week Ben gave us a primer on the trade rules for once Thursday’s deadline passes, which is important, as a lot of executives seem to think there will be just many deals then as there will be this month — especially since it will allow teams more time to assess whether they’re really in a playoff race or not.

Similarly on this theme, over at the Toronto Star, Brendan Kennedy gives his two cents on why Anthopoulos may be through dealing for the week already, while making some suggestions at guys he could end up targeting anyway, and also looking at the tough roster decisions that will be coming once guys like Adam Lind (who is the closest to returning, according to a notebook post at BlueJays.com from Gregor Chisholm), Edwin Encarnacion, and Brett Lawrie return to health.

Speaking of guys getting healthy, also in Gregor’s notebook post is a mention of Brandon Morrow, who we’re told is likely to be a reliever when/if he returns to a big league mound this season, mostly because the club doesn’t think they’ll have time to get him stretched out enough to start anyway. Not that they need help in the rotation at the moment — though, of course, that can change quickly.

Back to the Star, Richard Griffin looks at Anthony Gose’s recent run of success, and how he’s giving the Jays a lot to think about as they head toward a roster crunch in the coming weeks, and as they try to clear up their outfield picture for 2015. Meanwhile, Josh Rubin tries to slow down the praise train when it comes to Aaron Sanchez, looking at a number of “can’t miss” Jays prospects who missed (as well as some who hit — either way, no Travis Snider, amazingly), while Zoe McKnight checks into the state of fandom at the Rogers Centre, and specifically hecklers, who have, uh… grown up a bit this year?

Over at the Toronto Sun, Mike Rutsey opines that the Jays missed an opportunity when they let Chase Headley go to the Yankees, because apparently we’re not too big on worrying about injuries likely to be exacerbated by the turf or the fact that Headley had been something on the order of hot garbage at the plate this year.

Meanwhile, last week Bob Elliott took an extended look at some of the Jays’ best prospects, with help from BA’s John Manuel.

Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs looks at which teams have been victimized the most by good pitch framing from their opponents (as opposed to how they victimize themselves by not always seeming to value their own catchers’ framing skills — well, except when they traded for Erik Kratz and Travis d’Arnaud and Jeff Mathis before, y’know, they traded them away). Um… anyway, the Jays have suffered the fourth-most in baseball this with 97 extra strikes having not gone their way. I’m thinking that being in a division with excellent framers like McCann, Molina, David Ross, as well as the Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park Strike is probably going to make that a bit of a thing.

Elsewhere at FanGraphs, last week Marc Hulet included Taylor Cole among “The Fringe Five,” which is FG’s list of the most compelling fringe prospects. “Younger Blue Jays prospects Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris have both been promoted from High-A Dunedin to Toronto’s Double-A affiliate in New Hampshire, while Cole remains in the Florida State League — this, despite having recorded the best strikeout and walk figures among the triumvirate,” he explains. “In point of fact, Cole has produced the best strikeout rate and walk rates among any pitcher eligible for inclusion in this weekly column.”

Interesting stuff from the farm, as Charlie Caskey of Your Van C’s gives a breakdown of a recent shakeup in the Canadians’ rotation, and a look at a couple of Bluefield Blue Jays he’d like to see move up to the Northwestern League for a spell — including the still-intriguing Matt Smoral.

At ESPN.com (Insider Only), Jim Bowden looks at the trade deadline objectives for each AL East team, checking off the usual boxes for the Jays (pre-Valencia): a starter, a reliever, and a right-handed hitting second- or third-baseman. He doesn’t even seem to suggest that the club could be hampered by the money issue, so that’s encouraging. However, he suggests they flip Jairo Labourt and Alberto Tirado for effing Joaquin Benoit. Seems steep, but I do get it. Those guys are still some serious lottery tickets at this point. Might even be guys to move before the shine comes off them too much after they each had pretty forgettable seasons — at least statistically — that won’t lead to them jumping up on anybody’s top prospect board any time soon.

Lastly, just in case you wanted to know, MLBTR notes that Bruce Levine of Chicago’s WSCR-FM tweets that the Jays were interested in Darwin Barney before he was moved, and had kicked the tires on Gordon Beckham as well. He suggests that Beckham’s slump slowed the progress of any deal, which sort of makes one wonder… did they start working on this deal four years ago? Because Beckham has been “slumping” at the plate for about that long.

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Pride is a fool’s fortress. Now who’s for Denny’s?

Some rumour mongering (read: throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks) this week out of Philadelphia (mostly via the great MLBTR): Earlier in the week, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reported that the Jays might be considering a play for the Phillies’ Kyle Kendrick after a scout from the club watched him recently, even though that totally makes no sense. In a later piece, Salisbury also notes that the Jays (as well as the Yankees) scouted Cliff Lee’s first rehab start, which… yeah, I tend to be on the optimistic side, but I’ll believe Rogers is going to sign off on paying one player $52.5-million for 2015 and ’16 (or $37.5-million for just 2015, including a hefty 2016 buyout) when I fucking see it. Later still, he suggested that both the Yankees and Jays are cool to the idea of a reunion with A.J. Burnett.

Salisbury isn’t necessarily entirely making stuff up, though, as Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com tweeted that the Jays indeed were watching the Phillies this week.

It could be a reliever like Antonio Bastardo or Jonathan Papelbon, as Ken Rosenthal tweets that the Jays are one of many clubs that an executive with a reliever to shop told him had shown interest in that particular market (and Salisbury says they’re one of a number of teams on him in particular). Could be due diligence, of course. And maybe things have changed now that Aaron Sanchez is here (and, fingers crossed, that Steve Delabar might be showing something, too).

Another one via MLBTR is a look at the no-trade clause of John Danks, which — according to a tweet from my ‘Merkin friend MLB.com’s Scott Merkin — the Jays are on. Because of course they are.

Sticking in this realm, Jim Bowden of ESPN.com wrote on Tuesday about what it might take for a club to land Chase Headley, and he was kind of way off! For the Jays he figured something like a package of Sean Nolin and Dawel Lugo, which, with Nolin kind of just being a guy (for some reason I’m real soft on him) and Lugo struggling a bit and having some competition at his position in the system, would certainly be a palatable package to give up for something. Granted, maybe not a rental that hasn’t hit all year, but something.

Interesting thought by way of John Sickels’ report at Minor League Ball on the call-up of Aaron Sanchez, as he notes that “His strikeout rate is nothing special and he will give up some walks. However, he is one of the most extreme ground ball pitchers in the minor leagues, posting a 3.13 GO/AO ratio this year and a 2.34 GO/AO in 2013. His fastball has been clocked as high as 98 MPH, works consistently at 94-95, and has vicious sinking action.” Not something we necessarily didn’t know, but it sure made me think of how a guy like Ryan Goins would be useful behind a pitcher like that.

Speaking of Sanchez, over at FanGraphs, Blake Murphy looks at the Jays’ called-up top prospect and “the Trevor Rosenthal experiment,” looking at why the Jays have taken this path. “The most negative of Jays fans (and ghouls) would tell you that Sanchez is going to end up a reliever in the long run, anyway,” he explains, “given his declining strikeout rates and struggles with command. I don’t at all think that’s in play here, even if it’s not an outlandish suggestion. Sanchez is still just 22 years old. You let a top prospect like this fail as a starter before you think bullpen long-term; this is probably all about 2014.” Agreed.

At Baseball Prospectus this morning, Mark Anderson and Ben Carsley gave an in-depth look at Sanchez from a scouting perspective, profiling him thusly: “All told, Sanchez has two knockout pitches that will allow him to be successful in a major-league rotation, but he lacks the changeup and strike-throwing to profile as a front-line starter. Once established in the big leagues, he should provide very good mid-rotation performance and could have streaks where he dominates teams when his entire arsenal works at peak levels.” Anderson likes the move for the Jays, explaining that “Sanchez should be able to dominate burst outings on the back of his fastball and curve alone, and it should help him learn what it takes to put away big-league hitters as he looks toward a larger role in 2015.”

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Well, you see refrigerator boxes. I see an outreach centre that’s changing people’s lives every day and WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING SIMONE?

According to a tweet from Ken Rosenthal, the Jays have “checked on” Alfonso Soriano, who is now a free agent, following his release from the Yankees. I’ve maybe been a little harsh about Soriano of late. Sure, he’s been hot garbage, even against lefties, this season (wRC+ of 80 in the split), but OK, OK, he was pretty terrific against them last year (147 wRC+, and about league average against RHP, too), so if you were going to try to catch lightning in a bottle, seeing as you’ve got a few weeks before everyone starts getting healthy, you could do worse than seeing if he’s got anything left and then just discarding him if he doesn’t. Rosenthal says Soriano is “mulling over” his options, but if he wants to keep playing, it’s not like he’s going to get a better assurance — or opportunity — than that. Right?

Keith Law’s mid-season top 50 prospects list came out today at ESPN.com (Insider Only), and Aaron Sanchez has fallen entirely off it. Yikes. It’s not all bad news, though, as Dan Norris made the list, ranked 37th. “He’s a long way from having average command,” Law says, “but at this time last year it was unthinkable that he’d improve enough to get a Futures Game appearance and a quick promotion to Double-A.”

It’s the unofficial mid-season, with the second not-quite-half about to get underway tomorrow, so there’s a lot of taking stock going on…

Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star looks at what the Jays need to do to make the playoffs, listing several things from the obvious (get healthy, find an infielder, fix the bullpen), to the less obvious (lower the walk rate, get deeper into games), to the fanciful (hit better with RISP).

Shi Davidi of Sportsnet looks at some of the options the Jays can look to on the trade market, and they’re not all infielders. Alex Rios, Marlon Byrd, and Josh Willingham all present potential corner outfield solutions that would force Jose Bautista to move to third base and Brett Lawrie to second once he returns, which… actually that sounds doable, right?

Speaking of the bullpen stuff, John Lott of the National Post looks at how the once-strong bullpen has gone sideways for this club, and what some potential fixes could be *COUGH* Sanchez *COUGH*.

Gregor Chisholm reviews the first “half” of the season for BlueJays.com, and gives us five things to watch as the season comes to a conclusion, including how the young starters fare as they pitch more innings than they’ve ever been asked to, whether the offensive approach changes back to what made the club so successful in May, and whether the Jays can play well enough to justify the club keeping this team more-or-less together for another shot in 2015.

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Well, how do you expect me to prepare with you sloughing off fuzz like a new towel?

Shocking that a team that ran out a bottom of the order of Johnson-Kratz-Tolleson-Mastroianni-Francisco-Thole against David Price yesterday has had trouble scoring runs lately, innit?

There’s some good news, though: Buster Olney of ESPN.com (Insider Olney) ranked teams based on schedule strength for the remainder of the year, and the Orioles don’t look so hot — their first 26 games out of the break are against teams above .500 — while the Jays are doing pretty OK (ranked 13th of 17).

Ho-lee shit. Awesome stuff from Chris King (aka @StatsKing) of Baseball Prospectus this morning, as he tells us about the reappearance of Roberto Osuna after a year in the Tommy John wilderness. You might want to be sitting down. “He threw about 15 pitches, all fastballs, but it was a very encouraging step for him. When a player comes back from this type of surgery, the velocity isn’t always there right away and the same can be said for the control and command. This was not the case for Osuna. His mechanics were sound. He’s still sporting the low-effort, smooth delivery he’s always had, and showed no rust in this department. He was pumping an easy 95-97 with his fastball while locating to both sides of the plate. He was repeating his delivery and attacking hitters from the first pitch of the game. This type of aggressiveness is another positive in his return. He was neither reluctant nor hesitant when going after hitters. Having said all of this, the thing I came away most impressed with was his body. The hard-throwing Osuna has had some concerns about his thick frame in the past, but he looked very fit, strong and comfortable with his current build. It’s obvious he has taken his conditioning seriously during his time off, and to me that speaks volumes about where his head is.” Nails.

Let’s stick with prospect stuff here, because… y’know… who the hell wants to talk about what’s going on with the big league roster right now?

Dalton Pompey and Dan Norris (as well as A.J. Jimenez) were in yesterday’s MLB Futures Game at Target Field in Minnesota, and Ian Browne of MLB.com writes about how they excelled in their opportunity on the big stage. Pompey was 2-for-4 with a couple of singles, and Norris retired all three batters he faced, inducing a strikeout, two groundouts, and throwing seven of his eleven pitches for strikes — a ratio that probably seemed unfathomable when he debuted as a pro two years ago and couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, despite a very strong amateur pedigree.

Shi Davidi has an excellent, lengthy feature up on the two key prospects at Sportsnet.

Aaron Sanchez isn’t forgotten in all the prospect love, though, as Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star has a nice feature on the club’s top prospect.

And how about this: Marc Hulet of FanGraphs has his mid-season top 25 prospects list up, and not only does Norris make the grade (#22!), but how about this: he’s flip-flopped Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard, ranking Sanchez 13th, just behind Miguel Sano, and ahead of Syndergaard, Bundy, Glasnow, Stephenson, Joc Pederson, and… well… obviously a whole lot more.

Elsewhere from Hulet at FanGraphs, he looks at a somewhat forgotten Jays prospect, Anthony Alford, who he’s been impressed with despite losing a lot of baseball development to football. “Because he’s not a top-of-the-line NFL prospect, Toronto may still be able to sway him to turn his attentions to the diamond on a full-time basis but it will hopefully be sooner rather than later,” we’re told. “Could be sooner than later” is basically what I was told Alford himself tweeted (then deleted) in response to a Jays fan asking him to give up the football dream. Hmmm…

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